WWII Airborne M42 Reinforced Jump Jacket: Part I

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My newest acquisition is a reinforced M42 Jump Jacket

Background: In preparation for the Normandy jump, US paratroops from the 82nd and 101st Airborne took their M42 pattern jump jackets and trousers to the riggers (personnel trained to pack, maintain, and repair parachutes and related equipment). The riggers reinforced the jump suits with heavy canvas because the soldiers knew they were going to be heavily weighted down, and they did not want their pockets to blow out when they hit the ground.

Specifically, the jackets had elbow pads added and the bottom pockets were reinforced. The trousers had the cargo pockets reinforced; tie down leg straps attached, and knee pads added.

The canvas material used for both 82nd and 101st Airborne suits is unusual and does not resemble US canvas found on duffel bags, etc. I speculate that the material is British because the 101st and 82nd Airborne were stationed in England prior to Normandy, and that is where the rigger modifications were made.

Each soldier had more than one M42 uniform reinforced, so not all rigger sets made the Normandy jump. In fact, most found today in collections are the ones that stayed in England. However, I speculate this example may have made the Normandy jump because it is CC-2 impregnated.

The United States did not know if the Germans were going to use gas like they did in WWI, so prior to D-Day, Airborne personnel were directed to have their jump suits immersed in CC-2, a chemical compound that was supposed to provide a barrier, preventing gas from making contact with skin. Airborne personnel were also issued the M5 gas mask and gas detection brassards. These brassards were designed to change color when they came in contact with gas.

Clothing treated with CC-2 added weight to the garment, left a residue that was tacky to the touch, and had a distinct odor. Surviving examples of impregnated jump jackets or trousers are 70+ years old and seldom retain this odor, especially if they’ve been on display and given the chance to air out.

This jacket no longer has an odor, but it is heavier than other reinforced jackets, and the residue is still visible, especially in the seams and on the zippers. When handling the jacket, there is still tackiness to the touch.

This jacket had been in my friend’s collection (and on my want list) for many years. Here are some of its features:
1. It’s a larger size, probably a 40 Regular.
2. It has brass colored vent grommets in the armpits (rather than stitched).
3. The main zipper is steel and marked “Crown”. The knife pocket zippers are brass and marked “Serval”.
4. The male snaps are oxidized steel (not brass).

The rigger construction at the seams and grayish green canvas material used indicate that this is an 82nd Airborne jacket. 101st Airborne jackets are sewn differently and the canvas material they used was much greener.

If there was ever shoulder sleeve insignia on this jacket, it must have been tacked on (which is common) because there is no indication of a removed patch. The epaulets had sewn on Lieutenant bars, which are now removed. You can see the darkened areas where they were, along with thick, white thread remnants crudely peaking through the material. This thick rayon based thread is identical to the thread used to crudely tack on 82nd patches on other jump jackets.

This jacket also has two large laundry stamps marked, “H 0608”. I’ve seen this same large stamp and font on another reinforced jacket that was recently posted on a popular web board.

I am beginning my needle in a haystack research to ID this jacket. I can deduce that:

1. The soldier was in the 82nd Airborne
2. The jacket had Lieutenant (or possibly a Warrant Officer) insignia at some point
3. The first letter of his last name is “H”
4. The last four digits of his Army Serial Number is “0608”

Read WWII Airborne M42 Reinforced Jump Jacket: Part II

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5 Responses to “WWII Airborne M42 Reinforced Jump Jacket: Part I”

  1. how does it cost such a jacket please?

    I collecting US paratrooper and leaving in normadie : just have to find one and jacket to finish my normandy paratrooper display

    b rgds g

  2. Reinforced M42′s are traded so little on the open market that the price is literally what someone is willing to pay. Most of the examples I know of have sold in the thousands.

    —Chris

  3. Norbert Coman Says:
    December 24th, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Hi, what blog platform is this? Is it working for you or..? I would really love it if you could answer this question! Thanks!

  4. I am using WordPress. It has limitations, but overall I’ve been satisfied.

    —Chris

  5. doug robertson Says:
    October 21st, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    ever heard of an experimental? jump jacket?, I haven’t seen it yet but he described as similiar to M42 but no slant pockets, reinforced elbows and inside with canvas, plastic buttons, set up for belt, only marks or tag is size 36R. mint condition, lighter than M42.
    Doug

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