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M5 Assault gas mask (E6-3-7) clean-up and "restoration"


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Hey guys! I hope you're all doing well today!

This is my first time messing about with a gas mask, and trying to fix it up, go easy on me! And my first WW2 gas mask at that too!

This here has been a project of mine for a good while, and is probably one of the biggest projects I've jumped on this year (other than a 3rd MARDIV marked PRC-77 apparently brought back from nam, that I got to perk again, but that's another story!).

I've been focused on my Vietnam war stuff for a few years, but the siren call of ww2 stuff has lured me back into this pit again, can't say I'm not thrilled though. I started doing ww2 kits when I was a teen, 16 or something, of course that kit went as good as you could expect it to be, full repro except for like 2 items, attrociously farb, etc, so I thought this would be a good chance to make up for the horrendous kits I hastily put together in my younger years. 

I always had a huge interest on D-day, even in primary school I made countless presentations regarding the battle, using gigantic and oddly plainly colored paper sheets with poorly glued on pics and stats written on with sharpie, good times. This was probably due to flash games and my mom renting out The Longest Day at the store, as she requested a "ww2 movie without blood", I was a little too young to go through the book as well. I then began to focus on paratrooper stuff, since I thought it was pretty interesting, and in teen fashion, badass. Hence why my first kit was based around the 82nd Ab.

As mentioned, it was terrible and unfocused. Now I'm focusing on doing an AG from the 505th in Normandy, and doing it as best I can. I did manage to amazingly sort out some of the hardest parts of the kit, paratrooper specific items, and all, but the mask had always been a pretty iffy topic for me. Me still being a uni student meant I didn't have an absolute fortune to spend on original kit, and seeing how ridiculously expensive these masks go for, I was a little discouraged.

That was until I found an auction house selling a lot, that most definitely caught my attention:


Labeled as "US Assault Gas mask", I got pretty excited about it, although the condition left much to desire, could be easily discarded as a relic, :)ed up neoprene, strapless bag with broken snaps, FUBAR'd filter, etc. However, I was still pretty interested, especially after close up inspections of the picture (seeing it was the only picture provided of the lot), noticing the filter was an E3, not M11.

Day of the auction arrives, I'd known about this for a week, was superbly nervous, I didn't have a lot of cash to spend, and I was expecting fierce competition, had my gf by y side since she was pretty nervous too, as she also did know about the value of these, and their relation to D-day. It was my first live auction too (as in, with the guy doing the bids and all), so I was a little all over the place. My lot comes up, my autobid gets applied, 30 seconds later, the unbelievable happens:


No one else bid on it, I was alone. Least to say I was speechless, both my gf and I looking at the screen with wide eyes, now I just had to wait for it to arrive at my door and I'd get to work asap. 5 days later, package shows up (very well packaged, might I add) and, well, it was a little worse than pictured, corrosion much more visible, reeks of shinola, straps rotting and literally peeling off, incredibly nasty bag, etc. I would have loved to take further pics before getting to work on it, but I couldn't stand looking at it in that condition, so I literally got to work straight away. 


I began by taking the thing apart, as to be able to reach all the areas needed, and have access to parts like the eye pieces, valves, etc. Taking out the harness was a pain since the little brackets were pretty badly corroded, but it got out after some fumbling. 


As you can see in this very poorly lit picture, lenses were foggy and yellowed to all hell, as well as very corroded frames. Lenses weren't too hard to figure out, though the right one seems to have been exposed to heat or something along those lines since a portion of it was oddly delaminated? Either way, some hours of polishing and got them to be seethrough again! Frames were a little trickier. Corrosion was pretty bad, so I used jerolite (multiple coatings, spent like a day just to remove rust off of these two). Frames were still pretty badly pitted, but the process had also given them a pretty similar colour to that of the original's, a light grey. I was pretty satisfied, I could have filled all the holes but that would have meant finding the exact same paint, and god knows that a gigantic paint in the rump, I prefered keeping it as it was, finished up with a clear coat to prevent futher corrosion later on.


I followed a similar proceedure with the intake valve, cleanup, de-rusting (long and annoying) , refinishing lightly, refitting. Same as above, pitting wasn't a huge concern, things are only new once.


Ended up taking the exhale valve out as well, however I wasn't able to take it apart, and I didn't want to risk snapping the damn thing in two by trying, so I cleaned the inside with hygienic wipes, cottown swabs, and the body with wipes and a light brush, was a ton of muck on it. Noticed that the valve dates back to 1942, which is pretty neat.


Those parts cleaned up fairly well, which is always good news!


