The U.S. CEM Gasmask was considered to be the best respirator on the Western Front. However, reports from the front informed the gasmask’s designers of the following problems associated with the CEM Gasmask:
- Its fuller cut of its facepiece increased the mask’s dead air space, making it more difficult to clear.
- The celluloid eyepieces on early variations of the mask were poorly installed and had a tendency to fall out.
- While more efficient, the filter canister was heavier than its British counterpart.
- The superior filtration capabilities of the CEMs filter canister made it more difficult to draw air during heavy exertion.
- The mask continued to be extremely uncomfortable to wear for a prolonged period of time. A member of the 42nd Division had this to say about the SBR:
It grew horribly uncomfortable, for the continued sucking of air through the mouth dries the saliva and the tongue swells. The pressure of the nose clip also is extremely irritating after an hour. It was stand it or die … Gas masks on for 5 hours and it’s no joke.
Private Joseph J. Jones. 165th Infantry, 42nd Infantry Division, AEF
Photo No. 50: It didn’t take long for the enlisted men to realize that the gasmask, like the training mask worn by this Army recruit on kitchen patrol, was suitable for filtering out other eye and nose irritating agents such as onions. The insets show the interior of the CEM mask and a close up of its rubber padded nose-clip.
Background image courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection
Gasmask photos courtesy of the New Romantic collection