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PNEUMATIC LIFE PRESERVERS


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Dustin:

 

I say Yes, please do so. I would love to see some of that stuff and any history on the evolution of them.

 

The only vest I have in my collection is a B-4 manufactured in April, 1945 by New York Rubber Corp. I have not taken any pics of it or I would post them.

 

Charlie Flick

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Probably the best one reference to life preserver vests is CG Sweetings book but it was not his main focus and really only hits the highlights and is void of US navy type vests.I have been trying to fill in the holes and add some photos.The US navy was more into the developement into pneumatic life preservers than the Army Air Corp for obvious reasons that the main operation areas were over water versus the AAC over land activities.The late 1920's seems to be the where most headway was made into the reaseacrh and development part.All the models adopted by the US navy were patented by one man name Peter Marcus.One design adopted by the US navy was of an H style with two bladders which was not pneumatic rather filled orally. the first photo of this style was taken in 1931 at naval air station San Diego, the second photo comes from bellsaviation's collection

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The H style vest was used by the AAC with two future adoptions of naval origin designed by Marcus and designated types B-1 and B-2.Unfortunately I have no pictures and do not know exactly what they are.

In 1931 the US navy adopted another design by Markus.This vest is of a wraparound style and included an automatic inflation system again designed by Peter Marcus later to be desiganted the MK-1 wraparound and used through the 1930's and till the end of WWII.On these vest there is a box which says"MFG'd under patents:

1694714

1766182

1772674

1798430"

All these patents are Marcus

The MK-1 was made by three companies:

hodgeman rubber co.

new york rubber corp.

unted states rubber co.

with the last contract being awarded in march 1942 being replaced by the B-4 in may as standard equipment.

the vest pictured is from my collection

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In 1935 the AAC puchased a patent from a man named Andrew Toti for a new type pnuematic life vest which would be adopted as the Type B-3 spec. number 94-3065 and standized in jan. 1936.This vest is constructed of a cotton outer case with two seperate latex rubber bladders.These vest costed $17.00 each to manufacture.These vest were soft and comfortable to wear and used throughout WWII manufactured by two companies the first contracted company was Aircruisers Inc. later the Goodyear tire & rubber co. would begin manufacture. with the last contracts being awarded in june 1942 but contracts were not concelled after the adoption of the B-4.

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The type B-4 life vest has a bit of mystery it is stated that the B-4 was based on a navy model type AN-V-18.It is not clear what an AN-V-18 is as I have not seen one marked as such yet? another thing that is confusing is that in some period documents it refers to the B-4 and AN-V-18 as the same thing and in others that they are different so this early part of it's life is still yet unclear to me.What is know is that due to critical materials rationing the need to find a more economical vest was needed that used less rubber.The adopted B-4 was constructed of rubber coated fabric rather than the B-3's rubber baldders and heat sealed around edges.The B-4 has many variations mostly from manufacture differneces but aslo nomenclature changes on spec labels.Early vests were marked as vest pneumatic life type B-4 and with property Air forces us army.This would later change in early 1944 to vest pneumatic life type AN-6519-1 and property US government.The B-4 is a AAC specification and AN-6519-1 is the part number and the theory is that this was done to expedite production since the US navy was also procuring them.This seems typical with changes of spec labels of joint army-navy equipment.Anotheer feature of first pruduction B-4's from 1942-1943 they were not factory installed collar straps this was a later addition in may 1944 it was found that the vest had a tendency to slip over the head under tehcnical order 13-1-17 fro the addition of the collar strap in vests alraedy in service and all new vest from then on were factory installed.If your vest was manufatcured in 1942,1943 look at the collar strap often the strap is of different color than the waist and crotch, the patch that holds strap is often of different color than vest and the rubber cement is applied sloppy, usually fatcory installed collar straps are of the same material and more professionally done.Another thing on early B-4' of AAC contract you will not see inspection stamps do not confuse with AN inspector stamps.Originally all vest were left to the individual for inspection of the vest for flaws it was soon found that was a bad idea.From rescue reports stateing failure of the vest inquiries were made and found that the reason many would not function for several reasons the oral inflation tubes were not tightened,CO2 cylinders were not screwed down tight some were even missing the cartridges.So in december 1943 a general technical order was issued to all personal equipment officers for a genral inspection required every six months TO 13-1-3.

