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MARK R. HENRY, MIKE CHAPPELLTHE
US ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. NORTH-WEST EUROPE

OPERATION COBRA, NORMANDY, JULY 1944

1: Rifleman, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Division

Like the 3rd, the 2nd Armored was a 'heavy division' (see MAA 347) with two tank regiments (66th & 67th Armor) each of three battalions, and the three-battalion 41st Infantry. Its Combat Commands A & B landed over Omaha beach between 11 and 14 June, and it saw very heavy fighting during the July/August break-out from the beachhead areas. This lightly-equipped rifleman from the 41st Armored Infantry wears the so-called 'tanker jacket', which was actually commonly worn by many non-tank troops of armoured divisions, including the infantry. Otherwise his combat uniform and web equipment are standard. His gasmask has been 'lost', and his pack was last seen hanging off the side of his halftrack. Web canvas slings on M1 Garands began replacing the complex leather sling in mid-1944. It was common to see an 'immediate use' clip carried like this on a web brace or bandoleer sling, with the fabric trapped between the two rows of cartridges.

2: BAR gunner, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division

Every infantry squad had at least one man armed with the Browning Automatic Rifle. This 'Ivy' division GI carries a BAR with the bipod removed to save weight; he also has a Mk II fragmentation grenade. Like many GIs, he carries minimal equipment and has stuffed his 'M1941' field jacket into the back of his belt. The normal load carried by a BAR gunner was 13 x 20-round magazines - two in each pocket of the six- pocket belt, and one in the gun - but a designated assistant would carry two more belts. One 6ft 4in, 240lb BAR gunner from the 2nd Armored Division actually carried in combat 27 magazines in various pouches and pockets. Part of the 4th Division rode 2nd Armored Division tanks during 'Cobra'.

3: Rifleman, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Division

During the break-out the 2nd Armored Division swept through the initial oppositon, but on 28/29 July a fierce counter-attack by tanks and infantry from 2.SS-Panzer- Division 'Das Reich' hit the 2/41 st Infantry and 3/67th Armor near St Denis-le-Gast. The attack was repulsed after desperate fighting, in the course of which LtCol Coleman, CO of the 2/41st, personally manned a bazooka before being killed in action. Later the division's Combat Command A served under the tactical command of the 29th Division.

While the great majority of infantry in Normandy wore the standard wool uniform, field jackets and/or herringbone twill fatigues, there was a limited experimental issue of the Army's two-piece M1942 camouflage uniform. Given the lush, sun-dappled terrain of summertime France this was reasonable. However, the resemblance of the unfamiliar printed pattern to that of the camouflage clothing routinely worn by the Waffen-SS troops encountered in Normandy led to its withdrawal after tragic cases of mistaken identity. Elements of the 2nd and 30th Infantry Divisions received this uniform, as did the 17th Engineer Bn and elements of the 41st Armored Infantry from the 2nd Armored Division; other individuals also received it when issued replacements for worn-out clothing during July and August. This figure is based on photographs of the 41st AIR taken by Robert Capa. The M1 helmet is garnished with a net and small strips of burlap scrim. Light field equipment is worn, without packs - like B1, this soldier travels in a halftrack and stows his gear on the vehicle. His web belt carries 80 rounds and the expendable bandoleer has an additional 48 rounds.

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