Starting in the bi-plane days of World War I, pilots and other flyers wore distinctive jackets, officially called "Flying Jackets" but often called "Bomber Jackets". The flying jackets were adopted by other non-flying officers for their comfort and stylish looks.
Army & Navy Flying / Bomber Jackets in World War II
When issued by the U.S. Army Air Corps, flying jackets carried distinctive black labels with gold lettering identifying them as "Property Air Force, U.S. Army" along with type and specification numbers. In addition to their use in the Air Corps, the attractive, masculine look of the jackets made them a favorite of other units, especially officers of ground forces, like General Patton in the top photo, taken during World War II (Patton was a Lt. General 1943-1945). The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps had their own series of these jackets with similar specifications. When in service in WW II, many of these jackets were worn with colorful squadron patches or were painted with "nose art" type designs.
U.S. Army Air Corps A-2 Flying Jacket
The first flying jacket to be standardized (in 1931) by the Air Corps was the "Jacket, Flying, A-2" a waist length leather jacket with a zipper front, two large outside patch pockets, and knit cuffs and waistband, similar to the "Tanker Jacket" but in brown leather. The A-2 Jacket was phased out starting in 1943 but was seen through the end of the war. Labels will say "Type A-2" and "Drawing No. 30-145". The photo to the left shows part of the crew of a YB-17 bomber at Langley Field, VA in May 1942.
U.S. Army Air Corps B-3 Flying Jacket
This is the classic "Bomber Jacket", a leather, heavy shearling lined jacket, longer than the A-2, seen on Gen. Patton at top (his was modified from regulation specs.) It was designated "Jacket, Flying, Winter, Type B-3" and was for use on high altitude missions where extreme cold was a factor. It had a zipper front and a single outside pocket on the right side. It was made large for freedom of movement. The wide shearling collar had two leather straps to close it over the neck. There was a lot of variation in the color of the leather, in the same production run and even more between years of manufacture, and B-3s even could have two tones of leather in one jacket. The lining extended down the arms and was exposed at the cuffs. Labels willl say "Type B-3" and "AC Drawing No. 33H5595" The Type B-3 was replaced in 1943 by the AN-J-4, a very well made jacket, which had the sheepskin lining hidden inside plain leather cuffs and a single strap closure at the neck, among other differences including a bi-swing back, zipper waist adjustment, shoulder loops with snaps, and two inside pockets.
U.S. Navy & USMC M-422 and G-1 Flying Jackets
The U.S. Navy had its own series of leather Flying Jackets, issued to Navy and Marine Corps flyers. The M-422 series of jackets was used from 1938 to 1943, then replaced by the G-1. In 1941 a pencil slot under the left pocket flap was added to the M-422, known thereafter as the M-422A. The letters "USN" were stenciled under the collar. In the photo to the right, Vice Adm. Wm. "Bull" Halsey is standing with Commander Miles R. Browning, USN, Chief of Staff (wearing M-422A), on the bridge of USS Enterprise (CV-6) in late 1941 or early 1942.
The U.S. Navy and USMC flying jacket G-1 (also called AN-J-3A), made of goatskin leather, replaced the M-422A in 1943. Although generally similar in to the USAAC A-2 jacket, many details were different. It had a fur collar, unlike the A-2 leather collar, a storm flap behind the zipper, and a bi-swing back panel with a half-belt. The two patch pockets had buttons through the flaps. The G-1 had the letters "USN" punched into the leather of the storm flap.
Other Flying Jackets of World War II
In addition to the widely used A-2 and B-3 Flying Jackets, there were many others issued to Air Corps personnel during the war and the Navy had many specialized or limited use jackets in addition to the M-422 and G-1.
The B-6 was a medium weight leather jacket of similar design to the B-3, intended for crews of well insulated aircraft where the bulk of the heavily lined B-3 was excessive. The B-10 was a relatively rare cloth jacket, with synthetic fur collar and two patch pockets with flaps in front. The B-15 and B-15A were updated versions of the B-10. The cloth jackets were issued in various shades of olive green, tan, and blue.
The B-11 "Jacket, Winter, Flying" was a thigh length, heavy cloth coat in tan or olive drab.
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