WW2 US First Infantry Division D-Day Purple Heart Medal

first division purple heart 2 watermarkThis D-Day Purple Heart grouping is an excellent example of how research can make the history behind these artifacts come alive.  I was contacted by the daughter of this Veteran who said that she had this Purple Heart and some photos of her father.  She did not have much info regarding his service.  She did know that he had retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and she thought he had been wounded in Normandy.

I talked with her for awhile and learned that her parents had got a divorce when she was very young.  Her father had remarried and moved away from the area.  She told me that because of this, they had not been very close.  She also mentioned that he unfortunately had passed away many years ago.  She said that this medal had just been sitting in a drawer for years and she did not know what to do with it.  She thought it was important for it to go to someone who would appreciate it and take care of it.  Thus, she decided to entrust it to me.

After I acquired the medal, I started researching it.  Initially, I did not have a lot to go on.  I had some basic info like his name, birth date, and where he lived prior to going into the service.  Unfortunately, his first and last names where very common names in that period.  This made it much harder to find anything as I had to sift through hundreds of people who had similar names during WWII.  It took a while, but I started to piece together the history of this Veteran and how he acquired this Purple Heart.

I had a bit of luck and found a series of newspaper articles from his hometown newspaper.  Even after he moved away from the town, they continued to write articles about him for several decades after he had left, because his mother and other family members still lived there.  Those articles had photos of him, so I was able to compare those photos with the ones I got from the daughter and positively confirm that I had the right match.

Through the newspaper articles I learned the story behind this Purple Heart.  He had been an officer in the famed US First Infantry Division, also referred to as the Big Red One, during WWII.  He was wounded on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, while serving with them.  This Purple Heart was awarded to him for that wound.  Luckily, he later recovered from his wound and continued to serve with the First Infantry Division for the rest of World War Two.  He eventually was given command of one of the battalions of the 16th Infantry Regiment, which was part of the First Division.  After the war, he stayed in the military and had a distinguished career.  He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the early 1960s.

Although it is hard to see in the photos, the medal itself is an earlier Purple Heart with the number on the rim of the medal.  In the two photos pictured, he is pictured in uniform after the War in the studio photo on the left.  In the photo on the right, he is the furthest officer on the right of the photo.

A couple of things are interesting about the photo on the right.  It was taken in March 1944, just prior to D-Day.  He is wearing what appear to be paratrooper jump boots.  Also, for a jacket, he is wearing what we military collectors commonly refer to today as tanker jackets because of their use by members of the armored forces during WWII.  Both jump boots and tanker jackets were very popular with regular infantry officers during WWII, who seemed to acquire them when ever possible.

Paramarine Bracelets Made From Japanese Zero Aircraft Aluminum

paramarine japanese zero bracelet 3 watermarkThese WWII bracelets combine two of my interests.  First, they were made by hand by a WWII USMC Paramarine and I really like Paramarine related items.  Second, they are made out of pieces of Japanese aircraft aluminum and I enjoy collecting pieces of Japanese WWII aircraft.

The Paramarine who made these was a member of the 2nd Paramarine Battalion. The first bracelet commemorates his service with that unit.  When I got it, it was flattened out like shown, to make it easier to display.  The second bracelet still retains the original bracelet shape, but the Veteran never added anything to the front of it.

Both bracelets were made out of Japanese aircraft aluminum.  They both retain their original green Aotake paint on the reverse side.  Aotake paint was used by the Japanese during WWII for corrosion resistance on metal on aircraft.  It has a very distinctive metallic/shiny appearance and can range in color.  I have seen green, blue, greenish blue/bluish green, and yellowish green colors of Aotake paint on Japanese aircraft parts.

The Marine added an inscription to the back of one of the bracelets.  It is a little hard to see in the photos, but it says Japanese 0, shot down in Vella LaVella, 10/1/43.  I did a little research and there was a Japanese air attack on Vella Lavella on October 1, 1943.  It was conducted by Val dive bombers of the 582nd Kokutai and A6M Zeros of the 204th and 201st Kokutai.  One Val dive bomber was recorded as shot down during this attack.  I don’t know if any of the Zeros were recorded as lost.  These pieces of Japanese airplane are apparently from this Japanese air attack.

After the Paramarines were disbanded, this Marine went on to become a member of the 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division.  He landed with the 27th Marines on Iwo Jima and was later wounded during that battle.  Please note that we have blurred out his name on the bracelet for privacy.

Fourth Marine Division Iwo Jima Stretcher Bearer Commendation

Fourth Marine Division Stretcher Bearer Document

This commendation was given to a WWII member of the 4th Marine Division for his brave service as a stretcher bearer during the battle of Iwo Jima.  He was a member of the Headquarters Battalion, Fourth Marine Division from April 1944 to the end of the war.  He was a member of the Division Band.  Members of the band were often used as stretcher bearers in the Marines, once the unit went into combat.  Please note that his name has been blurred out for privacy.

