Pathfinders Kit (and the differences between regular 502 PIR troopers)


All Pathfinder helmets were absent of the playing card symbols. The only markings on any Pathfinders helmets that we can be 100% certain of is the officers rank at the front and from the photos taken just prior to boarding, not all officers had their rank painted on them. Seeing as it was usually done in bright white paint and the rest of their uniform was painted in camouflage, they could have either painted out the rank or it was never painted on in the first place. As for the white lines on the back of the helmets for NCO's and officers, I have no idea if they were there or not. All photos of Pathfinders that I can see are only frontal shots. However, I would suspect that they were either not done, or painted out. Not much point having a painted camouflaged uniform and them drawing a bright white line over your helmet for all to see! 

Lt. MaCarter has a clear Lt bar painted on his helmet, and Lt. Dixon's helmet is so bright from the reflection of the sun that it is impossible to tell, but there are no clear indications that he has anything painted on, so its quite possible that there is nothing there at all.

Lt. Pottery, when zoomed in the on the photo shows what looks like a partially hidden by the helmet net a Lt bar. The net infact makes it look like its offset to one side. 


As for the white lines on the back of the helmets for NCO's and officers, I have no idea if they were there or not. All photos of Pathfinders that I can see are only frontal shots. However, I would suspect that they were either not done, or painted out. Not much point having a painted camouflage uniform and them drawing a bright white line over your helmet for all to see! 


As the snippet from Vanguard of the Crusade says above in the Helmet section. Pathfinder were pretty much kitted out the same as regular airborne troopers. However, there are some additions

Thompson pouches

For those carrying a Thompson, two 20 cell mag pouches should be carried. Every Pathfinder seen carrying a Thompson has two, always carried sideways on the suspenders above the front of the belt. There seems to be no excepts to this. 

Lt. MaCarter shown above (again), clearly showing how the Thompson pouches were worn. Others are wearing two even when its not first obvious as one has twisted sideward and at a first glace looks like they are only wearing one. Although when using the macro setting on the camera and zooming right in, you can make out the outline of them, even if it was still really hard to photograph. 

Garand Bandoliers/Belts

The other weapon usually carried by a Pathfinder was the M1 Garand, those wielding this would either wear the rifle cartridge belt or the pistol belt with rigger pouches. On top of the en-bloc clips carried in the belt, all those with a Garands also carried bandoliers. As shown in the photo below, one 502nd troopers has opted for wearing a 2nd cartridge belt in the fashion of a bandolier. Possibly because of it being much more ruggedly made that the thin disposable cotton bandoliers.

It is very clear though that they expected to use a higher than normal amount of personal ammunition from the standard load. The main difference between the Pathfinders and regular 502 members here is that, on top of their own personal ammunition supply, the regular 502 guys would also carry ammunition to supply the support weapons. Including mortar rounds, rifle grenades, belts of .30-06, extra grenades and anything else that could be split up and shared between them. Whilst the Pathfinders only carried what they needed to use. 

Other weapons

Although the bulk of the Pathfinders all had either the Thompson or the Garand, there were some with M1 Carbines an odd couple of M3A1 Grease Guns.

Sadly it is impossible to see clearly the webbing of those photographed with carbines. In one photograph it is one of the flight crew who is posing with the M1 Carbine. However, it can probably safely be assumed that all the M1 magazines would either be in rigger pouches or M1 Carbine magazine pouches and a possibly include in a 'GP' bag too. More on those later!

From memory there is only 1 clear photograph showing a Pathfinder with a Grease Gun and as expected its impossible to see what he is wearing in terms of webbing. However, at the time of the jump there was no pouches being made for the grease gun. The 30 round mags of the grease gun didn't fit the Thompson 20 round pouches available in the ETO. The Grease Gun bag that is so often seen for sale at shows and by those companies who sell repro gear didn't appear until much later in the war. How magazines for the Grease Gun was carried always seemed a bit odd to that this was overlooked and nothing was made available sooner. The Grease Guns were supplied to a man with four magazines, I'm sure more could be made available for such missions like this! I cannot think of any other way to carry them than the GP bag.

