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French Tank Helmets & US Tankers

Discussion in 'Information Requests' started by TD-Tommy776, Aug 9, 2018.

  1. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    As seen in the attached picture, some US tank crewmen preferred the French tank helmet (in this case, the assistant gunner). What might it have been about the French helmet that made it preferable? Also, would there have been a compatibility issue with the US tank communication equipment?

    Bonus question: Does anyone know what is located just below the left hip of the driver (lower right)? It seems to be some type of a white container strapped to a canvas or leather briefcase or suitcase.

    Spearhead_Smoyer-FM.jpg
     
  2. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Maybe the Assistant gunner thinks the French helmet is comfy? The French boasted they had the most comfortable uniforms and equipment before the war...........
     
  3. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Thanks for the observation. The AG did buy the helmet. It would be unlikely that he would spend his own money on it if he found it uncomfortable. I was hoping for a less subjective explanation, but I suppose it could be as simple as comfort & personal preference.
     
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  4. chibobber

    chibobber Member

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    Communications equiptment would be no problem.Earphones from M-38 would fit right in French helmet. The stuff on the "suit case" is surrounded by a disassembled wooden crate(.50cal ammo box?).The edges are dovetailed fingered. The round thing looks like a generator or a pump driven by a V belt.
     
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  5. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    That makes sense. I did notice the dovetails, but wasn't sure what it was. I thought the round object was a metal canister of some sort.
     
  6. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Sorry I couldn't give you a more in depth answer TD, sometimes a Subjective answer is the only answer I can give :D.
     
  7. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    No worries, JJ. I wasn't entirely clear as to what I was looking for, so your response was entirely reasonable. I was interested to know if there was a significant functional difference that would make the French helmet more appealing.
     
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  8. chibobber

    chibobber Member

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    A little info:
    ETO contract tank helmet.
    The First U.S. Army Armored Section contracted with a French firm in mid-44 to produce tank helmets for U.S. tankers in the First Army area of operations.This was to take pressure off supply lines,restart French businesses,and to answer requests from U.S. tank units demanding a tank helmet with some ballistic properties.By September 44 only 278 of these helmets had been delivered due to material shortages and lack of electricity in the factory.The helmet was based on the French M.33 Casques du motorcyclistes mod. 1940. The main modification was that the helmets lining was adapted to receive the standard U.S.R-14 radio receivers by adding an inner rubber circular ear cushion and an outer leather cup which was attached or reattached with small screws. The helmet bowl was made of stamped or pressed aluminum,had a leather pad on the front brow. Examples are known to exist with and without rear neck protectors made of aluminum.
    Your Assistant Gunner is John DeRiggi 3rd Armored Division. Tank is an M-26 Pershing.
     
  9. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Thanks, that's great information. The photo (actually a frame from a film) is from the cover of an upcoming book based on Clarence Smoyer, the gunner on the Pershing crew that knocked out a Mk V at the Cathedral in Cologne. Clarence didn't recall why DeRiggi preferred the helmet, but did say that he (DeRiggi) purchased it. If the French helmet had some ballistic value, that may explain at least one reason he preferred it.
     
  10. chibobber

    chibobber Member

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    John DeRiggi's brother Philip wrote that he traded another tanker for the helmet.
     
  11. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    That's probably more correct. I didn't take detailed notes so I may not have recalled that point accurately. Trading is a kind of purchasing though,. ;)
     
  12. chibobber

    chibobber Member

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    Clarence Smoyer is to the left of DeRiggi. No helmet.
     
  13. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Correct.
     
  14. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Speaking of Phil DeRiggi, he has a webpage dedicated to his brother John who died of cancer in 2005. There are a couple of other photos of him with his French helmet. There are also photos of the Pershing (I believe the designation was still T26 at that time) in Cologne that show the "suitcase" and box but not as close up as above.
     
  15. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    BTW, there is a photo of an American Marine captain test driving one of the early LVT-1 in 1941 and he appears to be wearing a "French" tankers helmet. :)
     

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