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Diving Equipment & Supply Company US Navy Mark V Helium 1972

By far the most requested and popular diving helmet we handle is the US Navy Mark V. There were only four companies that made the famed model starting in 1916. Of those companies,  Diving Equipment and Supply Company is still in business today. This iconic diving equipment manufacturer was a primary supplier of the Mark V diving helmet during World War 2 arguably the #1 supplier for the remainder of the 20th Century. 

​What many people do not know is that starting in the 1930's the need for extreme deep dives necessitated the need for a modified Mark V - the mixed gas or helium Mark V model. These helmets were only needed in extreme situations by highly trained divers. With the use of a large brass canister on the back containing a CO2 absorbent and a helium - oxygen mixture divers could work at depths past the typical 100' to 150' limit of a standard Mark V helmet. This helmet did however earn the nickname "Widow Maker". While safe, if anything went wrong or there was a small leak - things went very bad very quickly for the diver.

​Compared to the standard Mark V - only a small number of these mixed gas Mark V's were ever made. Typically only the US Government ordered this helmet due to their expense and need for divers to go to extreme depths. Jobs such as submarine salvage or even secret operations is when these were employed. 

This beautiful example was made during December of 1972 by the Diving Equipment and Supply Company (DESCO) in Milwaukee, WI. At this time DESCO was making the helium model helmets on special order for the United States Navy. Many of these were sent directly to Edenton-class salvage and rescue ships, which were being built for the USN during the late 1960s and early 1970s.


The helmets serial # was placed on the inside of the two neck rings and brass identification plate. In all 3 locations, the serial # is matching. In addition, the helmet does have the same number stamped on both of the rear brass canister mounting nuts. All matching numbers ensures that each major component of the helmet is original and matching to each other.

The helmet is in beautiful condition. In the last decade the helmet was sent back to DESCO where it was given a complete repair, restoration and re-tinning. The result of the work by DESCO is a helmet in nearly like new condition! The helmet is complete with all its glass, 12 wing nuts, 4 brails, 4 brails shims, exhaust valve, brass Co2 absorbent tank, air, gas and heater fittings, neck ring gasket, internal air vents, dumbbell safety latch, and communications cup. It does appear that DESCO did some work on repairing some minor damage to the breastplate neck ring. This work was done before the re-tinning of the copper body to ensure a like new appearance.

With this helmet’s massive configuration, it makes for an impressive display piece. With the extra mixed gas fittings and large brass canister on the back, the helmet comes in at over 100 pounds! Luckily the brass canister is removable and the bonnet and breastplate separate, making transportation much easier. Once the helmet is assembled, its imposing features, great history, and overall look make it an instant focal point in any collection or as a standalone piece in a home or office setting. These helmets over the years have also been good investments due to their rarity and overall impressive visual appeal.