The Tragic Fire, July 29, 1967 10:52am
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Gladiator Helmet
Rumor has it that in the late 1950’s while on a Med Cruise, a group of Gladiators acquired a Greek helmet while on liberty in Greece. The origin of the helmet is not known but it is believed to have been either a Police or Military Helmet and was utilized by the Gladiators to initiate new pilots into the squadron. Pilots had to drink a Helmet full of beer prior to making their first flight with the squadron. The helmet is believed to be buried in a copper box behind the old CPO Club at NAS Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida.
Squadron Helmet
Lt R.R. "Rocky" Pratt
 wearing the Gladiator Helmet
Lt R.R. "Rocky" Pratt
 welcomes Maj. W.J. Brechner
VA-106 Pilots proudly displaying the "Gladiator" Helmet onboard the USS Forrestal
In 1967 our commanding Officer CDR S.R. Foley, Jr. and one of our pilots LT R.R. "Rocky" Pratt, wrote
a letter to Mr. Ben Hur himself, Charlton Heston, requesting his assistance in acquiring an official Gladiator
“Hard Hat” for the Squadron.   Mr. Heston, then working at Paramount Pictures, made a special trip back to
MGM Studios to find the Gladiator helmet he wore in Ben Hur.  After much effort he obtained the original
“Hard Hat” that he wore in Italy where Ben Hur was made, and shipped it to the Gladiators while embarked
onboard the USS Forrestal.  The Gladiator helmet was proudly displayed in our Ready Room onboard the
USS Forrestal on route to Yankee Station on a WestPac mission and survived the tragic fire on July 29, 1967
where 134 sailors lost their lives.  The Squadron was subsequently disestablished on November 07, 1969
and the where a bouts of the Gladiator Helmet is unknown.