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"German Multipurpose Carbide Lantern" from Intelligence Bulletin, June 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on the German carbide lantern was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 10, June 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



An unusual lantern, intended to serve a variety of purposes in the field, is now in use by the German Army. The lantern (see fig. 3) is made almost entirely of plastic, with a few parts made of zinc, aluminum, and glass. It is completely demagnetized. Although it is resistant to all weather conditions, it is less durable than steel or brass, and the Germans admit that it must be handled with care.

The most notable feature of this piece of equipment is its adaptability for different purposes. The principal means of illumination is acetylene gas (carbide), but candles may be substituted. The lantern can be dimmed or completely blacked out by means of zinc screens. There is a special front screen with a slotted slide for lighting reference points. Just above this there is a circular slide, which can be regulated to give varying amounts of light. Zinc side screens may be inserted to darken the sides of the lantern. When not in use, these screens are placed in a pocket at the rear of the lantern. A red or green glass pane can be inserted in the front of the lantern whenever a colored light is desired, as for prearranged signaling.

[Figure 3. German Multipurpose Carbide Lantern.]
Figure 3. German Multipurpose Carbide Lantern.

A spare-parts kit and a plastic container for carbide are issued for each lantern.


The German Army finds many uses for the carbide lantern. In the instruction booklet which accompanies each spare-parts kit, the enemy advises that the lantern be used:

a. For lighting personnel and equipment shelters, including dugouts;

b. For lighting small offices, communications centers, and improvised field stables;

c. For lighting closed vehicles;

d. For reading maps, compasses, and so on;

e. For tunnel work, unless safety lamps are required because of explosive gases (the handle is fitted with a hook for work of this type);

f. For railroad personnel;

g. As a signal lantern for ponton bridge engineers.


a. The round carbide container, which also serves as the lantern's base, should be filled with small lumps of dust-free carbide up to the level of the three flanges on the inside. Then the perforated pressure cover, which is equipped with a spiral spring, is put on (with the spring turned upward). On this spring there is fitted a funnel with a little perforated tube, which points downward. After these preparations, the filled carbide container is screwed firmly into the lantern. It is important to make certain that the rubber washer is in place.

If, after long use, the threads on the carbide container become dry, they should be greased lightly.

b. The setscrew with a drip needle in the center of the zinc water container must be screwed down firmly. The slotted screw cap at one side of the water container is then unscrewed, the water container is filled to the top, and the screw cap is replaced.

c. The setscrew is given a single turn to the left. Gas is produced by the water dripping into the carbide container. This gas seeps evenly through the burner.

d. The flame should be about 1/3 inch high, and should burn/without hissing. If necessary, the setscrew to the water intake should be regulated.

e. One filling of water will allow the lantern to burn for at least 8 hours if the above directions are followed carefully.

f. After use, the parts which have come into contact with carbide must be cleaned. If this is not done, the life and intensity of the flame will be reduced.

g. Before the lantern is stored away, it should be drained of water. The setscrew should be well oiled.


a. If gas leaks between the lantern and the carbide container, it is probable that the rubber washer has not been placed properly on the carbide container or that the container itself has not been screwed tightly into the lantern.

b. If the lantern sputters, the slotted screw on the drip system between the water container and the lantern should be tightened with a screwdriver. This screw has a small rubber washer under it.

c. If the burner is stopped up, it must be cleaned with the special cleaning pin provided for this purpose. Any air leak should be sealed. If a new burner is to be inserted, its threads should be coated with the air-sealing substance carried in the spare-parts kit.


The spare-parts kit contains seven candles, a candle-holding tube with push spring, a candle-holder base plate, four burners, a wooden case with burner cleaning pins, a large rubber washer for the carbide container and two small washers for sealing the drip system, a plastic container filled with an air-sealing preparation, a plastic container filled with "Stauffer" lubricant, a screwdriver, an extra side pane and an extra front pane (both of clear glass), a red front pane, a green front pane, and an instruction booklet.


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