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Military Poncho

Author : Date : 1/21/2016 5:13:55 AM

The poncho was first used on a regular basis in the 1850s for irregular U.S. military forces operating on the U.S. Western Plains.[6] These early military ponchos were made of gutta percha muslin, a latex-coated, waterproof cloth.[7] Ponchos made of gutta-percha or India rubber coated cloth were officially adopted during the American Civil War, both as rain clothing and as a ground sheet for sleeping. While originally intended for cavalryforces, they were widely used by infantry as well; General Sherman's Union troops, lightly equipped and living off procurement demand from the local populace, wore ponchos during wet weather encountered during the march through Confederate Georgia to the sea.[7]

Discontinued after the Civil War, the U.S. Army again issued ponchos of waterproof rubberized canvas to its forces during the Spanish–American War of 1898.[8] Two years later, both the Army and the Marines were forced to issue waterproof rubberized cloth ponchos with high neck collars during thePhilippine–American War in 1900.[7] With the entry of the United States into World War I, both doughboys and Marines in France wore the poncho; it was preferred over the raincoat for its ability to keep both the wearer and his pack dry, as well as serving as a roof for a makeshift shelter.[9]

Just prior to World War II, ponchos were significantly improved during testing with the U.S. Army Jungle Experimental Platoon in the jungles of Panama, incorporating new, lighter materials and a drawcord hood that could be closed off to form a rain fly or ground sheet.[7] Ponchos were widely used by United States armed forces during World War II; even lightly equipped foot-mounted forces such as Merrill's Marauders, forced to discard tentage and all other unnecessary equipment, retained their blanket and poncho.[10] During the 1950s, new lightweight coated nylon and other synthetic materials were developed for military ponchos. The poncho has remained in service ever since as a standard piece of U.S. military field equipment.[7] Today, the United States armed forces issue ponchos that may be used as a field expedient shelter. These garments are also used by hunters, campers, and rescue workers.

During the World War II, the German Army (Wehrmacht) issued the Zeltbahn (see Shelter half), a poncho that could be combined to form tents. A typical four-man tent used four Zeltbahnen.

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