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photos copyright ©2006-2017 by Ed Nored, used by permission
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 are 3 photographs of fighter pilots with the RAF first aid kit attached to their flight gear. The left photo shows Captain Lindol Graham of the 79th FS, 20th FG. Killed in Action. Center photo standing far left is Lt. John L. Grimshaw 384th FS, 364th FG. Photo on right shows Lt. Edward C. Beaumont, also of the 364th FG.
(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.
(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 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) 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.
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(X) Shown above left is Lt. Col. Righetti on the wing of his Mustang "KatyDid." See figure and caption below. Above right is Lt. David Stewart of the 20th FG, 79th SQ. He is showing his U.S. flag I.D. to a French girl after being shot down over France.
(X) Shown above is a reconstruction showing the flight gear of COL. Elwyn G. Righetti of the 55th FG. The flight gear items are based on 4 photos of Righetti, including the one above(left). As best as I can see from these black and white photos. He's wearing the 1941 Pattern RAF life vest, the 1941 pattern RAF gloves and the lighter shade AN-6550/AN-S-31A summer flight suit over an A-2 jacket or B-10 jacket. (I used a B-10 in the reconstruction.) He also wears the RAF 43 pattern C helmet with white, taped in receivers and U.S. B-8 goggles. In 2 other photos of Righetti, he is shown wearing a B-10 jacket, A-14 O2 mask and B-8 parachute with Bayonet hardware. His flight gear is typical of many of the 55th FG pilots. The "Blood Chit" or safe-conduct pass ID flag hangs from his neck. All items except for the white tape are authentic.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(12) Shown above is an example of the typical fighter pilot flying with the 8th or 9th AF out of England. The 1941 pattern, RAF life preserver, is worn over the B-10 jacket. The headgear is the C helmet with MK VIII goggles. B-3A gloves cover the hands and under the right arm are a pair of RAF designed Escape boots. The boots have a small pocket inside them that contains a knife. If a pilot was shot down in enemy territory, he would use the knife to cut the upper part of the boot off making it easier to walk home. The ANH-15 flight helmet is shown along with the B-8 goggles. For the most part the C helmet and A-11 helmet were worn the most. The scarf is cut from a piece of camouflage pattern parachute and shows up in many photos as well as the white silk material from the local parachute shop.
(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.
(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.
(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.
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(16) The figures above represent two P-38 pilots that flew with the 370th FG, 402nd SQ, based in England. On the left is Lt. Cy Coenen. Two excellent wartime photos of Lt. Coenen show him in full flight gear. Over his shirt and trousers he wears the AN-6550 flight suit with an A-2 jacket over that. The white silk scarf is around the neck. His boots are the RAF 1940 pattern. His gloves are the RAF 1941 pattern with the RAF silk/rayon white liner gloves. The Mae West is a B-3 under the B-8 chute. A First Aid Kit is tied to the harness upper right chest area. His head gear is the RAF C type helmet with American receivers taped into the rubber ear cups with Mk VIII RAF goggles on top. On the forehead area of his helmet, he has a leather name tag sewn in with his name stamped into it. The A-14 O2 mask hangs from the helmet equipped with the T-44-C internal microphone with the large RAF "bell" shaped plug for the radio. All these items, except for the tape on the helmet earcups and leather name tag, are shown above.
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(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.
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(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.
(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.
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.