This page mainly contains ideas about military clothing. It also contains some suggestions for kit that didn't really qualify for their own page.
Strobe IFF. During the Battle of the Bulge men of Easy Company, 101st Airborne waved at allied planes flying over. It was obvious the planes were friendly since they had the black and white "invasion stripes" clearly visible on their wings. The American planes saw the paratroopers, and strafed them. Such "friendly fire" incidents could be avoided if there was a quick and simple way for ground troops to identify themselves as on the same side. The Rhodesian Fire forces perfected several ways of doing this, but these were mainly used with low flying helicopters. Devices such as waving map-cases or orange lined hats are unlikely to work with a high flying jet pilot. Took me a while, but I think I have the solution in the form of a slightly modified hand strobe light. A couple of these would be carried by each squad, and if they think a friendly aircraft is likely to attack they activate the strobe. The "Code strobe" sends two signals. The first is a rapid set of pulses that basically tells the pilot "hold your fire for a second". This is followed by the "letter of the day", pulsed in Morse code. This is changed every day, or at some other set interval. A strobe light would need very little modification to fulfill this new application. It would need a small keypad to enter new codes, and a shield/reflector around the bulb so that using the device at night does not compromise the user's night vision. By flicking a switch the device could be used as a normal strobe, so conventional strobe lights need not be carried. Code strobes could also be modified so they emit a signal in infra-red light. Such lights could also be fitted to vehicles. In this application the strobe would trigger automatically when the pilot directs an "interrogation" signal at the vehicle. Work is being done on personal IFF systems.
The approach taken appears to be high-tech, complicated and expensive, and not likely to be fielded for many years. Code Strobes could be built now and are likely to prove very useful. UPDATE We already have compact LED strobe lights in the form of the Budd Light and Phoenix Light. There is no reason these devices cannot be adapted to have both visible and IR LEDs and a coded sequencing unit.
Poncho-basha system The poncho is a much under appreciated piece of kit. Not only does it protect the man, his weapon and his pack, but also serves as an effective shelter. The poncho can prove an even more effective shelter if combined with a second item such as a basha sheet. Basha sheet is a British term for a 8x6' plastic sheet with attachment grommets. In American parlance, a Tarp. When used with a woodland pattern GI poncho the basha sheet is most effective if it has a predominately brown pattern. "Boulder pattern" is a good choice since it counters the flat appearance of the sheet. The two items work well in combination. In temperate woodland the poncho forms the shelter and the basha a ground sheet. In open terrain the basha and poncho act as groundsheet and shelter, with the one most appropriate to local colouration acting as the upper. In desert both sheets are above the soldier, the basha topmost, positioned to create an insulating airspace. In winter the soldier sleeps on one sheet and uses the other as a trench roof with snow piled on top. An alternate and more effective idea is for the basha sheet to be an All-Weather blanket with one side silvered and the other brown boulder pattern. If you are wearing a level of clothing suitable to keep you comfortable while marching you'll find it chilly if you have to stay still for a long time, such as when waiting in ambush. Even if it is not raining, draping a basha sheet or poncho over yourself traps a lot of air and keeps the heat in. A thermobaffled poncho would be even more useful in such a situation. Ponchos tend to be noisy if you fidget, so this will also teach you to keep still. You should also sit on your Log-pack or a pile of brush to prevent "bum-chill". See this page for another "dodge" (and more reasons not to sit on the ground).
EVAC panel. Mike Sparks has advocated the idea of soldiers having a Log-pack:- a generic back pack containing only consumables such as MREs, water and ammo. Adding a ball of string or cord would be useful. It also occurred to me that a useful addition might be an aircraft recognition panel. Such an item might be more even more useful if it could serve additional roles. Intelligently designed a 3x7' panel of plastic could serve as a stretcher too. The edges would be turned over for poles and gaps left in the junction to create pockets for placing stones in to weigh the panel down . Larry Altersitz suggested that one side of the panel should be a high visibility colour such as Day-Glo Lime and the other camouflaged. To this I would add the bright side be printed with ground to air recognition code. There may be potential to having the visible side silvered. Larry Altersitz has suggested that one side of such an item should be camouflaged, and this suggests even more uses for the item. The "Overt" (high visibility) side of the item should have an aide memoire of Ground to Air signals printed on it. The EVAC panel will probably see many other uses, such as waterproofing overhead cover or entrenchments. Since it is a "Log-Pack consumable" Soldiers will not be afraid to use them, since new ones will arrive with the next re-supply.
