I recently acquired my first M42 Reinforced jump jacket. This jacket was even CC-2′d (Chemical impregnation to protect skin from gas), which led me to believe that it was used on the Normandy jump. Based off the canvas used and the rigger sewing construction, I could tell that it was 82nd Airborne.
The jacket was not attributed to a vet when I got it, but there were two matching laundry stamps inside the garment. On enlisted men, the laundry ID is the first letter of the soldier’s last name and the last four digits or his ASN (Army Serial Number). Identifying a vet with a laundry ID number is a like finding a needle in a haystack, but I felt that this jacket merited the research.
I used the power of Wiki and posted my jacket and the laundry ID number on several militaria boards I subscribe to. In little time, I was contacted by an airborne collector who had a database containing the names and ASN’s for 43,000 WWII 82nd Airborne vets. He ran my information and came up with exactly one match. The soldier was T4 Gordon P. Hannan of Regimental HQ&HQ Company, 504th PIR, 82nd Airborne.
The 504th PIR fought and made two combat jumps in Italy prior to arriving in England (4-22-1944) with the intent of participating in the Normandy jump. However, their numbers were depleted and they did not have enough men to participate in the jump. Note: A handful of 504th troopers did volunteer as pathfinders and Pathfinder Security Teams (T4 Hannan was not one of them).
The 504th PIR were issued the same reinforced M42 jump suits as all the other regiments that were jumping into Normandy, but since they didn’t jump, they did not have to turn their jump suits in when everyone returned to England. In fact, the 504th were the only regiment to wear reinforced M42s in the Holland jump (Operation Market Garden). So, it is likely that T4 Hannan wore this jacket on the Holland jump.
This is a firsthand example of how the power of the Internet and “collective intelligence” can be a real benefit to collecting and research. I encourage everyone to post and let the world hear your stories and share in your research projects.
Chris Hughes is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in 20th century militaria and the owner of Rally Point Militaria and Vietnam Uniform – Military Collectibles sites.