In these two technicasl orders it states the vest is to be marked but that was not aways the case but often you will see:

T.O. 13-1-3 C.W. stenciled on a vest, TO menas technical order, and CW means "C"omplied "W"ith.An original manufactured 1942 1943 vest will not have anyof these technical order markings on them.

this an AAC B-4 manufacture in dec. 1942 from my collection and is void of markings except inspector and sepc.

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The B-4 was manufactured by 11 companies

aircruisers inc.

B.F. goodrich tire & rubber co.

firestone tire & rubber co.

firestone rubber & latex co.

goodyear tire & rubber co.

hodgeman rubber co.

hood rubber co.

new york rubber corp.

republic

seamless rubber co.

united states rubber co.

at a cost of $10.00 each this vest was replaced by the type B-5.

these are some photos of the 6 month inspection and TO markings

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another variant for early and late model B-4's is the laynard for the Co cylinders.Early production were long and later cut down.It was found that many individuals had tendancy to wrap the laynard around the cylinder which would allow the actuator to function properly and would not allow the vest to inflate this was changed in late 1944 with a buaer technical order 177-44 dated sept. 14 1944

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variations do not seem to end with these life vests many were modified to suit the specific user.some modifcications inlcude patches cemented on vest to prevent wear from CO2 housings.Sometimes pockets wear added to house personnal equipment maps,signal mirror and flares.In 1944 the Us navy adopted the MK-1 MOD-0 smoke signal which was added to the personnal equipment list for aviators.Standard issue was two per individual and kept in pocket or stored to personnal preference.In late 1944 personnel from naval auxiliary station mayport florida devised a system to incorperate the two smoke signals to the B-4 life preserver.This system proved successful and in feb 1945 the buaer distributed a TO 15-45 for the installation of these pockets to all activities.Two rubberized pockets are cemented between the bladders of the vest

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another vest I would like to touch on is what the collecting world calls the "B-4 cross" or transition vest.This vest shares both the characteristics of the MK-1 and B-4.IT has the same material used as the MK-1 but has the B-4 shape.Most say they used up materials from thr MK-1 to B-4 spec.s and I believe this to be true.

from observations my MK-1 has the the same contract number as the B-4 cross pictured and has all the same markings but with an addition of the marking "style 5648" on the B-4 cross.I think since the B-4 was adopted in mid production of the last MK-1 contract, but instead of cancelling the order they changed production to B-4 spec.'s and dubbed it style 5648 ,they both share the same contract number.the B-4 cross pictured was on ebay some years back

 

My MK-1 for reference

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these next two vests are interesting as not documents have surfaced about them.they are made from neoprene and are blue in color and all US navy contracted.By the contracts they are not buaer procured but by accounts and aupplies and other which leads me to believe they are ment for naval personnel in general issued aboard vessels for several more reasons they are made more cheaply than the B-4 there is only a waist srtap no crotch strap,inside the horse collar there are two d rings which a starp feeds through and under one's armpits.I have sen many pictures of men aboard deck wearing these vests and also submariners.I believe these vest were to supplement the kapok life vests you can store a half dozen of these vest where you could store one kapok especilally abaord subs were space is tight.There are two variations the first variation has the oral inflation tube between the baldders made from neoprene and cenmented in place

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the last vest adopted by the AAF was in dec. 1944 desiganted the type B-5.It was constructed with an outer yellow cotton fabric with a neoprene rubber bladders which are removable for repalcement.This vest provided better bouancy and icluded pockets for a dye marker and signal mirror.The US navy also procured the B-5 under one contract in sept. 1945 which is unusal since the MK-II vest was also under procurement.The markings are identical except the stock numbers and contract number pertain to the service nomenclature.These do turn up occasionally.The B-5 saw little service during WWII and probably only in the PTO.Most pictures you see of them in use are with B-29 crews.

there were two contractors for the B-5:

General tire & rubber co.

united states rubber co.

seamless rubber co.

 

Willis & geiger took over production post WWII era.

this picture of of a B-5 is from an ebay auction and and absolute excellent example of a WWII piece

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The last vest developed by the US in WWII was the US navy's MK-II.This vest incorperated all the lessons learned to include pockets for the flares tapes for attachments and a harness which allows rescue from lifting from water via ships or helicopters.This vest was not a WWII used peice but a develoment of the war and was first distributed in nov. 1945.The vest pictured is of WWII contract sept. 1945

this is as far as I go on the life vest evolution as I know nothing of 1950'-60's development

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