Original U.S. WWII Paratrooper Gas Detection Brassard Marked Dated March 1944 by JL&S

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. For the Normandy invasion, American troops were provided with a variety of chemical warfare equipment, as it was still unknown whether AH would employ poison gas on the battlefield in an effort to prevent the breaching of the Atlantic Wall. One measure taken was that all Allied invasion clothing was saturated with CC-2, an oily, smelly gas repellent that made GI uniforms stiff and uncomfortable (scenes of GIs boiling their uniforms in iron pots to soften them and get rid of the smell were captured on film taken after D-Day). Another was the issue of special assault gas masks in water-resistant black rubberized bags to be used by the troops that were part of the initial landings. Yet another was the gas-detection brassard, which was an armband much like a military policeman's armband that was made of chemically impregnated light brown paper (resembling waxed paper) designed to be worn on the shoulder. After sliding the armband up the sleeve, a small loop was threaded through the epaulette on the wearer's jacket to secure it in place. These brassards would turn red from a chemical reaction if they were exposed to mustard gas, thus warning the soldier of its presence (though rather late to do much about it!). The brassard was fragile and easily torn in combat. It was intended to be worn on the left shoulder so as not to be shredded during the firing of a weapon (most soldiers were right-handed). Soldiers were issued two brassards: one to be worn into combat, and a spare that was stored along with the soldier's gas mask in a gas mask bag, which was almost universally discarded as soon as possible. Both the brassards and gas masks would prove unnecessary, since the Germans, themselves afraid of retaliatory gas attacks on their own troops and people, did not deploy such weapons during the invasion or afterward.

All of these armbands were British made and a few million were bought by the US Army. They can be found in two shades, brown and green. Some sources say that the green ones were used by the British, but others say that both colors were used by Tommies and Yanks alike. The latter seems more likely, but based on black and white period photographs there’s no telling for sure.

According to research; “Photographic evidence indicates the 502 PIR probably enforced the rule to wear these, whereas they were only spottily worn in the 501st and 506th. 101st Headquarters and glider units also seemed to wear them. I suspect these were issued inside the gas mask bag, and in units where the rule to wear them was not enforced, the gas masks were thrown away after landing in France. Many troopers never even saw the brassards, as they never bothered to look inside the bags before discarding them. Ed Benecke of A/377th took the photo at the right outside St Marie du Mont on 7 June, 1944. The man shown is wearing his gas brassard on the left shoulder, which mostly obscures the 101st eagle patch. Most troopers started out wearing them on the right shoulder, so their patch would still be visible, but they soon discovered this interfered with shouldering their rifle for firing.”

This example is offered in excellent unissued condition and bears an ink stamp that reads 3-44/10/JL&S. This marking translates to a March 1944 production date (2 months before D-Day) and the manufacturer JL&S. These don't come any better than this!
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