Just after midnight 79 years ago on July 10th 1943 the 505th PRCT, which included the 3rd Battalion of the 504th, the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, Company ‘B’ of the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion and other supporting units, would drop on to Sicily in the opening stages of Operation Husky. The remainder of the 504th would drop the following night. Husky was the first combat that the 82nd would see in WWII and the first division sized airborne operation for the US.

Since I’m more of a gear guy I’ll leave the history to other sources. The old standby is www.ww2-airborne.us. Make sure to click on the individual units on the left for more details. And as much a I hate to say it, wikipedia.

Now let’t get to the fun stuff. Being an earlier operation the equipment has a more unique look to it than later in the war as things began to standardize. There are differences even from battalion to battalion. Take a look at Foxhole Fashion’s delve into the 2nd Battalion 504th to see what I mean. I tried to split the difference here with the units and go for an overall 82nd look. Partly because so many of the photos I can find are not labeled with too much detail.

Don’t pay too close attention to the helmet paint. The color didn’t come out right. The color is actually a lime green but comes out yellow either when it dried or from the green of the helmet.

To start with the equipment is the famous M1942 Paratrooper or Jump Uniform. The web gear is the M1936 suspenders and pistol belt and the famous Air Corps or rigger pouches. (Side note there are actually some slight differences between Air Corps and Rigger made pouches). I forgot to test them with stripper clips but they are sized to hold 4 M1 enblocks so they probably fit about 6 stippers. The long M1905/42 bayonets were still the norm in this time period. Although it seems some riflemen opted not to carry them. The famous M3 fighting knife as also barely being issued when Operation Husky lauched so the most common fighting knife seen is the M1918/Mark I Trench Knife of WWI fame. They are often seen still using the stamped steal scabbard clipped to some part of the body or a home/theater made sheath. The knife was also most commonly hung from the belt and not tied to the ankle.

This is the main inspiration for the set up. Always a fan of the M1903A4. An M1918 Trench Knife can be seen peeking from his armpit

The pack is the M1936 musette bag. The bag hanging from the left is the M1A1 training gasmask. I went through the photos collected and it seems that canteens and e-tools were slightly more common on the right hip. It can’t really be seen but I used a mounted pattern canteen cover for good measure. Not a specific Airborne item but one often associated with them. Speaking of entrenching tools Sicily is probably the largest use of the M1910 pick mattock in the European theater. Which makes sense with how rocky the terrain is.

M1A1 gas mask and M1905/42 bayonet. As well as some white cloth for identification on his arm.

A number of the paratroops used vesicant paint to paint a camouflage pattern on their helmets. Getting the correct color is a little bit tough as the paint actually changes color as it degrades. Additionally the US produced paint should be a more mustard yellow and the UK produced a more pea green. There seems to be variation among those as well. When helmet nets are seen they mostly appear to be green nets as well.

General Ridgeway with camo helmet
TUNISIA. 1943. Members of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. Of special note is the staff sergeants regular M1 Carbine.
Rigger pouches, canteen, pick mattock and M1905/42 bayonet attached.
Unfortunately I cant seem to find a higher resolution version of this photo.
Looks like some paint on the nearest helmet.

Obviously there were many other units that were part of Operation Husky but I feel that the 82nd just has a very unique look to it.

2 Comments

  1. Cott says:

    Post bring back some memories of reenacting WW2 paratroops. Still have a lot of my gear. If you get chance, check out the 509th jump into North Africa and what a shit show that was. Knew a couple of 509th vets back in the early 2000s. Hell, I knew alot of WW2 airborne vets and sadly all of those guys I knew have passed on. Another unit to look into is the 551st PIB, which got folded into the 82nd after most of the unit was decimated. I was lucky to meet one of the vets from the 551st, Col. Doug Dillard, may he rest in peace. That man was a cut above the rest of us.

    Like

    1. BAP45 says:

      Funny you should say that. One of the first things I put together for Loose Rounds was a bit on the 509th’s equipment. And my august plan is for the 551st during Dragoon. I have some of the pictures up on instagram already since I had to take them in spring

      Like

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