The brief affair with HBT camo and the U.S. Army, or, the Duck Hunters of D-Day

In the first part of 1943, the Army began flirting with a two-piece (jacket and pants) herringbone twill (HBT) camouflage uniform. Now, one thing to note is that this differed from the Marine HBT “duck hunter” or “frog skin” camo that was introduced around the time of the invasion of Tarawa as the Devil Dog kit was based on their P41 design while the Army’s was a slightly different variant based on Big Green’s M1942 fatigue uniform.

Jacket, Herringbone Twill, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/179880-the-abcs-of-collecting-wwii-army-issued-hbt-clothing/

Jacket, Herringbone Twill, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum

Trousers, HBT, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/179880-the-abcs-of-collecting-wwii-army-issued-hbt-clothing/

Trousers, HBT, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum

These two-piece camouflage uniforms were fielded by units of the 2nd Armored Division, including the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment and 17th Armored Engineer Battalion for D-Day. They appear in photos between June to September 1944.

Private Joseph De Freitos of Yonkers (New York) of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd US Armored Division, heats his rations on a stove, taken at Pont-Brocard in late July 1944. There is nothing particularly strange about the way he is wearing his e-tool; this was fairly common when the M1928 haversack was not being used.

Private Joseph De Freitos of Yonkers (New York) of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd US Armored Division, heats his rations on a stove, taken at Pont-Brocard in late July 1944. There is nothing particularly strange about the way he is wearing his e-tool; this was fairly common when the M1928 haversack was not being used.

Records and photos are indicating that at least some units of the 2nd Infantry Division and 30th Infantry Division received them also.

U.S. soldiers in HBT camouflage uniforms in a Half-track M2, Pont Brocard July 28, 1944, 41st Armored Inf. Regiment, 2d Armored Division http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlq/817019996/in/pool-529233@N22/

U.S. soldiers in HBT camouflage uniforms in a Half-track M2, Pont Brocard July 28, 1944, 41st Armored Inf. Regiment, 2d Armored Division. Cherbourg Library via Flickr.

hbt camo normady HBT Normandy camo-1 2nd armored HBT camo medic pants

These surviving examples from the Normandy Tank Museum shows a diorama of 2nd Armored Div troops in your typical battlefield mix-match:

camo 2nd armor normandy

The first dummy has the regular GI shirt, HBT camouflage pants, M1 Garand ammo holder belt, M36 web, M1 Garand reproduction, M28 bag, M1 helmet, gaiters very similar to the medic above. The second dummy has much the same but adds a T shovel worn in the same way as the C-rat connoisseur Pvt. De Freitos above, and gas mask cover. The third has the full HBT suit, original camouflage pants, and jacket, M36 webbing with FM-BAR belt and charger holder. He also seems to have ditched his gaiters because he is that kinda guy.

The thing is, with so many Waffen SS guys and German Fallschirmjäger wearing camo smocks, the idea of GIs in camo proved unpopular and they were soon withdrawn from the ETO.

However, the material, especially that of discarded parachutes, was recycled by the locals.

“Homemade dress” made out of a parachute used on D-DAY. It was worn by Renée Catherine, a little girl of Sainte-Mère-Eglise

Speaking of which, there is at least some evidence that German paras found U.S. camo very useful in Normandy.

A German cavalry officer (note the spurs and breeches) during the battle for Normandy wearing a crude cover fashioned from U.S. parachute silk duck hunter camo peers through a hedgerow. Also, note his Beretta 38 SMG

Fallschirmjäger at Normandy wearing a cloth cover made from U.S. duck hunter camouflaged cloth, secured to the helmet with a chicken-wire keeper

Meanwhile, in warmer climes

Some U.S. Army units were issued some of the two-piece HBTs in the Pacific late in the war.

U.S. Army Alamo Scouts, two in HBT uniforms. William E. Nellist (middle) pictured with unidentified trainees from the 4th Class. Cape Kassoe, Hollandia, DNG. August 1944. Via Alamo Scouts website. http://www.alamoscouts.com/photo_archives/420_439.htm

U.S. Army Alamo Scouts, two in HBT uniforms. William E. Nellist (middle) pictured with unidentified trainees from the 4th Class. Cape Kassoe, Hollandia, DNG. August 1944. Dig the folding stock para model M1A1 Carbines, very useful in jungle fighting. Via Alamo Scouts website.

That theater also saw the use of a one-piece uniform jumpsuit. They were reversible with regular mustard green on the inside.

27th Infantry Division trains in Hawaii before embarking on the amphibious operation to seize Makin in the Gilbert Islands, Fall 1943. Soldier in one piece camouflage uniform is to the right.

27th Infantry Division trains in Hawaii before embarking on the amphibious operation to seize Makin in the Gilbert Islands, Fall 1943. Soldier in one piece camouflage uniform is to the right.

Issued briefly, this zippered onesie was found by the Joe in the field to suck balls and was withdrawn.

Many of the Army’s surplus HBT went on to be donated to French forces such as was seen operating in French Indochina, and the Dutch trying to pacify their East Indies archipelago.

HBT clad French Paratroops in Indochina circa 1953 ready their Mat 49 sub machine guns for a assault on Viet Minh guerrillas

HBT-clad French Paratroops in Indochina circa 1953 ready their MAT-49 submachine guns for an assault on Viet Minh guerrillas

Dutch KNIL infantry with British SMLE Enfields figting Indonesian sepretists in 1948-- dig the ex-Army HBT

Dutch KNIL infantry with British SMLE Enfields fighting Indonesian separatists in 1948– dig the ex-Army HBT

Army SF guy rebooted the pattern briefly in the early 1960s, complete with a camo beret, and issued the same to CIDG units in the hills.

us army special forces vietnam 1966 note camo beret bar gun and m3 grease gun m-3

U.S. Army Special Forces, Vietnam, Sept. 1966. Note camo beret, BAR and M3 Grease gun. D-Day in the A-Shau

Here is a look at how effective the “Beo Gam” was in Indochina/

And of course as with anything, both surplus and recreations were popular with hunters in the 1950s and 60s as seen in this 1952 sportsman’s catalog image:

Dig the pith helmet, srsly?

Dig the pith helmet, srsly?

They are popular with reenactors who likely wear it more frequently than the Army ever did.

Interestingly enough, Turkey, Iran, and Red China switched to duck hunter-ish schemes for a time in the 1970s and early 1980s, proving the last nails in the coffin for the pattern in military service.

Turkish soldiers stand ready during the war in Cyprus, the 1970s with locally made HK G3s and Aegean camouflage pattern, based on American frogskin

Iranian soldiers photographed during the Iran-Iraq War, in the 1980s. The man in front has a locally made version of American P42 camouflage, which was made in the 1970s for the Shah and continued to serve in the war against Saddam

This rakish Chicom soldier during the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979) is wearing Type 81 duck hunter camouflage, with a Type 56 AKMS over his shoulder and a painted combat helmet handing from the muzzle

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