Of all WWII US Airborne military collectibles, Original helmets are one of the hardest items to obtain for a collection. There were three main types used in WWII. A fiber (cardboard) liner was used early on. This was soon replaced by high pressure (fiberglass) liners made by Inland and Westinghouse.
Original fiber airborne liners are so rare, they are virtually nonexistent. Inland liners are also quite rare. According to www.toppots.com, of the 1,900,000 Inland liners produced from 1942 to 1943, approximately 75,000 were converted to airborne configuration. It’s safe to assume that many of these left in Europe and other theaters.
Westinghouse manufactured liners appeared later in the war and they are the most common, but finding original airborne Westinghouse liners is not easy because of the high demand for airborne militaria. It is unknown how many airborne configured liners Westinghouse made.
Due to the popularity of WWII airborne collectibles and the scarcity of original helmets, the market is minefield of forgeries. That is why I was elated when my friend agreed to sell me my first Inland para liner. It took several years of coaxing, but we eventually agreed on a price and I am delighted to own it.
The kicker is where my friend found this piece of rare headgear; it was rescued from his relative’s costume rental store! When my friend found the helmet, it had General stars hot glued to the front, which he carefully removed (with no loss of paint). The store had also hot glued a bevo weave store tag inside the crown of the helmet over the Inland stamp. I debated over removing this label, but eventually I carefully removed the tag and kept it with the helmet.
The liner has been repainted, but it looks wartime. Strangely, there are traces of 6th Army Div decals beneath the paint. Creases in the khaki web A-straps indicate they have been folded up inside the liner from use as an infantry helmet. It is very fortunate they were not cut off like many Airborne Inland liners I’ve encountered.
With my Inland sitting proudly in my collection, I will now search to find an original leather chin cup for it, and an original M2 or M1-C shell to mate this liner with. In the meantime, I’ll use a regular fixed-bale M1 shell, which was appropriately used by airborne personnel as well.
Chris Hughes is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in 20th century militaria and the owner of Rally Point Militaria and Vietnam Uniform – Military Collectibles sites.