Reenacting a 504th P.I.R. Medic

Introduction

This document is meant as a guide for reenactors wanting to portray a paratrooper company aid man/medic in the 82nd Airborne Division during WWII. These notes are mainly taken from the book The Way We Were: Doc McIlvoy and his Parachuting Medics by Michel De Trez (D-Day Publishing, 2004) with supplemental information as necessary. The subject of the book, Doc McIlvoy, served as regimental surgeon for the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment so the information is fairly specific to that regiment. However, McIlvoy was very influential in creating and refining combat medical treatment (see page 38) so with a bit of extrapolation one can make assumptions about the practices and equipment of other regiments in the 82nd. This guide will do just that for the 504th P.I.R., along whom the 505th served in Sicily, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and Germany.

While there are many different medical-related impressions one could portray, this guide is geared towards what is the most common in WWII reenacting/living history: the company aid man, medic, and/or, simply, “doc.” The aid man’s technical M.O.S. (Military Occupation Specialty) would be “Surgical Technician” (Source). The aid man, along with medical technicians, surgeons, and other medical staff would be part of a regimental medical detachment that would have operations and personnel at the regimental, battalion, and company levels. The detachment, although exclusively medical, is still considered an organic part of the infantry regiment (see Appendix A for a demarcation of responsibilities between regimental medical detachments and the divisional medical company). The regimental medical detachment would be responsible for operations in combat while the medical company would be responsible for evacuating wounded from combat and treatment in rear areas.

Basic Kit

A reenactor portraying a medic will wear the same uniform as the parachute infantry reenactors in his unit; the biggest difference will be in web gear. Here is a quick introduction to specialized medical equipment (more detailed information follows in subsequent sections):

    • Medical Kit, Parachutist: Infantry medics were issued two medic bags, a yoke (suspenders), and straps to connect the bags (cantle straps). Paratrooper units found this system too cumbersome for high speed combat situations and pared everything down to one bag typically slung over the shoulder with the litter strap (page 48). One bag slung with a litter strap is really the extent of the medical equipment a medic reenactor in a combat situation would need. However, that’s not to say that paratrooper medics never touched the second bag or yoke; they would jump with both bags and yoke and carry them until they made contact with an aid station. At that point they would retain a main bag that would be sufficient to treat wounded in the field and turn over the yoke and second bag. The second bag would be filled with supplies to keep the aid station well-stocked.
    • Parachute Drop Kit: The Parachute Drop Kit also helped keep aid stations well stocked. This larger bag would be worn for the jump and then turned over to the aid station at the soonest opportunity. Unfortunately for reenactors, a different bag was used for almost every combat jump and the lack of originals plus the lack of demand for reproductions makes them costly items. Fortunately, medics would not wear their parachute drop kits for very long so they are only critical for pre- and immediately post-jump impressions.
    • Individual first aid kits: Airborne medics would carry the same individual first aid pouch as well as the parachutist first aid pouch that the other paratroopers carried.
    • Entrenching tools: While a small hand axe was standard issue to the medic (for the purpose of cutting branches to make splints), they do not seem exceptionally common among airborne medics. Medics in the Sicily and Italy campaigns are seen wearing the M1910 “T-Handle” shovel and the M1943 folding shovel can be found in the Normandy and later campaigns. The first axe does not appear in a photograph until Normandy.

Comparative Impression Guide By Campaign

(Italics denotes inferences based on other campaigns and/or regiments)

 MTO

Sicily Italy (Salerno) Italy (Appenines) Anzio
Uniform M1942 jumpsuit, unreinforced with appropriate rank (T/5 or T/4) M1942 jumpsuit, unreinforced with appropriate rank (T/5 or T/4) M1942 jumpsuit, unreinforced with appropriate rank (T/5 or T/4) and winter combat (“tanker” uniform) with appropriate rank (T/5 or T/4) M1942 jumpsuit & winter combat (“tanker” uniform) with appropriate rank (T/5 or T/4)
Drop Kit Marine Medical Drop Kit or rigger-made drop kit with lift-the-dots Musette bag1 N/A (did not make combat jump) N/A (did not make combat jump)
E-Tool M1910 (“T-Handle) shovel M1910 (“T-Handle) shovel M1910 (“T-Handle) shovel M1910 (“T-Handle) shovel
Helmet M2

Net: OD#3 with ½” holes

M2

Net: OD#3 with ½” holes

M2 M2

 * – Unlike the rest of the 504th, H Co. was separated and made an amphibious landing at Maiori with the Rangers, so it is doubtful they carried extra gear to supply the aid stations. As for the rest of the 504 & 505 using the musette bag as a drop kit, see the replica of a document on page 134.

