This is a U.S. Marine Corps M17 Helmet that apparently had been used by a Marine in France during WWI. It was purchased from a collector who had served in the Marine Corps, he informed me that the helmet had originally belonged to a Cpl. from Montana and that the Cpl. had been a veteran of the 5th Marine Regiment during WWI, he provided his name. The only other information that he knew or would offer is that the Cpl. had re-enlisted after the war and stationed at Marine Barracks, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Washington. I also purchased the Cpl's .45 Long Drop Holster, inscriptions and art of it suggests that he had served during the Occupation of Haiti. I am of the opinion that much of the art work on this helmet had been done during his time at the Marine Barracks. A first inspection of the art on the helmet suggested that the Cpl. may have been with the 1st Bn, 5th Marines at some point during the war, but it also appears that the Cpl. had left for France with the 78th Co. (Co.E) and that he had been at the Battle of Belleau Wood with that Co. and most likely throughout the rest of the war. Most of the art and miniature art/inscriptions had been done with scratch work and hardened wax. The art is subdued, unless pointed out and with a trained eye, then it is virtually unnoticeable. Many of the themes appear to be of Cowboys, Medieval Knights, Marines, French soldiers, and German soldiers. I assure you that I know first hand from ancient examples that Roman Legionaries did exactly the same with their helmets, as well as their armor, and also all their metal objects including blade weapons.
The focus of the research here is the miniature art and inscriptions on the Marine Corps EGA (Eagle, Globe, and Anchor) emblem on the helmet. Among other things the EGA had been reworked as to give a record of what the Marine Cpl. knew about the actual origins of the Devil Dog legend as well as other subjects, it is suggested that he had been involved with others in the "making" of the Devil Dog legend from stories of the Central American/Southern Mexican/Caribbean Cadejo (a type of Demon Dog), the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, and the Jersey Devil (the famed Jersey Devil had been reported to have had a dog's head in two 1909 sightings). In essence a hybrid demon dog associated with fighting men as an all American Devil Dog. Although these are the opinions of the Cpl. (or whoever did the art), some of the themes very much suggests that he knew more about that legend then anyone else that I know of to date. It seems that in his (or their) view that this Devil Dog identity had been conceived by veterans of Veracruz and Hait, as well as others of the 78th Co. (Co. E) 2nd Bn, 6th Marine regiment (aka 2nd Bn, 6th Marines, or 2/6) in the spring of 1918. The 78th Co. had been a rather unique Marine Rifle Company in it's beginning, that is according to a blogger named USMC A5 Sniper Rifle (Jim) on 12 Feb 2010 on the "US Militaria Forum". He writes: "The Company was originally 67% Univ of Minn graduates, one of the Platoon Commanders was an Army officer (2nd Lt Eddy), and the Company had numerous world class athletes. There has probably never been, before or since, a Marine Company with more college graduates in its ranks." The forum's identification of the 78th Co's later letter alphabetical designation as Co. G is incorrect, it should be Co. E. At any rate it would appear that some of the Marines of the 78th Co. may have been artistically inclined. After careful study it appears that the Cpl. or other artist who did the work on the EGA had been influenced by the Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch and the work "Hell" from the triptych of "The Garden of Earthly Delights", it was Bosch's most famous work. This may also be a play on the name "Bosche" as this had been a derogatory name for the Germans used by the French and then later the American Doughboys in WWI, from the French word caboche it simply means; a knob, a small dome, a nut, or heavy headed. The tradition of the US Marines as Devil Dogs is one of the most, if not "the" most famous nickname for members of a national military organization known, but then most modern historians now agree that the famed lore of the Germans referring to the ferocity of the Marines of the 4th Marine Brigade (the; 5th Marines, 4th Machine Gun Bn, 6th Marines, and 6th Machine Gun Bn.) of the U.S. Army's 2nd ID at Belleau Wood as Teufel Hunden (Devil Dogs) is suspect at best. The legend in brief states that the Germans at Belleau Wood were so impressed with the ferocity of the Marines that they called them "Teufel Hunden (Devil Dogs)". The three main reasons why the story is suspect is; that American newspaper articles had been published in April of 1918 referring to the Marines as Devil Dogs (that is prior to the Battle of Belleau Wood of June 1st to the 26th, 1918), the fact that the German Army had made no record of such a reference (although German Army Intelligence during or just after the battle did refer to the entire 2nd ID as possibly being a Division of Sturmtruppen (Storm Troops), and that it appears that the German term Teufel Hunden may have been an invented. With all that in mind an individual that contributes to the "The USMC Devil Dog conundrum" once again on the "U.S. Miltaria Forum" provided a newspaper