GI combat uniform

Question and opinion regarding Living History / Reenacting.
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Daren
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GI combat uniform

Post by Daren » Mon Nov 13, 2017 2:57 pm

Hi all, I am fairly new to the joys of reenactment and now that my jeep is ready I would like to get some uniform to wear when displaying her at shows and things. Thing is there are so many options I am not sure what would be more correct for my jeep and era of the war.
The jeep is a 1942 GPW and I have decided to depict the 1st infantry division, "Big Red One" (you see so many as airborne or British jeeps I wanted to be a bit different). My thinking is that the 1st had been to Africa then Italy and finally France so I would like to depict a GI who has been through a few zones and so would have picked up uniform and webbing from the beginning upto the end of the war. What sort of pants and jacket combo would be possible and look convincing? I like the look of the m1941 jacket and I think the HBT pants would be more comfortable to wear (wool makes me itch)
Would this have been a possibility? Also what would GI have worn under their combat jackets? T-shirt or a sleeved button shirt? Tie?
Also the insignia and rank stripes, how were they worn? Which shoulders? Would prefer an NCO or private over a full officer.
Any help and suggestions will be gratefully received.
Regards
Daren
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Farrell Fox
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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by Farrell Fox » Mon Nov 13, 2017 10:47 pm

Hi Daren,

Let me give you a quick crash course on how most if not all reenactment groups operate.

Reenactments are typically put on by sanctioned groups. These groups usually have rules and standards, and also have a rank structure. Using my own group as an example, new members are given a list of required items needed to participate in order to conform to authenticity guidelines. This will include your shirt, jacket, trousers, ect. Our rank system is based on time and grade. The more time (in our case it is attended "battle days") you spend with that unit, the more credit you earn towards you promotion in rank. Most groups, including my own, will not allow anyone to show up as anything but a private, and some cases a private first class.

I highly recommend that you contact some of your local groups, some of which reenact the 1st Infantry Division, and let them help you get started. You will find a better sense of direction on how to build your impression than if you started on on your own.
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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by Daren » Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:53 am

Thanks for the heads up. I will look around and ask a few questions.
Regards
Daren
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17thAirborne
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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by 17thAirborne » Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:55 am

Reenactment is when you join a group of others to reenact a particular battle, event or scene. Joining such a group entails all of the good and bad associated with how that particular group operates, and which Monty-wanna-be is in charge. Yes, they are a good source of friendship and info if you associate with a group you feel comfortable with.

It sounds like you desire to do living history where you attend an event, parade or historical display with your jeep and you dressed in proper attire. The simple solution is to study 1st ID period photos for the time period of your display and find something that appeals to your budget and comfort, and looks proper. in short you will find EVERY uniform combination and can study rank placement and such. just keep in mind, the more unusual the uniform combo you wear, the more you open yourself up to criticism from Monty and his staff of know-it-all's, who probably never spent a day serving in the armed forces, but view themselves as great leaders of men armed with inflexible information on how it really was. That is why i simply enjoy setting up on my own and enjoying the conversation with the attendees and other living history enthusiasts who are not tied to Monty's organization.

If you find the right group to work with, and there are many superb and dedicated enthusiasts, you will enjoy it.
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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by Daren » Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:35 am

Thanks Oz, living history does sound more my cup of tea. I work all day with wannabes so just to relax with like minded individuals and talk about our vehicles, with a bevvy or 2 is my kind of show.
Regards
Daren
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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by chibobber » Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:38 am

Keep in mind that issue and replacement items changed through out the war. Boots would be the double buckle type.As far as ties,when the 1st was assigned to the 3rd Army and came under Patton,they were mandatory if I recall correctly.

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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by 42swing » Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:40 am

I belong to a good group of folks, some of which do re-enacting, some more living history. My Jeep and I are part of the group that's more into living history, and my family and I are also part of a home front group. My '42 Jeep is marked as 6th Cavalry, 28 Recon - ultimately part of XV Corps which was one of the first US groups to come to the UK and were based in Northern Ireland in 1942/43 before moving to England for the invasion. They landed with Patton's 3rd Army after D-day and took part in most of the major operations through the end of the war. All this to say, research your unit carefully and pick the time period and location your impression will represent.

For us, we picked the 1943 period in Northern Ireland, so the Jeep itself is fairy clean with a bridge plate on it. For uniform I picked the early pattern green HBT's, M41 field jacket with the 15 Corps patch and sergeant's stripes (I didn't want to be an officer either), service boots and leggings, and a pistol belt. I'm not particularly fussy about absolute correctness, but its close based on my research and its comfortable (something to consider) whether I'm at a car show or WWII event. I can throw a sweater on underneath if its cold or strip down to the HBTs if its hot.

I also have a set of Class A's, the "formal" uniform, which is actually a "named" uniform from a fight engineer on B-29s based out of Tinian. It actually fits, which is unusual, and is an early pattern uniform since he apparently joined the Army very early in the war or even before it started. I wear that for more formal events like swing dances, and actually wore it to a good friends naval retirement ceremony last weekend (at his request).
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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by Av8er » Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:25 pm

Since you are in the UK, I would suggest contacting the Big Red One Museum in Colleville, Normandy for some assistance. They have extensive research resources on the First Infantry Division. They may be helpful with photographs of particular periods of the Division’s World War II history, as well as information on the actual uniforms that were worn by the Division while in Normandy that are in their collection. Between that and research resources available online you should be able to find all the information that you need to properly represent your vehicle and the unit. It seems that you are more in line with living history rather than reenacting. That being said, I am not a particular fan of reenactors, as I have seen too many of them repeat too much misinformation, because most of them don’t bother to do their own research. Many of them just want to “play army,” while never having served.
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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by Cal.Bar » Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:48 pm

Farrell Fox wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 10:47 pm
Hi Daren,

Let me give you a quick crash course on how most if not all reenactment groups operate.

