By MAJ Robert D. Walk

Protection of children during war is a major concern for government planners of all nations. Children are, after all, the future of any nation. As a result, the advent of chemical weapons led to the adoption of several forms of protection for children and at least a few innovative ideas.

Child protection in World War II consisted of air-purifying respirators (APRs) and human-powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR). This article explores protection for infants, young children, and older children used by the Germans and Americans during World War II and describes current trends in child protection.


Infants represent a challenge to protection efforts. Their body size and composition change constantly. They grow by leaps and bounds. Not only are infants small and cute, but they defy all efforts to get them to follow instructions! One can only imagine trying to put a respirator on a struggling, colicky 3-month old. Thus, a protective apparatus had to be built to contain the entire body, not just the head. However, an infant lacks air intake potential to overcome a filter’s resistance, so fresh air must be continually provided to prevent suffocation.

The Germans designed a baby cradle for infants—
"Gaskettchen." This is a human-powered air-purifying respirator. The cradle consists of a plywood frame, a rubberized white fabric cover with viewport, a German Volksmaske 37 filter, and a hose that connects the Gaskettchen  to a bellows unit. To accommodate needed parent-child interaction, the Gaskettchen has a built-in gloved mitten. To use the respirator, the infant is inserted into the protector on the plywood frame, the side is rolled up, and the elastic straps are attached. The attending parent pumps the bellows 15 times a minute to push fresh air through the filter on the inside of the cradle to the infant and continues until the "All Clear" signal is given. Gaskettchens were manufactured and distributed throughout Germany for use in case of a chemical attack. They were probably adopted in the late 1930s. Late in the war, examples of this apparatus were captured and tested by Allied forces. American tests of the apparatus in 1945 showed that it was a usable, although bulky, device. These tests showed no real advantage over the standard US Infant Protector.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the perceived threat of continued attacks against the Hawaiian Islands was high. Such attacks could conceivably include chemical weapons. COL Unmacht, chemical officer for the Department of Hawaii (and the territory of Hawaii), sent a request for children’s masks to Washington, DC on 18 December 1941, but none were available. As a result, COL Unmacht, in conjunction with the Hawaiian Surgeons Office, set about to create infant protection equipment from resources within the Hawaiian Department. The result of these efforts was a box respirator and a protective hood for infants. The box respirator was never produced in quantity. The protective hood for infants was known as the "Bunny Mask" because COL Unmacht found that adding "ears" to the hood and wiggling them put a sense of play into children that could entice them to wear the protective hood.

The mask was locally designed, tested, and produced using available materials. The mask had an inner and outer bag, an eyepiece for viewing, and a drawstring. The outer bag was constructed from felt or denim impregnated with CC-2 (chloramide powder) in paraffin. The inner bag was muslin impregnated with paraffin. The eyepiece was scrap celluloid from old x-ray negatives. Inside the hood was a small breathing pad made of a double layer of heavy Turkish toweling that was dampened with a 5 percent sodium phenolate solution prior to use. All seams were double stitched.

This was a multifunction mask that served as an infant protector (entire infant placed into the hood), toddler protector (tied around the waist), and youth (under 5 years) mask (tied about the neck). The mask was issued with a small bottle of sodium phenolate and Bulletin Number 5 (Directions for Use of Bunny Masks), published on May 14, 1942. This mask, an air-purifying respirator, was produced in quantity within the Hawaiian Department. The first 3,000 masks were issued in Hawaii in June 1942, with deliveries completed to the outer islands by December. A total of 37,643 masks were issued within the territory of Hawaii.

To meet the needs of the continental United States, several designs were examined, including box respirators. Ultimately, the Office of Civil Defense designed, adopted, and produced the M1 Infant Protector. This is an impermeable, rubber-coated, layered fabric bag with an acetate viewport for the baby. An external hoop maintains the shape and the protector is sealed with a drawstring cord. The baby is inserted into the bottom of the protector and the drawstring is pulled and tied. The attending parent pumps air using a rubber, accordion-styled bellows unit through an M1 Training Filter to the infant. To ensure adequate air for the child, the bellow must be pumped about 15 times per minute. Like the Gaskettchen, the M1 Infant Protector is a human PAPR. In comparison to the German cradle protector, the US Infant Protector is lighter in weight and easier to carry. The US Infant Protector, M1, was destandardized in 1945.

