The Sentinel’s Helmet, designed for limited use by soldiers in forward positions; it shows clear inspiration from late medieval pieces. It saw some limited field tests in France; it proved to be very protective, but was simply too heavy.
August 4 1918, New York–Among the more unlikely contributions to the American war effort was that of the arms and armor staff at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Trench warfare and modern artillery meant that armor once again had use on the battlefield (beginning with steel helmets in 1915), and their expertise in this formerly-obsolete craft was prized once again beyond the art world. After the United States entered the war, the Met’s curator of arms and armor, Bashford Dean, was made head of the newly-formed “Armor Unit,” and charged with designing helmets and other pieces of armor for American soldiers. The museum’s work with the Army was made public on August 4, 1918.
A helmet needed to be adequately protective, cheap to manufacture, lightweight, and also visually distinctive from the British, French, and German helmets already in use; the helmets had become one of the major ways to distinguish friend from foe on the battlefield. One of Dean’s favored designs was his Helmet Model No. 5, pictured below:
Ultimately, despite its other excellent qualities, the design was rejected by American field commanders because it looked too similar to both the German and the British designs. His next model (No. 8) went into mass production in November 1918, too late to see use in the war.
Dean’s group also designed armor for other parts of the body, though no more than a few examples before the end of the war. Press coverage in August 1918 stressed the leg and arm armor being developed, noting the high incidence of wounds to such areas being seen in field hospitals. To the modern reader, this seems like it may be an example of survivorship bias; those with wounds to more vital areas may not have made it to a hospital to begin with.
Sources include: The New York Times; The Metropolitan Museum of Art (includes image credit).