I guess like many a WWII wargamer, I like to think that I’ve painted my figures as historically accurate as possible. I even go that extra mile and buy a uniform guide (or 2!) for each new set of minis I paint. So imagine my pain after many hours of work applying Mustang Game Systems 101st Airborne Division’s shoulder patch decals (US flag / Screaming Eagle – 25% off for Dads readers) to my parachute rifle company when I read the following in Christophe Deschodt’s (2010.103) excellent ‘D-Day Paratroopers: The Americans’ and Mark Bando’s (2011.29) well illustrated ’101st Airborne: The Screaming Eagles at Normandy’ respectively:
“Period photographs bear witness to the fact that only paratroopers and glider troops of the 82nd Airborne division as well as glider pilots were issued with them [identification flags].”
“American flag armbands, worn on the right sleeve of the jump uniform, have long been closely identified with U.S. paratroopers. Yet photographic evidence indicates that almost no 101st Airborne troops wore flag armbands in the Normandy Invasion.”
That high-pitch ringing noise you heard in your ears earlier this week? That was me and my agonised scream when I realised I’d got it wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong
Now, I realise that I’m in good company here. I’m not the first and surely won’t be the last to make this mistake, but so great was my agony that I even resorted to emailing Mark Bando himself after feverishly reading his following post (12/02/11) in the Ken Jasper International U.S. Militaria Forum:
“As to the 101st wearing arm flags, there is no photographic evidence of cloth flags being worn on 42 jackets by 101st guys, but I don’t like to use the word ‘never’. A Signal Corps film taken at the division hospital in Normandy shows a trooper in a 42 jacket wearing a larger oilcloth arm flag in June, 1944, but the other side with his division patch is
not shown so he might have been an 82nd guy. Other oilcloth flags have turned-up in 101st vet scrapbooks and the vets have written “worn in Normandy” on them, in period fountain pen ink. So it’s possible that some companies or individuals did wear oilcloth flags; we just lack photographic evidence to support such claims.’
But no dice. Here came Mark’s prompt reply:
“The info you already have which I wrote about the arm flags is all I can tell you, there has been no ‘new evidence’ since I posted that. As to vets who have oilcloth examples in their scrapbooks, I suspect those are the result of faulty memories, rather than proof that those armbands were actually used in Normandy.
Until/unless more compelling evidence like vintage photos of them being worn in Normandy surface, I will basically believe that the 101st as a whole did not wear them until Holland and any exceptions are rare and not the general rule.”
M. Bando / Trigger Time.
So there you have it. Live and learn. I’m not going to re-paint them. To be honest, I quite like having both decals represented. But I’ve stopped adding any more. Just to get it right