"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
                                                      The Well Dressed Aviator
 
"Ever since we left Pearl Harbor we have been gradually accumulating more and more equipment until now, when we struggle out to the planes, we are fully prepared to set up light housekeeping under any given set of conditions for any length of time. Our gear includes a hunting knife, a thirty-eight calibre revolver, one and two cell flashlights, a pencil flashlight, waterproof charts, flags, whistles, heavy Marine shoes, vitamin capsules, first aid kit, Mae West life jacket, parachute harness, chart board, helmet and goggles, flight suit, Very's pistol and flares, dye marker, and a back pack which contains "K" rations, machete, malted milk tablets, jack knife, whet stone, mosquito net hood, poncho, water, first aid kit, fishing tackle, more flares, smoke bombs, twine, matches, compass, gloves, and various other useful items. Each man also has a one-man raft secured to his parachute pack." This quote is from LT(jg) Robert B. Hadley, taken from his January 2, 1945 entry in the Night Torpedo Squadron Ninety Progress Report, Part I.

TYPICAL NAVY PILOT'S CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT IN THE PTO, CIRCA 1945

 

By the spring and summer of 1945, the array of items provided by the U.S. Navy and carried by its individual airmen to facilitate their survival in an emergency situation, was quite extensive. It can be argued that by war's end, our Navy fliers were the best equipped of any nation (or rival service) at that time. Due to the flying environment encountered in the PTO, which was largely over ocean waters, but included both tropical and temperate land masses, all imaginable survival contingencies appear to have been provided for within the limits of that era’s technology. This would include being wounded while in air combat and requiring immediate first aid, bailing out (when over land or water) and being forced down over land or ditching at sea.

The following list attempts to include everything worn and carried by a land or aircraft carrier based naval aviator on a combat mission. It starts from the skin out and is in rough order in the way it would probably have been put on. The parachute and raft packs, which were heavy and would restrict movement, would have already been waiting in the aircraft cockpit. The pilot would be wearing or carrying everything else (see fully laden VC-20 pilots in the photo above) as he sat in the squadron ready room awaiting the call “Pilots, man your planes!”

 

Skivvy shirt, shorts and sox.

 

Khaki shirt (with pin on aviator's wings and collar rank insignia), trousers and web or leather belt.

 

Brown shoes or boondockers.

 

Identification tags with chain or cord, naval aviator’s ring and wrist watch. Crash bracelet (optional).

 

Summer or tropical flight suit. Summer or intermediate flight jacket and scarf for cool weather (optional). Aviators' jersey for hot weather (optional). Anti-G type Z suit (to replace flight suit, optional for fighter pilots).

 

Flying helmet with radio earphones and cord.

 

Goggles, complete.

 

Oxygen mask with microphone.

 

Summer flight gloves.

 

Shoulder holster with S&W .38 cal. Victory revolver, tracer ammo and lanyard. Waterproof pistol cover and oiler (optional).

 

Pistol belt with sheath knife, canteen of water with cover and first aid pouch with dressing. Could also include Lensatic compass with pouch for Marine aviators, or jungle first aid kit (all optional).

 

Back pad survival kit M-592 and contents (reversible poncho, mosquito head net, canvas gloves, jungle machete, burning glass, signal mirror, instruction booklet, sunburn cream, match case with compass and matches, adhesive tape, salt tablets, safety pins, jack knife, whistle, six unit first aid kit [morphine, two compress dressings, sulfanilamide, sulfaguanidine, boric acid ointment, iodine], fishing kit, Very's projector with six red shells, one can drinking water, desalting kit, 25' of 75 lb. test line, sharpening stone, oil can, three tins of tablet rations).

 

Mae West life vest with CO2 cartridges, two dye markers, whistle and one-cell attachable signalling light. Two signal flares in rubber pockets on the Mae West and shark chaser pack (optional).

 

Seat or QA Seat parachute harness with parachute pack, back and seat cushions.

 

Pararaft case with contents (raft with co2 bottle, sea anchor, bailing cup, two paddles, oral inflation tube, repair kit, two leak plugs, three dye markers, water can, sail and ocean charts packet). Radar corner reflector. Note: Model A or PK-1 pararaft kits would replace the back pad survival kit and pararaft combination in some squadrons prior to the war’s end. Pilot’s personal survival items were issued seperately to supplement these late war kits, and were intended to be carried in the pockets or on the person. They would include a mosquito head net, giant jackknife, pocket fishing kit, individual first aid kit, signal mirror and wrist compass.

 

Plotting / chart board with pencils, eraser, navigation plotter, rule, etc.

 

Knee board with pad of paper and pencil.

 

Navigation charts / target maps.

 

Mark 1 Emergency Flask Kit with contents (match case and matches, magnetic compass, sulfaguanidine, atabrine, halazone, Aspirin, benzedrine sulfate, antiseptic ointment, chewing gum, tablet rations [Navy Emergency Rations], adhesive tape, hacksaw blade and bouillon powder).

 

Escape and evasion packet (rayon maps, compass, local currency, CBI patch, US and Chinese rayon blood chits in a waterproof pouch).

 

Pocket sized Survival on Land and Sea manual and Pointie-Talkie booklet.

 

 

That is approximately 135 separate items. This total does not include, for example, counting all six safety pins, or all the revolver ammo individually, or the fifty Chinese bank notes or the individual tablets in the rations and medicine, or both boots with laces, or the ten items in the raft repair kit, etc.

 

Personal items would also be carried in the pockets of the uniform and flight suit (flight suit pockets increased from three to eight as the war progressed) and might include, for example: wallet, ID, personal photos, good luck charms, squadron made survival aids, language guides, pocket New Testament and / or other religious pamphlets, sunglasses with case, note book, pen or pencil, pocket knife, handkerchief, money belt (to carry barter items, e.g. razor blades, coins, safety pins), cigarettes and lighter, Chap Stick, candy, gum, condoms (used for waterproofing), etc.

 

Fortunately, the pilots were young and fit, their missions were flown sitting down and the weight of the equipment would have been distributed over the pilot’s body with the heaviest items (parachute and raft packs) being sat upon and supported by the pilot’s seat. Although the total weight of the equipment may not equal that carried by a paratrooper or an assault infantryman, it is impressive in its extent, none the less.