"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              

Shot Down In Flames!
Combatting Collector Myths

We've all heard of "Willson" MK-II goggles right? They are certainly one of the classic items of U.S. Navy flight gear. You probably even own a pair or two if you've been at this hobby for awhile. Just one problem. They don't exist! Before you throw something at your monitor or spit your coffee on your keyboard, please allow me to explain.
MK-II goggles, of course, do exist, however, they were made by Charles Fischer Spring Co. and by that company only. Still sceptical? Go grab any and all pairs of MK-II goggles you can get your hands on. Look at the bottom of the left hand frame. Here you will read:

                  The Chas. Fischer Spring Co.
                             Brooklyn, N.Y. 

If you are lucky enough to have the box they came in, please check the label. Clearly, no mention of Willson will be found there either. To date, as illustrated at right, we have found ten different contract numbers. Early boxes have a green or blue textured paper finish applied over the cardboard and a paper label affixed to one end. It is noted that mice appear to have a great affinity for these paper labels. Later boxes, no doubt in an effort to speed production, cut costs and save materials, show the elimination of the textured paper outer finish and have the manufacturer's information printed directly on the cardboard itself.

Willson, of course, was a prominent manufacturer of goggles and did produce the MK-I goggle for the U.S. Navy (as did Charles Fischer Spring as well). I think this is the key to the MK-II myth. The oldest reference I've found that uses the "Willson" MK-II misnomer dates back to 1980 with the book "Flying Headgear of the World 1934-1945", by the late Jim Weld. This was a self-published work and, at the time, was the only reference available for anyone interested in the subject. The goggles in question were shown twice and referred to as being "Mark II Willson". In one of the photos, they are displayed on an A.A.F. B-5 winter flight helmet. There is no mention of their use by the U.S. Navy. Curiously, the goggles shown have a Charles Fischer Spring MK-II frame with American Optical split pads (as used on their B-7 goggles) and a white AN-6530  elastic strap. It would seem that the mis-assumption was made because Willson produced the MK-I, therefore, one might incorrectly think they must have produced the MK-II as well. Unfortunately, this has become a pervasive myth, perpetrated by collectors, dealers and authors ever since, but with no facts to back it up.

As with most Navy gear, variations of these goggles do exist, of course. Depending on the contract, frames can be found in bright or dull finish. The one piece rubber face cushion, which features two upper vent holes per side (rather than the three found on the later AN-6530 cushions) can range in color from a very light to a very dark gray. A cushion on the goggles found recently in a box from contract #46386, is smaller in overall size than others we have seen and has "U.S.N." printed in black above the hinge. Also of note, the black retaining bands are mounted inside the cushion eye openings. Spare lenses included in the box were dated "1938" on the wrappers. When the Navy terminated production of the MK-II, Charles Fischer Spring was one of two manufacturers given contracts for its replacement, the AN-6530 (along with American Optical) and ultimately the last of the metal-frame goggles, the MK-IV.

Patent number 2,126,379 was granted to Charles Fischer (one of several) for his goggle strap clasp design. The application was filed on February 25, 1937 and approved on August 9, 1938. A very seldom seen variation of his patented strap clasp, which is normally found in bright finish, was done in a dark, or blackened, finish. See photo below, at bottom. The one example we have seen first hand, in blackened finish, was marked "Pat. Pending.", so this may indicate early production, as all the bright finish clasps we have seen are marked "Patented". 

If you would be so kind, please help us bust this myth and in the future, when you refer to these goggles, please drop that unjustified "Willson" moniker.

What will be in our sights next? We're working on something else already, so stay tuned!