WW2 USMC Helmets I: M1917A1 Helmet

I will make a series of posts showing  the helmet types used by the Marine Corps during WW2. First up is an often overlooked and personal favorite of mine, the M1917A1 Helmet. Also known as the “Kelly” or “Bataan” helmet. The M1917A1 was a gap filler between the WWI M1917 and the WWII M1 Helmet. It is a modified M1917 with improved liner, suspension, and chinstrap. It was this helmet that most US Soldiers wore at the outbreak of World War 2 even though it was already obsolete by this time. With the USMC the M1917A1 helmet saw action on Wake island and Bataan.

Some say its ugly but I really like the odd look. The M1917A1 in its full glory:

Closeup of the Chinstrap. The “hook and arrow” fastener proved successful and was reused on the M1:

M1917A1 Liner:

Crown pad:

Crown pad removed, you can clearly see the liners steel bands:

The soldiers who this helmet was issued to have written their names inside the liner. It was issued at least twice:

Apparently some M1917A1s were still in use on Guadalcanal! Check out the next two photos supposedly taken there:

~ by m1pencil on October 2, 2010.

14 Responses to “WW2 USMC Helmets I: M1917A1 Helmet”

  1. hello!This was a really fine website!
    I come from roma, I was fortunate to find your theme in baidu
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  2. I am happy you like it! Ciao!

  3. A real great article again.
    You got a nice helmet there.

    I hope there comes a lot more.

  4. Hi. Great article. I think you are right about the M1917A1 still being in use on Guadalcanal. I recently came across a photo of a Marine grave on Guadalcanal and there was an M1917A1 on top of the cross. Cheers, Mat

  5. Hi Mat, yes more and more pics seem to surface over time! Would be interesting to know what units did still use (some) M1917A1s on Guadalcanal. 😎

  6. I was just reading Robert Leckie’s ‘Helmet for my Pillow’ and he mentions that the 8th Marines arrived on Guadalcanal wearing Kelly helmets. They came from Somoa, landing on Guadalcanal on Nov 4, 1942. I wonder if that’s the difference: the units who came straight to Guadalcanal from the States were issued the M1, while the units who had been sent earlier to other islands were issued the older gear. It’s not a universal rule – the 7th Marines arrived on Guadalcanal from Samoa wearing M1s, but it might be part of the explanation. Mat

  7. Great info and your theory sounds plausible! I totally forgot about Kelly helmets being mentioned in “Helmet for my Pillow”!

  8. Nice article. But you say “it is a modified M1917” which is only partly accurate. We received over 400,000 British Brodie helmets during WWI, and we modified those, too. (I own one.) Also, the McCord Company produced over 900,000 M1917A1’s from scratch under a contract. (The contract was for more but was cancelled early in favor of new M1’s.)

  9. You can also see the guys on the signal bridge of the USS Hornet CV-8 wearing the Kelly as they watch Jimmy Doolittle’s historic takeoff. One of my favorite early wartime photos.

  10. hello i have one of these helmets with a name and number how can i find info on this im way over in australia. thanks

  11. done that and found some info thanks for the help done some of other m1 to.

  12. Again proves the point of “Older” issued gear finding it’s way into the “latest” conflict.

    • Yes, it seems to be a common misconception that every single piece of gear magically transforms into the newest version as soon as one is manufactured. 🙂

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