Monday, August 10, 2015

WWII WAVES Aviation Mechanic

WARNING, LOTS OF PICTURES AHEAD!! :)

Today's post is a bit over due but no less fun and exciting! I want to share with you some really fun photos my friend Neal took of me at the Mid Atlantic Air Museum's WWII weekend this spring. This was, hands down, THE MOST FUN I've had taking pictures ever!! Why exactly? Not only is Neal an amazing photographer and awesome to work with, I got to shoot next to and ON a real WWII plane! Yes, I got to climb on one of the planes and even had the chance to sit in the cockpit. So much fun! The planes pictured here are an FM-2 Wildcat and a Chance Vought F4U Corsair (with the checkered nose). The Wildcat was the main U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fighter at the start of World War II. It was used in all the major battles, including Wake Island, Guadalcanal, and Midway, until the Hellcat came along in 1943. The Wildcat is best known for its contribution to the Battle of Midway. Greg Shelton's Wildcat dates from 1944 and did see action in the Pacific although I don't know any specifics. The Corsair was used by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, Fleet Air Arm and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, as well as the French Navy Aeronavale and other, smaller, air forces until the 1960s. It was one of the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II. Many Japanese pilots regarded it as one of the most formidable US fighters of the war. These two amazing aircraft were parked next to us all weekend. (You can see a few more pictures of them here and here.)

These photos were taken Sunday morning, the last day of the event. I talked with the Wildcat owner and pilot, Greg Shelton, earlier in the day and told him what I wanted to do. He very graciously said yes and allowed me to climb on his plane. Another pilot, and WWII re-enactor, was on hand when Neal and I started shooting. Thorne, seen sitting on the wing of the plane, is part of a living history group that portrays WWII pilots. Neal did an awesome job with the coloring of these photos!

Photo by Neal Howland. Please do not copy.
Chance Vought F4U Corsair. This plane is part of the Commemorative Air Force.
Photo by Neal Howland. Please do not copy.
I had airplane grease all over my arm after this photo shoot but I was totally fine with that! :)
Photo by Neal Howland. Please do not copy.

Photo by Neal Howland. Please do not copy.

So, to back up a little bit....
Creating my WWII WAVE aviation mechanic persona, where do I really start?  .... Well, to be honest what started as a last minute, thrown together "oh crap it's going to rain at the event and I need something I can wear and not care if I get totally soaked!!" outfit for Reading, turned into something really awesome. It made for a really memorable event. As I mentioned in this post, I put a lot of thought into what clothing I wanted to take with me. I've been reenacting now for, oh I don't know, close to 15 years. And in that time I've learned many, many things. I've been to events where it's been blistering hot, miserably cold, and yes, wet and rainy. I remember more then once camping miles from home and having it POUR! (Anyone remember the 250th event at Fort Ticonderoga? Yeah, that kind of rain.) I have learned it's always a good idea to pack something extra to wear just in case the weather gods don't want to play nice. For this event that meant a pair of modern Navy dungarees and button down shirt. But then ....

The Research
I've been collecting WWII WAVES items for a while now and am slowly putting together a full uniform that fits. In my research I can across some really neat photos of WAVES at work, including mechanics working on planes. For those of you who are not familiar with them, the WAVES - Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service - was a branch of the U.S. Navy formed in 1942. WAVES served state side during the war fulfilling a number of different jobs, including mechanical work. Here are a few of the photos my portrayal are based on.

http://www.womenofwwii.com/images/navywaves/navywaves12.jpg
WAVES study aircraft mechanics at Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey, during World War II. Source
http://www.womenofwwii.com/images/navywaves/navywaves102.jpg
WAVES aircraft mechanics working on the port outboard engine (a Pratt & Whitney R-2000) of a Naval Air Transport Service R5D at Naval Air Station, Oakland, California, circa mid-1945. Source
http://www.womenofwwii.com/images/navywaves/navywaves104.jpg
Seaman 1st Class Billy Ikard (left) and Seaman 1st Class Barbara A. Patterson move a battery cart into position next to a Naval Air Transport Service R5D-1 (Bureau # 39170), circa mid-1945. Both WAVES are assigned to Naval Air Transport Squadron Four at Naval Air Station, Oakland, California. Source
Work uniforms for WAVES varied depending on the job. Early in the war WAVES mechanics and machinists wore a one-piece aviation coverall was made of cotton material in a medium blue color shade. It was similar to the coveralls worn by all aviation mechanics at the time. Lauren of Wearing History recently released a new pattern for coveralls, also known as an air raid suit! (She also has a series of blog posts on using this pattern.) In 1944,  the aviation coveralls were replaced with the navy blue denim slacks and blue cotton chambray shirts. Wearing of the regulation men's dungaree trousers and chambray shirt was optional.  This is the look I decided to go with as it was the easiest for me to replicate.

