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Flight Gear 1944-1945 / F-3 Heated Suit Headgear / Oxygen Masks / Boots Flak Vests / Helmets / Misc
Parachutes 1943-1945 "Little Friends" Fighter Pilot Gear Dressing for a Mission
(X) Shown above is one example of what fighter pilots wore late 1943 into the first half of 1944. My figure is based on the many pilots of the 20th and 55th FGs. The RAF first aid kit shows up in the 20th and 364th FGs and possibly more. The RAF first aid kit did not replace the standard issue first aid kit tied to every parachute, but was an addition. Additional RAF items shown above are the 1940 pattern flying boots, the white silk gloves worn under the 1943 pattern gloves and the RAF 1942 pattern type C helmet. The other items are U.S. issue: The tanker jacket and pants/coveralls (shown folded in front), the B-3 life preserver, the B-8 parachute with the U.S. issued first aid kit, the AN-6530 goggles, the A-14 oxygen mask with T-44 mic installed. Plus one more RAF item, the AM (Air Ministry) marked whistle. Several of these items are shown in more detail in the photos below.
(1) Shown above is the Tanker Jacket or Combat Jacket. The name "tanker jacket" seems to be the term mostly used. It was warmer than the A-2 jacket and more comfortable to wear. The jacket and pant/coveralls were made of the same material and had the wool blanket type lining. Its use decreased when the B-10 jacket and A-9 pants arrived.
(X) Shown above are three pilots of the 55th FG. On the left is Lt. Larsen wearing the tanker pants/coveralls that go with the tanker jacket. Lt. Larsen was KIA Dec. 1944. Shown center is Lt. Garlock who was shot down May 1944 and became a POW. Shown far right is Lt. Jensen wearing the tanker jacket and pants/coveralls. He too was shot down and became a POW in Nov. 1943. The men are shown turning in their personal items before going out on another mission.
(X) Shown above is the RAF 1941 pattern gloves accompanied by the silk inserts. These gloves show up in a few photos of U.S. bomber crews, but were much more prevalent with U.S. fighter pilots.
(2) Shown above is a closer look how the RAF First aid Kit was hung from the life preserver strap. This RAF kit shows up in a few photographs, but not as prevalent as the US parachute first aid kit. One can only speculate on how or why some of these kits wound up in some of the fighter groups. Also in the photo, the connection point for the life raft is shown clearly.
(3) According to Mick Prodger's excellent book "Luftwaffe vs. RAF: Flying Equipment of the Air War, 1939-45", there were 3 variants of the Aircrew First aid kit -- The Mk I, MkII and MkIII. The one kit displayed on my fighter pilot is stamped MkIII. The one shown above has no markings. The only difference is the printing of contents. One refers to the anti-burn gloves as mittens while the other kit describes them as gloves. Either way, both kits contained the following: 2 morphine syringes / 2 anti-burn mitten-gloves / 1 tube of anti-burn jelly 1 oz. / 1 large wound dressing / and 1 safety pin.
(4) Shown above is a an excellent photo of a group of 364th FG pilots. Shown circled are the RAF first aid packets. The pilot on the far left has a hose extending from the waist. That hose is from the anti-G suit Type G-1 or Type G-2. War Time G suits are very rare to find. For you beginning collectors, I will make this a test photo. I'll simply list the items in photo and you find them: A-11, Type-C's, AN-H-15, B-8's, A-14's, B-2's, B-8's again, B-10's, M-3's, B-4's, AN-6550/AN- S-31A "Crusher" and P-51 (Further down this page is a second group of pilots from this same FG SQ).
(X) Shown above is Capt. Merriman of the 20th FG 79th SQ, posed with three of his ground crew. The RAF First Aid Kit is hanging from the waist strap of his B-3 life preserver. A Life Jacket Dye Marker packet is hanging on the front of his B-3. He has fixed a hose extension to his A-14 mask. His flight suit looks like the A-4 with a zipper added to the lower right leg pocket and like most of the fighter pilots, additional straps or pockets have been added including the one on his lower left leg which has what looks like the Army M-3 trench knife. Note the varied mission symbols on his plane.
(xx) Shown above left is the POLAROID ALL-PURPOSE GOGGLE No.1021. The goggles could be found, as its description "ALL-PURPOSE" implies, on anyone and everyone needing a goggle including bomber crews and fighter pilots. They do show up on flight crews early in the war, but are soon replaced with the better options.
