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Is this true that the Soviet Army was so poorly equipped by the WW2 that soldiers had no helmets?

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4 Answers 4

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Don't know about helmets specifically, but in a nutshell, no. The Red Army was very well equipped; it had more airplanes and tanks (and some of them of better make) than the Germans. Same goes for many other categories of materiel.

Wikipedia gives this table for June 22, 1941:

               Germany and allies     Soviet Union    

Divisions                           166                            190

Personnel                    4,306,800                  3,289,851

Guns and mortars           42,601                      59,787

Tanks                              4,171                       15,687

Aircraft                            4,389                        11,537

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It was called "Red Army" at the time. –  Anixx Mar 3 '13 at 16:45
    
@Anixx: Fixed, thanks. –  Felix Goldberg Mar 3 '13 at 17:06
    

The myth of Russian helmets is quite popular speaking not only about the beginning of the war. The truth is that even if Soviet Army had enough helmets, there were some other reasons why soldiers didn't want to use them.

First of all, they were highly uncomfortable and reduced the sight, so soldiers preferred caps. Also they were made of very poor material (don't ask me for details) and too weak to provide good cover from anything (not speaking of bullets, as there were no helmets at those times which could protect from a shot). This way especially at the end of the war, when Germans didn't have as much artillery, helmets weren't so important for Russian soldiers. Another reason I've heard about was the shiny material, which helped Germans shooters to localize Soviet soldiers from a distance.

In the queue to blame there's also Russian propaganda machine. It's said that when Soviet Army were coming to Poland, soldiers heard from everywhere that Germans are in panic and they just run away from Poland leaving everything, including helmets. This way some Russian soldiers diaries contain scenes of leaving heavy and uncomfortable helmets on the road, in order to get a new one, left by Germans. They didn't even expect to fight until they reach the German border and in many cases they were right about it. Sounds a bit like Catch 22, don't you think?

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I wish you would've provided some sources. –  brilliant Mar 3 '13 at 22:52
    
I am afraid I didn't quite get your last paragraph. Do you mean to say that Russian propaganda machine would disseminate the message that Russian soldiers had helmets of poor quality (as compared to those of Germans) and that they didn't want to fight before reaching the German border? Why would Russian propaganda machine spread some bad things about Russian army? –  brilliant Mar 3 '13 at 23:25
    
Of course, taking a German helmlet instead of Soviet one would be punishable. A soldier has to keep his equipment and has to wear standard uniform. Not to say that in German helmlet he could be accidentally taken for an enemy. It is possible that they collected German (or other foreign) helmlets and re-furbished, re-painted them, but I never heared about such enterprise. At the same time Germans wearing Soviet refurbished helmlets were not uncommon. –  Anixx Mar 4 '13 at 7:04
    
@brilliant Soviet propaganda loved showing the heroic Soviet soldier. Showing him without a helmet, hair streaming in the wind, standing on top of a destroyed German tank or the ruins of a bunker made for great propaganda. –  jwenting Mar 4 '13 at 7:07
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@DarekWędrychowski and the Russian is more likely to have the same dilemma and shoot at the German too, giving you valuable time to switch targets :) –  jwenting Jun 12 '13 at 10:39

I am surprised that nobody linked to suitable wikipedia page:

Soviet helmets during World War II

Quote from article:

The SSh (stalnoy shlem, or steel helmet) 39 was of simple, more modern design, and was much easier to manufacture than the M36. The SSh-39 would be the standard design for Soviet helmets for the next 29 years, with only minor changes occurring during that time. It is also the design for the helmet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow. The helmet was produced primarily in three factories, the Stalingrad Tractor Factory (designated CT in the ink stamp), the Red October Factory (3K0) also in Stalingrad, and the Lysva Metallurgical Factory (LMZ).[2] The first liner was an eight-finger leather liner, similar to the German M35-M42. Next came a short production of an eight-finger liner made of Gralex. The final version of the SSh-39 liner was cloth, similar to the M-36 liner. All three variations of the liner were suspended from the helmet by three metal tabs, which were riveted to the shell near the top. This helmet, like the M-36, saw action in numerous campaigns before it was phased out in 1942 in favor of the SSh-40.

Article also mentions other 2 types of helmets used in World War II (M-36 and SSh-40) and Adrian helmet that was used in early years of Soviet Union. Also there's a poster with classic red star helmet:

enter image description here

So, the answer is no. It's a myth.

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Nice answer!!!! –  Felix Goldberg Mar 5 '13 at 11:13
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except it doesn't take into consideration things like scarcity and production numbers. Since 2 of the factories were in Stalingrad, I'd expect scarcity due to loss of those factories from 1942 on to the point new factories could be opened and start mass production elsewhere. And without sufficient stockpiles, early during mobilisation there might indeed have been troops without access to helmets. –  jwenting Mar 5 '13 at 11:28
    
@jwenting Nice point. I was answering OP's question: soviet army soldiers had no helmets. My point is that regular army was equipped with helmets in 1941. I'll try to find sources on production numbers. If you have references on helmet shortage during mass mobilization be sure to post them here. –  default locale Mar 5 '13 at 11:53
    
@defaultlocale I've heard a lot about Soviet troops arriving at Stalingrad and being sent into the line with 1 rifle for every 2-3 of them. Wouldn't surprise me at all if the same were true of other items of basic equipment. –  jwenting Mar 5 '13 at 13:02
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Possibly you could improve the answer by pointing that the helmet on the picture is not the typical for WWII SSh-40 but the Adrian helmet which was mostly obsolete by the time. –  Anixx Apr 1 '13 at 21:11

I think you are mistaken with the wars. This is true for the Great War. Russian forces were poorly equipped and helmets were the last thing Russian industry would have thought of.

Here is a picture of charging Russian infantry in 1916 (I do not put it here due to copyright).

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