Kit Details--Ardennes, Dezember '44
After the Allied breakout from Normandy and the subsequent rapid advance across France, the liberators were checked in Holland and Belgium partly by a revived German resistance, and partly by the fact that they had outrun their armies' ability to supply their massive logistic needs. On 16 December 1944 the German forces launched a last major counter-offensive in the Ardennes; their last reserves in the West of tanks, SS units, paratroopers, and other less formidable troops were thrown into a drive through the snow-covered hills with the aim of reaching the Channel and cutting the Allies in two. A mixture of survivors from Normandy and new replacements, the assaulting divisions presented a motley appearance, and by no means all of them were properly equipped for winter warfare; they looted American depots whenever opportunity offered.
1 - M.1943 Feldmütze (field cap) Waffen-SS insignia, here separated in characteristic fashion--as there was no room for both eagle and death's-head on the front of the crown above the flap. Some SS troops received a smaller version of the insignia woven together on a triangular grey patch, worn on the front of the cap.
2 - Kopfschützer (toque)--Standard issue, the Kopfschützer is a simple woolen tube worn in various ways over the head and neck in cold weather. It is best to actually have two Kopfschützer as one doesn't quite cover all of your neck.
3 - Tarnjäcke (camoflage jacket) in the 1944 '44 "dot (or "pea") pattern" used only by theWaffen-SS. This jacket copied the cut of the woolen service dress Feldbluse. It has four simple pockets and an open collar, and could be worn alone or, as here, over the woolen uniform. The Waffen-SS version of the national emblem was very often worn on, the left sleeve; the uniform shoulder straps were often added as well; and there was a simplified system of sleeve rank insignia involving green bars on black horizontal patches which were sometimes seen on this uniform as an alternative to the rank shoulder straps. This camouflage uniform, unlike all previous equivalents, was non-reversible.
4 - M.1939 Koppelträgestell für Infanterie (infantry equipment suspenders) in black leather .
5 Kampfmesser (fighting knife)--Wooden-hilted combat knife, with a spring hook on the sheath allowing it to be worn either on a belt or strap, in the boot top, or in the front of the tunic.
6 - Patronentasche für Stg-44 (ammo pouches for the Stg-44)--Pair of triple magazine pouches for the StG44 assault rifle. These were made in canvas of various shades, often with leather reinforcements. The heavy weight of the six large box magazines--l4lbs, when fully loaded--required an adjustable strap linking the pouches behind the back, to prevent them falling forward.
7 - Koppel u. Koppelschloß (belt and buckle) Standard issue black leather, the Koppelschloß (buckle) of grey-painted metal bearing a design peculiar to the SS: an eagle with outstretched wings, clutching a swastika, the wings breaking a riband bearing the motto "Meine Ehre Heißt Treue" (My Honor Is Loyalty).
8 - M.1924 Stiehlhandgrenate (hand grenade).
9 - Zeltbahn (shelter half) in SS-pattern camouflage, here strapped directly to the "D"-rings of the Koppelträgestelli (equipment suspenders).
10 - M.1931 Brotbeutel (breadbag) used as a "haversack" to carry the soldier's personal items.
11 - M.1931 Feldflasche mit Trinkbecher (canteen with cup) with tinned, olive-painted cup.
12 - M.1931 Kochgeschirr (mess kit), attached to the Brotbeutel.
13 - Schanzzeug mit ersazt Tasche (entrenching tool and carrier) Standard straight shovel with carrier made out of Preßtoff an man-made leather substitute made of pressed-cardboard impregnated with resin.
14 - M.1884/98 Seitengewehr (bayonet) in old-pattern black Seitengewehrtasche (leather bayonet frog; old style lacks a hilt strap).
15 - Tarnhosen (camouflage trousers) of the 1944 SS camouflage uniform, cut like the 1942 woolen Hosen.
16 - Handschuhe (gloves) issue grey wool knitted gloves.
17 - Gamaschen (canvas anklets), with leather buckle straps.
18 - Schnürschue (ankle boots) in natural leather, first issued to some troops in 1937, replaced the high boots during the war years for economy reasons. Usually blacked in use, they sometimes appeared in natural tan.
19 - M.1944 Sturmgewehr (assualt rifle), in caliber "7.92mm Kurz (short)". A revolutionary weapon, this was the ancestor of all today's "assault rifles"-- i.e. weapons of small caliber firing a short, powerful round, with a fully automatic capability, to replace both the rifle and the sub-machine gun in the soldier's armory. Mass produced from cheap stampings, it was rather vulnerable to hard field use; and the reliable provision of the new ammunition was difficult for a beleaguered army disorganized by defeat on two fronts.