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U.S. Army Packboard

During World War II the U.S. Army developed the packboard in response to the need for a general purpose loading system for carrying bulky loads in terrain where wheeled transport could not reach. Packboards had been in use in northern parts of North American for many years and there were many types to examine. A number of designs were tested with emphasis on something that would work for Alpine troops on skis. The "Yukon" design was chosen and refined for Army use.

U.S. Army Soldiers with Packboards, Futa, Italy, 1944
U.S. Army Soldiers with Packboards.
Futa, Italy 1944.

Today in WW II: 20 Apr 1945 Northern Italy: US 5th Army breaks out beyond the Apennines, into the broad Po River Valley, forcing retreat across the Po by forces of German Gen. Heinrich Von Vietinghoff.   

The Yukon Packboard

Yukon Packboard

The Yukon packboard as approved for issue consisted of two narrow wooden uprights across which were fitted close-fitting slats to form a solid surface to support the load. Lashing hooks were placed along the sides, to accomodate loads of varying size and shapes. The board was carried by web shoulder straps fastened near the top. Add-on shoulder pads were available to slip over the straps to make them more comfortable. A canvas strip was between the uprights, toward the body. This kept the board the width of the uprights away from the back, allowing ventilation. The tightly stretched canvas also presented a resiliant surface and prevented chafing.

The Yukon packboard was found to be generally satisfactory except for its seven pound weight.

The Plywood Packboard

A Marine guides a work detail of South Korean carriers, carrying .50 cal. M2 ammo boxes and water in jerry cans on plywood packboards to the front lines, circa 1950
A Marine guides a work detail of South Korean carriers, carrying .50 cal. M2 ammo boxes and water in jerry cans on plywood packboards to the front lines, circa 1950.

Drawing of the plywood packboard with cargo shelf and quick release strap.
Drawing of the plywood packboard with cargo shelf and quick release strap.

Experimentation continued and resulted in a new design that weighed only four pounds. The new packboard consisted of a curved plywood body in broad U shape, with canvas laced across the opening of the U on the body-facing side. The plywood shape was formed in a mold with synthetic resin glue under heat and pressure. It had three openings plus the top where shelf extensions could be clipped in place. One inch web straps with quick release buckles were provided or parachute cord could be used for lashing loads. Adjustable webbing shoulder straps, with optional pads, were used to carry the packboard.

Soldier of the Tenth Mountain Div. uses his packboard canvas side as a table, Italy, 1945
Soldier of the Tenth Mountain Div. uses his packboard canvas side as a table, Italy, 1945.

The packboard shelf was sized and spaced so three ammo cans could be carried or a single shelf clipped on the bottom rung could be used to carry a jerry can or large item such as one component of a mortar or machine gun.

Attachment, Packboard, Plywood Shelf Section
Attachment, Packboard, Plywood Shelf Section. Photo courtesy of Santiago Hinojal, eBay seller Santis-Depot.

Attachment, Packboard, Plywood Shelf Section Markings
Attachment, Packboard, Plywood Shelf Section -- close up of markings. Photo courtesy of Santiago Hinojal, eBay seller Santis-Depot.

This design was widely used from World War II through Vietnam, not just for mountain troops but for general use in all services with ground operations, including Special Forces.

A full scan of an original instruction sheet for the plywood packboard is available just below. These pages show how to use the packboard for general cargo and show examples of packing ammo, machine guns, mortar componants, and more. The photo on the right shows an M-1919A4 Browning Machine Gun lashed to a plywood packboard.

Find More Information on the Internet

There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.

For good results, try entering this: army packboard. Then click the Search button.

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