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
Awesome! Col. Dillard was one of the coolest vets I had the pleasure of meeting around 2007. He and his wife were the nicest people. When myself and a friend and fellow reenactor showed up to his home (we pre-arranged this meeting, didn’t just show up randomly), his wife greeted us and told us he was in study and escorted us through the home, knocked on the door and he told us to come in.
He had a bunch of topo maps laid out on his desk of some area in what is now the southern part of North Korea. He informed us that he was trying to locate some Korean troops that were under his command that were lost in an ambush and he was still trying to find them and bring them home. We spent the rest of the afternoon at his home asking questions about his time w/ the 551st and his military career. I was in my mid 20s and he was one of the few seniors that I would have been afraid to fight. He was in amazing shape still and didn’t look a day over 60. I was sad to hear of his passing a few years ago. Sadly, it seems that all the vets that I knew have passed.
But I’m glad you inserted that story of him being handed the 03A4. My buddy brought his book 1st AB Task Force by De Trez (which I should have done) and had him sign it. It may have been one of the first times anyone had asked him about it cause he stated that yeah, that was him, but he was never issued that rifle. Also, in regards to the reversible winter parkas, he said that the Army did not issue enough of them to the unit and as a result, they had to share them when they went on patrol and because they were short on these very important pieces of camo, he was told to not get shot, because they couldn’t use blood stained winter camo.
They don’t make em like they used to.
God bless Col. Dillard and may he rest in peace.
That’s awesome that you had a chance to meet him. I notice too that what they moved out of the alps is when they changed uniforms. In the photos that turn up of them pre bulge they are all in M1943 uniforms. I wonder what happened to the parkas. Seems they would have been handy. (not that they new they would be deployed or that the attack was coming)
The system, and all the people and policies you hate (and that hate you) are the fruit of the the “victory” of the men who murdered Europe for the benefit of the Noseberg gang.
If there is a God, may he damn everyone who helped the Satanic tribe, and may they all burn in Hell.
uhhhh…..what? Did you take a wrong turn looking for Stormfront or something?