Personnel Aircraft Nose Art B-17 Thunderbird Ground Support Uniforms Journals More Info
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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
Welcome to the updated version (August 2010) of the Flight Gear and Uniform section. It has been five years since I asked Gary Moncur if he wanted to add a section on flight gear. Since then I have tried to add and share with you the many varied flight gear items I have obtained. If it's your first visit to the 303rd Bomb Group site, the examples of flight gear presented here are authentic examples of what the 8th, 9th and 15th AAF Bomb Groups and Fighter pilots wore in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO). In most captions you will find a direct link to a wartime photo of a 303rd BG crewman wearing the same item. If you find information in this section that you believe is incorrect, please let us know. It has been a real honor to do something with my collection instead of having it sit in a room being enjoyed only by me and a handful of friends. Thanks to Gary Moncur for his many hours of work spent on posting all of what your about to see. We hope you enjoy this section and learn from it.
The Red Tails
In October 2008 the costume designer for the new movie "Red Tails," Allison Mitchell, saw this website and expressed a desire to see the collection personally. When she mentioned she was flying from England to Lucasfilm at Skywalker Ranch, I volunteered to bring all of the collection there and set it up. I left the collection for about two weeks and Ali explored every detail as to what the American fighter pilots and bomber crews wore during the last year of the war in the ETO. I was very impressed with Aly. No detail was too small. I was asked to be a consultant/buyer and got an opportunity to go to the filming of the airfield scenes just outside of Prague, Czechoslovakia. When it comes to the flight gear, uniforms and costumes in general, Ali did a fantastic job. The reproduction B-10 jackets came from various sources. All looked great. The A-6 and A-6A boots were great. When it came to reproductions, I never heard Ali say "that's good enough" or "don't worry about it, the audience will never catch it." She had to send examples back several times before the manufacturer understood the true concept of what "exact copy" means. A wide variety of flight helmets and goggles were used and the majority of the flight gear was authentic. One bomber pilot was dressed wearing all authentic flight gear. The F-2 heated uniform as well as other flight gear will make its debut in this movie. It was great to put my collection to work and make a small contribution to the "Red Tails."
Shown above and below is Allison Mitchell the costume designer for "Red Tails." She's in conversation with two actors playing a pilot and copilot of one of the B-17s in the movie. It would be a shame not to show the effort made to equip the pilots and bomber crews with the most accurate and authentic flight gear available. The actor on the left is wearing an authentic F-2 heated suit, complete with all its wiring. Authentic F-2 felt boots, B-8 parachute, A-11 helmet, A-14 mask B-8 goggles, scarf, Mae West and, not shown but provided, the rayon gloves. The heated gloves are reproduction and the first aid kit is a reproduction. I provided the majority of first aid kits. I obtained empty ones from service of supply and filled them in such a way as to look as real as possible. With an intent to show the outline of the Morphine box. Parachute first aid packs all take on their on unique shape. The actor on the right is wearing all authentic head gear. Worn underneath is a authentic F-3 heated suit. A-9 pants, Mae West, and a rare OD authentic A-3 parachute harness. The B-10 jackets in "Red Tails" are all reproductions. They came from a variety of sources. Ali was very meticulous, as with all of the items, in getting the best. The A-6a boots are reproductions as are all the A-6 boots in the movie. Except for the one pair I sold them, new out of the box. In regards to the rest of the movies flight gear, all the American made Mae Wests are authentic. A mix of authentic and reproduction RAF 1941 pattern Mae West were used. All the flight pants were A-9 for primary actors and A-10's for the extras. All the goggles were authentic, A-14 masks of course were authentic. Most of the bomber crew actors are wearing their F-3 or F-3a heated suits under their B-10s. A F-1 blue bunny suit was worn by one actor. The flak helmets were all authentic.
These photographs of uniforms and flight gear are presented to show the typical uniforms and gear used by B-17 and B-24 crewmen in 1944. Very few color photographs exist from 1944. We are grateful to Ed Nored and his volunteer crew for sharing his collection and providing a colorful look into the past. Ed's comments and descriptions of his collection are below:
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(1) On 06 June 2005 in Chico, California, 12 volunteers posed in Ed Nored's collection of authentic 1944 WWII uniforms and flight gear. The B-17G "Nine O Nine" is owned by the Collings Foundation.
