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U.S. Navy Mark XLIV 7x 50 SARD Binocular Of World War II

A historic product exhibited among others in the permanent collection at Company Seven


eyepiece end view (65,921 bytes) On 6 February 2016 Company Seven acquired a World War II era U.S. Navy issued 7x 50 Porro Prism binocular set, specifically a SARD Mark XLIV Mod. 0. This is now on permanent exhibit at our showroom museum collection of interesting or significant optics. This is not the first or the sole U.S. Navy issue item on exhibit here, but this binocular certainly sparked a good deal of excitement here because this is:

  1. among the pinnacle of 7x 50 binoculars employed by the greatest naval force ever engaged in war: the United States Navy*,

  2. the SARD brand retains respect and admiration bordering on a mystique, most of it appropriate, by some who rave about WWII binoculars.

  3. These were manufactured en masse by The Greatest Generation: men and women who developed a qualitative edge in technology, superior manufacturing capacity, and who made up the forces that with adaptable leadership and some guts too defeated Hitler, Hirohito, and their minions.

  4. The condition of this binocular is in our experience unprecedented: literally old new stock in it’s original packing carton as completed 72 years ago.

*at it’s peak in August 1945 the U.S. Navy was operating some 6,768 ships (vessels 100 feet or longer) including: 23 battleships, 28 aircraft carriers, 71 escort carriers, 72 cruisers, more than 288 submarines, 377 destroyers, and thousands of patrol, amphibious, supply, and auxiliary ships. Consider there were many other classes too including 544 PT Boats, and some 82,266 landing craft built during the war! Every vessel required binoculars.

Right: as new U.S. Navy SARD 7x50 Mark XLIV Mod. 0. Image courtesy collection of Company Seven (73,613 bytes).
Click on image to see enlarged view (245,393 bytes).

The excitement needed to be shared with those who have helped to keep Company Seven around for well more than three decades, and so we elected to write about this binocular in the context of it’s place among the other 7x 50mm models that were made for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships during World War II. In time as we acquire or restore presentable examples of other U.S. military binocular models we will write about them too.

If you wish to learn more about how the U.S. Navy developed their own optics shop, and about how during World War II some 7x 50mm models were converted by the Naval Gun Factory Optics Shop to 9x 63, then you should read our forthcoming article U.S. Naval Gun Factory Mark 37 - 9x 63 Binocular Of World War II. We will avoid duplicating information there in this article unless it helps this stand on it’s own.

Organization While Approaching War:

Going into World War II the United States Navy Department was an independent branch of the military. In time of war the U.S. Coast Guard, formerly operating as a separate service, becomes administered under the Navy Department. The U.S. Maritime Commission was transferred to the Coast Guard. The Marine Corps too were an independent branch but that cooperated with the Navy, while the Marine command reported to the Secretary of the Navy. The United States Department of War administered both the US Army ground and US Army air forces, though even then the Army Air Corps was a distinct branch of the Army that by June 1941 would become even more autonomous as the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). In times of war or other national emergency the resources of the National Guard were administered by the Army. Support organizations that in time of war might work under or coordinate with the military included coast watching, civil defense, and intelligence services (including the FBI) for example.

Each military branch of service was supported by their own administrative and logistical operations. As each had different missions, the requirements for their hardware was often specified by each branch of the military service. Furthermore, since each branch of the military operated a variety of missions then hardware for the specific missions too was specified or adapted to suit.

U.S. Navy organizations that were largely responsible for procurement in 1940 were designated Bureaus, each commanded by a Rear Admiral. These Bureaus included: Aeronautics, Engineering, Navigation, Ordnance, and Ships. So the fleet of surface combat and support ships, of submarines, of Coast Guard and of Maritime Service vessels, along with most of their instruments and consumables too, were largely specified by and contracted for by the Bureau of Ships (BUSHIPS, or sometimes designated BU.SHIPS). Navy personnel, charts and weather monitoring were managed by Navigation (NAV). Optics required for the aviation mission were administered by the Bureau of Aeronautics (AERO), while optics for gunnery support for everything from antiaircraft to the big guns of the battleships would be acquired through the Bureau of Ordnance (ORD). This fiscal year also saw a major reorganization of the Navy Department, putting all material under management of the Bureau of Ships.

The Navy directly controlled some production capacity including shipbuilding and repair at Navy Yard facilities, some repairs could be made at overseas bases too. The historic Washington Navy Yard occupies some 125 acres along the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington, D.C., here were design and manufacturing facilities including the massive Naval Gun Factory for the production the immense gun barrels and liners for the battleships. Here too was the optical shop whose craftsmen produced lenses and prisms, telescopes and stadimeters (optical rangefinder). They also provided repair and maintenance services for a large number of telescopes, range finders, binoculars, and spotting glasses. The optics shop predated World War I, but in 1917 a private factory in Rochester, New York was taken over and designated the U.S Naval Gun Factory Optical Shop Annex at Rochester, N.Y. In 1919 the factory equipment and most personnel too were relocated from Rochester to the Washington Navy Yard, here the optics shop had their own new 63,500 square foot Building 157, this also hosted the U.S. Navy optical repair trade school. An optical repair shop was also established at Mare Island Navy Yard, with facilities for repairing optical instruments of the Pacific Fleet. However, the military alone lacked the in-house manufacturing capacity necessary to meet the demands of a World War so ships, aircraft, armor, guns, and anything else needed for war including binoculars too were manufactured under contract.

Organizing For War Production:

Late in the 1930’s the prospect of war became more obvious to the American Congress; planning had commenced and manufacturing had been contracted to modernize the military. In the United States a strong Executive and cooperative Congress passed legislation that enabled and even streamlined procurement for the U.S. and for allied nations. In 1940 the U.S. Government designated a number of manufacturing entities as being among defense industries: aircraft, shipbuilding, automotive, etc. The Lend-Lease programs to aid allied nations caused the building of the Arsenal of Democracy to become intensified. Some of the more important changes in methods of procurement resulted from the act of 28 June 1940, "To Expedite Naval Shipbuilding, and for Other Purposes," which contained legislation to streamline contracting for national-defense program. In the annual report by the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox reported that the fiscal year ending in June 1941 had seen an 800 percent increase in contracts executed in the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts over the previous year.

In light of the increasing demands for defense production, even before the war many plant managers had established apprenticeship programs to teach graduates of technical high school how to operate manufacturing equipment. These “learnership” employees were paid to learn and gain experience in programs planned to span about two and one half years. The demand for skilled labor increased so that by 1940 defense contractors were competing for talent: advertising for skilled and learnership employees, even scouting for future hires at area high schools and focusing on those with schools technical (vocational) education programs. As early as February 1940 some manufacturers were already in touch with some who were nearing graduation months later.

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war on the United States, America dramatically increased the rate and scale of mobilization. The United States adapted for wartime production rapidly and with total commitment; the population had become galvanized by Pearl Harbor, and it too mobilized to conserve vital materials (rubber, nylon, gasoline, etc.) and contribute metals and other materials for recycling into weapons.

The ramping up of manufacturing to operate at up to 24 hours per day, and 7 days per week happened very quickly. In addition to seeking new hires, companies established accelerated upgrading courses to speed learning and training of current employees so they could promote to the more demanding and better paying job, their prior position would be filled by others being promoted or by new hires.