M1911 .45 Automatic Pistol

When looking at these pre take off photos, there is a real lack of .45's, as to be expected. As the officers have one visible in the photo and clearly some don't. Possibly considering that as they have a main weapon with plenty of ammunition, carrying a pistols was probably deemed as being obsolete to them. Remembering at the time these are deemed a defensive weapon only and when your on the attack it probably wouldn't be that useful. 

However, you can make out just as many (which is less than a handful) in the holsters of enlisted men. The interesting part of this is that one of the guys (J McFarlen) who seems to have a holster is one carrying a Thompson, shown by his pairs of 5 cell ammo pouches. Yet, clearly Lt MacCarten in the same photo is not carrying one at all. Another enlisted man in the photo named 'Wilholm' who seems to have no main weapon, only a pistol. The photo reveals the holster and M43 entrenching tool on his belt, nothing more can be seen though, so I suspect he maybe one carrying large parts of the Eureka machine and his duties are more of a technical nature.

Out of these 17 guys in this stick, only two M1911's can be seen, 1 grease gun, 4 Thompsons (indicated by pouches), 12 either have Garand/Carbines or like the possible case of Wilholm, no main weapon. The latter seeming insane and unlikely, but still possible given the nature of the work and the loads carried!

GP - General Purpose Bag

As well as the large amounts of personal ammunition the Pathfinders carried, they also carried large amounts of explosives. Once they have volunteered (or had been volunteered) to become Pathfinders all members were sent to a Radio training school and a demolition/explosives training school. The main mission of course to to communicate with the incoming invasion force and make sure they dropped in the right place. Secondary to that and the part that is always over-looked or forgotten about is that once this was completed they were to cause as many 'problems' for the Germans as possible by blowing up anything they could to hinder their movements or create confusion. Each member would carry plenty of explosive blocks, usually by the 1/4 pound as well as fuzes to set them off. This was mostly carried in either the musette bag or in GP bags.


So far, the lads portraying Pathfinders seem to need more of everything! However, here is some good news... albeit a huge saving of about £5. Pathfinders were not equipped with the clicky-clacky cricket 'toys' that were given to the main body of the troops. For the main reason is that they didn't need them. Being dropped in such small sticks and spread far apart, the chances of mistaking your own team for the enemy was drastically reduced. They instead relied on the oral passwords, that changed daily. Flash / Thunder being the one that most people would recognise.

M42 Jumpsuit Camouflage

Yes, some Pathfinders did have camouflaged M42 jumpsuits, all done by the owners, or on the buddy buddy system whilst wearing it! Soooooo..... your probably wondering why I added this, surely its a given that ALL the Pathfinders had camo on the M42s.... well.... as usual I come bearing bad news. No, no they didn't (don't shoot and swear at me, its not my f'in fault!). It was very nice of the Army Air Corps to take photographs of all the Pathfinder units shortly before take off, almost all of which have survived the passing of time. What Is very clear from looking at these is the following :-

505th PIR, 2nd Bn, E Co   ------- 82nd Airborne Div.  Camouflage clear as day!

505th PIR, 3rd Bn   ------- 82nd Airborne Div.  Again the camouflage is as clear as day!

505th PIR, 1st Bn   ------- 82nd Airborne Div.  Again the camouflage is as clear as day!

508th PIR, 3rd Bn, G Co   ------- 82nd Airborne Div.  More lovely camouflage.

All those photographs above showing all those lovely camouflaged M42s all belonged to the 82nd Divisions Pathfinders.... SO HERE COMES THE 101st Divisions Pathfinders... 

506th PIR, 1st Bn  ------- 101st Airborne Div.  Something really seems to be missing here! No camouflage at all, or if it is there its barely noticeable.

501st PIR, 3rd Bn  ------- 101st Airborne Div. Again, no camouflage, or super light and sparse.

502nd PIR,  ------- 101st Airborne Div. I'm sorry!!! No camouflage that can clearly be seen.

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