Thought I’d ask this here to see if those knowledgeable in USAF flight helmets, specifically Protection Incorporated helmets, can help me resolve a question I’ve had about this particular PI made HGU-2A/P flight helmet that has been in collection since 2004.
At the time, the USAF Colonel who owned it happened to live in a neighboring city, and the information below was obtained over a few afternoon coffee meetings, one in particular where he signed a book and handed me his helmet bag complete with this flight helmet and mask.
His background: After attending Wild Weasel Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) training at Nellis AFB, Nevada, his first assignment was with the 6010th Wild Weasel Squadron (WWS) at Korat RTAFB, Thailand. There he flew 112 F-105G Thunderchief combat missions, 90 over North Vietnam, 20 in Route Package (RP) VI.
During this tour, his USAF issued flight helmet caused “hot spots” during long missions, so once his first tour was complete, he had a flight helmet “made to order” from Protection Incorporated (then, based in Pamona, CA) which was individually molded to his head, etc. The completed helmet was originally covered in camouflage tape to avoid detection on the ground in the event of a bailout.
He wore this “new” helmet during his second tour with the 8th TFS / 49th TFW, flying out of Takhli RTAFB, Thailand, in the summer of 1972 in support of Linebacker I. During this period, he flew 143 combat strike missions in the F-4D, 45 over the North, 40 in RP VI.
Returning for yet another tour lasting from October 1972 to January 1973, he went TDY from Okinawa to Korat RTAFB with the 67th TFS / 18th TFW, back in the Wild Weasel SAM suppression role. Flying in the F-4C for 58 combat missions over North Vietnam, 48 of those missions were in RP VI mostly at night in support of the B-52s during Linebacker II.
All told, he said this particular flight helmet accumulated 201 combat missions, 103 over North Vietnam, 88 in RP VI.
Returning stateside to Homestead AFB, Florida, he recalls the helmet was sent back to Protection Incorporated where it was completely stripped of the camouflage tape, and “updated” to conform to Tactical Air Command (TAC) standards.
Each Protection Incorporated helmet was individually fitted and assigned to the user, and there is a small blue and silver tag affixed to the underside of one of leather headset assemblies … this one is located beneath the right side headset. The tag is type printed in black with the owner’s name, an assigned liner number, helmet model, and provides space for a date of manufacture. Although somewhat worn and hard to read, in this case the tag appears to indicate a handwritten manufacturing date of 01/74.
So here’s the big question: could the 01/74 dated tag reflect the date the 201 combat mission helmet was updated to TAC standards upon return from SEA and, presumably, when a new updated tag was installed in place of the old tag to reflecting the modifications date, or, as memories begin to fade, is this in reality not the 201 combat mission helmet but the date this particular EWO actually had a new helmet constructed for him for flight use on returning Stateside?
Two additional points: one corner of the silver and blue Protection Incorporated tag is loose, so I can look beneath it and determine it was not placed over an old tag, and the Sierra Engineering MBU-5/P mask assembly is dated 74/75/76 showing it is a postwar replacement to his original.