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Mt. Rainier, Washington 1942
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Camp Hale, Colorado 1943
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Riva Ridge, Italy 1945
Rucksack History
The Rucksack story...
A mountain soldier could not fit all of his gear into the M-1928 haversack, the Army’s standard backpack at the beginning of World War II.  Even if he could, the haversack carried the weight high on his back and it shifted side to side, throwing him off balance while skiing or climbing.  Thus, the Army needed something more practical for their new mountain soldiers.

U.S. Army Specification File No. 2971, July 7, 1941
U.S. Army developed and adopted its first rucksack during the summer of 1941.   The canvas duck sack was mounted on a steel wire or rattan frame that supported the load and held it off the soldier's back.  Three pockets on the outside of the bag carried extra gear.  Heavy felt pads on both the back support and the shoulder straps eased the burden.  Brass snap hooks closed the two side pockets and the cover flap.  The 1941 pattern rucksacks were made during late 1941 and into early 1942.  Most rucksacks are stamped “1941,” although some made by Powers Company can be found stamped "1942." Being based on a typical commercial rucksack, this first army rucksack was poorly suited for military use.  The National Ski Association's Winter Equipment Committee reviewed the rucksack at the War Department's request and suggested twelve improvements that the QMC then incorporated into the next generation rucksack.  With the adoption of the Specification J.Q.D. 88 rucksack, the Army withdrew the 1941 pattern from service.  Because the two patterns never overlapped within the supply system, they were never known as the M-1941 or M-1942 version.  Its official name was always just "Rucksack."
  1941 rucksack - Rear view 1941 rucksack - Side view 1941 rucksack -Front view 1941 rucksack - Closure snap detail  
  1941 pattern rucksack rear view.  Side view.  Note the heavy felt shoulder pads. Front view showing wire frame, shoulder pads, and belly-band.  Details of the main flap closure snap.  

Quartermaster Tentative Specification J.Q.D. 88, March 14, 1942
National Ski Association's Winter Equipment Committee’s twelve suggestions created a rucksack better suited for military use.  Tentative Specification J.Q.D. 88 rucksacks had a leather frame support that bore heavy loads better than the 1941 pattern’s web frame support pocket.  Attaching the shoulder straps directly to the frame support held the rucksack more tightly to the soldier’s shoulders and let him carry the rucksack without a frame if needed.  Two wide, web straps with double-bar, bronze buckles encircled the rucksack pouch and pouch flap on both sides of the meat can pocket.  The straps reinforced the pouch, kept the cover flap tightly closed to keep out snow, and squeezed the load close to the frame.  A separate belly-band, worn higher than on the previous version, passed through slots made by the reinforcement straps.  Four canvas equipment tabs, two on each side of the rucksack, provided attachments for equipment such as the intrenching tool, bayonet, and first aid pouch.  The rucksacks continued to use the heavy ribbed web shoulder straps and thick felt pads found on the 1941 pattern rucksacks. A new metal frame, made of ½-inch tubular steel, replaced the wire or rattan frame used with the 1941 rucksack.  The frame had a more pronounced “U” shape with “horns” that came around the soldier’s hip.  Three steel tubing pieces welded to the center of the frame formed a triangle for reinforcement.  Being much sturdier than was necessary to support even the soldier’s heaviest loads, the tubular frame was specifically designed to form the body of an emergency sled by joining two rucksack fames and two pair of skis using ski adaptors and contraction bands. Specification J.Q.D. 88 rucksacks are extremely rare today.  I have not seen one in twenty years of collecting mountain troop gear.  Most likely few were made, as an improved version appeared only five months later.  If anyone has a J.Q.D. 88 rucksack available to purchase or to photograph, please contact me.


  JQD 88 rucksack - back view
These two images, taken from an early 1942 ski training film, show a J.Q.D 88 rucksack.
  JQD 88 rucksack - right side view
Note the ribbed shoulder straps, felt pads, and equipment tabs on the right side.

Quartermaster Tentative Specification J.Q.D. 88B, August 26, 1942

Jeffersonvile Quartermaster Depot continued to refine the rucksack’s features in Tentative Specification J.Q.D. 88B.  Regular canvas webbing replaced the ribbed webbing shoulder straps, the felt shoulder pads were eliminated, and the number of equipment attachment tabs decreased from four to three, all sewn along the upper left side of the pouch.  Most significantly, J.Q.D. 88B added a rifle securing strap, a wire rifle snap hook on the right horn of rucksack frame,

and a small hook on the left shoulder strap.  These additions made it easier for the soldier to carry his rifle while using a rucksack. Click here to see how to use the rifle strap.