ETO

Normandy (Pathfinder) Holland Belgium
Uniform M1942 jumpsuit, reinforced with appropriate rank (T/5 or T/4) M1942 jumpsuit, reinforced

with appropriate rank (T/5 or T/4)

M1943 uniform

with appropriate rank (T/5 or T/4)

Drop Kit Rigger-made drop kit with zipper Rigger-made drop kit with zipper N/A (did not make combat jump)
E-Tool M1943 (“folding”) shovel or Handaxe M1943 (“folding”) shovel or Handaxe M1943 (“folding”) shovel or Handaxe
Helmet M2

Net: OD#7 with ¼” holes

M2 or M1

Net: OD#7 with ¼” holes

M2 or M1

 

Medical Kit, Parachutist

  • As noted above, 1 medic bag slung over the shoulder with the litter strap is sufficient for all 504/505 combat medic impressions. This deviation from the SOP of infantry medics was made possible because:
    1. Standard practice was to wear both bags but with the false bottom laced shut to effectively halve the depth of the bag. Paratroopers could carry the same amount of medical equipment in one bag fully opened (page 48)
    2. Rather than carrying a lot of equipment for treating the wounded, paratrooper medics were instructed treat wounded soldiers with wounded soldier’s own first aid kits: the standard first aid kit (containing a small Carlisle bandage and sulfa powder or wound pills) and the parachutist first aid kit. The parachutist first aid kit contained:
      1. Small dressing
      2. Morphine syrette
      3. Tourniquet
  • Each Aid Man was given two Geneva Convention arm bands. Common practice was to wear one on the left arm and the other pinned to the medic bag which would be worn on the right side (page 47).
  • Prescribed contents of the medic bag (page 48):
    1. 97075 Insert Type II with lace: Each 1
    2. 99615 Vial, Hard Rubber, 1/2 Oz. Black: 6 Each Containing
      1. 11505 Pill, Compound, Cathartic (laxative)
      2. 12230 Tablet, Mixture, Glycyrrhiza & Opium Compound (dysentery? colds?)
      3. 10060 Tablet, Acetophenetidin (Pain reliever/fever reducer)
      4. 12410 Tablet, Ipeca & Opium Powder (possibly for treatment of dysentery?, fight colds? prevent fevers?)
      5. 13900 Tablet, Quinine Sulfate (treatment/prevention of malaria)
      6. Sixth Vial is a reserve component
    3. 34680 Scissors, Bandage: Each 1
    4. 92060 Dressing, First-aid, Small, White: Each 2
    5. 92010 Bandage, Gauze, Compressed, White, 3-in x 6 yds: Each 4
    6. 92040 Bandage, Triangular, Compressed: Each 1
    7. 91025 Packet, Ammonia Inhalants: Each 1
    8. 91155 Box Morphine tartrate, 5 syrettes
    9. 91211 Packet, Sulfanilamide (containing 5 envelopes): Each 1
    10. 91095 Set, Eye, Dressing: Each 1
    11. 91038 Set, Burn, Injury: Each 1
    12. Form 52b Book, Emergency Medical Tags: Each 1 (Carried in jumpsuit pocket)
  • Contents of the second medic bag that would be handed over to the aid station (page 47):
    1. Large and small Carlisle dressings
    2. Sulphanilamide powder
    3. Morphine syrettes
    4. Gauze bandages
    5. 1 30 cc. ampule of serum albumin (a human blood protein that can stop the effects of shock in wounded soldiers)
  • Should the contents of the medic’s bag be depleted, he would return to the aid station to stock up again (page 47).
  • “An improvement over the Medical Kit, Private was picked up by some of the aid men who found that the regular issue demolition bag was easier to work out of. It held more medical supplies and used singly with a carrying strap, provided them with adequate material to meet all requirements without having to return to the aid station for resupply of the kit” (page 47).
  • T/4 Raymond Queen developed some unique ways of carrying his medical kit, as shown on page 138-139. According to the photo of him at the Groesbeek DZ, Queen eschewed the litter strap for the GP strap. He also laced the type II insert (that holds 6 pill vials) on the outside of the medic bag to the eyelets used for shortening the bag. On the interior of the bag it appears that he added a pouch to hold a hemostat to the top flap. Safety pins are fastened to the flap as well as a means of storage and quick access.
  • Sgt. James V. Verti, in pictures on page 140 and 141, appears to have opted to clip his medic bag directly to his pistol belt rather than slinging it over his shoulder. Verti and the other pictured medic, T/Sgt. Orley E. Mills, have also secured loose adjustment straps on their combat suspenders with what appears to be white medical tape.

