Painting Red Crosses (on your helmet)

If you are looking for a WWII Medic helmet either for reenacting or just to have Viagra Canada Online in your collection please take note of this one little bit of information

They did not come with red crosses

There was no civilian war worker at Kilroy’s Helmet Mfg. Co painting on those distinctive white and red crosses. This was a modification done by the troops in the field. Sometimes it was done by the individual GI against “regulations,” sometimes it was authorized by the commanding surgeon, and sometimes the helmets were painted up on a unit level so they looked the same.

So, for best effect, you should paint your own helmet. Here’s how:

Choose your style

Note all the different styles of helmet markings

Note all the different styles of helmet markings

There are many different styles of helmet markings that cropped up during the war and you’ll need to choose one. If you are a reenactor, you’ll probably want to ensure that the helmet markings are consistent throughout your unit as well as do some research on your exact detachment to try and determine what they were using.

Alan Batens wrote a good article on helmet marking variations with lots of photographs. I suggest you use it as a starting point in your research. For what it’s worth, my preference is for the 1 or 4 white circles with red crosses that don’t intersect the edges of the circle. Sound confusing? Go take a look at Alan’s research.

Gather your equipment

You are going to be painting. I suggest:

  • 2 foam brushes
  • 1 small bottle of white acrylic
  • 1 small bottle of slightly darker than primary red
  • Some plastic thingy to pour paint onto, perhaps a lid of some sort
  • Wet rag
  • Pencil

Purchase the brushes in the exact width you want the cross to be. I think I used a 1″ brush on mine so that it was the same as a brassard cross. You may want thicker. I suggest foam brushes because the paint will go on with a crisp edge. If you use a traditional brush you may want to create a mask.

At these big-box craft stores like Michaels you’ll find all the acrylic you could ever want and more. I’d suggest just buying whatever is on sale. Also note that they will stock more variations on white then you ever thought possible. Just get white, white. Not super-bright white, not slightly-yellow white, not slightly dingy-white, just white. It may be difficult.

I went with primary red with my helmet, but found that it was very red. I ended up toning it down a little bit with some black — just a touch. You may want to start off by buying a slightly-darker than red bottle of red.

Trace your outline

Using the pencil trace the outline for the white background. Try to get it circular like (if that’s what you’re going for), but avoid the temptation to use a circular object to trace around. Notice in the photo above that they didn’t get perfectly circular markings either.

Be sure to mark all the circles you are planning on putting on your helmet to avoid overlaps.

Paint the white background

Using your foam brush, paint the white background. Don’t press to hard, especially on the edges, to avoid lots of paint building up. If you go over the edge of your circle, you can use the wet rag to “delete” sections and try again. Acrylic is very forgiving in this way.

Paint all the backgrounds, then let the paint on the helmet dry until the paint is uniformly dry to the touch. Don’t let it sit for hours because we don’t want the paint to set.

Paint the red crosses

Using your foam brush, get it loaded with red paint, and then dab it on an empty portion of your paint palette until most of it is gone. This way you avoid any paint from building up.

The key here is to use one continuous, smooth stroke to create the vertical line forming half of the cross. Let it dry slightly and then do the horizontal.

Deleting is not as easy here, so take your time. You can do some slight touchups by using the foam brush if it turned out really bad. Remember, a super crisp line isn’t critical here. If you do want a 100% crisp line, you can use painter’s tape to create a mask. It works okay, depending on how smooth the cork on your helmet has become.

Beating it up

My first reaction after painting on the crosses was that it looked too new. The rest of the helmet was beat up, and these crosses were bright white. So, the first thing I did after the paint dried was beat it up.

This is why we didn’t want to wait for the paint to set-up and really harden. Pick your method, but I took my helmet outside and threw it into the dirt and mud repeatedly. Then I rolled it around in some gravel. Then I beat the helmet across a pine tree repeatedly. By this point the paint had sufficiently scratched up to where it looked somewhat respectable.

For now, the only photo I have of my helmet is below, I’ll cialis online cheap try to get a more close-up photo soon.

Close-up of a hand-painted helmet.

Close-up of a hand-painted helmet.

10 Comments

  • ww2md says:

    Obviously no need to get nervous and have some artist-type person paint it for you, eh!?

  • ww2md says:

    The pics of medics/corpsmen in the Pacific shows that they tried to hide the fact that they were medical personnel. This was probably due to the fact that the Japanese were shooting them.

    • Ryan Henry says:

      You raise a good point.

      I have some original photos of USN beach battlion medics and litter bearers with helmets simply marked w/ a white circle; and a white circle also painted on one of the butt pockets of their dungarees, to denote to other marines and sailors that they are medical personnel. I have also seen a photo from Guadalcanal, 1942, of hospital corpsmen with brassards (See. p. 56 of “Sailors in Forest Green”). Of course, in the 4th MARDIV, for example, the implementation of the codified UNIS system (tac marks) allowed for FMF corpsmen to be identified from behind as long as their backs were visible. As you probably know, other divisions used this system as well.

      When I do my late war Corpsman impression, I carry a carbine and turn my old Unit 1 bag around so the red cross isn’t visible. The bag and my bolo knife are the only real giveaways. Everything else I carry is USMC issue. What I get from photo evidence is that in the PTO — esp. late war — corpsmen survived by trying to look as “uncorpsmanlike” as possible!

  • ww2md says:

    This is the same for the Corpsmen of Vietnam. Like the Japanese,medical personnel were targeted by snipers. I have seen pictures from the PTO that shows that medical and clergy wore side arms at the front. The carbine that you use would be correct in a late war impression. As a one time FMF Corpsman, it was good to see the term “Unit 1”. For those that do not know, the Unit 1 is a medical equipment bag that was carried.

    Good job!

  • ward says:

    were helmet nets put to much use by medics in ww2? i don’t know if i’ve seen any photos from the period depicting a medic with one…

  • ward says:

    here’s a link to my helmet… i cheated and had my pops do it for me:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/akula06/3900902330/in/set-72157617003370835/

    i’d have done it myself but he’s got 40 years of painting experience on me

    • Taylor Dewey says:

      Nice job! Well, to your dad anyway 🙂

      It’s always a bit of a leap of faith to start painting up a nice looking helmet — I painted my crosses on a pretty beat-up shell that I found. Made it a bit easier. I have to say though, your helmet could use a good dose of the last step — perhaps at the next reenactment, eh?