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.
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.
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.
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.
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.