American GIs liked their war trophies, which is why there is such a military collectibles hobby in the United States today. Helmets seemed popular and while steel helmets captured (or liberated as the case may be) from German soldiers were certainly favored, so too were sun helmets.
Here is one of the rarest examples we’ve encountered. It is a first pattern German tropical helmet, of the type used by the Afrika Korps during its campaign in the desert. What makes it truly stand out is that the German shields have been removed and replaced by American collar insignia – and this might be the only example of this display of war booty that we’ve seen.
As noted previously it was common for the Germans to utilize captured British, French, South African (including Dutch-made) sun helmets, as well as those from its Italian allies. We’ve also noted that the French used British helmets as did the other Allied powers, but never have seen an American used German helmet.
While it is impossible to say with 100 percent certainty that this helmet is period correct the pattern of the helmet is consistent with what American soldiers would have encountered in Algeria and Tunisia, and possibly even in Sicily. In addition the helmet did have German shields at one point as the holes for the shield’s prongs are present. The American shoulder insignia are also the correct early-to-mid wartime pattern with screw backs. The helmet features the U.S. insignia on each side, and an artillery badge on the front of the helmet.
There is little to no outline of the German shields, which would indicate that those were removed a long time ago, while the American insignia appears to have been present for ages. This could have been done on the boat ride home of course, but it still likely something the American GI may have done.
Finally, this helmet shows wear and age. It is a shame that it is crushed, but that could have happened in the duffle bag on the trip back to the states. This helmet came via an old collection and was apparently something that had been vet-acquired decades ago. All in all it makes for a fascinating piece and a study in what soldiers considered war trophies!