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"Germans in Caps vs Helmets" Topic

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian18 Dec 2012 7:54 p.m. PST

Now, I'm more familiar with the Eastern Front, where I've read the Soviets sometimes refused to wear their helmets because it was seen as cowardly.

But now I have some Germans in my collection, in greatcoats, some wearing helmets and others wearing soft caps. Seems a very unGerman sort of behavior! Under what circumstances would a German soldier wear a soft cap (hat with front brim) in combat? When composing a unit, how common would caps vs helmets be?

Kaoschallenged18 Dec 2012 8:10 p.m. PST

Alot of the period photos I have show some wearing both in the same group.Especially during winter time towards the latter part of the war.Looks like mostly POWs though. Robert

Happy Little Trees18 Dec 2012 8:36 p.m. PST

Winter. Caps are warmer than helmets. Or less cold.

Meiczyslaw18 Dec 2012 9:29 p.m. PST

If you've got star billing James Coburn in "Cross of Iron", for example.


That said, I have seen a great many pictures of Germans bare-headed or wearing caps in Russia, depending on the weather. I don't know if that was a trend, or simply because any situation safe enough for a good picture might be "safe" enough not to bother with a pot.

Martin Rapier19 Dec 2012 2:26 a.m. PST

There are lots of photos of Gemans wearing soft caps, however I would humbly submit that if there is any sort of mortar or shellfire going on at all everyone is going to wearing their helmets pretty sharpish.

There are lots of photos of British soldiers wearing all manner of unusual headgear, but when the shooting starts they've all got their tin hats on.

The Soviets were more relaxed about wearing helmets as they weren't very effective, and there are plentu of photos of them actually fighting in Pilotkas & Ushankas.

Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2012 2:31 a.m. PST

when the shooting starts….

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2012 4:55 a.m. PST

It seems to me from looking at photos that the Germans did wear lots of soft caps behind the front lines and when things were quite, but as the Cardinal astutely notes when the shootin' starts the tin hats come on!

elsyrsyn19 Dec 2012 5:17 a.m. PST

Anyone who's ever worn a steel helmet can tell you that, even with the best of suspension systems, they're heavy enough to become uncomfortable with continued wear. I suppose that's one major advantage of the new kevlar helmets. Anyway, I would suggest that any soldier will shed the tin pot for a field cap, forage cap, beret, watch cap, or whatever whenever they think it's safe to do so.


Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2012 5:22 a.m. PST

and them mortars start dropping

Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2012 5:23 a.m. PST

helmets on , cameras are put way..

altfritz19 Dec 2012 7:05 a.m. PST

Going off on a tangent…did the Red Devils wear helmets in action?

Gaz004519 Dec 2012 7:50 a.m. PST

Those newfangled Kevlar pots aren't lightweight either………

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2012 8:41 a.m. PST

where I've read the Soviets sometimes refused to wear their helmets because it was seen as cowardly.

IIRC, Soviet headgear was of majopr interest to the Germans, at least some of them. Gen. Heinrici was a noted German defensive commander later in the war who was noted for his ability to predict Soviet attacks. One of the signs he used to determine if the Soviets were about to attack was whether the Soviets were wearing soft caps or helmets. Soft caps – all's well. Tin hats – they're coming!

donlowry19 Dec 2012 10:14 a.m. PST

The caps with bills were only worn by mountain troops at first, and only authorized for other types later, say around '42 or '43.

Milites19 Dec 2012 1:04 p.m. PST

Helmets reduce vision, and head movements, especially looking upwards, they also make a distinctive sound if they bash into/scrape a wall. So, my guess would be more caps and berets when FIBUA is going on for better stealth and situational awareness.

hurrahbro19 Dec 2012 2:13 p.m. PST

The reticence of the Russian soldier to wear a helmet was to my knowledge, more a WW1 problem than a WW2 one (Lettish units and the the Czech legion were commented on for wearing them in a manner that suggested that it was not the usual practice). I'm sure some of that machismo may have hung on into WW2. While the Russians suffered shortages in WW1, they were not that short of helmets, they certainly had a million or 2 French Adrians made for them (how many got there is not so well known), as well a local production. Enough certainly for the supply situation to be approaching the issue levels of the western front 1916 (when you go to the rear, please hand your helmet to your replacement in the front line).

Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2012 7:02 p.m. PST

The only troops I have come across who were notorious for doing without helmets while in action were British commandos 44-45 and this was much to the horror of medical officers who saw between 15-20% more head injuries from those units,with a corresponding increase in fatalities no doubt. I think British paratroopers actually fighting while wearing berets is a wishful macho man sort of fiction.

Kaoschallenged19 Dec 2012 7:12 p.m. PST

Helmets,caps and bare heads.
Kharkov 1943.



Martin Rapier20 Dec 2012 3:34 a.m. PST

The balalikas indicate that perhaps this is not a scene of intense combat:)

"did the Red Devils wear helmets in action"

Often they did, sometimes they didn't – from both photographs and personal accounts.

Helmets can become heavy and uncomfortable (although all the Soviet Ssh40 helmets I've handled have been made of such thin steel they hardly weigh anything) however when it is pouring with rain they keep your head a lot drier than wearing a hat, and to a large extent stop the rain running down your neck.

Kaoschallenged20 Dec 2012 3:42 a.m. PST

It probably wasn't combat but even though it wasn't it does show that both the M43 cap and helmet were worn at the same time. Robert

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP20 Dec 2012 4:28 a.m. PST

Suprised no one has mentioned the cold weather. German helmets were notoriously cold in poor weather, especially freezing conditions. The standard cap was not designed to be worn with the helmet as I remember though imagine they might have been at times.

On the other hand the standard US M1 helmet consisted of a steel outer shell over a hard hat type inner liner which contained the fitting system for the helmet. The knit wool cap was designed to be worn separately or with the helmet providing better insulation.

Martin Rapier20 Dec 2012 5:38 a.m. PST

With the German helmet you wear a toque underneath (the headover scarf thingy). It is fairly warm, even in sub zero temperatures, although I've never tried it at less than -12c.

You could probably shove a helmet over the side cap, but it isn't going to work with an M43.

The Soviets often wore their helmets over their pilotkas (which is why a lot of them look like baggy old sacks on their heads), but in very cold weather they've wear their Ushankas. Only allowed to drop the ear flaps below -10c and on the express orders of the CO.

Meiczyslaw20 Dec 2012 6:48 a.m. PST

The knit wool cap was designed to be worn separately or with the helmet providing better insulation.

As ugly as American kit was, it had a pretty good reputation for keeping you warm.

Kaoschallenged20 Dec 2012 10:29 a.m. PST

Some of us have mentioned it Marc33594. wink Robert

Kaoschallenged20 Dec 2012 11:20 a.m. PST

Here is another from Kharkov. Both helmets and soft cap .

1st SS Grenadiers in urban combat at Kharkov/Ukraine, March of 1943.

Kaoschallenged20 Dec 2012 11:50 a.m. PST

Or how about this one. M43 caps,helmets and what appears to be a M43 cap being worn under the soldier's winter fur cap in the front of the photo. Robert



Kaoschallenged26 Dec 2012 8:22 p.m. PST

Here is another with soldiers bareheaded,with helmet and M43
cap. Robert


German soldiers at Arnhem

Barin127 Dec 2012 3:13 a.m. PST

The helmet makes your life difficult: it fries your brain in summer, it is not that bad in winter as we indeed were wearing them on top of ushanka, for me, as a gun operator the brink of the helmet was hitting panorama optics. It wasn't looking so good – never seen any grandfather's foto in helmet. However it could save your life, so putting helmet on before the attack or while being pounded by artillery was as common as not wearing them most of the time

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