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US Navy H-4 set - mid / late 50's


Vark_07
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Greetings everyone !

Today I'll be introducing my latest project, a named US Navy H-4 set from the second half of the 50's I've put together recently.

 

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The rigid shell

 

Coming from an antiques webshop near Baltimore, this shell is a MEDIUM size H-4, as attested by the inner label, decal, and some visible clues that make it differ from the H-3 (thicker "brow" area, rivets' position, external adjustment strap placed further to the rear, only the back part of the suspension assembly being adjustable...).

 

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It was made by GenTex (not clear if this was prior to the 1958 "GENTEX CORP." name change, for the old "General Textile Mills Inc." name appears on both MFG. decal and cloth label - if anybody could confirm it would be good to know).
No manufacturing date attached to it, but according to my knowledge, H-4 shells were post-Korea era helmets, mostly used in the mid to late fifties (starting 1954), so I assume this example is no exception.

 

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Shell is fitted with the iconic M-6A/UR boom microphone mounted on a tilting C-bracket (also GenTex-made).

 

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Detail of the microphone.

 

This version features the alternative 6-stud external assembly for the corresponding 6-strap inner cloth liner (with "pull the dot" snaps), a configuration that was also to be found on the H-3. It shows 2 metal studs on the forehead, 2 surrounding the nape, and 2 others close to the cheeks' sides. But since many H-3 and H-4 shells were not fitted with the forehead fasteners, as a result, there were two types of cloth liners that would fit these USN shells, respectively showing 4 and 6 straps.


That being said, as you have certainly noticed while looking at the photos, I haven't been able to find a 6-strap liner but a 4-strap example instead (see later in the review), so the 2 forehead studs will remain "unused", so to speak. Not a big deal, though.

 

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The shell features a vivid and still shiny golden paint, the iconic blue USN wings decal, and a nice reflective orange / white tape job with marker pen inscriptions (four "71" -one on each side of the shell- and a big "M" on the top of the crown).
An enjoyable amount of superficial scratches, stress cracks and missing chips on the paint coat suggests an intensive use, however there is no sign of structural damage to the shell iself.

Touches of green corrosion (due to friction on the paint I suppose) on the reinforcing ridges and crown on the top complete the patina, and make it a very colorful asset to my collection !

 

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The inside of the shell is also very well preserved, as you will see on the following pictures.

Everything is in place and looking good (strap suspension assembly, leather sizing ear pads, the foam layer isn't crumbling...).

 

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Icing on the cake, we also have a readable name written on the foam : "MAULEY" (or perhaps "MULEY" ?) - that would match the "M" inscription on top of the shell, and a partial pilot tag starting with 145 (cannot read the rest unfortunately).

 

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Despite the overall good shape of this helmet, almost every metallic part (rivets, studs, buckles, boom mic, comm plug screws and C-bracket) was covered with verdigris or rust - see montage below.

It wasn't my intention to fully restore or replace these parts, for they add a vintage touch to the helmet. However, I tried to refurbish them to an acceptable state using a strong cleaning vinegar that removed a great amount of the corrosion, and gave the metal most of its original colors back - without excess.

 

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Pre-refurbishment corrosion state (scroll back for comparison).

 

 

The cloth liner

 

As I stated before, finding a 6-strap GenTex "Mil H-7151" cloth liner of the correct size in good condition was no easy task.
I had nonetheless the chance to count once again on the help of my fellow forum member Bradford (aka Wayward Son) who searched the US used market while I was trying to find it in Europe, and after a few days, he actually came back to me with a matching Medium-size intermediate H-4 liner.

Side note : I've foud that the early version H-3 liner, while very similar and compatible with the H-4 helmet, was featuring 3 studs on the 0² mask retentions, and yellow chamois earpads.

 

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Despite the fact that this example featured only 4 of the 6 required straps to perfectly fit my shell and lacks the earphones (this point not being important to me), this was still a legit example, and its outstanding near-MINT condition coupled with a fair price decided me to jump on the occasion.
So, thanks to Bradford who kindly acted as a local intermediary for the transaction and international delivery, I was fortunately able to complete my shell with a relevant liner.

Much appreciated 😀 !