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(2) Counting all the of the pieces that were brought together to make up this crew (and counting pairs as one), there are over 200 items. The first aid packs tied to the parachute harnesses and 2 of the A-3 harnesses are reproductions. Most likely the whistles on the jackets are post war. The remainder of items are authentic WWII items. All items have their original stampings, marking and labels. Six of the parachutes have their canopy inside and all are WWII dated and correctly installed. As I obtain more WWII canopies, they will be installed correctly into the empty container. I'm working towards completing a 100% complete crew. Realistically, this is not going to happen because of the F-2 heated uniform. The F-2 consists of 4 main pieces: the outer jacket and outer pants, a heated pant liner and a heated jacket liner. The two heated liners button into hems that are in each outer piece. The pants I have are 100% complete with their heated liners buttoned into the hem of the pants. Out of the five F-2 jackets you see, three have the heated liner, but the wire inserts have been removed. Only one has a 100% complete jacket liner with wires and connections intact. -- one of the rarest items out there. The man in Photo #5 is wearing the 100% complete F-2. In case you collectors didn't know, the electric cord that leads from the F-1, F-2, F-3 and F-3a are all identical.
(3) When I got a chance to stop concentrating on the bomber crew, I began to focus on those Red Cross girls in many of the photos taken around the airfields. Most of the ladies didn't seem to be wearing the standard issue Red Cross uniform, but something else I couldn't easily identify. It turns out many of them were going into London and having outfits similar to the R.A.F. battle jacket made up, a dark blue pants and jacket. Several months before the photo shoot a Red Cross grouping popped up on Ebay. Among several articles of clothing were 2 jackets and pants with a London Label and best of all the Clubmobile Red Cross patch on the shoulder of each jacket, named to Francis K. Goodwin. I was hoping to use both outfits but could only fit one. The other uniform I believe is just one of the many standard issue RC uniforms. My compliments to the two ladies who took the time to get the correct look in hair and makeup . . . and to Miss Goodwin wherever you are, God Bless you.
(4) The 2 crewmen above are both wearing the F-2 heated uniform, B-3 Mae Wests, rayon gloves and A-11 helmets with A-14 O2 masks. The goggles on the left are the R.A.F. MK VIII and on the right are the AN-6530s. On the left is the back pack B-8 parachute on the right is the red group type QAC with the AN6513-1 parachute in hand. The F-2/3 heated gloves are hanging from their connectors and he is wearing the F-2 felt boots. The man on the left wears the A-6 boot. Both types of boots could be worn with either the F-2 or F-3 heated suit. To see an example of the F-2 suit and the B-8 chute as depicted on the man on the left go to Lead Crew Mission #103 and check out T/Sgt Kuehl. Kuehl is wearing the Black Felt F-2 boots. This is the earliest photo I could find of someone wearing the F-2. Also worth noting in the photo is the man on the right is wearing R.A.F. flight boots.
(5) The crewman above wears the F-2 heated uniform. This lighter shade material has been referred to as the "enlisted mans" grade. It should be noted that in my survey of several hundred 8th AAF bomber crew photos in which I was able to identify the lighter shade, it was worn by an officer. The A-11 helmet with A-14 O2 mask and B-8 goggles complete the headgear. He also wears the red group QAC harness with an AN6513-1a parachute. The crewman wears a B-3 "Mae West" Life preserver and in the photo you can see where the extension cord or Lead Cord, as it is referred to in the manual, connects to the short cord coming from the electric suit. Rayon gloves slip into the F-2/3 heated gloves. He stands in the F-2 felt boot. To see this boot in use, see Lead Crew #234. T/Sgt Joe Vieira is wearing the black felt boots. Also note how one of the QAC harnesses is marked red and the others are not .
(6) This crewman wears the F-2 heated uniform, the red group QAC over the B-3 Mae West and is holding a navigator's briefcase. In the other hand is the AN-6513-1a parachute. On top is the A-11 helmet with A-14 O2 mask and AN-6530 goggles. Like the other crewmen, the lead or extension cord from his heated suit is well shown and is for plugging into the airplane. The F-2/3 heated gloves are the only pair in the light tan I've ever seen -- extremely rare. Also showing is the First Aid Packet tied to every harness. During the war these contained a bandage, tourniquet and Morphine Syrette. All of mine are reproductions. He is wearing the F-2 felt boot. Please refer to Lead Crew #277: 1Lt Campbell is wearing light tan gloves. Also check out T/Sgt King. Sticking out from the cuffs of his F-2 suit are the connecting point for the heated gloves, 2 simple snaps.
