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Artifact Friday: The Adrian Helmet

It is time for another #ArtifactFriday!

This week we are covering the cover called an Adrian Helmet. The Adrian Helmet, though a French cover actually plays an important part in American and African American History. The helmet was adopted by the French in 1915 after years of "Soup Bowl" helmets. Prior to the Adrian helmet most soldiers would wear metal skullcaps that resembled a basic soup bowl one would eat out of. This skullcap would be worn under their dress Kepi hats, as an extra layer of protection. In 1915 though, General Agust-Louis Adrian designed the 2-piece brimmed helmet with a crest that covered ventilation holes. This idea came from Parisian Firefighters but was modified to be just a hair thinner. The helmets would be the same blue-gray color as their uniform and would later be the namesake of an entire segregated division.

In 1917, the U.S. joined the WWI war effort. As the U.S. began dispatching many groups to France, one group who expected to be deployed found themselves sitting on the Mexican Border. This group was known as the Buffalo Soldiers. As the war continued on though they would be organized to deploy. The Buffalo Soldiers would be split into 2 divisions, the 92nd (who would continue to go by the Buffalo Soldiers) and the 93rd (who were known as the Blue Helmets). Unfortunately, when they arrived on the front lines they continued to face persecution. Most were only allowed to handle logistics and support and often times their General, General John Pershing lent them out to the French Army. This is where they picked up the blue helmets and charged forward. Though none of these men would receive Medals of Honor from their own countries during their lifetimes, the French Government was happy to award them with their equivalent, the French Croix de Guerre (Cross of War).

Since WWI ended only 2 of the African-American Soldiers who fought in WWI have received Medals of Honor. In 1991, Corporal Freddie Stowers received one for his actions in 1918, and in 2015 Sergeant Henry Johnson for his actions in 1918. Both men were a part of the 93rd Division, AKA, The Blue Helmets.

Now the Adrian Helmet in our collection has lost its blue hue over the years but it still serves as a reminder of service past. Happy African American History Month!

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