The High Ranking Officer’s Pressed Fiber Helmet

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The headgear of officer’s has always been somewhat distinct from what the ranks wore – except for combat helmets typically. However, at the tail end of the Second World War it seemed that the American pressed fiber helmet was worn as much by those in command as those serving in the ranks. General Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith (center) – who is often credited as the father of modern U.S. amphibious warfare – can be seen along with other American military leaders wearing the distinct headgear. We can only imagine where their respective helmets are now.

That photo above was taken at a conference on Guam on August 11, 1944. Left to Right it includes: Major General Roy S. Geiger, USMC, who commanded ground forces during the recapture of Guam the month before; Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN, Commander, Fifth Fleet; Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, USMC, who commanded ground forces during the Marianas operation; Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas; and Lieutenant General Alexander A. Vandegrift, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. (Photographed by TSgt. James N. Carroll, USMC. U.S. Marine Corps Photograph.)

This is just one of several photos in the U.S. military archives that showed that Holland and other officer’s did like the pressed fiber helmet. What is also notable is that the pattern of the helmets worn by these officers differs slightly – suggesting these were issued at different times.

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Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, USMC (left) with On board USS Rocky Mount (AGC-3) at H-hour of D-day off Saipan, 15 June 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

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Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN, Commander, Fifth Fleet (left), and Commander, Fifth Amphibious Corps Attend flag raising ceremonies at Smith’s headquarters, Charan Kanoa, Saipan, marking the end of organized Japanese resistance on the island, 10 July 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives

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Navy and Marine Corps leaders visit an Army command post on northern Guam, 11 August 1944, following the island’s recapture by American forces. Those present are, from left to right: Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN; Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, USMC; Lieutenant General Alexander A. Vandegrift, USN; and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

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Senior Officers on Guam, August 1944 — Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, with other Navy and Marine Corps leaders on Guam, 11 August 1944. Those present are, from left to right: Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN; Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, USMC; Admiral Nimitz; and Lieutenant General Alexander A. Vandegrift, USMC Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

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Another view of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN; Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, USMC; and Admiral Nimitz. Each seems to have a slightly different pattern of the pressed fiber helmet — USN Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

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Iwo Jima Operation, 1945 — Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith (right), who commanded Marine Corps forces during the operation, congratulates Major Graves B. Erskine, Commander, Third Marine Division, on the fine work of the latter’s division, during flag raising ceremonies at Marine Headquarters on the island, March 1945. Photographed by TSgt. J.A. Mundell, USMC. Official U.S. Marine Corps Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Peter Suciu

January 2017

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