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FRANCE, 1944

1: Corporal, Women's Army Corps; Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces, Versailles

This WAC corporal is serving at SHAEF as a member of the Signal Corps, thereby 'freeing a man to fight'. By the end of the war 140,000 WACs were serving in the US Army. She wears the new WAC curved-cut overseas cap piped with the old gold and light green branch colours; these were in short supply, and many WACs wore the men's overseas cap without piping. The tailored female service dress uniform with plastic buttons bears US and Signal Corps collar discs, though the WAC's own Athena-head emblem was often worn. She wears ribbons for the ETO and the WAC Medal marking service in the pre-1943 WAAC. By the end of the year WACs in the ETO could expect to receive the short WAC 'Ike' jacket. Her laced russet brown shoes were known as the 'gruesome twosome' due to their appearance and fit. She carries an issue shoulder bag ('purse'). (Inset) This tab in WAAC colours was ordered worn on the sleeves, below any rank chevrons, from 25 March 1942.

It was discontinued in July 1943 when the WAAC was transformed into the WAC - from Auxiliaries into full members of the US armed forces.

2: Sergeant, 104th Infantry Regiment, 26th Infantry Division

This NCO from the New England National Guard 26th 'YD' or 'Yankee Division', taking a coffee break, wears M1943 HBT fatigues over his wool uniform. Promotion came quickly in combat, and his rank has been hastily inked onto his sleeves. He is armed with an M1 (side-bolt) Thompson SMG, and carries smoke and fragmentation grenades. His small haversack-style bag is a limited issue item for holding 30-round Thompson magazines. This sergeant's wire-framed glasses are standard GI issue. The 'YD' division first saw action around Metz in November 1944, where it worked closely with the 761st Tank Battalion.

3: Captain, 761st Tank Battalion (Colored); Metz, November 1944

By VE-Day the Army had two Tank (761st & 784th) and two Tank Destroyer (614th & 827th) battalions of black GIs. When they joined his 3rd Army the essentially racist Gen George S. Patton told the 761st, 'I don't care what colour you are as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sons-of-bitches'. For its record in World War II this crack battalion would receive a long-delayed Distinguished Unit Citation only in 1978. The 761st worked comfortably with the 26th Infantry and 17th Airborne divisions, but did not fare as well when serving with other divisions of a more Southern origin.

African-American GIs wore all the standard uniforms and insignia of the US Army. This captain wears the tanker's jacket (some officers had theirs modified by adding epaulettes), and the bib-fronted cold weather overtrousers. His rank is shown on his helmet, and pinned through leather patches to the jacket shoulders. The M1 was worn along with the armoured crew helmet by tank personnel - and sometimes even on top of it. Like many tankers, this officer sports a .45 pistol in an M7 shoulder holster.


1: Major, 23rd Armored Infantry Regiment, 7th Armored Division

The 7th Armored Division fought a month-long series of tank battles near Overloon/Venlo in the Netherlands in October 1944. The division's most important action would come two months later, with its CCB's defence of and break-out from St Vith in the Ardennes. This major's rank is only just visible on his shirt collar; veteran officers and NCOs commonly kept the wearing of insignia to a minimum to increase their life-span. As a major he is probably the CO or second-in-command (executive officer, 'XO') of his battalion, and here he is talking over the SCR 300 radio with one of his companies; the scale of issue was six SCR 300s per battalion - two of these FM sets for Bn HQ and one each for the company headquarters. The batteries in the lower component of the backpack gave about 24 hours' use. The officer wears, as an alternative to the field or tanker's jackets, the third-pattern US Army mackinaw in cotton poplin with a notched, unfaced collar and without the integral cloth belt of earlier models. Herringbone twill trousers are tucked into a pair of the much sought-after paratrooper boots. He is armed with a .45 pistol and a M1 carbine with 15-round magazines; the pistol is carried in a custom-modified open-top M1916 holster.

