"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
          AN-Aero. Standard
Above:  Helmet, Flying, Summer, Army specification AN-H-15, originally referred to in Navy use by the drawing no. AN-6540 and incorporating the size, 1, 2, 3 or 4*, then "s" for "summer", e.g. AN-6540-1S. Later changed to AN-6542.

Replacing the Navy M-450 (NAF-1092S) and Army A-9 summer helmets, this was a fresh design which incorporated the acoustically superior molded rubber with chamois-covered, kapok-filled "doughnut" earphone receptacles described in Army documents as "low frequency sound insulated earphone mountings". Gone were the old sew-on leather ear-cups used by both Army and Navy that had to be custom fit to each wearer. The new helmet was made from khaki cotton twill (Byrd cloth), as was the M-450. It used a leather, velvet covered, detachable chin strap, superior to the attached leather strap used on the Army B-6 and A-9 helmets. The chin cup found on the Navy 1092 helmets and earlier Army B-5 and A-8 helmets did not integrate well with the new A-14 oxygen mask therefore, it was eliminated. Goggle strap and earphone cord keepers were now made of leather. For reasons unknown, the Army earphone straps snapped at the bottom while the Navy's snapped at the top. A chamois lined brow-piece is found on Army contract helmets, but was only added later in production on Navy helmets (and often removed in field use). Original production for both services did not include snaps for the A-14 mask. The Army soon added factory installed leather-reinforced areas on both cheeks which incorporated multiple oxygen mask snaps. The Navy did not adopt this practice until after VJ Day, but included cheek buckles intended for use of the already obsolete M.S.A. demand Type D face-mask. These buckles were easily removed in the field and snaps for an A-14 mask were routinely installed at unit level. An A.A.F. insignia will be found on the exterior of most AN-H-15 helmets.

Slote & Klein, Inc. made these helmets exclusively for the Navy starting in March 1943 with production spanning four contracts and ending in August of 1944. The Army standardized their AN-H-15 version in April 1943 and production continued into 1945. Numerous Army contracts were issued to several manufacturers. Some of the more commonly encountered examples today were made by Bates Shoe Co., Joseph Buegeleisen Co., Zip-A-Bag Corp., Sun Shoe Mfg. Co. and Society Brand Hat Co. .
*The numbers 1-4 refer to the sizes; small, medium, large and ex-large. A closer look at these Navy AN series helmets is in the works.

Below:  Goggle Assembly, Flying  Type AN-6530

Previously covered in some detail, http://pilotsmanyourplanes.com/Page_106.html, these goggles replaced the Army B-7 and Navy Mk-II while combining features from both. Lenses and overall frame contour were already shared. The design was simplified by using the Army style headband and attachment method, the Navy's one-piece foam pad with chamois backing and incorporating a new nose hinge that was more substantial than the Mk-II's, but used less material than the B-7's. Charles Fisher Spring and American Optical produced the goggles under Army and Navy contracts.

Also below:  Mask, Oxygen, Demand, Type A-14, Army specification 94-3163

An Army design, recognized by the Navy as superior and adopted by both services as standard for the remainder of the war, it replaced the Army A-8, A-9 and A-10 series masks as well as the Navy M.S.A. rebreather and M.S.A. demand masks. For more complete information, see http://pilotsmanyourplanes.com/Page_34.html .  The A-14 was made in three sizes, Small, Medium and Large, by The Ohio Chemical & Mfg. Co. in at least two plants with production starting in spring 1943 and continuing after VJ day. Four Navy contracts have been documented, but there may have been more. Curiously, no "AN" number was ever assigned.

As mentioned above, factory or field installed snaps were the recommended means for attaching the oxygen mask to the flight helmet, but many Navy fliers preferred to use a simple rigger-made "Juliet" ( as seen on our mannequin here) typically made from webbing and /or elastic.

Above:  Our background image was scanned from the Navy "Parachute Riggers P-1 Manual" of November 1943 and illustrates the AN seat parachute assembly, AN-6510-1. This drawing was furnished to contractors in 1/2 scale to be used for manufacturing purposes.

