January 28, 2011

Ski Troopers of 1941—And Re-creating the Look

In January 1941, before the United States entered World War II, before there was a Camp Hale, Colorado, or a 10th Mountain Division (over which some Coloradans wax nostalgic), there were infantry "ski patrols" practicing on Mount Rainier, Washington.

This drawing is from a Life magazine article from its Jan. 20, 1941 issue. Those are GI canvas leggings, not "puttees," which were even more evil—something the Brits picked up in northern India and which we copied from them for World War I infantry battledress.

These are puttees.

I had wanted to be the last cross-country (Nordic) skier in Colorado with bamboo poles, but I broke the tip off one last winter.

Googling around, I find antique poles sold at high prices as decorator items. (More reasonable prices on eBay, however.) Various firms offer high-tech carbon-fiber poles wrapped with bamboo for an antique look.

But people are discussing how to find or replicate 1930s ski clothing! On the Internet, you are not alone.


Darrell said...

Back in the days of Camp Hale and the 10th Mtn Division, Leadville was off limits. It wasn't to protect the town from the soldiers, it was to protect the soldiers from the town. ;^)

I always called those things gaiters.

Chas S. Clifton said...

For terminology, I follow WW2 correspondent Ernie Pyle, in Brave Men, about the North Africa campaign:

"Naturally [the artillerymen] didn't take time to put on their leggings. Then when it got light and the firing mission was over, they sat around scraping the mud off their shoes and putting on their leggings.

"It was a very strict military regulation in the combat zones that everyone must wear their leggings, but the average soldier, just like myself, was careless about it. Along this line one of the boys said the worst trouble they had was with new officers.

"'One morning we were firing,' he said, 'and one of them asked over the telephone if we had our leggings on. It made me so damn mad that I just called this gun out of action while we sat down and put on the leggings.' "

Mountaineers say "gaiters" though.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


I too had been wondering just when a puttee becomes a gaiter - is tit the wrap-around-ness that make a puttee, a puttee?


Chas S. Clifton said...

SBW: "Puttee" comes from Hindi: paṭṭī bandage; akin to Sanskrit paṭṭa strip of cloth, bandage, says the dictionary.

I have always heard "puttee" used only in reference to the cloth strips wound around the lower legs. Anything that is laced, strapped, or Velcro'd on is a legging (more military) or gaiter.

Unknown said...

Puttees, leggings & gaiters - confusion reigns.

Puttees are wrapped around the leg like an ACE bandage, spiraling from the ankle to mid calf. They protect the lower leg from weeds and brambles.

Leggings are a simpler version, that lace up on the lower leg - supposedly faster to put on and take off. They protect the lower leg from weeds and brambles.

Gaiters look similar to leggings, but are shorter, and are designed to keep the snow from going up your pant leg.