Thursday, July 9, 2020

Naval Aviators' Essential Accessories

The MA-1 flight jacket Jim Hurston wore on missions over Vietnam.

By  Zachary Smyers
HRNM Educator

The origins of the pilot’s flight jacket can be traced back to the early days of aviation and the open cockpit. Exposed to the elements at high altitude, pilots needed a way to keep warm. Fast forward to the late 1930’s with the introduction of the G1 US Naval Flight Jacket. This all-leather jacket was authorized as the official flight jacket for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

In the post Korean War years and the beginning of the jet age, the flight jacket changed from being made of leather, and instead was made of nylon. The dark brown color was also done away with in favor of sage green (which was felt to be more “tactical” if the pilot was wearing the jacket when they got shot down).

On display currently in the Vietnam exhibit, is an MA-1 flight jacket that was worn by Navy aviator Jim Hurston. The jacket is adorned with various unit patches and logos, as well as Jim’s name and Jim’s unit, Attack Squadron Seventy-Five. “The Sunday Punchers” of VA-75 deployed to Vietnam three times (1965, 1968, and 1972) and eventually received the Rear Admiral C. Wade McClusky award for most outstanding attack squadron.

A route card used for mission planning purposes by naval aviator Bob Ponton. This one happens to take him over Haiphong, the heavily-defended harbor not far from the North Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. 

Adjacent to Hurston’s flight jacket are maps and a route card from Bob Ponton who was a Bombardier/Navigator with VA-115, an A-6 squadron flying from the USS Midway (CVA 41). The maps have detailed accounts of when and where Bob was flying. Included on the maps are specific mission targets such as SAM sites. The maps present visitors to the exhibit with a visual representation of what a typical “work day” was like for A-6 aviators in Vietnam.
A map of Haiphong harbor, one of several maps on display at HRNM that were carried on Bob Ponton's knee board on missions over North Vietnam. 

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