Catalog Number
Date of Origin
ca. 1915
metal, leather, woven fabric, possibly wool
11.5" X 12" in.
Green helmet, metal, with leather straps and metal clips.  The helmet is oval shaped with a domed center.
This helmet belonged to Holland, MI resident Benjamin Kool. Benjamin served in WWI with the 339th Infantry, Company D, in northern Russia as part of the Polar Bears. The donor is Benjamin’s niece.

Benjamin, after returning from WWI, spent the remainder of his life at Fort Custer in Battle Creek, MI in a VA hospital. He died there on March 4, 1975 and was buried in Pilgrim Home Cemetery in Holland, MI.

The following history of Ben Kool was provided in September 2017 by Ben's niece, Mary Kool Van Harn.

"Benjamin Kool was born near Holland, Michigan in 1893. His parents were Jennie Postma, born in Singapore, MI and Peter Kool, born in Oudega, Netherlands. Ben was the second oldest child with 6 siblings. My father, William Kool, was a younger brother of Ben. I would gues that they had a happy and healthy life living on the family farm.
Then the call came in May of 1918 to serve in the U.S. Army. He, along with other young men from MI, was needed to help finish World War 1. Many men and women had already gone to serve their country and many gave their lives. Was he proud to serve or not? Today no one knows the answer to that question. But he was physically able and was "consigned" to go.
The group from Holland was first sent to Camp Custer in Battle Creek for training. After a short time they boarded trains and they were sent to New York where they boarded large ships for overseas duty. That trip over the Atlantic was long and arduous. Some of them contacted the Spanish flu and died. Besides that, the recruits did not know where they were headed. Many thought that it would be France. One of their stops was in London. As they left London, for some reason, Uncle Ben wrote his name and home address on a slip of paper and threw it out the train window. Was it to let his parents know that he was alive? Was it fear of the future? Again, we do not know his thinking, His note was picked up by a 9 year old boy, Eddie Dakin. That boy kept the note and started corresponding with Uncle Ben's family in Holland. That correspondence lasted for 40 years. Eventually he, as an adult, came to Holland to meet Uncle Ben's family and to go to Camp Custer to meet the "man from the train". War brings lots of bad happenings but this one was good for the Kool family.
Instead of France or another European country, the troops were sent to Northern Russia in Archangel near the Arctic Circle to be involved in a Russian Civil War between the Bolsheviks and the White Guards....
Those whose lives were not lost in the war gave their lives in other ways. Uncle Ben was one of those who gave his mental life...He came home with "shell shock" and was never able to function normally again.
After living with his parents for a while in Holland, it was obvious that the family could not cope with his illness. Along with other behavioral problems was his fear that the enemy was coming. He placed empty tin cans on fence posts around their small farm to try to keep the enemy out. At some point, the family had to make the extremely difficult and sad decision to bring him to Camp Custer to live there."

Benjamin Kool was born near Holland, Michigan in 1893. His parents were Jennie Postmas, born in Singapore, MI and Peter Kool born in Oudega, Netherlands. Ben was the second oldest child with 6 siblings....";237
Gift of
Helder, Sandra