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Headgear -
WWII Nazi German Luftwaffe SSK 90 Protective Flight Helmet Flieger Stahlhelm SSK 90
Item #: VF4096
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The helmet is constructed of overlapping, rivetted, stamped, thin steel metal plates with an exterior, five panel, chocolate brown leather covering. The exterior leather panels consist of dual side panels with central, vertical, machine stitched seams and a single panel running over the top crown from the obverse to the reverse. The top crown panel has the addition of a raised, tubular leather "comb", with internal padding, running from the obverse forehead section to the top center of the crown. This "comb" served double duty as an easily accessible handle and afforded extra crash protection. The reverse of the central panel has a horizontal leather loop stitched near the bottom edge to secure the communication wiring. The helmet has semi-circular cut-outs to each side at the bottom edge to facilitate the use of communications headsets. The semi-circular cut-outs are both flanked by slightly diagonally angled, leather loops and male snaps to secure the "Y" patterned chin strap harness. The blackened leather chin harness is included and is basically the same design as the M38 Paratrooper helmet chin strap harness. The chin harness has dual straps to each side with corresponding female "Prym" snaps. The dual side straps of the chin harness are rivetted together creating a "Y" pattern with the left hand side straps having a steel gripper buckle rivetted and stitched to the end. One of the straps on the right hand side has a transverse piece of leather machine stitched to the end creating a "T", a female "Prym" snap and a corresponding male snap on a sliding leather loop. The right hand side strap is inserted through the steel gripper buckle on the left hand side strap for secure closure. One of the rivets at the juncture of the "Y" straps is broken. The interior of the helmet is fully lined with a five panel, slightly mottled, white flecked, tan cotton material as utilized on the summer flight suits with an internal padding. The lining has a white rayon label with blue, machine woven script, machine stitched in place. The script to the label includes the designer’s name, "Seimens", the model designation, "Baumuster SSK 90", the manufacturer’s name, "Luftfahrtgerätewerk Hakenfelde G.M.B.H., (Aviation Equipment Works, Hakenfelde Incorporated), the acronym, "Striwa", indicating, Striegel& Wagner, and, "Kopfgroße: 57-59", (Head Sizes: 57-59). The helmet is in overall near mint condition with minor age and usage toning. Scarce, short lived, protective flight helmet.
With the advent of military aircraft in WWI most of the early pilots soon discovered that appropriate protective headgear was a necessity due to the cold and the all too frequent occurrence of oil leaking into the slipstream and covering the pilot. Originally the German military was caught unprepared and no specific headgear or uniforms for pilots were available. This resulted in the pilots utilizing commercially produced motor car helmets. These tight fitting, soft leather helmets proved to be ideal and future flight helmets were basically modified versions of the early motor car helmets. During WWII the Luftwaffe utilized no fewer then ten slightly different models of flight helmets with the main modifications being helmets issued for summer or winter wear and helmets with or without integral radio communication fittings. The assorted cloth and leather flight helmets provided to active flight crews by the Luftwaffe offered insufficient protection for head wounds caused by small caliber weapons and Flak shrapnel. As a result many aircrew personnel wore the standard M35 or M40 steel helmet over their cloth or leather flight helmets. As early as 1939 the OKL, Oberkommando des Luftwaffe, (High Command of the Air Force), had ordered development of a specific aircrew protective steel helmet and on May 8TH 1941 the SSK 90 protective steel flight helmets were introduced and issued to active aircrews and were intended for wear over the fabric or leather flight helmet. Curiously of the SSK90 helmets issued only half were equipped with the removable chin strap harness. The SSK 90 helmet proved to be quite unpopular amongst the troops and due to its heavy weight, (roughly 4.2 pounds), ungainly appearance and questionable protective qualities it was withdrawn from service on May 26TH 1941.