 

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The pictures speak for themselves, there's nothing much to say about its condition : it is an absolutely flawless piece of gear, especially the leather parts (chinstrap and O² mask retention tabs), so I think it's safe to assess that it's brand new from an old stock.

 


The goggles

 

Last -but not least- element of this set are the Polaroid B-8 flying googles, model 1944.

I was lucky enough to find a complete used bundle in a surplus in Germany, with the box and the instruction envelope containing 3 spare lenses (2 green + 1 clear).

 

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A lot of H-3 and H-4 shells are shown with modified B-8 goggles fitted to the rigid shell with snaps (these goggles' retention studs on the H-4 are located below the external adjustment strap on the sides). I have to admit I was at first tempted to try this custom job too, but that would have been a risky endeavour since B-8s are not cheap ; so in the end, I decided to leave them in their original state, with the full-lenght strap surrounding the shell (which was also a valid configuration that can be found on many  examples).

 

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I have honestly no way to tell wether they were manufactured during the fifties or not (stock number and nomenclature on the box might help finding out), but I'm glad enough to have found the correct eye protection for this post-Korea helmet set.

 

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Detail of the bundle.


Perhaps someday I'll buy the proper MS-22001 (or A-13A) with an early 2-stud strap retention and hard nose tab (like this one, similar to USAF masks of this period) to go with it and fully complete the display head, but for now, I'm keeping this set just the way it is.

 

 

Any comment or opinion will, as always, be gladly appreciated.
Hope you enjoyed the share.
Cheers 😉 - Gauthier / Vark_07

 

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Wayward Son

Fantastic write up and photo documentation as always. That is a beautiful example of the iconic H-4. Happy to have been of assistance with this project.

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phantomfixer

That is a great setup and restoration...great score on the liner.inner helmet...still looking for one myself...

 

what model earphones go in the H4?

the B8 goggles are good and the USN 1065s would complete the USN rig...

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EARPHONES ; MARKINGS FROM SEARCH;       RECEIVER

                                                                      P/O  R-16-AN-87/U

                                                                          PERM O FLUX

                                                                              PHR-10

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phantomfixer

Thanks 72,,,I might have had a set...but they are later USAF...wouldn't fit...

 

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Does anyone know of a source for the short green elastic 

strips that held the M1944s yo the snaps on the side of the

H-4??

 

Help,

Owen

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Vark_07

I searched the web for these, Owen, but all I could find were statements saying these were "modified" B-8 goggles.

What I can tell you for sure is that the studs on the shell meant to fasten the modified goggles are the same as every other (for the liner, or the O² mask), so the snaps on these custom straps are standard "pull the dot" type.


I had however noticed that the modified B-8 examples shown on the web (on H-3 and H-4) present variations of the strap color, material (some look elastic, some seem to be fabric), with or without buckles, etc.

Just a guess here, but perhaps this snap on strap assembly for the B-8s was some kind of a "rigger" modification ?

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phantomfixer

Just FYI

I had a set of goggles for the H3/4helmets..the straps were elastic, and frames USN marked...

As you stated...they could easily have been fab shop/rigger made

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pararaftanr2

A nice looking rig, congratulations.

 

I believe the correct period goggle would be marked "U.SN. B-8", or just "USN" (yours are marked A.A.F.) with the 1950's date of manufacture molded on the side of the frame. They would also have a chamois backing and a gray elastic strap, which is unique and unlike any of the WW2 vintage 1065, B-8, or M-1944 straps. I believe these were made by both American Optical and Rochester Optical and known  as "Goggle, Flying, Type II".

 

A pair sold recently on ebay: https://www.ebay.com/itm/WWII-US-NAVY-American-Optical-Company-Flight-Goggles-B-8-style-/154269774412?mkevt=1&toolid=10001&mkcid=1&campid=5338722076&mkrid=711-53200-19255-0&nma=true&si=1D7eu%2FtGZBH0XXJEO53b8J35RU4%3D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557

goggles.jpg

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Vark_07

Thank you for the additional informations about the goggles ;).

To be honest, I didn't know there were so many variants of the B-8s (I know very little about the WW2 setups), so I confess I sniped the only decent and complete flying goggles set I could find in Europe. At least I'm glad I didn't let myself fool by the many -and way cheaper- M-1944 Sun Wind & Dust available on the local militaria market which are close-looking examples.

