Vietnam War Helicopter Pilots and Their Painted Helmets

U.S. helicopter pilots in the Vietnam War didn't paint their flight jackets like World War II pilots did because jackets were too hot for the tropics, so they painted their helmets. Collectors Weekly talked with John Conway, a military aviation collector who runs The Legacy of Valor website for the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association Museum, about the painted helmets.

Collectors Weekly: I noticed some helmets had peace signs, marijuana symbols, or psychedelic lettering. Were some of these guys part of the ’60s youth culture before they left?

Conway: Yeah, some of them were. But the symbols didn’t always mean exactly what they looked like on the surface. In regards to the peace sign, in some cases, it was meant as social commentary on the irony of the situation they were in. They were painting the peace symbol on their helmets, and then taking off and shooting at people every day.

Read the rest of the interview, which includes a lot more about helicopters in Vietnam. 

(Image credit: Clemens, via

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