"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 
ACE APPAREL
In what we hope will be the first of a series, we will select  a notable ace and take a close look at his typical flying kit. Our first subject is Robert W. McClurg, a seven victory ace and member of VMF-214 for both of the Black Sheep's tours. Our photographic references give us views of two different outfits worn by McClurg. One is a "light" version (possibly worn just for a photo session), while the other appears to be what he would wear for combat missions, which we will review first.
His headgear is comprised of an H.L.B. Corp. M-450-1 flight helmet with TH-37 earphones installed in chamois secured TC-66 ear cups. The goggles are Charles Fischer Spring AN-6530s with a tan pad, green tinted lenses and a white strap with dark hardware. Around his neck is a bandana, useful not only for helping control perspiration in the tropic sun, but also as a hasty tourniquet in an emergency. He uses an A-14 oxygen mask fitted with an AAF contract microphone (note long cord) and an adjustable webbing strap. His flight suit is the type M-426a. The Mae West is an AAF contract, Goodyear manufactured (note red rubber oral inflation tubes) B-3 type with one dye marker. In typical Marine fashion, his issue Colt .45 automatic pistol rests in a rigger made shoulder holster and  two spare magazines are carried in a Froehlich manufactured web pouch on the holster's chest strap. Directly below the magazine pouch, on the waist belt of his flight suit, can be seen the waterproof web pouch for his Lensatic compass. This item was issued to all Marine officers and is frequently seen being carried as survival gear by Marine pilots. Tan summer flying gloves are stowed in a leg pocket of his suit along with what appears to be an early round signal mirror. A "crash bracelet" is worn on his right wrist. In effect, this served as a decorative version of a pilot's dog tags and was to be used for the same purpose if need be. His canteen, an aluminum model with aluminum cap, is probably of WWI vintage and with its cup, is carried in a second-pattern USMC carrier. The canteen is carried very low on his right hip, possibly suspended from a web pistol belt, which is not visible, but also possibly hung from a tab added to the flight suit for this purpose. Slung over his shoulder is a gray canvas "rigger made" jungle bag containing a personalized complement of survival and first aid items. Not visible is a sheath knife, which is probably out of sight on his far hip.
 
Above is McClurg, front row, second from left, posing with the other Pennsylvanians of VMF-214. As seen below, the "light" version of McClurg's flight gear features the same flight helmet and goggles. Basic clothing is a Marine officer's khaki shirt worn with HBT utility trousers and an enlisted style Marine web trouser belt. His footwear is rough-out field shoes. Rather than the previously seen B-3, he is wearing an AAF contract B-4 vest.
Above:  An original war-time example of the VMF-214 squadron patch, from the collection of the National Naval Aviation Museum, donated by Frank Walton, the squadron's intelligence officer.