These section comes in two parts, those items of kit the soldier commonly marked with there details in regulation for; secondary is the sorts of items that the soldier would mark with other details unit details helmets.
One of the major problems when re-enacting in the field is that everyone’s clothing and equipment looks very similar. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, or while breaking down a display, it is very easy to accidentally collect another member’s Jacket, or pick up the wrong Cartridge Belt, mistaking it for yours. Something that you learn very early on is to mark your items so that they can be easily identified as belonging to you. There are various ways in which this can be done, but the US Army actually produced an Information Circular containing the prescribed locations for marking individual clothing and equipment.
Generally, items were marked with a soldier’s laundry number. Laundry numbers were special identification codes that were introduced by the US Army in order to allow service personnel to quickly identify their individual equipment. The laundry number consisted of the soldier’s last initial, followed by the final 4 digits of his Army Serial Number. These numbers were then applied to personal equipment so that they could be easily identified when stored with others’ items. While laundry numbers are not unique to the soldier, they were sufficiently specific within a soldier’s unit.
Of course, lots of you won't want to mark all your original kit with the regulation details and that's fine. This is only further information on things you can do to enhance your impression.
These markings were done in many ways, some soldier used rubber stamps that were made upon demand, others used what ever was to hand, from pens, markers and paint! So the preference on how you want to mark the kits is really down to you. There are specialist kits for stamping metal and leather items. Both original kits can be taken to events should someone need us too stamp something.
Also note, that despite some instruction saying some items where not to be marked, you can find plenty of originals that have been stamped up in these exact ways! So, again freedom of expression can be used.
Helmet Unit Markings
Sadly for us, almost all the originals M1 helmets with all those beautifully painted regimental insignia were destroyed en-masse in 1945 and surviving examples are so rare, that they barely exist. Units of the 101st never wore stencilled helmets in the states. Most of the few surviving examples are still in Europe, either in some farmer's loft or in private collections. When any regimental 101st helmet is offered for sale, a red flag should go-up in your brain-these are the 506th are the most-popular (because of BoB) and also the most widely-faked helmets of all. Overly-large insignia are usually a giveaway, as well as the overly-large officer or NCO bars usually found on the rear. Those bars are supposed to be four inches long and about an inch wide. Overly-large stencils are the creation of fakers and are the common mistake of re-enactors. If you look at actual vintage photos of what was worn, the stencils were never that large and usually about a third of the size of most fakes, or less.
D Bale Helmet of Dom Speranza, HQ/3, 501 PIR
Dom was in the LMG platoon of 3/501 and was issued this helmet at Camp Toccoa, GA in late 1942. He also wore it at Ft. Benning, Camp Mackall, N.C., 2nd Army Maneouvers in Tennessee, in Lambourne,England and in Normandy. He was issued the small mesh British-made helmet net depicted, for the Market Garden jump. While in Holland, Dom was evacuated for medical reasons and he brought the helmet out through the hospitals with him. I acquired it from him in 1976, my first painted helmet, complete with original net and a D bale at that.
Note the positioning and small size of the diamond-shaped stencil, as well as it's proportions(it is a perfect square, rotated with one corner up, to make it a diamond). Although some vintage stencils were much larger, today's re-enactors tend to make their stencils way too large. When doing 501st stencils, they tend to make them elongated diamonds, instead of rotated squares. The A/501st trooper on a white horse depicted in episode #3 of the Band of Brothers miniseries, had an annoyingly elongated diamond stencil painted on his helmet.
LTC BENJAMIN WEISBERG, C.O. 377th PARACHUTE FIELD ARTILLERY BN.
This helmet was worn by LTC Weisberg on 16 parachute jumps, including the Normandy drop, and was re-painted just after Normandy. Note the cannonball stencil with 'tic' at the 6 o'clock position, and the vertical officer's bar on the centre rear, in the top left photo. A frontal view of the helmet liner at top right, shows that his serial number, rank and name were applied (a metal leaf rank is mounted on the front of the steel pot). No unit stencils nor officer's bar appear on the liner, and it is believed that units began applying liner stencils after the Holland campaign. LTC Weisberg left the 101st after Normandy.
Lt Hettrick D Battery 377th PFA Bn
Forward observer Don Hettrick was on a patrol with the infantry behind German lines in Holland, September, 1944, when a shootout erupted. In the confusion, Don lost his helmet behind enemy lines and was unable to retrieve it. He simply obtained one that was to laying about.
In spring, 1945, Don was transferred to the 907th GFA Bn, with which he ran a POW compound at Bad Reichenhall, Germany. At that time, Don had 907th Bn stencils applied to the liner of his helmet, as shown. It appears the liner was without stencils prior to that.
The vertical officers' bar on the rear of the liner of Lt. Hettrick's helmet. If you look closely, you'll see that he wrote his name and serial number, in small fountain pen figures at the vertical right edge of the stencil.
Lt Williamson's Bastogne Helmet
Cpl. Willard Williamson, an E/327th trooper, who had it in a German box. There is battle damage to the crown: a dent 4 inches wide and 2 inches deep in the pot, and the crown of the liner broken and caved-in. This resulted from being struck by falling debris at Bastogne while running down the street under an artillery barrage. Williamson was slightly wounded, but was denied a Purple Heart, because this type of injury was commonplace at Bastogne. The rear of the helmet bears a small rank insignia, painted on the rear of the liner.