Flight Gear 1942-1945: U.S. Army Air Forces Aviators in Europe. By Mathieu Bianchi. Paris: Histoire & Collections, 2013. Tables. Photographs. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 176. $50.00 ISBN: 978-2-35250-302-6
Frenchman Mathieu Bianchi has performed a real feat to put all of the information he collected into a very readable and useful volume on World War II USAAF flight gear. His original intent was to cover all of the gear used by Army Air Forces personnel all over the world. Realizing that may have been too large a task, he reduced the project to essentially the items used by members of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces.
Bianchi was inspired by the old AAF Supply Class 13 illustrated catalog. His job was to put this into a guidebook format and collect the myriad pictures needed to illustrate the vast number of items used in the theater. That plus 15 years of digging through the National Archives and working with a number of private collectors resulted in what has to be described as the most thorough coverage ever of the clothing and equipment used by Eighth and Ninth Air Force crews.
The book well shows the evolution of equipment in the relatively short span of Army Air Forces operations in Europe (August 1942-May 1945). When U.S. forces arrived in England, they brought with them equipment and clothing that had been designed in peacetime some years before. Some of it was just not up to the job of engaging in combat. So, British equipment found its way into U.S. forces. And, given the ability of the American GI to improve upon almost anything he is provided with, local modifications also entered the picture. Meanwhile, new items were being developed as rapidly as possible stateside. The result of all of this was a huge array of available equipment and types of clothing. Even after multiple viewings of some of the great movies such as Twelve O'Clock High...