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Japan's First Gas Masks Mk1&Mk2 of 1918
Old 11-11-2011, 09:16 AM   #1
Nick Komiya
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Default Japan's First Gas Masks Mk1&Mk2 of 1918

The Development of the Gas Mask
Lt. Colonel C. Burnett didn’t like at all what he was reading, but what else did he expect?
It was now the end of January 1922, and it had taken the cavalry officer and Military Attaché at the American Embassy in Tokyo, over a year to secure a sample of Japan’s latest gas mask. It was as far back as November 17th 1920 that he had written the Japanese Minister of War requesting to purchase a gas mask that he would send to his government, but when it finally did arrive at the War Department recently, the folks there discovered the Japanese Army had set Burnett up with a mask that had an inert canister, missing the chemical agent.
As he had restrained his anger over being tricked into passing a dummy gas mask on to his
War Department, and dictated his letter reporting the “apparent error”, and conveying his government’s request for a replacement, he had known already it was no mistake, and the reply he just received confirmed it.
His Excellency, the Minister of War deeply regretted that the neutralization agent inside the canister was of a secret nature and his government could not comply with the Lt. Colonel’s wishes.

It was a similar scene that was being played out at other embassies in Tokyo. A Major at the British Embassy had also written on October 12th, 1921 thanking the Japanese government for allowing him the privilege of observing gas mask experiments at the Army school in June, and requesting two gas mask samples he wanted to send to England and to India. By the 20th, the Army had decided to comply with the request, but the scribbled comment from the Equipment Office of the Weapons Bureau said “remove secret content before donation”.

The British had offered to sell to the Japanese helmets and gas masks along with other weapons back in August 1918, but Major General Tanaka had received instructions from the Ministry to politely decline the kind offer. The British didn’t know it at the time, but Japan now had its own steel helmets and gas masks.

The Mark 1 and Mark 2 Gas Masks of 1918
That year on 10th May, the Army Technical Assessment Department (技術審査部) satisfied itself that it had a workable gas mask design and issued the specs of Japan’s first gas mask, which they called “Anti-poison face concealment mask防毒覆面 “. And on the 21st of that month the Main Arsenal received the order to produce 5,000 of them at an estimated cost of 17,000 Yen.
However, in close succession, they came up with another prototype gas mask for which a draft manual was released on August 27th. This got named Mark 2(二号防毒覆面), and the mask introduced in May was named retroactively as Mark 1(一号防毒覆面).
The Mark 1 mask was constructed like a bag that one wore over the head and tied closed around the neck. The bag was made of a khaki rubberized cloth, having a large, rectangular celluloid window and a “nose pouch” to hold two layers of cotton wadding soaked in the gas-neutralizing solution. Thus one was required to breathe through the nose and exhale through the mouth into a rubber mouthpiece that had a rubber flutter valve. If one failed to exhale into the mouthpiece, the window would fog up. The agent-soaked wads stuffed into the nose pouch would be effective for 30 minutes to an hour. Longer exposure to gas required one to exchange the outer wad in the nose pouch.
The Mark 2 mask was more modern in design. It was a mask of khaki rubberized cloth that covered only the face, and through a hose, the mouthpiece connected the mask to a canister, holding 220 grams of pine wood charcoal soaked with the gas neutralizing agent. In contrast to the Mark 1 mask, you were required to breathe and exhale only with the mouth. Exhaled breath went out sideways from the mouthpiece through a rubber flutter valve. With the Mark 2, exhaling through the nose would fog up the celluloid window. The canister was good for 13 hours, and the neutralizing reaction between the agent and the gas would gradually heat up the canister from the bottom towards the top. Heat build-up would reduce the effectiveness of the canister, which would be partly restored when cooled down. When the mask had to be used despite the whole canister being hot, one was required to add the neutralizing solution into the canister. If the mask had to be continuously worn, this was achieved through the intake holes in the bottom of the canister. As this model did not cover the whole head and left some skin exposed, one was required to use a cloth soaked in the neutralizing agent to wipe areas of skin where irritation could be felt.
The canister had a tongue-like hook, which allowed it to be worn on the left chest at chest pocket height. This was made possible by adding a loop done with thick thread one above and the other below the chest pocket, so the canister hook would go through the two loops.

The secret agent
The secret gas-neutralizing agent missing from the sample gas mask canisters supplied to foreign powers was a solution that almost any household could supply. The recipe was as follows;
cc=cubic centimeters
Castor or Soya oil -----------100 cc Any animal or plant oil that has no offensive smell.
Glycerin---------------------------10 cc
Ethyl Alcohol (45%)------------- 5cc
Caustic Soda solution (7%)---35cc
Ammonia solution----------- ----3 drops (ammonia of a 0.88 density in an equal portion of water)

An order dated July 18th was for 7,000 gas masks and the August 8th order was for 50,000 masks.
The former order would have been for the Mark 1, and the latter for the Mark 2

From the August order of 50 thousand, 6,000 was issued to the 12th Infantry Division, 4,000 to the 7th Division and 10,000 to the 3rd Division, who were all on their way to Siberia also with their brand new steel helmets.
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Old 11-12-2011, 07:59 AM   #2
Nick Komiya
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Photos of these masks exist in a private collection, but I am not at liberty to use them. But here is a sketch showing the modification necessary to the uniform in order to wear the Mark 2
Attached Images
File Type: jpg scan0063.jpg (145.8 KB, 125 views)
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Old 03-10-2016, 06:11 PM   #3
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Ramonchete is offline
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Spain
Posts: 4

Hello! Is that mask like this others?


This is a postcard from my collection.

Have you seen photos of this masks in the actuality?

To see all my collection of japanese gas masks:
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