Saipan: Photo Analysis

Some of my favorite photos of the Pacific Theater came from Saipan. It has a quintessential Pacific/WWII Marine look to it. This was the last large scale use of the P42 camouflage uniform as well. Some general points to note, nearly every Marine has two second pattern canteen covers with the occasional “Army” pattern M1910. 1st patterns are likely in here as well but I didn’t see any that could be positively identified. Also the M3/M4 Lightweight Service Gas Mask with its M6 carrier were issued to the Marines. The carrier was very popular on Saipan as an alternative the the M1941 haversack.

This first picture has a lot happening in it. First we have three different combination of uniform in one shot. P42 top and bottom on the left, then P42 top and P41 pants in the middle and finally just plain P41s on the right. As well there is just about every way you can wear leggings in the photo. From no leggings at all on the left, then leggings but with pants untucked and rolled up over the leggings in the middle to leggings being worn normally on the right. The man sitting has no leggings but has his pants tucked into his socks. Surprisingly it looks like the officer in the center has Paramarine jump boots on. The sitting Marine also has the back of his helmet cover untucked to protect his neck from the sun. This practice would be seen more as the war went on.

In this second photo we can see lots of M6 Gas Mask Bags/Carriers being used. I think every man has one in fact. This is also a good shot of the Shovel being attached to the suspenders. It actually looks like the carrier is empty too. The shorter M1 bayonet is now common as well.

Here we can see the Marine are using their M6 bags to carry items an then tucking what look like ponchos behind thier cartridge belts. Trying to stay as light as possible. There is another Marine with his helmet cover untucked. A rare shot of a trench gun in use, I can’t see the receiver to make out if it’s an M1897 or M12. As well as an M1A1 Flamethrower.

A nice action shot as you can see the one grenade in the air and the smoke from the fuse of the second one about to be thrown. I assume the mane on the left is the Assistant Automatic Rifleman as he has the BAR spare parts pouch hooked to his belt but isn’t wearing a BAR belt. Leggings are also still being worn normally.

Just a shot of seldom seen P44 camo utilities in use.

This picture has a heavily loaded fire team moving through Garapan, All wear the plain P41 utilities and are using the M6 gas mask bags for gear. The BAR gunner has his shovel on his suspenders as was popular and it looks like the carbine armed Marine has his shovel just tucked under his belt. another expedient ay to carry it. They have an unusual amount of or .30-06 bandoliers. I usually only seem to see one max per Marine in these photos and these guys have multiple, also it’s unusual to see the BAR man with anything extra as his basic load alone is pretty heavy. Could be moving into the city or bringing ammo to another fireteam/squad. Just found it interesting as there are no rifles in the picture but they still have rifle bandoliers.

Here is a good clear close up of the belts and pouches. The Jungle First Aid Kit was a pretty standard issue item for units by 1944 but not everyone did the extra first aid pouch hung below it. Not sure on an exact ratio but it does seem that on Saipan it was more common not to have the extra M1924 pouch below. Also the foreground Marine has his P41 jacket tucked in, not a common practice in WWII, and looks to be using it to hold something, I see a round outline so maybe C-rations.

I assume this is an Assistant BAR man as he is wearing a BAR belt but carrying an M1 Carbine. Something that shows up more often as the war progressed and old supplies of the BAR bandoliers were exhausted presumably. It is a much more comfortable and practical way to carry the extra ammo as well. He also has an M8 grenade launcher on his carbine.

One of the few pictures with an M1941 haversack being worn. The haversacks are almost only seen in the “light marching” configuration as well. Also you can see here (and in some of the earlier pictures) that the canteen is worn farther forward on the belt and no all the way on the last pocket. It was not uncommon to have them worn farther forward to reach more easily.

This last phone is one of my favorites and has a lot going on in it. We have the mix of camo and plain utilities, M6 bags and shovel on the suspenders. The Marine on the far right also has a cut down or shorted M1910 E-tool. Something normally only associated with paratroopers. The BAR man also has a knife on his belt. I can’t make it out. It may be a KaBar/MkII in the bakelite Navy sheath as a normal KaBar leather sheath doesn’t work with a wire hanger. It can but requires cutting or hole punching and is sub optimal. His helmet cover doesn’t look like the other camo ones either. Could just be really dirty or maybe a burlap cover.

Some Final Notes
Just about every variation in USMC uniforms and gear were present on Saipan. But the cross flap canteens have not shown up yet, vast majority are 2nd pattern. And there are very few M1910 patterns as well unlike other marine divisions and battles which had a large amount of Army web gear. Also at least half of the canteens are the earlier aluminum cap style and the other half the bakelite style so either is appropriate. The old T-handle shovel or M1910 E-tool is main, and really only digging instrument I’m seeing. I’s sure there were a few pick mattocks and M1943s involved but I don’t see any. Also it looks like the 2nd Mardiv had been just about fully re-equipped with the shorter M1 bayonet. Two points that are not necessarily exclusive to Saipan but seem to be the most common during that battle are the use of the M6 gas mask bag over the regular haversack and wearing the shovel on the suspenders.

There are a lot more details in the photos so zoom in and see what else you see. And feel free to chime in in the comments section.

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