Collecting Leads to Publication of New Book
"M1 Helmets of World War II: A Comprehensive Collecting and Research Guide" is the product of a two-year collaboration between Dr. Michael Spivey, a UNC Pembroke sociology professor, and Dr. Cesar Maximiano, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
"We began this project two years ago as members of an international collector's forum," Spivey says. "More than 90 percent of World War II artifacts are held in private collections. With the growing popularity of World War II collectibles and the growing collecting market on Internet auction sites like eBay, Dr. Maximiano and I decided that the collecting world needed a comprehensive collecting and research guide to help identify authentic helmets."
Published in April by Southern Cross Publishing in Brazil, the 120-page book is loaded with color photos of vintage helmets, research and stories. It retails for $60.
"It is really satisfying to put an academic spin on a childhood passion," Spivey says. "Over the years, I have gathered a collection with some very rare and one-of-a-kind pieces."
Spivey has collected U.S. World War II helmets since childhood. He got interested in the helmets through his older brother, John.
"My brother really influenced my early childhood interests," he says. "He was a former member of the 82nd Airborne and brought me a helmet when I was a kid, and I cherished it. He also gave us an old World War II-era German helmet that is still in the family."
The passion for collecting started from there and is going strong. Spivey's training in sociology, with a specialty area in cultural studies, increased his research interests.
"I'm very interested in a small but growing area in the social sciences known as material cultural studies, which studies the relationship between people and cultural objects or artifacts," he says. "I'm developing a research interest in the meanings that collecting has for people or groups of people in relation to a host of social variables, such as social class and social identity."
If collecting reflects the purpose and passion of people, the ultimate thrill for World War II helmet collectors is to trace the item to the person who wore it. The authors' academic training paid off here.
"We hope that our research guide will help collectors in researching the units and persons that their helmets came from," he says. "Here, we employed our academic research training to provide insights into the various ways of researching and identifying helmets.
"For example, I have four helmets in my collection for which I was able to identify the previous owner and gain some information about them, their units and where they served," he says. "It takes a few years to get the information in some cases and just a few hours in others. Luck helps too."
The best-known M1 helmet in Spivey's collection is a battlefield pickup that was found by a French farmer near Carentan, Normandy, France.
"This gentleman picked this helmet off a rubbish pile near a medical unit in the village in the summer of 1944," Spivey says. "Through my wife's family members in France, I made contact with the helmet's owner, and he sold it to me with the knowledge that there was no identifying information on it.
"After close study of the helmet, using a magnifying glass, I found a partial name scratched on the liner and a serial number. Four years later, when the registry came online as part of the World War II National Monument, I typed in the name and found Charly C. Didominic and the serial number were an exact match!"
Spivey sent off for his records in St. Louis and found that Charly C. Didominic was from Detroit, Mich., and served in E Company, 331st Battalion, 83rd Division, also known as the Thunderbolt Division. He was killed in action on July 4, 1944,on the first day of operations of his unit just outside of Carentan, while attempting to cross a marsh.
"This helmet has a bullet hole through the bill," Spivey says. "However, the helmet, along with its liner, is still in remarkable condition because it was picked up by the farmer soon after it was discarded."
Spivey attempted to find family members of Pvt. Didominic without success.
"What was an obscure helmet (object) now has a real history and a person attached to it," he says. "Our book is dedicated to Charly."
Three similar stories are found in the book along with photos of the helmets.
Two pieces in Spivey's personal collection are very rare M1 helmets. One is from D-Day, June 6, 1944, and was worn on USLCGL (Landing Craft Gun Large) 893. These were small gunboats that supported the landing troops at Utah Beach. The other helmet with rainbow arches belonged to the 5th Engineer Special Brigade, who landed in the assault waves at Omaha Beach. Under fire, the engineers cleared obstructions, including fortified machine gun nests.
The book is published by Southern Cross Publishing, Brazil, and will be distributed in the U.S. by Carolinas Press, Southern Pines. There are several publications for World War II U.S. M1 helmets, including a two volume set: "Steel Pots" and " Painted Steel," by Chris Armold, MSgt, USAF (Ret.), published by Bender Publishing.
Armold wrote the forward to Spivey's book: "Cesar and Mike have clearly done their homework and have been very accurate in the information they have presented. The section on battlefield and relic helmets is very interesting and insightful, as is the section on researching helmets. My hat, or rather my helmet, is off to Cesar and Michael for their contributions to our hobby."
"The best part of the book for me is the hundreds of color photos of rare and one-of-a-kind M1 helmets from private collections from all over the world!" Spivey says.
"M1 Helmets" is geared toward novice and experienced collectors alike, as well as those who may be curious about the great variety of painted and marked helmets that were worn by the "greatest generation."
The book may be purchased directly from Spivey by calling 910-521-6776, or e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available from Carolinas Press via e-mail Karo1942@mindspring.com. The book will also be available on eBay, an online marketplace.
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