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Fielded by the US Army in various configurations through five decades, the M1 helmet is a universal symbol of the American GI. While the vast majority of these were made by the McCord Radiator Company,  nuances of each variation have meaning to collectors today. When these photos were taken in April 1942, the laborers weren’t making collectibles, however. They were producing a product, a product they felt key to saving the lives of US service men and women.

Figure 1. The basic shape of the M1 helmet was formed by a process known as drawing. A sheet metal blank, shown in the operator’s left hand, is placed over a cavity in a die. A punch will force the metal into the die, causing it to take on the shape of the punch and dies, as seen in the drawn helmet shell in the operator’s right hand.

Figure 1. The basic shape of the M1 helmet was formed by a process known as drawing. A sheet metal blank, shown in the operator’s left hand, is placed over a cavity in a die. A punch will force the metal into the die, causing it to take on the shape of the punch and dies, as seen in the drawn helmet shell in the operator’s right hand.

Figure 2. After the flat steel blank has been formed into shape, as second press was used to trim the edges of the pot. The tooling used after the initial drawing was referred to as “line dies.”

Figure 2. After the flat steel blank has been formed into shape, as second press was used to trim the edges of the pot. The tooling used after the initial drawing was referred to as “line dies.”

Figure 3. Another small press was used for “spanking”, or forming the edge of the pot. McCord had used some of this equipment before the war in making radiator tanks.

Figure 3. Another small press was used for “spanking”, or forming the edge of the pot. McCord had used some of this equipment before the war in making radiator tanks.

Figure 4. The front visor of a steel army helmet was "spanked," or formed into shape on yet another press. The helmet had an oval shape before this operation.

Figure 4. The front visor of a steel army helmet was "spanked," or formed into shape on yet another press. The helmet had an oval shape before this operation.

Figure 5. The rim of an army helmet was formed on a press from steel rod. Finished rims are shown on the hook below the operator's right hand.

Figure 5. The rim of an army helmet was formed on a press from steel rod. Finished rims are shown on the hook below the operator's right hand.

Figure 6. This operator is joining a steel reinforcing rim on an army helmet. The stamping press that performed this operation was one of many that formerly turned out auto radiator parts McCord.

Figure 6. This operator is joining a steel reinforcing rim on an army helmet. The stamping press that performed this operation was one of many that formerly turned out auto radiator parts McCord.

Figure 7. The wire rim was welded to electrically welded to the steel part in the operation shown here. As we can see, the manufacture of the M1 was very labor-intensive.

Figure 7. The wire rim was welded to electrically welded to the steel part in the operation shown here. As we can see, the manufacture of the M1 was very labor-intensive.

Figure 8. The steel pot with rim was placed on a conveyor for application of paint and the finely ground cork (not sand) that gave it its texture.

Figure 8. The steel pot with rim was placed on a conveyor for application of paint and the finely ground cork (not sand) that gave it its texture.

Figure 9. Completed helmets, sans liners, were carefully inspected prior to shipment to army depots.

Figure 9. Completed helmets, sans liners, were carefully inspected prior to shipment to army depots. 

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