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photos copyright ©2006-2010 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
(7-1) The scene depicted above is typical of the 1000's of bomber crews and fighter pilots who bailed out during the war. No telling what fate awaits him once he lands. After learning about flight gear and parachutes in this Uniform / Flight Gear section, don't miss out on the many dramatic bailout stories told here on this site.
(7-2) Shown above is a great shot of a crewman who has just bailed out from his B-17. Though the photo is of poor quality, the small pilot chute (the term pilot chute has nothing to do with the pilot of the airplane) can be seen just above the larger canopy. The small pilot chute's job is to catch some air and help drag out the main canopy. In this photo the canopy is quickly filling with air and, in another second or two, will blossom full. The crewman will swing down below the canopy and all will go quiet as the roar of his B-17 grows faint. He may begin to look around to see if the rest of his crew gets out and maybe even see his plane crash. We can tell it is a QAC (Quick Attachable Chest) type of harness because the suspension lines "funnel" right back to his chest. It is either the AN 6513 1A or the A-3 harness, who's risers haven't yet broken loose.
(7-3) Shown above is the AN-6513 1A parachute with its harness and a parachute first aid kit. All three items, since the end of the war, had been stored in an old "Old Taylor Straight Bourbon Whiskey" box dated 1946. It is very rare to find such an untouched grouping.
(7-4) Above is a closer look at the first aid kit with the standard three items found in the parachute first aid kit. One small Carlisle bandage, one tourniquet, and one Morphine syrette and the yellow box it came in. Every parachute harness had one of these kits tied onto it – nNo matter what type of parachute harness it was. If you find or have one of these rare kits, you will decrease the value of it by at least 60% if you open it. The more extremely rare zippered first aid kit can be seen at the fighter gear page.
(7-5) Shown above is the side view of the 6513, manufactured by M. Steinthal and Company. The two small books shown are: (left) a manual giving a downed crewmen tips on how he can utilize his parachute to survive any of the harsh environments he may encounter after bailing out, and (right) is the log book. Every parachute pack had its own log book.
(7-6) Above you can see the two large hooks that fasten to the chest D rings of the harness. If you were wearing the harness, you would clip on the chute from the bottom just as the chute is positioned above. On the yellow group A-3 harnesses, these identical type hooks were used, placed at the end of the risers. The Parachute Log Record is opened showing varied typed entries. On these particular pages the parachute riggers initials "J.B." are noted, as well as where the base or station repairs took place. In this case KAAF is Kingman, Arizona airfield. Examples of abbreviated repairs noted are, "Inspection of Rip Cord Pins" and "Inspection of nylon suspension lines." Also note the small pouch between the hooks where the two books were stored.
(7-7) Shown above you can see the rip cord pins that lock the four flaps down that enclose the parachute. Once you pull the rip cord, the rubber bungie cords are there to help open the flaps to allow for a cleaner deployment of the parachute. A different page of the parachute log record shows another group of entries. One entry shows "marking of QAC." This may refer to painting the outer cover red. Another entry includes work done to the harness as well as a modification of the rip cord pocket.
(7-8) Once the rip cord has been pulled, the bungie cords or elastic bands pull the flaps open. The pilot chute pops open and catches air and, as mentioned earlier, helps pull out the main canopy. In the photo above I have placed rubber bands around the pilot chute to show its normal position when the pack is closed.
(7-9) Shown above you can see the opened pilot chute as well as the main canopy still folded quite nicely. Note how the suspension lines are still folded and tucked away. The suspension lines have to be correctly packed in a particular order to insure a clean opening. As a crewman falls from his airplane, he has to assume the correct body position before opening the chute. In many cases men bailing out of bombers and fighters opened their chutes too soon only to have the canopy open and get caught on the tail of the airplane. In other cases they opened it while being in the wrong body position and the canopy and suspension lines wrapped around, or got entangled with, the mans legs.
(7-10) Shown above are the groups of suspension lines still neatly stowed in place. Most of the rubber bands are still present. Looking at the end of the folded parachute, you can see two items stamped in blue ink. The "N" is one half of the "AN" stamp found on the parachute. It stands for Army Navy. The parachute is made of 24 panels sewn together and at the lower part of the canopy just above the skirt, each panel is numbered 1-24 for a 24 foot diameter parachute. Shown above is panel number 24.
