VOLUME 172 NUMBER 1
86th YEAR OF CONTINUOUS PUBLICATION
by HARLAND MANCHESTER
IN a barnlike wooden building in Washington, surrounded by lifelike dummies clad in all manner of battle gear, there is a hard-working group of Army and civilian specialists who have achieved a major military triumph. Because of their efforts, Private Jones, U. S. Army, is now better clothed, better fed, and in better fighting condition than any other soldier in the history of warfare.
While modern war. machines have captured the limelight, these experts of the Quartermaster Corps have quietly wrought a revolution in “engineering for the human being.” Regardless of the merits of our bombers and tanks, they say, this war will be won by Private Jones, and the date of victory as well as the length of the casualty list will depend to a great degree on his comfort and well-being and the efficiency of his personal equipment.
Pearl Harbor found us woefully behind the Axis in developing battle gear for various climates. While the Nazis had spent years developing new equipment for desert and arctic use, we clung for the most part to the food, clothing, and shelter standards of 1918, suitable only for static warfare in the temperate climate of World War I. As one officer put it,
“Our men were equipped to fight in Maine in summer and Florida in winter.
When we suddenly found ourselves confronting the foe from Alaska to the tropics, a thousand questions arose: What boots to wear in the jungle? What tents for the Aleutians? What cookstoves for Iceland? What raincoats for Africa? What kind of ration can a man best carry on his back and prepare quickly, and how shall lie ward off malarial mosquitoes and gas attacks and make himself invisible to enemy strafers? To complicate the problem, substitutes had to be developed for many strategic materials, and weight and bulk of equipment reduced to a minimum both to lighten the soldier’s burden and to save shipping space.
This was the monumental task which confronted Quartermaster General E. B. Gregory when he established a Research and Development Branch in his office late in 1941. To head the Branch he called in Colonel Georges F. Doriot, manufacturer and former professor at the Harvard Business School. Colonel Doriot quickly surrounded himself with men of practical experience in the manufacture of garments, footwear, plastics, chemicals, processed foods, and other materials needed by a modern army. He called in men who had learned how to live in desert, jungle, and arctic. He set up an advisory board of manufacturers and research men to furnish quick answers to quick questions.
Copyright 1943, by The Atlantic Monthly Company, Boston, Mass. All rights reserved.
ONE of the first problems to arise was footgear. The war had barely started when complaints came from the South Pacific that, nails rusted, sole stitching rotted, and the leather became spongy tatters after a short time in the wet jungle. A soldier without shoes can be written off as a fighting unit. Much had been written about the rubber-soled sneakers worn by the Japanese, which according to popular impression enable them to sneak up on their adversaries. The research men found that the Japanese were shod with rubber because no other material would withstand dampness and mildew so well.
Fortunately, the United States Rubber Company had been experimenting at its own expense with a boot for jungle use. The firm made up several samples which were taken to Panama for field tests, and the result is the “jungle boot,” now standard Army equipment for the wet tropics. This boot has a thick rubber sole with built-in cleats to prevent slipping, duck insoles for comfort, and stout canvas uppers running halfway to the knee for protection against brambles and insects. It has nylon strings which will not rot, and a special hook arrangement which enables the soldier to lace or unlace it in a hurry. These boots need no saddle soap or dubbing; they are two pounds lighter than the standard leather shoes, and wear five times as long in the jungle — merits which not only increase the soldier’s comfort and efficiency, but cut down shipping weight by thousands of tons.
Later it was shown that leather soles left much to be desired in desert warfare. Their noise often drew enemy fire on night patrols; the hobnails struck sparks from the rocks and quickly conducted heat to the feet from ground often as hot as 140 degrees. The new combat boot has a full rubber sole and heel, which correct these shortcomings, and which also wear about twice as long under most conditions as leather.
