- The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

    Collector Topics:  Helmet History

Photo:  Original diagrams by Professor Schwerd the designer of the helmet and its subsequent World War II varieties.

Helmet Development

The World War II German combat helmet has a history which is tied to its World War I predecessor; the leather spike-topped helmets of the early years of the Great War.  The familiar spiked-topped helmet was replaced in 1916 with a new steel helmet (stahlhelm) designated the M1916 for the year of its introduction.  This steel helmet was developed in response to the French Army's distribution of the early Adrian model helmets which were in fact the first wartime steel helmets ever issued by a 20th Century army.  The M16 helmet went through several modifications during World War I resulting in the M1917 and M1918 model helmets.  All three helmets were similar in overall appearance except for their internal liner systems and chinstrap arrangements.  This included an M1918 model with 'ear cut-outs' that provided for better hearing when in the trenches or when riding on horses.  The helmet was also used in limited fashion by field telephone operators which gave it the nickname 'telephone operator's helmet'.

During the 1920's and 30's, the German government began to redesign the World War I steel helmet in an effort to improve its look and function.  The vast majority of World War I model steel helmets were destroyed under the terms of the Versailles Treaty.  Some helmet remained in active service to meet Germany's small military needs.  As a result of significant shortages, the M1917 was remanufactured and introduced as a specially patented 'transitional' model for parade and general use.  The remaining stocks of wartime manufactured M1916, M1917, and M1918 helmets were reconditioned for military and police use before the National Socialists came to power in 1933.  

In 1935 the military approved a new combat stahlhelm known as the M1935.  The M1935 was similar in basic appearance to the old M1917 but was lighter, more functional, and significantly updated.  The M1935 helmet evolved several times throughout World War II based on wartime production needs.  Each modification resulted in a slightly newer variation although each held the same basic design.   At least three models were manufactured exclusively for combat; the M1935, M1940, and M1942.  Each helmet was designated by its year of introduction1.   All three versions of this helmet were worn throughout World War II.


1 In the United Kingdom the M1942 helmet is often referred to as the M1943 based on the year of its distribution.


Each section of is divided into separate Information Tracks that outline important details, facts, and historical notes pertaining to steel helmets used by the German Armed Forces during World War II.  

Information Tracks are organized by subject matter and their content is directly related to the service arm or organization to which each topic is related.  Topic areas that bridge one subject matter to another are cross linked within each Information Track.

This Information Track provides historical facts pertaining to helmet history 1933-1945.  Individual links related to this subject are outlined below.

    Collector Topics




Dome Stamps

Factory Production

Foreign Use

Helmet History

Liner Systems


Fakes and Reproductions

Rare and Unusual



A pre-war color postcard photo showing the M1935 in active use.  - The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

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