After Operation Dragoon, between September and late November 1944, the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion was moved to the Maritime Alps to secure the right or eastern flank of the 7th Army. The former jungle experts of Panama conducted alpine and ski patrols against German opposition on a 35-mile front in the mountains of France. To ensure no enemy attack would cross this terrain, the 551st, once again along with the 550th Glider Infantry from their days in Panama, became part of the 509th Task Force. On 15 October 1944, the 551st was once again on its own as a unit, and after ninety-six days of continuous combat, finally wrapped up operations on 18 November.
Equipment wise it was mostly very light, as the work was patrolling and in rough terrain on top of that. From the few pictures I’ve fount it appears that web gear was often discarded in lieu of just bandoliers and pockets. Being in the mountains the troopers were issued the Reversible Ski parka. There is a mix of first and second pattern in photos (although there was never a definitive delineation between variants). The remaining gear is fairly standard. The pants were either regular M1937 wool trousers or their M1942 paratrooper pants (by now most of the camouflage paint would have worn off). Boots were either the Jump boots or Combat Service (double buckle) Boots. Shoepacs are seen as well.
I based the lay out mostly on the series of photos below of Doug Dillard. I tried to find the quote but apparently even though they are great photos they were littler more than a photo op. Doug said something to the effect of they handed him the sniper rifle and had him plop into the snow for a few photos. Never the saw the M1903A4 before or after that little photo shoot.
Here are some interviews with Dillard. Most seem to focus on the Battle of the Bulge but still interesting.
This picture below has such a vibe, I love it. Parkas, Skis, captured belts holding 1911s, the binoculars and a ‘stach.
Here are some of the sources I used for this article, so go check them out for further reading.
“The World War II GI: US Army Uniforms, 1941-45, In Color Photographs” by Richard Windrow & Tim Hawkins