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dustin

Life Rafts

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All,

 

Looking for help regarding an ongoing research project. In June 2016, a friend located and recovered the wreckage of the P-47 his grandfather was shot down in Italy on 21 Apr 1945. Amongst the wreckage was a cylinder of unknown purpose. After a bit of online research and photographic comparison, I am convinced that the cylinder is a pararaft inflator. See image below (placed next to iphone for scale). The following link contains some comparison photos between this cylinder and a pararaft inflator.

 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/d3edjfzsngdkvyu/P-47D%2042-75963%20cylinder.pdf?dl=0

 

Aside from confirming this is in fact a pararaft inflator, we're curious about how this would have been packed in the raft pack. Particularly, were the packs standardized such that the inflator cylinder would've been in a particular orientation? Or were individual groups/squadrons possibly packing these slightly different? I did see the packing illustrations on page 2 of this thread, but I'm not quite able to determine the orientation of the cylinder from those illustrations.

 

Knowing the orientation of the cylinder in the pack is of interest as there is other evidence associated with this cylinder that may shed some light on the pilots last moments. Purely a theory at this point, but trying to gather evidence which either supports or disproves the theory.

 

For those interested in learning more about this effort, AirCorps Aviation was kind enough to set up an informational page here; http://www.aircorpsaviation.com/findingloren

 

Thanks,
Jordan

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That is indeed a AN-C-73 inflation cylinder for pneumatic pararafts. The illustrations you seen on page-2 are of the Type C-2 raft, your cylinder tells me that the raft in use by this individual was the American AN-6520-1, the predecessor to the C-2. if you note in the previous pages you will see containers that have three pockets in them and grey in color, these are the cases for the AN-6520-1, and the type worn by your P-47 pilot. When the raft is folded the cylinder would be either opposite of the pockets or against them, these are the only two ways it would fit in the case. The cylinder should be opposite the pockets. There were some isolated reports of pre-mature inflation of rafts in the cockpit but that was from a different type of valve that they were having problems with, yours is a Walter Kidde wheel type, which had no leaking issues. I would like to hear your theory on why the cylinder played a roll?!

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That is indeed a AN-C-73 inflation cylinder for pneumatic pararafts. The illustrations you seen on page-2 are of the Type C-2 raft, your cylinder tells me that the raft in use by this individual was the American AN-6520-1, the predecessor to the C-2. if you note in the previous pages you will see containers that have three pockets in them and grey in color, these are the cases for the AN-6520-1, and the type worn by your P-47 pilot. When the raft is folded the cylinder would be either opposite of the pockets or against them, these are the only two ways it would fit in the case. The cylinder should be opposite the pockets. There were some isolated reports of pre-mature inflation of rafts in the cockpit but that was from a different type of valve that they were having problems with, yours is a Walter Kidde wheel type, which had no leaking issues. I would like to hear your theory on why the cylinder played a roll?!

 

Thanks Dustin. Looking at the post from "Blue Leader" dated 10 Oct 2014 at 8:17 AM, I assume the cylinder in that photo is underneath the pockets? However, in the next photo from same poster on 10 Oct 2014 at 8:20 AM, the cylinder is shown. From the text in the post, it seems as if the previous photo was taken with the cylinder not in pack? That begs the question, is the cyinder shown in that second post actually attached to the raft? Or just conveniently placed in there for the photo? From looking at the valve, it appears as if it could be in an connected to the raft?

 

Figuring out orientation of the cylinder is critical in determining the validity of our theory. The cylinder itself did not play a role, other than it was an "innocent bystander" in the way. Look carefully at the photo I posted and you might be able to ascertain where we're going with this.

 

I appreciate your help!

 

Jordan

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Ok, the cylinder would be attached to the raft prior to packing. In the event the raft may need to be used, the user rips off the top cover, and in this case the cylinder needs to be immediately located for inflation and it should be right thre in front for orientation. in the attached photo from one of them you are referencing, the owner only has a few of the pieces of the complete assembly, so your only getting part of the picture. Now, if you use a little imagination, the cylinder is in the correct location in this attached image. You just now have to imagine it attached to the raft, it is opposite the pockets. This is the location detailed, however it may be resting against the pockets, center of the container pending, on whom packed it. It should be on the furthest edge. Just think of this image as a cut away just to highlight the position of the cylinder.

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Okay, maybe these images will clear up any confusion. Here is a packed complete AN series assembly. First picture gives you orientation, the pockets are located along the narrower edge of the slot. the next image allows you to see the cylinder tucked away along that far edge. To kind of slice through the cheese here, and am not really good at riddles, but I assume your implying that a bullet hit the life raft cylinder?

 

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Since the pilot in question, flying a P-47, would have been sitting atop the raft container, which in turn, was secured atop his seat parachute, it would appear the aircraft was hit from below by ground fire. There would be no armor to protect the pilot from below. Did the round penetrate through the raft's CO2 bottle or is there only an entry hole? First, it would have had to pass through the aircraft's skin, then the cockpit floor, the seat pan, the parachute pack and the raft case to make it to the inflator bottle.

