G Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division (Reenacted)
As can be said of many pieces of military equipment, when the M1942 Parachutist's uniform was first introduced, deficiencies soon became apparent. After being used in operations in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, it was realized that the lightweight cotton material had problems withstanding heavy use. Specifically, the knees and elbows wore through, and the lower pockets of the jacket, and the cargo pockets of the trousers, would rip out at the seams or the material of the pockets would wear through. To counter this, patches of green, waterproofed canvas were added to these areas. These modifications are very commonly seen in photographs of the 505 in the Normandy campaign.
While many uniform vendors offer M1942 uniforms already reinforced, there are problems with them. Many times, the material used in the reinforcing is not of the correct thickness or color, or is not waterproofed like that used in originals. In addition, it is known that in some older reproduction uniforms, the canvas used in the modifications would exhibit odd color changes or streaking if they were washed.
I had previously ordered several tie-style rigger pouches from Herb Zamar and was absolutely thrilled by them. In addition, I had heard that his reinforcing of uniforms was great as well. So, I decided to send my At The Front standard uniform to him to have it reinforced in the 82nd Airborne style (the only difference between the two are the leg ties. On the 82nd style, the ties are made from folded over pieces of canvas, the same canvas used on the reinforcing. On the 101 style, they're made from binding tape).
I e-mailed Herb and inquired about how long it would take him to do the modification, and the response was one week, with the price being $80 for both the jacket and pants, and which also included return shipping. (Broken down, return shipping was $12.65 [Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box], $33.68 for the jacket work, and $33.68 for the trouser work). Add on the price of me shipping the jacket and pants to Herb, and the total was $92.65. Payment of Herb was through PayPal.
Jacket and pants were shipped to Herb on June 18th, Herb completed the work, sent me pictures of the suit, and put it in the mail on June 24th, and was received June 26th.
Reinforced M1942 Parachutist's Uniform, by Herb Zamar
Initial impressions are extremely positive. The canvas is heavyweight and waterproofed and of the correct color, the stitching is solid , placement of the knee and elbow patches are in the correct places. The knee an elbow reinforcements have been properly inserted into the seams and restitched. The only minor problem that I can see, is that the leg ties may be a little on the short side to easily tie. However, as I do not have an original reinforced uniform to compare it to, this may be period correct. The ties can still be tied and will not come untied on accident. Overall, I am extremely happy with this work. It is of high quality and accuracy, is priced right, communication with Herb was excellent, and the work time exceeded expectations. On a side note, the future of this uniform is that it will be treated with Canvak to simulate the CC2 gas impregnation done on uniforms for the invasion of Normandy, and one of the cuffs painted to simulate the vesicant paint used by the 505 to warn of poison gas, as the 505 chose to not use the gas brassard.
If you would like to contact Herb Zamar for his Rigger modifications, he can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Examples of his work can be seen at http://s200.photobucket.com/user/hzamar/library/?sort=3&page=1
UPDATE October 2015: At the first event I took the uniform out to, the leg ties ripped after little more than tying them and walking around (it was a display event). I was obviously a little concerned, so I e-mailed Herb and explained what happened. It seems the problem stems from having so much stitching in a small area (acts like a score line), and the use of canvas (but, that's how originals were done in the 82nd). He told me to ship them and that he would replace the ties with a pair that had webbing on the inside of the tie for reinforcement, and would ship them back, all for free. I sent them back July 28th, and received them back from Herb August 3rd (6 days, including shipping time). After 2 major events, the trouser fabric near one tie has ripped SLIGHTLY (easy fix), and the tie on the same leg on one end is beginning to rip again, but the webbing on the inside will keep it secure. All other stitching and canvas is holding up fantastically.
Conclusion: the same problems happened with originals. I'm not dissatisfied in the slightest with Herb's , and would still gladly go through the same process knowing that this might happen again. I will continue to advocate Herb's work to others for the most authentic and satisfying reinforcing work out there.