Combat Flying Clothing

The Book


Published by the Smithsonian Institute Press, the book traces the development of flying clothing and surveys the flying suits, including problems, beginning in 1917. The experiments and developments for the Air Forces branch of the United States Army were mostly centered at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio.

It also includes appendices, a glossary, notes, a bibliography, and an index.

The Author

A consultant to the Air Force on flying clothing and personal equipment, C. G. (Glen) Sweeting was the curator of flight material at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, from 1970-1985.

My Thoughts

With my dad and four uncles involved in aviation during World War II, I was especially interested in the clothing they were issued. Two flew bombers–the B-25 in New Guinea, and the B-29 with a date set for Saipan. The New Guinea missions were low-level, but they had to get across the treacherous and lofty Owen Stanley Mountains, with their own set of problems for clothing needs. Somewhat the same for Saipan, where it was hot but the missions were high-level.

Dad’s brother flew C-47s over “the Hump,” or the Himalayas, so would need insulated uniforms. And one of Mom’s brothers flew escort missions over the Alps in the winter, so needed the same.

An amazing detail is that the number of bombers able to go on a combat mission was determined by having enough adequate clothing than any other factor.

On the right, it looks like Lt. Dan Wilson is wearing Type A-6 shearling “flying shoes. Both he and Lt. Tomlinson are wearing helmets and goggles.

Lt. Dan Wilson with his P-38, Triolo, Italy. Winter 1944-1945. Their runways were made of Marston mat.  P-38L (which he flew in Italy) had a modified cockpit heating system consisting of a plug-socket in the cockpit into which the pilot could plug his heat-suit wire for improved comfort.

CombatClo (2)

Combat Flying Clothing would be especially useful for collectors and preservationists, but I appreciated having a better understanding of what it took in one corner of history to win World War II.



  1. I have been reading through several of your posts and I enjoy them. My grandfather fought in WWII. He was a pilot.
    My Dad was a Marine and my brother just retired Navy. My brother was/is a pilot. His retirement ceremony was cancelled due to Covid. 😔 He flew F-18s while in the Navy, and was a test pilot for a while. It is a fascinating life/world. He often couldn’t tell us what exactly he was doing.

    Great post! (Well several posts really) The one about the plane crashing was fascinating. Such a dangerous job, but I truly appreciate all those who do it.

    Never once have I thought about the clothing! Great pictures.

    • Welcome, Beck! Do you know what plane your grandfather piloted, or where? You certainly have a military family!

      I’ve got some notes to start a post about ancestors who served. My father and his brother were both pilots during the war, and my husband is an Air Force Vietnam veteran. They took a farm kid who’d never been on a plane, although he’d just graduated from college, and made him an air traffic controller. It became his career!

      • Oh my word! I’ve heard that air traffic controller is perhaps the most stressful job available. Not for the faint of heart.

        I do not know if my grandfather piloted aircraft during the war but he was a pilot. I do know at one point he manned the artillery in the back of the aircraft. The story goes that he was tired of sitting in the floor during one mission so he grabbed a metal crate nearby to sit on. When they landed and removed the crate there was a bullet hole where he had been. Close one!
        It’s a good thing because otherwise I wouldn’t be around! 😂
        I think to say a farm boy graduated from college in that time speaks volumes. College meant something in those days. He must have been sharp as a tack!

      • It was 1966, and we both were the first in our families to even get to go to college. That WWII generation were the first to get to finish high school. The Wilson brothers’ parents, Clabe and Leora, didn’t get to go to high school. I’m working on Leora’s Depression Era years right now, set in the tiny town of Dexter, Iowa, and getting those seven children through high school was one of her goals–even dealing with poverty. (That’s why the oldest brothers joined the Navy in 1934, so their folks would have only five kids to feed and clothe!)

      • Wow! I will be excited to read the post on the Depression Era. My grandmother was a kid during it but she has fond memories of that time. I think her father owned the paper and so they bartered ad space for various “creature comforts”. Grandma said she and her brother could go to the movies anytime! She knew things were getting better when the movie theater sent the family ticket vouchers for entry. Shortly after that they had to pay! 😀
        Grandma is still with us. She is 94. I try to ask her about her childhood years but she can’t remember much. Thankfully she has preserved much of it through writings, letters, photo albums, and diaries.

      • Categories are listed on the right of my website. One toward the top is Depression Era. There are several stories there already, but what I’m writing now is a book–narrative nonfiction. The rest of the war ones are toward the bottom under WWII. (The WWII book, Leora’s Letters, was published late last year, based on all the family letters during the war and my research. Much of the research had to be left out because Leora (their mother, my grandmother) never knew much of it, but I’m including it in my website.)

        Your grandmother must have been born about 1926, the year after Junior Wilson (my latest posts have been about him). How many children were in your grandma’s family? What a treasure to have your grandmother plus all she’s written and kept! That’s what Leora did. I’m the oldest granddaughter, the one who asked her to write down her own story, the family genealogist. I’m thrilled to be able to share her story. Those Depression Era years were awful for her (she lost three babies and her father within three years) and they lived in poverty, but I’m realizing what a strong woman she was, the heart of her home for all of them.

        I hope you do more writing about your grandmother!

      • I will check out your posts on the Depression Era.
        Yes, Gma was born in ‘26. She had one brother— he shared your love of family trees and was our genealogist! Unfortunately he passed away several years ago.
        Leora sounds like an incredible individual. So much hardship! It always breaks my heart when people pass away because life stories are epic tales that most people fail to write down. All the sudden that story is gone.
        I am so thankful for the ones who take notes! 😂
        My Grandma’s mother (Great Grandma) was born in 1897 and lived until 2001. She was 104. Her goal was 100 and then she was like why not three centuries?!
        Who knows? Maybe I will begin a family history blog! It would be fun to hunt for treasure in all my grandma’s writings!

      • I’m at joynealkidney@gmail, if you’d like to keep in touch that way. Grandma Leora was born in 1890 and lived to be 97. So did both daughters, one of them my mother. That’s why I had a shoulder replacement earlier this year. At first they offered me pain meds the rest of my life. I said, I’m only 75 (was then), just published my first book, have at least two more to write, the women in my family live into their late 90s and I’m not ready to quit livin’! Then they told about this innovative total reverse shoulder replacement (story under Miscellaneous). I’m not new to surgeries but this one took more out of me than I’d expected. Kinda glad to stay home more, get this next book underway.

        Your grandmother lived through two century turns, didn’t she? She must have been quite a woman. Think of all the history she lived through. Actually part of the fun is setting Leora’s stories in the history swirling around her. I didn’t enjoy
        history until I discovered genealogy.

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