Tropical shorts are another item condemned for Army use after impartial trial by the research group. Mosquito bites on exposed knees are partly blamed for the high incidence of malaria among British and Australian troops. When men under fire fall to the ground, they often bark their shins, and in jungle marches their legs are scratched by brambles. These small wounds may develop into tropical ulcers which go through to the bone. And in superheated tanks, men in shorts get burned more easily. So it has been decided that the less skin exposed by combat troops, the better.
Army underwear is traditionally white. This helps hawk-eyed sergeants to enforce cleanliness, but it also helps enemy flyers to spot detachments by their wash lines. Fast dyes now camouflage underwear and even handkerchiefs. And when it was found that enemy snipers were spotting our officers by their rectangular map cases, the research group got the job of designing a map case that looked like something else.
Sleeping gear is a special problem in the jungle because of ground insects and moisture, malarial mosquitoes and rain. This was another job for the Quartermaster Corps. Its tropical experts, working with manufacturers, evolved t he jungle hammock, one of the neatest devices to emerge from the war. Beneath the hammock, which is made of thin, strong fabric, hangs a false bottom. This forms an insulation space which gives added protection on cool nights and prevents insects from attacking the sleeper through the thin hammock. On its under side are loops where the soldier may hang his rifle, rations, and so on, safe from ground dampness and vermin. Above the hammock is a gabled roof of featherweight fabric waterproofed with a synthetic resin; and firmly stitched to both hammock and roof is a mosquito netting which opens on one side with a zipper. This hammock is all in one piece, rolls up in a small bundle, and weighs only six pounds.
Victory over mildew is one of the best examples of the speed and efficiency of the research group. This fabric-eating fungus, bane of housewives everywhere in humid weather, becomes a great destroyer in the fetid jungles where the sun never dries things out. Hammocks, tents, raincoats, insect netting, ropes, and leather articles were quickly ruined, and the colors of camouflage materials were altered by the fungus so that they were quickly spotted from the sky.
Last October the research group was asked to solve the problem. Dr. Willard Dow, head of the Dow Chemical Company, a member of the group’s advisory board, came forward with a nontoxic mildew inhibitor. At first it washed out too quickly, but after more work this defect was overcome. In exhaustive tests at the Quartermaster Corps’s Philadelphia laboratory, fabrics were buried in the ground for weeks, water was run over them for days at a time, and vigorous fungus growths fed on choice diets were invited to do their worst. The new fungus-discourager emerged victorious.
Now the jungle hammock and a score of other standard items are soaked in the mildew-repellent as a step in their manufacture, and it is even possible to make the fabrics water-repellent and flameresistant by a single immersion in a mixture of chemical compounds. This war project may easily prove a tremendous boon to civilian consumers.
While dollars are not spared in giving the soldier the best equipment that can be devised, substitutes for critical materials must often be used, and it frequently turns out that the new article has superior merits. To take the place of rubber in waterproofing Army raincoats, plastic resins were used, one of which in peacetime went into safety-glass windshields. This substitution will save some 10,000 tons of scarce rubber, and it also makes a lighter raincoat, relieving the soldier of about two pounds of his load.
Ponchos made of nylon, waterproofed with the same synthetic resins, are not only lighter but make better shelter tents than any devised before. A good share of the profanity of World War I was aimed at the canvas “shelter-half” carried by each man, which when rigged up with its mate made a two-man tent supposed to provide protection against the elements. In practice, after the occupants’ under portions were well saturated from the damp ground, a pack or rifle came into contact with the roof, leading in rain water to complete the job.
The new ponchos can be buttoned together to make a really waterproof two-man tent, and each poncho has enough spare material at the bottom so that the flaps meet in the middle to make a waterproof floor. On dry ground where the floor is not needed, the tent may be set up in a higher position and the extra flap used to make the shelter big enough for three. So the old shelter-half has passed into limbo, and a poncho which weighs only a pound, compared with the old three-pound rubberized poncho, serves two purposes.