Adapting And Standardization During War:

assembly (58,686 bytes) The Emergency Training for National Defense organization trained potential hires to read blueprints, use drafting equipment and measuring micrometers, and to operate basic manufacturing equipment so these students too could be readied to be hired by manufacturing companies. By January 1942 it was also apparent to organizations, including the Board of Education in many states, that most manufacturing and other jobs too would be opened to women. So the education programs and facilities too were modified to accommodate that reality. They opened supplementary and pre-employment courses to anyone male or female aged 17-½ or older for positions in the defense industries. In New York City however, they initially resisted placing women into these jobs as they had some 300,000 men listed on unemployment rolls; the U.S. was still coming out of the Great Depression after all but this was rescinded early in 1942 and women were placed onto a more equal footing for training and employment. As women joined the work force this freed manpower from manufacturing to join the armed services and civil defense organizations.

Right: Square D SARD binoculars undergoing assembly, note the ladies contributions to the war effort (58,686 bytes).

Participants already employed could be referred to defense industry training courses by either an Advisory Board on Vocational Education, or by a current employer, or by a Trade Union. For for the unemployed there were other avenues including a Trade Union (through the Advisory Board), the WPA, or by a U.S. Employment Service office. Commencing 2 February 1942, New York put into effect defense training courses specifically for High School students, these counted as one credit towards graduation and were offered in addition to normal schoolwork.

Many companies formerly making products for the consumer were geared up to manufacture wartime commodities. At first glance it often seemed that many companies were manufacturing items for war that had little to do with what the company had manufactured in peacetime, but manufacturing expertise is manufacturing expertise. Automobile companies built armored vehicles and tanks, aircraft, and small arms. Franklin Instruments of Pennsylvania, who manufactured clocks before the war, continued to make such instruments but also adapted to manufacture pedestal-mounted ’Big Eye’ 120mm binoculars along with Kollmorgen Optical Co. in Massachusetts. Many new companies too sprouted up to compete for their share of lucrative defense contracts.

In the field of optics two of the more notable established manufacturers of binoculars in the United States were Bausch & Lomb Opt. Co. of Rochester, New York, and Spencer Lens Company (American Optical), of Buffalo, New York. There was much cooperation between the manufacturing companies, so Bausch & Lomb could provide prisms and lenses or complete instruments to other companies for integration into their larger systems. Wartime production designs were standardized as much as practical so that parts made by one company could be interchanged with parts made by another during final assembly, this was helpful in streamlining repairs at facilities closer to the combat areas. To that end Bausch & Lomb licensed it’s designs and assisted six other companies including Kollsman Instrument Co., Universal Camera Corp., and Anchor Optical Corp. to gear up for mass production while also standardizing the binoculars.

height=319 Accommodation For War: As had been the case when the United States entered World War I, in 1942 the military did not possess enough binoculars to meet the impending needs of their rapidly growing forces. The manufacturer’s that would in time meet that demand were just starting to gear up for war, their escalating production would not meet the demand for a year or more. So in the interim the government issued appeals for consumers to loan their better binoculars for the war effort. In a replay of the Eyes for the Navy program of 1918, in the U.S. Navy asked civilians to send in their binoculars for evaluation of suitability for service, these were sent to The U.S. Naval Observatory, in Washington, D.C. It is an interesting commentary about how well regarded Carl Zeiss Jena optics were in the years leading up to World War II when the US Government published advertisements asking the public to loan their personal binoculars for the war effort the ads specifically mention Zeiss and Bausch and Lomb. It is somewhat ironic that Zeiss optics were pressed into service against the very U-Boats that Zeiss supplied with binoculars and periscopes.

Right: one of the U.S. Navy advertisements soliciting civilian binoculars, this was printed in 1942. The text of that ad is below (44,401 bytes).
Click on image to see enlarged view.

No Enemy Sub Will Dare Lift Its Eye If You Lend Your Zeiss
Or Bausch and Lomb Binoculars To The Navy
Pack Carefully, Include Your Name And Address
Send To Naval Observatory Washington D.C.

The newly arrived civilian binocular would be inspected and if found suitable for naval use it would have a Serial No. and owners name too engraved for identification purposes. The number would be a four or five digit number followed by a dash and the year. So it is possible to find binoculars that were originally made and trademarked for the consumer market bearing military identification markings.

Since regulations of the day prohibited Federal agencies, including the military, from the accepting of gifts or free loans the owner of the loaned binocular had to be compensated. So the owner received a letter from the Navy Bureau of Ships confirming the loan and providing them with the assigned serial number, the letter also enclosed a Public Voucher form to be completed and signed by the citizen. Upon return of that voucher the Navy would issue a check in the amount of one dollar, the same amount they paid in 1918, that “releases the Navy from any obligation should the binoculars be lost. All possible care will be taken, however, to insure their return at the end of the war.” After the war the owners whose binoculars could not be returned were contacted again by the Navy and offered compensation.

The U.S. Military Issue Hand-Held Binoculars

Those models that were mass produced during the war for hand held uses included 6x 30mm, 7x 35, 7x 50, 8x 56, 10x 50, and 10x 70. There were comparatively fewer numbers of some specialty or experimental models made including the 6x 42, and some 9x 63 that is featured in our forthcoming article U.S. Naval Gun Factory Mark 37 - 9x 63 Binocular Of World War II. For use in low light conditions of dawn, dusk, night or during inclement weather the 7x 50 was a most popular choice. For shipboard use or reconnaissance on land then the 7x 50 tended to be preferred, with excellent balance for hand holding, reasonably wide (Approx. 7.2 Degree) field of view, and large exit pupil that made them comfortable to line up and look through. Where light gathering power was less a concern or where being able to carry was as important, then the smaller binoculars were issued.

While a number of other companies manufactured binoculars for other services or for branches of service and even for other Bureaus of the Navy, the manufacturers contracted to fabricate 7x 50 Porro binoculars during World War II specifically for the BUSHIPS include:

  • Anchor Optical Corporation, New York, New York
  • Bausch and Lomb Optical Company, Rochester, New York
  • Hayward Lumber & Investment Co., Chemical & Manufacturing Division, Los Angeles, California
  • National Instrument Corporation, Houston, Texas
  • Optical Film & Supply Co., New York
  • SARD Square D Company (Kollsman Instrument Company, Inc.), Elmhurst and Flushing, New York
  • Spencer Lens Company (division of American Optical Company), Buffalo, New York
  • Universal Camera Corp, New York, New York

C.F. or I.F.? For reasons of practicality military binoculars tend to be built with the Individual Focus (I.F.) mechanical arrangement, this is where the user rotates the upper barrel of the left and right eyepiece independently to focus the binocular to infinity. Once the focus has been set it need not be changed and is not likely to shift on its own; every time you pick up the binocular the view will be sharp and with no time wasted adjusting the single focus dial as on a Central Focus (C.F.) binocular that do tend to shift focus at times almost just sitting still. I.F. is especially desirable at sea in foul weather since precious seconds might be wasted trying to determine what is the best focus point while looking out for another ship coming at you in a fog for example. Since each I.F. binocular eyepiece bears a calibrated diopter scale (indicating + and - diopter symbols) it is a simple matter to share a binocular with someone even if they need to change the setting, since upon return of the binocular the primary user can reset the focus without even having to look through the glass. The I.F. arrangement makes perfect sense since in most naval or airborne uses the binocular would be adjusted to the infinity focus for observing objects hundreds of feet away if not miles distant. Furthermore, this arrangement is much easier to produce in a waterproof configuration, and will be far more resistant to the elements or impact than binoculars made with a C.F. arrangement. A birder or nature watcher who constantly change focus for optimum observing of objects that may be very close then out to infinity would find the C.F. arrangement to be more convenient.

