Pvt. Joseph De Freitos

This iconic photograph of the Normandy campaign shows Pvt. Joseph De Freitos (Yonkers, New York) heating up C Rations using his Coleman stove during a brief interlude between fighting in the French town of Pont-Bocard. Pvt De Freitos is a member of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2d Armored Division, one of only a handful of units to receive the experimental US Army two-piece camouflage HBT uniform during the Normandy campaign. The suit proved to be unpopular with the troops for numerous reasons, but the most prominent was that in direct sunlight and after only a few days’ exposure to the elements, it faded terribly, resulting in an almost washed-out effect of the camouflage print. This was largely due to the vegetable dyes that had been used on the suit. A common misconception that is often circulated by re-enactors and collectors is that these suits proved to be unsuccessful since their usage was not widely known by frontline troops, and its wearers were often mistakenly identified as SS troops (who wore a similar, but differently-coloured camouflage pattern) and numerous incidents of friendly fire ensued. There is very little evidence (except for a very small handful of anecdotal stories) to suggest that this was actually the case, though.

The original photograph that is often circulated on the Internet and in various books is an official US Army Signal Corps photograph. However, the version quite often seen is in fact reversed from its negative. There are two key points that allow is to identify this as being the case. First of all, the “U.S.” device on the M-1910 Entrenching Tool Carrier is reversed and reads “S.U.”. Secondly, the doorway that is behind Pvt. De Freitos is in fact to the left of the window when looking at the building in the photograph, not to its right as is commonly seen in the reversed photograph. For this recolouring project, the image has been ‘corrected’, with its orientation being reversed. Here is a comparison showing the so-called ‘original’ next to the finished recoloured example:

It is also interesting to note that the Overlord Museum (close to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer) put together a temporary display recreating this famous photograph for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2014. The museum’s curator managed to locate the original metal brackets for holding the window shutters and painstakingly added additional props to recreate the photograph. Here are two photographs from the display that were kindly provided by Johan Willaert via his great website, The Liberator:

(Photograph courtesy of Johan Willaert, via theliberator.be)

This page was printed from the Strictly GI website (www.strictly-gi.com) on 24th March 2019 at 16:06:47