"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 
U.S. Navy A-14 Oxygen Masks
    
The illustration above is from Bureau of Aeronautics Technical Order No. 72-44, dated May 23, 1944, titled "Oxygen Equipment - Diluter-Demand Oxygen System - Modification And Standardization Of". This is Figure 1 and shows the "regulator to mask portion of the diluter-demand oxygen system now in general usage". The T.O. gave instructions for adapting this assembly to the "new standard assembly", which used the flexible breathing tube and  Army, Navy quick disconnect coupling to replace the non-flexible MSA tube and Rego quick disconnect. 

 Next, let’s address the lack of photographic evidence. The explanation for this is very simple. Prior to the adoption of the A-14 mask, all Navy oxygen masks were considered to be a component of the individual aircraft’s oxygen supply system and, therefore, remained inside the aircraft, even when not in use. Only with the arrival of the A-14 did the Navy oxygen mask become an item of personal equipment for the first time. It now stayed with the pilots, or aircrewmen, as they came and went and, unlike the previous systems, was not shared with whomever flew the aircraft. This new system, being more hygienic, also helped cut down on head colds, which were a major concern for those involved in high altitude flight. The Internet (love it or hate it) and it’s various search engines, can now finally provide us with the ability to track down a host of previously unpublished images of Naval Aviators who are equipped with oxygen masks, particularly the A-14. Some of our personal favorites are provided for you here. Unlike their Army Air Force counterparts, who appear to have preferred to leave the oxygen mask attached to their flight helmets (as was recommended), many Naval Aviators chose to keep the mask detached when not in actual use. Rather than sew the stud fastener strips that were provided directly to the flight helmet, in most cases, the snap studs were attached individually to the flight helmet with a small piece of  material, or leather, used for reinforcement. Another common practice among Navy fliers was to discard the webbing adjustment straps provided with the mask and substitute a “rigger made” suspension strap which was similar in concept to the “Juliet” that was an accessory of the Army Air Force’s A-9 and A-10 oxygen masks. Although we’ve never run across any official explanation for this practice, we would speculate that it has something to do with the violent forces a Navy pilot was subjected to during a catapult launch or aircraft carrier landing. I can only imagine that an unsecured oxygen mask hanging from a flight helmet could provide a pretty good slap to the face under those conditions. Regardless of the reason, hand carry of the mask, or the use of a three foot cotton lanyard to suspend it around the neck, is often seen in vintage photos. I think step two is now complete, so let’s move on.

Above:  As mentioned in the text, hygiene was an important issue with oxygen masks. A periodic chore was their thorough cleaning and disinfecting with alcohol or a solution of aqueous merthiolate.

Below:  An often seen photo, but useful here to illustrate the common practice of suspending the oxygen mask around the neck with a three foot lenght of cotton cord (as found in the M-592 kit). This same cord was available from supply points for use as a lanyard for whistles, pocket knives, mirrors, etc. Four of the six pilots seen here seem not to have had a problem with hanging their mask from their flight helmet.