Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

Maker:
Burton Manufacturing Company  Search this
Physical Description:
plastic (overall material)
glass (overall material)
textile (part: cord material)
Measurements:
overall: 3 in x 5 in x 1/4 in; 7.62 cm x 12.7 cm x .635 cm
Object Name:
emergency signaling mirror
German submarine sunk SS Alcoa Guide 300 miles east of Cape Hatteras:
United States: North Carolina, Cape Hatteras
Date made:
1955-1956
SS Alcoa Guide sank:
1942-04-16
Description:
This signaling mirror was owned by Waldemar Semenov, whose career as a marine engineer aboard American merchant vessels spanned 54 years. He survived torpedo attacks during World War II, including one that sank the SS <I>Alcoa Guide</I> in 1942. Seven Americans lost their lives in the attack.
Signaling mirrors like this were produced in large quantities and issued to military personnel and merchant seamen alike. Small and compact, such mirrors could be used to signal for help over long distances. By aiming the mirror at the sun, the person in distress could signal the reflected flash of light for miles. Numerous improvements were made in the design of the sighting devices and the materials used in the construction of signal mirrors in the 1940s and 1950s. This model was manufactured by the Burton Manufacturing Company, probably in 1955-56.
The following instructions are inscribed on the back of the mirror:
1. Reflect sunlight from mirror onto a nearby surface, raft, hand, etc.
2. Slowly bring mirror up to eye level and look through sighting hole. You will see a bright light spot. This is the aim indicator.
3. Hold mirror close to the eye and slowly turn and so manipulate it that the bright light spot is on the target.
4. Even though no aircraft or ships are in sight, continue sweeping the horizon. Mirror flashes may be seen for many miles, even in hazy weather.
Related event:
Postwar United States  Search this
Related Publication:
On the Water online exhibition
Related Web Publication:
http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthewater
Credit Line:
Gift of Waldemar Semenov
ID Number:
2005.0295.02
Catalog number:
2005.0295.02
Accession number:
2005.0295
See more items in:
Work and Industry: Maritime
Military
On the Water exhibit
Transportation
Exhibition:
On the Water
Exhibition Location:
National Museum of American History
Data Source:
National Museum of American History
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746ab-dc25-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:nmah_1301749