The U.S. military issued a waterproof match box from World War II until the late 20th century when butane lighters and magnesium fire sticks replaced the use of matches. The small item of individual equipment was provided both separately and as part of survival kits in all the U.S. armed services.
The Waterproof Match Box is typically included in military personnel survival kits, although it may be issued as an item of individual equipment. The matchbox has the simple function of maintaining an emergency supply of dry matches, but it also has a integrally mounted striking bar on the bottom for use in creating sparks when no matches are available.
The matchbox originated before World War II and a number of early types were produced in plastic and metal. The standard waterproof match box originated in a first pattern that included a button compass mounted on the top of the cap (Box, Match, Waterproof, with Compass; Stock No. 74-B-788-50). The second pattern eliminated the compass, but was otherwise the same (Box, Match, Waterproof; Stock No. 74-B-788-40). Each Box, Match, Waterproof was issued in a small cardboard box, printed with nomenclature, contract information, and the manufacturer (eg, Foster Grant).
Following World War II, the waterproof matchbox was retained for supply as:
Specification DLA MIL-B-40042E was cancelled as of 5 Jul 2000, superseded by DLA A-A-59525 14 Dec 1999.
The waterproof matchbox will typically be marked on the bottom, to the sides of the striking bar, with US on one side and the vendor's abbreviation on the other.
Description of the Waterproof Match Box
The screw-capped, cylinder-shaped waterproof matchbox is made of olive drab plastic. It consists of two parts, the body and the screw top. The body has longitudinal grooves and ribs to facilitate a tight grip in wet conditions. A sealing gasket fits inside the screw cap to provide a tight seal when the cap is tightened on the body. On the inside top surface of the cap, a striking disk is glued in place, an abrasive surface for striking safety matches. On the outside bottom of the container there is a striking bar. When struck with the point of a knife, bayonet or other metal, the striking bar produces a spark which will ignite light tinder materials.