D-DAY, JUNE 6, 1944.
This project was started after some thought about the famous T-5 Parachute of the U.S Airborne of WW2.
As a Historical Interpreter for a number of years, depicting U.S Paratroopers, it had been an ambition to obtain a parachute to go alongside my other original equipment. It then occured to me that it would be far greater to able to wear a parachute as a D-Day pre-jump demonstration.
After many months of looking at T-5 Parachutes, it was obvious that buying an original would not only be too costly, but also impracticle to wear such a delicate piece of WW2 history. So, on that thought, it was then a case of finding and purchasing a reproduction of the T-5. This turned out to be just as difficult but not as costly, but finding the right one for me was a hard task, so I decided not to bother, and continue as before.
Approximately a year later I was visiting a military shop in the Greater Manchester area of the UK, looking for a few small original pieces that may interest me, when I spotted what I thought was a WW2 parachute. When I asked the owner if it was a parachute he told me it was a modern parachute pack and not for sale. However, he then preceded to tell me that he had a reproduction U.S parachute for sale, if I was interested?
I was very interested!
He then took me into the rear of the shop and proceeded to uncover an old looking parachute pack, explaining that he thought it was a film prop, possibly from Band of Brothers. In amazement I looked carefully at the tattered parachute pack and noticed, written in black marker on the harness the name, RANDLEMAN.
This was enough confirmation for me!
I then asked about the price, expecting a rather large number, and was pleasantly surprised. I bought it!
Since then I have had it confirmed that it is an actual BOB film prop, and worn it ocassionally over the last few years at events. However it was obvious that by wearing this pack, it was beginning to show the very light signs of wear. Not wanting to cause any undue damage, it was now time to find another reproduction T-5.
Searching the internet and online shops it was obvious that it was still a difficult task, as most reproductions were not accurate copies and still very expensive. But, I did find a manufacturer of museum quality T-5 parachutes and parts in the U.S. The Rigger Depot, owned and run by Joshua DeJong. (Check out his website).
I contacted Mr DeJong and ordered some parts and light equipment for my BOB T-5 and found him to be exceptionally professional and extremely helpful and although his parachute packs are a perfect copy, using original parts and materials, it was still out of my price range, especially when considering shipping and Customs duty from the West USA.
Now knowing that purchasing an exact copy of the WW2 T-5 Parachute was something that was going to prove extremely difficult, it occured to me that perhaps I could make my own?
I knew how to use a sewing machine and how to hand stitch, so why not?
After contacting Mr DeJong through email and asking for any advice or opinion on the subject, he was happy to help supply the parts and advised me not to copy the BOB parachute due to innacurate measurements. Unfortunately Mr DeJong was understandably reluctant to hand out any drawings or blue-prints, as these are so rare that he has spent a life-time researching them. However he did give me a basic measurement that I was able to use. From there I used dozens of images downloaded from the internet to make the calculations to be able to draw up my own schematics and drawings.
I now made a list of materials and a plan of action.
I knew that I wanted a copy of the Reliance Manufacturing T-5 that was used on D-Day, with the Tan/khaki harness, but also wanted one similar to the BOB parachute I owned.
With that in mind, worked out that I could build the two parachute packs I wanted using genuine materials for less than half the price of one cheap reproduction, a Reliance Mfg, T-5 & N.A.F.I. (National Automotive Fibres Inc) T-5.
And so the journey began...