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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stahlhelms in Space

As I wrote some months ago, Darth Vader´s helmet was not as inspired by the classic German Stahlhelm (steel helmet) as one might think. But next year a movie will appear featuring totally WWII-style Stahlhelms in space. On planet earth the Stahlhelm is still serving in at least one country.

This post about the lasting influence of the most classic steel helmet is a sequel to "From Dürer To Darth". If you have not read that one you might want to do so before reading what follows.

Without any inspiration from yours truly my wife recently purchased something for our son that proves just how universal Darth Vader´s helmet has become:

Yes, Darth Vader´s reach now extends to the the socks of our children.

Now I must correct myself, in my previous Stahlhelm-post I wrote "During the final years of East Germany the basic Stahlhelm design was adopted by the US Armed Forces. The result was the PASGT". As an American reader kindly has pointed out to me, that sentence made it sound almost as if the US Armed Forces developed the PASGT-helmet from the Stahlhelm. I was expressing myself carelessly - sorry about that. I think the resemblance of the PASGT-helmet with Stahlhelms was unintentional. The resemblance did, however, lead to the PASGT-helmet being called the "Fritz-helmet".

A helmet similar to the "Fritz" was adopted by the Swedish Armed Forces in 1990, the m/90 helmet. Here is a photo of a guy training for United Nations service wearing a m/90 with a blue helmet cover.

The "Swedish Fritz", the m/90 helmet. I reckon this photo is from 1999.

Swedish firefighters had adopted an even more German-style helmet long before the m/90, but I am not sure when they started using these:

Old Swedish firefighter helmet, in the Piteå Museum. Does someone know when it was intoduced?

But the PASGT-helmet and m/90 can hardly compare with Finnish postwar helmets. For one thing, original German WWII-issued Stahlhelms continued to see service in the Finnish Armed Forces well after WWII and the "new" steel helmet introduced in 1955, the M55 (or m/55), was a copy of the the German WWII M40.

In the field the Finnish Armed Forces used the M55 well into the 1980s and I believe they retained it for ceremonial use a bit longer, does someone know exactly when they stopped using them?

I am not sure which year the armed forces of Afghanistan stopped using original German M16/18 helmets. But there is a photograph from US President Eisenhower's visit to Afghanistan in 1959 where they are still being worn.

There is at least one country that still to this day is using Stahlhelms, Chile:

Chilean military guards of honour still use a Chilean variant of the German M35 helmet. This photo was taken in 2009 in Santiago, Chile. PHOTO: Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump, USAF

From Peter Suciu´s really amazing helmet site I also understand that these Chilean helmets were introduced in the 1930s. The shape is closest to the German M35 helmet. The last (?) batch was produced in the 1980s.

A final question to you, dear reader, exactly which helmet model is featured in the coming movie "Iron Sky"? In the trailer for this dark science-fiction comedy you can see both Stahlhelms and MP 40s on the moon:

So, which is it? Are the storm troopers on the moon wearing repro/original M35s, M40s, M42s or perhaps Finnish M55s? The latter would be most suitable considering it is mainly a Finnish production. Interestingly, the cast of "Iron Sky" includes some internationally rather well-known actors such as Götz Otto, who played Otto Günsche in "The Downfall". The premiere of "Iron Sky" is now more or less exactly one year away (December 2011).

Will "Iron Sky" cement the Stahlhelm as a symbol of Nazism and evil? Possibly, but I find it quite interesting that not only in Finland and Chile the Stahlhelm is not automatically associated with Nazism, and not even with German soldiers. Where do you think the below hero monument stands?

The Warsaw insurgents monument. PHOTO: Cezary Piwowarski

Yes, in Warsaw. The soldiers are Polish guerrillas, resistance fighters. They often wore German helmets as can be seen in numerous wartime photographs.

Well, that was my concluding take on the influence and significance of the Stahlhelm, from sock icon to "Iron Sky".

Thanks to a blog reader and helmet collector I am now aware of this almost-too-good-to-be-true Iraqi helmet actually inspired by Darth Vader´s helmet. No kidding!


  1. Das Stahlhelm ist schön, herr Lars!

  2. in chile The last (?) batch was produced in the 1980s. well no so true now the chile army use the Stahlhelm M2007

  3. "...does someone know exactly when they stopped using them?"

    I dont know exactly, but when I was in army in 1985 there were some of those stahlhelm-style helmets in use. They were called natzi-helmets. I was in coast guard military unit and we never used helmets at all. Those very few were there because it belongs to solders equpment. I guess we were one of the last units in finland ever even pretend to use this famous style of helmet.

  4. This style of helmet was used in the newly independent Latvia in 1993 by the honor guard at their Brivibas (Freedom) Monument. A quick google photo search did not reveal any photos from that time

  5. The Warsaw insurgents used equipment that was either hand crafted in their basements or taken off nazi soldiers that were either taken prisoner or killed. Hence the Stahlhelm helmets.
    No, those helmets were not part of the official uniform.

    1. German... Not Nazi... careful with the N word mate.