(7) This crewman wears the F-3 heated uniform. It consists of 2 pieces, the bib-front trousers and a bolero style jacket. The F-2/3 gloves and booties worn over the feet are the same as used with the F-2 heated uniform. Over the F-3 this crewman is wearing the B-10 jacket and A-9 trousers. Followed by the type B-4 or AN-6519-1 Mae West. On top of that is the A-3 yellow group parachute harness. He holds an A-3 parachute in hand and is wearing the A-6 boot. An A-11 helmet with A-14 O2 mask and B-8 goggles top it all off. This photo was taken the same day of the photo shoot, but with 35 mm film rather than digital. It shows the shiny sheen that appeared on the some of the newly issued flight jacket and pants better then the digital shot. See the 303rd combat crew of the 358th Klimback Crew. In that photo you will see both B-10 and B-15 jackets with and without that "shiny" look. I'm not sure if one or more of the manufacturers were trying a new material or process.
(8) - This crewman wears the same equipment as in photo #7. This A-3 harness, as the one in photo #7, are excellent reproductions from Vintage Parachutes. Worth noting is the Army Air Force decal on the A-6 boot.
(9) This Ex-Marine proudly wears the B-10 jacket and A-9 pants combination over the F-3 heated suit. A B-4 or AN-6519-1 Mae West is under the red group, unmarked, QAC. Rayon gloves with the F-2/3 heated gloves hang from the connectors to the F-3 heated jacket and the parachute is the AN6513 1a. The dinghy whistle hangs from the zipper pull. Though all the whistles on my jackets were Acme Thunderers made in England. I'm fairly certain these whistles are all post war. The flight helmet is the RAF Type C with a pair of AN6530 goggles on top. He also wears an A-14 O2 mask and a pair of A-6 boots. Look at S/Sgt Guzman in Lead Crew #159 to see the R.A.F. type C helmet in action.
(10) This crewman wears the F-2 heated uniform. Its shearling collar shows off well. Also, the B-4 or AN-6519-1 Mae West, and a totally authentic A-3 parachute harness made with OD (green) webbing. The best crew shot I could find showing examples of the A-3 harness in both the white and OD webbing is Lead Crew # 270. Also in this same photo are at least 4 examples of the F-2 heated uniform, two of which have the shearling collars. You will also find A-11 helmets with B-8 goggles, A-6 boots and B-10 jackets. Getting back to the above crewman, he is holding an A-3 parachute and his other hand has a firm grasp on the extension cord. The plug you see is the end that goes into the airplane. A-6 boots are present and of course the heated gloves. Another R.A.F. type C flight helmet is utilized topped with the R.A.F. Mk VIII goggles.
(11) The above crewman wears the B-10 jacket , A-9 pants over the F-3 heated suit, the. B-4 or AN-6519-1 Mae West, F-2/3 and rayon gloves, A-6 boots, A-11 helmet with R.A.F. Mk. VIII goggles and A-14 mask. The parachute is a type B-8 with male/female or twist and lock or bayonet hardware. I've read or heard all 3 names used to describe this type of hardware. Don't confuse this B-8 with the parachutes you see in the 1943 photos of bomber crews here at the 303rd web pages. The early backpack you see with the bayonet type hardware is the type B-7. Mark VIII goggles can be seen hanging around Lt. Reed's neck on Lead Crew #234. Also note binocular cases hanging from some of the men, including Reed. 1Lt Jackson H. Hunt in the lead crew photo for Mission #328 is wearing the B-8 type chute with the bayonet type hardware.
(12) This waist gunner wears the F-2 heated uniform, the unmarked (redgroup) Q.A.C., B-4 or AN6519-1 Mae West, AN-6530 goggles, A-14 O2 mask and heated gloves. He's all hooked up and ready to go.
(13) And finally, a treat from the folks back home, courtesy of the American Red Cross.