River crossings presented another combat problem which was turned over to the research group. When a detached unit of infantry comes to a stream, the engineers may not be around to lay pontoon bridges. The solution was a “flotation bladder” — a lightweight fabric envelope about 10 inches by 6 inches, lined with synthetic rubber and equipped with a tube to blow it up. It can be inflated with one good exhalation; then the tube is tucked in to prevent the escape of air. Each jungle fighter now carries two of them in his pocket. It takes half a minute to inflate them and button them inside the jacket, and they provide enough buoyance to support the soldier and his kit.
To protect his rifle or submachine gun in river crossings or wet landings, he has envelopes of tough, plastic film which can be slipped over the weapon and closed with a knot. The trapped air gives the weapon buoyance; and if he meets a Jap on the other bank, he can shoot through the envelope and free his rifle.
He is also supplied with a number of small, waterproof foodbags which he can stuff in his pockets or hang around his neck. He is not likely to lose them all. The rolling kitchens which did well enough in 1918 can’t keep up with the troops in this war, and there is more emphasis on light housekeeping.
IT IS no accident that all these articles are light. Everything designed for today’s mobile troops is carefully scrutinized to make sure that it doesn’t pack a surplus ounce. At Bataan our soldiers’ packs weighed 77 pounds, while the jungle pack of the Japanese weighed 26, Now that disparity has been corrected. And the load has been lightened without depriving the soldier of any essential item. On the contrary, so good a job of “human engineering” has been done that the men are better equipped for living and fighting than the Japanese or anyone else.
For instance, our jungle fighter today wears a light, roomy coverall, camouflaged in jungle shades and fitted with deep pockets good for carrying concentrated rations or hand grenades. Even pockets must be “engineered” when men’s lives are at stake. They must not snag on branches, and they must be so placed that they will not hamper a man crawling on his belly toward a Japanese foxhole. In addition to the jungle boots, jungle hammock, and other items already described, he has his medical kit, small flashlight, machete and sharpening stone, mosquito gloves and headnet, and a plastic immersion-proof matchbox with a small emergency compass on one end and flint for making a fire on the other. The weight of his clothing and equipment, from the skin out, has been pared in half.
If weight-saving in equipment is important for ground forces, it is mandatory for air-borne infantry and parachute troops — a fact which was dramatized by the Germans’ lightning invasion of Crete. Weight and bulk of equipment limit the number of men who can be carried in a transport plane, and determine the number of parachutes needed to lower the force to the ground. Our new outfit for paratroopers is a marvel of lightness, compactness, and comfort. There is a featherweight knapsack; the “tent poncho” serves for both raincoat and shelter, and there is a zippered “mummy” sleeping bag, tailored from a blanket, which also does duty as a sleeveless coat at cold, high altitudes. In place of the regular canteen, a synthetic rubber bladder inside a canvas envelope saves weight and cannot bruise the jumper when he hits the ground. The weight of the entire outfit has been cut more than half, and now a man can bail out with full equipment, where once his kit had to be lowered separately.
The Nazi General Ravenstein remarked that “Blitzkrieg is paradise for the tactician but hell for the quartermaster, ” and Hanson Baldwin tells us that this is a “quartermasters’ war.” To win battles, troops must reach the right place at the right time and — what is of equal importance—rigged out with the things they need to function effectively at that particular place and season.
NO MATTER how hot it gets this summer in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a group of soldiers clad for the Arctic will be slogging up a hill in that city at 60 below zero in the tee t h of a thirty-mile gale. This is a familiar sight in the cold chamber of the Quartermaster Corps’s climatic laboratory, where the Corps conducts tests of newly designed clothing, food, shelter, and equipment destined for fighting fronts all over the world. The chamber is a huge refrigerator with controlled temperature, the hill is a treadmill, and the gale is furnished by a blower.
The men — all volunteers chosen because they are “average” soldiers — may climb for an hour beneath their accurately weighed packs. Periodic recordings show their body temperatures at work and at rest. They may unstrap their packs, light their pocket gasoline stoves, and prepare and eat meals in this atmosphere. At night they set up shelter tents and crawl into sleeping bags, while the temperature cycle of an arctic night is reproduced in the chamber.
