US Paratrooper Loadout WWII

(click to embiggen)

(click to embiggen)

Found this out there on the interwebs and thought you guys would dig it.It purports to show a pre-D-Day paratrooper’s loadout. You can see at the top of the gear pile the main and backup chutes, then moving down into the weapons there is quite a bit of interesting gear. Note the 16-inch M1905/M1942 bayonet, the machete in the canvas cover, and the M1918 trench knife knuckle duster (co-located in the 1911 holster), along with a basic penknife in the bottom corner. This guy was into blades.

His 1911 with two spare mags, and 25 8-round enbloc clips in field-made pouches for the M1 Garand give him over 250-rounds of 30.06 and 21 of .45ACP. Then of course there are four pineapple grenades for when the going gets tough.

The SCR-536 handie-talkie radio (remember it from the green plastic army men days?) was a neat little 5-pound radio made by Motorola that operated in AM voice mode between 3.5 and 6.0 MHz frequency range. Range in built up areas or hilly terrain was line-of-sight while at sea or in the open flat desert at night was as much as 3-miles. Every rifle company of the U.S. 29th Infantry division on D-Day had six; one for each of three rifle platoons, two for the weapons platoon, and one for the company CO, which makes me think the owner of the loadout was a young LT or Captain, or possibly an artillery forward observer, hence the two packs of signal flares to the left. That would make the compass, flash-lite, notebooks, and pencils seem all the more important.

The radio was issued first in 1941-42, while the  M1905 bayonet was being withdrawn from service after 1943, which could place this picture between that time, rather than D-Day of 1944.

If you ask me, the machete looks as well as the coil of rope, often used by paratroopers who are caught up in trees, an leather gloves more useful in the Pacific and the time frame would fit better for the 503rd PRCT.

What, you haven’t heard of the 503rd?

The 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team wasn’t part of one of the huge and celebrated airborne divisions that jumped into Europe like the 82nd and 101st, it fought independently– in the jungles of the Pacific.

During its more than three years service in the Southwest Pacific Theater, the 503d served in five major combat operations. A number of other missions were planned but called off by higher headquarters.

The Regiment jumped in the Markham Valley, New Guinea, on 5 September 1943, in the first successful Airborne Combat Jump in the Pacific Theatre of Operations. The Regiment forced the Japanese evacuation of a major base at Lae to take a route which proved to be disastrous for them. The third Battalion of the 503d had a major skirmish with the rear guard of this exodus. The successful employment of Parachute troops, in the Markham Valley, has been credited with saving the concept of vertical envelopment from being abandoned following several less than successful engagements in Europe.

Two rifle Battalions of the 503d Regiment jumped Noemfoor off the coast of Dutch, New Guinea early in July 1944, followed by an amphibious landing by the other rifle Battalion a few days later. The Regiment was employed in the elimination of the Japanese garrison on that Island. Airfields constructed on Noemfoor after its capture played a significant role in supporting the advance of Allied troops from New Guinea to the Philippines. Sergeant Ray E. Eubanks was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions on Noemfoor.

A good overview is here


Dwarfed by and silhouetted against clouds of smoke (created to provide cover), C-47 transport planes from the US Army Air Forces drop a battalion of the U.S. 503rd Parachute Regiment at Nadzab. A battalion dropped minutes earlier is landing in the foreground. General Vasey was in the plane from which the photograph was taken

Still, that’s a whole lot of stuff to jump out of a perfectly good plane with.

Into the jungle…

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