Let’s take a look at how load carriage changed in the last century. This is not an exhaustive list as entire books have been written about each period but a representation of a basic rifleman’s equipment through the years. The equipment pictured is also the basic “textbook” set up as to try to show all the different variations would be tedious.
WWI – M1910
In World War I the main model of equipment was the M1910 pattern. And in the case of the Marines the M1912. Although the M1912 is essentially just a variation of the M1910. The equipment was centered around the cartridge belt. The belt, and to a lessor extent the haversack, had eyelets to allow for hanging other pieces of gear from. This did allow for more flexibility than other contemporary systems of the time, but in practice was not used much. The haversacks are quite an unusual design by modern tastes. It consists of four flaps that are folded over each other to hold existence gear. It could be extended with a fold down “tail” to hold more but made for a long pack. The small pouch on the top was for the mess tin and accessories. And even when used in the small configuration small items would need to be rolled inside something like a jacket or poncho to keep them from falling through the folds. I have both the M1917 and M1903 (with their respective bayonets) included as both were used. The M1917 actually far exceeding the M1903 by the end of the war.
WWII – US Army
Why all the model numbers? Well the Army periodically updated different pieces of gear through the interwar years leading to a mishmash of model numbers. The cartridge belt was updated to the M1923 pattern, the haversack was updated to the M1928 pattern, and the first aid pouch was updated to the M1924, later M1942 (pictured), pattern. The canteen cover stayed essentially the same except for some stitching location changes. Even though that is a lot of new models they are still very similar to the earlier M1910 gear. The main differences usually just being buckle and adjustment method changes. This would be the main equipment for the soldiers throughout the war. While functioning the same as the earlier M1910 pattern the use of the haversack in the extend position with the tail down seems to hardly ever be used. It looks like it was more common to make a horseshoe roll with the shelter half around the top. Earlier on the T-Handle shovel and long M1905 bayonet would have been used but in 1944 the shorter M1 bayonet and folding M1943 shovel became more prominent. The shorter M1 Bayonet was typically carrier on the belt instead of the hanger on the haversack as it was too short to reach the keeper.
WWII – US Army
I include this as even though the M1936 pattern gear wasn’t the standard for most infantrymen it saw widespread use during the war. Typically by officers but also by some of the specialty troops like Airborne units. It consisted of the Musette bag, suspenders and pistol belt. The pistol belt was just a tweak on the previous M1912 belt but the bag and suspenders were all new. It was was popular with those who could use one though as it is much more like a modern backpack allowing soldiers to just through there gear in and quickly remove it without having to refold the entire envelope entity like the M1910/28 haversacks. The only downsides being that it does not have a way to expand its capacity and trying to put a bedroll around the top was a finicky procedure. Also the musette only worked with the suspenders. It could not be worn separately. I have the early pattern shovel and magazine pouch mounted and the later versions below them. I included the carbine as it was most often associated with the M1936 gear and also saw a large amount of front line use in WWII as well.
WWII – USMC
In WWII the USMC had a much more unique equipment set from the Army than the nearly identical one of WWI. The haversack was more backpack like and could attach or detach a lower cargo section for extra marching order gear. While initially designed to be integrated with the suspenders an update allowed it to be used as a standalone pack. While per the handbook only one canteen and small first aid kit was allotted that was virtually never the case after the initial battles. I have it displayed here in the typical set up of two second pattern canteens and a jungle first aid kit.
Korean War – US Army
During World War II the Army worked to improve the soldiers equipment. The first pieces of the new M1944 equipment began popping up in the latter half of 1944 and the army continued to tweak it resulting in the M1945 pack system. While it did see limited use in the closing stages of the war is was the main equipment used in the Korean War. The M1945 system is sort of a hybrid of the M1936 and the USMC’s M1941. So the top pack is shaped similarly to the M1941 but attaches via the suspenders like the M1936. The extra non essential gear like spare clothing would be carried in a lower detachable cargo bag like the Marines but much larger. The haversack also included a water proof throat. The bayonet was intended to be attached to the side of the haversack but in reality was almost exclusively worn on the left hip. The basis is still the cartridge belt with wire hangers to allow for pouch placement like it was with the original M1910 gear. (and really with even earlier patterns). All of the equipment was now made in the dark OD7 color now.
Korean War – USMC
The Marines still used the same pattern of equipment from WWII except with the update to the closure of the haversack to a solid “throat” instead of ears that folded in to be covered by the main flap. The change was better at keeping small items from falling out and allowed the capacity to be adjusted more easily. That and the integration of the suspenders with the pack was ignored. It was still possible to do but even official pictures no longer show it in use. In the beginning of Korea almost all of their equipment was WWII vintage and therefore the light OD3 in color. As the war progressed more and more items were replaced by new production in the dark OD7. Here I have a mix of the two colors shown. The bayonet was intended to be mounted to the side of the haversack but like the Army was almost exclusively worn on the cartridge belt. One last “change” was a reversion back to the M1910 pattern canteen cover although now in OD7.
In the first half of the century there were some fairly substantial changes to the haversacks but the basic cartridge belt was little change. As well everything here was interchangeable. Aside from the haversack the M1910 system was really a solid well thought out gear suite. And even though those old M1910/28 haversacks can be described as a strap master envelope the idea of being able to increase or decrease the capacity is a pretty forward thinking idea. Stay tuned for the second half