(xx) Shown above left and right are the B-7 goggles topping off the AN-H-15 summer helmet. It is rare to find a bomber crew, B-17 or B-24, wearing this helmet. (See Joe Vieira Salute on the F-2 page as an exception.) Among fighter pilots based in England, most pilots flew wearing the C helmet or A-11 helmets. I would estimate its use was less then 10% among fighter pilots.
(xx) Shown above left is the B-8 goggle on top of an A-11 helmet, used by both bomber and fighter pilots. It shows up in plenty of photos.
(X) Shown above is Lt. Lamb of the 56th FG. His oxygen mask is the RAF Type E. This mask was used for a short period before switching to the RAF type G mask. The Lt. also wears the 1021 goggles on top of the C helmet.
(5) Shown above is the RAF type C 1942 pattern with B-7 goggles. The O2 mask is the RAF type G mask, the exact set up used by Gabby Gabreski, Bud Mahurin and many others of the 56th FG.
(X) Shown above is the T-44 mic, shown both, installed in the A-14 mask and new out of the box. The T-44 is very easy to install. Instructions are included. It's installation is similar to that of installing the ANB-M-C1 mic.
(X) Shown above is a great example of how chamois was applied to the A-14 mask. Some pilots had this applied and others didn't. It was a personal preference. The pilot shown is Lt. Iglesias of the 355th FG 357th SQ. Other items shown utilized by the Lt. is the T-44 Mic, the B-10 jacket, A-11 helmet with Mark VIII goggles, the 41 pattern RAF gloves and a B-8 parachute with unpainted rip cord handle. The other chrome like item is the whistle.
(X) Shown above is Lt. Col. John Ferguson of the 62nd Sq., 56th FG. Note broad white stripes on the wing of the P-47. The presence of these "invasion markings" dates this photo. It was taken on or after June 6th, 1944. Ferguson flew with the 56th from June 1944 to Feb. 1945, 70 combat missions in all. This is a signed photo and despite John's signature across the front of the photo the clarity is excellent.
(X) Shown above in the popular photo is L-R Major Peterson, Major "Kit" Carson, Major England and Major "Bud" Anderson. There all wearing the A-2 jacket. They all have MK VIII RAF goggles and RAF type C helmets. England has a 42 pattern the rest the 43 pattern. England has a B-4 Mae West the rest have B-3s. Peterson has a camouflage pattern scarf from a parachute. Anderson has the T-44 mic installed in his A-14 mask, Carson does not. Anderson has his receivers of the C helmet taped in the others do not. These 4 gentlemen were the top scoring aces of the 357th. . Anderson has a very nice website worth visiting at www.cebudanderson.com.
(X) My figure above is based on the many items you see in this popular photo of the 364th FG shown below. I speculate photo was taken sometime in the last 6 months of the war. One of the items that dates the photo are the 2 B-8 parachutes with bayonet hardware. My figure above wears the B-8 parachute with Bayonet hardware over the RAF life preserver, the B-10 jacket with authentic U.S. armband, A-11 helmet, B-8 goggles and A-14 mask with ANB-M-C1 mic installed. The gloves are A-11A type. In the photo below the flying suits are the AN-6550 and/or AN-S-31A types.
(X) Lee Archer, shown above, is wearing two types of flight helmets. As best as I can determine, the helmet on the right is the RAF first pattern type D. The forward goggle straps as well as the early rubber flanges around the earphones have been removed. These rubber flanges are easy to remove and are not attached to the rubber "cup" receivers in any way but are slipped over them. Because of the poor quality of the photo, I should add the possibility the helmet may be an RAF E type helmet.
(X) vvvv vvvvvvv
(8) Shown above is Captain Ed Gleed, posed by the extra fuel tank (drop tanks) of his P-51. He holds the A-14 mask in his right hand. The RAF 1941 life preserver has three pieces of Kapok that is inserted into the preserver. It looks like Gleed may have removed the piece that goes behind the neck. The other two kapok pieces are present and you can see a portion of one protruding out of one of the small openings at the bottom of the vest. Note the American flag on his A-2 and the tape put on the barrels of the three wing guns to keep out dust and dirt.