The Issue Binocular Mark and Mod Designations: a binocular that is well suited for one type of use within any one or multiple branches of service might not have been as well suited for use in another application. The particulars could have to do with matters of magnification and field of view, aperture and low light capabilities, or durability at sea or in an aircraft environment, even special lubrication and seals for extremely cold climates. Subtle differences could include design of the provided eyecups, or rubber face guards (for better comfort over extended observing sessions). For some missions it could be important to make provisions for the binocular to accept or be provided with filters, such a facility could be cause to designate the new or modified binocular as a separate model or variant of a model. To abbreviate missions for which a product was designed the armed forces employ acronyms, line or mark item numbers, or other devices. In the case of military binoculars the Navy relied on a term “Mark x”, and this may bear some additional suffix “Mod x” designation.

A binocular that was meant to be left attached to the conning tower of a submarine or it’s deck gun would have to be made to endure shock and pressures of water from waves, so ORD set forth the specifications for what became the Mark 38 and BU.ORD administered the contracting to have these manufactured by government contractor Bausch & Lomb.

Logo When the mission was to observe movement across a wide expanse of sky or water then a binocular with a much wider field of view was justified. Several wide angle binocular models were commissioned specifically for the Bureau of Aeronautics whose vital work included reconnaissance (searching for U-Boats and other enemy ships), as well as search and rescue; these bear the designation “BU. AERO”. A noteworthy model developed for AERO is the SARD Mark 43 6x 42 WIDE ANGLE, that was designed and manufactured by Kollsman Instrument in Flushing, New York. The Mark 43 binocular is among those extraordinary accomplishments that put the SARD name into prominence. The Mark 43 provides an actual field of view some 11 degrees 50 minutes (or 11.8 Deg.) wide! To comprehend what an accomplishment this was, consider the Mark 43 allows the user to view an area about 2.7 times larger than that which can be observed through a typical 7x 50mm binocular that was made then or today. With 42mm objectives and a generous 7mm diameter exit pupil the Mark 43 provides good light gathering power, the optical aspects combined with the provided custom rubber face guard to insure a more comfortable long term observing experience for the user. On the other hand, for routine handheld use there would be no justification for providing the heavier and more costly Mark 43 binocular when a general purpose 7x 50 with a field of view of about 7.2 degrees would be sufficient. Furthermore, a good 7x 50 binocular would provide about 1.4 times better low light performance (18% better twilight performance) than the the Mark 43. The Navy procurement people were keenly aware that a more complicated product would also require more time and materials resources to produce and to maintain, so not every soldier or sailor had to the have a Mark 43 when an alternative such as the 7x 50 Mark 28 would suffice or might be superior in some aspects.

Company Seven - Fujinon Compass Reticle (117,110 bytes) Many military issue handheld binoculars were built incorporating a reticle, this is a pattern of lines built into an eyepiece and overlying the field of view. The reticle aids the observer in determining distances, spotting the fall of artillery (aerial, mortar, or naval guns) and more. However, the reticle could be a distraction to someone who is engaged in sweeping the skies for aircraft or panning the horizon looking out for an approaching vessel. The Bureau of Aeronautics (AERO) and Bureau of Ships (BUSHIPS) too ordered versions of the Mark 28 handheld 7x 50 binocular, these were improved general purpose models assembled since 1943 and with eyepieces that do not incorporate a reticle. The same basic Mark 28 binocular manufactured for BUSHIPS were also contracted by BU.ORD and these were assembled as a variant that incorporates a reticle, this configuration was designated the Mark 39 Mod 1. Some modifications could have been made during the course of servicing, that could confuse someone searching out an old binocular. So for example it was possible for an optics technician to install a new reticle from stock or to remove it, so one might encounter a Mark 39 Mod 1 binocular without it’s reticle, or a Mark 28 with reticle.

Left: image of a binocular that incorporates a Compass Bearing with Ranging Reticle (117,110 bytes). Courtesy Company Seven.

By assigning an easy to reference Mark designator to a production series this also expedited communicating about them between the Navy organizations. As newer improved production came available it was easier to identify and replace older models. For example, in September 1943 the Bureau of Ordnance communicated to all Navy Yard optical officers an order to obsolete all Binocular Marks from 1 to 12, among other optical components (periscopes, telescopes, rangefinders) being phased out; this basically commanded those older binoculars no longer be repaired but replaced when possible.

The type and quantity of each binocular, as was the case with virtually every piece of equipment, were allocated by the Navy Ship Allowance List. Every U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Maritime Service vessel, from the Battleships down to a PT boat, and cargo vessels too would have so many 7x 50 binoculars of a particular Mark designation allocated to it: no more and (hopefully) no less. In keeping with military necessity there were specialists trained and certified to perform maintenance and repairs, these could be civilian employees working at a Navy base or sailors assigned to warships and auxiliary vessels including ships that specialized in providing repairs. In the case of most BUSHIPS 7x 50 binoculars they referred for guidance to the “Manual for Overhaul, Repair and Handling of 7x50 Binoculars with Parts Catalog” we refer to a later copy of that NAVSHIPS publication No. 250-624-2 from 1951.

optical cross section view of typical 7x 50 (100,885 bytes) The Path To Production: once a new requirement was identified the government would solicit proposals, at times even paying for some of the up front costs of design. After the designs were approved then the detailed production drawings (blueprints) would be prepared that included: Outline View (exterior), General Arrangement, and Optical Arrangement. A “General Arrangement Mark xx” number was assigned to the manufacturing drawings and to the contract paperwork. The suffix of each number indicated the originator, with O indicating BU.ORD, S indicating BUSHIPS, C indicating a customer’s drawing. A General Arrangement letter suffix might indicate it originated in the Navy even if it was made for the another branch of service, the U.S. Army by BU.ORD for example. This process facilitated distributing the necessary design information that would insure consistency among the various assigned manufacturers. In time the contracting process changed from referring to these items by General Arrangement number and instead assigned a Federal Stock Number (FSSN) or to each product.

Right: typical optical arrangement of the wartime U.S. Navy 7x50 handheld binocular (117,444 bytes).
Click on image to see enlarged view (132,514 bytes).

A particular binocular design might have been needed in such large quantities that multiple companies would be contracted to meet the demand. Consider the Mark 32 7x 50 binocular, production of this model was assigned to: Anchor, National, Universal, and some were even contracted to Perfex though that contract was cancelled in 1945. Each contracted Mark 32 production lot bore a ’Mod x’ designation to reflect the assigned manufacturer. So the Mod 0 suffix indicated that Mark 32 was made by Anchor, the Mark 32 Mod 1 was the designation assigned to National, and so on. A binocular trade name might not exactly correspond to the company name that was assigned the contract, for example we have read of some binocular contracts awarded to Kollsman Instrument, a division of the Square D Company however, their binoculars do bear the SARD trade name.

Company Seven is aware of some thirty-three (33) models of BUSHIPS contracted 7x 50 binoculars whose variants entered production at one time or another over the period from 1940 to 1945. Most were largely based on the highly successful B&L Mark 28 Mod 0. As the end of the war was in sight, some contracted models including the Mark 32 Mod 3 assigned to Perfex, the Mark 34 and Mark 35 Mod 0 contracted to Ajax never were produced. There was only one version of the Mark XLIV binocular assigned, this was the Mod. 0 contracted to SARD that entered production late in 1944.

