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U.S. Soldier's Web Gear: World War II

Warrant Officer J. W. Yamanoto, Denver, CO, a member of the Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Regiment, before embarking from Pier 2, Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, VA, 1 May 1944
Warrant Officer J. W. Yamanoto, Denver, CO, a member of the Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Regiment, before embarking from Pier 2, Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, VA, 1 May 1944.

Today in WW II: 23 Aug 1939 Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia sign a mutual non-aggression pact [Ribbentrop-Molotov Agreement] with secret clauses giving the Soviets access to the Baltic states.  More 
23 Aug 1944 Following overthrow of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu, Romania repudiates the Axis and joins the fight against Germany, cooperating with the Soviet Union.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

World War II Web Gear Colors

Every soldier had web gear, in the form of cartridge and pistol belts, suspenders, and the bags, pouches and packs that he carried.

Webbing Colors: Left: Khaki, Center: OD #3, Right: OD #7
Webbing Colors: Left: Khaki, Center: OD #3, Right: OD #7.

Before World War II all U.S. web gear issued to Army units (or units using Army-spec equipment) was in Olive Drab #9, commonly but unofficially called khaki. This tan/sand color was used not only for webbing, but for uniforms, tents, truck tarps, etc. pretty much across the board. There were many exceptions, of course, in the vast array of Army procurement, but generally the color was khaki.

This pre-war equipment was still in inventory when World War II started for the U.S. and it continued to be produced until at least 1943. You can find examples of the First Aid Pouch for the Carlisle bandage such as the one on the left with date stamps in the 1940s. But a new color was introduced at the start of the war: Olive Drab #3, the light greenish shade of the center pouch. Starting in 1943 new equipment was introduced, as well as clothing, in the darker shade Olive Drab #7, seen in the example pouch on the right.

The U.S. military was very slow and uneven to introduce these color changes, and equipment updates that went with them. Late in World War II you could find groups equipped with all the new gear in OD #7, with all khaki gear, or mostly random mixtures as determined by chance supply irregularities. Manufacturing was also uneven as supplies of old fabrics were used up. Transitional items can still be found with a body of one color and trim pieces of another. Even new-pattern equipment like the M-1943 intrenching tool covers were made in older khaki or OD #3 canvas or webbing.

U.S. Army Web Gear and Personal Equipment: Basics

Three views of soldier with 1941 M-1928 Pack

In 1910 the U.S. Army Infantry Board developed its first standard set of soldier's equipment, designed to distribute the weight of the equipment around the body. Made of khaki webbing and canvas duck, this basic system had an equipment belt (cartridge or pistol), supported by suspenders that clipped to the belt on each side of the front buckle and in the middle of the back. The M-1910 Haversack (pack) and straps could take the place of the suspenders. The M-1910 designs were upgraded many times while retaining their general design and purpose.

For the M-1928 pack, a minor change to the M-1910 pack, the suspenders were attached to the pack as you can see in the drawing of a 1941 soldier and his equipment to the left. Separate M-1936 suspenders were attached to the cartridge belt (without the pack).

Other equipment (First Aid Pouch, bayonet, canteen, intrenching tool, etc.) clipped onto the belt or to the suspenders. The attachment system was the same for all items: the belts (and also tabs on the packs) had evenly spaced metal grommets. Two adjacent grommets could be used to attach the metal hook on the accessory item. This M-1910 hook fastener/grommet system was used universally (with U.S. forces) from its adoption in 1910 until the M1956 Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment was adopted with its slide fasteners, later used with ALICE packs and related equipment.

Early pre-war equipment had snap fasteners, but long before World War II most standard equipment utilized LTD (Lift the Dot) fasteners. The LTD system can be seen on the First Air Pouches above, and also on canteen covers and most other equipment (but not clothing and certain bags that used snaps or buttons).

The material used was cotton webbing and canvas, with heavier patches of the same material or leather for wear points. LTD's. buckles or snaps were typically brass with a non-reflective coating.

Belt, Cartridge, Cal .30, Dismounted, M-1923

M-1923 Cartridge Belt w/M1 Garand clip
M-1923 Cartridge Belt w/M1 Garand clip.

The Model 1923 cartridge belt was adopted when stocks of the M-1910 belt were exhausted after World War I, designed as part of the infantryman's load carrying system, anchoring the M-1910 haversack and later the M-1928 infantry pack. It provided ten pockets for clips of .30-caliber ammunition for the M-1903 Springfield, M-1917 Enfield, and later M1 Gerand rifle. The M-1903 and M-1917 rifles using 5 round stripper clips (two per pocket, total of 100 rounds) while the M1 Garand used a single eight shot clip per pocket (total 80 rounds).