2: Private first class, radio operator, 23rd Armored Infantry Regiment, 7th Armored Division

Neither the woollen 'ETO jacket' nor its smarter cousin, the M1944 'Ike jacket', were commonly seen worn by front-line GIs, but it was not unknown. This Pfc has sewn his prewar silver-on-black rank stripes on the sleeves of his short British-made ETO jacket. Though 'buckle boots' were coming into issue in the autumn of 1944 this GI still wears the old 'service shoes' and canvas leggings. Sufficiently weighed down by his 34lb SCR 300 radio, he is otherwise very lightly equipped. The belt that came as part of the radio's rig would not accept any other equipment items, so he wears a pistol belt for his canteen, aid pouch and the magazine pouch for the carbine, which is his regulation weapon. The axe-shaped canvas bag looped to the radio belt is the BG150, which held the radio handset and both long and short sectional antennae. Within the infantry company the platoons communicated with the 'handie-talkie' SCR 536 AM radio.

3: Captain, Forward Air Controller, US 9th Army Air Force

Close co-operation between ground troops and the tactical aircraft which more or less ruled the skies over the ETO in 1944-45 was a major factor in the successful Allied advance. Pilots were assigned for limited periods of service with front-line units, to provide a knowledgeable link between them and the supporting Air Corps. Unfortunately, US planes sometimes hit friendly units during the battles for France, prompting the infantry - particularly the unfortunate 30th Division, who were bombed several times between Normandy and the Bulge - to rename the 9th Air Force the '9th Luftwaffe'. This air controller wears his rank and 9th AAF shoulder patch on a trenchcoat of a darkish green shade, a version commonly worn in England and sometimes by front-line officers. He too is fortunate in having obtained a pair of 'Corcorans'. Hidden here, a .45 pistol is holstered on his right hip. Nearby, no doubt, is a radio vehicle capable of direct communications with circling P-47 fighter-bombers.


1: Rifleman, 28th Infantry Division

The 28th Division was originally a National Guard outfit from Pennsylvania, the 'Keystone State'. Its red keystone patch was nicknamed by the 28th's GIs the 'Bloody Bucket' after its losses in Normandy and - with the 4th and 8th Divisions - in the meatgrinder of the Hurtgen Forest; the 28th was then sent to the 'quiet' Ardennes sector to rest... Its two-day stand in the face of the advancing 5.Panzer-Armee gave the 101st Airborne time to occupy Bastogne. This soldier, wearing a 'home-ripped' snow camouflage cape and helmet cover made from a bedsheet, is probably from the Quartermaster company or some other divisional support unit, pitched into the fighting at short notice. Under his sheet he wears a first-pattern mackinaw with wool-faced shawl collar, a five-button sweater, the usual drab wool trousers, a pair of the new M1943 'buckle boots', and wool trigger-finger gloves. His equipment is minimal: a rifle belt, and a musette to carry all his other gear.

2: Bazooka gunner, 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

The standard issue enlisted men's wool melton overcoat was much used by the Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge. (One paratrooper of the 82nd is reputed to have said to a worried tank crew, 'Looking for a safe place? Well, buddy, just pull in behind me.') Under his coat this 'glider-rider' wears the standard M1943 combat jacket and buckle boots now becoming common throughout the ETO. His baggy trousers with cargo pockets are the only remaining sure sign of his Airborne status, though his belt equipment includes one of the limited-issue 'rigger's' ammunition pouches peculiar to the Airborne. He is armed with the M1 carbine, and a M3 trench knife strapped to his boot; some photos show civilian knives carried as well. His main weapon, however, is the latest M9 folding version of the 2.36in antitank rocket launcher or 'bazooka'. A white 'club' helmet symbol identifies his regiment.

(Inset) By 1945 the 'glider-riders' finally received this 'wings' badge and the same hazardous duty pay as their parachute brethren. The bronze stars mark two combat landings, in Normandy and Holland.

