How to wear all this kit!
The pride and joy of the paratrooper were his jump boots (Boots, Jumper, Parachute). This sets him apart from fellow soldiers. When the new combat boots (Boot, Service, Combat, Composition sole) was introduced, no more jump boots were procured. The jump boots that were still in stock were issued until exhausted. Many new replacements wore the new combat boots, giving these older paratroopers an even more elite status.
Of course anyone who has lived in a past 200 years knows how to put on a pair of boots! However, the and very important difference is the way the M42 jump trousers and the wool dress trousers would be 'bloused' over the boot. This weird term is simply a weird way of meaning tucked in bellowed over the top. There are leg ties that can be purchased for a £1 a pack from companies like Soldier of Fortune, however these are pretty pointless. The easiest way is to tuck the bottoms of your trousers into your boots, do them up. and then pull them out until you have enough over the top of the boot to achieve the required look.
Of course nobody needs to be told how to wear a T-Shirt, however a few differences between modern T-Shirts and wartime ones. Special branches of the army, such as the paratroopers, did wear T-shirts that were printed with a design for that particular branch. The use of these T-shirts fell with that particular organization and were local procurement. These T-shirts were bought from civilian sources and printed by commercial firms as ordered by an organization or unit. The T-shirts with the name "paratroopers" and a drawing of a parachute are well known.
A lot of soldiers bought white T-shirts (and shorts) while on leave for use as extra underwear.
WW2 T-shirts are different from modern T-shirts. Original shirts are of a tight fit. The body is usually of tubular construction, meaning that there is no side seam. Short sleeves with the hem of the sleeve ending high upon the upper arm. And, most importantly, a wide round opening for the neck with a thin border usually made of the same material as the body.
Please, no more modern "army" shirts in tan or green with chocking necks with thick borders and sleeves like a medieval magician!
M42 Jump Suit
Other than the blousing of the trousers into the boots as written above, just put it on. There are a few modifications that you can make. If you are going to portray a Pathfinder, then it would be good to camoflauge your M42. Some troopers cut off the leg ties, some cut off the waist belt and some added extra pockets to enable them to carry more items. All of these are at your preference.
Haircuts & Spectacles
No matter how good your uniform and equipment are, if your haircuts and eyeglasses are modern looking they will stand out a mile. In the 1940's citizen soldiers wore their hair just like everybody else at the time: conform the 30's/40's fashion. The sides and back (nape) of the head were close cut with longer hair on top that was combed in shape. No beards, a little growth from days in the field is tollerable, but turning up looking like !
Only a few airborne units sported a mohawk.
The eyeglasses worn in the military were of the Ful-Vue type with the wrap around legs. Either chromium plated or gold filled. These were taken from commercial stock. Note that the lenses are of an oval shape, not round. The legs are attached high up, not on the centre of the frame.
Now this is a tricky one to write, mainly as each soldiers webbing sites are total customizable. You out the items where you think they would be best suited to you. There is no right way... there are certainly some wrong things to do, but you'll work those out as you go along, just put your entrenching tool in the wrong spot and try and run, the backs of your legs will get a battering if you don't end up face first in the dirt that is! The only thing that will need to be properly adjusted are the M1936 susperders, these will look simply ludicrous when not adjusted and worn correctly. We don't expect you to be able to get this right. It took me a few goes to get the just right for me and I've been doing this for years! Plus its far easier to do it with the buddy-buddy system than trying to do it on your own.
Musette Bag - an item which creeps up from time to time and people will tell you that your 'doing it wrong'. You'll be told to clip it down to the belt, you'll be told to have the straps go under your arms like a back pack, you'll be told to leave it hanging loose because that makes most sense.... sadly lots of people have been told 'what is right over the years and based on nothing more than what they 'think', rather than basing it on anything factual.
The problem that the paratroopers had to over come was that when your wearing the T5 parachute, you cannot have the mussette bag on your back! However by not cliping down those other two straps to anything; and only having it cliped to the D rings you can flip it over your head to your front and wear it there until you jump, land, get rid of your chute and either flip it over your head and wear it over the parachute tray, or discard the T5 parachute rig entirely if you have time and its safe. Once you flip this over your head, I don't suppose anyone is going to them fiddle around cliping down those two other straps to make a handy back pack, or clipping them to the belt to make them tidy! Of course, some might during a lull, but priorites first! Wear it as you want to wear it, as long as it make sense and you understand why you've chosen it like that!
The only important thing when it comes to webbing, other than the M1936 suspenders is not be be wearing/carrying anything that doesn't make sense. One one piece of entrenching kit (axe, pick mattock, entrenching tool), everything should match the impression and rank you are portraying.
The M7 Assualt Vest was never issued or worn by any of the Airborne units during WW2. This was issued to the seaborne invasion force only. Rangers, 1st Inf Div, 29th Inf Div etc... It makes no sense to wear one, no matter how good they look and lets not ever get started on the fact that almost all the reproductions are tan and yet almost all of these originals were made in OD#7 (or dark olive green for normal folks)...
Gas Mask Bags
The 101st were issued the M5 assault gas masks. These assault gasmasks were carried in a black rubberized bag (M7) that had a strap attached to each corner. The bag was ussually carried with one strap around the waist, resting on the thigh. The opening facing forward. WW2 bags had four chrome snaps, the post-war version had three visible lift the dot snaps.
