"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
Shot Down In Flames!      Combatting Collector Myths

We've all seen dozens of auction listings over the years for a rather strange looking black leather navy "flight" helmet. The typical pitch will tout a "rare, 1930s vintage, Navy flight training helmet", right? If you took the seller at his word, you might even have an example in your naval aviation collection. Did you ever stop and wonder why you've never seen a vintage photo of one of these in use by a navy flier? If you are reading this page, then I think you know that bad news is coming. Okay, here it is. These helmets are not from the 1930s and although they are U.S. Navy, they have absolutely nothing to do with aviation. In fact, what you do have is a WW2 vintage navy "blast helmet". Don't be surprised that you have never heard of such a thing. You won't be able to "google it" and find any information either. It's just one of those relatively obscure pieces of navy equipment that has "fallen through the cracks" as time has passed.

The blast helmet, as seen in the photos at right, was used with the sound-powered telephone system aboard navy ships. It helped stabilize the heavy,  but delicate headset telephone on the talker's head and provided him with not only a degree of protection from the elements, but also kept the headset in place if he was on deck and exposed to the violent blast effect from the firing of the ship's big guns. 

Hopefully, the news isn't too traumatic. You can always transfer yours to your "sea going" navy collection and match it up with that talker's helmet that's been collecting dust on the shelf.

If you would be so kind, please help us bust this myth and in the future, when you refer to this helmet, try and call it by it's correct name.

What will be in our sights next? We're working on something else already, so stay tuned!

Below:  An unissued example of the blast helmet with descriptive tag still attached. The elastic chin strap is fastened to metal studs on each side of the helmet. The large leather ear cups are press-fit and when removed to accommodate the headset, are retained with short strips of leather. Goggle keeper straps with snaps are also provided. The steel "talker's" helmet integrates well with the phones and blast helmet, completing the ensemble.
Below:  A screen capture from unedited footage taken on 3/21/45, aboard USS Essex, shows us this talker, wearing his blast helmet and headset over his blue anti-flash hood. To see the footage, follow this link, and watch for him at 2:50    https://www.youtube.com/watch?=mWdtHpoKcMw Better yet, you can see the video here on "Now Playing.....", Page 2 
Below: One of our readers from France, Etienne Laffitte, has graciously allowed us to share these photos of his mannequin representing a U.S. Navy telephone talker, complete with an example of the blast helmet. We can see here, in better detail, how the leather helmet, talker headset and steel helmet combined form and function when in use together. Well done, and thank you sir!
Below: Two images from the Life magazine photo archives, believed to be taken in late 1942, showing the blast helmet in use by telephone talkers aboard a cruiser in the MTO.
Above:  Gun crew drill includes the talker, outfitted with his blast helmet.

Below:  An image from page 522 of the 1944 edition of the Blue Jacket's Manual.
Above:  This talker relaxes while his LSI is being loaded in preparation for the invasion of Southern France.

Below:  Mess stewards enjoy the Mediterranean sun at their battle station, a 20mm gun mount. The talker, at left, wears his blast helmet with the ear cups removed and chin strap fastened, but has not mounted his headset.
Above:  The original caption tells the story.

Below:  A quick meal while on watch in a colder climate. The talker makes due with a standard steel helmet.

Bottom:  A 20 mm crew aboard a capital ship defends against Kamikaze attack.