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P-61 Black Widow Helmets and Gear


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Hey everyone,

 

      So I’m getting a grouping this week from a P61 radar operator of the 548th NFS which includes his original flight suit worn overseas. I have been able to find tons of information on the veteran and photographs from the grandson who I am getting it from, and was thinking about getting the few AF pieces I do not have to complete the outfit, particularly the helmet

      I’ve attached a few photos photos I’ve been able to find of their squadron in flight gear, but unfortunately it doesn’t show them in the cockpit so I don’t know what pacific P61s might have truly worn while flying. I believe the helmets are AN-H-15s and that the goggles are B8 but was hoping someone could visually double check me. As for other gear I found one showing life vests which looks like they used a variety.

      In one of the accounts from the veteran whose suit I am getting, he had to bail out of his black widow after flak disabled their controls. He jumped out amidst a massive thunderstorm and said that for some reason his number one priority when he got violently airsick being tossed about in his parachute was to not throw up on his flight suit which makes me think it is also possible they did not wear the flight jackets all the time. While flight jackets periodically show up in the unit history, I could only find a single photo of them wearing any type of jacket in combination with other flight gear throughout a nearly 900 photograph collection on a cd from the unit history which the grandson has included. If anyone else has photos of 61 crews from the pacific, especially in flight gear I’d love to see it. And if anyone has spares for the pieces I need (at the moment, particularly a larger size AN-H-15) feel free to pm me. Otherwise thanks for all the help! This forum teaches me a lot every time I post.

 

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This is the only photo where I saw jackets worn in combination with any type of flight gear, in this case the variety of life vests

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Finally, this is the closest I have to a photo of the veteran whose uniform I’m getting in flight gear. This is his pilot leaving the cockpit. It’s low quality but it’s the closest I have to seeing what my guys exact setup would have been and figured maybe someone more experienced can spot something.

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GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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As per their standard allotment of issuance they would have had intermediate flight jackets as seen in your last photo, Types A-2 (leather) and B-10? (cloth). Cannot see the pockets, might be a B-15. I see standard summer and indeterminate flight suits, most wearing the AN-S-10, one in a gabardine variant and also an A-4. They would dress accordingly to personal preference all relative to the weather, temperature. Most all wearing the standard QMC rough out boots.

I'm not so hip on my flight helmets anymore but they do look like AN-H-15's but could also be a mix with the A-10A as well. 

In the last image, far right, he is wearing HBT trousers and khaki shirt. I see typical tropical clothing worn by aviators. Add a life vest and parachute and you'd be set. Most certainly a small arm as well.

The life vests, middle, is a Type B-3 and to the left and right is the Type B-4 with signal mirror pocket. Standard stuff.

You can reference any USAAF in the PTO for an accurate flight gear assembly, doesn't matter what aircraft really. They were all issued the same stuff. 

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You'll find USAAF flight personnel are pretty run-of-the-mill or cookie cutter when it comes to flight clothing and gear.

Though a fighter pilot, it is transferable to let say a P-61 aircrew. Same flight suit, helmet and goggles and boots seen in your images as well with a B-4 with mirror pocket.p61.jpg.47ed71d0fac2deb8ee862d1ee7e93ea2.jpg

 

This is a B-24 aircrew in the Pacific running night bombing operations and is quite accurate to the impression you are shooting for. Same operational area and personal choice on what they want to wear.

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Another USAAF aircrew with their flight clothing and gear. They have the addition of flak protection gear.

2091883658_p613.jpg.62c276345ea86ac4b7265b52a866144f.jpg

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Thanks for the quick response! I figured this was mostly the case. I was not sure if the P61 was pressurized which would negate the need for cold weather gear but it looks like the summer mix seen in the other photos you added probably matches the 548th pretty well. The flight suit Im getting is an AN-s-31a with the sleeves trimmed down. According to his grandson, he cut down the sleeves to make it easier to operate the complex radar setup with all his other gear on. I am not sure whether people had multiple flight suits issued, but in most of the original photos I found of the vet he has long sleeve suits. His grandson believes he had two sets, the long sleeves for ground work and the short for flying, but I am not sure if the flyers were issued multiple sets. If not, I would imagine he just cut it down towards the end of the war.

GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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A few things to remember regarding the use of a flight jacket in this scenario. The P-61 was a night fighter, so would be operating in the cool of night. The photos you have were all taken on the ground, during daylight. Also, the higher you fly, the more the temperature drops. It would be a matter of personal preference whether to wear a flight jacket over the flight suit, or not. An A-14 oxygen mask would be appropriate. The P-61 cockpits were not pressurized and for night flying, the use of oxygen from take off to landing would be normal, as it improved night vision.

