These two images, of U.S. infantrymen some 100 years apart, show just how much the basic job of a foot soldier endures throughout time. You still feel exposed no matter what the cover is. You are still there for the Joe next to you. Your uncomfortable equipment is still made by the lowest bidder. You still just want to get through the day.
A soldier with 30th DIV sniping from a trench in Belgium on July 9, 1918. Note his Springfield M1903 rather than the more commonly-issued M1917 Enfield. Signal Corps image 18708
10th Mountain troops working the trench complex at Fort Drum, New York, Nov. 2018. For those who have experienced upstate NY this time of year, the pain is real.
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.
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.
Records and photos indicate 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. Cherbourg Library via Flickr.
Camouflaged US Soldiers of the 41st Armored Infantry Battalion working with the 82nd Reconnaissance Battalion (2nd Armored Division) study a captured German map during Operation Cobra in Normandy, France, in July 1944. Note the added foregrip to the M1 Thompson on the right and the German pistol holster on the scout to the left, the latter surely a “battlefield pickup.”
Battle of Saint-Lô July 1944,41st AIR, 2AD. LIFE Frank Scherschel Photographer
These surviving examples from the Normandy Tank Museum shows a diorama of 2nd Armored Div troops in your typical battlefield mix-match:
The first dummy has the regular GI shirt, 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.
Saint-Georges-d’Elle Normandy France, July 1944, 2nd Infantry Division, note the camo on the one Soldier to the right. LIFE Archives photo by Frank Scherschel
Saint-Georges-d’Elle Normandy France, July 1944, 2nd Infantry Division, note the camo jacket on the one Soldier, the M3 Grease gun in his lap, and the censored unit patch. LIFE Archives photo by Frank Scherschel
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. Dig the folding stock para model M1A1 Carbines, very useful in jungle fighting. Via Alamo Scouts website.
Official caption: “Nissan Atoll, Green Islands, South Pacific, 31 January 1944: Inside enemy territory, a recon party lands, senses keyed up for sounds of the Japanese troops known to be present. A perilous fact-finding mission is underway.” The SMLEs and Mills bombs on the men in the center of the landing craft point to Commonwealth troops, probably Australian, in Marine frogskin camo. The non-camo’d fellows at the ramp are likely USCG. A Marine is at the rear, his M1 Carbine at the ready
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. A 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 submachine guns for an assault on Viet Minh guerrillas
Dutch KNIL infantry with British SMLE Enfields fighting Indonesian separatists in 1948– dig the ex-Army HBT
Dutch Lt. Gen. Pieter Lodewijk Gerard Doorman (center-right, just inside the frame) speaks to a duck hunter camo’d crew members of a recycled Japanese Type 89 I-Go medium tank during a visit to 1e Bataljon, 9e Regiment Infanterie (1-9 RI “Friesland”) in Cimahi, Dutch East Indies, September 1946. Formed in the Netherlands in Sept.1945 just after the liberation from German occupation, 1-9 R.I. was sent to the UK in late 1945 for training and basic Malay language lessons then landed in Batavia on Java as part of V-Brigade in Feb. 1946, where they no doubt picked up the above Japanese armor. Fighting through the Indonesian wars, they were shipped back to Europe (likely sans tanks) and disbanded in August 1948.
The Bay of Pigs gang, Brigade 2506, used a lot of surplus WWII U.S. gear including M1941 Johnson rifles and duck hunter camo.
Interestingly enough, Colombia, 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.
Colombia frog duck hunter camo called “Tigrillo” circa 1980s. Note the Galil
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