(7-11) .Shown above are three examples of the QAC harness. The harness on the left is made buy Vanity Fair, dated Sept.1, 1943. The center one is made my Reliance Mfg., Mar. 25,1943, and the harness far right is made my Pioneer, dated March 1943. If you are making a movie, doing a reinactment or creating a painting of WWII bomber crews of the 8th or 15th AAF, you need to know this about the markings of these harnesses. The unmarked QAC would be accurate and correct for both the 8th and 15th through out the entire war. In early 1944 they began marking the harnesses with red paint, just like the harness above in the center. But it is apparent in many war time photos that there were plenty they didn't bother to mark. The harness on the far right has the very late war markings. The red you see is not paint, but a red piece of material that is sewn onto the webbing. In recreating scenes for the 8th AAF, I would never use a harness with these late markings. I just dont see it on any 8th AF bomber crew photos. However, I have seen several examples of the late war markings on the 15th AAF crews. A good example of a technical mistake affecting a painting is Gil Cohens, "Rosie's Crew / Thorpe Abbotts 1943." I have this print framed and hanging on the wall. I love Gil's work and I don't expect him to be a flight gear expert, but someone should have caught those late war markings. Another point is I have never seen a crewman wearing a push to talk switch outside of the plane. See Lead Crew #232 for three examples of red marked QAC harnesses. Note 2 crewmen are wearing the F-2 heated suits, one with shearling collar and one without, and one man is wearing the F-2 felt boots.
(7-12) Shown above are three examples of the AN-6513-1A parachute and one AN 6514-1 (bottom, right). Three of the packs have their canopies correctly packed. The top right pack does not. The top left pack is dated Aug. 1943. No exact date is shown. It was made by the Hayes Manufacturing Company. The top right pack is dated Sept. 1943 (no day date) and was made by the Standard Parachute Corporation. The pack on the bottom left is dated July 9, 1943 and made by Fashion Frocks Inc. of Cincinnati, Ohio. The bottom right pack is marked Jan 1943 (no day date) and made by the Pioneer Parachute Company. This chute is marked AN 6514-1.
(7-13) Shown above on the left is an un-issued AN6513-1A Q.A.C. (quick attachable chest) harness. On the right a veteran brother of the same type. To see an example of a red marked QAC harness as shown above, see the lead crew mission #240. The crewman at the back, left is wearing the marked harness over his F-2 heated suit.
(7-14) Shown above is a closer look at the additional webbing and tacking applied to the harness on the right. Note the addition of the two D-rings added to accommodate the life raft container at the bottom of the harness. The piece of white material sewn onto the back pad was used to indicate the pilot's name and/or the air field it was from. It's rare to find this example, so consider its presence the exception and not the norm for the thousands of harnesses that were issued to the men of the 8th and 15th AAF overseas.
(7-15) Shown above are two examples of the manufactures inked markings, which included the makers name and date. Both harnesses were made in 1943. On well used harnesses, the markings are usually worn off or faded. The back pads shown are the correct ones for the A-3 harness and the AN6513-1A, red group, Q.A.C. I have seen recent books about AAF gear showing the seat pack back pad with these 2 harnesses, which is incorrect. An excellent example of the correct back pad is on the photo "Battle Casualty" dated 21 November 1944. In this photo the wounded man is wearing the F-2, as well as the man with his back to the camera. Also note the heated glove still attached to the connector of the F-2 heated uniform.
(7-16) Shown above is a closer look at the red group QAC harness that the AN 6513 1a parachute connected to. Each man who was issued his harness would have tried the harness on. Then a person from the parachute department would have "tacked down" his chute for a snugger or more perfect fit. The harness shown above and below was recently obtained and still has its original "tacking" from the last person who used it. The red markings or lines you see were placed there by the parachute rigger while the pilot or crewmen wore the harness. Upon removing the marked harness, the rigger used a strong twine and a needle and placed the straps where marked, then secured or "tacked" them down.
(7-17) Shown above are examples of where the leg straps have been "tacked down."
(7-18) Shown above is the manufactures stamp. Vanity Fair is the manufacturer and it was made Sept. 1, 1943. Vanity Fair also made parachutes.
(7-19) Above is the A-3 harness constructed with olive drab webbing. On each side of the leg straps of all the A-3, red group, QACs and B-8 chute harnesses you find 2 "D" rings. They are there to attach to the C-2 type one-man life raft/dinghy.
(7-20) The A-3 harness.
(7-21) Above are two authentic WWII, A-3 type QACs. The harness on the right still has its risers tacked down. Once a man connects the chute, bails out and pulls the rip cord, the force and weight of the man acts against the opening shock of the canopy. This sudden jolt pulls and breaks the tacking, allowing the parachute container and risers to be in the position you see above on the left. One veteran described how, after the canopy opened he was relieved, but thought he was falling out of his harness when the risers popped free a few seconds later.