Cloth Buckets and Jerkins. Currently running on BBC 2 is a three part series called "The Trench", which has a platoon of volunteers experiencing trench life in 1916 based on actual events from war diaries. At the end of the last episode a crater had appeared close to the trench and had to be captured. A party is sent to hold the crater and saps must be rapidly dug to connect it to the trench. Interesting was that they were removing waste soil by shoveling it into sandbags, and since the mouth of a bag is not much wider than a shovel blade this was slowing things down. Reminded me that each Roman soldier carried a basket - why not a cloth bucket for this and other jobs? - maybe the EVAC sheet could be used in this way somehow? I'd not be surprised if you could buy something like this right off the shelf from a hardware store.
Something very much in evidence in this program was the wearing of sleeveless leather jerkins over the battledress –a garment still popular with the tommies in WW2. Such jerkins were noted for being more practical than greatcoats and very comfortable for the fairly static conditions in the trench. They were also highly practical if you have to go crawling around no-man's land on a night patrol. As well as insulating from the damp and cold it would provide protection from wire and thorns. The Jerkin's natural brown colour gave it good camouflage properties and if need it could also be worn under a modern combat smock.
Combat Mirror. Mirrors have many combat applications. They are used for Ground to Air and Ground to Ground signaling. They are used for applying camouflage cream, shaving and medical self examination. They can prevent facial injuries by being used to peek around corners or over trench tops. They can be used to look under vehicles. They have even been used for target designation. A combat mirror should be double sided and have a central sighting hole. One side should be flat, the other convex for a greater field of view. It will fit in a small case that fits in a top pocket. One side of the case will hold the mirror, the other an aide memoir for Morse code etc. The outside of the case will have some attachment system such as elastic straps with velcro, allowing the case and mirror to be attached to a rifle barrel, stick or entrenching tool.
Ralph Zumbro writes A friend of mine, Rene Gonzalez, of TACOM, cooked up a trick with a dental mirror for an M-1. He was in one of those dreary little Balkan fracases and simply used Bondo (body putty) to make a mount for a dentist's mirror that would put it right behind the rear sight. Then all he had to do was slip the mirror into the socket, hold the weapon around the corner while he stayed safe behind the bricks, and fire a burst.
The Mirror may therefore have other applications if correctly designed.
Preventing Lens reflections. I recently acquired an anti-glare screen for my computer monitor. It occurred to me that something similar might prevent reflections from field glasses and rifle scopes revealing the user's position. My computer anti-glare screen appears to be a very fine mesh of silk or nylon sound familiar? This idea could be simply tested out by using material from tights (pantyhose) stockings or mosquito net to cover the lens. If this idea proves viable then a range of flip-up lens covers can be created for scopes and field glasses use them down when the sun is out, flip them up out the way when it goes in.
Sven Ortman adds:- I've got two interesting links for you;
A simple periscope can easily be made from a pair of small mirrors and sheet aluminium bent into a square section tube. For field use mirrors should be unbreakable so either plastic or polished metal. "Door Finger Plates" sold at Hardware stores are a very economical source of mirror polished metal for making periscopes and other devices such as signaling mirrors. An issue item would be painted neutral grey or khaki. Trench periscopes were sometimes camouflaged with a sandbag "hood". Wrapping some suitable cloth around a periscope to break up its outline is probably prudent. The objective aperture should fitted with something like Killflash® or failing that some stocking or mosquito net. A lightweight sling (bit of paracord) would also prove useful. For a purpose-built infantry periscope some form of magnification may be incorporated but the device shouldn't become too complicated or heavy.
