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USMC & US Navy WWII camo ponchos


Bob Hudson

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If you read Guadalcanal Diary, author Richard Tregaskis' first-hand account of the Marine Corps' early days of fighting on the Pacific Island, you will find several references to the lowly poncho's role as a shelter from the elements. These WWII USMC ponchos can still be found today, in very decent condition and as someone who has tried all sorts of rain/foul weather gear during his sailing days, I must say these things are very well made. And they are very large, so you really could curl up under one and have lots of protection. They did not have a hood, but the collar could be snapped tightly. The ponchos were reversible, with green and tan sides:

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These camo ponchos came in two styles: one style had snaps that allowed the wearer to fasten the poncho around his arms like sleeves - the other had no such snaps:

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You will find these ponchos with stamped labels for the USMC or US Navy. The Navy ones are not as common and may be worth a little more. In recent years there reportedly were cases of never used USMC ponchos found somewhere in Europe and in fact there have been a lot of these listed for sale.

In the very early days of World War II the Marines still used a similar style poncho that had no camo and came in tan only. Here's one that was made in 1938:

 

PONCHO1.jpg

PONCHO2.jpg

This 1938 poncho was found hanging in a closet at an estate sale and was in excellent condition even after 68 years.

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craig_pickrall

There were rain hats provided with these ponchos since they did not have hoods. The design dated back to at least WW1. That early design was a black rubber like material. I have seen them but do not own one. The WW2 version was in OD and is a cloth cover over rubber. The design was still around in 1960 which leads me to believe the hoodless ponchos were still in the system at that time. I have never seen any hint that these were made in camo.

 

1943

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1960

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Greg Robinson
There were rain hats provided with these ponchos since they did not have hoods. The design dated back to at least WW1. That early design was a black rubber like material. I have seen them but do not own one. The WW2 version was in OD and is a cloth cover over rubber. The design was still around in 1960 which leads me to believe the hoodless ponchos were still in the system at that time. I have never seen any hint that these were made in camo.

 

I don't believe these rain hats were used much in the field. I guess they figured the helmet would serve the same purpose....as did the service (campaign) hat. Probably an item used more while in garrison

 

Greg

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I have been trying for a long time to find period photos of Marines and other GI's wearing ponchos and other foul weather gear. I have decided that when the weather was wet enough to require such gear the combat photographers stored their cameras in dry bags and curled up under their ponchos.

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Greg Robinson
I have been trying for a long time to find period photos of Marines and other GI's wearing ponchos and other foul weather gear. I have decided that when the weather was wet enough to require such gear the combat photographers stored their cameras in dry bags and curled up under their ponchos.

 

What I've seen are period photos of Marines using the poncho as a ground cloth, a shelter, a blanket, and.....this is depressing....as a cover for the KIA's. I've seen them laid out on the ground on Iwo Jima all covered up with camo ponchos. But I can't recall photos of them being used in the rain.

 

Marines on Iwo Jima have been photographed on Iwo Jima wearing those Navy foul weather parkas and wearing field jackets.

 

Greg

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Greg Robinson

Several years ago I had an interesting conversation with another collector about the differences between USMC and USN camo ponchos. He said the greensides of the two ponchos were different. But here's a pic of two near mint camouflage ponchos. one the left is a 1945 dated USMC poncho....on the right is a 1943 dated USN poncho. Different makers. I sure don't see any color differences....do you?

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Greg compare the poncho in Bobs top icture at the opening of the topic.....and the USMC ones....the green tones are definatley GREENER...

 

Honest...dont forget i have BOTH USMC and USN ponchos....:-)

 

Maybe a maker variation granted....:-) rather than a branch of service recommendation

 

Regards

 

Lloyd

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Greg Robinson
Greg compare the poncho in Bobs top icture at the opening of the topic.....and the USMC ones....the green tones are definatley GREENER...

 

Honest...dont forget i have BOTH USMC and USN ponchos....:-)

 

Maybe a maker variation granted....:-) rather than a branch of service recommendation

 

Regards

 

Lloyd

 

You may be correct on this but did you look at my pics above comparing two ponchos? Sure look the same to me. :D

 

Greg compare the poncho in Bobs top icture at the opening of the topic.....and the USMC ones....the green tones are definatley GREENER...

 

Honest...dont forget i have BOTH USMC and USN ponchos....:-)

 

Maybe a maker variation granted....:-) rather than a branch of service recommendation

 

Regards

 

Lloyd

 

The Navy poncho in my pic is the exact same poncho as in Bob's pic....I bought it from him. But you'll notice that in my side by side comparison pic it doesn't look nearly as green. And then I also own that 1938 "khaki" USMC Poncho that Bob has pictured and it's not nearly as green looking as it shows in his pics. So it's his camera. :D

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You may be correct on this but did you look at my pics above comparing two ponchos? Sure look the same to me. :D

The Navy poncho in my pic is the exact same poncho as in Bob's pic....I bought it from him. But you'll notice that in my side by side comparison pic it doesn't look nearly as green. And then I also own that 1938 "khaki" USMC Poncho that Bob has pictured and it's not nearly as green looking as it shows in his pics. So it's his camera. :D

 

That's right: I like my little Canon camera but I still haven't been able to overcome its color balance problems. Ka-bar: can you post your photo of the khaki poncho to show its true colors?

