The purpose of these guidelines is to assert a uniform standard for the Level ONE (Normandy) Impression including allowances for basic weapon systems and specialties. These guidelines as published should be used by every member in assembling their basic uniform package.
Where to Start
The key to any accurate impression is research. As members of The Five Oh First Group (I Co 3/501st PIR Reenacted) you’re expected to know the history of the 101st Airborne Division as well as that of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. That knowledge should include a working understanding of all of the basic equipment used by the WWII airborne rifleman and most specifically, that of the 501st PIR.
The best place to start is reading books or visiting any one of a number of great web sites that offer a wealth of information, some even offer personal reflections by WWII veterans. Additionally, there are many excellent reference volumes currently available on WWII, the airborne, the 101st division and the 501st PIR in particular. These books not only offer first hand accounts but many include photographs and even personal artifacts. These period photos offer a wealth of information and show combat gear in action. Each photo is a reference to equipment placement and a record of what was carried at any given time.
This is a working document. It is based upon information gathered in books, period photographs and from veterans. It is important though to assert that when talking about the US Army during war time, you can’t say “always” OR “never”. Those terms most often can not apply. More and more research will bring out new details long forgotten. That is why it is important to realize that these are standards created simply as a basis for uniformity within I Co 501st PIR. Questions regarding the interpretation of these guidelines as written or implied should be directed to Regimental Operations via your platoon leader.
The Level ONE (Normandy) Impression
Based upon historical information for I Co 3/501st PIR for operations D-Day and beyond, June-July 1944.
NOTE: There is no discussion in these guidelines regarding resources for acquiring these items. Due to the constantly changing nature of retail and specialty sales industries that support our hobby, each recruit should make inquiries on specific items via the unit Yahoo chat group. Possible outlets include established vendors like At the Front, What Price Glory, Bayonet, Inc. and WWII Impressions and all of these are always great resources. Both original and reproduction items of all types can be found on EBay.
Part One - Basic Combat Uniform & Gear
- Model 1942 reinforced paratrooper uniform
- Wool service shirt (M1937) and tie
- Wool service trousers (M1937)
- Trouser suspenders (M1943)
- Khaki cotton canvas web belt with WWII-style black open-face pivoting buckle
- Corcoran or Corcoran-style combat jump boots (with beveled heel)
- Wool garrison “overseas” cap with light blue piping and early version light blue parachute-only cap badge
- M1 steel helmet and airborne-style liner (Or later issue M1C)
- 1/2” helmet net and one pack of brown/tan/green burlap scrim helmet camouflage
- Cartridge belt (M1923)
- Suspenders (M1936) with felt, field-modified shoulder pads
- Field bag (M1936), also called the “musette” bag
- Canteen and cup (M-1910 or M-1942) and canvas canteen cover (M1910)
- Meat can (M1942) and spoon, fork, and knife
- Entrenching tool, folding model (M1943) with canvas carrier (M1943)
- Rubberized gas mask bag (M7 for the M5 gas mask)
Note: Original M5 gas masks are very rare. A reasonable substitute is the very similar, later issue M9 mask from the Korean era. The only major difference is that the WWII M5 has a black rubber face-piece. The later issue M9 can be dyed black to serve as a visual representative.
- Gas detection arm brassard
- Parachutist’s wrist compass
- TL122 angle-head flashlight
- Bayonet, for M1 Garand rifle (M1942 or M1)
- Fighting knife, Model M3
- Leather scabbard (Model M6 or later issue M8)
- Parachutist’s knife (Model M2), the airborne “switchblade” with lanyard
- “Cricket” signal device (the simple square gold version is our unit standard - not the frog/insect shaped toys)
- First aid packet pouch (M1910, M1924, or M1942), and Carlisle bandage
- High -neck OD sweater
- OD Knit “Jeep” cap
- OD Knit neck scarf
- Camo parachute souvenir scarf (worn as a neck wrap)
- OD Wool blanket
- Shelter half (OD #3) with cotton rope, (1) folding or (3) segmented poles and (6) wooden pins
- Parachutist horsehide leather gloves
- Airborne-style, tie-on first aid kit (dummy version without contents is preferred)
- Common khaki cotton, 6-pocket ammo bandolier with black pin
Weapons allowance for the Level ONE Impression includes the following:
M1 rifle, M1A1 folding stock carbine (with pistol belt and magazine pouches), and M1911 pistol (with pistol belt and M1910 russet brown leather holster). Each weapon set should include an original cleaning kit and supplies.
