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MARK R. HENRY, MIKE CHAPPELL
THE US ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. THE PACIFIC

SOUTH-WEST PACIFIC, 1943-44

1: Corporal machine gunner

An infantry battalion's heavy weapons company would normally have eight .30cal water-cooled M1917A1 machine guns. This GI cradles one of these weapons - which weighs 41 lbs (18.6kg) with water in the jacket. The M1917A1 and the lighter air-cooled M1919 were functionally almost identical, though the more awkward tripod and the water jacket of the 1917 model allowed sustained defensive fire. The corporal section leader wears the later pattern HBT shirt with long, unpleated pockets, and the new HBT trousers with thigh cargo pockets (both the shirt and trouser pockets could hold the new K-ration box). He displays no rank insignia, and is identifiable only by his role as gunner, his pistol belt and holstered .45 automatic.

2: Private second gunner

Like his crewmates he wears a second pattern HBT shirt. The blackened metal '13-star' buttons used on HBTs - sometimes known as the 'Starburst of Freedom' design - were sometimes later replaced by standard drab green plastic buttons. While not popular, this large-mesh helmet netting would last most of the war as an issue item. His footwear is the latest in specially designed jungle boots; while lacking in support their lightness and quick drying made them attractive to many GIs. (An ankle-length version was also seen in use.) The Browning tripod weighs 52lbs (23.6kg); he also carries an all-purpose ammunition bag (its LTD fasteners suggesting a locally made 'custom' example), an M1 carbine and its two-magazine pouch, and an entrenching tool.

3: Private ammunition bearer

Two or more men would be assigned to carry ammunition for a machine gun; each can carried 250 belted rounds and weighed 5lbs (.2kg). Old World War I vintage wooden boxes were also still in limited use, but this steel box was the standard (and has remained in US Army use with few changes to this day). This GI is wearing the standard mid-war HBTs - unusually, with leggings - and is using one of several similar patterns of issue machete to cut trail. Clips for his Garand are carried in his web rifle belt and a use-and-throw-away cotton bandoleer; the bayonet would hang on his left hip. These M1936 web suspenders were commonly discarded in the Pacific; here he has a MkIIA1 grenade fixed to one - GIs sometimes used tape to secure them.

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