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The Story of the Sun Helmet Continues

As another year begins to wind down we are continuing to uncover new information on sun helmets and tropical headdress.

MilitarySunHelmets.com is grateful to have run a special article by author Nick Komiya on the development and evolution of the Japanese sun helmet.  We thank Nick for allowing us to republish this detailed study on the Japanese tropical helmets, and we once again extend our thanks to Benny Bough, Pedro Soares Branco, Enzo Faraone, Dr. Chris Flaherty, Roland Gruschka, James A. Holt, Clive Law, Shea Megale, Piero Pompili and Michael S. for their excellent contributions to this site.

We’re always interested to hear from our readers.

This story won’t end anytime soon.

Peter Suciu
November 2016

Mystery North Vietnamese Sun Helmet

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We’ve see plenty of oddball helmets. Many are fakes or bad copies, but then occasionally we come across something that seems completely wrong but yet doesn’t exactly seem like someone was trying to fake anything.

The most recent example is this apparently “homemade” North Vietnamese sun helmet. It came from a reader, whose said her father had bought it at least 20 to 25 years ago. This would have still been long after hostilities ended, and in truth before the current wave of surplus and outright fakes has flooded the collector market. It is simply put a helmet that could be many things, but what exactly is the mystery?

Continue reading

Imperial Chinese Army Wicker Hat/Helmet

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We’ve previously covered the origins and evolution of the conical hats of Asia – noting that these were used in China, Japan, Vietnam and even the Philippines. In past articles we’ve also explored how these were used by colonial military forces, including the Hong Kong Police under British rule.

One other important use of these wicker/straw hats/helmets was during the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century and even early 20th century when these were used in its Imperial Army. These were the de facto headdress for the Imperial Chinese Army Infantry until it took on a more western influenced appearance. Continue reading

The Hawley Pressed Fiber Sun Helmet – Patented

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It has been long established that there were two makers of the American pressed fiber sun helmet –Hawley Products and the International Hat Company. As we’ve previously noted, the USMC blueprints for the helmets dated back to the 1940s, however we’ve been provided with the original patents from 1935 and 1936. These were filed with the U.S. Patent Office by Jesse B. Hawley, the founder of Hawley Products and apparently the original inventor and patent holder of the Hawley sun helmet. Continue reading

The Evolution of the Japanese Imperial Army Sun Helmet: Part IV -1939-41

This is a special study of Japanese tropical helmets by Nick Komiya, and is presented in four parts.

1939 March, Design Patent Granted for the Type 98 Sun Helmet Liner System

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On 10th March 1939, the Patent Office Granted Utility Model Number 264722 to a Shotaro Fujioka of Tokyo for his invention of the flexible liner size adjustment system he developed for the Army’s Type 98 Sun Helmet. Fujioka was an employee of the Army’s Main Clothing Depot. The Army had applied for this on 2nd April 1937, just before sending the prototypes out for testing in Taiwan. Similar to a patent, but simpler to obtain, it is the same as the German Gebrauchsmuster system (when items are marked DRGM). Continue reading

The Evolution of the Japanese Imperial Army Sun Helmet: Part III -1930-39

This is a special study of Japanese tropical helmets by Nick Komiya, and is presented in four parts.

1930 May, Launch of the Second Model Sun Helmet Showa 5 Type (昭五式)

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7 years after the introduction of the IJA’s first sun helmet, a revamp of design was signed off by Emperor Hirohito on 14th May 1930. A whole new range of items got launched at the same time like new canteens, back packs, bread bags and the army jacket now got a vertical seam in the back to rationalize production efficiency.

The external appearance of the sun helmet did not change hugely, but instead of having a third vent grommet on each side, a top vent with cover was revived. Continue reading

The Evolution of the Japanese Imperial Army Sun Helmet: Part II – 1921-30

This is a special study of Japanese tropical helmets by Nick Komiya, and is presented in four parts.

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1921 Sun helmet Prototype testing

300 Sun Helmet Prototypes were produced for the test, of which 100 had “felt shells”, 150 had “woven Panama hat shells” and 50 had “Gourd Sponge shells (also tested in helmet covers later in 1934)”. These were benchmarked against the standard army visor cap and also against the captured German Sun Helmet. Continue reading

The Evolution of the Japanese Imperial Army Sun Helmet: Part I – 1887-1921

This is a special study of Japanese tropical helmets by Nick Komiya, and is presented in four parts.

1887-1911 Colonial Predecessors of the Army Sun Helmet

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Initially a trademark of the British and French colonial look, the wearing of pith helmets spread worldwide from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. However, despite of this worldwide fad, Japan was slow in coming to see any need for such gear. That was because being a late comer to the game of Imperialism, Japan did not hold any tropical colonies.

But even so, the well-travelled Japanese Navy must have felt obliged to match the colonial style dress code when making port calls at tropical colonies of the European empires. Thus the Imperial Japanese Navy introduced a sun helmet already in 1887, nearly 40 years ahead of the army. Continue reading