article in Jan. of 2009 that he states is dated April 15th or 16th, 1918, a copy of the news article says: "that German soldiers dramatically had referred to Marines as Teufel Hunde" at that time. Now what comes next is in my opinion a clincher, and that is that the article states the source for the story to have been "the Marine Corps bulletin". Now the only Marine Corps bulletin that I can find for that era (that is that the press would have credited) is the Marine Recruiter's Bulletin. So in my opinion that bit of info. sums it up, that is the story is derived from a Marine Recruiter or Recruiters. So in my opinion the Devil Dog story appears to have been fed to the media exclusively via the Marine Corps pipeline, possibly from a Marine serving in France who had sent the story to a Marine Recruiter with whom he had previously served. So the much accepted speculation that a newsman or newsmen who created the story in order to grab spectacular headlines and assist with the war effort does not now appear to be so. I place much more validity on what is recorded on the EGA on this helmet. With this in mind I now think that the Devil Dog story originated from a group of veteran Marines as a type of psychological operation against their German foes and perhaps as a statement to Gen. John Pershing the commander of the AEF in France (Gen. Pershing had made it known that he had little appreciation for Marines as land Infantry), then fed it to the media via a key Marine Recruiter or a group of Recruiters. According to what is on this EGA a "Devil Dog concept" may have begun in Jan. of 1918, then further developed until initiated in March of 1918.
It also appears that the culture of blade weapons (Marine Officer and NCO ceremonial swords) of Marine Corps tradition "may" had been added during WWI, but did not stick. There are a couple of different swords seen on the EGA, but the one that is most important is identified by an inscription as "Joyeuse" the sword of Charmagne. With this there is a focus on this sword being smithed by a demon figure (that has a head that is also a cup with horns). There is also a reference to the ancient superstition of magnetic North/water compass and the making of a sacred sword. Black smiths but particularly sword smiths in the European tradition were always suspect as having at least some type of association with demonic forces, or even the devil himself, so it is shown as a sword that has dualistic symbolism. There are also several torches (in symbolism the torch is usually a symbol of the revealing of a mystery, hence wisdom) seen with the art in this area of the EGA, so all this "may" suggest that the torch and spearhead (that also appears to be as a sword pommel, but yet also an arrow head) portion of the final design of the 2nd Mar Div's shoulder insignia created in late 1943 "may" have been influenced by unspoken traditions with WWI 2/6 veterans that were still serving, and that it may even have been influenced by the Commandant at that time Lt. Gen. Thomas Holcomb (who as a Maj. been the commander of 2/6 at Belleau Wood), it may have had to do with Marines from the 6th Marines being the originators of the Devil Dog legend at the Battle of Belleau Wood, and most particularly the Marines of the 2nd Bn, 6th Marines, and then more partularly the Marines of the 78th Co. Of course the stars of the Southern Cross constellation on the insignia had been for the 2nd Mar Div's participation in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Although with that said, more in depth research with some of the images shows that overall the torch "may" be a symbol for the torch mentioned in the last stance of the poem "In Flanders Fields" by Canadian Army Lt. Col. John McCrae) that reads:
"Take up our quarrel with the foe.
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."
It is evident that the stance is the promise of a haunting with any soldiers that may in self interest forget the ultimate sacrifice of the fallen and consider giving up the fight.
The spear head/sword pommel it "may" be associated with the spear or lance head of Longinous (the spear of the Roman Legionary that was thought to have pierced Christ's side), as the pommel of the sword of Charmagne "Joyeuse". In some traditions Joyeuse was thought to contain that legendary spear or lance head. With that said as an arrowhead then it may be symbolic of the sacred arrow of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers Military Society (both the Lakota and the Sioux tribes also had Dog Soldiers). During a battle the Dog Soldiers would impale a sacred long sash to the ground with a sacred arrow (or some say a stake) and stand their ground until defeating the enemy or to their death.
Inscriptions on the Eagle of the EGE that will be discussed later but some of these highly suggest that Maj. Holcomb knew about the "making" of the Devil Dog legend and that he may have unofficially signed off on it.
There is also a hint as to why Marines later on during WWII would heavily adopt the KA-BAR fighting/utility knife. There is a bowie knife as a bayonet fixed to a rifle on the EGA, it is a key weapon on the EGA. This may have to due with some Marines bringing civilian bowie knives to France during WWI and a knowledge of the experiential U.S. Model 1898 Krag-Jorgensen "Bowie" Knife Bayonet" used during the Philippine Insurrection.