When they emerge, they are given complete physical examinations and questioned to determine their general comfort and morale. From the data secured, the experts in charge decide whether a new parka is sufficiently windproof, which bird produces the warmest down for padding a sleeping bag, how long it takes to set up a tent when your fingers are numb, and what kind of clothes will give a man freedom of movement in battle and at the same time keep hhn warm.
On another day, you might find a squad of “guinea pigs” marching over a simulated desert with the thermometer standing at 120 degrees and a hot wind blowing sand in their faces. Or they may be drenched in a tropical deluge while they test raincoats or ponchos. Another laboratory, at Fort Knox, Kentucky, is big enough to hold a tank the surface of which is baked by an artificial desert sun while a sweltering volunteer crew tests clothing and equipment.
One of the first moves of the Quartermaster Corps’s Research and Development Branch, after Pearl Harbor, was to set up a research section under the leadership of Major Paul Siple, trained climatologist and veteran of three Byrd expeditions, to present pictures of the world’s climates as they really are. This group maps the climates of present and future battle fronts in terms of the man. They speak of “sensible temperature,” which takes account of wind as well as thermometer readings, and they have charted rainfall, humidity, vegetation, Underfoot conditions, and any other climatic factor that shows how to equip regiments bound for North Africa, Alaska, or possibly Narvik or Rangoon. Their cartographers have prepared seasonal maps with belts of color which show at a glance the kind of food, clothing, and sleeping gear needed on whatever spot of the globe you put your finger on, and their “ tables of basic allowances ” are the first things consulted when troops are prepared for a new war theater.
Much of the data behind these maps and tables cannot be found in books. The spearhead of the Research and Development Branch is the Special Forces Section, made up of explorers, mountaineers, and globe-trotters who have spent years learning how to live in ice field, desert, and jungle. The identification cards tacked on the rows of desks in this section make up a Who’s Who of forest and veldt. Lieutenant Colonel Bestor Robinson, head of the section, is a skier and mountaineer with “first ascents” to his credit; others noted as arctic or mountain specialists arc Sir Hubert Wilkins, Bradford Washburn, Adams Carter, Dr. Terris Moore, Captain R. H. Bates, J. A. Ford, and William P. House. Hot climates are represented by Earl Hanson, explorer and writer; James H. Breasted, Jr., who worked with his famous father in Egypt; Major C. H. Kearney, oil exploration geologist, and Earl Hardenbrooke, familiar with the back reaches of Asia. Louis Bean of Maine, outfitter to thousands of sportsmen, contributes his practical knowledge of outdoor garments and equipment.
Requests for new garments and devices for special troops, complaints from the front about faulty equipment, new ideas from inventors, are all turned over to this pool of travelers gathered from the ends of the earth into one room. For technical information they turn to experts in the fields of textiles, footwear, foods, rubber, plastics, and mechanical gadgets, who work beneath the same roof. And at the ends of telephone wires are scores of manufacturers who stand ready to produce trial samples of the articles called for.
At any given time about half the Special Forces men are in the field testing equipment. At the time of writing, one man is in Guadalcanal, others are in Northern Canada and Alaska, and one man has just returned from the Panama jungles. Last summer a group including Bates, Washburn, and Moore took a quantity of cold-weather equipment to Alaska, dropped it by parachute to the 18,000-foot, basin of Mount McKinley, and tested garments, footwear, rations, tents, and sleeping bags in the only spot on the continent where they could be sure of bitter cold and heavy storms in August.
Tests like these have brought about many improvements in cold-weather equipment. In place of outer garments of heavy sheepskin or wool, socalled “pile garments” are now worn which are warmer and lighter. The principle is similar to modern house insulation, in which two thin shells filled with fluffy material keep in the heat better than a solid wall. The new arctic garments, which Sir Hubert Wilkins and Dr. Vilhjalmur Stefansson helped to design, have windproof outer shells, with insulation of alpaca or other light, fibrous stuffs. Before this development, which seems to have originated among Alaskan “sourdoughs,” the Russians wore winter garments of sheepskin or wool, and their costumes often weighed from 25 to 30 pounds, a serious drawback to agility. The pile garments we are now supplying to the Russians as well as our own men cut this weight to 15 pounds. This weight reduction means that our troops can now fight at low temperatures when once they were forced to den up and wait for the thermometer to rise.
