Can anyone identify this uniform? It is a photo of my great grandfather that a relative came across. I know he was in the US Army during WW1. He moved to the US from Italy sometime before that. Nobody is really sure what he was wearing in this photo. Thanks for any information you can provide.
black capercaillie feathers flowing from their wide-brimmed black hats. These feathers are also worn on Bersaglieri combat helmets. They once served a military purpose, acting as camouflage and as a sunshade for the marksman's shooting eye.
But note that Italian Wikipedia firmly contradicts the species used for the feathers, as real capercaillie seem to have been too rare even when the regiments were founded. Instead the feathers seem to black Capon. The hat itself is also called vaira in honour of Giuseppe Vayra. ("È in suo onore che il cappello piumato dei bersaglieri viene in gergo chiamato Vaira." 'Full specification': Vaira Cappello Piumato Bersaglieri con Fregio Coccarda)
Making that a Bersaglieri uniform:
singular Bersagliere, (Italian pronunciation: [bersaʎˈʎɛːri]) (Marksmen in English) are a speciality of the infantry corps of the Italian Army.
Historical Geography. 1900. Italy. Besides the ordinary regiments of the Italian army there are several bodies of troops recruited for special purposes. Chief among these are the Bersaglieri, or riflemen, extremely mobile soldiers, with small, agile frames admirably adapted for skirmishing and scouting. A regiment of Bersaglieri, consisting of three battalions of infantry and one of cyclists, is usually attached to each army corps. (Photo by: SeM/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
–– src: GettyImages: Historical Geography. 1900. Italy. Privates of the Bersaglieri, a crack light infantry regiment.
From an Italian description:
Born from an intuition of Captain La Marmora, the Bersaglieri were brought to life by the Grenadiers in 1836.
Their insignia, particularly rich and flashy, consists of two crossed rifles, surmounted by a cornet, symbol of the light infantry, associated with a bomb with an elusive flame on the right.
The insignia, made of opaque silver-plated metal resting on a shiny circle or in metal or gold embroidery, are worn on the beret, on the hard hat and, as mentioned, on the hat called "Vaira".
– Italian Defense Ministry: Arma di Fanteria e Specialità - Bersaglieri