Sun Helmets of the United States Civil Defense


One interesting footnote in the history of the American pressed fiber sun helmet is its use by various Civil Defense groups. While the helmets likely were never produced specifically for such use, following World War II many of these helmets were likely adapted for the Civil Defense.

Why these were used in place of the familiar white metal helmets and hard hats isn’t clear – in fact only a handful of pressed fiber helmets have turned up over the years that are linked to the Civil Defense.


An “Air Raid Warden” helmet from Monroe County, New York; 1960s vintage. This one is unique as this pattern of grommets differs from those typically seen in the helmets contracted by the U.S. military – suggesting perhaps it was a civilian helmet purchased for the Civil Defense.


The stamp on the interior of the Monroe County helmet. It reads, “Office of Civilian Protection.”


A World War II Hawley pattern helmet with the generic CD decal.


The interior of the above helmet shows that this was a former U.S. Naval helmet that was reissued.

The origins of the United States Civil Defense go back to August 24, 1916 when the Council of National Defense was formed to coordinate resources and industry in support of the war effort. It was briefly revived in World War II, and evolved into the Office of Civilian Defense. The agency was terminated on June 4, 1945, but a new agency, the Office of Civil Defense was created in the 1960s – and as the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization existed until 1979 when it was replaced finally by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).


A close up of the decals of the three above helmets.


A 1960s era post of “Official Civilian Defense Insignia.”

Given these facts it would seem that most of the pressed fiber CD helmets were likely in fact from the 1960s, a time when the military was disposing of their sun helmets. As with the rest of the CD items these remain an interesting artifact from a time when many likely expected another and more devastating war. If such a conflict occurred the CD helmet might as well have been worn – because it would have provided protection from a nuclear blast about as well as anything!

Peter Suciu

February 2017

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