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Very, very good points, sir!

In line with what Pararaft mentioned, the second picture above was taken at night upon return from a mission. Summer clothing with jackets to help battle the lower temps of the evening. By the way they are dressed, and often, tropical evenings are still quite warm depending on the season of course.

 

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Thanks for the help everyone! Definitely overlooked the whole obvious fact of cold nights being the primary time of operations. I talked to the grandson again and he thinks he remembers his grandfather saying he wore just a flight suit at times and a suit with jacket at others, really just dependent on the weather and altitude. Will definitely have to start getting something together.

GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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Thanks for the help everyone! Definitely overlooked the whole obvious fact of cold nights being the primary time of operations. I talked to the grandson again and he thinks he remembers his grandfather saying he wore just a flight suit at times and a suit with jacket at others, really just dependent on the weather and altitude. Will definitely have to start getting something together.

GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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Here is an interesting quote I found in this document  https://media.defense.gov/2010/May/26/2001330259/-1/-1/0/AFD-100526-018.pdf online, which covers US nightfighter operations during WW2:

"Ironically, the enemy aloft was not the only source of danger. Crews in the Pacific flying at twenty thousand feet amid air temperatures of ten degrees below zero complained of a headquarters decision to withhold heated flying suits from aircrew in that “warm” tropical theater."

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temperature drop is 3.5 degrees or so for every 1000 feet...the P61C had an updated cabin heating system ...so late in the war, and with minimal chance of a cabin breech, could be the flight jacket was taken and not worn? looks to be a B-10 with the epaulets....

 to early for the C-1 vest and B5 life preserver? 

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Great thread and discussion!! 

Being a 13th AAF nut - the pacific fellas always seemed to have a hodge podge of dress - there was never a standard "set" that I have ever seen - all over the place

 

I am glad you were able to pick up these items and can't wait to see everything when you get it in hand

 

-Daniel

Actively collecting:

13th USAAF uniforms and groups/medal groups!

307th BG, 5th BG, 11th BG, 42nd BG

Also looking for:

WWII Far East Air Force uniforms/groups!

Any Pacific Army Air Force Groups to 5th, 7th, 10th, 14th, 20th AAF

Collecting CBI and ATC Pacific Army Air Force groups

donation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gifdonation2020.gif

donation2012.gifdonation2013.gifdonation2014.gifdonation2015.gifmsg-24355-0-77312200-1449362814.gif

 

USMF's custom photo resize tool:http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/229816-custom-resize-tool-exclusively-for-the-usmf/




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This has been a very helpful thread everyone! I will hopefully be posting the group tomorrow, I got a decent amount of items all from the grandson who wanted it to go to someone who would use it for education and displays like I do. As such, he kept some of the other pieces of the group but Ill be sure to post photos of everything regardless because its so rare we find anything from the night fighters. I figured the complete group would be a good reference because I could only find one or two others on the entire forum. I am currently trying to edit down my write-up and it should be good to go. There is a unit history which this veteran helped co-write a few years ago that is chock full of information and anecdotes from him and there is also a cd interview I need to watch and review. Lots of incredible information on a very unique and important part of the AAF.

GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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Hey everyone. Post is up in the groupings section and I’ve attached the link here. I managed to pick up a nice AN-H-15 last night to display with the set and for any future displays, still holding out for an A14 though. Thanks for all the help in here.

 

Dave, I believe it’s another one of the squadron hats like some of the others are wearing. I think they had a red and white/red version. You can see some more in the grouping post. 
 

https://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/342468-great-woodwork-p-61-radar-operator-uniform-grouping-“the-spook”/

GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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Great grouping. Thanks! Looks different than what they were wearing in the ball team pic but, yeah, looks like a few there.

Nicely photographed, BTW

Dave

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1 hour ago, dmar836 said:

Great grouping. Thanks! Looks different than what they were wearing in the ball team pic but, yeah, looks like a few there.

Nicely photographed, BTW

Dave

 

From reading in the unit history they asked command if they could make custom caps for themselves while on Hawaii waiting for the invasion of Iwo Jima, this is where they had the custom crimson and white ones made like you see in the photos. I believe the baseball team is wearing yet another type of hat as the history mentions they made custom uniforms when that started.

GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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