Once that was done, I decided to tackle a pretty big issue on the mask, it being the elasticated harness. To say it was bad would be an understatement, it was legitimately rotting off, pulling on it would cause straps to come apart easily. I had to get myself a new harness, however as you, the reader, may have figured out, these harnesses seldom come up for sale, so I had to improvise. I ended up buying a shinola yugo clone of the M9A1, got its harness, and converted it into the M5 style. Luckily I could still use the original as a reference, so that did ease up the task a bunch. 


It came out pretty alright, even if the weave is slightly different, but I'd much rather gut a copy of an M9A1 than an original. Tabs for the harness are however, in pretty poor shape, I asked around the gas mask community for help on how to replace them, and have gotten :)all, so they stay as is until someone can point me to where I can get some sets of rivets, even if I have to custom make a die for them to be set right. I also had to destroy the liftadot snap that kept the nape strap in place, for it was literally rusted in place, there was no physicial way to get it out or even salvage it, I however kept the original suede/leather tab.

Cleaning the mask itself wasn't terribly hard, although it was a little caked in shinola, came out pretty okay! 




I also took pics of the markings that could be found on the inside of the masks, for future reference, who knows!





On that note, upon closer inspection, the mask dates back to the 4th week of January of 1944, making it a pretty early production mask, an E3 at that, being the model used throughout the Normandy campaign, making this set an E6-3-7.

Of course I also had to redo the whole wire and tape, since the original was rusting through and I was afraid it could damage the neoprene. I used sniper's tape, seeing it has the same weave, and the same gauge of wire to do it, as well as doing it by the book.


Everything put together looked pretty alright, so I moved on to the next part.


The bag was pretty bad, not going to lie, stained to absolute shinola with rust, 4 snaps (3 female, one male) were broken, straps were gonne or rotted, filthy, you get the idea. I cleaned it up good using laundry capsules in my kitchen sink and a sponge, being pretty careful on how things were treated, looking out for any reaction from the coating. Luckily, it was all good. Even got to see the markings! 


 I believe that the bag (and its contents) were left outside for a pretty prolongued amount of time because:

A) general state lol
B) The shape of the eyepiece frames was literally imprinted with rust on the inside of the bag
C) All the snaps were pulled and were still attached to each other, broke off their rivet when opened, probably after many, many years of being untouched

I was able to salvage all the ends of the original female straps, although the one male snap broke in two when pried off of the female snap. I was able to succesfuly reuse the female ones, and used rivets off of some M79 bando snaps, and I used a complete male snap off of the m79 bando to replace the one that needed to be refitted, seeing they are the same size.


For the straps, I went out and got an M9 bag (seeing they are about 10 bucks and have about identical straps) and transplanted them to this one, bit of an annoying process and one of the straps had to be sewn on by hand, but that's no biggie.


And with that, the bag was done! 


It has this faint white stripe at the back, I however do not know what it exactly means, so if anyone's got any idea, do let me know! 

Last thing left on the list, the filter. Sadly, I am not quite able to do much about it, so I just lightly cleaned up most rust, cleaned it once more and clear-coated it. I cannot even unscrew the cap, that's how bad it is! Shame seeing the E3 nature of it, but oh well, I still cannot complain!


And that concludes it, here's the end result!


Harness is a little loose since I don't want to put much strain on the tabs! Mask does actually work and seals, surprisinly enough, although the lack of an oral-nasal cup seems less than optimal.

I'm pretty happy with how everything turned out, even if it was a pretty long and sometimes frankly annoying process, but hey it's done, and made some pretty awesome buddies along the way (like chemicalcucumber23, pretty solid dude, go check him out on yt, learned a good bunch thanks to him!).

It is believed that this mask, due to the configuration, age, location and shape, could have very much seen service in D-day, which is a bit insane, specially for someone like me who's been interested in that event for many, many years now. However, there's no real provenance to speak of, so my guess is as good as yours!

Now I'm going to focus on finishing the set (got most contents on the way! Just gotta get me some BAL and it'll be pretty much done!) so I can cross it out of my to-do list and focus on other parts of my equipment.

Either way, I hope this wasn't too much of a gigantic chore to read, and that you guys don't find the end result attrocious, since, as mentioned previously, it's my first time! 

That's it for now peeps, take care!


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Nice, I have been after one of these for years, I have an original 4 snap bag but the mask has always eluded me.



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30 minutes ago, Browninggunner688 said:

Nice, I have been after one of these for years, I have an original 4 snap bag but the mask has always eluded me.



That's very nice Nick! Hope you end up finding a nice example c:

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Really cool!!!

It looks great!

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3 hours ago, CandaceStonestreet86 said:

Really cool!!!

It looks great!

Thanks pal! I'm happy that all the effort I've put into it paid off!

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