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

NETHERLANDS, OCTOBER 1944

1: Major, 23rd Armored Infantry Regiment, 7th Armored Division

The 7th Armored Division fought a month-long series of tank battles near Overloon/Venlo in the Netherlands in October 1944. The division's most important action would come two months later, with its CCB's defence of and break-out from St Vith in the Ardennes. This major's rank is only just visible on his shirt collar; veteran officers and NCOs commonly kept the wearing of insignia to a minimum to increase their life-span. As a major he is probably the CO or second-in-command (executive officer, 'XO') of his battalion, and here he is talking over the SCR 300 radio with one of his companies; the scale of issue was six SCR 300s per battalion - two of these FM sets for Bn HQ and one each for the company headquarters. The batteries in the lower component of the backpack gave about 24 hours' use. The officer wears, as an alternative to the field or tanker's jackets, the third-pattern US Army mackinaw in cotton poplin with a notched, unfaced collar and without the integral cloth belt of earlier models. Herringbone twill trousers are tucked into a pair of the much sought-after paratrooper boots. He is armed with a .45 pistol and a M1 carbine with 15-round magazines; the pistol is carried in a custom-modified open-top M1916 holster.

2: Private first class, radio operator, 23rd Armored Infantry Regiment, 7th Armored Division

Neither the woollen 'ETO jacket' nor its smarter cousin, the M1944 'Ike jacket', were commonly seen worn by front-line GIs, but it was not unknown. This Pfc has sewn his prewar silver-on-black rank stripes on the sleeves of his short British-made ETO jacket. Though 'buckle boots' were coming into issue in the autumn of 1944 this GI still wears the old 'service shoes' and canvas leggings. Sufficiently weighed down by his 34lb SCR 300 radio, he is otherwise very lightly equipped. The belt that came as part of the radio's rig would not accept any other equipment items, so he wears a pistol belt for his canteen, aid pouch and the magazine pouch for the carbine, which is his regulation weapon. The axe-shaped canvas bag looped to the radio belt is the BG150, which held the radio handset and both long and short sectional antennae. Within the infantry company the platoons communicated with the 'handie-talkie' SCR 536 AM radio.

3: Captain, Forward Air Controller, US 9th Army Air Force

Close co-operation between ground troops and the tactical aircraft which more or less ruled the skies over the ETO in 1944-45 was a major factor in the successful Allied advance. Pilots were assigned for limited periods of service with front-line units, to provide a knowledgeable link between them and the supporting Air Corps. Unfortunately, US planes sometimes hit friendly units during the battles for France, prompting the infantry - particularly the unfortunate 30th Division, who were bombed several times between Normandy and the Bulge - to rename the 9th Air Force the '9th Luftwaffe'. This air controller wears his rank and 9th AAF shoulder patch on a trenchcoat of a darkish green shade, a version commonly worn in England and sometimes by front-line officers. He too is fortunate in having obtained a pair of 'Corcorans'. Hidden here, a .45 pistol is holstered on his right hip. Nearby, no doubt, is a radio vehicle capable of direct communications with circling P-47 fighter-bombers.

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