Eugene "Gene" Gilbreath told Bert de Jong, when asked what they did with their gas masks, that the rubberized bag fitted nicely in the musette bag and was used as a waterproof liner for keeping personal stuff dry. The mask itself was left with the supply train, or just thrown away…
Another trade of the the paratroopers is the M3 trench knife. Although this knife is a general issue item, it is mostly known for being used by the paratroopers. Traditionally the airborne troops strapped the knife in its sheath to their leg.
Two types of sheaths were used in WW2, the early leather M6 sheath and the plastic (with a webbing belt loop) M8 sheath. In Normandy the M6 sheath appears prevalent, but when worn or damaged the M8 seems to be issued. Occasionally the later M8A1 with its wire hanger is seen in photographs. The tips of the M8 and M8A1 sheaths were reinforced with a metal tip in the post-war period.
When worn on the leg the sheath was tied to the lower leg. The tip of both types of sheaths had a hole through which a leather thong went and was tied around the ankle. Through the belt loop any kind of strap was used and was tied around the calf. This could be a spare boot lace, piece of string or rope, or even a rag. A widely used strap, however, is one of the straps taken from a folding field cot. The earlier field cots ware white and these white straps can be seen in original photos. Tourniquettes were used sometimes, but being an medical item, these weren't readily available.
Short 18" straps are often offered as "paratroop leg" or "general purpose" straps. Obviously these are too short for any general purpose use. These straps are actually USMC pack straps for securing the tent roll to the marine's field pack. Obviously none were acquired by any troopers in the ETO.
Believe it or not, but the knife was worn on the belt as well! Shock horror, how dare I make such outlandish claims!
Parachute First Aid Kit
Developed for the Air Corps the 1st aid kit was a standard issue to the parachute troops before a combat jump. This small waterproof pouch could be tied to equipment with its four fabric tapes. In this pouch there was a standard field dressing, tourniquet, and a morphine syrette along with an instruction sheet.
This pouch can be seen tied to any equipment (suspenders, belt, shovel, et cetera), an arm or leg, and sometimes to the shoulder loops of the M43 jacket. Some troopers tied the 1st aid kit to the netting of their helmets. It appears that this was standard practice with the 502nd PIR. Probably this was done for easy recognition during initial combat right after the jump. The 17 Airborne Division was ordered to tie the kit to their helmets for the Varsity Operation so that the British soldiers could easily distinct the American helmets from the German helmets in the early dawn hours of the assault.
Along with the Parachute First Aid Kit British field dressing were issued as well and can be seen tied to equipment, uniforms or helmets.
Each Parachute Infantry Regiment has a medical attachment. This was a medical unit permanently attached to that regiment. These units provided for medical care at the frontline and for initial medical care and evacuation. All three battalions had a medical unit that acted as a battalion aid station. Each company had two or three medics from this unit attached that usually became an unofficial members of that particular company.
The medics of the regimental attachment were part of that orginization and used the same helmet stenciling as the rest of the regiment. In the case of the 506th this was the spade marking with its corresponding tic.
The 101st Airborne Division, or the 82nd for that matter, did not used red crosses on their helmets! It was the 17th Airborne Division that used three large red crosses in white circles during the Rhine Jump. (Only the 3rd battalion medical attachment, 508th PIR, used two large white circles with red crosses on the sides of their helmets during the Normandy Jump.)
An airborne medical company was attached to the 101st Airborne Division, the 326th AB Med Co. This company was responsible for evacuation of the wounded from the battalion aid stations to divisional collecting stations from where the wounded were transported to field hospitals.
Members of the 326th AB Med Co. used a small white cross on the sides for helmet marking. Again, no red crosses in white circles!
Initinal frontline evacuation was done by litter, from there the versatile jeep took over. The 101st AB used specially converted jeeps for the transportation of the wounded. Since the jeep could be delivered by glider it was part of the operation from the start.
Airborne medics usually carried only one medical bag with its bottem extended. One litter carrying strap was used to carry the bag slung over the shoulder. The other bag and the special medical harness, called yoke, was simply not used.
Aidmen of the 101st normally wore two red cross armbands, one around each arm.
Soldiers carry arms. Riflemen carries rifles.
The standard rifle of the US Army in WW2 is the M1 rifle, also called Garand after its inventor. U.S. soldiers, however, referred to this rifle as the "M1 rifle". The only external upgrade the rifle got after the war was a new tightening nob on the rear sight. Both the old M1907 leather and the new web M1 slings were still being used at the time of the Holland Jump. Don't put any en-bloc clips on the sling, this was seldom done and you'll probably gonna lose it anyway.
Remember that the M1 rifle was carried port arms. A lot of reenactors run around holding their rifles like a modern assault rifle, with the muzzle pointing down. It's not a mine detector!
Carbines were carried by junior officers and members of crew served weapons like mortars or artillery, or soldiers with specific tasks like drivers or cooks. A special version for the paratroopers was developed in 1942 and had a metal wire stock that folded sideways. This is the M1A1 Carbine. A special canvas holster for carrying the carbine on the pistol belt was also developed. These are carried in a much more casual manner than the M1 Rifle. Due its light weight and compact size, how these should still be carried around the port arm position when not slung over the shoulder.