U.S. Navy binocular Mark designations of this era could be Arabic or Roman numerals. The binocular itself may bear either, and technical documents might refer to the same instrument by either nomenclature. All SARD Mark 44 binoculars for example bear “Mark XLIV”. SARD made other models of binocular for the war, these other models including the Mark 21 made for the Aeronautical Bureau of the U.S. Navy for example bear the designation in Arabic numerals. We at Company Seven do not know why the Mark designations were a mix of Arabic and Roman numerals, but we remain open to information that would explain why.

The Mark XLIV was preceded by many other versions of similar 7x 50 that were in production since 1943 including the Mark 28, the Mark XXXII made by Anchor Optical, and the Mark XXXIII manufactured by Universal Camera Corp. There were other 7x 50 binoculars made for BUSHIPS that that bore the designations Mark 32 or Mark 33 in arabic numerals, these were made by companies including Anchor Optical Co.

The uniformity and standardization of designs facilitated not only manufacture, but also facilitated maintenance and repair or even the upgrading or modifying of some equipment during the course of the war. For use in some theaters a particular Mark and Mod binocular may have had two desiccator modules installed, one in each prism housing, while doing this for some other models (the Mark 39 Mod 1 for example) was explicitly prohibited by BUSHIPS. The media holding some cemented objective lenses together might fail in a particularly harsh climate so an alternative, even if more costly to make, might be authorized just for fitting to binoculars destined for use in that region. Many wartime 7x 50 binocular models incorporated 52mm diameter objective lenses with a 190mm focal length, this explains why so many 27mm focal length eyepieces and 50mm finder telescopes were still being furnished with amateur telescopes being sold new well into the 1970’s: their sellers were simply modifying surplus new old stock lenses and eyepieces to fit.

New technologies were coming out almost daily and for optics this included antireflection coatings developed in 1935 by the Carl Zeiss Jena company. Dr. A. F. Turner of the Scientific Bureau of the Bausch and Lomb Co. developed a more durable Magnesium-Fluoride treatment that are optimized for the yellow-green, this region of the visual spectrum is the peak of sensitivity for the human eye. These coatings are only four-millionths of an inch thick but when applied on all air to glass surfaces, increased light transmission through a binocular and in the case of a 7x 50 this might mean an increase of from 57.8% to 75% overall and with a reduction of ghosting and flare. First applied for commercial optics by B&L in 1939, by 1941 they were approved for service use and were finding their way into military optics. By 1943 the lenses and prisms of most U.S. military binoculars were being made with these AR coatings*. As binoculars were returned to service centers for repairs or maintenance, upgrades such as changing older uncoated lenses to the newer antireflection coated optics could have been retrofitted to some Mod versions. After the war these coatings were marketed by B&L under the trade name “Balcote”.

eyepiece end and prisms view (65,921 bytes)

    * The lenses of World War II era binoculars provided with the AR coatings exhibit a distinct purplish tint. Those accustomed to older uncoated optics and not acquainted with the new coatings might after noting the tint become concerned that something had contaminated the binocular, this resulted in many early binocular coatings being damaged by people trying to clean off the AR coating. Coatings could be damaged by improper cleaning techniques too. As a result manufacturers applied labels warning users about the coatings. For those who seek more information about proper cleaning techniques, Company Seven hosts an article Cleaning Telescopes And Most Consumer Optics.

Right: Company Seven’s SARD Mark XLIV showing the prominent coated optics warning label, typical of those applied to the wartime U.S. Navy binoculars (57,165 bytes).
Click on image to see enlarged view (109,529 bytes).

The Navy technical manuals specified some of these improvements that were to be made, these might involved improved sealing against water to be performed by using later production improved components to replace original obsolete parts. So for example, the Mark 32 binocular was made in seven different Mods (0, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7) but whenever earlier Mods of the Mark 32 binocular arrived for service they would be upgraded to the Mark 32 Mod 7 configuration that improved waterproofing of the eyepiece. The Navy manuals even specified what special tools and skill level was required to service each binocular; an Optical Instrument Assembler, Junior Grade being sufficiently skilled to perform disassembly and routine maintenance of most handheld 7x 50 binoculars while repairs and reassembly would be assigned to an Optical Instrument Assembler, Senior Grade.

A Brief Diversion - The Mark 45: the Mark XLIV Mod. 0 by SARD, and the Mark 45 Mod. 0 binocular designed and made by Hayward, appear to have been the last two wartime handheld 7x 50 binocular contracts assigned by BUSHIPS. The Mark 45 entered production in mid 1944.

Hayward U.S. Navy Mark 45 binocular, of Company Seven’s collection (146,476 bytes) The Mark 45 differs from the general purpose 7x 50 binoculars in several ways even though their overall quality of the view and their fields of view observed are similar. The Mark 45 has been written about as being the most waterproofed of the handheld models, designed with features that made it more appropriate for missions and environments where it would be immersed including service on submarines and with underwater demolition teams. Some Navy documents indicate the Mark 45 was made to withstand greater water pressures, this led to many urban myths about these on the Internet: them having been made for submarine use, or designed for use by Underwater Demolition Teams (later SEALS), etc. Interestingly enough though, the Navy BUSHIPS technical manuals refer to this model as only having to pass the same waterproofness testing as most other U.S. Navy 7x 50 binoculars.

Left: Hayward Mark 45 Mod. 0, note the prominent coated optics warning label on left prism cover (102,160 bytes).
From Company Seven’s museum exhibit.

Among those who appreciate the aesthetics of optics, the Mark 45 Mod. 0 binocular is just about the sexiest looking 7x 50 military binocular ever made; it’s streamlined form is possible because the body is manufactured of drawn aluminum. This is a more costly manufacturing process but that provides a slimmer profile with lighter weight yet with strength similar to that of castings. The hinge axle is a ratchet type for adjustment of tension, and the hinge incorporates a grease fitting. Each side of most other general purpose 7x 50 models incorporate two prisms attached to a supporting Prism Plates (termed Cluster), these are bolted to the body casting. The prisms supports of the Mark 45 (and Bausch & Lomb Mark 41, and SARD Mark 43 too) differ from most other U.S. military binoculars of this era in that they are affixed to a Prism Plate that Cluster is affixed by three Prism Posts to a support plate, that assembly is attached to the rubber gasketed eyepiece and prism cover assembly; this arrangement likely increases resistance of the prisms to damage or the shifting of their alignment (collimation) from an impact. This leaves us at Company Seven wondering if the build differences had more to do with the binocular being able to remain waterproof over time and survive rigorous use? Otherwise the quality of view was comparable to the B&L Mark 28 Mod 0.

As was the case with the Mark XLIV by SARD, the Mark 45 binoculars came off the production line so late in the war by then most needs for binoculars the fleet had been met, so by August 1945 many of these had not been issued. Over the years these binoculars were used by the U.S. Navy with parts and service remaining available well into the Vietnam war era. There are some stories exaggerating their attributes, but they were not that much better than any other U.S. Navy 7x 50 binocular. After the Korean War they were becoming available as surplused to NASA and to other civilian agencies, and a number of these were run into the ground. These too, like most other wartime production U.S. binoculars, are not particularly scare though it would be rare to find a Mark 45 today that has not been bound up by old grease, or beat to heck in hard use. Owing to some differences and comparatively scarce parts availability, servicing the Mark 45 is a bit more complicated than most others.

