Combat Uniforms

– Uniforms worn by the 9th Infantry Division men –

About this article:
We all know the pictures of soldiers during World War 2. We have seen footage of men fighting the battles, walking miles and miles to liberate Europe. But what exactly were they wearing? What were they carrying with them? In this article we will have a closer look at the uniform worn by the American Infantry soldier in combat.
PLEASE NOTE: Pictures will be added here SOON!

Service Shoes:
The World War II combat boot design evolved from the service shoes used with leggings. The Model 1939 “Shoes, Service, Composition Sole” was an ankle high shoe/boot made of tanned leather in a dark red color, originally with leather soles, changed to rubber soles after 1940. The same shoe design was modified in early 1943 (called Type III) to reverse the leather (rough side out) and add reinforcing rivets. A simplified version of the Type III shoe was adopted later in 1943 as the “Shoes, Service, Reverse Upper”, different from the earlier service shoes in that it was built a little lower with no toe cap and with nylon laces instead of cotton. The latter two types were the most common service shoes of the war.

In the field, all of the service shoes where worn with leggings that extended the shoe up the calf. The leggings had a strap that looped under the shoe in the space in front of the heel. The leggings were laced up with a series of hooks and grommets. At the start of WW II longer leggings were in use in khaki or light OD shades. By 1944 a shorter, dark OD #7 legging was issued. Most ground troops wore the service shoe-legging combination until late in the war. Service shoes continued in use for garrison wear even after the war.

A World War II soldier received an initial issue of two pairs of shoes which could be resoled twice, then were replaced with a new or rebuilt pair. The replacement rate varied depending on conditions where the shoes were worn, ranging from a year in the US to only five months in the Southwest Pacific.

M38 Leggings:
At the beginning of World War II, the U.S. soldier wore a service shoe with canvas leggings. The leggings were difficult to put on and take off and did not provide much protection. In 1938 the M38 Leggings replaced the old fashioned “puttes”. The leggings were meant to keep water and dirt from coming into the shoes . They were made from khaki colored canvas. On the outside they had eyelets and hooks tightened with a lace . It also had strap on the bottom of the inside which was worn under the sole and hooked to a fastener on the outer side to prevent the leggings from riding up. The trousers were meant to be worn tucked into the Leggings. Getting them on was pretty difficult and took some time, practicing and patience. The introduction of the M43 Combat Boot with it’s cuffs eliminated the need of extra Leggings and was welcomed by the troops.

M43 Combat “Double Buckles” Boot:
This boot was meant to replace both the Service shoes and Jump Boots. It was introduced in late 1943 but it took until late 1944 that the shoe was widely seen in the field. Like the Service Shoe Reverse Upper it was made with flesh out leather. It too had a rubber sole and heel. It had no toe cap. It had a cuff with two buckles (hence the name “Double Buckles”). The introduction of this boot within the Paratroops in mid 1944 stirred some trouble because the Paratroopers were proud of their distinctive Jump Boots. Most combat veterans stuck to their Jump Boots instead of wearing the new M43 Combat Boots. Also still both types of the Service Shoes and M38 Leggings were worn until the end of the war.

M 37 wool trousers
In 1938 wool trousers for enlisted personnel were standardized in olive drab, light shade based on a 1937 pattern. These had conventional side and hip pockets (2 each), a watch pocket, and a button fly. An 18 oz. wool was adopted as optimum for weight, warmth, and ease of production. In 1942 a gas flap was added behind the fly.

M 37 wool shirt
The flannel shirt was standardized in an olive drab coat style and was a fully opening shirt adopted in 1934, with seven buttons down the front and two large chest pockets closed by buttons. During World War II this style was augmented with a convertible collar (i.e. could be buttoned up with a tie or could be worn open) and buttoned gas flaps in the cuffs and inside the front. This special version also included buttons at the back of the collar to attach a gas hood.

M41 Field Jacket:
The M-1941 Field jacket was simply known as the “the OD (Olive Drab) Field Jacket”. Its construction was khaki cotton/poplin with an olive flannel lining. The over all style was like a civilian windbreaker in the Army color. It had a Talon zipper, covered by a buttoned fly up the front. The collar and wrists had button tabs as did the waist.  The M-1941 was widely worn during World War II, even to the end when the M-1943 Field Jacket was the standard issue. It was found to be too light for severe cold conditions, too hot for summer, and did not have good cargo pockets, factors that eventually led to the M-1943 design.

