Original U.S. WWII Navy Aircraft Breathing Apparatus "Blimp Rebreather"

Item Description

Original Item: Developed in late 1930's by Mine Safety Appliance (MSA), these oxygen regenerating systems provided dirigible aviators with necessary flow of oxygen at higher altitudes. Used with USN C type breathing mask (not included). Chemical cylinder not included.

This is a fascinating piece of history, high altitude bombing in late WWI with German zeppelins and allied blimps lead to the discovery that maintaining ships higher than 16,000 feet for four hours or more caused severe headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Crewmembers became exhausted and gasped for air. They grew inefficient, apathetic, and collapsed at their posts. To help resolve the situation the German navy began issuing bottles of compressed oxygen. The problem was that the breathing apparatus that regulated the gas flow was extremely primitive and the oxygen was contaminated with glycerin and other impurities. Crewmembers who used it experienced nausea for days afterwards. The U.S. knew there must be a better way.

This Oxygen Breathing Apparatus for Aircraft Use manufactured by the MINE SAFTEY APPLIANCES CO of Pittsburg, PA was the better way. Generally issued to pilots and crewmembers of U.S. Naval Non-Rigid Airships (blimps) these re-breathers were an essential component of every mission. The United States was the only power to use airships during World War II, and the airships played a small but important role. The Navy used them for minesweeping, search and rescue, photographic reconnaissance, scouting, escorting convoys, and antisubmarine patrols. Airships accompanied many oceangoing ships, both military and civilian. Of the 89,000 ships escorted by airships during the war, not one was lost to enemy action.

The United States Navy's development and use of rigid lighter-than-air craft, such as the dirigibles of the 30s (USS Macon, Shenandoah, et al), imposed special concerns related to provision of oxygen systems for dirigible crews, since these craft could rise to higher altitudes and remain there for extended periods (unlike contemporary airplanes). Ordinary weight restrictions applicable to heavier-than-air craft (airplanes) were not quite as constraining to dirigibles, consequently the weight of oxygen generating systems were not as much a concern. In the latterly 1930s The US Navy, in cooperation with the Mining Safety Equipment Company (MSA), developed a portable oxygen generating & rebreathing apparatus that would provide and sustain oxygen provision for dirigible aircrews if required for higher altitude flight. This system, which was constructed of aluminum and painted "oxygen green", used a chemical oxygen generation process that would provide an aircrewman with aviation grade oxygen for a specific period of time, when used in cooperation with a demand type valve. The standard US Navy system incorporated the Navy's "C" oronasal breathing mask that could be secured to the head with a strap suspension. By the early 1940s this system was also in standard use on US Navy non-rigid 'blimps'. Above Reference information from:

We are offering these basic units in as is condition; we believe them to be mostly complete, but may be missing some minor parts, a mask is not included. All are well marked and many bear the USN (U.S. Navy) anchor. Re-breathers were used in all high altitude flights including the legendary bombing runs of the B-17 Air fortress, however, these system were tied directly into the aircraft, but it was not unheard of for crew members to have a reserve transportable system such as this one.


Height: 15

Length: 12

Width: 4

Weight: 4 lbs

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