Raincoats were the standard U.S. Army raingear prior to and early in World War II. During the war, the poncho was introduced by the Marines then adopted by the Army as a less expensive alternative to the raincoat.
Army Enlisted Mans Raincoat: Raincoat, Synthetic Resin Coated, OD, Dismounted (1942).
Raincoats were issued to U.S. Army enlisted men as a regular part of their field gear. In 1938 the rubberized fabric raincoat was standardized, replacing the previous oil treated fabric raincoat. This raincoat was replaced after a few years by a new synthetic matierial raincoat developed in cooperation with Goodrich Co. based on their Koroseal synthetic. After 1942, the synthetic raincoat was supplied during World War II although the fabric raincoat continued to be found in use.
The design of the raincoat was a five button, straight front coat with two pockets that opened to the inside so the wearer could reach into clothing pockets while wearing the raincoat. Both regular and raglan sleeve designs were produced.
Ponchos in World War II
Resin coated poncho
Two types of poncho were produced for Army use during World War II. In July 1942 ponchos were made for Army testing using a pattern already in use by the USMC. The poncho was deemed less desirable than the synthetic raincoat since it was harder to reach a gas mask or cartridge belt under the poncho than the raincoat while the raincoat was at least as good as the poncho in keeping dry. Nonetheless, wartime shortages of materials led to procurement of synthetic resin-coated ponchos because it was simpler and cheaper to make than raincoats, although rather heavy. (Photo to the left is the resin coated poncho.)
U.S. Army Lightweight Poncho.
Looking for a lighter material, a synthetic coated aircraft nylon poncho was developed and went through several designs before being deemed satisfactory for field use when made with rip-stop material. In November of 1943 a lot of 100 ponchos were sent to troops in the Pacific for evaluation and reports were good. Early in 1944 the nylon design was standardized as the "Lightweight Poncho", seen in the photo to the right.
The nylon poncho was 1 pound 13 oz. lighter than the coated cotton model, a very significant advantage. The poncho was 66 inches wide and 90 inches long. It was made like a Mexican serape, with a neck opening that was closed by a drawstring that closed with a rubber keeper to prevent rain from running down the neck. Unlike later ponchos, it did not have a hood. Double snap fasteners down both sides could be pushed together to form sleeves. They could also be used to join seveal ponchos together to form a tent with the idea that the poncho could replace both the raincoat and the shelter half.
Lightweight nylon poncho rigged as a tent, World War II photo.
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