Assembling and Using the Rifle Strap
This drawing, taken from the Mountain Training Center's 1942 Proposed Manual For Mountain Troops shows the how the rifle strap was assembled and wrapped around the rifle.

Training Manual TM 10-275, Principles of Cold Weather Clothing and Equipment, 26 October 1944, offered the following directions on how to attach the rifle to the rucksack:

a) Hold the rifle at the balance point with the left hand, with sling down.
b) Snap the wire hook, which is on the right horn of the pack frame, into the butt swivel on the side toward the body. Hold the piece erect from the swivel.
c) Bring the strap from the right top of the rucksack forward over the right shoulder, passing outside the piece.
d) Grasp the strap with the left hand and snap it over the head, allowing the rifle to drop between the pack and the right should, with the sling to the body. Place the ring on the strap into the hook on the left shoulder strap. The ring will slide in and out of the hook most easily if it is turned half over and rolled in or out. The rifle is released by rolling the ring out of the hook, putting the strap over the head, and letting the piece slide down the strap into the hand. The hook is then unsnapped from the butt swivel.”

The J.Q.D. 88B rucksack was the primary rucksack used by the mountain soldiers during World War II.  It was produced in large quantities and is the rucksack most commonly seen by collectors today

  JQD 88B rucksack - Rear view
J.Q.D. 88B rucksack rear view.  The large center pocket was for the meat can.
  JQD 88B rucksack - Side view
Side view.  Note the three equipment tabs on the left side. 
  JQD 88B rucksack -Front view
Front view showing the frame and belly-band. 
  JQD 88B rucksack -Rifle strap hook detail
Rifle strap attached to the shoulder strap hook.
  JQD 88B rucksack - Wire rifle snap detail
The wire rifle snap attached to the rucksack frame horn.
  Rucksack rifle strap and belly-band
Rifle strap (left) and belly-band (right).  The rifle strap is 41 inches long.
  JQD 88B rucksack - Rifle strap attachment detail
The rifle strap attached through the large grommet in the leather frame pocket.

Quartermaster Tentative Specification J.Q.D. 88F, August 1943
Specification J.Q.D. 88F changed the first eighteen inches of the pouch reinforcement straps from web to leather and changed the pouch reinforcement straps' double-bar buckles to tongue and roller buckles.  These changes made the rucksack easier to open when the straps were frozen or while wearing mittens.  These rucksacks used the darker OD shade 7 canvas adopted in July 1943 by the QMC for all web equipment.  The dark color and long leather straps make it easy for collectors to spot the J.Q.D. 88F rucksack.  Because they were made late in the rucksack's development and at a time when many J.Q.D. 88B rucksacks were already available, few, if any, J.Q.D. 88F rucksacks would have been used at Camp Hale.  Collectors rarely see them today.
  JQD 88F rucksack - Rear view
J.Q.D. 88F rucksack rear view showing the OD shade 7 canvas and leather closure straps. 
  JQD 88F rucksack - Leather closure strap detail
Details of the leather strap and roller buckle.
  JQD 88F rucksack - Flap interior detail
Interior view showing the maker information and map pocket zipper. 

Many companies produced rucksacks during World War II. Those that I have identified and the years that they manufactured rucksacks are listed in the table to the right. Once the companies completed their 1943 contracts, it appears that the QMC purchased no more rucksacks until 1951. If you have a rucksack made by a company not listed on this table or that was made between 1944 and 1950, please let me know.

Year and Pattern Type
Company 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
American Fabrics Co - 88B


- -
Atlantic Products Corp - 88B - - -
Avery Mfg. Co - 88B 88B,88F - -
Mfg. Co.
1941 88B 88B - -
Hinson Mfg. Co. - 88B 88B,88F - -
Lichtenberger-Ferguson Co. - - 88B - -
Lyon Coulson Inc. - 88B - - -
Meese Inc. 1941 88B 88B - -
Morrow & Douglass - 88B 88B - -
Powers Co. 1941 1941 - - -
Protections Products Co. - 88B 88F - -
Simmons Company - 88B - - -
Varied Mfg.
Co. Inc.
- 88B 88B - -
Werner Siegmund Inc. - 88B 88B - -
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Copyright © 2002-2010 W. Michael Myers