Lacking specific tools, documentation and training no amateur should attempt to disassemble and clean or repair any of these binoculars, that is if they ever hope to use them again.

“no amateur should attempt to disassemble and clean or repair any of these binoculars …

The SARD 7x50 Mark XLIV Binocular:

eyepiece end view (65,921 bytes) The SARD 7x50 Mark XLIV Mod. 0 design was finalized and the contract was awarded by the Navy Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, for BUSHIPS. The packing carton label indicates this was provided under Contract No. NXss-50095, that contract number indicates it originated in January 1944. Binoculars being manufactured this late in the war likely incorporate the lessons learned to date from experiences with earlier production variants. These were contracted to be manufactured by the Square D Corporation at their Kollsman Instrument Division factories in Flushing, New York. The SARD Mark XLIV assembly deliveries commenced by early Summer in 1944, certainly with the first deliveries being accepted by the Navy no later than in July.

USN Anchor stamp (7,203 bytes) We have observed Mark XLIV binoculars packing cartons with stamped U.S. Navy acceptance dates and with their “US Anchor” stamp from as early as in July 1944. The month and day of the delivery date stamped onto the label of our packing carton came off over time as most of the backing white paint has flaked off over the years, only the year 1945 remains visible. However, the carton flat of our example bears a carton production date of 10-1944, so we can conclude SARD was still assembling these binoculars into late 1944, and possibly even into 1945. The carton sealing tape bears the address of Square D, 36-30 Lawrence Street, in Flushing, NY.

Left: U.S. Navy property acceptance stamp of this era, on the packing carton of our SARD 7x50 Mark XLIV Mod. 0 binocular (7,203 bytes).

This binocular, Serial Number 403424, survived seventy-plus years in very much as new condition because it remained packaged within it’s factory issued carrying case, and this was well packed within the original outer carton; none other has come to our attention in this pristine condition. However, we have reports of SARD Mark XLIV Mod. 0 binoculars having been completed so late in the war that they were never issued because by then the demands of the fleet had pretty much been met by other production. The amount of new government property left unused at the end of the war is one of the indicators that the victories in the war by the United States were in some large measure attributable to our capacity to produce even more than men and material than were necessary to win the war.

Right: U.S. Navy SARD 7x50 Mark XLIV Mod. 0 binocular. Image courtesy Company Seven (153,222 bytes).
Click on image to see enlarged view (331,131 bytes).

Soon after the end of the war the U.S. Government made efforts to consolidate inventory, to cut down on fielded lower production Mark and Mod models of all kinds of equipment in order to simplify postwar parts and service support requirements. The U.S. Navy contacted civilians who early in the war had loaned their binocular (explained earlier in this article) to either return or replace these. In those instances where the owner’s binocular were lost, they were provided with replacement U.S. Navy new binoculars allocated from stock and these included the SARD Mark XLIV Mod. 0.

Characteristics: the Mark XLIV were the last assigned model version of 7x 50 binocular that were designed and manufactured during World War II specifically for assignment to U.S. Navy surface ships. This is not to say that some of these might not have found there way into submarine, or for use by other services (USMC, Naval or Army aviation, etc.).

The left prism cover bears the SARD binocular logo and manufacturer’s information. The right prism cover bears the information identifying the contracting agency, the model and variant designation, then the circle N symbol for number followed by the binocular’s serial number and year of the contract. The engraved information of our Mark XLIV is shown below:
PRODUCT   OF
SQUARE D COMPANY
FLUSHING  NEW YORK
U.S. NAVY  BUSHIPS
MARK XLIV    MOD. O
  403424     - 1944
The Mark XLIV is a descendant of the B&L Mark 28 Mod 0 and so it’s basic arrangement and manner of supporting the prisms are similar to that of other general purpose U.S. Navy 7x 50 binoculars shown in the cutaway image shown earlier in this article. Indeed many of the components, including optics, are interchangeable. Company Seven measured the actual field of view of this binocular to be 7°19′, the eyepieces providing about a 51.2 degree apparent field of view. We have not tested other U.S. Navy binoculars of this era, but have read credible reports of these wartime 7x 50 general purpose models showing fields of view ranging from 7° to 7°40′ wide, so there is nothing extraordinary about the Mark XLIV in this respect.

objectives end view of U.S. Navy SARD 7x50 Mark XLIV Mod. 0 binocular (110,732 bytes) The lenses and prisms of all Mark XLIV binoculars that were produced incorporate the Magnesium-Fluoride treatment explained above, these coatings provide a brighter image than older uncoated models and with better clarity and contrast particularly in adverse seeing conditions: glare from sun or other off-axis bright lights, dusk or dawn, etc. The left side prism housing cover of this Mark XLIV Mod. 0 bears the factory stick-on warning label with yellow lettering THIS INSTRUMENT HAS “COATED OPTICS” CLEAN LENSES CAREFULLY. Some earlier production Mark XLIV Mod. 0 may have this applied to the bridge post, though this could be marred when the binocular is attached onto certain types of support brackets that grip this post. The warning label, all likely sourced from the same printer, were provided to other binocular makers of this era.

Left: objectives end view of U.S. Navy SARD 7x50 Mark XLIV Mod. 0 binocular (110,732 bytes). These binoculars are robustly constructed, and inspire confidence when held.
Click on image to see enlarged view (204,076 bytes).

The Magnesium-Fluoride coated prism clusters are mounted onto a support shelf, that rests on lugs cast into the binocular body prisms housings. The body of the Mark XLIV is of cast aluminum, other components including the hinge brackets and the hinge post having been stamped or machined; construction components are nonferrous so that the binocular will not distort a compass. The hinge is substantially constructed with a precision machined post ½ inch in diameter.

The Mark XLIV stands 7-7/16 inches tall, with a typical width of about 7-¾ inches depending on IP spacing. The binocular feels good in the hands in terms of the fit of it’s castings profile as well as in terms of weight; that 2 lbs. 10.8 oz. construction reassures the user that this is not cheaply constructed. As these were designed then being produced for actual “your life may depend on this” kind of use, the focus was on performance and reliability.

Eyecups and Filter Accommodation: the thread-on eye cups provided with all issued Mark XLIV binoculars are cylindrical in shape and are hard, made of Bakelite, with an overall depth from eye lens to top of ¼ inch (6.3mm).

In a move to standardize interchangeability of accessories, most makers of U.S. Navy general purpose binoculars adopted these same eyecups. Indeed most eyepieces and eyecups were interchangeable between many Mark and Mod binocular models. The eyecups of the Mark XLIV binocular too are made to accommodate snap-on Neutral Density filters, dark green tinted glass held in a metal housing with three flexible tabs; these filters cut glare and reduce fatigue over long periods on watch during the day for example. Some binocular sets included these and or polarizing filters, the binocular carry case typically incorporating a pouch inside the lid of the case made to accept the filters.
filters top and bottom view
Above: eyepiece snap-on filters, top and bottom view
filters stacked for storage
Above: eyepiece filters, stacked for storage
green color tone of filter
Above: N.D. eyepiece filter color tone

Above: U.S. Navy issue dark green color Neutral Density filters, one for each eyepiece (122375, 130817 and 101970 bytes).
From exhibit at Company Seven.

The eyecups can be removed by threading them off and this allows other interface rings to be attaching in place of the eyecup to accept optional polarizing filters, flexible rubber winged eye guards, or for extended observing sessions an entire padded face rest or Baker shield.

