Croatian Infantry Helmets
World War I (1914-1918) ushered in the need for the first modern infantry helmet. As the battlefields of Europe became more deadly from increasingly powerful weaponry, the various nations at war began to look for ways to protect their troops. One of the main problems that needed addressing was how to protect a soldier’s head from projectiles such as shrapnel and small arms fire.
French General Louis Adrian (1859-1933) came up with the idea for the first mass-produced steel combat helmet in 1915. Seeing a soldier with a head wound, General Adrian asked him how he survived. The soldier answered that he placed a metal bowl under his cap to help protect his head. From this inquiry and increasing field reports of head wounds, Adrian began to develop a helmet that eventually the French Army issued to its soldiers fighting in the WWI trenches.1 Soon after the introduction of the French Adrian helmet in 1915, other warring nations began to develop their own helmets,. These helmets were not designed to completely stop bullets but rather to protect the wearer from shrapnel and deflect small arms fire. This kept the wearer alive, though not necessarily unwounded, while also allowing the helmet to be light and comfortable when moving. Reports after the war showed that the helmet significantly reduced the amount of head wounds and the fatalities from them.2
After WWI the infantry helmet continued to evolve. By World War II, it had become an iconic piece of equipment. Whether the American M-1 or the German M-40 or M-42, the steel helmet became one of the more familiar images associated with a soldier. As modern weapons continued evolving, so to did the infantry helmet. Militaries utilized new materials that made the helmet more effective at diverting projectiles. New forms of camouflage were used and new designs were created and tested. Even today the infantry helmet is still evolving, allowing for more protection. From the humble origins as a steel bowl sewn in a cap, the infantry helmet has gradually become an essential piece of a soldier’s attire.