Most U.S. military compasses were issued with some sort of case or a case was a separate item of issue specified for use as a case for the compass. In recent years, the very common LC-1 pouch has had the dual purpose of first aid pouch holding a battle dressing or as a compass case, not at the same time.
Detail from 1942 photo showing Third Army Airborne Infantry officer's cartridge belt with canvas, zippered case for Lensatic Compass. Note the key chain on the zipper tab, issued with this pouch.
Prior to World War II, the Watch Type compass came with no case or with a small cotton bag since it was intended to be carried in a pocket. The M-1938 Compass, Prismatic was supplied with a fine leather case with a top flap that slipped through a loop on the case front and was secured with a snap. The back of the case had a belt loop. These cases were rapidly replaced by combat equipment style canvas early in the war.
At the outset of World War II, there were two styles of canvas case, possibly due to overlap of the M-1938 compass with the first model of the Lensatic Compass, and the wartime need to replace leather with cheaper canvas wherever possible. The first canvas case was rectangular with a top-opening zipper, attached to the cartridge or pistol belt with a strap and M-1910 hooks (see top photo on this page).
Pouch for Lensatic Compass, early World War II.
Hard to read back of dual use case for First Aid Packet (first line of text) or Lensatic Compass (second line of text), 1940s.
The Lensatic Compass then moved to the use of a horizontal style canvas case, very similar to the M1938 first aid pouch, with two lift the dot (LTD) fasteners and an M1910 hook on back (photo, above left). The M-1942 first aid pouch that replaced the M-1938, later became dual use, for the Lensatic Compass or the First Aid Packet, ending the need for a special pouch just for the compass. The canvas pouch was redesignated as either "Pouch, First Aid" or "Pouch, Lensatic Compass" being a size suitable for either use. The M1942 Pouch remained in use until the M1956 equipment change. With dual use, the nomenclature became "Case, First Aid Packet, M-1942 or Case, Lensatic Compass, M-1942" under Army Stock No. 8465-261-4999 (photo, above right).
Suspenders-Mounted Compass Case, M1956 and Forward
When the M1956 equipment was adopted, the dual use case changed to a vertical orientation with a single slide clip (later called ALICE clip or Keeper) on the back. It was marked for use with the Lensatic Compass or a First Aid Dressing. Since most soldiers did not have a compass, it was most generally used for the First Aid Dressing and not the compass. The location designated for the pouch was on the suspenders, freeing up room on the equipment belt for ammunition cases.
When the M1967 equipment was adopted, with nylon replacing canvas for most field gear, the Compass Pouch made the change to nylon, but was otherwise identical to the M1956 design. When the All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment (ALICE) system was introduced in 1977 the "Case, Field First Aid Dressing/Unmounted Magnetic Compass" or "LC-1 Pouch" was part of the system, intended for attachment to the left side of the Individual Equipment Belt Suspenders or to the belt itself, on the right side (photo, left).
Since a compass is a precision instrument, it was typically issued with a suitable protective carrying case or one was available as a separate item of issue. The M-2 Artillery Compass originally used the M-19 Leather Compass Case, featuring a heavy brown leather body, flap over top opening, single black snap closure, with a belt loop on the rear side attached by two black coated rivets. It is stamped "Case, Carrying, M-19". The M-19 leather case was replaced by an olive drab plastic case which is now issued with the M2 Compass. There is a photo of the M2 in the plastic case on the M-2 Artillery Compass page.
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