Okinawa: Photo Analysis (USMC)

A little tidbit you may not have heard. The Marines made a point to document their exploits in World War II (and ever since) as a bit of self promotion after coming close disbandment during the great depression due to budget constraints. Thanks to their effort we have some great, clear photos today to examine.

Some overall points to address. By 1945 the camo frog skin uniforms are no more. You might come across a lone individual with a piece or some showing up in rear area photos but essentially all the Marines on the island are wearing the standard P1941 HBT uniform. As well everyone has two canteens and nearly everyone a jungle first aid kit.

In this first landing photo we can see a three types of entrenching tools that were issued. The old M1910 T-handle shovel, the newer M1943 folding shovel and the pick mattock. Also visible is the HBT caps being worn under the helmets, often backwards.

In this second landing photo we see the Thompson armed marine either has no leggings or has his pants over them. Also he is wearing a shirt underneath his HBT jacket. Most likely the wool service shirt. Okinawa is at a much higher latitude than previous battles so it was common to see the wool shirt being worn for some insulation. He also has an M5 gasmask in the M7 bag worn on his leg. An item not commonly seen in use by the USMC. Lastly if you zoom in on the magazine pouch for the Thompson it looks to be a locally made pouch. The strip along the bottom is reminiscent of the pouches that the 503rd PIR had made for them. Unfortunately his arm is covering the upper part but it also appears to have a single flap like the 503rds.

This picture is a treasure trove of information. We have an older M1928A1 Thompson with presumably 20 round magazines judging by the pouch. As well as good shots of the dual canteens and leggings being worn. A clear shot of a Kabar and M6 gasmask bags. It’s also interesting to see a combat cameraman in a photo, you rarely see them since they are always behind the camera. Some things to note is the Thompson marine has no helmet cover and the two M1 Carbine armed marines have different thoughts about putting the magazine pouch on the stock. While today it is popular to put the early style pouch on the stock it was by no means the rule. In pictures it seems to run around 50/50 or 60/40 for on stock or off. (60 on/40 off).

This is a popular photo as it is one of the few with a trench gun in use. And a rarely seen WWI ear grenade vest. It also looks like a life belt on the marine on top of the sea wall. And on the left who I assume to an officer is an M1938 Dispatch or Map Case and Jungle first aid kit with an old M1910 style pouch below it. On further research it turns out that the compass pouches were made with BOTH lift-the dots and snap fasteners. So with that new information and judging by the tapered shaped I think it may actually be a compass pouch. Note how there are no bed rolls only ponchos. The ponchos are either rolled up and held but the top strap or folded and held behind the haversack flap. Both ways provide quick access as well as free up more room in the haversacks themselves.

Quite the bit of firepower in this shot. Besides the M9A1 Bazooka center stage there is an M1928 Thompson with a drum magazine. The drums are seen in the Solomons then disappear to randomly show up here on Okinawa. Another marine without a helmet cover too. While most of the time their helmets were clad in the distinctive camouflage cover it’s not uncommon to see marines without one. The marine sitting to the right also has a clear shot of his later USMC pattern carbine pooches. The man in the center with the BAR belt appears to have a cross flap canteen judging by the low position of the hanger and the apparent length of the ears being far enough under him that we can’t see the lift-the-dot fastener. And to my eye it looks like the edge of the other ear crossing over.

It looks like everyone has an M1941 Field Jacket on here. Iwo and Okinawa are pretty much the only times this jacket is seen being worn by marines in the war. If you look to the background you can see a text book example of how to load an M1 Garand.

A lot of rifle grenades here. They were commonly carried by the top strap of the haversacks as the USMC apparently didn’t use the General Purpose bag that soldiers typically used to carry them. At least I have yet to find a photo of one. Always seems odd to me as so much of the gear that the Marine Corps used was either the same pattern as Army equipment or just simply was Army equipment that they wouldn’t have the GP bag that was so common among soldiers. The right hand man has what looks like either a Kabar or PAL knife. It’s a little hard to determine exactly but it looks shorter like a PAL (USN Mk 1). Also interesting to see he has a Garand but just a pistol belt. By 1945 the M8 grenade launcher seems to be the standard launcher in all theaters. I believe it doesn’t interfere with cycling like the M7 does with the M1 Garand.

Men of the 1st Marine Division on Wana Ridge with Browning Automatic Rifle.

A good comparison photo. On the left you see the pants in the leggings and on the right over the top of the leggings. Also you can see the difference in thickness of the horseshoe bed rolls when there is something inside (presumably a blanket) and just the shelter half by itself. As is the norm the bipod has been removed from the BAR to save weight. Plus it makes a big difference it the movability of the BAR. The bipod weighs around 5 pounds and is mounted at the very end of the barrel. Surprisingly the man on the left has M1936 suspenders on. Those, plus the lack of weapon and helmet cover make me wonder if he could be a corpsman.

Sorry for the low resolution but a good shot of the common dual canteen and first aid kit set up.

Both types of shovels in the same shot. An interesting method of carrying the T-handle on the left. It’s a little washed out but it does appear to be a poncho behind the folding shovel. The front end is cut off the weapon on the left but judging but the thickness and parallel nature of the profile (vs the tapered of the M1 on the right) and the two BAR belts I assume it is a BAR and this is an Automatic Rifleman and his assistant gunner.

The Thompson armed marine has an M3 shoulder holster interestingly. He also has the 5 cell magazine pouch and even at this late stage in the war just 20 round magazines. I think the BAR man my be the same one from the previous photo. His pants are cuffed the same, and his haversack is set up the same with the M1910 T-handle shovel and empty shelter half secured with rope/string.

Another good photo with a lot of little details. You can see that while two canteens are standard that doesn’t mean everyone wears them the same way. Also the BAR gunner is using a medic/corpsman yoke as suspenders. The wide webbing of them would likely be much more comfortable that the narrow M1941 “Backbreakers” he was issued. You can also see the ragged bottom of the man in the centers pants where he used a knife to cut off the excess. rather than try to roll it up. If you look closely at his canteens and compare them to the other men in the photo you can see how the wire hanger sits slightly lower and they look a little thicker compared to the form fitting of the other men’s indication that he has Army pattern canteens instead of the USMC pattern that the others have. Not that uncommon but a good comparison shot.

Here’s a cropped version with some more detail. For example, I see a M1911 hiding in there.

Final Thoughts
It looks like most marines kept their leggings on during Okinawa, and then it seems 50/50 as to either keeping the pants tucked in rolled over the top. Makes sense considering it would help keep some of the mud and rock out and since it was cooler it wouldn’t be as uncomfortable to keep the on either. Also even though the third and fourth pattern “cross flap” canteens are in the system they are the exception not the rule. The USMC second pattern followed by the Army pattern are by far the more common canteen covers used. It also seems that the old M1910 shovels still out number the newer M1943 folding shovels. Additionally, compared to their soldier counterparts it seems the Marines use more Thompsons. on that note though I’m only seeing the 20 round magazines not the 30 round which is interesting.

There is a lot more to examine in the photos so zoom in and let me know what else you see.

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