Background Information & Development Medical Kits & Contents
Since its very inception in 1920 the “Medical Department Field Equipment Research Laboratory” was tasked with the study of possible improvements to existing Medical Equipment, still dating from World War 1. Although the War Department was aware of the fact that many existing medical items were totally obsolete or inappropriate for field and combat use, the standard rule still applied, i.e. first use all current stocks until depleted, and then (provided budgeting would be available), launch improvements or new developments! In 1922, one of the elements on top of the list, was the individual equipment used in the field by medical personnel. The Research Laboratory’s intent was to explore the feasibility of designing a single basic individual medical kit, that would fulfill the various needs of any medical personnel, whatever the arm or service, and whether mounted or dismounted. Furthermore, its manufacturing concept was to be simple (preference for no sophisticated tooling) and the cost was to remain within certain budget limitations. There was no real hurry, almost no money, since the Great War (1914-1918) had been the ‘mother of all wars’, and no one was expecting another large conflict.
On October 1, 1931, the “New Medical Department Individual Equipment” was ready. Official introduction took place on June 4, 1932. The new individual equipment contained 5 basic elements: Suspender – Cantle Ring Strap – Litter Carrying Strap – Canvas Pouch – Inserts (type I-II-III). This concept allowed different combinations of the 5 basic items, linked to a wide range of medical instruments and accessories, resulting in some of the Medical Kits further described in our pages. As a result of the new development, following basic Medical Kits and Components became available during the war:
|Medical Kits:||Medical Components:|
|Kit, Medical, Officer’s (item #97115)||Kit, Component, Suspender (item # 97095)|
|Kit, Medical, Noncommissioned Officer’s (item #97110)||Kit, Component, Cantle Ring Strap (item # 97065)|
|Kit, Medical, Private’s (item #97120)||Kit, Component, Litter Strap (item # 97080)|
|Kit, Dental, Officer’s (item #97100)||Kit, Component, Pouch, Canvas (item # 97085)|
|Kit, Dental, Private’s (item #97105)||Kit, Component, Insert, Type I (item # 97070)|
|Kit, Veterinary, Officer’s (item #97130)||Kit, Component, Insert, Type II (item # 97075)|
|Kit, Veterinary, Noncommissioned Officer’s (item #97125)|
|Kit, Veterinary, Private’s (item #97135)|
|Kit, Medical, Parachutist’s (item #97116)|
|Kit, First Aid, Military Police (item #9710550)|
Above items were already listed in the Medical Department Supply Catalog, containing a list of standard items of medical supplies, stored and issued by the Medical Department (available as of January 1, 1941). It should be noted that the Kit, First Aid, Military Police, was only introduced later in WW2 (after mid-1944, hence the 7-digit number). Some elements would be either deleted, modified, or replaced. There was an Insert, Type III, intended for the Dental Officer, which was quickly dropped and replaced by the Type I version. New elements to be introduced were the Kit, Component, Pouch Lace (Item No. 9709000), to be used with the Pouch, Canvas – Insert, Type I and II, and the Strap, Litter Securing (Item No. 9938600). Leather elements were gradually banned, to be replaced by canvas or web, and some wood parts or subassemblies were either limited or simply replaced by metal parts. In view of fluctuating shortages of strategic materials, and whenever feasible, steel was also replaced by aluminum. Color would play a role as well, white material in bandages, too conspicuous, was to be replaced by field brown, later designated as camouflaged. Improvements, modifications, replacement and/or introduction of new items, continued to take place throughout WW2.
Although the manufacturing process was started, be it with certain restraints, it encouraged the immediate production of a limited number of individual medical equipment items to enable medical personnel in the field to carry out their job, i.e. caring for the wounded. The plan was based upon the fact that an exclusive number of salvaged matériel would be used in the production process. Indeed, there were a lot of obsolete items (still useful), even new old stock (NOS) items, and also surplus parts of canvas, duck, webbing, and twill including the necessary hardware like hooks, eyelets, and buckles. This explains the wide use of different materials, resulting in different shades, colors, and sometimes slightly different shapes of some accessories in the medical kits. It is important to note that subject medical kits were never marked (with the usual abbreviations for the relevant manufacturer, as specified for in the Army Regulations). This seems to originate from the fact that all items were, at first manufactured by the Medical Research Laboratory workshops (for preliminary series and field tests), and only later by a sole Government entity ! According to some sources this would have been done by the “United States Penitentiary of Atlanta”, in Georgia. Since the US Government established a “Federal Prison Industries, Inc.” in 1934, this organization was responsible for providing work to Federal prisoners, while the orders were mostly forthcoming from Government Agencies, including of course the United States Army. WW2 production is estimated at approximately 70,000 Suspenders and around 150,000 Canvas Pouches. The individual Army Medical Kit was to remain in use throughout the entire war period, and only the pouch lacing system would eventually be modified by end 1943 (lace replaced by 3 press studs).
Individual Medical Kit & Field Equipment:
The medical soldier’s typical individual kit not only included the instruments of his trade, such as one Suspender, two Canvas Pouches (+ contents), two Cantle Ring Straps, two Litter Carrying Straps, four Litter Securing Straps (for Litter Bearers), but also the individual field equipment items, prescribed for the arm or service, to which he was either attached, or of which he was an organic member. They included:
- one Pistol Belt M-1936
- one Canteen M-1910 (+ Cup M-1910 + Cover, Canteen, Dismounted M-1910, + one extra set for tending casualties)
- one First Aid-Packet (Carlisle Model) M-1942 (+ Pouch), First-Aid Packet M-1942 (for personal use)
- one Axe, Entrenching M-1910 (+ one Carrier, Axe, Entrenching M-1910)
- (sometimes replaced by T-Handle Entrenching Tool M-1910 + Carrier, or Folding-type E-Tool M-1943 + Carrier)
- one Haversack M-1928 + Carrier Pack M-1928 & Meatcan Pouch
- one Helmet, Steel M-1 (+ Liner), with or without Red Cross markings (wide variety of different markings, since no official regulations were available)
- one Geneva Convention Brassard M-1924 on left arm (later two Brassards, and introduction of Red Cross Tabard, following German use)
- one Geneva Convention I.D. Document for Military and Civilian Protected Personnel.
Medical personnel were entitled to the complete Infantry, Armor, Mountain, Cavalry, Airborne outfit – except weapons (since carrying arms was forbidden by the Geneva Convention) – including the entire paraphernalia of a soldier, i.e. raincoat, shelter half & accessories, blanket, gas mask, web equipment, clothing, underwear, toiletries, mess kit, field rations, etc.