Reenactments are typically put on by sanctioned groups. These groups usually have rules and standards, and also have a rank structure. Using my own group as an example, new members are given a list of required items needed to participate in order to conform to authenticity guidelines. This will include your shirt, jacket, trousers, ect. Our rank system is based on time and grade. The more time (in our case it is attended "battle days") you spend with that unit, the more credit you earn towards you promotion in rank. Most groups, including my own, will not allow anyone to show up as anything but a private, and some cases a private first class.

I highly recommend that you contact some of your local groups, some of which reenact the 1st Infantry Division, and let them help you get started. You will find a better sense of direction on how to build your impression than if you started on on your own.
Yeah, never quite understood that rank thing. They TRY for historic accuracy, but then I see a group of a couple of dozen 60 year old buck privates and corporals in the field and almost no officers. Oh well.

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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by Farrell Fox » Tue Nov 14, 2017 11:34 pm

Cal.Bar wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:48 pm

Yeah, never quite understood that rank thing. They TRY for historic accuracy, but then I see a group of a couple of dozen 60 year old buck privates and corporals in the field and almost no officers. Oh well.
60 year old reenactors are rather uncommon, so to see a "couple of dozen" of them in one group is unheard of. Officers lead companies which are more than a couple of dozen men, not platoons or squads. There are rare exceptions, but definitely not a common practice. It is typically frowned upon in reenacting groups to have too many officers, especially if those officers are in command of less than 25 people.
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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by Lee Bishop » Thu Nov 16, 2017 3:29 pm

For the 1st ID, you could go with the M1941 HBT uniform if early war or the M43 HBT uniform for D-Day era or later, and a M-1941 field jacket. Bth are easy and cheap to buy these days as repros.
Cal.Bar wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:48 pm
Yeah, never quite understood that rank thing. They TRY for historic accuracy, but then I see a group of a couple of dozen 60 year old buck privates and corporals in the field and almost no officers. Oh well.
Heck, I've bene into WW2 stuff since the late 80s and I've seen more of most of the people being corporals or above and way too many officers for real life!
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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by Daren » Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:33 am

Thanks for all your valued input on this subject. I am looking at a "look" from between Africa campaign through italy upto Normandy, and think the average infantry soldier would have collected the items he liked and stuck with them, as well as other items he may have magpied along the way, bags from various units even german equipment would have been scavenged if they were cool or useful/practical. I know german binoculars were the best so they would have been taken at every opportunity, as well as the odd Lugar and other moments from combat. In studying hundreds of photos I have noticed that soldiers in the same photo could be wearing multiple different combinations of uniform items, so they do look like they just wore what they liked, not like modern soldiers who all look identical.
I have bought myself a pair of early HBT (light) trousers and canvas gaitors and an m41 jacket. I'm just finding it tricky to work out what was worn beneath, I think that itay have been a HBT shirt/jacket in colder weather (but worn as a top layer in warm weather). I really don't like wool as I find it itchy, has anyone got experience of the wool uniforms (repros) if they are an itchy material or not. I have bought a later model M1 helmet as it was really cheap and I thought I could change the liner later when I find one. (I over painted it and used ground cork between the coats to look more original, it looks the part for me.
Would a vest and jumper have been worn or a shirt. I can't imagine ties would have been used by combat troops except on camp or with formal dress.
Once I have the combat uniform sorted I will look at webbing kit.
And ideas. Many thanks
Daren
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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by David » Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:00 am

I would go for the basic, standard generic GI look with the following:

- M41 jacket;
- M37 mustard EM shirt (no epaulettes);
- M37 mustard trousers;
(HBT trousers & jacket can replace the above in warm weather)
- Leggings;
- Service Shoes, smooth side out;
- Overseas cap (woolen, OD);
- M1 helmet with correct colour, finish and chinstraps;
- Khaki tie (if required)
- Standard webbing trouser belt with open buckle.

This will be correct up till about Autumn 1944, and after that you basically only need switch the jacket for an M44 one. I would only wear a divisional patch on the shoulder of both jacket and shirt; any rank would also depend on your age. All the above items are easily available in reproduction in any size. I don't like wool either but the only discomfort I noticed was that the collar of the shirt chafed my neck; this can be fixed by adding a flannel strip to he inside of the collar. OD vests, cardigans and jumpers were worn over the shirt, these came in a vast number of patterns and models since most were made by civilians back home.

Equipment depended partly on your issued weapon... So if you don't intend to lug around an M1 Garand you don't have to wear a rifle ammo belt. In most cases an M36 pistol belt with a first aid pouch, canteen and (if needed) M36 suspenders will do; all of these are easy to find original and would cost about the same as reproduction.

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Re: GI combat uniform

Post by 42swing » Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:14 am

At the Front is having a pretty good sale right now on their HBT's.
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