Medical Drop Kits

  • Introduction
    1. All medical personnel would make their combat jumps with a medical drop kit. Like the second medic bag, the drop kits would be worn until the medic made contact with the aid station and then left. While in the parachute harness, they would be worn on the chest above the reserve parachute. After the jump they would be worn on the chest or the back. Many different style drop kits were used throughout the war.
  • Sicily
    1. In Sicily two different drop kits were used. The Marine Medical Drop Kit and the rigger-made Parachute Drop Kit:
      1. Marine Medical Drop Kit, officially known as the S14 Paratroop Pack. Pictures and contents here.
      2. Parachute Drop Kit: Rigger-made, similar in shape to musette bag. Later the QMC developed official parachute drop kit based on rigger-made model (page 42).

        From the Carentan Historical Center

  • Italy
    1. A memo written in July 1944 notes that the standard musette bag was used as the drop kit in the Italy jumps.
  • Anzio
    1. As the 504th’s invasion of Anzio was by amphibious craft, it is reasonable to assume that no kits were issued and trucks and other means of supply would have outfitted aid stations.
  • Normandy
    1. A new drop kit was developed for service in Normandy and in the July 1944 memo would be considered superior to the kit used in Sicily and the musette bag used in Italy.

      From the collection of Ben Major

  • Contents
    1. Contents of the drop kit would be determined by the carrier’s role in the medical detachment. A surgical tech would carry the following:
      1. Large Carlisle dressing (2)
      2. Small Carlisle dressing (6)
      3. Sulfanilamide Powder (4 boxes)
      4. Gauze Bandage Compress (8)
      5. Morphine Tartrate Syrettes (4 boxes)
      6. Penothol Sodium [antiseptic] (2 ampules)
      7. Adhesive Tape, 3 in. (4 tins)
  • Holland
    1. Photographic evidence shows the zipper-style rigger-made drop kit also in use in Holland.
  • Belgium
    1. Like Anzio, the 504th and 505th were sent into the Battle of the Bulge on trucks and therefore would not have carried drop kits.

Other Equipment Seen on Parachuting Medics

  • Flashlight
    1. The only period photograph of a flashlight is in the hands of the 505th Protestant Chaplain George B. Wood. What appears to be a flashlight attached to a musette bag is visible in the picture on page 60 showing a paratrooper medic on his way to a C-47. De Trez includes a flashlight stuck in the combat suspenders of a medic preparing for Normandy on page 59, but this choice does not appear to be based on any photographic evidence. That said, it is reasonable to assume that medics would have tried to get their hands on flashlights to be able to treat wounded at night.
  • Binoculars
    1. S/Sgt. Fred Morgan: “I was 1st Battalion Medical Section Chief. For Normandy, we were issued binoculars. We needed to be careful when spotting. They were times we were called upon to pick up casualties on open ground, we wanted to use the binoculars to scan around the wounded because the Germans very often had them zeroed in” (page 102).
  • M3 Knife
    1. While a fighting knife was not part of the prescribed gear that a medic would be issued (along with any other weapons), at least two medics wore them in the Normandy campaign:
      1. Pfc. William Moderhak can be seen wearing a German belt and buckle with a M3 knife in M8 scabbard on page 69.
      2. On page 103 S/Sgt. Fred B. Morgan is seen wearing a M3 knife in an M8 scabbard tied to his ankle.
  • Hand axe
    1. Hand axes were prescribed issue for medics in lieu of a standard entrenching tool. The axe would enable the medic to cut branches in order to make splints for broken limbs. While the period pictures don’t show any handaxes, de Trez places one on the mannequin on page 59. Interestingly, it has a caduceus on the carrier.
  • Handie Talkie
    1. “For Normandy, a Regtl’l Medical Net (SCR 536) was to be established between aid stations and between men aid men operating away from their aid stations. Two SCR 536 radios were issued per battalion section and two for the regimental section” (Page 54).
  • Helmets
    1. “It was McIlvoy [sic] decision not to paint individual helmets with large red crosses since in most cases they were mixed with combat troops in the front lines and the highly visible markings could give away the position of the combat men” (page 89).
    2. Medics’ helmets would feature distinctive insignia of the unit they were assigned to. Page 100 shows the helmet of Capt. Gordon Stenhouse who wore the “Jack of Diamonds” worn by 1/505. The M2 helmet belonging to T/4 Raymond Queen is one of the few that has any sort of Geneva Convention markings, but very small (perhaps quarter-sized). His helmet also featured the black shield, insignia for HQ company (page 106). The other side of his helmet also features what appears to be a black number 7 (page 112).
    3. It is reasonable to assume that 504th PIR medics would have followed the same pattern as the 505th PIR and:
      1. Added distinctive unit insignia (e.g. ankhs or skulls and crossbones) to their helmets in addition
      2. Not added Geneva Convention Markings
    4. The practice of camouflaging helmets with vesicant-detecting paint was fairly common in the 82nd during the MTO but no evidence of medics camouflaging their helmets has surfaced as of yet. It would be best for a medic with a MTO impression to have a plain helmet.
    5. Medics would frequently indicate their NCO rank by adding the horizontal white bar to the rear of their helmets.
  • Arm Band
    1. The standard arm band was a piece of white cotton with a red cross in the center. It was secured with a safety pin.
    2. As noted above, it was common practice in the 505 to wear one arm band on the left arm and another on the medic bag worn on the right side.
    3. Doc McIlvoy, at some point in the Holland campaign, cut down his Geneva Convention armband so that it was basically an inch or two wider than the red cross. It’s not immediately apparent if he safety pinned it to his field jacket, but from the bunching of fabric underneath it looks like it is only secured in the corners (page 149).

