Paratroopers Uniforms WW II Airborne
From the first, it was recognized that Paratroopers would require special clothing and equipment due to the unique character of their mission. After a slow start, and several revisions, the airborne soldiers were eventually provided with uniforms and boots that met their special needs.
Parachute Infantry soldier wearing the M-1942 parachutists' uniform.
Paratroopers' Uniforms for Airborne Units in World War II
The development of parachute units was started by the United States Army in 1940, part of the general expansion beginning at that time. Parachutists were classified as infantry, since they were intended to fight on foot although transported by air, and their training was centered at Ft. Benning, Georgia. It was recognized right away that special clothing and equipment would be required.
The first item to be considered was special footgear, covered on this Olive-Drab.com page about the Jump Boots. A special version of the M-1 Helmet, the 'steel pot', designated M-1C, was produced with the special needs of jumpers in mind, as described on the Olive-Drab page about the M-1 Helmet.
Development of the parachute jumpers' uniform was started in 1940, but several unsatisfactory designs were tried and rejected before success. The 501st Parachute Infantry Bn. at Ft. Benning participated in most of the tests and contributed heavily to the final design adopted in 1941. The parachutists' suit consisted of a coat and trousers of cotton uniform twill. The "Coat, Parachute Jumper, M-1941" (jacket) had four patch pockets fastened with snaps and a full belt. It was closed by a zipper all the way to the neck and had a stand up collar for extra neck protection. There were roll back button cuffs and shoulder loops with snaps. The matching trousers had large cargo pockets, fastened with snaps, on the side of the legs well down the thigh. The legs tapered toward the bottom with elastic cuffs. This design was well liked but in actual training most paratroopers still wore the one-piece HBT coverall so they could keep the specialized uniform for dress occasions.
Second Pattern of the Paratrooper Uniform, M1942
The paratroopers' uniform was improved in 1942 with small changes like increasing the pocket capacity by adding bellows and fastening the pocket flaps with two snaps instead of one. The M-1942 version of the uniform was used until the specialized paratrooper uniform was dropped at the end of the war. The M-1942 uniform was worn by parachute infantry as they formed first assault wave of the D-Day landings, 6 June 1944.
In one of the most famous photos of World War II, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower briefs members of the 101st Airborne Division in the hours just before they were dropped into France as the opening assault of D-Day, 6 June 1944. The photo was taken at the airfield in Newbury England on 5 June.
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