After the war, technology of synthetic materials advanced quickly. As a result, the M2 Infant Protector (Civil Defense designation: CDV-815) was made of vinyl and shaped like a GI pup tent. The protector was meant for children up to 4 years old. The design allows for the diffusion of air through enclosed filters in sufficient quantity to provide ample oxygen to the child and eliminate the need for an air pump. The tent-shaped protector has three large filters on the two long sides of the protector with one clear viewport covering the remaining area. An exterior metal frame supports the tent and a shoulder carrying strap is attached to the frame. The child is inserted into the protector through an apron on the front; the apron is rolled up and sealed with snaps onto the frame. The view-port allows Mom and Dad to see the baby and the baby to look out. Toys can be placed in the protector to keep the baby occupied.

Finally, the protector was designed for mass production using the latest manufacturing technology. This reduced its cost to about $25 and theoretically would allow the average American to purchase one easily. This protector was adopted as standard in 1960 but was not produced in quantity in the United States.

Young Children

Young children, ages 2 to 6, also represent a serious challenge to the defense planner. As with an infant the child is constantly growing, but is still not able to completely follow instructions! The child is very energetic and will not sit still long; thus the protective apparatus should be built to contain the torso. As with infants, it is best, although not required, to provide air in an over-pressure mode. Infant protectors could also be used to protect toddlers and young children, as long as the child fits in the protector.

The Germans designed the "Gasjaeckchen" for children up to the age of about 4. The Gasjaeckchen was a hood for older children who could not be fitted with the adult civilian gas mask. The hood is manufactured of rubberized white fabric with arms, an oval viewport for the child to look through, and a hose connected to a bellows unit to provide the air. A German standard Volksmaske 37 canister is installed inside the hood which is attached to the hose. Commonality of many parts with the Gaskettchen made maintenance of both easier. The hood fits over the torso of the child and ties around the waist and wrists with a drawstring.

As with the Gaskettchen, the Gasjaeckchen must be constantly supplied with air by the parent pumping the bellows. Like the other German and American World War II efforts, the Gasjaeckchen is a human PAPR. These protectors were stored throughout Germany in air-raid shelters. Like the cradle, the Gasjaeckchen was sent to the United States and evaluated by American scientists. This protector included such good ideas that scientists recommended a child and infant protector using it’s best design points (arms, waist tie, and pumped air) be designed in the United States.

One idea acted upon in the United States for protecting young children during World War II was the Mickey Mouse (©Disney) mask. On January 7, 1942, one month after the Pearl Harbor attack, the owner of the Sun Rubber Company, T.W. Smith, Jr. and his designer, Dietrich Rempel (with approval of Walt Disney), presented the design of the Mickey Mouse Gas Mask for children to Major General William N. Porter, Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS). After approval of the CWS, Sun Rubber Products Company produced sample masks for review. This mask, made of injection-molded colored plastic, complete with mouse ears, looks like Mickey Mouse! They are APRs. The hope was that the design of the mask was such that children would carry it and wear it as part of a game. This would reduce the fear associated with wearing the gas mask and would, hopefully, improve their wear time and, hence, survivability. A few Mickey Mouse masks were manufactured, but studies showed the key to keeping children in masks was adult interaction, not mask design.

Another World War II mask, the M2-2-1 Small Child’s mask, was developed from the M1-series Noncombatant Gas Mask. The M2 Noncombatant Gas Mask, Small Child, was issued with the M2 Noncombatant Canister and the M1 Noncombatant Carrier, M2-2-1. The mask was an adaptation of the M1 Noncombatant Gas Mask to fit the smaller face of a child. To allow for a small child’s face size, the M2 mask only has one eyelens (similar to later M14/M24/M25-series masks). A smaller filter (the M2) is also used to reduce weight and bulk. In tests, with proper coaching and good salesmanship by the leader, most young children could be induced to wear the gas mask for extended periods.

Older Children

Older children represented less of a problem in protection than smaller children. Their faces are larger, they are more disciplined, and their lung capacity is greater. Thus, if small masks are available, older children can more likely be fitted with adult-styled respirators. PAPRs are not required, but are preferred.