M-1936 Pistol Belt

M-1936 Pistol Belt

The M-1936 Pistol Belt was a slight modification of the M-1912 with a more secure buckle. This basic belt is still in use, although changed to nylon material in the Vietnam War era. "US" was marked on the outside of belt, manufacturer and date on inside. The photo below, left was taken in 1965 in Vietnam, before the nylon version was phased in.

M-1936 Pistol Belt

The pistol belt was intended for soldiers who were not riflemen such as officers or crews of tanks or other equipment. On left side, between first two sets of grommets, was a large snap fastener. This mated with snap on the .45 cal automatic pistol magazine pouch (Pocket, Magazine, Web, M-1923 or M-1918) which slipped over the pistol belt with a loop of webbing on the back. For garrison duty, a pistol holster (Holster, .45 Automatic, M-1916 attached with hook fastener, made of tan/brown leather) and the web magazine pouch for two magazines might be all that was attached to the belt. In the field, at least a canteen and a first aid pouch were added. Many other items were optionally attached to the pistol belt.

Combat Suspenders

The pistol or cartridge belt could be worn alone, but were designed to be used by attachment to an M-1928 pack or to suspenders. The Suspenders, Belt, M-1936 were in common use in World War II, later replaced by the M-1943 updated model. Suspenders attached to the belt with snap hooks front and rear, to transfer weight to the shoulders and to keep the load in proper position. The USMC had similar suspenders designated M-1941 along with their M-1941 pack system.

The M1944/45 field packs were issued with a new suspender system, the M-1944 Combat Suspenders. These packs and suspenders were in the dark OD #7 shade.

Pouch, First Aid Packet, M-1942

One of the most common items of web gear is the Pouch, First Aid Packet (see photo at top) in M-1910, M-1924, or M-1942 designs, all very similar. The early pouch was smaller and had two snaps, later changed to a larger pouch with single LTD closure, all designed to hold the Bandage, Carlisle, 1 each. The Carlisle Dressing was originally packed in an OD metal box but can be found in red boxes. Later, the box was replaced by paper packaging. Designated 'First Aid Packet US Gov't Carlisle Model' this bandage was impregnated with sulfa and was large enough to handle almost any wound. All soldiers carried one.

The M-1942 pouch continued in use for many years, and was redesignated as either "Pouch, First Aid" or "Pouch, Lensatic Compass" being a size suitable for either use. It was finally replaced by the now common LC-1 pouch.

Cover, Canteen M-1910, M-1917 or M-1941

The web canteen cover held the canteen and canteen cup for most World War II soldiers. The design originated in 1910 is still basically in use today, although many details have changed. Dismounted covers attached directly to the belt with the wire hooks, while Mounted covers attached to a T-strap that hung from saddle gear. A T-hanger was available that converts a regular canteen cover to a cavalry model, with a snap hook and 2 hole tab. For more on the canteen and cover, go to U.S. Army Soldier's Gear: Canteen.

Intrenching Tool Cover

Most soldiers carried an intrenching tool and the whole story is on this page of Olive-Drab: U.S. Army Soldier's Gear: Intrenching Tool. The Intrenching Tool cover (or carrier) was attached to the belt or pack.

Other Web Gear and Bags

One item of web gear that did not attach to the belt, pack, or suspenders was the Pocket, Magazine, Double, Web, Carbine, Cal .30, M-1 (for M1 Carbine magazines). That pouch holds two 15-Round magazines for the carbine, but, unlike the .45 automatic pistol magazine pouch, the carbine pouch slips over the stock of the weapon, held on with two loops on back. The same loops can be used to slip over a belt but there is no snap to hold it in position.

There is an endless list of other items that were made to attach to the belts, suspenders or packs of the World War II soldier. Troops with special duties had special tools with their carriers or bags. Officers had equipment different from enlisted men. The USMC, Navy, Air Corps, Mountain Troops and so on had variations or specialties. To get photos and information on many of these items, a good source is eBay where on any day you can find thousands of items on auction from this category.

Three common items are:

  • Gas mask bag. Most soldiers were issued a gas mask in a canvas bag marked with US and the Chemical Corps symbol, carried by an over-the-shoulder strap, as seen in the top photo on the page which shows the M6 Gas Mask Carrier
  • Pouch, Barbed Wire Cutter, M-1938 (for Barbed Wire Cutter, M-1938)
  • Three Compartment Grenade Pouches, late World War II (OD #7) LTD fasteners (2 per pocket), leg strap

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 web gear. Then click the Search button.

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