Photo by Neal Howland. Please do not copy.
My original plan was to wear a modern U.S. Navy women's long sleeved chambray work shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Most images I've seen short the short sleeve shirt but I've seen a few with long sleeves clearly rolled up past the elbow. When shopping at the vendors at Reading I found an original WWII women's chambray shirt in my size!! A rare find, score! The pants I'm wearing in these photos actually belong to Cori. They are men's modern Navy surplus but are very similar to those issued during the war. My cap is an original WAVE war issued cap. It's named and matches one of my uniforms. My research photos show this type of cap being worn, with either the blue or white crown, as well as a small red baseball style cap.

Chance Vought F4U Corsair. This plane is part of the Commemorative Air Force.
Photo by Neal Howland. Please do not copy.
Sitting on the edge of the cockpit of Greg's FM-2 Wildcat. Photo by Neal Howland. Please do not copy.
Improvements I'd like to make to this impression include different shoes, the ones I wore are modern and not correct for the period, and a different pair of pants. Cori didn't need his for this event but it would be good to have my own pair. I noticed, while looking through original images, that most of the WAVES are working on a SNJ training plane. There were at least two at the airshow these year. Next year I want to see if I can track down one of the pilots and ask permission to recreate a few of those images.

Outfit Details
WWII U.S. Navy Chambray Shirt - purchased from a vendor at the MAAM's airshow
WAVE Cap - ummm ebay I think
U.S. Navy Dungarees - 1970s surplus, local Army/Navy surplus store
1940s USMC Sweetheart Bracelet - Brimfield Antique Fair

And just for fun, a few outtakes from the photo shoot. This first one makes me laugh. Thorn was surprised when I actually started cleaning the plane.


Oh, just chillin' with the flyboys. :)




16 comments:

  1. I can't say how much I adore these photographs!
    They are so amazing! I love the WAVES working outfit!
    Just great!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Emma! The outfit was super comfortable and easy to wear! I thought about changing into a dress after the photo shoot but decide not to. Partly because I was covered in airplane grease but also because the clothing was so comfortable. lol!
      -Emily

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    2. That's why I would love to have this outfit, the WAVES uniform isn't so comfortable to wear all day... But I'm glad with my WASP uniform, a shirt and a pair of trousers, nothing better than that at an event. I just would need a plane to finish it haha ;)
      Emma

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  2. Holy moly, awesome post! The vintage styled photos are amazing - I genuinely thought they were original Kodachromes!

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    1. Thanks Lauren!! Yes, Neal does an amazing job with his photography! I'm not sure what he does exactly to get them to look like real Kodachromes. I was so thrilled when he sent the finished photos!
      -Emily

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  3. SO AWESOME! I can't even handle it. I like that you included info about the WAVES uniforms, too; I didn't know about those.
    Personally, I'd love a WAAF uniform, but finding one (and in my tiny size) seems nearly impossible! I'll just keep looking though!

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    1. Emileigh, this is way you have to come to Reading next year! See those original photos with more then one WAVE working on a plane? That's what I want to do next year. I have clothing I know would fit you so you MUST come!

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  4. Ha, I meant WAAC. (I'm American, I remember...) Or WAC for that matter.

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  5. Great photos! These totally look like recruitment posters! The black and white photo is beautiful! These all look just like the 1940s photos your posted and you hdn't put captions I would have been looking to see which girl you were in those too!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jill! Neal did a great job making them look like 40s Kodachromes. :)

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  6. What a dream scenario, I would love to spend time around a vintage WWII plane like that! These photos look awesome, truly very vintage looking! Your outfit is adorable! I have only recently been getting interested in the more utilitarian/war time 1940's styles, and have been wavering about buying the perfect army green jumpsuit at work (I work at Banana Republic) that would look so 1940's if styled right. This post is inspiring me to buy it even more! Then I would just have to find a plane :)

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    Replies
    1. Spending time around those vintage war birds really is like being in another world. Seeing so many still flying at the air show was an amazing experience. I truly adore the evening/cocktail look for the 40s but there is something about the utilitarian/everyday look that I'm really drawn to as well. So glad you enjoyed my post!
      -Emily

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  7. WOW!! You look exactly like a real WAVE!! :) Aren't the old warbirds the best? Our local air show is coming up on Saturday, so I'm hurriedly finishing up my new dress for it this week.
    Lovely, lovely photographs!! They are SO professional, and you look perfect.

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  8. Gorgeous photographs and such a cool outfit! I haven't ever been to a re-enactment, but gosh! It looks like fun!! ❤

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

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  9. Fabulous dear Emily! The pictures turned out so wonderful and it's so nice to see your historical research behind your idea. Just wonderful!

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  10. These photos are amazing! What a great thing to collect and do research on - very inspiring!

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