U.S. M-1 used by the French Forces of the Interior
The shell of this helmet was made by the McCord Radiator and Manufacturing Company and has a lot number of “750A," placing its production date sometime around December 1943. The exterior paint is a rough textured dark olive drab with white hand-painted French FFI
and Cross of Lorraine insignia. There is a faint green Fourth Division “Ivy” insignia painted on top of the cross. The rim is made of stainless steel and is spot welded to the helmet at the front making a front seam. The interior of the shell is painted smooth olive drab, and the lot number is located at the front on the visor bend. Both fixed chinstrap bales are intact, but the cotton chinstrap is missing.
The fiber liner was made by the Hawley Products Company. Its exterior is covered with light olive drab twill cotton and there are eleven visible rivet heads used to fasten the interior suspension and neckband. The liner’s interior contains a silver rayon suspension system with permanent headband. The suspension and neckband are held in place by rectangular washers, and the permanent chinstrap holders are present with no chinstrap.
Given the U.S. Fourth Division insignia is painted over the FFI
Cross of Lorraine, one can assume that the helmet was probably used by an FFI
soldier that either lost it or was killed, and a member of the Fourth Division picked it up at some point between Normandy and Paris. Since the Fourth Division had a big impact on the solidification of France’s liberation by taking part in Operation Overlord and being the first American unit to participate in the Paris liberation, the latter theory could be valid. The Allies did drop supplies to the French resistance shortly after the D-Day invasion on more than one occasion, so it is also a possibility that a French patriot picked up the helmet during one of the drops.
h3. Brief History of the French Resistance against the German Occupation and Vichy Regime
Once the German occupation and the oppressive Vichy regime were established in France after the armistice split the country into zones, the conditions for those loyal to the Free French Forces were grim. The eventual leader of the Free French, Gen. Charles de Gaulle, fled to London, and the resistance forces that were established in the early days of occupation were minor at best. Progress was not made until the French Communist Party and its paramilitary sect, the FTP
(Franc-Tireurs et Partisans
), began disrupting the German war effort around the time Russia was invaded in June 1941. Soon, small resistance groups and organizations began to crop up in the occupied and “free” (Vichy) zones. Men that dodged the labor draft fled to the wilderness regions of the south and formed small bands of fugitives known as the Maquis
. These French patriots, no matter how small or large the group, disrupted and harassed the Germans and the Vichy in all ways they could. They helped Jews, POWs, and downed Allied airmen escape the country as well as engaging in full fledged armed resistance.However, it was not until General de Gaulle began to establish himself as the leader of all the resistance forces and a unity began to form that the Free French actually became an effective fighting unit.
About the time of the Allied Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, the French armed resistance forces had grown tremendously to around 100,000 and were soon unified under de Gaulle’s leadership, which he named the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur
(French Forces of the Interior – FFI
) and placed under the command of Gen. Marie-Pierre Koenig. The FFI
became subordinate to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF
) and played an integral role for the Allies as they began the fight to liberate France. Finally, on August 25, 1944, Paris was free. Soon, many FFI
units were placed in the regular French Army and were allowed to continue fighting with the main force well into German territory – it was a wish many had dreamed for four years.
On July 17, 1944, a Time
article described General Eisenhower’s communiqués praise for the FFI
and their actions during the Normandy campaign. The article reported that the FFI
had done serious damage to Nazi communications and even “fought Nazi divisions in skirmishes and pitched battles; they were keeping ten of them tied down in the interior of France.” The communiqués went on to say this:
bq. The arm of French Forces of the Interior has with its British and American comrades played its assigned role in the battle of liberation…Systematic disorganization of enemy transport by the FFI
, has contributed directly to the success of Allied operations in Normandy.
and all French resistance forces received high praise throughout the liberation, an honor deserving considering their accomplishments.