"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 
U.S. Navy A-14 Oxygen Masks

Some early Navy used A-14 masks may be found with the Bastian-Blessing Co. Rego #4388 male quick disconnect coupling, which was made of brass. Later masks will be found with either the Army male quick disconnect coupling, AAF Dwg 42B5341-1 ( which was found to be unreliable due to the brass prongs losing spring tension with use), or the improved Army, Navy AN 6002-A male quick disconnect coupling (see photos below). The mask suspension consisted of upper and lower rubber retaining straps, secured to the mask body with four black plastic mask buttons, and the left and right adjusting straps, which were made of green cotton webbing. An often overlooked feature of the two left hand adjusting straps is the brown leather snap fastener reinforcements sewn to the end. These were only found on early production masks and were later discontinued as the end of the web strap was simply doubled over before the snap was installed. Another indication of an early production mask is the smaller helmet side hook and buckle loop. Mask accessories, including the side hook, both two and four stud fastener strips, webbing clinches and extra snap fastener sets were packed in a paper envelope along with a photo illustrated instruction sheet. The complete mask and accessories were packed in a sturdy green cardboard container which was also recommended for storing the mask after it was issued. Of interest is the flight helmet shown in the photos on the first page of the instruction sheet and the line drawings on the outside of the mask box. This appears to be an example of the A.A.F.’s illusive B-8 winter flying helmet. Similar to the well known B-6 type, it was fitted with the black rubber earphone receptacles. We’ve yet to see one of these in collector’s hands, but this is at least proof that they did exist.

Production of the A-14 was started in the spring of 1943 and by the fall of that year, as part of the ongoing efforts for Army- Navy aeronautical standardization, it was beginning to be put into service by the Navy as they moved quickly to replace the previous re-breather and demand oxygen systems and the associated masks (another “can of worms” to be covered in detail in a future article) with their own version of the diluter-demand oxygen system. Throughout the remainder of the war, the A-14 served as the Navy’s standard oxygen mask replacing both the C mask, used with the M.S.A. re-breather system, and the D mask used with the M.S.A. demand regulator system. The good news for collectors is that the A-14 is not only the most commonly encountered mask today, it is usually (relatively speaking) reasonably priced and can sometimes still be found in un-used condition packed in its original box.



 

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Above:  An early mask with the brass Bastian-Blessing Co. Rego #4388 male quick disconnect coupling. Conversion to this coupling allowed existing M.S.A. ( non-flexable) breathing tubes, which connected the regulator to the Type D face mask, to continue in use with the A-14 masks until the Army Navy standard flexible breathing tubes became available.
Below:  At left is the AAF Dwg 42B5341-1 coupling, replaced by the improved Army, Navy AN 6002-A coupling at right.