Morse US Navy Mark V Helium 1944
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. One of the original two companies was A.J. Morse - later renamed Morse Diving Equipment and the firm who produced this particular helmet.
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.
As mentioned above, this helmet was made in May of 1944 by the Morse Diving Equipment Company in Boston, Massachusetts. At this time during World War 2 Morse was using a lead ID tag, which can be seen in the photos. Unlike the other companies making the Mark V, Morse would place a serial # on the ID which was actually a “lot number”. The actual helmets serial # was placed on the two neck rings and four brails. In all 6 locations, the serial # is matching. In addition, the helmet does have a US Navy inspection stamp on the communications cup. This stamp is proof the helmet was inspected and put into US Navy inventory.
The helmet is in very good condition and has the look of a helmet that has been in the thick of danger and to the deepest parts of the ocean. The copper body and brass hardware have a nice patina with hints of the original tinning remaining. The helmet is complete with all its glass, 12 wing nuts, 4 brails, exhaust valve, brass Co2 absorbent tank, air & gas fittings, neck ring gasket, internal air vents, dumbbell safety latch, communications cup, and non-return valve.
During World War II the Navy was in short supply of the mixed gas Mark V’s. In some cases, such as this helmet, the Navy would have a standard Mark V sent back to the factory and modified into a deep-water mixed gas hat. Upon close inspection evidence of where the standard Mark V fittings were located can be seen. These modifications were done years ago and over time a patina has developed over these areas – giving the helmet the hauntingly imposing look it has today!
With this helmet’s massive configuration, it makes for an impressive display piece. With the added 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.