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Ray42

Bomber cold weather face mask(?)

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Sorry if I am posting this in the wrong area or something, this is my first post. I believe that this is a high altitude and cold weather mask for Air Corps pilots but have not been able to find any solid information on this item, or even if it is truly military. The only thing I could find on the forum was a slightly different mask from the 10th mountain so I thought maybe I would start a discussion on this item, assuming I am not mistaken, and it is military. It is worth noting that unlike most of the other cold weather masks I have seen this one does not have a snap for uncovering the mouth area. If anyone has more info it would be appreciated thanks!

 

 

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Last pic, interestingly it looks like it has some mark as if it had seen use.

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Ray, first of all welcome to the Forum. You will find this a very positive adventure. As for the mask, these come in various forms. None of the ones I have a snap to open the mouth piece. I believe yours is, as you suspect, a WWII version. These were essential as the waist gunners had large open windows to fire from, and the temperatures at altitude could drop below -40 degrees. Frost bite was a major concern, thus the masks. Hope this helps. Jack


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Thank you! That is a help as I am new to collecting USAC items and any new knowledge is an improvement. Could these also have been issued to navy pilots during the Aleutian Islands campaigns or would navy fliers have been issued something else?


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Ray42,

While these are often sold as "high altitude" masks, unfortunately, that is a collector myth (sorry to contradict you Jack!). Think about it. How would you use an oxygen mask with one of these at "high altitude"? Right, you couldn't. The Navy issued face masks in blue wool and later of olive green waterproof material for use aboard ships. The Army and USAAF had chamois and olive drab cloth versions for use by ground troops and mechanics who were exposed to cold weather. The example you have found was issued to Naval Aviation flying cadets, for use in "low altitude", open cockpit training planes, the famous "Yellow Perils". They were cut large to actually fit over the front of the flying helmet.

Photos shows the mask worn with a Navy issue, Gosport equipped, flight training helmet.

Regards, Paul

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Thanks for the correction, I'm surprised that hasn't been shared more but it actually makes a lot of sense and answers a few of my questions about the mask such as how they are worn, although I have a second one that is the same design but a slightly different color and material in a slightly smaller size that appears to not be big enough to allow it to be worn over a helmet. It also explains why I could never find one used in a photo, a fact that I attributed to them possibly being worn under an oxygen mask. Looks like my idea for how to add to the helmets I don't have goggles and masks for backfired into me needing a new helmet. Also thank you for providing a picture that is a nice display.


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Ray42,

Glad to help. Like many WW2 vintage Naval aviation items, little, or nothing, has be made known to collectors about this piece of equipment. I have run across a couple of vintage photos of them in use, but couldn't lay my hands on them to share today, unfortunately. If I do, I will add them to your thread here for future reference.

Regards, Paul

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Back to the face mask in question, I think that what has happened is two different areas had become one, with no distinction wrapped up in a general description. Into the 1930's, aircraft performance significantly increased enabling standrad aircraft to operate at high altitudes but in open cockpits. Early oxygen systems were integrated with face masks looking something like this example, the O2 mask is worn under the face shield and the hose through the grommet.

 

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This is an AAC version of a face mask for pilots, Pararaft exhibited US Navy use with the same principle applied here. Cadets and typical operations would warrant the use of some form of protection against the elements while operating in cold weather. So here we have two differnet things but at sometime they just got bundled for efficiencies sake. Typical collector misnomer stuff. Take moment and think about all those units that operated open cockpit aircraft in Alaska, upper mid-west etc.

 

 

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Those are cool pictures, really neat to see what they would have looked like in use and what I should probably shoot for with a display. One question dustin, what is the combination oxygen and face mask from? Its a really neat and I assume obscure system but it is weird that the guy is wearing a suit and tie that I would say look modern not knowing anything about fashion.


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Ray, that is part of a Wright Field image from 1932 illustrating flying clothing. He is probably just a worker there demonstrating the mask, its not actually "in-use". At Wright Field in them early days leading up to WWII it was pretty casual having both government and civilian employees. It's actually pretty typical to see suits and ties even from individuals flying, take some time and look at early aviation images and you'll find it not so weird.

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