The following clothing, etc., that is listed here are items that were used by navigators. These items were, also used by other members of the crew.
Clothing: Starting from the skin out, the flyer wore normal underwear, boxer shorts and t-shirt. Over this underwear was worn the military wool pants, held up by a belt, and a military issue shirt, tucked into the pants. On top of these clothes, was worn a green nylon “bib overall” that had electric wires in it. Then was added a thin nylon jacket that also had electric wires. At the end of each of the sleeves of the jacket were electrical contacts for use with electric heated gloves. At the bottom of the “bib type” overall suit were electrical contacts which hooked into or connected with felt slipper type shoes that had electric wires in them. Finally, a khaki colored flight suit with full-length long sleeves was worn over the entire group of garments. The addition of electrically heated gloves, which had wires around the fingers and the electric heated felt, slippers were the extent of the electric suit. No normal, everyday, shoes were worn. The slippers were worn inside the leather fleece- lined flying boots. My mother had knitted a green heavy wool scarf. This scarf was wrapped around my neck. The headgear was the leather helmet that had the earphones in and on each side of the helmet. With this composition of garments, it was quite comfortable. The heated suit had a long electric cord that you plugged into an outlet in the bomber. It had a rheostat for regulation of how hot you wanted it to be. Over all of this, you put on your parachute harness. The harness did not have a parachute attached to it. The parachute was separate, and when needed, you hooked it onto the front of the harness. This harness had a quick release feature about chest high. In the event you had to drop into water, you hit the release and, immediately, your harness would fall off. The parachutes were carried separately. It was my habit that, whenever we were going into a target, I would put on my parachute; then cover myself, and parachute, with the flak jacket.
We also carried a .45 automatic pistol in a shoulder holster under our left arm. The pistol was not to be used, in my opinion, unless you are coming down in a parachute and a farmer is about to stick a pitch- fork through you. You threaten him with the pistol until the German army shows up. You give the army the pistol! I never intended it to be used, except for personal defense.
Next we have the flak jacket. It was like a bulletproof vest that covered both front and back. The vest was made of cloth, filled with metal plates. It was not just a vest. It covered both back and front of the person; down to your groin from just below your chin. On top of all of this, was a steel helmet that had ear- flaps. These ear- flaps came down over the side of your helmet and protected the side of your head as well.
Other equipment: Another valuable piece of equipment we was goggles. They were not the two round pieces, one for each eye, but a plastic shield across the face that had extra sets of lenses. I put two plastic lenses in mine because I was always fearful of an explosion that might have caused blindness. Every time we left the initial point; going in on the bomb run, one of the first things that I did was pull the goggles over my eyes. Then I put my flak suit and helmet on.
A little medical pouch was issued, that was attached to our parachute harness. In this pouch, was morphine (in the form of a little needle on the end of a tube), sulfa powder and salve, together with a very small amount of gauze bandage. In addition, they issued us a little plastic box that had in it a collapsible plastic water bottle; together with several water purification tablets. We were also issued escape maps. These maps were printed on cloth and consisted of maps of the area in which we were traveling.
Also, they issued us a box of hard candy, supposedly, in fruit flavors. This candy was made in England and it was terrible. We wouldn’t eat it, but we would save it and give it to the children in the little towns, surrounding the base.
If we were fortunate, and the plane we were flying had a good crew chief that was interested in our survival, we would have, up in the nose by the navigator’s chair, a piece of quarter- inch steel plate that was laid on the floor. It was approximately, three by four feet. This plate was used and was intended to protect the navigator from any explosion that would blow up through the floor. It would afford him some degree of safety. I have flown in planes where, in my compartment, the floor had been blown up. There had been a hole, about two and one-half feet in diameter that had been repaired. Every time I flew in these planes, I could only guess what must have happened to the poor guy that was there, when it happened! Believe me, I used that steel plate more times than you can imagine. When we got into anti-aircraft fire, I sat on it!
The last items of equipment were a Mae West inflatable life vest, since we were crossing the Channel or the North Sea on every mission. An oxygen mask was added for high altitude flying.
One last thing is, to the average person, kind of funny, but to us it was quite important. As I explained before, the only shoes we had on were little felt slippers with wires in them; enclosed in big heavy flying boots. If you had to bail out and you pulled the rip- cord and it popped, your shoes would come off. This required a solution that really did work. We took a pair of GI high top shoes and some wire and wired these shoes onto our parachute harness. In the event that our shoes got lost when we popped our chute, at least we’d have some shoes to wear when we landed. It did look ridiculous to see these air- crews walking around with a pair of shoes wired on their harness, but that was beside the point.