Full Invasion Kits

Sicily

  • Uniform:
    1. M1942 Jumpsuit (unreinforced)
    2. M2 Helmet
      1. Optional: Helmet net, OD#3 with ½” net
    3. Jump boots
  • Webgear
    1. M1936 pistol belt
    2. M1936 combat suspenders
    3. Musette bag
    4. Canteen, carrier, and cup
    5. M1910 shovel & carrier
  • Medical related
    1. Parachutist first aid pouch
    2. Geneva convention armband
    3. 2 medic bags and yoke
    4. EMT book (in jumpsuit pocket)
    5. Marine Medical Drop Kit or Parachute Drop Kit
  • Jump gear
    1. Parachute & reserve
    2. Mae West life preserver
    3. Letdown rope

Italy (Salerno) (Items in italics were most likely not carried by H Co.)

  • Uniform:
    1. M1942 Jumpsuit (unreinforced)
    2. Wool Uniform
    3. M2 Helmet
      1. Optional: Helmet net, OD#3 with ½” net
    4. Jump boots
  • Webgear
    1. M1936 pistol belt
    2. M1936 combat suspenders
    3. Musette bag
    4. Canteen, carrier, and cup
    5. M1910 shovel & carrier
  • Medical related
    1. Parachutist first aid pouch
    2. Geneva convention armband
    3. 1 medic bag with litter strap attached/2 medic bags and yoke
    4. EMT book (in jumpsuit pocket)
    5. Musette bag as medical drop kit
  • Jump gear
    1. Parachute & reserve
    2. Mae West life preserver
    3. Letdown rope

Italy (Appenines)

  • Uniform:
    1. Prior to 25 December 1943: M1942 Jumpsuit (unreinforced)
    2. 25 December 1943 and after: Winter Combat (“tanker”) uniform
    3. Wool uniform
    4. Long underwear
    5. M2 Helmet
    6. Jump boots
  • Webgear
    1. M1936 pistol belt
    2. M1936 combat suspenders
    3. Musette bag
    4. Canteen, carrier, and cup
    5. M1910 shovel & carrier
  • Medical related
    1. Parachutist first aid pouch
    2. Geneva convention armband
    3. 1 medic bag with litter strap attached
    4. EMT book (in jumpsuit pocket)

Anzio

  • Uniform:
    1. Winter Combat (“Tanker”) uniform and/or M1942 Jumpsuit (unreinforced)
    2. Wool uniform
    3. Long underwear
    4. M2 Helmet
    5. Jump boots
  • Webgear
    1. M1936 pistol belt
    2. M1936 combat suspenders
    3. Musette bag
    4. Canteen, carrier, and cup
    5. M1910 shovel & carrier
  • Medical related
    1. Parachutist first aid pouch
    2. Geneva convention armband
    3. 1 medic bag with litter strap attached
    4. EMT book (in jumpsuit pocket)