Being a USMC stretcher bearer was extremely dangerous work in the Pacific Theater during World War Two.  The Japanese did not follow the Geneva Convention protective rules regarding wounded troops and the people attending to them.  Instead, Japanese soldiers during WWII were taught that stretcher bearers were one of the first priority targets to eliminate.

WW2 USMC P42 Marine Camouflage Pants

P42 USMC Camouflage Pants

These WWII USMC P42 camouflage pants are part of the P 42 camo uniform that was used by the Marines during World War Two.  The P42 uniform consisted of a camouflage shirt and pants made out of a herringbone twill fabric.  The uniform is reversible.  It has a green/jungle pattern camouflage on one side and a brown/beach colored camouflage on the other.  The P42 uniform was later replaced by another camouflage uniform, the P44 uniform.  Although the P44 uniform was made out of the same camouflage HBT material, the P44 was cut differently.

This particular pair of P42 pants are a nice original pair showing some period use and wear.

World War One German Camouflage Painted Helmet

WWI Painted Helmet Overview

As you can probably tell from the content of this blog, I am most interested in World War Two related items.  I do also have an interest in World War One items, especially WWI German camouflage painted steel helmets.

I have always loved the look of WWI German camo helmets.  Additionally, although the Germans had regulations issued about how they were to be painted, in reality each one is a little different since they were hand done.  This allows for the endless small variations that us militaria collectors seem to enjoy finding.

This particular World War One German helmet is a nice original and is complete with chinstrap and liner.

WWII F/506 PIR 101st Airborne Division Grouping Jump Boots And Field Gear

Jump Boots

These jump boots and field gear are more items from the huge F Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division grouping that has been subject of previous posts.  The jump boots have the brass eyelets seen on early boots.  The aviators kit bags were popular with airborne troops to carry and store their items.  There are a number of manuals in this group, but I chose to just photo one which is my favorite.  It illustrates unarmed combat techniques.

WWII F/506th PIR 101st Airborne Paratrooper Dress Uniform And Wool Shirt

506th PIR Dress Uniform

This officers dress uniform and wool shirt is more of the F Company, 506 PIR, 101st Airborne Division grouping that has been the subject of previous posts.  When I got the dress uniform, it only had the 101st patch and bullion overseas bars on it.  There were clear outlines remaining of where the rank insignia, jump wing, and collar insignia had been on the uniform.  The Veteran had removed these before selling the uniform.

I normally do not restore or replace insignia on uniforms.  If a uniform is missing some insignia, I leave it as it was found.  But in this case, since I could clearly see exactly what insignia had been on it, I did decide to restore the uniform with correct period collar insignia and jump wing.  Additionally, there was a set of loose first lieutenants rank insignia, that belonged to this Veteran in this group, so I was able to use those for the restoration.

The wool shirt has a nice jump wing sewn on to it and is named to the Veteran inside.

WW2 F/506th PIR 101st Airborne Division Group Personal/Mess Items And Combat Field Gear

F/506 Group Personal Gear

F/506 Group Personal Gear

Here are more items from the massive F Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division Grouping that has been the subject of four previous posts.  It is fairly hard to find WW2 groupings that retain the quantity of personal/mess type items pictured in this post.   These are the items that made the day to day existence for WW2 US combat soldiers in the field more bearable.

Additionally, pictured is some of this paratroopers combat field gear.  It is very rare to find a WWII Airborne grouping like this with all of the paratroopers original combat field gear.  This is typically stuff that was not brought home or retained after the War ended.  Most of the combat field gear is identified to the paratrooper with his name and/or laundry number.  There is more combat field gear in this grouping, but it will be the subject of future posts.

WW2 401st Glider 101st Airborne Division Purple Heart And Ike Jacket Grouping

401st GIR Purple Heart Group Front

This WWII Ike jacket and purple heart medal grouping belonged to a member of the 101st Airborne Division.  He was severely wounded in January 1945 losing fingers from his hand and toes from one of his feet. He spent nearly 300 days in hospitals recovering from his wounds. Luckily, he did finally recover from his wounds. Although purple hearts were most often engraved with the name of the Veteran for personal killed in action during WWII, they were also sometimes engraved for those who were seriously wounded or the veteran himself could have the medal privately engraved.  I think this purple heart was privately engraved.

I have some records from him that indicate that he was a member of the 401st Glider Infantry in 1945.  By 1945, many members of the glider infantry had also been parachute qualified, which would explain his jump wings instead of glider wings.  Also, he may have transferred into the 401st from a parachute unit.

Please note that we have blurred out his last name in the photos for privacy.

G Company 506th PIR 101st Airborne Division Grouping

G Company 506 PIR Group Front View

This WWII grouping belonged to a paratrooper of Company G, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.  It consists of his Ike jacket with 506th PIR oval, overseas cap, 506th PIR pocket patch, 506th DI, and some photos/paperwork (which are not picture).  I have posted the pocket patch and 506th oval in other posts on this blog, but I have never posted the entire group together.

This paratrooper saw action from D-Day to the end of the war with Company G.  His ribbon bar on his Ike jacket reflects his earning the bronze star and purple heart.