Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Mystery North Vietnamese Sun Helmet


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?

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Tropical Disease and the History of Military Head Nets


An American Army tropical “Pressed Fiber” helmet and mosquito net from the Vietnam War era of the late 1960s (Author’s Collection)

The military sun helmet was introduced to save lives, not from bullets or even spears but from quite literally from the sun. The European soldiers – first the British but later the French, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese and Germans – fell victim to sun stroke and heat stroke in their respective newly obtained colonies. The sun helmet offered protection from the sun and along with better tropical clothing likely helped save countless lives beginning in the second half of the 19th century.

The other problem facing soldiers as well as diplomats, colonists and workers was tropical disease. Among the most deadly was yellow fever. Even today in many tropical regions – especially Africa and South America – yellow fever continues to be a major problem. Today nearly a billion people live in an area of the world where the disease is common. Yellow fever originated in Africa but spread to South America through the slave trade in the 17th century, and since that time there have been major outbreaks in the Americas, Africa and even Europe. Continue reading

Straw and Wicker Helmets

A German World War II sun helmet.

A German World War II sun helmet.

This was the standard pattern used by the Afrika Korp. While most of these were made of cork, there are many examples that were apparently made of weaved straw with wicker support. This example, while in bad condition offers an excellent look at the “inside” of the helmet

While sola pith and cork are among the most commonly used materials in the construction of sun helmets, straw weave and wicker were used at times as an ersatz material, especially in wartime. We previously noted two examples of British-made Wolseley straw helmets in the collection of Stuart Bates. While these are the only two known surviving examples of British straw helmets of this pattern, there are many surviving examples of straw helmets from other countries.

How many of these helmets were produced remains a mystery, but surviving examples given an indication that serious craftsmanship went into their construction. Continue reading