MAY 2010 – In very very few collections around world exist truly rare flightgear representative of the late 1940s/early 1950s era which relates to the early Cold War/Korean War era timeframe. To understand how rare the following item is, it is comparable to an extremely rare warbird aircraft type that remains in the world. This comparison may give the reader an understanding of the flightgear i am sharing with them.
The helmet i am showcasing, is an exceptionally rare item, as it was the first type of hardshell flight helmet for the USAAF/USAF.
It was called the P-1 helmet.
I have been extremely fortunate to acquire one of these helmet virtually intact with all the components present, many years ago in my collecting from around the world.
Very few other knowledgeable collectors have ever acquired such a helmet as the P-1.
Why is this such a rare or limited helmet you may ask?
The P-1 was a first generation helmet, a follow on of the trial B-1 helmet which evolved in 1945-48 timeframe into the P-1 standardised flight helmet. At the same time the US Navy was introducing a similar helmet called the H-1. This had features similar to the P-1 but was built to US Navy standards and was of a different shell shape.
The P-1 helmet was the first ever USAF hardshell helmet offering the pilot protection in flight from bumping head on canopy, noise reduction, a protective head cover in case of ejection for the head and many other benefits.
The P-1 was noticeably unique as it used a black edgeroll made from rubber which was glued to the outer edge of the shell. A black rubber cover was also added to the left side communication connector. These 2 feature make the P-1 unique when compared to the follow on model P-1A/P-1B helmets and so on.
The interior of the P-1 helmet shows a leather headsling which enabled the helmet to sit comfortably on the pilot’s head. The earcups came from a WW2 A-10 / ANH-15 flight helmet generally as they were comfortably and when snuggly fitted, cut down the external sound.
The extremely limited numbers of complete and fully preserved P-1 helmets ( some collectors put the worldwide total of these remaining P-1 helmets at less than 20 potentially) that survive are due to the P-1 was only ever made to fit a small head in general thus restricting its wide popularity, whereas the P-1A helmet came in small and large sizes thus able to be worn by more pilots.
The P-1 was over the years either upgraded to take a visor that gave more protection to the pilot or passed onto to non front line units as the newer P-1A came online.
Some P-1s were still in use in mid to late 1950s but by then they were obsolete due to various issues.
The destruction of most of the remaining P-1 helmets in the 1950-60s, ensured that the very few that are publicly known to survive nowdays and the fewer which would be stored in private collections potentially around the world, are now the sole link to the first ever helmet of the USAAF/USAF jet era.
1950’s Korean era USAF430th FBS squadron flight cap
I own another interesting item connected to the USAF Korean era – a flight cap.
It was worn by pilots when on base in Korea to represent their unit with much pride.
The cap is a cotton woven design with a inner folded up sweatband, containing a label marked with “Punkap” and X-large. This 1950s vintage cap style is nowdays rare to find in a large size and complete with no damage.
The colourfully patch features a large Tiger and the yellow/red colours of the 430th Fighter Bomber Squdraon (FBS) which was based at Tageu in South Korea during 1950-53.
The squadron flew the F-84 Thunderjet in fighter bombing missions by providing CAS (Close Air Support) to the troops on the ground. The 430th was part of the 474th Fighter Bomber Wing (FBW).