The Mark XLIV binocular eye lens clear diameter is 15.5mm, and the eye relief is an uncommonly generous 16.8mm; we at Company Seven measured this just to be sure. So given the large 7.1mm diameter Exit Pupil of 7x 50 binoculars that makes them easy to hold aligned to the eyes, and the generous eye relief if the Mark XLIV we can imagine some sailor (more likely an officer) being grateful to have this SARD with which to pass the time on duty.

Standards: since life and death could depend on these binoculars, great effort and expense were paid to insure they provided every optical edge, are durable, resistant to shock, and water resistant. The Navy required these and similar 7x 50 binoculars were required to pass several tests including:

  • Shock: the Navy technical manual refers to a post-servicing shock test specifying “it will be dropped from a height of six feet into a sand box filled six inches deep. Then the optical alignment will be rechecked on a collimator”. In terms of usability and optical performance including light transmission, these U.S. Navy binoculars are not bested by any other 7x 50 then in production.

  • Optical Resolution: “objects in the center of the field of view that subtend an angle of 4 seconds of arc shall be clearly resolved. In terms of the test to be made, equal width lines equally spaced 0.018 inches on centers shall be clearly visible as separate and distinct when viewed at 77 feet.”

  • Image Fidelity: performed on special apparatus to evaluate astigmatism and central resolution that might point to optical problems
    (objective lenses, shifted prism or prism cluster, etc.).

  • Waterproof: an underwater pressure test to insure the seals must withstand a pressure of 3 pounds per square inch.

  • Light Transmission: “the binocular shall transmit at least 75 percent of the white light being viewed and that the transmission of the two telescopes shall not differ by more than 3 percent..”.

The Case And Packing: most handheld binoculars made for the civilian and military markets were similarly equipped with a set of accessories including: carry case, a case carry strap, and an adjustable length carry strap for the binocular. The case and straps accompanying most binoculars were made with either a hinged lid or one attached by a flexible flap of leather. The binocular slipped into the carrying case eyepieces end first, the prism housings bearing the load by resting on support blocks built in at either side of the case floor. The lid of a case might have provisions for storing accessories such as neutral density filters, umbral lenses, or polarizing filters.

Binoculars produced for the military during the early years of the war were furnished with a hard leather case and straps, many completed later were sent with a hard synthetic case and straps. Those cases made of molded synthetics, that at first glance would seem to be made of a hard plastic, and accompanied by flexible nylon straps could survive the heat and humidity of the Pacific and other tropics better than leather. These shed rain, are essentially maintenance free, and weigh less than a leather case. The molded cases were also less costly to fabricate than the sewn leather cases. Most large scale manufacturers of binoculars, including B&L, Spencer, and SARD too transitioned from leather to the hard rubber cases. Some companies contracted to provide binoculars had the in-house manufacturing capability to produce the accessories, including leather cases, but setting up a new production line simply to mold cases of rubber was not practical and so these cases were contracted. So some binocular cases made by Hood will bear the Bausch and Lomb or Spencer company logo embossed atop their lid however, all will still bear the HOOD logo and case model designation (B3, B6, B12 for example) embossed at the bottom of the case.

Hood log (48,826 bytes) The company contracted by binocular manufacturers to produce molded cases was the Hood Rubber Products Company, Inc. of East Watertown, Massachusetts. The factory was founded in 1896 by Frederic and Arthur Hood. Hood produced a variety of and rubber and plastic-coated goods including automobile pneumatic tires and rubber tubes, rubber and rubberized footwear, gloves, floor tiles, battery boxes. During World War I Hood also manufactured several models of the Hood rubber boots that were used by French, British, and American armed forces. Hood prospered and grew to become the third largest rubber products company in the USA: their factory became a complex of more than sixty buildings with a combined floor space of more than forty-five acres. In 1929 B.F. Goodyear purchased the company, though the Hood Rubber Company name and logo continued to be used until the late 1950’s. During World War II Hood manufactured bullet-proof fuel cells, de-icers for aircraft, dinghies, plastic helmet liners, aviation boots - and yes cases for binoculars. The factory operated until its closure in 1969.

Cases initially provided by Square D with their binoculars had been made of leather, with the SARD logo was embossed on the exterior of the case lid. The first few thousand or so of the SARD Mark XLIV binoculars delivered to the U.S. Navy were sent with the flap lid leather case and carrying straps. However, later in 1944 Square D transitioned the Mark XLIV case from leather to the hard black rubber, this provided with flexible adjustable length black nylon straps. The set provided with our Mark XLIV is the molded case manufactured by the Hood Rubber Products Company, this case weighs 1 lb. 15 oz. The Hood case employs a flexible rubber rolled loop to fasten the lid to the case, this can fasten the cased onto a belt or a wall hook. In our seventy-two year old example the loop has become quite stiff, so it takes some careful effort to pull back the lid and hold it open while accessing the binocular compartment. The lid is secured by a flexible strap that is permanently attached to the case lid flap, this strap spans down the case front and the slotted end of the strap is fastened onto a brass post at the bottom of the case. Near that post is the Hood factory logo and stamp B6. We have observed another Mark XLIV binocular with a case stamped B3, but so many years later it is difficult to know the meaning of the B codes, or to know if the B3 case was provided with the binocular when new or added later.

After the war was won, 7x 50 binoculars marketed by Square D for the civilian market resumed being furnished with a hard leather case and straps.

The SARD Mark XLIV were provided to the Navy with a pack of desiccant to absorb moisture, both stored in the carry case. The case was wrapped in a brown packing paper and set into the packing carton 11 x 10-¼ x 6-¼inches tall. The case and binocular carry straps were each strap was rolled and the set placed into a manilla envelope (return addressed from Square D, 36-30 Lawrence Street, in Flushing), this was fastened closed and set into the packing carton. The carton was sealed, the Serial Number hand written on the label of the carton. The white paint of the label has mostly flaked away, while the two tones of blue remain perfectly intact. The prominent COATED stamp is also intact.

This carton shows signs at one corner and on the top of having been wet, those and some green oxidation of the carrying case fasteners give that away. Otherwise the carton is in great condition remaining ready to be closed, taped and sent off to war.

Images Of Our Mark XLIV:

SARD Mk 44 Mod 0 top view
Top View
SARD Mk 44 Mod 0 bottom view
Bottom View
SARD Mk 44 packing carton
SARD Mk 44 factory packing carton
SARD Mk 44 Hood case overview
Hood Model B6 Case
SARD Mk 44 Hood case lid view
Hood Model B6 Case side view
SARD Mk 44 Binocular and Case Carry Straps
Binocular and Case Carry Straps

Above: the SARD Mark XLIV 7x 50 binocular shown with the included accessories and with its original packing carton,
just as it arrived at Company Seven in February 2016 for permanent exhibit (yes, we show the carton too).
Click on images to see enlarged views.

