A few nights ago I did a quick uniform photo shoot portraying an enlisted man of the 1st Battalion of The Royal Ulster Rifles. The regiment's history dates back to the reign of King George III when two new regiments of foot, the 83rd and 86th, were formed in 1793. In 1881, the 83rd and 86th were unified into a single regiment called the Royal Irish Rifles. The regiment provided battalions to all three Irish infantry divisions in World War I suffering 25,000 casualties with 7,000 being killed in action. After the Great War it was decided that Ulster should have its own regiment as the other Irish provinces, Connaught, Leinster and Munster each had their own. So on January 1, 1921 the regiment became the Royal Ulster Rifles.
When World War II was declared, the 1st Battalion was serving in India, with the 31st Independent Brigade Group, training in mountain warfare. When the brigade returned to the United Kingdom, it was decided that with its light scale of equipment the brigade could be converted into a glider unit. The 1st Battalion later joined the 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Ox & Bucks) and the 12th Devonshire Regiment in the 6th Airlanding Brigade as part of the newly raised 6th Airborne Division. The 6th Airborne Division was the second of two airborne divisions created by the British Army in World War II.
Carried in Horsa gliders, the battalion took part in Operation Mallard, the British glider-borne landings in the later afternoon of D-Day on June 6, 1944. They served throughout the Battle of Normandy employed as normal infantry until August 1944 and the breakout from the Normandy beachhead where the entire 6th Airborne Division advanced 45 miles in 9 days. The 1st Battalion returned to England in September 1944 for rest and retraining until December 1944 when the 6th Airborne was then recalled to Belgium after the surprise German offensive in the Ardennes known as the Battle of the Bulge. The 1st Battalion then took part in their final airborne mission of the war known as Operation Varsity, which was the airborne element of Operation Plunder, the crossing of the Rhine River by the 21st Army Group in March 1945. The 6th Airborne was joined by the U.S. 17th Airborne Division with both divisions suffering heavy casualties.
This uniform is a representation of an enlisted man relaxing after a long day of drill and classroom exercise. The timeframe is spring of 1944 shortly before the Allied invasion of Normandy. I am wearing the P37 Battledress Trousers with a Collarless Wool Shirt. The Trousers are supported by a pair of white Cotton Braces and a 1937 pattern Web Belt. Footwear is the classic black leather British Ammo Boots with a toecap and a pair of canvas Anklets. I am wearing the prized red Beret of the Airborne forces featuring the metal badge of the Royal Ulster Rifles over a green felt backing. Also featured in this series of photos is the brown enameled cup, a mess kit and a Soldier's Pay Book. In the near future I hope to do a follow-up photo recreation wearing the full battle equipment of a Rifleman during the Battle for Normandy.
On Sunday, July 13, Casey, Matt and I headed out in the fields near Ft. Calhoun, Nebraska to pay homage to the men of the 134th Infantry Regiment. A Nebraska National Guard unit before the war, the 134th Infantry entered combat on Sunday, July 15, 1944 in the hedgerow country of Normandy. The Cornhuskers' first assignment was to take Hill 122 which was a key objective in the eventual capture of St. Lo. In taking the hill, the 134th suffered 102 men killed, 589 wounded and 102 missing. In doing so they lived up to their Spanish-American War battle cry, "All Hell Can't Stop Us!" The 1st Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their monumental effort in the attack.
The key to this impression is the relatively sparse use of equipment - wearing just the basics for an attack and nothing extra. Most members of the 134th wore only their cartridge belts with canteens, shovels and first aid kits attached. The men also wore lots of ammunition bandoleers as the fighting was pretty heavy and the men needed all the ammunition they could carry. The July temperatures in Normandy can get warm during the day but cool down considerably at night. Most of the men striped down to their wool shirt during the day and wore their field jackets at night. Another important element of this photo shoot was finding the right terrain that would effectively simulate the fields and hedgerow country of Normandy. Fortunately for us, there are some amazing pieces of land that closely resemble northern France right here in eastern Nebraska! Casey has one particular tree line near his home that looks just like a Norman hedgerow. It's pretty impressive!
It was a great feeling to once again go on patrol through grassy fields wearing the "wagon wheel" patch of the 35th "Santa Fe" Division. For Mr. Hazard and myself, this was the unit that we first represented when we got into reenacting and it has always held a special place in our hearts. The men of the 134th lived by the Pawnee indian words, "Lah We Lah His" which translated means "The Strong, the Brave." We are grateful for the sacrifices of those brave Nebraskans and we honor their service by keeping their memory alive.
My April Uniform of the Month is a tribute to the brave Marines and U.S. Army soldiers who fought in the last great battle of World War II on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Will and Casey and I headed out on a rainy morning to try to capture the essence of what being wet is all about. The temperatures were around 50° with a steady rainfall that got quite heavy at times. Casey and I were representing the Marines of the 1st Marine Division and Will was representing the Army's 77th Infantry Division.
The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army, the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th Infantry Divisions and two Marine Divisions, the 1st and 6th, fought on the island. Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.
The battle has been referred to as the "typhoon of steel" in English, and tetsu no ame ("rain of steel") or tetsu no bōfū ("violent wind of steel") in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Based on Okinawan government sources, mainland Japan lost 77,166 soldiers, who were either killed or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered 14,009 deaths (with an estimated total of more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds). Simultaneously, 42,000 to 150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide, a significant proportion of the local population. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria caused Japan to surrender less than two months after the end of the fighting on Okinawa.