(Other weapons applications are approved only by 501st Regimental Operations)
Whether you’re in the field at a tactical exercise or in camp at a public living history event, nothing stands out like the little details. Having a basic assortment of period accessories makes any impression sharper. Whether it’s simple hygiene items for field grooming or pockets filled with reproduction paperwork, these subtleties add depth to your impression. Many of these items or suitable substitutes can be found at Wal-Mart or your local drug store. Take the time to locate and acquire these simple items and keep them in your basic kit.
Note: These items are typically carried in the “musette” bag.
OD cotton socks
Trouser blousing bands
Period chewing gum
Vintage sweetheart photographs
Letters from home
Club passes, show tickets, etc.
Toiletries - Every member should have the basic items required for personal hygiene in the field including:
Period double-edge shaving razor and blades
Period polished stainless steel signal/shaving mirror and case
OD hand towel
Small OD cotton towel
Simple plastic or wood handled toothbrush and plastic carrier
Simple plastic soap box and bar of hand soap
Shoe polish and polishing supplies
Simple sewing kit (for insignia and field repairs)
Part Two - Additional Information
WWII hair cuts are quite simple. Period shots of real WWII GI’s show a diversity from short and cropped to trimmed and flowing. For our unit purposes a haircut with no hair touching the ears and neatly trimmed or shorter will suffice. As per period regulations facial hair was not allowed and mustaches had to be trimmed at the mouth’s edge. Keep in mind GI’s had time and reason to keep their hair trimmed in the days just before the invasion.
We are currently looking to develop a reasonably priced field ration that offers two things:
1. A visual representative of the WWII K ration
2. Uses edible, modern substitutes for period food items
In an attempt to create an accurate field impression for both public living history applications and private tactical exercises we would like to begin taking steps toward standardizing our field meals and rations.
Regimental Helmet Stencils
There is great variation in the application of helmet stencils within the 101st Division during its WWII campaigns. General rules are that the deck of cards helmet insignia got smaller as the war progressed. For our Level ONE Impression we want to use a documented standard for I Co/501st PIR. Therefore the diamond (the 501st tactical symbol throughout the war) that was used during the Normandy campaign was slightly larger than those used during Operation Market Garden and beyond. A printable stencil template for your Level One impression is available from Regimental Operations.
1) 101st soldiers were almost exclusively issued brand new M1943 folding model entrenching tools. T-handle versions are not approved for airborne impressions (but are accepted for 327 GIR or standard infantry impressions). The M1943 version of tool and carrier are our Level ONE standards.
2) Tie-on style airborne first aid kits - Although many photos show them used rampantly throughout the 82nd Division, wearing the tie-on aid kits on the helmet nets were strictly forbidden in the 101st as it was believed that they increased the visual silhouette of the soldier.
3) 48-Star Armbands - Again, period photos show a great deal of this throughout the 82nd Division, however, it is not a predominant feature of 101st Division documentation. Therefore, we do not approve the 48-star arm flag (as an armband or as a sew-on item) for our Normandy Impression. It is not until the Market Garden campaign that historical photographs document widespread use within the 501st of the armband-style 48-star flags.
4) The MOHAWK - Long associated symbol of the 101st, this lore is based in fact. There were groups within the 101st (including the 326th Engineers and HQ Co/506) who donned the mohawk for different reasons. Period photos well document their pre-jump preparation for D-Day. However, NO group within the 501st is documented having worn the famous haircut.
5) 101st Pathfinders and Camo Uniforms - Again, this one is partially true but is not a standard. There are famous photos of almost every stick of 101st Airborne Pathfinders in the hours just before the D-Day drops. Many of the pathfinders within the 101st did apply the stripped camo paint to their uniforms and gear before the jumps however the 501st PIR does not demonstrate this.