"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
Navy C.B.I. Patches
Above and below:  LT James S. Cooper (with printed C.B.I. patch), and a fellow Helldiver pilot from VB-20, grab a sandwich and coffee in the squadron ready room after a strike on the Imperial Japanese Fleet. Although this photo is not dated, Air Group Twenty flew from U.S.S. Enterprise from August through November, 1944. Both pilots use a three foot cotton lanyard to retain their oxygen masks. These photos are scanned from an Enterprise cruise book, and although the resolution is low, they give a good idea of typical flight gear during this time period. The Navy's version of the AN standard summer flight suits were supplementing, or replacing, the classic M-426a at this time.
Above:  A division of VBF-88 Corsair pilots aboard U.S.S. Yorktown, summer 1945. Second from right is LT Leo Horacek, Jr. (wearing a C.B.I. patch). Seen here on his second combat tour, he flew Hellcats previously as a member of VF-74 during Operation Dragoon (see "Hellcats over Provence", pages 4 & 5) and was LCDR Bass' wingman.

Below: Also aboard Yorktown with CAG-88, was VF-88 pilot LT(j.g.) Maury Proctor. His 8mm color "home movies" afford us a unique view of carrier operations against the Japanese homeland during the final summer of the war. Stay for the full 52 minutes and you will see some C.B.I. patches among the many fascinating sights he captured at sea and in the air as well as witness actual footage of World War Two's last dogfight.
Above:  Our original "patched" suit is designated  "AN-S-31" on its label. These simplified suits featured lower leg pockets with button closure, adjustment tabs at the ankles and an external chest pocket. The lower leg zippers and diamond-shaped elbow reinforcements of the M-426a were eliminated. Similar Army Air Force contract suits typically have two chest pockets. The printed cotton C.B.I. patch has been neatly hand stitched.

Below:  This reconstruction represents a carrier based fighter pilot's typical flight gear and clothing, circa late 1944-early 1945. Click each image to open it in another window for full size viewing.
Above: VF-88's Skipper, LCDR Richard Crommelin (at right), with his division. Maury Proctor is second from left. Tragically, the Skipper was killed in an aerial collision with his wingman, while forming up after an early morning launch in heavy fog. Richard was one of five famous Navy brothers, four of which were aviators. His brother Charles was also killed in a similar accident while serving as Commander, Air Group Twelve.
Above, left:  Leo Horacek (second from left) and VBF-88 company again. Amazingly, Maury Proctor can be seen while filming with his hand-held movie camera on the Corsair's wing behind them.

Above right:  Seven pilots and three of the VF-88 crew. At least two C.B.I. patches are in view.

Below:  The same group in a different pose. The pilot at right wears a Type-Z anti-G suit.
Above:  Wearing a squadron patch on the shoulder, rather than the chest, was rare among WW 2 naval aviators, but the "Freelancers" of VF-81 were the exception. When a C.B.I. patch was added, the insignia was switched to the right shoulder, resulting in their black panther facing the wrong way, as seen in this photo, another cruise book scan.

Below:  Some additional color footage has been uncovered that shows the C.B.I. patch being worn on the flight suit of a Kingfisher pilot. This short silent clip from the National Archives is reported to have been taken in April, 1945, but the ship itself is unidentified. The majority of what is captured here consists of Japanese air attacks against our fleet off Okinawa, but at the 3:45 mark, you will see the patch for a few frames as the pilot prepares for his launch.