Normandy (Pathfinder – Speculative)

  • Uniform:
    1. M1942 Jumpsuit (reinforced)
    2. Wool uniform
    3. Long underwear
    4. M2 Helmet
      1. Optional: Helmet net, OD#3 with ¼” holes
    5. Jump boots
  • Webgear
    1. M1936 pistol belt
    2. M1936 combat suspenders
    3. Musette bag
    4. Canteen, carrier, and cup
    5. Handaxe or M1943 entrenching tool and carrier
  • Medical related
    1. Parachutist first aid pouch
    2. Geneva convention armbands (one on arm, other on medic bag)
    3. 1 medic bag with litter strap attached
    4. EMT book (in jumpsuit pocket)
    5. Parachute Medical Kit
  • Jump gear
    1. Parachute & reserve
    2. Mae West life preserver
    3. Letdown rope
    4. Horsehide gloves (long or short versions)

Holland

  • Uniform
    1. M1942 Jumpsuit (reinforced)
    2. Wool uniform
    3. Long underwear
    4. M2 or M1 Helmet
      1. Optional: Helmet net, OD#3 with ¼” holes
    5. Jump boots
  • Webgear
    1. M1936 pistol belt
    2. M1936 combat suspenders
    3. Canteen, carrier, and cup
    4. Handaxe or M1943 entrenching tool
  • Medical related
    1. Parachutist first aid pouch
    2. Geneva convention armbands (one on arm, other on medic bag)
    3. 2 medic bags with yoke
    4. EMT book (in jumpsuit pocket)
    5. Parachute Medical Kit
  • Jump gear
    1. Parachute & reserve
    2. Mae West life preserver
    3. Letdown rope
    4. Horsehide gloves (long or short versions)

Belgium

  • Uniform
    1. M1943 Uniform
    2. Wool uniform
    3. Long underwear
    4. M2 or M1 Helmet
    5. Jump boots
  • Webgear
    1. M1936 pistol belt
    2. M1936 combat suspenders
    3. Musette bag
    4. Canteen, carrier, and cup
    5. Handaxe
  • Medical related
    1. Parachutist first aid pouch
    2. Geneva convention armbands (one on arm, other on medic bag)
    3. 1 medic bag with litter strap attached
    4. EMT book (in jumpsuit pocket)

Training

  • Paratroopers excelled at evaluation and adapting SOP’s to become more effective and the medical detachment under Doc McIlvoy was no different. The following training steps were undertaken based on lessons learned in the Mediterranean Theater:
    1. Medical officers trained all aid men in “giving plasma, administering first aid for any type of wound and could control hemorrhage of any controllable type. After weeks of such training, it became obvious to an aid man that anyone who could grip a nut with pliers could stop bleeding blood vessels with a hemostat” (pages 30-31). While hemostat (a scissor-like tool with blunt ends meant to close shut severed blood vessels) was not officially issued to privates and NCO’s, de Trez implies that they were carried by placing one hanging from the collar of a mannequin representing T/4 Raymond Queen (page 73) and in a medical kit set up the way Queen had his set up in Holland (page 139). However, it is doubtful this kit is actually Queen’s as Queen carried his bag with a GP strap while the bag pictured on 139 has a litter strap and there is no photographic evidence for placing the hemostat on the mannequin’s collar.
  • “ . . . Every battalion surgeon would hold demonstrations for units not larger than a company, covering the treatment that may be given by one rifleman to another or to himself, with the available medical items he carried. The demonstration was to cover the proper and improper use of the following items:
    1. Carlisle Dressing, Small
    2. Sulfadiazine Tablets
    3. Medical Kit, Parachutist, containing:
      1. Tourniquet
      2. First Aid Dressing, Small
      3. Morphine Tartrate Syrette
    4. Halazone [water purification for individual canteens] and Calcium Hypochlorite [water purification for the lister bag] (Page 46)

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to the following for their help in inspiring, crafting, and editing this document:

  • Michel de Trez
  • Joshua Kerner
  • Matthew Butzen
  • Josh Blake
  • Ben Major (owner of www.med-dept.com)
  • The Parachuting Medics of the 82nd Airborne Division
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