Medical personnel attached to the infantry carried distinctive canvas equipment bags for their medical supplies and instruments. A corpsman / medic could be recognized by their straps and bags just as readily as by the red cross on their armband or helmet.
A trainee at the U.S. Army Medical Field Service school bends over a simulated casualty, Carlisle, PA, February 1943. The corpsman's medical bag is attached to his pistol belt.
Equipment of an Enlisted WW II Medical Corpsman, Private or NCO (February 1943)
In the U.S. Army of World War II, three unarmed soldiers with medical training were attached to each infantry company as well as to other fighting units. They were called "company aid men", "medical corpsmen", or just "medic" or "corpsman". Their mission was to move with the unit into battle, to administer first aid when casualties occur. The medic would put a tag on the bayonet of the casualty for the litter bearers to find. The medic's supplies were carried in a special pouch issued for that purpose.
The medical organization included non-commissioned officers (NCO) and officers with more specialized duties who also carried the medical pouch, although with different contents. Typically, the Medical Corpsman (a private or NCO) carried two pouches while an officer carried only one. The pouch itself was the same, with contents depending on the corpsman's or officer's mission. The pouch had a laced bottom. If the laces were opened the bag volume was almost doubled so additional supplies could be carried.
The medical suspenders were also employed to help support the weight of a casualty litter (stretcher) when carried by two men, one at each end. Special litter straps were availabe to loop over the litter pole ends and attach to the suspenders. Since the litter strap had a hook on each end, it could also be used as a shoulder strap to carry a medical pouch.
Early pouches had leather closure straps and were in khaki canvas. Later pouches (and related straps, suspenders) were in olive drab with any leather replaced by web straps.
Medical Private's Pouch
The World War II Medical Corpsman Private was equipped with a pair of canvas bags supported by broad suspenders. The enlisted corpsman attached his two bags with clips to his M1936 pistol belt, one on each side at the waist. The belt was in turn supported by the medical suspenders. Other arrangements were possible: two straps were supplied to connect the bags at waist level. They could then be hung directly from the suspenders without a pistol belt. The bags could also be worn with a shoulder strap, crossed to the opposite shoulder. The "Kit, Medical, Private's" was assigned Medical Department Item No. 9712000, including the carrying bags, straps, suspenders, and contents. The similar "Kit, Medical, Non-commissioned Officer's" was Item No. 9711000.
The standard enlisted infantry medic carried several different types of bandages (Carlisle dressings, triangular bandages etc.), safety pins, emergency medical tags for identification of wounded, scissors, adhesive tape, thermometer, iodine swabs, tourniquet and aromatic spirits.
The Medical Officer's Pouch
Equipment of a WW II Medical Corpsman, Officer (February 1943)
The officer's single bag was carried on a shoulder strap in the same way as the M1936 musette bag. The officer's pouch carried a surgical kit and instruments, iodine swabs, sterilizer, pill boxes, hypodermic case, diagnosis tags, adhesive tape, hypodermic needles, medicine vials, tourniquet, safety pins, and gauze bandages. The "Kit, Medical Officer's" was assigned Medical Department Item No. 9711500, including the single bag, straps, and contents.
Kits with different contents, inserted into the same pouch, were issued for Dental, Parachutist, Veterinary, and other specialties. In many cases the specialty kits had separate versions for Privates, NOCs, and Officers.
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