"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
          AN-Aero. Standard

Above:  Our background image is the AN QAC Assembly, scanned from the Navy "Parachute Riggers P-1 Manual".

 As we expected, finding vintage photos showing Naval Aviators wearing a complete ensemble of AN clothing and equipment is quite challenging, if not nearly impossible. As previously alluded to, all the AN equipment did not become available at the same time and Navy standard items already in use continued in service until their supply was exhausted, they became functionally obsolete, or were worn out and needed replacing. On this page, we will present to you some examples of the standardized AN items in use.

 Before moving on to the photos, we should also mention that summer flying gloves, footwear and sidearms were never AN standardized. Similar lightweight leather gloves were used by the Army and the Navy, but they differed in minor details. The Navy started the war with the M1911a1 automatic pistol as the issue sidearm for its fliers, although they were required to provide their own holster. Due to ever-increasing Army requirements for the pistol, growing Navy demand soon exceeded available supplies and they were forced to adopt the .38 cal. Smith & Wesson Victory revolver as an alternative. Both services did issue similar leather shoulder holsters for their respective sidearms. Sturdy, low-quarter, roughout service shoes (as issued to infantrymen) were recommended for wear when flying in the tropics in case one had to walk home via the jungle, but again, each service preferred their own design so standardization was never achieved.

 Below:  At first glance, this TBF pilot might appear to meet our goal of complete AN clothing and equipment. It's only when the image is enlarged, do we see that it is not the case. Helmet, goggles, ear phones, oxygen equipment and seat parachute all conform, but we fall short when the diamond patch on his flight suit elbow can be seen (as found on the M-426a) and the soft fabric of his B-3 life vest's collar is noted.

Above:  1st Lt. Fred Kolb flew Corsairs from Yontan Airfield on Okinawa with VMF-411, scoring 3 victories. He provides us with a great view of his AN-6510-1 seat parachute, complete with red ripcord handle, AN-6520-1 raft case and seat cushion. Along with his dye markers, a rigger-made pyrotechnic signals pouch is tied to his AN-6519-1 life vest.
Above:  1st Lt. Clyde H. Hall, flew F6F-5Ns from Okinawa with VMF(N)-542. The Lt. has rolled up the sleeves of his AN-6550 flight suit, which is adorned with  the squadron's insignia, reported to be silk-screened on canvas with an embroidered edge. The other items of his equipment are AN standard as well. Sadly, Lt. Hall made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

Left:  Seldom photographed were the aircrewmen at their positions inside the plane. Here we see a Navy radioman / gunner in a TBM Avenger. His clothing and equipment appear to be AN standard, with the sole exception being his TH-37 ear phones. Note the armor plate, above his .30 cal. "stinger" gun, in the raised position. When in combat, it would be lowered down the guide-rails, with only the small cutout to sight through. The gun's ammo can is on the plane's starboard bulkhead, at the left of the photo. Behind his head is an oxygen regulator and behind his back the "bomb data" case.
Above:  Another Marine, this time an SBD pilot with VMSB-243, the "Flying Goldbricks". 1st Lt. Roy M. Brennan uses the buckles on his AN-6542 helmet (which were intended for the MSA "D" oxygen mask) to attach a goatskin chin cup from an NAF-1092L helmet. This was a fairly common adaptation, often made by dive bomber pilots to help counteract the high G they experienced when pulling out from a dive. The red-painted ripcord handle is visible here as well.

Below:  Lest we forget the U.S.A.A.F.,  Major Harry C. Crim of the 531st fighter squadron, flying from Iwo Jima, prepares to mount his Mustang for a long-range B-29 escort mission to Tokyo. With the exception of his B-8 goggles, he is dressed head to toe with AN standard items.
Below:  All three variations of the A.A.F. AN-6550 flight suit are being worn by members of this B-29 crew. Khaki Byrd cloth with two chest pockets, light shade OD cotton poplin with one chest pocket (yes, some of these suits also had two chest pockets) and olive drab gabardine with two chest pockets.
Above:  Aircrewmen  from VC-97, "The Fishhook Squadron", aboard USS Shipley Bay in June 1945 during combat operations in support of the Okinawa campaign. All wear AN goggles and helmets. The men at left and right wear AN flight suits, while the two in the middle have the older M-426a suits. You will find early production AN-S-31 / AN-6550 suits (from several manufacturers) still using woven labels from the previous M-426a specification suits. Apparently fresh contracts were not issued when the AN specified improvements were introduced, so they chose to use up their existing label stocks before making new ones. Collectors today may obsess over such trivia, but rest assured, the original users didn't care and probably never noticed. From left to right: J. M. Callan, W. R. Gawlak, G. K. McGee, Jr., and G. A. Henckel.

Below:  We mentioned it was difficult, but not impossible, to find vintage photos showing a complete AN outfit. This image, via Greg Pons, was used in our previous "Navy V.D. Goggles" article, but is worth revisiting. Among this VC-98 Avenger crew, only the radioman, (at left) fits the bill. He wears AN-6530 goggles on an AN-6542 helmet with ANB-H-1 ear phones, an AN-6550 suit, AN-V-18 life vest and AN-6513-1 QAC parachute harness.