Coats, Wool Serge, OD in WW II

The Coat, Wool Serge, OD of the U.S. Army, also called the "service coat," evolved during WW II from an all-purpose coat to one used in garrison only, not in the field.

Coat, Wool Serge, OD 1941
Coat, Wool Serge, OD 1941.

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Coats, Wool Serge, OD in World War II

The Coat, Wool Serge, OD is also called the "service coat". In 1939 a design was approved for procurement in 1940 that was very similar to the Army coat in use since 1926 -- an all purpose 18-ounce wool serge material coat that was intended for all uses. That is, the coat was to be worn in garrison as part of a dress uniform and then the same garment was to be used in the field. To facilitate this dual use, the 1939 design of the coat was provided with a "bi-swing back", a set of pleats that gave extended freedom of movement (photo, left). The coat was somewhat form-fitting, had a half-belt 1.5 inches wide, and had two lower bellows pockets and two breast pockets.

The design eliminated the belt hooks that had been Army standard for all service coats before. This design utilized the half-belt of self-material so the leather garrison belt was deemed superfluous. However, disagreement in the Army staff led to belt hooks being added to the coat even though the half-belt of fabric was retained. In March 1941 the belt hooks were finally eliminated since by then the leather belt had been dropped from Army plans as wartime shortages became a problem.

Coats, Wool Serge, OD 1942

By the beginning of 1941 the Jacket, Field OD (M41 or Parson's Jacket) was in quantity production and being issued to troops. That jacket marked a change in thinking so that functional clothing was to be used in the field, separate from barraks, garrison, or dress uniforms. As a result the Coat, Wool Serge, OD or Service Coat was no longer seen as a field coat -- in effect becoming a dress coat -- and the necessity for the pleated back came into question. It was suggested early in 1941 at the Office of the Quartermaster General (OQMG) that the "bi-swing back" could be eliminated to improve the appearance of the garment and to decrease its cost of manufacture and use of scarce wool cloth material. In June 1942 the "Revised Service Coat" was ready for issue without the side pleats in back and with simplified lower, inside pockets that were flat instead of bellows style (since this was no longer a field jacket). The revised design had no belt.

The revised service coat of 1942 remained for use as a dress uniform for enlisted men around camp and on pass or furlough. It was noted that whenever soldiers moved from a rear area to combat zones, the wool serge coat was left behind. This led to the adoption of the Ike Jacket in the ETO as a wool jacket that could be used for both combat and rear area purposes. Although the OD wool Ike jacket was officially adopted in 1944 to replace it, the service coat remained in use throughout the war and beyond, although rarely in forward areas.

Coats, Wool Serge, OD Markings

Coat, Wool Serge, OD 1942

This series of coats will be associated with the nomenclature "Coats, Wool Serge, OD, 18 oz" with one of these stock and pattern numbers, depending on the year of manufacture:

  • Spec. P.Q.D. no. 8-31-D, Pattern 2/7/40, Stock No. 55-C-69425
  • Spec. P.Q.D. no. 197, Pattern 7/10/42, Stock No. 55-C-69356

Other sources give stock numbers 55-C-69299 and 55-C-69510 as additional possibilities for the stock number.

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