Adding cats eyes. A British serviceman I knew once told me that he'd been trained to avoid wearing brimmed hats for night operations since it reduced the amount of light reaching the eye. If he had to wear something like a patrol cap at night he would wear it backwards. This poses a problem in units that require reflective cat's eyes to be sewn to the back of the cap to make the soldier visible to his comrades and traffic. Sewing them to the front is out, since it will compromise daytime camouflage when you need the brim forward to keep the sun out. The solution is to find a piece of khaki or green elastic equal to about half the circumference of your cap. You can use a couple of laundry pens to add a pattern and break up the linear shape if you want. Sew one end of the elastic to the outside of the brim, midway along just above your ear. Sew the other end to the other side, or button hole that end and sew a suitably coloured shirt button there. Onto the elastic you sew the cat's eyes. If you haven't yet worked it out, this is how it works. In day time the elastic is concealed in the crown of your patrol cap. At night you pull it out and wear it at the back of the cap, dependent on which way you are wearing the cap. If in woods or open country your eyes need all the light they can get, so the brim is to the rear. On the road you may need to appear "smarter", and you may need the brim to reduce the glare of street lighting. The advantage of this arrangement is that you can't loose the cat's-eyes (unlike a pin on badge) but can hide them if necessary for example if you have bypassed an enemy unit and don't want anyone looking backwards to see you.
String vests. Russian Spetznaz are supposed to wear string vests between their combat jackets and underwear. In cold weather this traps a layer of warm air and allows the free passage of sweat. In summer it allows air circulation and stops the tunic sticking to the sweat covered skin. It also prevents mosquitoes biting through the cloth reaching the skin. A "net underjacket" might prove a useful item for wearing under combat dress. It would certainly be small packing, and would double as a device for trapping and fishing. Such a garment would be a khaki-grey colour and made from a material that does not withhold water.
Skirts on Greatcoats. Another Spetznaz idea is to fit a skirt piece to a coat. This turns a hip length coat into a greatcoat keeping the legs warm while marching while still allowing them to be well ventilated. The skirt piece can be removed should terrain or mode of movement suggest that it will get in the way. This idea offers potential for several forms of garment, but particularly rainwear. Any coat that uses this feature should include a pocket large enough to store the folded skirt when it is not wanted.
Since I made that post I've discovered that the style of collar of the British blouse is called "Panteen". This could be worn buttoned up or open with a shirt and tie, an open necked shirt or scarf. The American version had a more conventional suit collar with lapels and was much smarter in cut, as pictures of Eisenhower or Patton will show. I think a good case can be made to re-introduce a Class A "Ike" in addition to the long jacket. It would be popular with staff car drivers or computer operators that have to spend long periods seated. It would also look smarter when a sentry or MP wears webbing and Class As. Make the modern Ike jacket smart but give it a Panteen collar for versatility. Alternately have a lapel collared version for Class A wear and a panteen version for daily/barracks/fatigue wear.
I'd keep the idea of the Class A greatcoat being a waxed cotton, but add that it would be available with a button-in warm liner, probably of wool or fleece. I'd also suggest that Class As revert to the dark khaki colour used by the US army during World War two (called Olive Drab or OD in US service). This is a far better colour should a Soldier in Class As be ambushed and take cover in undergrowth.
Shirts. Shirts for field wear should be Khaki-Brown colour and marked with wearer's surname and blood type. They should be made from Cool-max fabric which is comfortable, very fast drying and allows the shirt to be washed in the field. Ribbed garments of coolmax known as RVUs have been produced for wear under body armour. Shirts should be available in two styles a short sleeved Tee-shirt and a long sleeved "Norwegian army-style" shirt (polo-neck with zippered or buttoned opening down to chest). A merkalon thermal version of the shirts may be desirable. Combinations of short and long sleeved shirts can be worn in cold conditions.
Underwear. Should also be made from Cool-max or thermal material, depending on climate. Pertex boxer shorts may also prove suitable. In certain conditions disposable underwear may be used.
