Tag Archives: alamo scouts

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 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 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

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:

camo 2nd armor normandy

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. 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.

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. 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

Big Green to scuttle Long-Range Surveillance companies

In one of the most colossally stupid moves in modern military history, the Army is looking to scrap their three active-duty and six National Guard Long-Range Surveillance companies in the next 60 days. Established back in the 1950s, they were known as Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP, or Lurp) back in Vietnam and Alamo Scouts in WWII.

A team of Alamo Scouts pose for a photo after completing a reconnaissance mission on Los Negros Island, February 1944.

A team of Alamo Scouts pose for a photo after completing a reconnaissance mission on Los Negros Island, February 1944.

In all some 882 billets will be saved as each unit is small (just comprised of 15 six-man teams led by a staff sergeant and a minute headquarters staff). Undoubtedly, since they are such a small community, they don’t get a lot of attention and support.

What will be lost will be unique airborne-qualified specialists that excel in forward surveillance and battlefield-intelligence gathering that is integral to the units they are assigned to such as the 82nd ABN, 101st Air Assault and 10th Mountain on active duty and the enhanced readiness units including the Alaska Guard in the reserves.

The argument is that this role can be given to drones who provide a soda-straw view of the battlefield. Gray Eagle squadrons, which contain 9 of the modified MQ-1C UAVs and about 120 personel in three platoons, will pick up the slack but since the Army is only funding 152 of these drones (and just 31 ground systems) and the 160th SOAR is getting two full 12-aircraft squadrons and two 4-ship units are in Afghanistan, there will only be one Gray Eagle squad per each of the 10 active duty division and none for the Guard or Reserve. The Army is also picking up 36 Improved Gray Eagles (IGE) with extended range for use by SF.

And of course what isn’t mentioned is that Gray Eagle replaced the old RQ-5 Hunter and RQ-7 Shadow drones in MI units, so there are a lot of eggs in the Eagle basket so to speak.

Team 5 from the Maryland Army National Guard's Long Range Surveillance Company, C Company, 1-158th Cavalry get ready to jump during Leapfest XXXI, in Kingston, R.I., Aug. 2, 2014. Leapfest is an airborne parachute competition sponsored by the Rhode Island National Guard to promote high level technical training within the international airborne community. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brady Pritchett)

Team 5 from the Maryland Army National Guard’s Long Range Surveillance Company, C Company, 1-158th Cavalry get ready to jump during Leapfest XXXI, in Kingston, R.I., Aug. 2, 2014. Leapfest is an airborne parachute competition sponsored by the Rhode Island National Guard to promote high level technical training within the international airborne community. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brady Pritchett)

“Every year there are capabilities that must be added, but unfortunately this means the Army must divest some,” Army spokesman Troy Rolan said as reported by Stars and Stripes.

Commanders identified operational LRS units as a low priority, he said, adding that the decision to cut LRS companies was aided by “extensive computer models using combatant commander plans to determine what the Army needs.”

The problem is that a lot of Guard LRS units are composed of guys who were former active duty, many with Ranger and SF tabs.

The tribal knowledge these units have is simply not replaceable if needed in the future– leading to the enduring question of why the military always has to reinvent the wheel when the next war comes because they scrapped it in peacetime for the square.