M43 Field Jacket:
Although the M41 Jacket was widely used in World War II, it was not really a satisfactory solution for the soldier. The Field Jacket M-1943 was an integral part of a combat uniform being developed by the War Department based on the layering principle to give great flexibility for conditions encountered in the world-wide war. In 1944 large quantities of the M-1943 (also called the M-43) jacket began to appear in the ETO, after tests by the 3rd Division at Anzio. Paratroopers wore them for Market-Garden and they were widely available to Army units in the Fall of 1944, and thereafter. The M-43 Field Jacket consisted of an olive drab cotton outer shell with layers added inside as more warmth was needed. There was a pile jacket liner for extremely cold areas, while the short wool jacket (the “Ike” jacket) was worn in milder temperatures. An olive drab cotton cap, also designated M-1943, was the head cover and was worn inside the helmet liner when the M-1 helmet system was used. A fur-edged hood was also added as an accessory. The wide-cuff double-buckle combat boots were adopted at the same time.

HBT jacket
In 1938 the U.S. Army introduced cotton HBT (Herring Bone Twill) for summer weight coveralls.The HBT uniform was originally intended to be only for work duty but quickly became the standard dress for all types of informal temperate weather activity, including combat, replacing the cotton khaki uniform. The popular uniform jacket and shirt was made in several styles. The original 1941 pattern jacket (PQD 45) had a button front with lapels, two pleated breast pockets with angle-cut flaps, and adjustments by straps at the waist and buttons on the sleeves. Metal buttons with 13 stars and black paint were used, although plastic buttons for use in hot weather or inside armored vehicles were also issued. It can be identified by two closely spaced buttons at the sewn double hem.

In 1942 another pattern HBT jacket was introduced (PQD 45B), featuring square cut cargo pockets, side pleats, and a plain hem with only one button near the bottom.The 1942 pattern and its later variations are the most common, having been used in Europe and the Pacific for all types of service. The size of these jackets was much larger than the size tag that was sewn into the inside collar. They were meant to be worn over other layers of clothing – for example, the wool shirt could be worn under the HBT jacket for extra warmth in cold weather. If you picked the jacket for your normal size, and wore it alone, you were swimming in it.

HBT Combat Fatigue trousers:
For each of the HBT jackets there is a corresponding pattern of the “Trousers, Herringbone Twill”. The first in 1941 matched the jacket in the style of pocket and metal buttons. The second version had cargo pockets with square cut flaps, like the 45B jacket, and a gas flap.

Overcoat, Wool:
The “Overcoat, Wool, Roll Collar” was first issued in 1939 with brass buttons, similar to a design in use since 1927. It featured an olive drab, double breasted, woolen overcoat made with a convertible roll collar with notched lapels.
This overcoat was issued to every soldier along with his service uniform to provide sufficient warmth for winter campaigns. Although the overcoat had been an essential clothing item in past wars, and was expected to be the same in World War II, the development of more functional clothing, especially the 1943 Field Jacket and other components of the winter combat uniform, made the overcoat obsolete. It was relatively heavy to carry in combat and was often discarded. Although soldiers were seen with the overcoat through the end of the war, it gradually became used for dress wear over the service uniform rather than field gear.

Equipment & Headgear.

M36 Pistol Belt:
Made from heavy cotton webbing this belt featured several rows of eyelets to attach equipment with wire hooks. On the front was a large snap fastener to secure the 1911 Magazine Pouch.The material of the buckles varied from brass to steel. Like all webbing equipment it was produced in various shades of Khaki and later in shades of OD. Meant to be worn by Officers carrying a 1911 Colt or rifleman with a M1 Carbine or SMG (Sub Machine Gun) gunners with a M1 Thompson or M3 Grease Gun.

Belt, Cartridge, cal.30 Dismounted,M23:
Made like the Pistol Belt from heavy webbing and canvas. It had ten pouches, 5 on each side closed with LTD’s (Lift the dot fasteners). Each pouch could hold 2 1903 striper clips or 1 Garand Clip enlboc. It also featured eyelets to attach equipment with wire hooks and suspenders. Issued to rifleman carrying the 1903 Springfield or M1 Garand. Also known as the “Garand Belt”.

Pouch, First Aid Packet, M42:
Small webbing pouch closed with a LTD for carrying the Carlisle dressing in it’s OD or red colored tin box. Due to shortage of material the tin box was later replaced by a cardboard container.The first aid kit also contained the sulfa powder. Each soldier carried one.

Cover, Canteen, Dismounted M10:
Made from Khaki canvas. The inside was lined with wool for insulation.It was attached by a wire hook which was located on the back of the cover to either the pistol belt or the Garand Belt. To secure the canteen in the cover it featured two flaps extending from the back to the front to the LTD fasteners on the front.The Canteen itself was made from either Aluminum or Stainless Steel. It could hold 1 Qt water. The early models had a Aluminum cap while the latter had caps made from plastic. These caps were secured to the Canteen with a small chain. The Cup had the same shape like the Canteen body except that it was a little bit larger so the Canteen could fit into it. The Cup had a fold-able handle. It could hold three cups (24.oz). Cups like Canteens underwent several modifications and were produced from various materials throughout the war.