3: T/5, 20th Armored Infantry Regiment, 10th Armored Division

Active in the capture of Metz in November 1944, the 10th Armored Division had its Combat Command B inside Bastogne throughout the siege. This GI wears the new four-pocket, sateen-shell M1943 field jacket, introduced as a universal garment for all branches of service; he has not yet received the matching trousers, but is fortunate in having secured himself a pair of M1944 shoepacs. He is armed with the M1 Garand, and grenades including a smooth-cased Mk III concussion type. Among his belt equipment is the folding-head entrenching tool based on a German design, with a cut-down haft. His web equipment is in the new greener OD shade 7 now reaching the front in quantity, although existing stocks of items in the sandier shade 9 would continue to be issued for years. Since it is of little practical use this GI has dispensed with his bayonet. More useful is the blanket just visible tucked through the back of his belt. He is carrying the baseplate for an 81mm mortar.

Along with the 101st Airborne and 10th Armored the Bastogne garrison included elements of the 9th Armored and 28th Infantry divisions, the 705th Tank Destroyer Bn, 1128th Engineer Combat Group, and five corps-level artillery battalions.


1: 2nd Lieutenant, Army Nurse Corps

Some 60,000 nurses served in the Army during World War II, and many went into harm's way; for instance, about 200 served in the Anzio beachhead, where six were killed in action and four won the Silver Star. Nurses were fully commissioned in 1943 with the majority ranked as second lieutenants. This nurse wears the WAC issue two-piece herringbone twill fatigues, quickly identifiable by the slanted thigh pockets and the reversed buttoning. She displays her rank painted on her helmet and pinned to her right collar, balanced by the caduceus with superimposed 'N' of the ANC; like all medical personnel she is entitled to wear the red cross brassard. She carries a musette bag pressed into service as a medical haversack and roughly marked as such. US Army nurses played their part in the ghastly task faced by the Allied troops who unexpectedly found themselves liberating Nazi concentration camps as they rolled across Germany in 1945.

2: Rifleman, 89th Infantry Division

The 'Rolling W' division was one of the first across the Rhine; as it raced into Germany its advancing columns were led by captured Wehrmacht vehicles hastily overpainted with white stars, and two German fire engines with sirens blaring. As part of 3rd Army the 4th Armored and 89th Divisions found the first concentration camp liberated by the Western Allies - Ohrdruf, near Gotha, on 4 April. This typical infantryman of the last weeks of the war - here shown handling an M1942 litter - wears the new two-part M1944 'combat and cargo' pack standardised in July 1944 as the replacement for the old M1928. The lower, cargo bag for non-essentials could be unfastened easily from the upper, combat section holding the immediate necessities; the blanket roll and entrenching tool were attached to the upper bag. Another new item is the bag for the lightweight gasmask, worn on the left hip; the gasmask itself may have been dumped, however, as the bag made a handy repository for personal kit. Note finally that an elasticated band was now being issued for the small mesh helmet net.

3: Private first class, medical orderly, 45th Infantry Division

The 45th 'Thunderbird', along with elements of several other divisions including the 42nd 'Rainbow', liberated Dachau concentration camp and its satellites on 29 April 1945. This medic's left arm shows his divisional patch, rank and red cross brassard; the latter was individually numbered and registered to the wearer, as the status of those claiming the protection of the Geneva Convention was a serious matter (medics also carried annotated ID cards - 'Geneva cards'). Photos show a number of different styles of red cross markings used in the ETO; at Dachau medics of the 45th were photographed with this four-circle presentation under wide mesh nets. His pair of medical bags are carried on a special yoke harness with a very broad rear shoulder piece; the basic load in these included dressings and bandages of various types, iodine swabs, ointments for burn and eye treatments, a tourniquet, morphine syrettes, and a duplicate pad of labels for describing treatment given and attachment to the casualty. Besides a medic's ability to slow blood loss, his administering of morphine was perhaps the most important thing he could do to prevent a wounded man from going into potentially fatal shock. His nickname among front-line GIs was invariably 'Doc'. Other than knives, medics in the ETO went unarmed; they routinely carried two canteens on their belts. (Inset) Being non-combatants, front-line medics were not allowed the Combat Infantryman's Badge. After much lobbying, they were authorised the Combat Medic Badge in early 1945.


Three veterans celebrate victory, out on the town in their spiffiest uniforms, displaying all the badges and decorations which they have richly earned. Note that one of them is still of an age which might make it hard for him to buy a beer in some states of the USA without showing identification.

