MARCH 2010– A area very rarely examined in ALSE/flight gear historical research or analysis, is the wearing of flight boots by aircrew in WW2 and 1950s.
Boots were and still are in flying, a critical item for keeping the human body warm at altitude.
Majority of these special boots as shown below, were used in their roles to keep the human feet warm, due to the high flying capabilities of the WW2 era aircraft.
Most WW2 era flight boots were made with wool lining as it was thick and kept warmth retained in the feet area. Leather external was used to keep the boot clean and waterproof to a degree.
When any aircraft flies above 14,000ft and higher into the atmosphere, the outside temperature begins to rapidly cool in a range from -5 to -40degs. This cooling of the air and wind chill affect affects the human body and associated use of limbs and movement if not properly protected.
Frostbite in WW2 was a major injury concern and until decent flying protection came along many aircrew lost limbs or part of their limbs to the cold side affects.
The 5 flying boots in this month’s article – part of my my large heritage flight gear collection – cover from pre WW2 era thru to the early 1950s.
I sourced the shoes mostly from overseas and domestically.
RAAF 1936 FLIGHT BOOTS
Rarest and earliest is the orignal 1936 – Royal Australian Air Force – RAAF brown leather flying boots based on the RAF 1936 model. These RAAF boots were made in Melbourne by an Australian company. They have survived over 75yrs with only major damage was a loss of some external leather and one of the leather snaps broken off. They are wool lined and have various manufacturing marking on 2 leather tabs on the inside of the upper shoe. These are a large size but not big enough for me to wear.
RAF 1936 FLIGHT BOOTS
The next model is the standard black colour – Royal Air Force – RAF 1936 flying boot. They are wool lined and have various manufacturing marking on 2 leather tabs on the inside of the upper shoe.
I brought these as they are a replicated/copy due to price and size. They have minor differences from the original type. The current selling prices of the original style boots are usually for a large size around $US 500+ and very hard to find. The replicated boots are just slightly cheaper and in my size thus acquired.
USAAF 1937 A-6 FLIGHT BOOTS
The next flight boots are USAAF standard issue A-6 boots.
Rarely found nowdays in large size. These were worn by most aircrew in Europe and sometimes Pacific. They were supplied with a internal liner shoe called A-7 made of felt material. The A-6 is seen commonly in bomber and fighter aircrew photos due to the warmth the boots gave at high altitude. During parachute bailouts, commonly the boots would fall off due to loose fittings and the high shock/speed of the parachute opening. These boots were made by HOOD. A few different manufacturers made these A-6 style boots in WW2.
A-1 USAF FLIGHT BOOTS
Next model is a improved A-6 boot called a “A-1”. The A-1 was a improved A-6A shoe with had the addition of straps to the shoe to improve retention and fitting. These straps stopped most shoes coming off in a bailout. The A-6A design were retitled when the USAAF became the USAF in 1947. These shoes were used in all cold weather flying and bombers crews mainly wore these. The A-1 saw use in the Korean war by A-26 bomber aircrews. These are commonly found nowdays due to the large scale use of the A-1.
BROWN FLIGHT BOOTS – LATE 1940s – EARLY 1950s
Next model is standard brown combat shoes used by US Army/USAAF/USAF pilots from late 1940 to mid 1950s. These shoes were seen in use in Korea by many fighter pilots and bomber aircrews. Been a laced up design, they were tight fitting. They were also well designed as the tread pattern on the shoe sole provided good gripping traction. Laced up also prevented loosing the boots when parachute deployed from either ejecting or bailing out from a aircraft.