U.S. Military Hat, Jungle (Boonie)
Boonie hats were the most common headgear for Special Forces in Vietnam, as with this Long Range Recon Patrol (LRRP).
Military Boonie Hat
The boonie hat was introduced to the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to supplement or replace the fatigue hats and baseball style caps in use since World War II. The boonie was liked by the troops in the field and scorned by spit and polish officers who thought it slovenly. As the U.S. military evolved away from a garrison mentality, the boonie found a permanent place as part of the uniform of all services. The boonie has changed only a little through the decades since Vietnam and is still in use in Iraq, Afghanistan, and with the U.S. military generally as an alternative to the Patrol Cap.
Tiger Stripe Boonie Hats
The first boonie hats appeared early in the Vietnam War, used by U.S. Special Forces as well as Australian and ARVN units (top photo). The light weight, floppy hat was ideal for field use as part of a complete camouflage outfit. The tiger stripe boonies were primarily locally procured, made in shops by Vietnamese tailors and sold to the soldiers as one of their first purchases after arrival in-country. The tiger stripe camo cloth was either salvaged from other uniform items or made up by the tailor. These were not issue hats and there were no labels inside the handmade boonies.
Some tiger stripe boonie hats were factory made, but these do not have military procurement style labels, only a size label if anything. These will be found in JWD (John Wayne Dense) pattern, and zigzag pattern, with a wide brim and sometimes snaps on the side of the brim for Aussie-style wear.
Vietnam period photos showing Special Forces troops very often have tiger stripe boonie hats in evidence, but you will find great variation in the patterns, brim sizes and other details. [Assistance with this section from Peter Hughes of the Vietnam Database is gratefully acknowledged.]
Hat, Jungle, with Insect Net
The official Army boonie first came to Vietnam based on procurement that started in August 1967. The first model had nomenclature "Hat, Jungle, with Insect Net" and were made of cotton, wind-resistant poplin. As the name indicates, it was issued with an insect net that could be placed over the hat and face, but the net was usually discarded by the troops. The construction included a foilage ring (a tape band around the base of the hat to hold camouflage materials), a chin strap, and black metal eyelets with screens for ventilation, two on each side of the hat body. The Vietnam-era hats had a rectangular chin strap adjustment slide, later ones were rounded.
The early issue boonie hats, from 1967 and 1968, were OG-107 olive drab. They will be labeled, "Hat, Jungle, With Insect Net OG-107" with complete nomenclature including "Cotton Wind Resistant
Poplin Rip-Stop, Quarpel Treated, OG-107". Contract numbers will be similar to DSA 100-69-C-2295, the FSN will be similar to 8415-935-2887, depending on size. A second label with laundry instructions is also inside.
Hat, Camouflage (Tropical Combat) Type II
In 1968 the Army authorized use of the ERDL (Engineering Research Development Laboratory) woodland camo pattern material, used in the 1969 and later production of hats in cotton rip-stop material. These will be labeled, "Hat, Camouflage (Tropical Combat) Type II" with contract dates starting in 1968. They were in use from about 1968 for the Army and Air Force, and about 1969-70 for the Marines and Navy. The FSN is 9815-935-3314 or similar, depending on size. These did not immediately replace the OD boonies and both were produced for a few years.
Hat, Sun, Hot Weather
All later boonies are called "Hat, Sun" or "Hat, Sun, Hot Weather", still the designation for this type of cover. They have been made in all issue camo patterns as well as OD, with or without insect nets, in cotton rip-stop or nylon blend cloth. The boonies issued today are all "Hat, Sun" in one of a number of patterns, including:
- Hat, Sun, Hot Weather Woodland Camouflage Pattern, Cotton, Poplin Water Repelent Type III. NSN 8415-01-196-8374 to 8415-01-469-2343 depending on size from 6 3/8 to 8.
- Hat, Sun, Hot Weather, Desert Camouflage Pattern Type II (Three Color). NSN 8415-01-327-4827 to 8415-01-469-2319 depending on size from 6 3/8 to 8, plus special measurement 2155-00-000-000.
- Hat, Sun, Reversible, Woodland Camouflage Pattern or Olive Green on One Side and Orange on the Other. NSN 8415-00-270-0229.
The boonie jungle hat
is available from commercial suppliers, for example the Amazon.com listings at the link.
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A member of the 531st Quartermasters Brigade, during Bright Star 94, near Cairo, Egypt, November 1993.