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Field or Combat Uniforms: WW II Ike Jacket

Experience in North Africa and Sicily confirmed that the wool serge Service Coat was worthless in combat. In the fall of 1943 a short wool jacket was adopted for the Air Corps, similar to the British battle dress jacket, and was investigated for the other services. By the end of 1944, the Jacket, Field, Wool (Ike Jacket) was standard for all soldiers in the ETO.

Jacket, Field, Wool, OD (November 13, 1945): the Ike Jacket, worn by T/5 Crote Carson, 23, Paratrooper and Ground Soldier from Appomattox, VA
Jacket, Field, Wool, OD (November 13, 1945): the Ike Jacket
T/5 Crote Carson, 23, Paratrooper and Ground Soldier from Appomattox, VA.

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History of the Jacket, Field, Wool (Ike Jacket)

Soldier wearing Ike Jacket

Development of a short, wool field jacket began early in 1943, when in February the Air Transport Command (ATC) requested the Quartermaster Corps to make a study of functional requirements for clothing for both flying and non-flying personnel of the ATC. In the course of that study it became apparent that both officer's and enlisted men's Service Coats were worthless garments for combat. They could be used at a desk or on parade but could not be used for operational duties. This conclusion was amply supported by war experience in North Africa and Italy. In the QMC repor to ATC on 15 May 1943 a short wool jacket was reccommended. This jacket was adopted in the fall of 1943 and manufacture was planned for use by the Air Corps. At the same time, possible use by other forces was being considered.

A sample of the Air Corps jacket was sent to the Chief Quartermaster of the European Theatre of Operations who had requested a garment similar to the English battle dress. Some such jackets were manufactured in England under the direction of the ETO Commanding General (Gen. Eisenhower), named the "Jacket, Field, Lined" or "ETO Jacket". They were a very practical design and included details like concealed buttons (no snagging) and lots of room at the shoulders (flexible, maneuverable). In the fall of 1943, Gen. Eisenhower wrote to Gen. Marshall suggesting that a wool jacket along the lines of the British battle jacket but with a distinctive style should be considered.

It took another year to iron out all the design compromises. Although it was announced in May of 1944 that a new wool field jacket would be issued to soldiers in the ETO, it was not until 2 November 1944 that the wool field jacket was classified as the standard of issue and the wool serge Service Coat reclassified as limited standard.

Description of the Jacket, Field, Wool (Ike Jacket)

The Ike Jacket was made of 18 ounce olive drab wool serge material. It had a convertible collar which could be turned up tight around the neck. Special washable shoulder pads permittedordinary laundering, rather than dry cleaning as was required for the Service Coat. For the first time in 50 years, an enlisted man's coat had inside breast pockets as well as two outside pockets.

Other features of the garment included the fly front and flapped pockets with conceled buttons to prevent catching on brush or equipment. The sleeves had adjustable shirt-sleeve type closures, a snap fastener to hodl the waistband extension tab, and buckles at the side of the waistband to allow adjustment made to provide tight clousre at the hips and affort greater warmth.

The Ike Jacket was informally named for General Eisenhower, shown wearing one of the jackets in the photo to the right.

Ike Jacket on Ike (Gen. Eisenhower)

Field Use of the Jacket, Field, Wool (Ike Jacket)

The Ike Jacket was issued to troops in the European and North African Theaters of Operation. Since some troops returning to the US from these zones, optional wear in the United States was also authorized.

In the field, the Ike jacket served as another insulating layer under the M-l943 Field Jacket (with or without its liner), which served as a water and wind resistent outer layer. When the temperature was low enough to require it, a sweater, flannel shirt and wool/cotton underwear were underneath.

Ike Jacket, WAC

To accommodate these insulating underlayers, the Ike jacket was designed with a bloused action back and roomy sleeves. As a result it was too large and loose when worn without the extra layers underneath. Since the Service Coat was not issued to soldiers with an Ike Jacket, the Ike jacket was often treated as a dress item. As a result, the men often had it fitted so snugly that they could not wear it in the field as intended.

The Ike Jacket for WACs

In 1944, WACs stationed in Europe received the waist length, olive-drab wool jacket (photo, right). In this form it could be worn with matching wool skirt or slacks that were already in the supply system. In April 1945, the jacket was authorized for optional purchase and wear by officers and enlisted women in the Continental United States (CONUS).

Officer's Models of the Ike Jacket

The standard model of the "Jacket, Field, Wool, Officers" is identical to the enlisted man's version (or woman's version) except for the lining which is rayon. Senior officers often had custom tailored uniforms including custom made jackets in the same style of the Ike Jacket.

Stock Numbers for the Jacket, Field, Wool

Ike Jacket Label

Labels for this jacket will read "Jacket, Field, Wool, O.D." with a pattern of PQD 437, pattern date 5/10/44. Stock numbers include 55-J-384 510, 550, 560 or 570, 55-J-384 775 or 595, 55-J-384 630 or 55-J-384 940. The many stock numbers cover the sizes issued. Some Ike Jackets will have another label with fitting instructions and advice to wear it under the M-1943 jacket in the field.

Find More Information on the Internet

There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.

For good results, try entering this: ike jacket. Then click the Search button.

Especially recommended is this article on the Ike Jacket from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Center in Abilene, KS.

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