(7) Shown above is one example of what the typical Tuskegee fighter pilots wore during the last year of the war, flying out of Ramitelli Air Field in Italy. This example is based on Capt. Ed Gleed. Shown are: B-8 goggles on top of the early RAF Type C helmet; The seat pack parachute over the 1941 RAF Mae West; The A-2 jacket and the A-11A gloves with removable knitted wool insert. (In Tuskegee photos the pilots are wearing the A-11 version, which has a wrist strap.) Also shown above is the M-3 holster for the 45 Cal. pistol with WW1 ammo pouch for 2 extra magazines. Many of the pilots were issued this weapon. The pilots also wore the B-10/A-9 pants (shown below on this page). I also noticed several of the pilots wore their A-4 or AN-6550 flight suits over their B-10 instead of under like so many 8th and 9th pilots did. The painting of the American Flag shows up on many Tuskegee A-2s (The 15th AAF Bomber Crews did the same). This late in the war I would have expected to find them wearing the B-8 parachute like so many 8th and 9th fighter pilots. But this wasn't the case. The presence of seat pack chutes dominate the photographs. Other items worn by them were the B-3 and B-4 Mae West. Also the RAF 41 pattern gloves and RAF MK VIII goggles are shown below on this page.
(9) Shown above is a pair of A-11 gloves as seen in both wartime Tuskegee photos. It is a rare glove to find.
(10) In researching the clothing and flight gear worn by the Tuskegee airmen during the last year of the war, it was high quality photos like the two above that verified what was needed for the movie "Red Tails." The man on the right is wearing A-9 pants. Both the men wear B-10 jackets. The Mae Wests are the B-3, B-4 or 6519s. The man on the left wears the A-11 helmet with B-8 goggles. The man on the right wears the RAF D helmet with 6530 goggles. The photo also provides us with two great views of the A-11 winter gloves. You can see the white label on the cuff of the wool knit liner, which was removable. The oxygen masks are A-14 with internal microphones installed.
(XX) Lt. Edwards shown above is wearing the RAF type D helmet, made of canvas material not leather. In the Red Tails photo of Lee Archer I mentioned the rubber flanges surrounding the receiver cups were removed as well as the forward goggle straps. In the photo above of Edwards we see the helmet in its original state. Lt. Edwards flight gear looks like it was just issued. He wears the B-7/6530 goggles , 41 pattern RAF life preserver and RAF type G O2 mask. An example of the first aid kit seen hanging behind him can be seen on the FLAK/ Misc page of this site.
(12) Displayed above, in one of our older photos, is a recreation of a typical fighter pilot of the 8th, 9th and 15th AF in the last year or so of the war. My pilot is wearing a B-10 jacket, topped off with RAF, Mk VIII goggles,* 42 pattern C helmet and RAF life preserver. The gloves are the type B-3A. Posed in front is a pair of 1943 pattern escape boots, shown in greater detail in the following photos. Also displayed are B-8 goggles and the AN-H-15 flight helmet. (*Though I've used a 42 pattern C helmet above, a 1943 pattern would be more accurate or appropriate for the last 10 months or so of the war.)
(13) Above are two nice examples of the AAF logo stamped on the sleeve of the B-10 and a very rare example of a pair of A-9 pants with the logo. The American-made B-3A gloves are very thin and more like a women's glove. If I was a pilot concerned about keeping my hands warm and trying to better protect myself against potential fire, I'd be wearing the RAF gloves. You should also note the two handles sticking out of the RAF life preserver at the lower chest. Those are grab handles to pull a man out of the water.
(X) Shown above are two examples of the 1943 pattern flying/escape boots being worn by (left) Lt. Sluga of the 355th FG and (right) Capt. Murdy of the 361st FG.
(X) Shown above and below are closer looks at the two RAF boots. On the left are the RAF 1943 pattern escape boots. In the photo below I have outlined the small pouch/pocket, which contained a small flat knife used to cut off the top portion of the boot. Use of the boot shows up in photos of fighter pilots in the 78th FG, 352nd FG and, as shown in photos above, the 355th FG and the 361st FG. It was never used by American bomber crews. (I have to warn you that the RAF 1936 pattern flying boots looks very similar to the escape boots in black and white photos. I do not have an example to share with you at this time.)
