The Doughboy’s Uniform and Equipment

“Inspection this morning with packs, and drill this after noon with full pack helmits and gass masks… I just drew two more siuts of under wear an O.D. uniform, two pairs of #11 trench shoes and another blanket this morning. In this pack that I carry around at drill is 1 shelter half (or half a tent), 1 tent pole, 5 metal pins, two heavy blankets, a siut of heavy underwear, two very heavy pairs of socks, one towel, 1 cake of soap, 1 tooth brush, and paste. 1 bacon can filled with bull durham makings, a condiment can filled with matches and perfections (thanks to you folks at home), a can of shaving soap and three O.D. hankercheifs. Add a gass mask bag one on each hip, slung from the shoulder, a round about, canteen first aid pouch cartridge clip carrier, and pistol, and beleive me Em I must be a picture of war days proper.” -Letter from Sam Avery 12/22/17

American Doughboy, 1916-1919

The uniform and equipment used by the American soldier during the time of the Great War was unique to the early 20th Century and also adapted to the rapid changes required by modern warfare at that time. In his writings home, Sam Avery often referred to elements of the uniform and equipment that he used in the field which are now part of military history.


Photo courtesy of Brennan Gauthier

Here is a guide to help readers envision and understand those items which the American infantryman was issued by the Army and relied upon for comfort and function both South on the Border and Over There in France from 1916-1919.



Sam’s uniform headwear consisted of the Campaign Hat (originally worn during duty in the United States and on the Mexican Border), the Overseas Cap (issued after he had arrived in France), and the Helmet (also issued after arriving in France at the time of advanced training).

Campaign Hat

Overseas Cap

U.S. M1917 Helmet


Sam’s uniform clothing was made of either cotton or wool depending on the season, and consisted of underwear and socks, olive drab “O.D.” Shirt and Trousers, Puttees or “Leggings”, hobnailed Trench Shoes, the Service Coat or “Blouse”, and a Trench Coat (for winter weather).

O.D. Shirt

O.D. Trousers

Puttees or Leggings

Trench Shoes

Blouse Coat

Trench Coat



Assembled U.S. Army Field Pack, 1917



Sam Avery carried his personal effects on the march in a Roll and a Condiment Can which contained individual compartments and were folded into the Haversack as part of the assembled Field Pack. The condiment can was used to store a soldier’s three-day ration of salt, sugar, coffee and tobacco. The meat or bacon can was used to store meat rations. Other personal effects included the Shaving Kit, Sewing Kit, and Mess Kit.

Personal Items Roll

Meat or Bacon Can

Condiment Can

Sewing Kit

Shaving Kit

Soap Dish

Mess Kit



The Haversack formed the core of the assembled “Field Pack” and carried all of a soldier’s gear including including personal effects, extra socks, underwear and rations. An attachment called the “pack carrier” connected the Shelter Half with its pegs and poles, a poncho and a blanket to the bottom of the haversack. Attaching grommets held the Entrenching Tool and Bayonet on the flap. The shoulder straps then attached to the Rifle Belt or “roundabout” containing the load of rifle ammunition (120 rounds of .30 ball ammunition in 5-round clips). The First Aid Kit, Wire Cutters and the Canteen were also attached either to the bottom of the haversack or the rifle belt. The Gas Mask was carried in a separate bag slung over the shoulder while on the march or on the chest in the “Ready” position while in the trenches.


Shelter Half with Pegs

Entrenching Tool

Wire Cutters

Canteen and Cup

Gas Mask and Bag, Outside View

Gas Mask, Inside View (note nose clips and mouthpiece)



As a First Sergeant in the infantry, Sam also carried both the Model 1903 Springfield .30 caliber rifle and bayonet along with the Model 1911 Colt .45 caliber pistol. Each 2-pocket magazine pouch for the pistol held 28 rounds of .45 ball ammunition in four 7-round magazines (2 per pocket).

Rifle Belt or “Roundabout” with Cartridge Pouches

Bayonet for Springfield M1903 Rifle

Springfield M1903 .30 Caliber Rifle

M1911 .45 Caliber Pistol Belt with holster and magazine pouch

Detail of button, 1916-1919

Special thanks to O’Ryans Roughnecks for assistance and use of uniform and equipment photos.