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Greg Robinson
That's right: I like my little Canon camera but I still haven't been able to overcome its color balance problems. Ka-bar: can you post your photo of the khaki poncho to show its true colors?

 

 

Here ya go.

 

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Here ya go.

 

 

For those of you not familiar with these Marine Corps and Navy ponchos from WWII (and before), these khaki ones can sell $200-400 compared to under $100 for the reversible camo ponchos. It was a real thrill to find that 1938 poncho in the walk-in closet ay an estate sale. The rest of the closet was basically ladies clothing: the last place you'd expect to something marked USMC 1938. You can see by the fold lines that these pre-WWII ponchos got a little stiff over the years, whereas the camo ones I've handled seem to stay pretty supple. At that estate sale there was another khaki poncho on a table on that patio - I think it was dated 1941 - and unlike the one that had been on a hanger in the closet, it had been folded up for a long time and much stiffer, but even so eventually sold for over $200 (not by me).

 

Ka-bar outlined some of the many uses of these ponchos, from stretcher to shelter and I suspect that for Marines fighting on rainy Pacific islands it was an important piece of equipment, because it was in fact often the only shelter.

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Greg Robinson
For those of you not familiar with these Marine Corps and Navy ponchos from WWII (and before), these khaki ones can sell $200-400 compared to under $100 for the reversible camo ponchos. It was a real thrill to find that 1938 poncho in the walk-in closet ay an estate sale. The rest of the closet was basically ladies clothing: the last place you'd expect to something marked USMC 1938. You can see by the fold lines that these pre-WWII ponchos got a little stiff over the years, whereas the camo ones I've handled seem to stay pretty supple. At that estate sale there was another khaki poncho on a table on that patio - I think it was dated 1941 - and unlike the one that had been on a hanger in the closet, it had been folded up for a long time and much stiffer, but even so eventually sold for over $200 (not by me).

 

Raidergirl outlined some of the many uses of these ponchos, from stretcher to shelter and I suspect that for Marines fighting on rainy Pacific islands it was an important piece of equipment, because it was in fact often the only shelter.

 

Believe me....the camo ones can get plenty stiff. Back when they weren't as commonly seen as today, I saw plenty of them stiff as a board.

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craig_pickrall

Here are a few pics showing the poncho worn in a combat area. These were taken on Iwo Jima. The first set of pics is fairly well published but the second set of pics hasn't received as much attention.

 

Unloading supplies on Iwo.

 

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Toward the center of pic

 

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Off to the right side of pic. I'm not sure if this is a poncho but thought it would be good for discussion. It may even be an OD poncho.

 

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Talking with a POW on Iwo.

 

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  • 2 months later...

My USMC poncho..never opened up still in talc and as soft as silk!!

 

Cheers,

 

Dave.

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  • 2 months later...

[EDITOR'S NOTE: this post was moved here from another thread]

 

Were all these reverse camo ponchos navy issue?

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They all carry either US Navy or US Marine Corps labels but other than the labels, there's no difference in them.

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forum support, there is a difference the USMC poncho's have grommets on the corners and USN have none and I think there is one other difference but cannot think of it.

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forum support, there is a difference the USMC poncho's have grommets on the corners and USN have none and I think there is one other difference but cannot think of it.

 

I sold my Navy and Marine Corps parkas to marine_kabar so we'll have to get him to jump in on the grommet thing. I do know the colors are identical.

 

I'm moving this thread over to the existing Navy/Marine Corp poncho thread.

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I know of no difference between the Navy and Marine ponchos other than the markings. The rain hats apparently did not see much use either.

 

CB

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  • 3 months later...
Bob Hudson

Here's one of these being put to use to provide camouflage for a Navy amphibious forces communicator operating on the beach during training. This photo is from a 1945 Pacific Fleet amphibious forces training school yearbook:

 

phibsponcho.jpg

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Greg Robinson
forum support, there is a difference the USMC poncho's have grommets on the corners and USN have none and I think there is one other difference but cannot think of it.

 

There was a specification change in the Fall of 1944 adding grommets in the corners to make the poncho adaptable as a shelter. I believe this change applied to both Navy and Marine Corps camouflage ponchos.

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  • 2 years later...
Greg Robinson

I own an unused camo poncho that's marked USMC and dated Oct 6, 1942. It's neatly folded, brownside out, with the neck hole exposed. My thoughts are this was how they were originally packed in the shipping crate. It's one of the early ponchos to come out of Greece years ago.

 

greg

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  • 2 months later...

Apart from the grommets in the corners were their any differences or variations as the war progressed?

 

When were camo ponchos first seen in use?

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Several years ago I had an interesting conversation with another collector about the differences between USMC and USN camo ponchos. He said the greensides of the two ponchos were different. But here's a pic of two near mint camouflage ponchos. one the left is a 1945 dated USMC poncho....on the right is a 1943 dated USN poncho. Different makers. I sure don't see any color differences....do you?

 

I have two that are quite different in colors. Could just be manufacturer variations.

 

USMC on the left and USN on the right.

Picture_0034.jpg

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  • 2 years later...
I have two that are quite different in colors. Could just be manufacturer variations.

 

USMC on the left and USN on the right.

Picture_0034.jpg

 

I've had those same kind of color variations on just one camo shelter half.

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