"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 
The Lucky Bag 
It's always inspirational to see a fellow collector's efforts. If you have a display, a mannequin, a grouping or just a single item you would like to share with our readers, then please email us some photos and a brief description so we can enjoy it too. We would also welcome hearing a bit about you and your collecting interest if you are so inclined.
Our first contribution comes from "Goz" and, as luck would have it, ties in perfectly with our Well Dressed Aviator article. He's chosen to show us a late war, sewn chin strap, Slote & Klein  AN-6542 summer flight helmet that was worn by Aviation Radioman 2C Ross L. Simmons, a TBM crew member who flew with VT-5 (The Torpcats) in 1945-46. The H-1/AR dynamic headset, contract number NOa(s)-2346, consisting of ANB-H-1A earphones and helmet cord, manufactured by Permoflux Corporation (C.Q.F.)  is original to this helmet. The goggles displayed with it, although not Simmons' own, duplicate those he is wearing in the vintage photo that accompanied this outstanding set. "Goz" tells us he was fortunate to aquire a hand smoke signal and leather name plate attributed to this airman as well. Congratulations on your acquisition of this grouping and its fine presentation. We hope you will be sharing more of your collection with us in the future. Thank you.
As our second contribution, we are lucky to have another named flight helmet grouping. This was sent in by Tom, who writes:

This Air Associates M-450, with volcano earcups and oxygen mask snaps, belonged to an ace (with 5 victories) who received 2 Navy Crosses, Hayden Jensen from VF-5 and later CO of VBF-153. I am now displaying it with its original modified AN-6530 goggles. I just found out this weekend who it belonged to and I am doing more research on the original owner as well as searching VF-5 pictures when they were on the U.S.S. Saratoga to see if that was the type of helmet they used back in late '42 when Jensen got his kills.
Cheers,
Tom

That's a most impressive history! To find a helmet and goggles attributed to a highly decorated ace is quite an accomplishment. This private purchase helmet, very similar to the Navy issue M-450, with rigger installed ear phone holders and oxygen mask snaps, has a great combat worn look. All the more incredible are the modified goggles. It is believed this was done by some pilots for better integration with the oxygen mask and increased protection of the face should there be a flash fire in the cockpit.
We want to thank Tom for sharing this. We wish him all the best in his research and hope he will keep us updated. We were able to find Lt. Jensen's Navy Cross citations and a brief description of  his August 7th combat:

Hayden Martin Jensen, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron FIVE (VF-5), embarked from the U.S.S. SARATOGA (CV-3), in action against enemy Japanese forces while deployed over Guadalcanal and Tulagi, in the Solomon Islands, on 7 August 1942. Pursuing his targets through bursting shells of his own antiaircraft fire, Lieutenant Jensen attacked a flight of eleven Japanese dive bombers which were intent upon raiding our transport and other surface vessels in the Solomon Islands, personally shooting down two of them. Lieutenant Jensen's outstanding courage, daring airmanship and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 315 (June 1943)
Born: January 30, 1911 at St. Paul, Minnesota
Home Town: St. Paul, Minnesota
 

JENSEN, HAYDEN MARTIN
(Second Award)
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross to Hayden Martin Jensen, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron FIVE (VF-5), embarked from the U.S.S. SARATOGA (CV-3), in action on 26 August 1942, while deployed over the Solomon Islands. His outstanding courage and determined skill were at all times inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Born: January 30, 1911 at St. Paul, Minnesota
Home Town: St. Paul, Minnesota


During the second counterattack that afternoon, the Saratoga's fighters fared much better. At about 1500 Lieut. Richard Gray, leading, with Ens. M.K. Bright, Lieut. Hayden M. Jensen, Lt. (jg) C.B. Starkes, Lieut. Marion W. Dufilho, Lt., (jg) F.O. Breen, Lieut. David C. Richardson, and Ens. C.D. Davy sighted 11 enemy dive bombers, type Aichi 99, which were flying unescorted. No warning of this enemy attack had been received. Lieut. Jensen, the first to sight the enemy and to give the alarm by radio, attacked and followed the enemy down through the antiaircraft fire from the ships, destroying 2 of the raiders. Lieut. Dufilho followed him, and also nailed 2 of the enemy planes while damaging a third. Lt. (jg) Starkes and Ens. Bright each accounted for 3 more, or a total of 10 shot down. Another flight of from 7 to 12 enemy dive bombers, however, attacked our ships unobserved by our own fighters or radar. They were reported by one of our scout bombers as they approached from another direction. Two of these planes were destroyed during their retirement. None of the dive bombers of the group intercepted succeeded in getting a hit on their targets, according to Lt. Comdr. Simpler. The hits were made by the unopposed attack.

Our third contribution comes all the way from Poland and our loyal reader Jerry K. Jerry has sent us photos of his converted deck helmet, an example of an extremely popular trend among Naval Aviators of the period. These helmets, intended for wear by flight deck personnel, were light weight, comfortable and, when white was used, provided some degree of thermal protection for the pilot's head when sitting under a plexiglass canopy for several hours under the strong rays of the Pacific sun. The use of rigger installed acoustic ear cups indicates the conversion was probably made sometime during the last two years of the war. Goggle strap and earphone cord keepers have also been added. A nice set of Mk-II goggles completes the display. Included below is an enlargement from a squadron photo of VB-87 taken while they were training  at N.A.S. Wildwood, N.J.. At least a dozen pilots sport modified helmets similar to Jerry's. Although easily found in vintage photos, surviving examples of these helmets are very difficult to find these days. Well done sir!
Thanks to all and please, keep 'em coming guys!
Our latest addition was sent in by Riley Willetts. Of this grouping, Riley says:

"This helmet, gloves and scarf  are from CWO 4 William H. Rawson, a PBY radio operator, who served from 1940-1944.
His helmet is fitted with powder puffs and TH-37 ear phones. His son said he never used the gloves or scarf. Note, the gloves are a darker tan than most."

You can clearly see the fine quality of these pre-war Navy issue items. Riley's second photo highlights the precise hand stitching used to attach the earphone cups and gives us a better view of the helmet's USN marking. We concur that, although cut to the same pattern as wartime manufactured gloves, the leather of pre-war Navy summer flying gloves does appear to be several shades darker.
Our thanks to Riley for his contribution. We look forward to seeing more of his exciting collection in the future!
Our second submission from Jerry K. is a great TH-37 equipped headset, which is attributed to LT(jg) C.S. Bemis. As a member of VPB-18, he piloted a Martin PBM-5 Mariner in the area of Saipan, Okinawa and the Japanese home islands during 1945. Jerry's research has turned up a recent photo (2009) of Mr. Bemis as well as an after-action report where he is credited with sinking a 100 ton merchant ship.  Research such as this really helps bring these artifacts to life and gives them even greater historical significance. Thank you Jerry! 
Our newest submission comes from Mike Haley. Mike is a flight helmet and goggle collector extraordinaire! He has chosen to share with us his B-G Inc. M-450-1 with chamois covered TC-66 ear cups. In addition, the helmet is fitted with snaps for an A-14 oxygen mask. Does it get any better than this?
We are fortunate to have seen more of Mike's collection in the past, and  we're sure he won't mind if we add a few more photos here.

Below: Three variations on the M-450. Note the simple but attractive stands he makes for his display heads. At right below is the same helmet we just showed you, but in this photo it is displayed with a rare set of chamois covered Mk-I goggles.

Bottom: You think you have a lot of spare goggle parts? Think again!

Our sincere thanks for the photos Mike. Maybe next time you'll let us have a closer look at those awesome Mk-Is?