This month's uniform is a further examination of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment which was featured in September 2013. The 507th was activated on July 20, 1942 at Fort Benning, Georgia. Lieutenant Colonel George V. Millett Jr. was given command of the regiment. After jump training at Fort Benning the regiment moved to Alabama for 22 weeks of advanced training. The 507th took part in maneuvers at Barksdale Air Base in Shreveport, Louisiana on March 7, 1943 and then they headed west. Their train arrived at Alliance, Nebraska on March 20, 1943 where the 507th was to be stationed at the Alliance Army Air Base as part of the 1st Airborne Brigade. On Sunday, April 4, the 507th performed a tactical jump and paraded before 20,000 spectators in Alliance. It was considered by many local citizens to be the largest gathering ever to take place in the city. The 507th was stationed at Alliance from March through October 1943 making demonstration jumps at Denver, Omaha and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Many period photos from their time at Alliance show that the men of the 507th wore the one-piece HBT Overalls just about as often as they wore their M-42 Jumpsuits. This uniform is intended to depict what they would have typically worn on a training day out on the open prairie. Look for more featured 507th uniforms to come in June and July 2014.
In honor of the Marine Corp's 69th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, I thought it would be fun to do an impression of an actual Iwo Jima flag raiser from the famous Joe Rosenthal photograph. This was a pretty easy impression for me to put together as I have a pretty complete Marine Corps uniform and equipment collection. The uniform consists of an M1 helmet with a Marine camouflage helmet cover, a cloth utility cap, a set of P41 Marine Corps dungarees, an Army M41 field jacket, leggings and a pair of Boondocker boots. I wore only the equipment worn by Franklin Sousley. Sousley was always thought to be the flag raiser standing behind John Bradley, but based on what he is wearing and his equipment, I am positive that he is in the second slot behind Harlon Block in front. Please visit my website to learn more about the flag raising and the 5th Marine Division in World War II and Vietnam. http://www.5thmarinedivision.com
The Battle of Ia Drang was the first major battle between regulars of the United States Army and regulars of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN/NVA) of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The two-part battle took place between November 14 and November 18, 1965, at two landing zones (LZs) northwest of Plei Me in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam as part of the U.S. airmobile offensive codenamed Operation Silver Bayonet. The battle derives its name from the Drang River which runs through the valley northwest of Plei Me, in which the engagement took place. Ia means "river" in the local Montagnard language.
Representing the American forces were elements of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division: the 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, facing elements of the B3 Front of the PAVN (including the 304 Division) and Viet Cong. The battle involved close air support by U.S. aircraft and a strategic bombing strike by B-52s. The initial Vietnamese assault against the landing 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry at LZ X-Ray was repulsed after two days and nights of heavy fighting on November 14-16. However, the follow-up surprise attack on November 17 that overran the marching column of 7th Cavalry 2nd Battalion near the LZ Albany was the deadliest ambush of a U.S. unit during the course of the entire war. About half of some 300 American deaths in the 35-day Operation Silver Bayonet happened in just this one fight that lasted 16 hours.
The battle was documented in the CBS special report Battle of Ia Drang Valley by Morley Safer and the critically acclaimed book We Were Soldiers Once... And Young by Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway. In 2002, Randall Wallace depicted the first part of the battle in the film We Were Soldiers starring Mel Gibson and as Col. Hal Moore.
This has been one of my all-time favorite uniforms for many years now. It is a sharp looking uniform with a very smart military appearance. Once I built my M-16A1 replica, I was finally able to put this impression together. Thankfully, our friends' backyard served as a very nice substitute for the Central Highlands of Vietnam in mid-November. It is an extreme honor to wear the same uniform that the 1st Air Cavalry went into combat with for the first time in Vietnam. Garry Owen!
Operation Starlite began on August 18, 1965. It was the first major offensive regimental size action conducted by a strictly U.S. military unit during the Vietnam War. The operation was launched based on intelligence provided by Major General Nguyen Chanh Thi, the commander of the South Vietnamese forces in northern I Corps area. Lieutenant General Lewis W. Walt devised a plan to launch a pre-emptive strike against the Viet Cong regiment to nullify the threat on the vital Chu Lai base and ensure its powerful communication tower remained intact. The operation was conducted as a combined arms assault involving ground, air and naval units. U.S. Marines were deployed by helicopter insertion into the designated landing zone while an amphibious landing was used to deploy other Marines. 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment – both stationed at Chu Lai – were chosen to move on Van Tuong, as well as 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, from the Special Landing Force, which made haste from the Philippines. Forty-eight years later, the lessons learned from Operation Starlite still echo through military operation manuals and the Marines who laid their lives on the line are recognized for their heroism. The engagement showed the Marine Corps to be a prime fighting force 190 years after its birth, even when faced with an enemy of relatively unknown capabilities in conditions less than ideal. Also the combination of amphibious assault and helicopter-borne forces used in Operation Starlite showed the Marines to be masters of their chosen crafts: amphibious assault and assault via helicopter. With success in Operation Starlite the Marines passed their first big test in Vietnam. Moreover, they tested on the battlefield the combined helicopter and amphibious doctrine that they had studied for more than a decade.
This was my first post for my ongoing "Uniform of the Month" series. Each month I spotlight a particular uniform from a time and place in U.S. military history. Because of my background and interests, these are mostly focused on World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. This uniform was pulled together over several months as my interest in the Marine Corps of the Vietnam War has grown. Everything in the photos is original except for the Utility Cover and the OG-107 Trousers, both reproductions from Moore Militaria. I don't currently own an M-14 rifle but I held my M-1 in the photos and then added in an M-14 later.
UNIFORM OF THE MONTH
I love deciding which unique uniform impression I want to put together each month. Follow me right here to see what's next!