"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 
Life jacket Shark Chaser   
Above:  Marine Corsair pilot 2nd LT William P. Brown, a seven victory ace with VMF-311, on Okinawa in the spring or summer of 1945. In addition to the shark chaser, note his use of a rigger-made shoulder holster first aid kit.

Below:  A salty looking Marine Corsair pilot on an overcast, and probably rainy, Okinawan day. The top of his shark chaser can be seen peeking out from behind his dye marker.

     
Above:  In an official U.S.M.C. photo, 2nd Lt. John Artel is seen training on F7F Tigercats at Cherry Point, N.C., July 23, 1945.

Below:  Enlargement of his shark chaser.
Above:  Pilots from VMF-441 enjoy  victory cigars after shooting down 16 1/2 Japanese planes over the fleet off Okinawa on April 16, 1945.

Below:  Unidentified land based Navy pilots or aircrew with shark chaser.

Above and below:  Early and later production shark chaser. It appears the attachment method for the tie-tape was strengthened, probably as a result of feed-back from users in the field. Extra material was added, folded over and riveted in a manor similar to that used on some late-war dye marker packs.
Above:  Robert W. McClurg (see our "Ace Apparel" article), after joining VMF-214. His Mk-1 vest has been personalized with a pen and ink rendition of a Corsair in flight with guns blazing.

Below:  As mentioned in Dustin's text, here we have an example of field-improvised shark protection (at least in theory). The chlorine (halzone tablets) filled phenolic resin vial with screw-off cap carried by McClurg can be seen in detail. These small plastic bottles are commonly seen being used as a water-proof match holder in survival gear. His Mk-1 vest is made by New York Rubber, as evidenced by the yellow painted rivets attaching the short strap used to secure the oral inflation tubes.
Above:  Major Boyington gives a mock briefing to his VMF-214 pilots for the benifit of the press. At the time, the squadron was out of combat at Turtle Bay. Notice, he is wearing McClurg's personalized Mae West, complete with chlorine vial.

Below:  The shark chaser packet remained in Navy service with only minor detail changes through the Korean War and on into the 1960's. Seen here, in a photo sent to us by reader Brian Witvoet, is his great-uncle, Aviation Cadet Gerald "Skip" Witvoet during his final stages of training as a fighter pilot during the early 1950's. His flight equipment is a mixture of both WW2 vintage (flight helmet, goggles) and post-WW2 items, with the shark chaser positioned for easy access on his Mk-II life vest. Sadly, Gerald, then a LT (j.g.) with Air Task Group 181, lost his life with 102 shipmates on May 26, 1954 when a catapult aboard the USS Bennington exploded during morning flight operations due to a leak of hydraulic fluid which was ignited by jet exhaust. An additional 201 men were injured in this catastrophic accident which prompted the Navy to switch from hydraulic to steam catapults.

We'd like to thank Dustin for this, his first, major contribution to our site. He has spent many years researching and studying the developement and use of WWII survival equipment, both Navy and AAF. His expertise is second to none and we are privileged that he is sharing some of it with us here. Please watch for more of his contributions in the future.