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?
This helmet appears to be made of a heavy cardboard material and has the right shape of a North Vietnamese helmet. It is covered in khaki twill cloth, but it appears to be glued directly to the body. It has been suggested it was a field made PAVN (People’s Army of Vietnam) helmet but that seems unlikely. The helmets were produced in large enough numbers, and moreover a soldier without a helmet would likely have been issued a cap if a helmet was not available.
Another theory is that this could be a movie prop – and the timeline would fit. If this helmet were acquired in the late 1980s to mid 1990s it could have been an item that was used in one of the countless movies and TV shows that were produced throughout the 1980s.
PAVN helmets were seen in such movies as Uncommon Valor, Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July; and on TV shows such as China Beach and Tour of Duty. Externally from a distance the helmet appears correct, and on film it would likely look like the real deal.
The fact that the helmet was found in Southern California would lend weight to the movie prop theory, since numerous prop houses are located in that region. It is however the only one that I’ve encountered but props tend not to be widely circulated in the militaria market.
As noted in these photos the side grommets are wrong, the chinstrap and liner appear to be vinyl rather than leather or plastic – which you’d find in real examples. The badge is also cut tin and over a red cloth backing – whereas original PAVN badges were stamped metal and painted the correct color.
This one is likely to remain a mystery. We’d love to hear any other ideas. While we can’t rule out it is simply a fake or a costume item, it seems to have required some actual effort and given that these helmets weren’t ever that rare or sought after it is hard to imagine someone simply making a fake – especially as close up it appears to be crudely made.