M43 Entrenchment Tool & Cover:
Prior to WW2 most G.I,’s carried the M10 Intrenching Tool. It had a metal shovel and a wood handle shaft resembling a t, thus the nickname “T-shovel”. A shortened version was available. The cover was made from cotton canvas and was attached to the M24 Haversack or Belt with a wire hook.

M10 Entrenchment Tool & Cover:
The M10 Intrenching Tool saw service throughout the whole war. The more common Intrenching Tool was the M43. It had a wood handle and a folding blade. It could be used as shovel or pick axe. The Cover was made from cotton webbing and featured a flap which was closed with an LTD fastener. It had a wire hook on the back to attach the cover carrying the shovel to either the belt, M28 Haversack, M44/45 Pack and the late version of the M36 Musette Bag.

M28 Haversack:
Made from cotton canvas in Khaki and OD.A backpack like structure. It had shoulder straps and straps to be fastened on the Belt with hooks. It also had two straps on the back to attach to the Belt. It was designed to hold: Shelter half,Poncho, Blanket,personal articles.It had an extra pouch for the Meat can.The flap had two two eyelets on the front of the flap to attach the M10 or M43 Intrenching Tool. It also had two eyelets on the side of the main body to attach the Bayonet.The Haversack was impractical and not very popular.

M36 Musette Bag:
This bag was made from cotton canvas in various shades of Khaki and OD.It had a flap with straps and buckles to close it. It also had small pocket on the left side either closed with a snap or a button Issued to Officers, Armored Infantry and Paratroopers. Not being the standard pack it still was very popular within the troops. It was attached with straps to the M36 Suspenders and was worn like a modern back pack.

Cap, Wool, Knit, M-1941
The Cap, Wool, Knit, M1941 had a short visor and ear flaps that could be turned up against the side of the hat or worn down over the ears as needed for the weather. It was soft and could be folded into a pocket when not needed.

M-1 Steel Helmet
A steel helmet is designed to protect the user from flying fragments of exploded ordnance. By extending further down the sides and back of the wearer’s head and neck, the M-1 was a big improvement over the M-1917A1 helmet. The M1917 model was considered suitable for protecting the top of the head. By removing its brim, by adding side pieces and earpiece, and by incorporating the suspension system into a separate inner liner, the World War II “Army helmet” came into being. The Army M1 steel helmet was standardized on 30 April 1941 and was approved on 9 June 1941. It was of two-piece design with an outer steel shell and a separate inner liner containing the suspension system. The steel outer helmet had a chin strap made of cotton webbing attached using the bail, its only attachment. The chin strap was often left undone (or buckled on the back of the helmet) with the unfounded idea that the force of an explosion could catch the helmet cause injury from the jerk of the chin strap. Although the interior suspension system of the liner was adjustable and would keep the helmet on the soldier’s head even without the chin strap, there were times when an unstrapped soldier would have to hold his helmet on by hand. Commanders had to order the men to fasten their chin straps at all times. The helmets were painted with standard matte finish olive drab paint with shredded cork or sawdust grit mixed in to reduce glare, giving a bumpy finish. Unit insignia and/or individual rank often were painted or glued to both the shell and the liner. Medics had conspicuous Red Cross symbols on their helmets while the Military Police wore white helmets with MP stenciled on or OD helmets with a white stripe and MP letters. Other special services or units had their own colors and markings. Even chromed helmets were used for ceremonial units and parades. Cotton cord camouflage netting was frequently attached to the helmet to hold materials (leaves, branches) that help break up its outline. Helmet nets were issued or made in the unit from large camouflage nets. The Army did not have a standard issue helmet net until the M-1944 helmet net which appeared in Europe in December 1944 or January 1945. The USMC camouflage helmet cover, first worn at Tarawa in late 1943, was made of herringbone twill material printed with a reversible green to brown pattern designed for use in tropical environments.

The M-1 was a popular helmet, worn by all services worldwide from early WW II through Korea and Vietnam, until its replacement in the mid-1980s by the PASGT Kevlar Helmet. Approximately 22 million of the steel helmet shells were manufactured during World War II, along with 33 million helmet liners. In addition to its mission as head protection, the M-1 steel helmet was used for boiling water to make coffee, for cooking and shaving, as an intrenching tool, to bail water from a landing craft, as a hammer, or even as a toilet!