At the beginning of World War II, the United States Air Force simply did not exist. Instead of being a separate branch, pilots trained and flew missions under the orders of the Army Air Corps. Thanks to an extensive collection assembled by Joe Vozar and his family, the Gratiot County Historical Museum has an entire room dedicated to the Air Corps experience.
In some ways the Air Corps seemed to have it made. They spent most of their time far behind the front lines, away from immediate danger of battle. Off-hours could be spent at a local pub or other gathering place. However, flying missions deep into enemy territory or to defend allied forces from enemy attacks took their toll, as highlighted in earlier articles about two Gratiot County residents. John Barden’s plane was shot down, leading to horrific experiences as a POW, and Duane Rench died in the crash of his bomber.
The jump suit, worn to fly out on missions, clearly lacks the polish of the other uniforms. It is complete down to heavy boots and mittens needed to protect against the chilling temperatures of high-altitude flight. Jump suits were sometimes worn around the base, and then they just put on the harness and parachute and gear to fly. In extremely cold weather, the air corps did wear winter gear. At times pilots would wear their greens and a leather jacket. In other words, flight gear all depended on the situation and where they were flying too!