Socks and Insoles If you use insoles, carry two pairs -one pair to air and dry while the other is being worn. Use a needle to poke two holes in the heel of each insole and run a loop of fishing line through. This allows you to tie your insoles to your pack or webbing while airing.
Socks should be khaki (ie, Muddy-Green) colour. Sew loops to their necks so they can be used as emergency pouches or tied to things to dry. Socks can be used as emergency mittens.
An even better idea for Socks comes from Scott Miller in his article on "Dominant Logistics". Each Log-Pack should contain half a dozen pairs of cotton socks, vacuum-packed to keep them dry till opened. Once opened the plastic wrapping can be put to other purposes, such as protecting the gun muzzle. These "Field socks" can be returned for laundering and re-use is facilities are available, but are cheap enough to be considered as disposable. Scott sees used socks being used for weapon cleaning, etc. Since these are not a parade item, I'll suggest that these are available in several different shades of grey, brown and green. This will make them more useful for camouflage when sewn to the outside of a combat smock or if wrapped around a rifle's fore-end. Scott's initial idea was that each pack contains three sizes of sock -you wear the pair that fits you and use the others for rags. medium socks fit most of the male population, so my feeling is that a pack should have two pairs of medium and one large. Soldiers with big feet can trade socks with their medium sized comerades, and the excess used for other purposes. Most of the Soldiers who are likely to be too small to wear medium socks are likely to be female, so a supply of small socks can be included in feminine care packages. Such socks can be used as liners for thicker and more expensive woollen socks. A sock filled with virtually anything makes a pretty good weapon.
BDUs. With appropriate camouflage pattern. Trousers may have a different pattern to the jacket due to the differences in body shapes and shadow. All BDUs should be tropical-weight and loose cut, allowing air to circulate in hot conditions and allowing room for other layers of insulation in cold. Trousers may need to be of a heavier fabric than jackets. "General wear" BDUs will be cotton. Active service BDUs may be Nomex or even provide protection against chemical agents. Alternately combat smocks may be used instead of jackets. Desert pattern BDU trousers should be cut extra roomy. This allows perspiration to cool within the garment, re-condense on the skin and evaporate again, so the same water cools the body many times. This is the principle of Arab robes, and the French Foreign Legion uniforms of the 19th Century show the same design features.
Gloves Fingerless Recondo gloves protect the hands while still maintaining dexterity. They may be used in hot climates or when dexterity is needed, as may silk "glove liners". In Iceland I found they worked well with thin Merkalon gloves and prevented windchill on the backs of my hands. Fingerless gloves should be issued in a brown colour and have plastic reinforcement across the knuckles and edge of the hand. Fingerless versions of Sap Gloves are a useful addition to a Soldier's kit, although I have not seen these in any colours other than black.
Rainfall favours certain stealthy military operations. Consequently in heavy rain defensive measures such as patrols must if anything be increased. Having to hold a rifle means that a Soldier's hands are not protected fromthe rain by his sleeves. Hands will rapidly become cold and unresponsive and rain will run down the sleeves. When it is raining a Soldier needs to wear fingered gloves and of a gauntlet configuration. The cuff of the gauntlet must be sufficient to cover the cuff of the sleeve and should probably be provided with an adjustable fastening such as Velcro straps. Such gloves would also be used for operations such as rappelling and FAST-roping and should be designed accordingly.
Neck Scarves. Scrim in jungle or temperate climates, cotton shemagh in desert, wool or silk in cold climates. Cotton bandannas are very useful items to carry, and will be even more useful if printed with survival information.
Field Boots. Many different forms of boot may be needed for servicemen, but temperate field boots should be brown in colour. It has been suggested that future designs of military boot will have built in gaiters, rather like some French boot designs. An advantage of these is that in an emergency boots can be secured without needing to tie the laces. Even with such a feature many experienced servicemen may chose to wear separate gaiters since they protect more of the leg, and provide extra protection against arthropods, leaches and snakes.
Many thanks to Jade Geko for these interesting links on clothing and camouflage.:-