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I’m writing a newspaper article on the 491st Bomb Group (H) on low altitude supply mission during Market Garden and need some help. I'm trying to figur out what flight clothing the men would be wearing--flew B-24s from airbase in England down to 300 feet over Holland to make their drop zone. Can anyone give me a general idea if I have this correct? About a five hour mission. Would all the men wear headsets and throat mikes? Many thanks for any input!

Long underwear
Regulation trousers and shirt (or F-1 suit?)
ID tags around neck
A-3 pants
“Blue Bunny” heated suit
B-3 with nametag on chest
B-6 helmet with rubber cups attached to hold the receivers 
B-7 or 6530 goggles 
F-2 heated gloves
A-6 flight boots with silk sock liners
Scarf
B-3 life preserver 
A-8b oxygen mask 
HS-33 or HS-38 headset with T-30 throat microphone
Chest-mounted parachute pack
 

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Your list looks more appropriate for 1943, not the later part of 1944. Perhaps try searching for crew photos from that group and time frame? I found one quickly from November 1944 which shows a crew from the 491st wearing AN-6550 flight suits, F-2 electrically heated suits, A-11 and B-6 flight helmets and B-8 goggles. By this time, a demand oxygen system would be in use, so A-14, or one of the A-10 family of masks, rather than the A-8B, as well. Also B-3, or more likely, B-4 vests. Good luck!

Bennett-David-M-1-Lt-Crew-491st-BG-853rd-BS-Blog.jpg

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?  ... hello, what duly amazes me is how long some items lasted in use...  a photo from "Combat Flying Clothing" by C. Sweeting does show a crew from 379th B.G taken on March 12th, 1945 with at least one member still wearing the B-3 Life Vest.

Caption reads B-4, but it can only be a B-3 for sure.  Noteworthy indeed!!

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I may use other verbiage than amazed and maybe not noteworthy. You have to consider that the bulk of production of the B-3 ceased in 1942, some over flow production into 1943. The B-3 was never suppose to be removed from service, it was only obsolete on a production basis. As long as they passed in the inspection cycles they were issued. You have to consider that the B-4 eclipsed its availability essentially dominating the supply chain. New commissioned units preparing for embarkation overseas would have most often been issued new equipment, those B-3's used earlier and sent as replacements for those units already overseas. By the end of 1943, you could imagine that those units in theater for a year or more already consumed much of the supply of the B-3. Some were still floating around in various supply centers and ended up as a mix on some air bases. By 1945, I'd venture a guess factoring in consumption or attrition of B-3s from those manufactured in 1941, there would had been about a 10-1 ratio of B-4's over B-3's, that is conservative. Those B-3's seen in 1945 were those that were still serviceable but also think of the volume of size of the AAF and a spread of those vests from the Pacific to Europe. I guess my point here was that there was a limited supply from the beginning and once the B-4 came into the picture, almost month by month, you see less and less of the use of the B-3. Supply versus demand. 

here are three images; 

One is from March 1945, 427th BS. B-3 far left.

January 1945, 358th BS, B-3. the next image is the same squadron and date.

1945 B-3c.jpg

1945 B-3 2c.jpg

1945 B-3 3c.jpg

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This a pilot of the 20th Fighter Group, c. spring 1945 supporting operations over Germany and the Rhine, wears a B-3. At this juncture in the war and flying so close to Russian lines, pilots were more progressively wore sidearms. Another object to note is the early zippered first aid pouch, same scenario with this item as with the life preservers.

1945 B-3 6c.jpg

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To partially illustrate my point above, here is a group photo from the 92nd BG, March 1944. They all wear the B-4 life preserver, likely part of receipt of new vests while they were still stationed in England. The vests sure do look shiny new! Also note, no inspection marks anywhere on them.

Other aircrews from earlier and the same time frame were still fully outfitted with the B-3

1945 B-3 4c.jpg

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Great information and photos Dustin, thanks. Two things I would add. First, from what I've read, the B-3, due to the nature of its construction, was more comfortable to wear than the B-4, which was stiff and tended to chafe the back of the neck when worn under a parachute harness. For this reason, some chose to hang on to a B-3 if possible, even when the newer B-4 was available. Second, side arms were issued to all USAAF officers overseas, but for whatever reason, the accepted practice in that service was to wear the shoulder holster under the flight clothing, so it is rarely seen in vintage photos. 

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You are correct on a T/O&E stand point but Europe was a bit different. You actually won't see much use of the carrying of a side arm with the 8th AF and later the 9th when they moved from North Africa to England. There were actual restrictions on carrying sidearms for flights over Europe. In the event you went down you couldn't carry a gun in an evade scenario risking being treated as a saboteur. Aircrew were instructed to immediately blend and evade the enemy. If armed, one might be prompted to fire and assure self destruction as well. 

That is an interesting anecdote about carrying under the flight clothing, this would mean only the shoulder holster was used. This doesn't entirely add up because the M3 holster didn't come out till early-mid 1943 and then why do you never see the M1916 worn by flight crew. You have that diversity in the PTO. If you think about it, everyone in Europe wore them under the clothing, that seems strange? 

Circumstances were different with the 9th in North Africa then later with the 15th AF. They flew missions over the Balkans and/or Russian territory. Those cultures did not take kindly to unarmed personal, looked at as inferior. A fire arm was a status symbol. Same principal applies later in the war with deeper engages across Europe, France secured, from the 8th and the potential of going down in Russian territories.  

Side arms in Europe is more of a time line and location perspective unlike that of the Asiatic-Pacific.

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I'll add that they wore their regular QMC leather shoes or boots under the A-6 winter flying shoes.

Semper Fi

Phil

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I thought it wise to provide some supporting information to my last comment about side arms. Essentially, up to the summer of 1944, western Europe was under German occupation. Carrying of a side arm was unnecessary nor was it a wise idea. 

Here is some basic prescribed evasion principals.

1061901848_intell(1).JPG.0d22a5e43706276f6c58cad685192008.JPG

The contrast to prescribing the carrying of side arms is that of Russian controlled areas or any of the Soviet blocks. You will see a transition of carrying of side arms much later in the war from the 8th AF because of the higher probability of forced landings behind Russian lines or Balkan states. This was a much more rough and tumble mentality with those peoples. The excerpt from an evasion bulletin for Soviet territories highlights some importance of the sidearm.

735333371_intell(2).JPG.89c12e22402296ab490206df954bd3e8.JPG

 

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