 

That being said, now that I have all these informations in hand, a USN rig of the B-8s would obviously make perfect sense for my naval helmet, instead of my AAF example (close enough, but not totally accurate).

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pararaftanr2

I'm sure you will turn up a pair now you know what to look for. The Navy supplied flight gear for the 1954 movie "The Bridges at Toko-Ri". William Holden can be seen sporting a pair throughout the film. Examples with "rigger-made" straps can also be found in period photos of the Korean War.

 

 

 

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  • 1 month later...
Vark_07

Looking back at the picture folder in my hard drive, I noticed that I had forgotten to post the tape job at night.

Here you go 😀.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Maxrobot

Is this part of the H-4 helmet system? When was it last made?

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Vark_07

From what I see, I wouldn't think so in this state, if we're talking about USN flight helmets paired with the H-4 rigid shell.
 

It sure does look quite alike the H-3 / H-4 liner but I've never seen one like this example... certainly a late variant, but what worries me is that it misses the leather tabs with snaps on both sides to fit the O² mask, and the 4 (or 6) straps to connect the cloth liner to the rigid shell, elements that would be necessary for a flight helmet paired with a rigid shell. The chinstrap assembly and buckle differs from the common leather ones, and I don't see any rear sizing strap.

This one seems to be made of sythetic fabric, the most commonly encountered H-3 and H-4 liners were mostly cotton, even though it is known that mesh fabric was used in the late (summer) variants featuring a leather "brow tab" similar to your example.

 

That being said, the label is legit for a late variant, and I've actually seen genuine H-4 liners with the very same cloth label. However, as you can see in the link provided, in this state, your exampe misses too many elements to be paired with the H-4 shell, in my opinion.
Perhaps a sub-version (or incomplete) late cloth liner that was meant to be worn without a shell ? (hence what looks like goggles vertical strap/snap retentions)

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  • 1 month later...
Vark_07

Major update to this thread !

 

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I'm thrilled to inform you guys I've luckily been able to find the "Grail" 0² mask to complete my H-4 set : a New Old Stock dated Nov. 1954 MS-22001 full set (mfd. by Acushnet).

It came from the USA in its original container (packed Jan. 1955) with the integral package : A-13A type hardshell, straps & snaps, 0² rubber hose, MC-3 connector, the whole deal in brand new condition !

No need to say I'm really glad I could get it, especially for as low as 230$ (considering the common masks' prices).

 

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The proper review for this mask bundle will follow in the days to come 🙂.

Until then, I'll share you a couple of pics with the completed H-4 set (someday, I'll just have to get the correct USN version of the B-8 goggles).

 

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Enjoy !
- Gauthier

 

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mohawkALSE

Looks great,  don't think you could do any better on a mask for condition and that price.

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Hi Gautier

 

Great project and well documented.

 

For your information, this beautiful MS-22001 is rather an USAF mask than an USN issued. USN didn't rename their A-13A mask to MS-22001 until the 60s. The USN A-13A for H-3 and H-4 helmet is not exactly the same design of your. However, it's a super find!

 

Here are some pictures to show the USN A-13A  from this era. Not any hook ont the left side. Only snaps.

 

USN googles were snapped on each side of the helmet. Some riggers fabrication were also used.

 

Franck

 

 

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Vark_07

Thanks Franck for this informative comment !

I wasn't worried too much about the hook / snaps retention issue before you mentioned it, because I had actually seen on the web a lot of H-3 / H-4 or other USN sets of the 50's fitted with such configuration (on Salimbeti for instance). I'll take your word for it, it is said that the Devil hides in the details 😁.

 

Anyway, this is the more approaching and best-looking mask I could ever get, so I guess you'll understand I'll be leaving it this way !

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Hi Gautier,

 

You're right guessing this configuration is not false. The USN version of the mask I was telling about is the one especially dedicated by the Navy for their helmets. Although we can often see some other set as your display. However, your mask is wonderful and hard to find in these conditions. Congrat!

 

Franck

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Brian Keith

Those are great looking set ups you guys posted!

BKW

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