H/504th Pathfinder Security in Normandy during OPERATION OVERLORD (June 1944)
The 504th returned to England well after the rest of the 82nd Airborne Division. So badly depleted were they after their ordeal in Anzio that the decision was made by 82nd command to not include them in the upcoming OPERATION OVERLORD: the invasion of France. However, a call was put out to the 504th for volunteers for an unspecified secret mission that was only described as “very dangerous.” Nearly the whole regiment stepped forward. In the end only 26 enlisted men and officers were chosen for the task: security for Pathfinder teams from the 507th and 508th PIR’s. The mission of the Pathfinders was to jump ahead of the main assault force to guide in the rest of the paratrooper sticks through radio and light signals. This was extremely dangerous work and in the end 17 of the 26 504th Pathfinders were killed.
- M1942 Jumpsuit (unreinforced): There was a significant amount of “customization” of jumpsuits prior to the jump in to Normandy and this particular set of photos demonstrates that fact. Many troopers remembered the camouflaging of jumpsuits in Sicily and procured C-47 paint to do just that. Others added leg ties taken from CS-150 recognition panels to help support the weight of the large bellows pockets on their trousers. Some wore jumpsuits with reinforcing panels at the elbows and knees. Jumpsuits were also impregnated to prevent chemical weapons from getting through the fabric. A luminous recognition disc is sewn to the rear of the collar to aid in location at night.
- M2 Helmet: These were also often camouflaged, usually with vessicant-detecting paint.
- Jumpboots (Corcorans): In russet brown. The pride of the paratrooper.
- Parachute silk scarf (optional)
- M1936 Pistol belt
- M1936 Combat suspenders: Felt pads (cut from insulation in airborne delivery containers) have been added for comfort.
- M1910 Entrenching tool (“T-handle shovel”) & carrier: Airborne troops would often shorten the length of the wood handle to make it less obtrusive when jumping
- M1936 Musette bag: This has also been camouflaged.
- M1910 Canteen, canteen cup, & carrier: This has also been camouflaged.
- Rigger-made ammunition pouches (“Rigger pouches”): Rigger pouches found in Normandy forego the Lift-the-Dot snap and instead tie with parachute cord.
- Parachutist first aid pouch: This was worn in a variety of places, but mainly seen on the ankle or combat suspenders. This one has also been camouflaged.
- M1918 Pistol magazine pouch: This item carries 2 magazines for the M1911 .45 caliber pistol.
- Bandoleer: Contains 6 en blocs of 30.06 ammunition for the M1 Rifle.
- Parachutist let-down rope: Originally white, this one has been camouflaged.
- Wrist compass: Worn on the wrist like a watch.
- M1 Rifle (“Garand”)
- M1 Bayonet
- M1918 Trench knife (“Knuckle knife”) in M6 scabbard: These holdovers from the Great War were issued to paratroopers in the MTO.
- Fragmentation grenades
Special thanks to Matt James for his research and photos!