Reenacting and replica CC-2 “Impregnated” uniforms – A pursuit

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Beginnings

During WWII the U.S. Army mounted the largest battle it has ever fought. Against three major countries, in nearly every part of the world. Because the U.S. Army was so completely unprepared for the war, many ideas and techniques were created simply from scratch. From the idea of Parachute troops to large multi-Divisional scale Amphibious assaults, the results were unparalleled. During the war many different precautions were taken to help stem casualties in as many different areas as possible. One of these measures taken was the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps’ outfitting of soldiers with protected clothing and equipment in the potential outbreak of large scale gas attacks as seen in the First World War.

During the First World War, soldiers were first equipped with gas masks to counter the early Chemical threat. However, as casualties mounted it became clear that blisters agents were also being used and soldiers were suffering because of gas contact with the skin, not just breathing it. During the Second World War, the Chemical Corps outfitted troops with specialty items  to give them maximum protection against the gas threat. As we know now, the gas threat in WWII was non existent – however the U.S. Army was still taking precautions and issuing Anti Gas equipment and clothing to soldiers on nearly every major landing during the war. Many thought that with the Axis forces growing desperate they may resort to Chemical Weapons.

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We will cover the U.S. Army’s effort to provide soldiers with protection for arguably one of the largest and most technically and methodically planned operations of the war, D-Day.

In the beginning of the war, the U.S. Army fielded many uniforms that were deemed not suitable or needed additional protection from gas. These items generally were the Shirt, Flannel, OD which was a simple shirt with placket along the front. A later more practical open collar shirt was designed with troop input. These woolen flannel uniforms along with fatigue uniforms such as the Herringbone Twill Uniform, or the Parachutist Jacket & Trousers needed additional protection.

The Army’s method to protect unprotected areas was to implement a special flap behind the opening of the shirt, and along the cuffs. Inside the trousers, an additional fabric flap was added behind the button opening. This would help in case of blister agent attack, and give at least minimal protection. These uniforms were given the nomenclature “Special”. On the Quartermaster Corps tag located on the clothing, it will read ” SHIRT, FLANNEL, od, COAT STYLE, SPECIAL.

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Notice the flap that extends across the open “convertible collar” to provide protection for the normally exposed skin. These were usually cut out as most soldiers did not fear gas attacks.

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Original Quartermaster Corps document outlining Anti-Gas needs.

The “Protective” uniforms were the same as the “Special” uniforms, just already treated with a chemical called CC-2 Chloramide. CC2 was invented during the 1930’s although wide use impregnating garments doesnt begin really, until early in WWII.

The U.S. Army’s famed 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) noted in it’s ‘S-4 Report on Landing, Occupation and Tunisian Campaign, from November 8, 1942 to May 9, 1943.’ – “Impregnated clothing was issued to troops only to be carelessly abandoned.”

 

 

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1st Division “Big Red One” soldiers in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. These men were the first to be issued them but were “carelessly abandoned”.

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Quartermaster document detailing the need to save “special” designated uniforms for anti-gas, but to be issued it nothing else is available. This seems to be why so many “Special” designed Coat Style Flannel Wool OD are worn in conjunction with non-gas flap versions.

D-Day – the preparation

“During this time, we had all been ordered to turn in one jumpsuit to be impregnated with some kind of stuff” —“We received our jumpsuits and put those suckers on. I want to tell all they were the lousiest, coldest, the clammiest, the stiffest, the stinkiest articles of clothing that were ever dreamed up to be worn by individuals”Edward Jeziorski, 507th PIR (1)

 

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Members of F/506 PIR, 101st Airborne read Eisenhower’s Crusade letter on board their airplane before they leave for landing zones in Normandy. tanding, 1Lt Carl MacDowell, (jumpmaster) Sitting left are Pfc. Don Emelander, Pfc. Tom Alley. Sitting right T/4 Bill Green. 5 June 1944. Notice the white residue and slightly darker uniforms.

 

For the Airborne one set of the ‘Suit, Parachutist’ was to be turned in to be reinforced and impregnated for the invasion. For the Infantry forces, they were to be issued one set of Herringbone Twill, or OD woolen trousers & shirt, either Protective or Special which had been impregnated.

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Document from the European Theater of Operations United States Army (ETOUSA) Administrative History Collection. 

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Voices From the Past

 

“I had four or five hand grenades, a full cartridge belt of ammo, an SCR536 radio, an M-1 Rifle in Griswold bag, musette bag, canteen, gas mask, first aid pouch, entrenching tool, bayonet, and heaven knows what else. They also made us wear, in addition to GI shorts, long underwear and OD’s under the impregnated jumpsuit. The next morning, the first opportunity i got, I cut off those damned long johns”  – Ray Geddes, Company G, 501st PIR (2)

“On June 6, we put on our battle clothes. We rolled up our old clothes to be sent back to camp. My impregnated pants were an inch too small around the waist, and my shirt was a size too small” T/5 Gerald M. Cummings, Service Company, 327th Glider Infantry (3)

“We decided that our impregnated clothes we had on were beginning to burn us, and that was a good chance to change our impregnated clothes at the next hedgerow.”Joseph S. Blaylock, 20th Field Artillery, 4th Division. (4)

“All our clothes were chemically impregnated to protect us against gas attacks. They were very, very uncomfortable because no moisture could evaporate through the cloth. In hot weather they acted like a rubber raincoat”Spencer F. Wurst, F Company 505th PIR (5)

 

The look

 

The jumpsuit has two phases for our purposes. Pre & early invasion, and after. When troops are boarding the planes and early in the campaign, they obviously have CC2 treated uniforms visible. It is only later when troops start to shed, boil or burn uniforms. Boiling uniforms appears to have been common, using large Calvados pots native to the Normandy region. These suits when boiled appear much lighter, and are cleansed of any chemicals. One should strive to appear as if before the boiling, rather than after – for reenacting purposes.