In my search to find the best authentic war time photos that best represents the items displayed, I started seeing boots I took for granted were the RAF 1936 pattern flying boots. But they turned out to be the escape boots with leather uppers instead of the black suede. I consulted Mick Prodger and he was kind enough to provide the following story and information about escape boots. Mr. Prodger has a great website if your seeking items of WWII flight gear for your collection. See: www.vintageflyinghelmets.com. Thanks Mick.Here’s the story: When Clayton Hutton at MI9 proposed his idea for the escape boots, he was told by the Air Ministry there was no budget for such a frivolous item. A wealthy businessman (the founder of Morris Motors), Lord Nuffield, thought it a great idea and offered to finance production for the first few hundred pairs on condition that the Air Ministry would look again if they were successful. They agreed. The first few hundred pairs were made of all leather and had the zipper down the front of the boots. After a while, they received comments that the zipper kept getting in the way of the shoelaces, so they moved it around to the outside of the boot. The test boots were very successful and popular with aircrews, so the Air Ministry relented and agreed to accept the design. They changed the uppers to suede to keep the cost down and they were officially announced in 1943 (hence the name 1943 pattern escape boots). They remained in production and were issued until the mid-1950s. While the suede ones are quite common, the all leather ones are much less so (either with front or side zipper).
(X) Examples of the escape boots with leather uppers (marked A) and black Suede uppers (marked B) can be seen in the above photos. Note pilot on upper right is wearing his "G" suit. Note U. S. Armbands. Unit designation is on the bumper of each jeep.
(xx) Shown above and below are pilots who have the B-2 parachute back pad attached to their harness. It is identified by the zippers on each side that join the two halves of the back pad. Shown above you see the front and back of the B-2, and below it is shown opened. It was originally designed to be an emergency survival package. You can see the empty pouches of various sizes which were intended to hold a variety of basic survival items. It was the sort of survival kit more suited for aircrew bailing out over jungles in the Pacific and south east Asia than the harsh (?) conditions of bailing out over the French countryside in summer. I see very few of these and they may not have had any of the supplies in them, but simply may have been a more comfortable back pad to wear.
(11) Above is the typical fighter pilot rig -- the B-8 chute with the seat cushion on top of the dinghy. The seat pad is shown separately on the right as is the Type C dinghy on the left. Note the two hooks on the side of the dinghy that connect to the parachute harness. The long line with the hook on the end was to clip on to your Mae West.
(15) Shown above is Lt. Hanzo of the 20th FG, 79th FS. In his right hand he carries the type C RAF dinghy (life raft). The white patch seen on Hanzo's raft is shown in greater detail in my photo above. Directions on how to deploy the raft are written in 4 different languages: English, French, Polish and Czech. He's wearing the tanker outfit as well as 5 items of RAF origin, all previously described at top of the page. Lt. Hanzo was shot down and captured February 11th 1944.
(20) Shown above left is the RAF K dinghy (life raft) pack, type C. Directions for opening the pack are shown in 4 different languages . On the right is the American version of the RAF pack, the C-2 life raft. The RAF version shown above has the similar hooks, but are placed on the opposite side.
- click image for a larger view -
(X) Shown above is a well used RAF life preserver complete with kapok, bladder (stole) and the chrome charging handle. Name on vest is Peter Saunders serial # 3011910. This vest has no pouch or pocket for the signaling light.
(X) Shown above, the 3 snap flap has been pulled down to reveal the chrome charging handle.
(X) Shown above, in the background, is the bladder (stole) complete with charging handle installed. Insert photo shows CO2 cylinder extracted for display.
(18) Shown above is the 1941 pattern RAF life preserver. It is photographed with the two items shown below removed. This life preserver is easy to work with, and easy to repair and clean. It is easy to put on and more comfortable to wear than the rigid, stiff U.S. B-4 Mae West. When searching for one to own, you should be aware there are several types of labels. They are always white and have either the broad arrow or the AM (Air Ministry) with crown symbols. My example shown is incomplete and is missing the chrome lever that triggers the CO2 charge.
(19) Shown above is the bladder (stole) and the 3 pieces of Kapok that slip into the 41 pattern life preserver. These items are easily installed through a zippered opening at the rear of the neck.
Above is an original WWII Safety Poster reminding pilots in training of the many mistakes new pilots make. All of the posters are 17 X 22 inches in size.