Sun Helmets of Uruguay – From France and America to Monetevido

A French-made M31 pattern sun helmet, likely supplied to Uruguay prior to WWII.

A French-made M31 pattern sun helmet, likely supplied to Uruguay prior to WWII.

While the South American nation of Uruguay managed to stay out of foreign conflicts – and was neutral in both World Wars of the 20th century – internal strife including power struggles resulted in a large standing army that was often prepared for war.

The Uruguayan military forces used a variety of steel helmets prior to the Second World War and most seem to be either of French manufacture or at least French design. The same held true of its sun helmets. This author has previously noted that throughout the 1930s and 1940s the nation’s military officers were required to buy their own uniforms and looked to neighboring Argentina – another South American nation with a strong military tradition – for influence.

An Argentinean-made “casco Italiano” styel helmet. This particular helmet was likely made in neighboring Argentina.

An Argentinean-made “casco Italiano” styel helmet. This particular helmet was likely made in neighboring Argentina.

Thus a similar “casco Italiano” style helmet was adopted, but whereas the Argentineans may have been inspired by Fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini, the Uruguayan military kept with the French theme.

A French-made M31 pattern helmet with the Uruguayan cockade and infantry badge.

A French-made M31 pattern helmet with the Uruguayan cockade and infantry badge.

The inside of the above helmet shows a French maker’s label while the liner band shows that the helmet was made available for purchase in Montevideo.

The inside of the above helmet shows a French maker’s label while the liner band shows that the helmet was made available for purchase in Montevideo.

The most common sun helmet utilized from the 1930s through the 1960s was likely either French-made M1931 pattern sun helmets, or a similar pattern produced in Peru. However, a recent acquisition by this author confirms that indeed helmets were imported from France and made available for private purchase to officers in the Uruguay capital of Montevideo.

This undated – but likely 1930s era – photo show Uruguayan officers wearing a variety of helmets.

This undated – but likely 1930s era – photo show Uruguayan officers wearing a variety of helmets.

This could also explain why during and immediately after World War II the Uruguayan military adopted American press fiber style helmets – likely as the source to France was cut off during the hostilities. Period photographs show that numerous variations were used and that numerous types of badges were won on the helmet, but it does seem that the Uruguayan cockade was often – but not always – present.

An American-made Hawley pressed fiber helmet, likely produced after World War II, which features an enlistedman’s artillery badge and Uruguayan cockade. These helmets were used in large numbers in the 1950s and 1960s until being removed from general service.

An American-made Hawley pressed fiber helmet, likely produced after World War II, which features an enlistedman’s artillery badge and Uruguayan cockade. These helmets were used in large numbers in the 1950s and 1960s until being removed from general service.

Unlike many of its neighbors Uruguayan forces only used the sun helmet in domestic situations, and thus the helmets are quite rare outside of the South American nation.

Peter Suciu

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