Background And Postscript:

Square D Square D is still in business, it was built on the production of electrical equipment. The company was founded by Bryson Dexter Horton and James B. McCarthy in December 1902, the company name was changed to Square D in 1917 as their monogram logo (D in a square box) represented Detroit where their manufacturing plant was on Rivard Street. It was under F.W. Marin’s term as President of Square D that the company commenced making acquisitions that by 1940 would position it to move into the manufacture of aircraft instruments, acquiring Kollsman Instrument Company in 1939. Then in 1940, Square D also purchased the assets of John H. Emmerich Optical Company (a descendant of the late 1800’s importing company F.J. Emmerich & Son), a manufacturer of lenses and prisms formerly at 244 W. 23rd Street, New York City and with a factory nearby in Flushing. By the early 1940’s Square D operated some even divisions in ten factories and with a workforce of about 7,000 people. By 1945 the joint War Department (Army) and Navy Department Board for Production Awards awarded “E” with three stars, their Excellence in Quality award, for contributions to the defeat of the Axis Powers to Square D Co., Kollsman Instrument Division, Elmhurst, Long Island facility with three stars. The awards were earned by only about five percent of war production plants in the US, about half employed less than 500 employees.

Right: North and west sides of the Kollsman factory in Flushing where all or parts of our exhibited SARD 7x50 Mark XLIV Mod. 0 binocular were made.
Mouse-over the image to see the south side of the building that bears “Kollsman Instrument Corporation Optical Department”.
Images taken in 1954 by Wurtz Bros., courtesy Museum of the City of New York, all rights reserved (87,634 bytes and 110,129 bytes).

After World War II Square D resumed normal operations organized around four divisions including Kollsman Instrument Division in Elmhurst, all doing well in manufacturing for all that new construction that followed. Square D even expanding overseas in 1946 acquiring all stock in Square D Canada and setting up new operations overseas, first into Europe then to Asia and South Africa. In 1991 Groupe Schneider S.A., a French electrical equipment company, acquired Square D in a takeover that provided both companies access to larger distribution channels. Square D continues to operate as a subsidiary of Schneider. We expect few people are left at Square D who have any sense of the company’s contributions in World War II.

Kollsman Instrument Company, Inc. was founded in 1928 by Paul Kollsman (1900-1982), a German engineer who had emigrated to the USA in 1923. Prior to, during, and after the war Kollsman was a highly regarded company. In 1928 Mr. Kollsman established his company in a Brooklyn attic, he was then a one-man company. Kollsman first came to prominence for developing the precision aircraft altimeter, it was his second more refined version that debuted on 24 September 1929 at Mitchell Field, Long Island in the first instrument only flight by then Army Lieutenant James Doolittle. By 1932 Kollsman Instrument employed 19 people. E. Otto Kollman (1901-1942), credited by his older brother as a co-founder, rose to become the company Treasurer and Comptroller until retiring in 1940. Kollsman patented hundreds of innovations that went into their manufacturing of aircraft flight management instruments including: Air Speed Indicators, Altimeters, Compasses, Engine gauges, Tachometers and much more. Kollsman Instrument became one of the two largest dedicated developers and manufacturers in their field.

Kollsman Instrument factory, 8008 (later 80-08) 45th Avenue, Elmhurst, NY c. 1938 (95,392 bytes) In 1938 production was relocated to a 70,000 square foot factory complex at 8008 (later 80-08) 45th Avenue, Elmhurst, NY. By 1939 Kollsman employed some 300 people, with a west coast office too in Glendale, California closer to aircraft manufacturing companies. Paul Kollsman sold the company in 1939 for four million dollars, the company becoming the Kollsman Instrument Division of Square D Company in 1940.

Left: Kollsman Instrument headquarters and factory at 8008 45th Avenue, Elmhurst. Image from a 1938 advertisement by Kollsman (95,392 bytes).
Click on image to see enlarged view (95,392 bytes).

The nearby personnel and equipment of the recently acquired Emmerich Optical Division were absorbed into the Kollsman Instrument Division, becoming Kollsman Instrument Optical Department. Bausch & Lomb licensed designs and assisted Kollsman to gear up for the production of binoculars. Given their expertise in the manufacture of precision instruments and the resources of Emmerich too, it was not a stretch for them to produce binoculars; it would be employees of Kollsman and of Emmerich that manufactured the binoculars that bore the SARD trade name and Square D Company labeling.

Kollsman Instrument Co. too had hired learnership employees, paid to learn and gain experience in programs planned to span about two and one half years. After Pearl Harbor, the ramping up of manufacturing resulted in Kollsman announcing in January 1942 they were abandoning their learnership program so they could devote all their machinery and equipment to production to operate 24 hours per day and 7 days per week. To support the round the clock production by 1943 employment at Kollsman topped 5,000 people, these operating in several facilities that had expanded to encompass some 440,000 square feet. The factory on 48th Street in Flushing bore “Kollsman Instrument Optical Department” name, prominently visible from the adjoining railroad tracks. This also explains how these may bear the origin of Elmhurst or Flushing, New York. By 1945 the Board for Production Awards had awarded “E” with two stars to Square D Co., Kollsman Instrument Division, Flushing Plant, Flushing with two stars, where optical instruments were produced.

Kollsman Instrument SARD Sportsman 6x 20 binocular advertised in 18 December 1948 issue of The New Yorker Magazine (149,413 bytes) After the war the company continued production of aircraft instruments for the military and commercial aircraft markets, but also expanded into civil aviation with their more economical Scout line of instruments. Kollsman dabbled in the sales of binoculars for the consumer market, likely trying to sell off stocks of wartime production optics.

Right: advertisement bearing the SARD trade name for Kollsman Instrument “Sard Sportsman” compact 6x 20 binocular, 18 December 1948 issue of The New Yorker Magazine. Soon after the war these were advertised as selling for $165, but by 1949 they were $198; consider that was about 5% of an average annual income while an average monthly house payment was about $80.

These binoculars bear the same stylized SARD (left) and 7x 50 (right) markings as were on the military Mark 21 and on the Mark XLIV binoculars. However, the right prism cover does not bear any U.S. Navy markings nor the symbol and serial number, instead their serial number is on the bridge post forward cover. The left prism cover prominently displays:

PRODUCT OF
SQUARE D COMPANY
FLUSHING NEW YORK
KOLLSMAN INSTRUMENT
DIVISION

Kollsman Instrument set up a wholesale distribution chain, so the SARD binoculars could be purchased at a number of retail stores. To support the retailers SARD binoculars were advertised in boating, outdoor, and other publications. To establish even more of a presence in the marketplace and sell some inventory, Kollsman Instrument negotiated with Abercrombie & Fitch Co. of New York, a showroom and catalog based sporting goods company whose flagship store was on Madison Avenue, to produce the 7x 50 model bearing the company name. These binoculars bear the Kollsman Instrument labeling (depicted above) on their left prism cover, while the right prism cover bears the traditional 7x 50 labeling and ABERCROMBIE & FITCH CO. NEW YORK.

Square D marketed their SARD 7x 50 Marine Binocular for the civilian market as fully coated and complete with leather case and carry strap; by mid 1949 this set was selling for $195, and by November 1950 the price had nudged up to $198. As late as Christmas of 1950 the SARD 7x 50 could still be ordered; this is shown in the “Gifts for the Skipper and Crew” feature of Motor Boating Magazine December 1950 issue unfortunately that was likely among the last advertising, if not the last, appearance of the SARD trade name. At the conclusion of 1950, as Kollsman was being sold, the SARD binocular production and their marketing efforts were terminated.