1: Warrant Officer glider pilot, 61st Troop Carrier Group, US 9th Army Air Force

As was common among flying officers, his cap and jacket are of officers' quality and, apart from his specific rank bar in gilt and brown enamel on the epaulettes, he wears officers' style badges. This aviator has a '50 mission crush' service cap, an officers' M1944 OD wool field jacket ('Ike' jacket) and matching trousers in a dark 'chocolate' shade, and an officers' chocolate shirt set off with a pale necktie. On his left chest the silver glider pilot's wings are distinguished by a 'G' - they used to say this stood for 'Guts'. Below are a typical array of ribbons; NB on most of these plates these naturally reproduce too small for identification, but representative selections are listed - here, the Bronze Star, Air Medal (with two oakleaf clusters marking three awards), Purple Heart, American Service, and ETO Medal with an invasion arrowhead and two campaign stars; on the right chest is the blue Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC). His four overseas service bars mark two years abroad. Late in the war glider pilots added Airborne tabs to their Air Force patches on the left shoulder. His polaroid aviator sunglasses became very popular among GIs.

While not illustrated here, in 1945 combat officers in command positions were authorised green 'leadership tabs' to be worn looped over their epaulettes.

2: T/5, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division

This paratrooper wears the overseas cap and an enlisted man's 'Ike' jacket, with the earlier drab wool trousers common throughout the war bloused into spit-shined jump boots. The cap bears the 505th PIR enamelled metal crest at right front, because the left is occupied by the combined parachute/glider patch of the Airborne. His rank is marked by the new issue green-on-black stripes. Having served 18 months' overseas in the infantry, he has transferred into the Signal Corps - a fact shown only by the crossed flags on his left collar disc. On the lower collars are enamelled versions of the divisional patch of the 82nd Airborne as worn on his left shoulder; the right shoulder patch denotes his combat service under the 1st Allied Airborne Army. He wears parachute wings on the regimentally coloured backing of the 505th, the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the DUC. His ribbons are for the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, ETO Medal with arrowhead and three stars, and American Campaign Medal. The lanyards - fourragères - mark collective awards to his unit by the Allied nations which the 82nd helped to liberate: on his right shoulder the Belgian Croix de Guerre, on his left the French Croix de Guerre and the orange cord of Holland's Wilhelm Order. His expert marksmanship badge sports three 'shingles' for rifle, bayonet and grenade.

(Inset right) Parachutist's qualification wings, on the blue and red oval backing adopted by the 505th PIR. Stars or arrowheads were sometimes fixed to the badge to represent combat jumps.

3: 1st Sergeant, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division

This long service first sergeant in his late 30s wears the overseas cap, 'Ike' jacket and trousers in slightly differing shades of OD, and a pair of 'buckle boots', which he has painstakingly shaved and waxed to a shine. (In 1947 the Army were obliged to convert their footwear to universal Department of Defense black; World War II veterans would boast of having served in the old 'brown shoe Army'.) His cap is piped infantry light blue and bears the 26th Infantry's enamelled crest. His rank is shown by early-style silver-on-black chevrons and rockers. The shoulder patch of the 'Big Red One' marks one of the most battle-experienced formations in the ETO, and his left chest identifies a soldier highly decorated for valour in combat. Beneath the CIB, here a version in silver embroidery on blue, might be seen the ribbons for the Silver Star and Bronze Star (with oakleaf clusters marking repeat awards); the Purple Heart (also with clusters); the Good Conduct Medal with one 'tie'; the American Campaign Medal; and the ETO Medal with the arrowhead marking participation in at least one amphibious (or airborne) invasion, and one silver and three bronze stars for eight distinct campaigns. He too will soon be authorised the French and Belgian Croix de Guerre lanyards. This 'top sergeant' also sports the marksman's badge with two 'shingles'.

(Inset left) The 'Ruptured Duck'. Ex-servicemen were allowed to wear their uniforms for 60 days after mustering out, but had to sew this patch over the right pocket of their uniform tunic to show their status.

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