An essential element to World War II reenacting is creating your impression―acquiring all the uniforms, gear and equipment necessary to look, and feel, the part of an airborne soldier. Unfortunately, this can be a very expensive, time-consuming task. But new recruits have the benefit of not needing to purchase everything before coming out to their first reenactment. Our unit has a wide variety of loaner gear available for use as you gradually acquire your gear.
There are some basic items you should consider getting before your first day however.
For further information on gear acquisition, authenticity and in what order to get things, please visit our forums. Direct any questions to the unit’s authenticity NCO.
M42 uniform set with appropriate gear.
M43 uniform set with appropriate gear.
M-1C paratrooper helmet with 506th "spade" insignia and 2nd Battalion "tick."
New recruits must purchase boots before anything else―russet brown, Corcoran paratrooper jump boots. While our unit does have an array of loaner gear for use, boots must be sized to the individual and properly broken in before use.
The U.S. Army used a variety of footwear during World War II. Reenactors in Fox Company typically use two of these types―the paratrooper jump boot and the double-buckle combat boot. Jump boots were worn by paratroopers up through the D-Day and Normandy campaigns of June 1944 as well as during dress functions. Double-buckles were worn―by both paratroopers and regular infantry―from Operation Market Garden in September 1944 through the end of the war.
Some paratroopers wore jump boots throughout the war, so it is permissible for recruits to purchase and wear these types of boots for their first few campaigns regardless of the scenario. However, recruits will be expected to purchase double-buckles at some point soon after joining the unit.
Airborne reenactors have the luxury of needing only two different types of combat uniforms. Other reenactor units often have to purchase a larger variety of uniforms based on what their respective units were wearing and to which specific timeframe they wore them during the war.
Paratroopers were first outfitted with the M42 jumpsuit, consisting of a M42 jacket and pants. This was the primary combat uniform of the airborne from 1942 through June 1944. Before D-Day, many paratroopers had their M42s reinforced―canvas sewn over the elbows, knees and below pockets to prevent wear and tear. There are a number of different colors and shades M42s came in during the war, primarily due the multitude of American companies making them. You need not look for a specific color or shade.
The M42 is the first uniform you need to purchase. Get the reinforced versions if possible. While we do have loaners available, it is highly advised to have this item by your second or third event. New recruits may wear M42s for late-war scenarios (September 1944 through May 1945).
The next uniform recruits will need is the M43 combat uniform, consisting of a M43 jacket and pants. M43 uniforms were used by the paratroopers from September 1944 through the end of the war. Paratroopers had their M43 pants “rigger modified”―cargo pockets sewn onto the outside of each leg. M43s were issued alongside the double-buckle combat boots.
It is also advisable to purchase an overseas cap with blue piping along with a parachutist patch before your first event. We have loaners, but not in every size.
Once you have purchased a set of reinforced M42s, you will eventually need to purchase a rigger-modified M43 uniform. This will be the primary uniform used for late-war scenarios.
Once you have purchased both your M42 and M43 uniform sets, you may want to consider purchasing a Class A dress uniform and/or a Herringbone Twill (HBT) uniform set. These are not necessary for your initial impression, but will add a nice touch to your reenactment experience.
Class A uniforms were typically worn in formal events, parades, etc. There are two versions of the Class A jacket―a four-pocket tunic (early war) or “Ike” jacket (late war). Wool pants were worn with both, bloused over jump boots. Insignia should be worn representative of the time period and should include an overseas cap with blue piping.
HBTs were the primary training uniform of the airborne before shipping off to Europe and were also used by most other army units throughout the war. Many paratroopers held onto their HBT sets in Europe and it would not have been rare to see a paratrooper wearing one away from the front.
Some paratroopers also donned M41 and/or “tanker” jackets during the European campaign. These also may add a nice element to your impression after having purchased your necessary uniforms.
The helmet (with liner) was another essential part to the paratrooper’s uniform. Thus it will need to become part of yours as well.
There are two specific types of helmets used by the paratroopers―M2 and M-1C. While most infantry units used the standard M1 helmet, M2s and M-1Cs were both modified to allow for an added chin strap to keep the helmet from flying off the trooper’s head during a parachute jump.
Most paratroopers were issued with the M2 helmet and liner. This featured a fixed “D-bale” to hold a chin strap to the outer shell, but was subject to easy breakage. The M-1C was designed with a swivel bale to prevent this, but these didn’t make an appearance until late in the war.
M2 D-bale helmets can be hard to find, so new recruits are permitted to purchase M-1C helmets for their impression. The inside liner is one-size-fits-all and is usually postwar vintage, but usually has been redone to World War II configuration.
Some paratroopers even used standard M1 helmets, often picked up if they lost their M2 or M-1C helmet in a parachute jump.
Troopers in the 506th stenciled the regiment’s “spade” logo on each side of the helmet using white paint. A square “tick” was also painted just below the spade, indicating the regiment’s 2nd Battalion. This was typically done by hand and does not need to be uniform.
Just before the jump on D-Day, many paratroopers in the 506th inserted scrim into nets placed on their helmets―different colored canvas bits cut into strips and interwoven through the helmet net. The use of scrim was discontinued after the Normandy campaign.
New recruits should have either an M2 or M-1C paratrooper helmet (M1 is okay for starters) by their third event. Loaners are available in the meantime.
Our unit typically requires new recruits to have only their jump boots for their first event. However it is highly recommended that you either purchase, or arrange for, some additional items before coming out for the first time.
Plan on bringing a few pairs of heavy-duty socks―OD Green preferably. These can be purchased at a local surplus or sporting goods store. Insoles are also recommended for those recruits needing them. World War II vintage underwear is available, but it is not necessary for your impression. Wear what is comfortable.
A plain-white tee shirt is also necessary to wear underneath your uniform. A wool shirt over white tees underneath a combat uniform was standard in Europe, but California weather can make the wearing of wool shirts uncomfortable and hot for the reenactor.
The nature of your bedding shall depend on whether an event is held within barracks or an encampment (bivouac). Either way, you should plan on purchasing a plain-white twin-sized bed sheet set along with two OD Green wool blankets. Blankets can often be found at a surplus store.
Bunks are typically available in barracks’ impressions, which require new recruits to be equipped with the sheet set, blankets and pillow. Bivouac encampments are outdoors and often require a sleeping bag in addition to the wool blankets. Sleeping bags do not need to be period correct as they can be concealed with your blankets.
The unit often has a provided meal or two available for all members and recruits. Yet new recruits will be responsible for their own period-piece food items, both in the field and in camp. Period-piece rations are available from various vendors. Canned goods such as fruit, vegetables and beans are also acceptable.
Canned goods should not be of the pop-top variety as those hadn’t been invented yet. A P-38 can opener can be used to open these. Paint all cans OD Green.
Bread, sausage, beef jerky and other food items can be wrapped in wax paper or in a similar manner. There should be no plastic containers, plastic wrappers, etc. Bring plenty of water―we can always conceal plastic bottles.
Do not forget to bring any personal items, toiletries and medications you may need for an extended period of time. If we have access to showers within barracks, bring soap, a white or green towel, shampoo, razors, shower shoes, etc. These items need not be period correct.
It is also advisable to bring enough cash to cover battle fees, in-town dinners or to buy items from other unit members who are selling such.
Get the correct gear soldier! Visit the quartermaster today!