Field or Combat Uniforms: World War II Herringbone Twill (HBT) Coveralls
Tank crew standing in front of an M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, KY, June 1942.
The one piece coverall was part of the Army clothing inventory throughout the war. Originally issued only to mechanics and armor crews (such as the tank crew in the photo), the comfortable and inexpensive garment was later used by truck drivers, signal corps linemen, and also for general infantry use, especially the jungle version for troops in the Pacific. There were two main types issued to the Army before and during World War II.
The one-piece herringbone-twill work suit was initially only issued to mechanics and to personnel of the Armored Forces. It was designed with a bi-swing back, a belt, two breast pockets, two patch hip pockets, a watch pocket and one leg pocket. Other than the mechanics and armored personnel, all other enlisted men received a two piece work suit (fatigues), also of herringbone-twill.
The right-hand breast pocket has a buttonless flap, a distinguishing feature of the 1938 Model I pattern. The suit is opened and closed by one zipper. The two back hip pockets are patch style, open without a flap cover. There is a buttoned passthrough on one hip pocket.
The suit was popular due to its comfort and its resistence to dirt. Usage revealed numerous faults however, such as a tendency to shrink badly when first washed, and also the need to practically disrobe to urinate. Tank crews objected to the metal buttons which became too hot in summer inside a tank.
This suit was altered with a new spec issued in April 1942.
Suit, One Piece, HBT OD Special M1943
Improvements in the design of one-piece HBT suits were discussed within the OQMG during 1942 and 1943. After a February 1943 conference at the Philadelphia Depot, the design emerged changed in many respects. Because of the complaints about burns from hot metal buttons, the placement of buttons was changed so no metal touched the wearer's skin. Other changes: provide a single breast pocket with a pencil slot, eliminate the button and buttonhole from the hip pocket, adding a rule pocket to the right leg, changing the leg closure to a small tab, and substituting a plain back for the bi-swing back.
The final design was called "Suit, One-Piece, HBT, OD7, Special" incorporating all the design improvements plus flaps to protect from gas infiltration (hence the "special" designation). The specification was PQD No. 92F, dated 23 May 1944. The color was the newer OD #7, the dark shade of late war items. This HBT worksuit was one of the most versatile clothing items of WWII, widely used in a variety of roles throught the American armed forces. The suit was used by mechanics, linemen and infantry personnel alike.
The top front left pocket comes with a flap and a button, absent on the right side, This is a unique characteristic of the third pattern suit. The wide cotton waist belt has an OD plastic buckle.
During 1942-1943, the work uniform for enlisted women assigned as mechanics or as chauffeurs, bus, or truck drivers was a one-piece coverall made of cotton jean cloth in the khaki shade. This uniform was worn by WAC officers only during unusual circumstances. The one piece garment was replaced in 1943 by a two piece outfit.
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