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Fresh Parachutist suits as worn by the 2/503rd PIR (Later to become the 509th PIB). Notice the very light tan color that is much different than the Normandy era photos.

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Notice these 101st mens’ suits compared to the previous photo.

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Notice the white residue in the folds of the clothing

 

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This wounded trooper appears to have a treated suit, unboiled

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The suits are very dark here

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Lt. Rodney Parsons, XO of E/502nd and Capt. William Bolton, CO of D/502nd

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Doc Lage’s medic convoy on the way to Hiesville, France. 2/502nd Medical team

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Notice the white residue typical of CC2

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Sometime in the evening of June 5, 1944 a “stick” 101st Airborne troopers board their C-47 transport before their jump into history in the skies of Normandy.

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Doc Lage’s medic convoy from 2/502nd

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Original suit unboiled, just as it would have appeared June 6th. Photo courtesy of the Mark Bando collection. Mark is the premier 101st historian. His books contain a wealth of information, the real life and times of the 101st during the war.

The removal of CC2

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101st Trooper boils his uniform in a large calvados pot

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Captain Lillyman of the 101st Pathfinder unit. This interview takes place later in the Normandy campaign, and typical of the 502nd to be in OD flannel wool uniforms with just a Parachutist jacket worn, and no trousers. The jackets have probably been boiled at this point to get rid of the chemical.

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The Recreation 

 

I used a commercial waterproofer to get the same look. I soaked it for a few days and let it drip dry. It added noticeable weight and darkened the fabric. It is stiff, and oily feeling.

 

 

 

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WWII Impressions reproduction Parachutist Suit, treated to look anti-gas impregnated. it appears oily and a residue is left.

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WWII Impressions reproduction Parachutist Suit, also called the M42. untreated

 

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F Company, 501st PIR recreation. Uniform by World War Two Impressions Inc.

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F Company 505th PIR recreation. This reproduction suit was made by At The Front, and reinforced by a fellow reenactor using original materials.

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The slick sheen is visible, and the suit is much darker than originally made

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Full impregnated Field Jacket, OD with Herringbone Twill, and Dismounted Leggings and Reverse Upper Service Shoes. 

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Company E, 5th Ranger Battalion

 

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At The Front Herringbone Twill uniform, treated to look like CC2. Leggings are also treated

 

D-Day, 1944 (2)

 

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Full Assault kit worn by Company E, 5th Ranger Battalion. Special thanks to Ranger Lew Haight who I interviewed about his time in Company E, 5th Rangers. 

 

 

Bibliography

(1) – Voices of Valor: D-Day June 6, 1944 by Douglas Brinkley and Ronald J. Drez.

(2) – D-Day +60 Years: A Small Piece of History By Jerome J. McLaughlin. p.61

(3) –The American GI in Europe in World War II: D-Day: Storming Ashore
By J. E. Kaufmann, H. W. Kaufman. P.118

(4) –D-day by Those who Were There  By Peter Liddle. p.102

(5) Descending from the Clouds: A Memoir of Combat in the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division    By Spencer F. Wurst, Gayle Wurst.

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7 comments

  1. Great article lads – well done!

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  2. Christopher B Miller · · Reply

    What brand of waterproofer did you use? Just trying get some direction. Thanks for posting, you guys to an amazing job!

    Like

    1. I used a local deck waterproofer of the ‘Olympic’ brand if I recall. However I also recommend trying various methods to achieve an effect that you like!

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  3. I’m trying to find out if any uniforms of the 101st were treated with cc-2 but not reinforced? Do you know of any photo evidence of this? I want to replicate this look for an impression. Thank you!

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    1. Hey Brian. If I recall there were militaria discussions with some knowledgable friends of mine that surmised the suits were rigger modified and CC-2 applied essentially ‘all in one’ go. However I have some high resolution images of guys wearing standard jackets.

      here is one that *may be standard. As I say, it was very, very rare. Much like the officer in the 502nd who wore the M-1943 Field Jacket for the jump

      101st Troopers emplaned for the invasion

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  4. Casey Sill · · Reply

    Great article here. I know you touched on this already, but could you remember exactly what product you used? I’ve used Canvak before and it worked well, but after I read this I tried “Olympic multisurface waterguard” and it gave the desired feel of the suit but not the look. Any help would be greatly appreciated, I’m in the process of doing about half my unit’s jumpsuits, I’d like to save on costs as much as possible and Olympic brand stuff is about a quarter the cost of Canvak, so I’d like to use whatever you used if possible. Thanks and again, really well thought out article.

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    1. Unfortunately I do not recall! Sorry for the late post. I am always looking for new methods though.

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