If you own a TL-122-B flashlight, chances are you noticed white residue on the olive drab plastic body. Maybe you even tried to wipe it off, only to find that after a while this white sheen reappears. What causes this?
The TL-122-B was replaced by the TL-122C and later the TL-122D because of the problems it had with a wax build-up on its surface and a bad smell.
Dan Navarro contacted me because he was doing some research on one of the four manufacturers of the TL-122-B, the Gits Molding Company. Gits made small portable chess sets during the war. It appears they used the same plastic material to make the flashlights. The chess sets had similar results. See photo showing an affected chess piece and one cleaned up.
Dan and I exchanged some thoughts about this, and I also asked my son, our scientist in residence. The white residue is probably paraffin wax. For injection molding in the 1940s, e.g. for flashlights, it was used to easily separate the molds from the plastic.
We are not sure though, why the white residue reappears a while after wiping it off. Probably because of the excess use of paraffin, followed by long exposure to heat or sunlight.
Dan’s understanding from the literature on the internet is that the U.S. government had the four contractors re-configure the formula to eliminate the problem with the flashlights. Most likely they substituted another chemical that performed the same function as the paraffin but without the bad effects.
So, for collectors of Gits flashlights and chess sets from 1942, we will just have to give them all a nice cleaning every two or three years to keep them presentable, or to leave them untouched.