Marines in World War II were issued with a variety of first aid kits to help treat wounds and prevent illnesses and infections. Among these sets was the M2 Individual First Aid Kit, which was the forerunner of all modern multi-purpose individual first aid kits issued to military personnel. It was introduced in 1943 to give frontline troops a simple set of medicines and dressings to treat combat wounds and minor cuts and scrapes. This set was commonly called "the jungle first aid kit," although it had a much broader purpose.
In the Pacific war zone, it quickly became apparent that even the simplest abrasions would quickly become infected under battlefield conditions. Naval medical personnel early in the war were equipped with the M1 Jungle First Aid Kit. This was a unit-level roll-up canvas set containing medical and field sanitation items. Campaigns in the Solomons demonstrated the need for a more effective first aid kit for the individual Marine.
The new first aid kit first became widely available in mid-1944 and was issued to Marines in preparation for the Marianas campaigns. Thereafter, every combat Marine received one of these kits prior to operations. As items were expended from the kits, they were restocked through unit supply channels. The kit was equipped with a standard belt hanger and belt loop to attach onto cartridge and pistol belts and Marines hooked their first aid kits onto their 782 gear in a variety of locations.
Several companies manufactured the canvas pouch for this kit. Pouches were constructed on impregnated canvas in olive drab color. The contents were shipped from medical equipment suppliers and packaged in the pouches prior to issuance. There were variations in the type of contents. In the World War II Gyrene collection is an unissued kit with a pouch manufactured by the Avery Company in 1943. This is the kit shown in the color photographs below.
After World War II, the M2 Individual First Aid Kit remained in service and is still issued to U. S. service personnel in updated form into the modern era.
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