Published on February 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm  Comments (27)  

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27 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I would like very much to see the shelter half unfolded & opened up. I’ve been told the WWI shelter half only had a fly on one end so that when paired with another to make a pup tent, only one end of the tent could be closed up. I notice the M1903 Springfield rifle is in the M1903A1 configuration with the quite uncommon type C stock so highly valued by collectors. This stock has a full pistol grip and no finger grooves on the sides of the stock. My authorities state the C stock first appeared in 1929 for use on National Match rifles. They were so well received that they were used on service rifles in the 1930s. Also. you show an early scabbard with a leather sheath – a M1905 modified from Birnie hanger to the 1910 hook & eye system. The M1910 scabbard usually encountered has an outer web sheath with a leather tip. The left side of the ammo belt has oval rather than round eyelets which is unusual; early snaps with eagles (rather than the later “push the dot” snaps); and the individual pouches have puckered bottoms typical of the woven Mills belt. Later mass produced belts had flat bottoms simply stitched into place. Interesting that in two photos you show two types of shaving kits: the Gilette “kakhi” model in it’s hard shell box and another type in a cloth or canvas wrap. Altogether a terrific series of photos of a great collection of individual gear and equipment. regards, Frank

  2. I was curious…we have four kids invited to represent the WWI Doughboys in the National Memorial Day parade in Washington DC in May of 2014. Is there anywhere we can obtain (purchase or lease) authentice looking uniforms to wear in the parade?

  3. My father had a keepsake in his belongings from his father , my grandfather apparently used in WW1 by soldiers. I have no clue & am seeking help. It appears to be brass; two brass tube clipped together. One tube has two unique twist caps on either end. The second tube is permanently capped on one end and other end bent tubing as cap which is screwed into tube ( 5 inches long) with a wick of some attached to it and stuffed with tube. Can send pictures with email address. Do u have any idea what this might be ? Thanks George Sayre

  4. dear curious, yes both original and reproduction WW! uniforms and gear are readily available. Search ebay or just goole WWI uniforms, tunic, or breeches. that will get you started. Most vintage uniform parts I have in my collection are in smaller sizes and not cheap if in good condition. If you want something that actually fits, go for the reproductions. But they are intended for adult reenactors and can be pricey, for example see regards, If you are handy with making repairs with needle and thread you can find moth eaten and damaged originals for relatively little money. regards, Frank Kirwin Hall

  5. Dear George: Aside from its large size your keepsake sounds something like a trench lighter. If it is a trench lighter, unscrewing a cap on one tube would reveal a wheel and flint to make a spark. The other tube would hold either a wick & fuel or wick that only smoldered without a flame (less visible and thus safer). Would very much like to see those photos you mentioned as it could easily be something else entirely. Maybe a little kerosene lamp to hang inside a dugout? regards, Frank Kirwin Hall

  6. Thanks Bunches!! Makes sense; I need a separate email address to send you pictures.

  7. Hi I am trying to find out about my Grandfather who served in the first world war I have a leather dog tag with USA stamped on the back and an old photo of who we think is my Grandfather but I thought he was English did the US use leather dog tags in the First World war hoping you can help . Thanks Tony Mann

  8. Tony: The US WW1 “dog tags”, or identity discs that I have seen are hand stamped aluminum discs perhaps a bit larger than a 25 cent peice. There is quite a variety. They may have one or two holes punched to pass through a cord to wear around the neck. Infrequently I have seen them in pairs, one tied to the other with a short cord. Occasionally I see one with a leather thong. I’ve never seen a leather dog tag and don’t know of them. It may simply be something I’m just unaware of or it might have been made or acquired privately. You may find this web site on WW1 identity tags interesting. scroll way down to find the section on the US.
    You may have to squint real hard to tell the difference between a Doughboy and “Tommy Atkins” in a WW1 photo. We wore the British “Brodie” style helmet and the US tunics were patterned after the British uniform. Many US soldiers even carried British rifles or US Enfields that looked like British rifles. (I have a photo of a great uncle in his Doughboy uniform and he looks just like a British Tommy.) Look for insignia on the sleeves and especially look for collar brass. Still lots of English immigrants in the early 1900’s. No reason your Granddad could not have been both an English born American and a US soldier. good luck looking for the info you want. best regards, Frank Kirwin-Hall

  9. George Sayre: I’m not clever with computer tech stuff and I’d rather not post an email address for the world to see. I found a dozen George Sayre’s on facebook. Are you one of them? Otherwise maybe the host of this site could put us in touch. Frank

  10. […] and Bill Whiting, Home on furlough 1918.” Note the differences in the two men, one in uniform with a soldier’s posture, staring straight at the camera. The other looking to the side, in a […]

  11. I have a photo of a World War I uniform I am seeking to identify. Does anyone have a suggestion on where I might send a copy to get some help with an id. Thanks!

