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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
(1) Shown above is the "zippered parachute first aid kit." At least that's the way I describe it. I do not know if it's British made or American made. I do know it was definitely worn by ETO bomber crews early on and more so by the ETO fighter pilots later on. Shown above are the authentic items removed from the kit including an original Morphine injection. Most examples here on the 303rd BG site show up in Lead Crews during the 1943 period. See Lead Crew Mission # 51. Butt, Sink and Jessie are wearing one. Also see Goolsby and Bumgardner on Lead Crew mission #130. Another bomber crew wearing the first aid kit is the 358th Marshall L. Smith crew. The best photo of the zippered first aid kit is in the "Dressing for a Mission" Photos
(2) 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.
(3) 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.
(4) Shown above is a pair of A-11 gloves as seen in both wartime Tuskegee photos. It is a rare glove to find.
(5) 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.
(6) 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.
(7) 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.
(8) 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.
(9) The figure above is based on P-38 pilot Lt. Hanzo of the 79th FS, 20th FG. See the photo below. The heaters were lousy in the P-38s, and the tanker jacket along with the matching bibbed pants helped them fight off the -30 degree weather. He wears a good mix of U.S. and RAF flight gear. RAF 40 pattern boots, RAF type C helmet, U.S. AN-6530s, U.S. B-3 Mae West, U.S. A-14 mask with the T-44C microphone and bell plug. His gloves are RAF gloves, most likely the 41 pattern with the RAF white inner gloves made of silk or Rayon. In the photo below I can see where the small RAF dinghy female connector is located on Hanzo's Mae West. In the photo above I have connected the dinghy to the small female connector. The location of this connector is consistant with other fighter groups, including the 357th, 4th FG, 339th and 361st. See above. Look for it fastened to the bottom right waist strap of the Mae West. The dinghy shown above is an authentic RAF type C. Hanzo was shot down on February 11, 1944 and taken prisoner.
(10) This photo is the wartime photograph of Lt. Hanzo in his flight gear, as detailed in the previous photo. In his right hand he is holding his RAF dingy (life raft) container. On the container, printed on a white piece of cloth, are instructions in 4 different languages on how deploy the raft.
- click image for a larger view -
(11) 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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(13) 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.
(14) 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.
(15) 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.