In December 1950 the relationship with Square D ended when Kollsman was sold for about five million dollars to Standard Coil Products Co. Inc. It became the subsidiary Kollsman Instrument Corporation, remaining at 80-08 45th Avenue in Elmhurst and operating under Victor E. Carbonara (1876-1975), their President whom had headed the Division for ten years under Square D. The sale allowed Square D “substantial funds for further expansion of its electrical divisions”. Standard Coil was a manufacturer of UHF and VHF bands TV tuners who would come to supply most major makers of televisions over the next dozen years or so, and at the time of the acquisition they also made parts for the F-86 Sabre Jet. Kollsman continued to be so important and innovative a portion of the company that by 1960 the parent company had been renamed Standard Kollsman Industries, Inc. based in Melrose Park, IL.

In 1951 the assets of what had been left of the John H. Emmerich Optical Company portion were sold to another company that remained involved in making reticles, windows, and prisms based in Elmhurst, New York. There would be no more products made bearing the SARD trade name.

In 1968 Sundstrand Corporation entered into negotiations to acquire Standard Kollsman Industries Inc., this ended up in litigation concluded in 1973 ongoing even as SKI had entered into negotiations with Sun Chemical Corp. In 1973 the sale was completed, Standard Kollsman Industries Inc. became owned by Sun Chemical Corporation (later Sequa Corporation) of New York, then relocated to Merrimack, New Hampshire. Sequa sold the subsidiary in December 1999, so Kollsman, Inc. became a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Ltd., an Israel-based international defense electronics company.

Several of the former headquarters and factory buildings of Kollsman Instrument Corporation remain; the buildings between 45th and 47th Avenues in Elmhurst are in what is now a far more cluttered neighborhood than when they were completed in 1938. The formerly light stone exterior of the main building has since been changed, and the building converted to an assisted living facility; if one compares photos of the new and old then some semblance of the original basic buildings H pattern layout can be seen. The building formerly housing the Square D factory facility at 36-30 Lawrence Street in Flushing is still there, in 1969 the street was renamed College Point Boulevard.

Military Binoculars Post War a number of these well proven binocular models continued in production to the end of the war. Soon after World War II ended many military binoculars and spare new parts too were retained in military warehouse stocks, though many more were declared surplus and discarded or made available to the civilian market.

The surrender of Germany in May 1945 resulted in many troops being transferred out of the European Theatre of Operations (ETO), while logistics and production adjusted to focus on the battles to be fought in the Pacific theatre. Allied leadership pondered the casualties and the time it had taken to capture just the 8 square mile island of Iwo Jima; more than one month and about 48,000 killed or wounded on both sides. The next stop was Okinawa and that battle resulted in some 190,000 military and at least 42,000 civilians killed or wounded on both sides over nearly three months. So it was not unreasonable to consider how occupying and pacification of the main islands of Japan was likely to extended the war well into 1946. However, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima then Nagasaki, with some 200,000 or more casualties over time, resulted in a hasty end of the war. The atomic bombings then surrender of Japan in August 1945 had taken the American public, including many manufacturers, by surprise. It would take some time for the men at arms to be gradually discharged, return to civilian life and create demand for consumer goods. Manufacturers were left with a surplus of employees (many plants had operated shifts of workers 24 hours a day and 7 days a week), machinery, factory space, and buildings full of new binocular parts.

Those first few years after the war were likely not kind to companies sitting on stocks of recently produced binoculars and optics. Some of the remaining inventory planned for Uncle Sam was assembled but without military markings and with civilian market labeling, as explained previously in this article. What efforts the manufacturers made to market to a slowly growing consumer segment was met with competition from companies selling government surplus of the same product at a fraction of the cost. Soon after the war new 7x 50 binoculars designed for the military but bearing the SARD trade mark and either “PRODUCT OF SQUARE D CORPORATION FLUSHING NEW YORK KOLLSMAN INSTRUMENT DIVISION” or “KOLLSMAN INSTRUMENT CORPORATION ELMHURST NEW YORK” came onto the consumer market. By 1946 one could buy new stock US government B&L binocular bearing the Mark 28 Mod. 0 designation being sold as surplus for tens of dollars; the sale of war surplus optics continued for years and helped spawn some companies including Edmund. Some models remained in production and would be marketed by the manufacturer directly to the consumer. Late 1945 B&L advertisements show their 7x 50 binocular, based on the Mark 28 and clearly pointing out it’s wartime heritage but rebranded for the consumer market, selling as new merchandise for $162 plus tax. As manufacturers adjusted production and facilities to a post-war economy, many cases of new binoculars and parts were simply discarded to make space. As mentioned above, by 1950 SARD exited the binocular business and they certainly had no desire to keep paying for space to store items they could not sell.

Many World War II era binoculars were retained in service and in reserve by the US government and civil defense agencies, though the variety of Marks supported was reduced to streamline logistics. Many were warehoused until being issued to troops fighting the Korean conflict. By 1951 what SARD 7x50 Mark XLIV binoculars had been issued during World War II were phased out as they came in for repair or service, any new spare stock and repair parts specific to the Mark XLIV were declared surplus. Through the 1950’s the Navy still employed the Mark 28 Mod 0, Mark 32 Mod 7, Mark 39 Mod 1, and the Mark 45 Mod 0; several of these World War II veterans were employed by Uncle Sam even as late as in Vietnam. Throughout the following several decades old stocks of these World War II era binoculars continued to pop up for sale on the market in new or factory/government refurbished condition. To this day many of these continue to provide boaters and amateur astronomers with fine performance, excellent value, and great durability. The World War II production binoculars are not particularly scarce and many remain in use, but it is rarer and rarer to find one in original truly excellent used or like new condition.

Conclusions:

Today the binoculars made for the Nazi military tend to command the highest regard among collectors, and the resale prices reflect that. Often the claims are fantasy; how many people have marketed a German consumer hunting binocular as having been Kriegsmarine or Rommel’s Africa Corps issue? How many Kriegsmarine shore anti-aircraft artillery or tug boat binoculars have been marketed as U-Boat issue? No doubt Nazis made some fine binoculars, they also made a fine 88mm gun - we made dozens of 76’s while they built one 88, we made hundreds of Shermans while Hensoldt built one Tiger I tank, we launched a new ship faster than they could sink them, and so on. So maybe scarcity somehow factors into selling price; a high percentage of Kriegsmarine optics are at the bottom of the sea after all. Or is there simply some perceived aura about that Nazi Eagle and Swastika that gets some collectors juices flowing? Whatever the reasons, to our mind the U.S. made optics rarely garner the respect they deserve.

height=274 The state of the art 7x 50 binoculars of today include the Fujinon 7x 50 FMT-SX, and the Carl Zeiss 7x 50 T B/GA Nautik marine binocular, both are offered by Company Seven and so we are well acquainted with them. If carefully compared then these modern binoculars are in several ways better than those made seventy-two years ago. However, the modern binocular really does not seem to show all that dramatic an improvement over the Mark XLIV, not what we would have expected given all the years they have had to be advanced. Those binoculars of today certainly do not approach the wide field views of those stunning World War II era U.S. Navy Mark 41 7x 50 made by Bausch & Lomb, or the Mark 43 6x 42 by SARD. As one compares the view through a World War II issue U.S. Navy Navy 7x 50 against the best models of today, one appreciates better what a fine accomplishment Bausch & Lomb, SARD, Spencer, and others attained.

Right: U.S. Navy SARD Mark XLIV 7x 50 of World War II alongside today’s state of the art modern Zeiss 7x 50 T* B/GA Marine binocular (35,346 bytes).
Click on image to see enlarged view (103,099 bytes).

But never forget these were built by those of the The Greatest Generation at a time when lives often depended on a binocular, these helped them to win a World War.


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