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MARK R. HENRY, MIKE CHAPPELLTHE
1: Rifleman, 28th Infantry Division
The 28th Division was originally a National Guard outfit from Pennsylvania, the 'Keystone State'. Its red keystone patch was nicknamed by the 28th's GIs the 'Bloody Bucket' after its losses in Normandy and - with the 4th and 8th Divisions - in the meatgrinder of the Hurtgen Forest; the 28th was then sent to the 'quiet' Ardennes sector to rest... Its two-day stand in the face of the advancing 5.Panzer-Armee gave the 101st Airborne time to occupy Bastogne. This soldier, wearing a 'home-ripped' snow camouflage cape and helmet cover made from a bedsheet, is probably from the Quartermaster company or some other divisional support unit, pitched into the fighting at short notice. Under his sheet he wears a first-pattern mackinaw with wool-faced shawl collar, a five-button sweater, the usual drab wool trousers, a pair of the new M1943 'buckle boots', and wool trigger-finger gloves. His equipment is minimal: a rifle belt, and a musette to carry all his other gear.
2: Bazooka gunner, 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
The standard issue enlisted men's wool melton overcoat was much used by the Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge. (One paratrooper of the 82nd is reputed to have said to a worried tank crew, 'Looking for a safe place? Well, buddy, just pull in behind me.') Under his coat this 'glider-rider' wears the standard M1943 combat jacket and buckle boots now becoming common throughout the ETO. His baggy trousers with cargo pockets are the only remaining sure sign of his Airborne status, though his belt equipment includes one of the limited-issue 'rigger's' ammunition pouches peculiar to the Airborne. He is armed with the M1 carbine, and a M3 trench knife strapped to his boot; some photos show civilian knives carried as well. His main weapon, however, is the latest M9 folding version of the 2.36in antitank rocket launcher or 'bazooka'. A white 'club' helmet symbol identifies his regiment.
(Inset) By 1945 the 'glider-riders' finally received this 'wings' badge and the same hazardous duty pay as their parachute brethren. The bronze stars mark two combat landings, in Normandy and Holland.
3: T/5, 20th Armored Infantry Regiment, 10th Armored Division
Active in the capture of Metz in November 1944, the 10th Armored Division had its Combat Command B inside Bastogne throughout the siege. This GI wears the new four-pocket, sateen-shell M1943 field jacket, introduced as a universal garment for all branches of service; he has not yet received the matching trousers, but is fortunate in having secured himself a pair of M1944 shoepacs. He is armed with the M1 Garand, and grenades including a smooth-cased Mk III concussion type. Among his belt equipment is the folding-head entrenching tool based on a German design, with a cut-down haft. His web equipment is in the new greener OD shade 7 now reaching the front in quantity, although existing stocks of items in the sandier shade 9 would continue to be issued for years. Since it is of little practical use this GI has dispensed with his bayonet. More useful is the blanket just visible tucked through the back of his belt. He is carrying the baseplate for an 81mm mortar.
Along with the 101st Airborne and 10th Armored the Bastogne garrison included elements of the 9th Armored and 28th Infantry divisions, the 705th Tank Destroyer Bn, 1128th Engineer Combat Group, and five corps-level artillery battalions.