(7-22) A closer look at the tacking used to hold down the risers.
(7-23) Shown above are four examples of the A-3 parachute, with their original yellow paint. The top left pack is dated Feb. 10, 1944 and the top right pack dated Nov. 29, 1944. Both were made by the Reliance Company. The bottom left pack is dated Sept. 22, 1943 and was made by the Simmons Company. The bottom right pack is dated Feb. 22,1943 and was made by the Atlantic Rayon Company. All four have their canopies correctly packed. There are two examples of the A-3 chute in the 358th Garrett Crew photo.
(7-24) Shown above is a near mint example of the B-8 parachute. It was made by the National Automotive Fibres Inc. January 4th, 1944. The B-8 showed up on the front lines of the 8th AF in about December of 1943. The B-8s with the snap hook and D-ring type of hardware always has a small cushion or pad affixed to the hook that connects at the chest. In surveying the 15th AF, you will find that nearly all the bomber crew who have B-8 chutes have the later version made with the bayonet type of hardware. See photo # 6 in the fighter pilot section for an example of a B-8 parachute with bayonet hardware.
(7-26) Shown above is the B-8 chute with its flaps open. The square pilot chute sits on top.
(7-27) Shown above is the parachute date of manufacture February 2, 1944. Also note the serial number on canopy as well as its number applied to the outside bottom flap of the pack. The Pilot chute is dated November 9, 1943. The suspension lines are a mess. The rubber bands that keep the suspension lines packed in their correct order have decomposed.
(7-28) Sorry for the quality of the photograph above. I am not going to waste my money buying a real one. I see people on eBay describing them as harnesses worn by bomber crews in WWII. Yes, some of them have WWII dates on them, and yes, Switlick made all sorts of parachute items, including QACs for the crew during the war. I believe this style shown above was for the civilian market. I have never seen this harness on any 8th AF or 15th AF crewman. You will see it in the 1990s Memphis Belle movie. When it comes to learning about parachute harnesses, do not go by what they wore in the Memphis Belle remake. If you are a beginning collector and you want to collect things that are "kind of" or "sort of" like the real thing, then the harness above is for you.
(7-29) Shown above is a very popular photo. It shows up in at least 20 books and most recently on the cover of the August 2010 issue of Air Classics Magazine. Because of the high photo quality and variety of harnesses worn by the crew, I thought I would describe what there wearing. Four men wear unmarked red group QACs for the AN-6513-1A parachute. Four wear the A-3 yellow group harnesses. Two are marked with yellow paint and one A-3 is made with green webbing. One man wears the B-8 parachute and one man has the RAF harness. I see three B-6 type helmets. One helmet has the ear cups from a RAF type C helmet sewn on. The other man wearing the B-6 has the sides folded up and you can see where they have sewn on the large rubber cups to hold the receivers. The man wearing the OD A-3 wears a A-11 helmet. One man wears the B-1 cap. The remainder of the flight helmets appear to be the AN-H-16 helmet. Two men wear the B-10 jacket and the remainder the A-2 jacket. The Mae Wests are a mix of B-3 and B-4 types. A pair of 6530 goggles can also be seen. The B-17 "Button Nose" was assigned to the 535 BS 381st BG.
(7-30) Shown above left is the AN-6514-1 QAC parachute made by Pioneer. It is dated Jan. 1943 (no log book). On the right is your typical AN-6513 1A made by Vanity Fair (not previously photographed) dated Aug. 1943. The difference in the two chutes, as best as I can determine, is the arrangement or placement of the two large hooks that connect to the harness. The AN-6513 1A chutes have this odd characteristic after being packed that visually suggest something is not right. It is the way the two large hooks are dealt with. In the 6514-1 variant, it looked like they tried to clean up the design. I have no idea how many 6514-1s are out there or how many were issued, if at all. It is the only one I have come across, so that's all I can share with you for now.
(7-31) .Shown above is the AN-6513 1A on top and the AN-6514-1 below.
(7-32) On most AN-6513-1A and A-3 parachutes, there will be a piece of black webbing where the rip cord pocket is. This material is the same identical material used to make the early black and white suspenders (like the type used on AAF leather shearling A-3 pants, etc. and F-2 pants.) On the flak vest page, go to photo 6-10. On this particular AN-6513-1A, the rigger has added the webbing with the white side up.