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MARK R. HENRY, MIKE CHAPPELL
The GI used 'improved M1910' webbing accoutrements throughout the war, these incorporating various improvements made since that date. Early war webbing was khaki to light green in colour, and much of it still bore World War I manufacture dates. As the war went on webbing gear was produced in a steadily darker OD green. Though metal snaps (press studs) were used on webbing items the most common fasteners were the so-called 'lift-the-dot' (hereafter, LTD) closures; these featured a sprung collar engaging with the neck of a raised stud, and functioned better when cold, muddy fingers were fumbling to open or close pouches. Webbing field gear was usually ink-stamped 'US'; it was produced by numerous manufacturers, and their stamped company names and dates were usually to be found inside a pocket or on the back. Various items like canteens, bayonets and aid pouches were hung by hooks from the many black metal eyelets along the edge of the webbing belts. By 1944 the QM started chemically treating all canvas gear to slow the rotting process common in the Pacific.
The basis of the rifleman's harness throughout World War II was the M1910/23/36 series cartridge belt; this had two five-pocket sections, each pocket holding two five-round steel stripper clips for the 03 rifle or an eight-round clip for the M1 Garand. Limited numbers of the M1938 12-pocket belt were also issued. Cavalry pattern M1910 cartridge belts were also used, and can be identified by a missing pouch on the left front. Additional expendable six-pocket cloth bandoleers (holding 60 rounds or six Garand clips) were issued to riflemen as they went forward into the line; a knot was tied in the cloth strap to adjust it.
The plain webbing M1912/36 pistol belt was intended for GIs who had no need to carry a rifle cartridge belt. Like the latter, the pistol belt had numerous metal eyelets for mounting associated web equipment as well as the M1928 backpack.
For the Thompson sub-machine gun a rarely-seen haversack-style pouch and strap were developed to hold a single drum magazine. A five-pocket pouch set with LTD fasteners was quickly issued for use with the 20-round box magazine, to be worn on the pistol belt. A three-pocket (LTD) pouch was available very late in the war for the 30-round magazines of the Thompson and M3 'greasegun'. A narrow haversack-type pouch for 30-round magazines was also available in the ETO.
Corregidor, February 1945: the airborne landing by the 503rd PIR was supported by an RCT from the 24th Division landed from the sea. The island was garrisoned by some 5,000 Japanese, mostly ensconced in massive tunnels; this 24th Division .30cal machine gun team watch over a damaged tunnel exit (the majority of the Japanese accidentally blew themselves up in two attempts to sortie out). Note, right, the characteristic method of carrying the basic first aid pouch hooked below the bigger jungle kit.
The M1937 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) belt had six BAR pockets each holding two 20-round magazines. Older belts of World War I manufacture were used early in the war, and many were retro-modified by the addition of a sixth pocket and the now standard smaller 3in bronze/steel belt buckle. A three-pocket bandoleer-style BAR pouch set was also made.
The M1936 web suspenders could be worn with any of the web belts to help distribute the weight of the belt order, but were initially issued only to officers for use with their M1936 'musette' bag. Simplified M1944 suspenders were issued late in the war. The notorious M1910/28 haversack (backpack) was overly complex when fully loaded, and an 'awkward carry'; being supported by suspenders rather than complete shoulder straps, it could only be worn in conjunction with the cartridge/pistol belt. In the assault it was packed much lighter and smaller. Unfortunately, to get something out of the pack it had to be laid out and fully opened. A blanket was carried by GIs rolled in a canvas shelter-half either in the lower pack section, or more commonly fastened horseshoe-style around the outside. As generally disliked as it was, the M1928 stayed in regular service throughout the war.
The M1943 jungle pack was the first issue replacement for the old M1928; essentially a long bag, it had integral shoulderstraps that allowed it to be worn without hooking it to a belt. It was made in both green canvas and camouflage pattern. GIs liked it, but it was never put into full mass production. The shortcomings of the M1928 were finally addressed in the M1944/1945 field packs. These very similar designs had two components - an upper field pack and suspenders, with straps for the attachment of a lower cargo valise, which could be left behind when going into combat. Made of dark green canvas, the M1944/1945 packs saw only limited issue before VJ-Day.
The M1936 field or 'musette' bag was normally used as a haversack (as was the M1943 gasmask bag). Officially an officer's item, it was also commonly used as a backpack by connecting the two carrying strap hooks to the D-rings on the front of the M1936 suspenders.
The canvas shelter-half was usually carried wrapped around a blanket horseshoe or folded within the pack. As with most 'pup' tents, this canvas sheet buttoned together with a partner's half to form a low two-man tent. Four wooden tent pegs, rope and a wooden tent pole were included in the set. Ponchos could also be snapped together to form a shelter. In the Pacific, a well- liked hammock was issued in 1944; unfortunately, GIs in the front line obviously could not expose themselves above ground to use it - and it proved to have a limited lifespan of only about 45 days, due to rot.
The long M1905/1942 bayonets were carried on the left side of the pack or belt; the common 10in (25.4cm) M1 bayonet was usually carried on the belt in a scabbard of laminated green plastic. The old M1910 'T-handle' or the M1943 'E-tool' (entrenching tool) had canvas covers which could be hooked to (he belt or the back of the pack. The M1908/1938 wirecutters were carried on the belt in a LTD open-top pouch.
Ulithi Island, Carolines, 1944: an officer and men from the 81st Division disembark. The carbine-armed officer carries an entrenching tool, a long M1 bayonet, two canteens, a large jungle aid pouch and a first aid bandage pouch hooked to his rifle cartridge belt, supported by M1936 suspenders, and a slung haversack. The radioman has an SCR 300; and note the two nozzles of the inflatable lifebelt worn by the right hand man. Issued in 1943, the jungle first aid kit consisted of a field dressing, insect repellent, iodine, petrolatum (burn ointment), a tourniquet and some bandaids.
A large multi-purpose haversack-style canvas ammunition bag was produced in 1943; this could hold a metal ammunition can (e.g. 250 rounds for the .30cal machine gun), multiple grenades or rifle grenades In 1944 special three- and two-pocket grenade pouches were issued, each pocket holding two grenades. These unpopular items hooked to hang below the web belt, with tie-down leg tapes.