Friday, February 22, 2013

Saarbrucken, 20 March 1945

     An excellent photographic study of the men of the 70th Division during Operation Undertone. There is one exclusionary soldier who appears to not be familiar to the group, or perhaps even from the 70th Division. He is likely a passer-by simply enjoying the respite from active battle and lover of the accordion. This soldier is furthest to the rear on the left half of the photograph. His uniform consists of a Jacket, field (also known as the M-1941), and Trousers, wool, od. His shirt collar, protruding from his field jacket, is not completely distinguishable, but is like that of a Shirt, flannel, od, coat style. His lack of multiple layers of clothing provides evidence that he is likely not an infantryman or other front line soldier expected to endure the cold weather without benefit of shelter or vehicle heater.
 
     While the 70th Division soldiers' uniforms and equipment are all quite similar, there are numerous minor variations and uncommon occurrences. I will continue to discuss each soldier from left  side of the photograph to right (disregarding the passer-by).
 
     The Medic is wearing the Jacket, field, M-1943. He is wearing rank insignia of Private 1st Class. Wearing of rank on the field jacket is generally quite rare amongst wartime photographs of the 70th Division. He is wearing Boots, service, combat, composition sole which were the only footwear (other than Shoe pac, 12 in, M-1944) worn by the Divisions personnel in the European theater. Slung across his shoulder is an unidentified strap. Due to its width, it is possible that it is for a Holster, shoulder, M3. Attached to his belt (which is obscured from view) is a pair of Pliers, wire cutter and its associated carrying pouch. Both the wire cutter pliers and shoulder holster are not typically issued items to medical personnel.
 
     The second soldier (first standing) is wearing two shirts under his field jacket, layered for extra warmth. The bottom shirt (closest to his skin) is a flannel while the next layer is a Jacket, herringbone twill. Attached to his field jacket is a Hood, jacket, field, M-1943.
 
     The third Soldier appears to be clothed identically to the second. The edge of an outer trouser pocket on his right hip is visible which gives away their type as Trousers, herringbone twill. His equipment worn is is the standard Belt, cartridge, caliber .30, M-1923 for soldiers issued with the U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1. Out of the routine is his wearing of Suspenders, belt, M-1936. This item was typically reserved for enlisted men issued the Browning Automatic Rifle, Caliber .30, M1918A2 or officers issued Bag, field, canvas, M-1936.
 
     The accordionist, while still wearing Trouser, field, has at least temporarily removed his Jacket, field and wearing a Jacket, herringbone twill as his outer garment. Attached to his belt is a carrier, shovel, intrenching, M-1943. The carrier seems to be of a transitional manufacture as the edge tape (od #7) is considerably darker than the body (od #3).
 
     The fifth man has dressed down even further and is wearing as an outer garment simply his flannel shirt. Affixed to his shirt is his coveted Combat Infantryman Badge. The badge was likely presented only a short time prior to the taking of the photograph. Wearing of such awards in combat was not standard practice. A presentation ceremony might also explain the real occasion behind the soldiers' gathering. His HBT trousers have been bloused for increased circulation of air.
 
     The sixth man seated is wearing the standard fare as the others in the group. What makes him unique is the wearing of a 70th Infantry Division, Insignia, shoulder sleeve on his field jacket. There are comparatively few photographs with men of the Division actually wearing the insignia during its time in active combat. Most of the photographs that do exist, the insignia is on the flannel shirt. This soldier too is wearing an unidentified strap slung across his right shoulder. The associated pouch/holster/etc. is visible, but indistinguishable. Lastly, his intrenching tool carrier is different from the accordionist's as it of one solid color. Based upon the comparative shade, it is likely the darker, olive drab #7. Much more clearly visible than on his counterparts are his outer hip pockets as his left pocket is billowed considerably.
 
     The seventh and final man is wearing the same. Affixed to his field jacket is the Purple Heart ribbon and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Attached to his cartridge belt is his Bayonet, M-1942.
 
     The last note of commonality among the infantryman is the apparent lack of Jacket, field, pile, od. This is more commonly known as the liner component to the field jacket. The tell-tale sign is the lack of increased girth brought on by this layer.

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