American Optical History  -

WWII AO Contributions / Support info

Unique WWII Dark adaption goggles for pilots -
Courtesy of the Optical Heritage Museum


AO designed type E-1 dark adaptation goggles for WWII pilots
Jan 2011 photos of rare Optical Heritage Museum sample Goggles

The goggles above were standardized by AO on Mar 11, 1943 and used by pilots and air crew 30 minutes before take-off to adapt their eyes to darkness.
They were called E-1 goggles and were foldable to fit easily in the pockets, where the frames were leathers with colored plastic lenses.

AO Goggles below used to view the Atomic Bomb blasts

Photo of WWII AO Variable Density Googles used to view the Atomic Bomb blasts in Japan.
A dial above the nose

permitted the wearer to adjust the Polarized lenses to vary the density and amount of light to the eye.
Courtesy of Optical Heritage Museum (Dick Whitney Apr 2010 Photo)

The National Geographic Channel will air a program on the Atomic Bomb, and these googles will be shown -
air date : August 17, 2010 at 10PM

More about AO's Variable Density Goggles - 16-Aug-10

PDF of this page from the AO News- Aug 24, 1945

Read Southbridge News May 11, 2010 Article on AO and the Atomic Bomb by Gus Steves

AO Vision 1944 Article on Foxhole support and Goggles New 3-Jun-10 

AO News May 1942 Article on the Mobile Units - Added Nov 28th, 2011 

WWII vintage fighter goggles with prism incorporated for improved optics due to the frame wrap; this design was the result of work by
Dr. Estelle Glancy and Dr. E.D.Tillyer


AO's Anti-reflection coating development / product historical info

WWII Vision Article


Millions of Lenses, Frames, Cases –
Thousands of Optical Instruments in Service on Battle Fronts – Entire Story Cannot be Told

(Approved for publication in AO NEWS by U.S. War and Navy Departments)

Taken from The AO News - Volume 5 (AO Museum Collection)

Friday, June 2, 1944

With millions of lenses, frames, and cases, and many thousands of optical instruments now in use and service on the battlefronts, every AO man and woman can take pride in his part as a necessary cog in the wheel of Victory.  Whether an AO person’s job is in the offices doing clerical work or running a machine, or whether it is in the factories or branches – at a bench or a machine it is important to the production of the staggering quantities of vision equipment which have been and are being delivered to the armed forces.

Military secrecy still must surround much of AO’s war story.  It is nevertheless possible, with a few facts and figures, to give a highlight picture.

18,000,000 Pairs of Lenses

Since Pearl Harbor, AO has supplied the Army, Navy, Air Force, and industrial producers of vital war equipment with more than 18,300,000 pairs of lenses.  This in itself is a production job to boast about and this record was made in a period when skilled manpower was being drafted, new machinery and equipment could not readily be obtained, and when many essential materials were scarce.

More than 1,400,000 pairs of complete corrective prescriptions were individually prepared for the Armed Forces by AO in 1943, over 2,000,000 since Pearl Harbor, a record which indicates the extent to which AO branch laboratories were taxed.  Altogether, AO people delivered to the war effort in excess of 6,500,000 pairs of individually ground and polished spectacle and goggle lenses.  This does not include flat or dropped lenses or millions of pairs of focus lenses used by people in essential war plants.

95% Goggles Go To War

But this lens story is only one phase.  Add to it over 10,000,000 goggle frames and other individual safety products; nearly 5,000,000 pairs of sunglasses; tens of thousands of pieces of ophthalmic testing and refracting equipment used by the Army; plus the AO Army Prescription Serve, and the figures begin to give some appreciation of the magnitude of the task which AO people have successfully accomplished.  In 1943 over 95 percent of AO goggles and safety equipment and practically all sunglass production went to war.

Figures are of little significance, however, when it comes to such projects as the Mobile Optical Units which were designed, equipped and built for the U. S. Army Medical Dept.  An idea presented by the Surgeon General’s staff in Washington in late 1941 became a finished, practical reality in early 1942, largely through the ingenuity, enthusiasm and plain hard work of AO engineers and machinery experts.  Completely equipped units, built around husky G.I. trucks rolled out of Southbridge under their own power, ready to do their job wherever American fighting men needed glasses.

Ahead of Schedule

A later development – portable optical repair units – will enable Army Medical Corpsmen to repair and replace glasses almost literally within sound of front line guns.  AO people will remember a recent letter of congratulations from the Surgeon-General’s office prompted by the delivery of a large quantity of these Portable Repair Units weeks before the Army even expected delivery.

AO has also built and equipped Base Type and Mobile Type Optical Service Units for the Navy, completely stocked with lenses, frames, and cases.

Cases Play Part

Cases made by Casedale people play an important role in AO’s wartime production story.  Most spectacle prescriptions made for Army personnel is delivered with a necessary cases.  Millions of pairs of goggles and sunglasses sent to the Armed Forces are protected by cases of standard and special design.  Several hundred thousand cases were also supplied on Lease-Lend orders and to equip the Mobile Optical units.

Today AO goggles and sunglasses are on land, on the sea, and in the air.  They are improving vision, protecting eyes, and increasing combat efficiency from Iceland and Alaska to England, Italy, and islands of the South Pacific.

Saving Precious Seconds

Special purpose goggles and lenses play a vital part in Navy fire control and spotting.  Absorptive lenses for specialized tasks are saving precious seconds by eliminating glare, and, in general, by making men see better, quicker, when the difference of a few seconds may mean the difference between life and death – even the difference between the success and failure of a mission.

A partial list of AO goggles, spectacles, and sunglasses will show them actively at war in the pilots’ seats of bombers and fighters, behind the machine guns which protect these bombers, behind the sights of anti-aircraft guns, in tanks and behind the guns of tank destroyers.  They are on the ground crews at air fields; protecting the eyes of mountain and ski troops from cold and snow glare, and on desert troops to shield them from dust and sun glare.

Polaroid, with its amazing property of cutting out unwanted glare, is doing active serve on Navy ships protecting lookouts and gunners from the reflected glare of the sea.

Exact Figures Cannot Be Given

These are only the high spots of AO’s complete war program.  To fill in the missing items it would be necessary to list almost the entire machinery and equipment catalog of AO.  Exact delivered quantities of any of these pieces cannot be given for military reasons.  One of these days the figures can and will be made public.  For the present, information must be confined to generalities and totals that only hint at the tremendous volume which has been required to satisfy the needs of the largest Army and Navy this country has ever known.

In 1942 and 1943 AO supplied thousands of instruments to the armed forces.  To meet this requirement AO production was multiplied, in many instances, a hundred fold.

And the end is not yet.  Just as the production of AO people has improved and protected the vision of American fighters in every engagement with the enemy to date, so will AO products made and still being made in Casedale, Lensdale, and the Main Plant be in the thick of the coming invasion of Europe as well as all other fronts of the present and future.


Ad from 1944

AO News 14-Jan-1944

More info on WWII Medical Research center website (includes AO Lensometer / lab photos)

About "Doc Tillyer"

In Memory Of...

May 1945 Tribute to AO Workers killed in WWII

Link to Women in Factory Page- Rev Feb 18, 2011

WWI and AO's support of War effort

Dick Whitney 

Return to AO History Main Page

Return to Whitney Home Page