Again, the quick-thinking Hawaiian Department came up with a solution. Utilizing stocks of the standard M1 Training Gas Masks (only manufactured in a universal size later called medium), they developed a modified mask for older children. The M1 mask was modified with the addition of a rubberized material to the chin and sides to fit children. These masks were a stopgap measure used by the Hawaiian forces to ensure protection of children until a supply of children’s masks could be obtained from the United States. These modified training masks were developed immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack in order to protect the island population. A total of 78,000 masks were modified and issued.

Later in the war, the M1A2-1-1 Noncombatant Mask was available in five sizes, including a child’s size. This mask was the second alteration of the basic M1 Noncombatant Gas Mask (M1A2) with the M1 Noncombatant Canister and the M1 Noncombatant Carrier (M1A2-1-1). The mask had two celluloid eyelenses, an outlet valve, and a filter attached and built into the mask. It was designed for mass production. This mask, developed before the war by Edgewood Arsenal, was a major US success story. Mass production of the mask by firms throughout the United States was such a success that production was stopped after more than 8 million were produced.

Postwar, development of Noncombatant Protective Masks continued. The M16 Noncombat Protective Mask (Civil Defense designation CDV-800) was designed in six sizes. Sizes 1 and 2 (using the E3R3 Noncombat Filter) were designed for use by small children but were not procured. With improvements in plastics technology, a low-cost mask, the M22 (Civil Defense designation CDV-805) was developed and fielded. At the time, it was an amazing advancement. The filters were integrated into the cheeks of the mask as part of the production process. It is easy to use, provides low resistance to breathing, and takes up little space in storage. Manufactured in six sizes, the mask can be used by anyone over the age of 4. The vinyl M18 face piece is stored in a vinyl M16 carrier with instructions for use written on the outside—complete with pictures showing how to put the mask on. A modern design, the M22 Noncombatant Mask was designed to use the latest manufacturing technology and deliver a mask to the public for $2 to $3 per mask. Starting in 1960, thousands were manufactured. The mask was declared obsolete in 1987. The manufacturing equipment was held in storage until the 1990s and then destroyed.

Current Trends

The current trend in young children’s protection is to provide them with PAPR. This eliminates the need for a good mask fit because the PAPR provides an overpressure in the mask; thus airflow is always out. Modern PAPRs use electric air pumps and provide improved protection for the child over the older human PAPRs. This provides the only major improvements over the basic protection concept used in the US M1 Infant Respirator, German Gaskettchen, and German Gasjaeckchen. Israel, concerned with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, issues a hood with PAPR for children ages 3 to 8, called the "Bardas Magen," and a protective suit with PAPR for infants, called the "Shmartaf." For those of us in America, there are several examples available on the commercial market.

For older children, the PAPRs are still preferred, but children have sufficient lung capacity to use an APR. The only problem with APRs is fit; hence the PAPRs are preferred because of their higher protection factor. There are many APRs available in children’s sizes, including masks from the former Soviet Union and Israel.


This article examined child protection efforts using APR and PAPR by the German and American governments during World War II and looked at current trends in child protection. Advancements in technology have replaced the human PAPRs of World War II with relatively inexpensive battery-operated PAPRs for the 1990s. The basic concept remains the same—provide clean air to children to ensure their survival in a contaminated atmosphere. Children are the future of the nation and the world. They must be protected!

At the time this article was written, Major Robert D. Walk was the Weapons of Mass Destruction Individual and Instructor Training Officer at the US Army Reserve Command. His education includes a Master of Science Degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Oklahoma, a Master’s of Business Administration from Long Island University, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College (Resident and Correspondence), the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, the Chemical Officers Advanced Course, and the Chemical Officers Basic Course. Previous assignments include Commander, 184th Chemical Detachment; Commander, HHC, 59th Ordnance Brigade; Acting Commander, 1st Battalion, 377th Regiment, 95th Division (Institutional Training); S-3, 1st Battalion, 377th Regiment, 95th Division (Institutional Training); S-3, 197th Ordnance Battalion; Chemical Officer, Readiness Group Stewart; and Chemical Officer, 60th Ordnance Group.