The reversible outer shells of these suits are white on one side and dark green on the other. When spring comes, the men change color as rabbits do to reduce their visibility. When it is mild enough, they simply peel off a layer instead of being reequipped with summer clothes at a high cost in materials and transportation. Eventually we may have all-weather uniforms, so that a regiment outfitted in Texas can go to Alaska and then to Guadalcanal, adapting themselves to the climate by adding or subtracting layers.
The old sleeping bag, which weighed 18 pounds, has been junked for a form-fitting, zippered bag stuffed with down, which weighs only 5½ pounds and takes up one third as much room when folded. The old pocket gasoline cooker weighed 2 pounds, had thirteen separate parts, and got clogged easily. The new one weighs 1 pound, is all in one piece, and has a self-cleaning device. With a gallon of gasoline it will cook two men’s meals for ten days. A twoman arctic tent, reversible for camouflage, weighs only 7 pounds, poles included, and is strong enough to ride out a hundred-mile gale on the crest of Mount Washington.
The use of resin-bonded plywood cuts the weight of snowshocs in half and makes them stronger. Skis which fold in the middle on rustless steel hinges are less awkward to carry, and there is a new coldweather flyer’s overall which opens on both sides from toe to shoulder so that the pilot can zip it on or off without rising.
PERHAPS the most spectacular job of the Quartermaster Corps is the provision of nutritious, compact, appetizing rations for troops all the way from base camps to lonely outposts. Complete meals wrapped in immersion-proof, indestructible packages have been designed for various climates, and may be dropped by parachute to an arctic outpost or floated ashore on the tide to a tropical island.
The mountain ration, which is packaged in a tough, wax-dipped carton, weighs 12 pounds and contains three meals each for four men. It can be submerged in water all day or left for a month at 60 below zero without spoiling; and in no more time than it takes to boil water, it provides hot meals which include fruit, cereals, soup, meat, vegetables, coffee, and sweets.
The meals are designed for quick preparation by men who are not chefs, and there are instructions for juggling the items to make a variety of appetizing dishes. Dehydrated tomato soup can be made into a sauce to relieve the sameness of beef or baked beans; soup can be enriched with dehydrated cheese, or the cheese can be mixed with pre-cooked dehydrated rice and a special butter which won’t freeze at even 60 below, and fried in cakes. Fruit bars can be eaten as dessert, or sweetened and diluted to make breakfast jam. Chocolate bars (fortified with B1) can be eaten as they are for a quick pickup, can be melted with sugar, powdered milk, butter, and water to make a rich, hot beverage, or can be mixed with rice or pulverized whole-wheat biscuit to make puddings.
Another ration contains a meat-ccreal cake which can be eaten cold, stewed, or fried in its own fat, and there are wax envelopes of curry and other powdered sauces to vary the flavor. There is also a dehydrated, compressed ice-cream brick that will not melt, and this can be doctored with chocolate sauce or jam by a soldier who misses the corner drugstore.
Whoever thinks these snacks are not important should try a few weeks in the wilderness for himself. A varied diet, helps to keep men from flying off the handle. All the ration units packaged by the Quartermaster Corps are thoroughly tested by groups of volunteers, and one of the things the food experts watch for is the kind of grouch that develops when a man gets tired of his meals.
Cigarettes and candy rank high among morale factors, yet during World War I men had to buy them at canteens, and went without when their money was gone. It was Quartermaster General E. B. Gregory who conceived the idea of issuing these things to men at the front. Cigarettes and candy are included in each food ration package, and there is also an accessory packet containing an assortment large enough to supply two hundred men for a day.