    Gary Roberts

  12. I received a email from Poland, He sent me a picture of a dog tag or equipment tag not sure which, He stated Under what circumstances badge during World War he went to the village of Baumgarten Nieder Slesien Third Reich, the soldier stayed in the village Baumgarten as a prisoner of war, as a fugitive from a POW camp or scout branch as a soldier?
    I have a picture of the tag with a sn on it where can I get it identified

  13. Do you know where uniforms like this – old or new – can be purchased.

  14. Leather I.D. Tags were used by Canadian and British Soldiers. Regards BigE.

  15. I found an item at an estate sale but have no idea what or when it was used but it is definitely (in my mind) to be military. It is made of Stainless Steel. There are no U.S. Army or any other markings on it so I cannot connect it directly to U.S. (maybe English) military. Just things I remember from when I was a child. This item can be held in the hand. It is dome shaped and a sliding door on one side. The bottom is flat but has two -what look like clips that would clip onto gear belts or combat soldiers. I used it to carry on my belt when I go into the woods to light my cigarettes and put the ashes in it along with the cigarette butts in it after I field shredded them instead of leaving them in the woods to deface mother earth. A gentleman saw me using it and asked me where I acquired it. He offered me quite a bit of money for it and I just laughed at him. He said he was a collector of antiquities from the Military Civil war. WW I, II etc. He was it was carried by soldiers during WW I to light cigarettes in so enemy would not see their light and put their dead cigs in so they left nothing behind. I’d include a pix but don’t know how to do that. I was wondering if you could tell me if you know what this item is?

  16. Very good write up, and fantastic pictures. Thanks.

  17. I am looking for a USA World War I uniform, not the hat, as I have that, but also the sewing kit they had. I gave things to the local museum and they lost the sewing kit. I would like to know how much the sewing kit is worth today. Thanks

  18. Great article. Thank you.

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  20. All but the first two photos are unable to be viewed as they are apparently hosted on photobucket and they do not allow usage on “3rd party websites” hopefully you can get it fixed! Great posting!

  21. Wait why did they carry so much equipment

  22. In partial reply to the question, “Wait why did they carry so much equipment”: because they needed that stuff, and because rapid re-supply was unlikely. In WWI officers and enlisted actually carried their prescribed load. By WWII two things had changed. First, officers (especially the higher ranking ones) generally had access to a jeep or truck, so they became disconnected to what the enlisted man carried. That resulted in the unit SOP ordering even heavier loads. Second, for Americans rapid re-supply was almost always available. I recommend General SLA Marshall’s little book, “The Soldier’s Load and the Mobility of a Nation” for a detailed consideration.

  23. Great internet sitewebsite! It looks extremely professional! Keep up the great job!
    Sustain the helpful work and bringing in the crowd!

  24. […] “The complete soldier’s kit shown above includes the knapsack, bayonet and cartridge belt, the blanket roll, including a half a shelter tent, a blanket and a poncho, his canteen, rifle, five tent pegs and an upright in three sections, mess utensils, and a first aid package. In addition, the soldier may carry articles for his own personal comfort, such as a shaving kit and toilet articles.” [Here are some great photographs of the individual articles of clothing and equipment] […]

  25. America

  26. I recently found what I believe to be an authentic canteen from Goodwill, I picked it up for $6. It was manufactured in 1917 by Brauer Bros. Mfg. Co. and shows appropriate signs of wear. It also has the initials and last name of who I assume to be the soldier who carried it. Such an item, from my research, seems to be fairly common so I will be gifting the item to my dad, who helped nurture my love of history. I am a recently graduated history major so of course I am trying to investigate this artifact as extensively as I can. This is how I came across your blog post. Thank you for doing your part in keeping history alive and part of discourse! -HRN

  27. What weight bullet was the 30-06 ammunition?

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