|The study of World War II
German helmets is not complete without examining how steel helmets
were manufactured and assembled. Surprisingly, the process of
helmet production has often been left relatively un-addressed in prior
works focusing on World War II German helmets. The process as a
whole is quite interesting as it entails the shaping and forming of
steel into one of the best known military items in the world.
At the time the new M1935
helmet was placed into production, helmet manufacturing
was like that used during World War I. Much of the
knowledge gained during the First World War was applied in the
production techniques of those helmets manufactured during the Second
World War. Helmets were
constructed through a complex series of stamping
stages. Between each stage a helmet was placed in
an oven to temper the steel after it had been shaped or
bent by large hand operated mechanical presses.
When the shell was
completed, it was then painted by hand operated
pneumatic spray guns. Large racks of helmets were
then placed in ovens to bake the paint and harden it to
the steel surface. After the helmet shells were
completed, they were hand assembled using the liner
components supplied to the factory by
subcontractors. If decals were used, they were
also placed on the helmet by hand following the final
assembly. In some cases, helmet decals were also
placed on semi-dry painted shells prior to their
insertion into one of the baking ovens.
With the reorganization
of the German war industry, Albert Speer instituted
widespread improvements in wartime manufacturing.
As a result, the process of manufacturing the steel
helmet was significantly improved around 1942.
This resulted in hot stamping techniques that pressed
metal into the shape of the helmet. The older
mechanically operated presses were replaced with
automatic shell stamping machines that bent the metal
Every effort was placed
on mass production techniques where previously slower
methods had been used. Laborers consisted of
skilled and unskilled German workers both men and women.
In some cases slave labor was used in the production of
steel helmets as well as workers who were German civilians generally
living in the town or city where the manufacturing plant
When helmets were finally
complete, they were stacked and crated for shipment to
military distribution centers all over Germany and
occupied Europe. Like most military armaments,
they traveled to their point of issue on locomotives and
trucks. Once they arrived, they were often
restacked by military personnel in supply buildings
until they were issued.