Of special interest to American troops is a study recently completed by the
commanding officer of a British medical unit in the Middle East. The officer
has examined 150 consecutive cases of localized skull fractures sustained
during battle, more than 90 percent of which occurred in the Western Desert, and
has demonstrated the following points:
a. That a considerable area of the skull is not protected by the
British (old type U.S.) steel helmet from missiles moving horizontally
b. That severe wounds of this unprotected area are common. The medical officer
was unable to secure accurate data as to how many of the 150 casualties were
wearing a steel helmet when injured; the available figures suggest that not
more than half were wearing their helmets.
Herewith is a composite sketch (fig. 4) based on radiographic observations
of the 150 fractures, considered in relation to the areas covered by the
British steel helmet, by a proposed British helmet, and by the U.S. helmet M1. In
this sketch, black dots show the positions of the fractures. It can be observed
that of the 150 cases, 65 wounds are below the brim of the British steel
helmet, whereas 85 are above. There are no skull wounds below the brim of
the U.S. steel helmet. The heavy concentration of wounds in the forehead
is worth noting.
|Figure 4. Steel Helmets and Head Wounds.|
The proportion of casualties in this series produced by high-velocity
missiles (bullets) has not been determined, but it is common knowledge
that not more than 10 percent of casualties with head wounds caused by
high-velocity missiles live to reach the base. Fragments extracted from
these cases indicate that the majority were caused by low-velocity
missiles (grenade or shell fragments). These fragments usually remain
within the cranium as foreign bodies. This indicates that one
thickness of the skull stopped the missile; therefore, it is
reasonable to assume that one thickness of a steel helmet will
stop such a fragment before it injures the brain.
An additional point of interest is that a high proportion
of fragments that produce head injuries travel in
a horizontal or slightly inclined trajectory. Examples
of such fragments are those caused by bomb burst, mortar
burst, or high-explosive shells bursting on contact
with the ground. Very few head injuries result from air bursts.
The American medical officer who reports the results
of this study adds the following comment: "This series
of cases, which are the result of actual warfare, supports
the wisdom of those officers who designed the
present U.S. Army steel helmet M1."