Regards, Paul

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That brings up an interesting point, and a question that I would have never thought would come up really. Overall these cylinders are very tough, and when testing these cylinders they use .50 caliber armour peircing to assure they have penetration at 50 yards distance. Out of a lot of a 100, 5 were to be subjected to these tests from the manufacturer. I doubt small arms fire could actually penetrate these cylinders and surely not lower velocity flak. I say small arms because of the diameter of the hole in question in the cylinder. If indeed Pararaft's sequence of events is accurate, so much velocity of the round would had been lost that I again question its a bullet hole.

Look at the condition of the cylinder, it is corroded and rusted all to hell, I think that is simply a deterioration of the wall that has rusted through. Moisture simply needs to condense in there and probably pooled at that point, add 50-60-70 years, it just rusted away.

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My life raft from Boeing B- 17G No. 43-38501 "Sweet Chariot" matriculation: BK - C, 546. Bomber Squadron, 384. Bomber Wing, 8. USAAF

Crashed near Albersdorf - Písařova Vesce (Czech republic) 25.4.1945

 

 

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Can I ask about the exact type of my life raft? I'm also interested in a list of equipment or period photos. Thanks

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Vik, what you have is a Type A-3 5-Man life raft, it has the rating to hold seven individuals. When USAAF multi-person life rafts surface the Type A-3 is the most common, it was part of revised specification of late 1942 and manufactured in large quantities through 1943 and well into 1944. Though officially superseded by the summer of 1944, it remained in service through the duration of the war. The raft itself is pretty explanatory, but some might find the oar locks at the bow and stern unusual. As part of the revision, a sailing rig was incorporated. All USAAF rafts had a standard compliment of three oars, two would be used in the form of a T for the sail and placed through the lock into a rubber socket on the floor of the raft near the CO2 cylinder or bow. The third oar would be used as a rudder through the other lock at the stern. The two pockets near the CO2 location are accessory pockets for various articles. The bulk of the accessories were kept in what was referred to as a central accessory container, a big yellow bag, it ties down to the floor of the raft. In between the seats, on the floor of the raft, should be four rubber patches with a loops or signs of them being there, the accessory container was secured there. When having a conversation about the accessories it can be complicated and even confusing since they changed the authorized list about every 3-4 months making for a wide variety of "correct" items. Some are common and some are very difficult to find. In my soon to be released volume one of my book chapter one is all about multi-person life rafts with about 35 pages devoted to the USAAF. It is fairly exhaustive from the 1920's to VJ-Day, you will find dozens of wartime images of displays illustrating all the equipment plus color images. It is so organized that it walks you through the genealogy and dates of changes and to what. To go through the accessories here would require pages, there isn't one list, by a very generic description you could get close but yet you have adoption of new items that extend past the generic list. If I were to make a general list here it only adds more questions,

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Thank you Dustin! Is it possible to order a book with you?
Thanks

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Is it the same life raft as mine? Thanks
It looks like one seat has been removed.

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That is indeed your model of raft.

To be clear, I didn't get into your first line of questioning becuase it gets complicated really quick. First, they changed or revised the components about every four months either by technical order or specification. Here is how all that would have rolled out. I would had sited a list, you then would ask questions on what each item looks. The problem is, that in most cases there are multiple variations to each item, next thing you know this thread is 5 pages longer. So basically I was suggesting to be patient as I lay all that out in the publication.

The pictures you just posted is a perfect example of making things complicated. Yes, it is a Type A-3 life raft but modified. Due to service and testing reports new rafts were developed and upon drafting of new specifications, those rafts in service were recommended to be modified to the details outlined in the new model. One change that you can clearly see is the removal of one seat, this allowed more comfort in the raft. The other seat was necessary to stay, its actually a support beam/seat, the seat helps reduce the sides from drawing in. Other changes were also applied on and under the raft. The new model raft was the Type A-3A, and you guessed it! new accessories along with it.

To take these images even further, this raft is illustrating details proprietary to the ETO. The rafts in use in this theater were significantly revised to include RAF type equipment, again this is another whole tangent from the conversation of what is standard equipment for life rafts and what was standard for the ETO, the options to how you want to accessorize your raft is vast.

In the left picture, right behind the guy with the Gibson Girl is something that looks like a baked pie, this is a RAF heaving line standard on all their multi-person life rafts. This item was a standard modification to many USAAF life rafts in the ETO. Other items were also integrated, in the picture on the right is a flag, some RAF emergency kits had signal flag sets with telescoping pole, that's what's in the image

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Thank you Dustin for the detailed answer! I really look forward to the book!

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This is my C-2 attached to my A-4 rig. This would be a 1944 set up. The C-2 has its raft and all the goodies and I would show them to you, but its a b-tch to repack.

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