C-1 Survival Vests                                  

 Survival Vest Development

The C1 survival vest was developed during World War two for use by the Army Airforce.  The C1 vest has seen service by both Airforce and navy personnel from World War Two through Korea and to a limited extent in Vietnam.  The vest was made of dark olive coloured green tackle twill and weighed 11 pounds when complete with survival contents.  There were three large buttons on the front for closure.  The vest was used alone and in conjunction with various seat and back pad survival kits which were also initially developed during World War Two.  The C1 vest was designed for use in all parts of the word, however, the C1 proved better suited to the tropical and artic regions.

The C1 was issued in one size but was adjustable through three ties at the back and was intended to be worn under the mae west life vest, body armour and the parachute harness, but over the uniform and A2 leather jacket.  This however, proved to be too cumbersome when worn in some theatres of operation when all the survival equipment was carried so a modified musette bag that attached to the parachute harness upon bailout was developed.  After landing, the crew member could then remove and wear the vest.

Three types of C1 vests are in circulation with the two earliest models having two front slant pockets secured by a large button.  The latest model had straight pockets opening from the top and secured by snap catches. 

Components Carried

All components are carried in in the specifically labelled and numbered outside and inside pockets.  A leather and canvas holster with one securing strap is located on the left side of the vest for a standard issue .45 calibre automatic pistol.

Contents are the C1 vest varied on area of deployment, however, the following was a basic list of item carried: 


C-1 survival vest (vest, emergency sustenance Type C-1 variant three - USAAF made by Aircraft Appliance


The later style vest with the straight pockets with snap closures.  Note the Army Airforce (AAF) insignia on the left hand side of the vest.  Vest made by Aircraft Appliance Corporation

The mirror is the emergency signalling mirror ESM-2.  The white silk in the right hand pocket (barely visible) is a survival map.  Pistol holster is sewn to the vest

C-1 survival vest (vest, emergency sustenance Type C-1 variant three - USAAF made by Sears Roebuck

Similar period vest to above, but different maker.  Note the colour difference. 

Label of the C-1 survival vest (top picture)

Label of the above C-1 survival vest

C-1 survival vest (vest, emergency sustenance Type C-1 variant three - USAAF

C-1 survival vest showing detail of AAF stencil, snaps and holster

Survival Essentials

Plastic waterproof cover for .45 calibre pistol, survival manual and booklet "Emergency uses for the Parachute".  Background item is a survival drift map manufactured from silk

This article was modified from United States Combat Aircrew Survival Equipment by Michael S. Breuninger, Schiffer Publications, 1995, pp 12-15.

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