Ration packages for all purposes, developed and tested by the research group, arc now turned out in million lots by the food industries. There arc special rations for the jungle and for high-altitude flying, and low-protein rations for lifeboats, since proteins absorb water and dehydrate the system. The farther a man advances toward the firing line, the lighter and more concentrated his rations become. Fresh foods make up much of the “ A ” ration served in home training camps; canned foods, supplemented by local produce, comprise the “B” ration served in permanent mess halls abroad, and other rations arc designed for the individual soldier in action who carries his food on his back.
The “K” ration — the most compact of the lot — is composed of three cellophane-wrapped packages of pocket size, labeled “Breakfast,” “Dinner,” and “Supper,” and weighing altogether about 2½ pounds. Each of the packages contains meat or a protein substitute, two kinds of biscuits, a drink made from soluble powder, a concentrated sweet, and a few cigarettes. A man may have ham and eggs and coffee for breakfast, cheese sandwiches and lemonade at noon, and at night a cup of bouillon and meat of one of eight different varieties.
These pocket meals are used as emergency rations for troops on their own, but tests indicate that, in a pinch, men could live on them indefinitely without getting malnutrition ailments. Military men say that this light ration more than doubles the effective fighting range of an independent detachment.
Dehydration is one of the most effective weapons in the Quartermaster Corps’s battle of rations. Only two years ago the process was experimental, but this year the Army will use an estimated 200,000 tons of the quick-dried foods. The water extracted from this food weighs a million tons — cargo for a hundred 10,000-ton freighters which now can be used for munitions and men. Dehydrated foods used by the Army to date include milk, eggs, cheese, vegetables, soups, and beverage powders; meats and other items are on the way.
Dehydration saves weight bulk, but a further step, compression, squeezes out the air and adds an important new saving in shipping space. A block of dehydrated, compressed potatoes the size of a shoebox will make mashed potatoes for fifty men. Cranberries squeezed into the size of a small building brick will make sauce for a hundred, and experiments arc being made with strawberries and other fruits. In some cases, idle machines which once made civilian goods have been converted to food compression. For instance, a Massachusetts tile-manufacturing firm uses its equipment to cram five dozen eggs into a space the size of a bar of laundry soap. After dehydration and compression, the food bricks arc machine-wrapped in cellophane and sealed by heat to keep out air and moisture.
Even more compact and nutritious “pocket dinners” are on the way, and their future is not limited to warfare. They may feed starved millions after the victory, and they will offer a means of quick relief to areas devastated by flood or famine.
TO PROTECT the soldier in the tropics from filth, sunburn, microbes, and insects, the Quartermaster Corps has engineered a score of new devices and chemical compounds. There is a new all-purpose soap which will lather freely in soft, hard, or salt water, has a candy flavor which makes it acceptable as a dentifrice, and can be used for shaving or for washing a shirt. There arc a “chapstick, ” designed like a lipstick, and a special face cream, both of which filter out the sun’s short ultraviolet rays, which burn, but allow the passage of the long rays that tan. There are chemical pellets to make Water fit to drink. The soldier drops one pellet in his canteen to kill the microbes, then drops in another pellet which takes away the chemical taste. When water is purified in bulk, it is hard to tell how many pellets are needed, so a testing flask has been designed with a yellow-green stripe which the purified water must match.
The war brought a demand for better insect repellents to ward off mosquitoes spreading malaria and yellow fever. Government bureaus, universities, and corporations pooled their ideas. Researchers like Dr. Philip Granett of Rutgers were bitten by half a million mosquitoes in testing new compounds, and now our tropical troops are smearing themselves with a repellent which lasts longer and is harmless to the skin. An ideal repellent would keep off insects for nine hours so that soldiers could sleep safely without a net, and this is the goal the research group is driving at.
A highly efficient new insecticide now used by all troops overseas is a liquid when confined in its handy container, and when released by a valve becomes a gas which will kill in a few seconds all mosquitoes and flies in a barrack room, tent, or airplane cabin. A pound of it is as effective as ten pounds of an ordinary spray — a great saving of shipping weight and space. It is of particular value in fumigating the cabins of airplanes which are traveling from malarial to non-malarial areas.