Starting in September of 1940, as mandated by Secretary of War Stimpson,  the Army-Navy-British Purchasing Commission Joint Committee (a.k.a. the Joint Aircraft Committee after March 1941) and its many subsequent subcommittees, endeavored to streamline America's output of warplanes, and associated equipment. By setting standard specifications, intended to increase production and make the most of raw materials, they hoped to meet the goals that had previously been set for expanding the nation's air fleet. To a large degree, traditional inter-service rivalries were necessarily put aside (at least temporarily). Cooperation, for the sake of winning the war against the Axis powers as quickly as possible, now became key.

Previously, the long standing practice of the Army Air Corp and the Bureau of Aeronautics was to provide their respective airmen with flight clothing and equipment that had been independently designed to meet each service's own perceived needs. The result of this outdated thinking was our Army and Navy fliers entering into a new world war with two diverse assemblies of items that, essentially, performed the same basic functions for our fliers.

A Standardization Subcommittee was established to help develop and put into production items of flight clothing and equipment that would still do the job, but reduce duplication of effort, conserve vital resources and speed up the procurement and production process. How the Army and Navy men on the subcommittee actually accomplished their daunting task is beyond the scope of this limited work, but through their application of common sense, and a willingness to compromise, it appears that they were largely successful. Not surprisingly, old habits die hard and once the tide of war turned in favor of the Allies, the services quickly reverted to their previous "our way is better" mentality, once again following divergent paths.

Here, we will attempt to illustrate some of their accomplishments and highlight the success they achieved in bringing organization to an often seemingly chaotic way of doing business. Our focus is on summer flight clothing and basic equipment, as would have typically been found in use during the Pacific Campaign.

Below:  Our Navy example is on the left and his Army Air Force equivalent is on the right. Both are wearing a full complement of standardized items. Initial production of some standard items began in late 1942 with the numbers steadily growing by the spring of 1943.  Actual deliveries started to reach combat squadrons in the summer and fall of 1943. As can be expected, the change-over was gradual and a combination of old and new items being used simultaneously was typical for many months to follow.

Above:  Vest, Life-Preserver, Type B-4,  Army specification number 3135*.  AN specification AN-V-18, drawing no. AN-6519-1

This vest was an Army design standardized in May of 1942 and adopted by both services to replaced the Navy Mk-I and Army B-3 respectively. It drew heavily on the features of the B-3, but to reduce the use of critical rubber, the interior bladders of the B-3 were eliminated by using the rubberized type fabric employed on the Navy Mk-I vest. As production evolved, with the addition of a back strap and heavier waist strap snap-hook hardware, the designation stamped on these vests was updated to reflect the then current drawing number, AN-6519-1.  *3135 was the original Army spec.

Below:  There were six primary contractors for the vest, some of whom utilized subcontractors, resulting in a total of eleven different manufacturers. Navy contracts ran from January 1943 through December 1945. Early production Navy vests from Goodyear and New York Rubber are found to have a large "USN" stamp on the neck, a feature carried over from the Mk-I vest, but this was soon eliminated. Goodyear was the only manufacturer that stitched the waist and crotch straps to their vest, the others all secured the straps with rivets.
Above and below:  Suit, Summer, Flying, specification  AN-S-31, drawing no. AN-6550

Before the start of hostilities, the Navy was already using a cotton twill summer flying suit, the M-426a. The Army was still using a 1930s design, the A-4, made from heavy olive drab gabardine with an open right chest and leg pocket (zipper closures were later added). The new AN suit was a simplification of the Navy M-426a, using the same Byrd cloth material. By replacing the internal chest pocket with a single, button flap, exterior chest pocket (two chest pockets were specified, under AN-S-31A, on most Army contract suits), substituting plastic buttons for the metal snaps of the lower leg pockets, eliminating the lower leg zippers and metal snap closures in favor of simple, adjustable, cloth button-tabs and removing the diamond-shaped elbow reinforcements, production was simplified, raw materials were conserved and functionality was improved. Navy contract suits have a large "U.S.N." ink stamp inside the left chest area while most Army contract suits have a white A.A.F. insignia on the interior back and a three-color A.A.F. insignia on the left shoulder. It should be noted that the Army also produced this same pattern suit in a light green cotton and in olive drab gabardine.