"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 
Collector Profile 
The collecting community that shares our interest here may not be very large when compared to some other groups, but it is a passionate one. In an effort to further promote our small corner of the militaria hobby, we would like to introduce you to some of your fellow community members and give you a glimpse at the results of their collecting efforts. First up is Tom Pettit from the west coast of the United States. Tom has contributed to our Lucky Bag feature in the past and currently has some popular threads running on the U.S. Militaria Forum website. Without further ado, we will let Tom tell you a little bit about himself:
 
"I have been collecting militaria for the last 30 years. I mostly focused on WWII AAF gear but in the recent years (3-4 years) my interest has shifted to Naval aviation in WWII and primarily the flight helmets that pilots used to wear. Before my helmet collection I had accumulated around 60 M-422As, M-421As, M445A and M-445Bs flight jackets. I now have 2 jackets left in my collection and sold the rest. I am really trying to focus on flight helmets now as this is the one piece of equipment that they always had with them in the plane, plus they display real well.
I tend to focus my flight helmet purchases on named items that can be researched. A flight helmet that is not named has basically lost all chances of being researched and re-acquainted with its original history. I still own a lot of helmets that are unnamed but the majority are named and already researched / ready to be researched. Of course like everyone else who collects militaria I like to have items that have been there and can be traced to the original owner who had it in the field. I especially like rigger modified helmets and personal modifications on helmets, it makes them more personal and more unique."

Cheers,
Tom

Recently, Tom has picked up some new helmets from a large California collection that was broken up a few years ago. This helmet / goggle set is named to LT F.E. Yarnall, USNR, a ferry pilot that flew with VRF-3 out of Naval Air Station Terminal Island in San Pedro, CA. The helmet appears to be a private purchase commercial style flight or motorcycle helmet, very similar in detail to the carrier deck helmets that were also frequently converted to flight helmets. AAF brown sponge rubber earcups, holding TH-37 earphones, are secured with a similar color fabric.
Below:  A highly personalized, but as yet unresearched, helmet is this nicely salty HLB M-450. We'll go out on a limb and guess that the original owner was a big fan of, or possibly bore the nickname of, a popular 1940s cartoon character?
As Tom mentioned, he doesn't limit himself to just flight helmets. This is a named flight suit, decorated with the squadron's mascot, from VPB-118 crew 10. They were know as "The Old Crows".
Other than the fact that it came with a flight helmet and the nice graphics, we can see why this set appealed to Tom, although I don't think it belonged to one of his direct relatives.
James T. Pettit, AMM3c (3rd mechanic and bow gunner) can be seen with his crew in the photo below at the left front.
Below:  Tom's latest additions are quite unique. First is an H.L.B. M-450-1 fitted with AAF brown sponge rubber earphone cushions that have been attached with a high quality leather covering. We've seen this done before, but are unsure as to the source of the material. Possibly a set of pre-war summer flying gloves?

Second is a private purchase, commercially available flight / motorcycle helmet. These were very similar in style to the Navy issue deck helmets but had goggle retaining straps on the rear, which the war-time deck helmets lacked. It has been fitted with a variation of the "volcano" style ear phone holders which appear to have been specifically made to fit the Perm-o-Flux manufactured ANB-H-1A dynamic "flat-sided" head set. They do not have the conventional caps found on earlier production that covered the smaller TH-37 head set when installed.
We want to thank Tom for sharing, letting us visit his outstanding collection and getting to know him a bit. We certainly look forward to seeing more from him in the future.

Now, who will be next? Volunteers, please take a step forward!