Body lice always infest armies in the field. In World War I, troops were marched miles to “delousing plants” where their clothes were disinfected by steam, to emerge misshapen and bedraggled. Now the delousing plant is taken to the troops. It is a canvas bag lined with an airtight synthetic resin. Inside is a pocket holding a glass ampule of methyl bromide. Two or t hrec men pile their clothes in it, secure the top, and step on the ampule, and the gas kills the lice. As an example of the speed with which the Quartermaster Corps can work, one Sunday last year it was asked to furnish 10,000 of these newly designed bags in time for the African invasion, and had ten days in which to do it. They phoned a distant city, located a manufacturer, and had the bags ready when the troops landed.
Individual cellophane capes for protection against gas attack were turned out in response to another rush order. Army chiefs asked the research group to develop something of the sort, and dozens of suggestions were made by officers and manufacturing firms. Trucks loaded with cellophane and adhesive tape were rushed to camps, where sample capes were tailored on the spot and tested. Four manufacturing plants cleared their decks for action and stood by for orders. A final design was chosen, trucks and planes rushed materials to the plants, and the capes were finished on time. Each cape is folded in a hand-sized packet which can be ripped open by pulling a tab. The cape is a roomy cellophane envelope sealed at sides and top, and if the enemy launches an attack of skin-burning gas, the soldier can slip it on and pull down to knee level in five seconds. If he is driving a jeep, he pulls the cape over the wheel and proceeds. Whole regiments can protect themselves in this manner, and when the air clears, the capes are thrown away and new ones are issued.
The plastics experts of the Quartermaster Corps have designed many other articles from synthetics for the soldier’s kit. The steel helmet, for instance, had its drawbacks. It was so heavy that men got stiff necks from wearing it as a rain hat in safe areas. The rivets which fastened it to the head harness were driven into the skull if hit by flying metal. An inner helmet of plastic was designed for the soldier to wear in barracks and base towns. The new rivetless steel helmet fits snugly over the plastic liner, and since it now has no head harness, it can be used as a washbasin or water bucket, or for bailing a boat.
We entered the war with the aluminum canteen adopted in 1910, but now the white metal is needed for planes. A featherweight canteen of ethyl cellulose plastic was adopted. The new canteen is so strong you can jump on it; it emits no metallic clank to betray a man’s position, and since the plastic is a poor heat conductor, the canteen doesn’t burn a man’s hands when filled with hot coffee. By this substitution, and by using stainless steel and other metals for mess kits, cups, and field ranges, a handful of men working at desks have saved enough aluminum to build 10,000 light bombers.
Elastic spigots for water bags arc cheaper and save half a million pounds of copper; plastic uniform buttons and insignia save brass, and where “shine” seems necessary, there is a method for gilding the plastic. Plastic bugles wake men up melodiously and need no polishing, and each one releases two pounds of brass. By such devices as coating raincoats with plastic and inserting wooden plugs in rubber heels, the research group has saved the count ry more than 150,000,000 pounds of rubber, or about one eighth of our pre-war consumption. And comparable savings have been made in strategic tin, hemp, and steel.
No article of clothing or equipment is considered final. A new shortage of material, a shift in war geography, or a new vitamin discovery, weapon, or transport method may dictate the creation of a suitable ration, garment, or gadget. When drivers of fuel tank trucks complained that they couldn’t fill gasoline cans in the dark without slopping over, the research group produced a pipe nozzle which shuts itself off automatically when the can is full.
By means of a swift and smoothly-meshing program, the Quartermaster Corps has streamlined the American soldier from boots to helmet, smashing worn-out traditions and giving him the gear he really needs for sleeping, eating, marching, and keeping fit on a dozen fronts. They have accomplished this miracle of conversion in record time. Working days, nights, and Sundays, they have crammed years of research, invention, and adaptation into a brief eighteen months.