"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 Hellcats  over  PROVENCE  
            VF-74 & VOF-1 IN OPERATION DRAGOON



 

 
Above:  As seen previously on page three of this article, LT John G. Bartley is briefing  his division from a local area map prior to takeoff. "Bart" is wearing an AN-6542 flight helmet made by Slote & Klein under Navy contract number N288s-20478, which ran from February through May of 1944. An additional final digit in the drawing number (AN-6542-2) would indicate the size. For example, -1, -2, -3 or -4, which would correspond to size small, medium, large or extra large. It was also spelled out on the interior label as well. His helmet is fitted with snaps and a clip to accomodate an A-14 oxygen mask and the cheek buckles, attached at the factory, for an MSA type D oxygen face mask, although this item was obsolete as of the summer of 1943, a full six months prior to the manufacture of this style flight helmet. These buckles were easy to remove if the wearer chose to do so, but here we see that "Bart" put it to use for a chin cup to replace the velvet padded leather chin strap that came with these helmets. Although this was not an uncommon practice, it is notable due to the type of chin cup he used which is an item specifically stocked to replace the chin cups of the earlier NAF-1092S summer and NAF-1092L intermediate helmets. It is constructed of a heavier and rather stiff (when compared to the softer goatskin of early chin cups) leather, with a chamois lining and dyed a "chocolate" brown color. This item was stocked under number R37-S-4760. A winter version with fleece lining for the winter flying helmet was also available as stock number R37-S-4764.


Below:  A reconstruction of "Bart's" head gear which includes ANB-H-1A "flat-sided" earphones by Perm-o-Flux Corp. and Polaroid 1065 aviation goggles.
Above:  Also previously seen on page three, here we are focussing on LT John H. Schroff's helmet (center). Based on it's exterior features, it appears to be an AN-6540-S summer helmet, also from Slote & Klein, which was an earlier model of the summer helmet used by LT Bartley. Manufactured from March through July of 1943, under contract number N288s-12364. Size was indicated in the same manor detailed above, but appeared after the "S". and was also spelled out on a separate tag inside the helmet. The body of these earlier summer helmets was constructed of ten panels of fabric, while the improved AN-6542 had only four. Original examples had no brow piece, but this was added before the production run ended and was continued on subsequent contracts. Oxygen mask buckles were smaller and made from a dark finished wire, whereas later contract models used a stamped metal buckle painted tan.  LT Scroff also uses ANB-H-1A earphones and Polaroid 1065 goggles, however his goggles are the type found in the Polaroid 1067 aviation goggle kit which featured an attachment for a red polarizing lens which could be flipped up or down as needed. This lens was intended to help track a target against the sun or better view tracer fire. A common item of flight gear at the time, as seen here, quite often only the bracket will still remain (without the red lens)  attached to the rubber goggle frame in vintage photos of Navy and Marine aviators.


Below:  Our reconstruction of LT Schroff's helmet and the "1067" goggles with red lens attached. 
Above:  Pages from VF-74 pilot LT (jg) Robert J. Finnie's log book, featuring his entries for the month of August, 1944. Spanning from the 2nd to the 29th of the month, it details his participation in Operation Dragoon, to include both offensive strike and reconnaissance missions as well as defensive CAPs. We see he has noted on his second D-Day mission, he had to make a forced landing due to a hydraulic leak. The squadron history states:

"There were two cases of hydraulic leaks during Dragoon. One plane had hits in two pressure lines and one return line".

LT (jg) Finnie can be seen on page three of this article in the second photograph from the top where he is standing second from left.



We would like to thank the following people for their gracious help with this effort. Tom Pettit, who provided  photos of the log book of LT (jg) Finnie which is in his collection, Col. Jack Angolia (USA, Ret.) for sending us a copy of the VF-74 squadron history which came  to Jack from squadron XO Harry Basore and Lou Horacek for sharing the photos from VF-74 member Leo Horacek, Jr. Thank you all!