In 1910 the Marine Corps and Army adopted a load-carrying system consisting of haversack, meatcan pouch, pack carrier, cartridge belt, entrenching tool and cover, canteen, canteen cup and cover, battle dressing pouch and other assorted items of equipment. With minor improvements and variations, this was the field equipment that Marines and Soldiers wore in combat during World War I and the years following.
The Marine Corps used a variation of the US Army M1910 field equipment, manufacturing much of its own 782 gear at the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot. When new, this equipment was colored yellowish khaki that faded with use and washing to a sand-like color. But the Marine Corps also bought equipment either attached to Army contracts, or through direct purchase from the Army Quartermaster Department. This equipment generally appeared light olive drab when new, fading to khaki with wear and washing. Army-issued equipment was generally stamped with the letters 'U. S." whereas this stamp was absent from equipment produced for the Corps. Instead, the Corps frequently had its field equipment embossed in ink with the letters 'U.S.M.C.' on the back of flaps, or the inside of belts and packs.
Combat duty, expeditionary service and training revealed many shortcomings in the 1910 pattern pack system. Foremost was the difficulty in getting items out of the haversack. To do this, the Marine had to take off the entire pack, unroll it, get the piece of clothing or equipment he needed, reconfigure the pack, strap it back together and then put it back on his back. Adding to the Marine's pack woes was how the system distributed its weight. In heavy marching order, the weight of blanket roll and personal equipment was centered along the spinal column, pressing in and down uncomfortably. This placed serious strain on the hips, exacerbating fatigue during long hikes and field problems.
The M1910 pack system was made of three components: the haversack, the meatcan pouch and the pack carrier. With these parts and a specified load list of personal items, clothing and equipment, the Marine could configure two different versions of the pack. These were the light marching order and the heavy marching order. Company or battalion headquarters typically specified which order to wear based upon the mission.
Light marching order was worn during field training, in combat and as specified in the plan of the day. This order consisted of the haversack, and meatcan pouch and its integral suspenders were attached to the Marine's cartridge belt to – theoretically – distribute the pack's weight across the hips. Within the haversack were carried the following items: a reserve C-ration, one wash towel, one pair of socks, personal hygiene gear, the poncho and messkit with knife, fork and spoon.
Heavy marching order included all the equipment and clothing needed for field operations and bivouacs. It was called for during the approach march toward the battle area, when moving out to the field for training exercises, conditioning hikes and other periods specified in the plan of the day. Items carried in the pack included: a reserve C-ration, one wash towel, three pairs of socks, one set of skivvies, one shirt and one pair of trousers, personal hygiene gear, the poncho, messkit with knife, fork and spoon, shelter half with tent poles, five tent pins and rope, blanket, and one pair of field shoes.
In 1941 the Marine Corps adopted the M1941 pack system; the world's first truly modular combat load-carrying pack. This system was composed of several pieces compatible with already-existing cartridge and pistol belts. These components were the haversack, knapsack and belt suspenders and with these three items of 782 gear the Marine could structure amd pack his load into any of five separate configurations.
Unfortunately, manufacturing capacity of the new packs could not meet the demands of an ever-expanding Marine Corps at first. Therefore, many units were still wearing the old equipment upon the United States' entry into World War II. The Marine brigades deploying to Iceland and Western Samoa, the Fourth Marine Regiment in the Phillipines; even some of the units that fought on Guadalcanal in the autumn of 1942 found themselves wearing the World War I-era field packs. But the Philadephia Quartermaster Depot and U. S. industry caught up with the urgent need for new gear at a breakneck pace. By the end of 1942, the 1910 pattern pack components were obsolete in the Corps, although in modified form, the same gear continued in use by the US Army through the end of World War II.
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