U.S. Military Sleeping Bags
Military sleeping bags are a relatively recent development. The comfort of the ordinary soldier in the field was not a priority for armies until the 20th century. Even in World War II, blankets or a simple mummy bag was the usual sleeping gear, even in very cold weather. Specialized mountain troops had the first sleeping bags designed in modern terms.
Soldier's Sleeping Gear Before World War II
Prior to World War II American soldiers were issued blanket rolls. This consisted of several wool blankets and a ground sheet to roll it up in. The Blanket, Wool, OD, M-1934 was the basic "Army Blanket" and each soldier had at least one issued. In cold climates as many as five blankets were issued to each man. These were combined with the Roll, Bedding, M-1935 or a Shelter Half which could also be used as a ground cloth or, with another soldier, make a tent. The blankets and items such as socks and underwear all were folded into the roll, following a carefully defined procedure drilled into the soldiers in Basic Training. For sleeping, it was unrolled and made into the best arrangement for the conditions.
World War II Mountain Sleeping Bag
M-1942 Mountain Sleeping Bag, Water Repellent Case, and Carrier. Photo: Philadelphia QM Depot.
yThe "mummy" type of sleeping bag, shaped to fit the body, had been gaining favor among mountaineers for several years, as against the more usual rectangular bag. The mummy bag was considered more efficient, used less material and was less bulky. A sleeping bag of the mummy type, consisting of inner and outer shells and an attached head canopy, was designed for the ski troops in 1941. This rather complicated design was thoroughly revised and then further refined in the next year, partly with a view to simplifying the whole sleeping bag program by providing units that could be used by all troops operating in cold climates.
The mountain sleeping bag developed in 1942 was designed to be issued to mountain troops as an item complete within itself. Combined with an additional outer case, it became a new Arctic sleeping bag.
The mountain bag consisted of a single case filled with a down and feather mixture, with a pear-shaped face opening and a full mummy shape. A slide fastener with a quick release device permitted the bag to be opened almost instantly down the front to about half its length. The casing was made of water repellent balloon cloth. There were new and unusual features in the design. The stitching which bound the casing to the filler did not go all the way through, like quilt stitching. Instead, it fastened the casing, by alternating inner and outer lines of stitches, to a diaphram of cheesecloth which separated outer and inner layers of the filler. This technique avoided lines of cold penetration through the stitiching, which had been criticized in earlier models. The closing seam was reinforced against cold by the addition of a tubular secion of filler placed tight against it.
A waterproof carrying case was issued with the sleeping bag. The sleeping bag was placed in the case when not in use. The case could also be used as an added foot covering in extreme cold. There was an insulated, inflatable sleeping pad (air mattress), for additional warmth and to protect the sleeping bag from wetness when camping on ice or snow. Finally, there was an outer water repellent case for additional warmth when a tent was not used. [ Source: QMC Historical Studies No. 5, Feb. 1944 ]
The mountain sleeping bag (and Arctic version) had tie straps attached to the foot of the bag. These straps could be pulled through matching holes in the foot of the cover to get the bag and cover aligned. The two parts could be rolled up together and the ties used to secure the roll. "US" was stenciled on the outside of the cover so that it would show when rolled.
The Bag, Sleeping , Arctic, M-1942, consists of two down and feather filled cases for use in extreme low temperatures. The inner bag is mummy shaped. A full length zipper is used to close the quilt shaped outer bag. A waterproof wrap case, with flaps and tie tapes, is provided for carrying both rolled bags. Also issued under the same stock number is another Bag, Sleeping, Arctic, consisting of two mummy shaped down and feather filled bags and the Case, Water-repellent, for the Bag, Sleeping, Mountain, described above.
With a waterproof cover, this system is suitable for use in extreme low temperatures with the Bag, Sleeping, Mountain, used as the inner bag, and the outer bag is of similar design and construction. Tie tapes on the foot of Bag, Sleeping, Arctic, extend through openings in the bottom seam of Case, Water-repellent, to hold bags in a compact unit when rolled. A waterproof cover is provided to protect the bag.
World War II Infantry Sleeping Bag
Early in the War, the pre-war blanket roll continued to be used, the same situation as with other equipment. By 1944 troops were issued a mummy shaped sleeping bag made of blanket material: the Bag, Sleeping, Wool type 27-B-317. This sleeping bag was used with the standard water-resistent case to create a lightweight and reasonably warm sleeping bag suitable for the ordinary infantry soldier.
The material of the Bag, Sleeping, Wool was the same color wool fabric as an Army blanket, but a little heavier. A long quick-release zipper ran the length and the head was enclosed in a hood shape. The mummy shape saved material and weight compared to carrying several blankets and was warmer due to its one piece construction. By using it with or without the case the soldier could adjust to the daily temperature changes, at least until it got very cold.
The Bag, Sleeping, Wool had two labels sewn in. One had standard instructions for care and use while the second, smaller label had contract, manufacturer (e.g. "Woodbury Mills" or "Selig Mfg") and date information. The dimensions were about 84" long and 28" at the widest point. According to Raymond Roy, former Worsted Superintendent at American Woolen Company, World War II brought government contracts for enough cloth to make "3,000,000 sleeping bag lining cloths, and 4,841,200 finished GI blankets (among many other things)." These sleeping bags were issed to troops during World War II through the 1950s and continued to have a place as a liner for other bags for very cold conditions.
Sleeping Bag, Mountain, M-1949
|Label, zipper, and lacing of Sleeping Bag, Mountain M-1949
|Marine in M-1949 Mountain Bag, Outpost Carson (Hill 27), Korea, 1953|
In the 1970s (?) the M-1949 sleeping bag was replaced by a new system of sleeping bags, still very close in design to the M-1949 Moun
tain bag. These were the Bag, Sleeping, Intermediate Cold Weather (ICW) and Bag, Sleeping, Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) as follows:
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