Uniforms of WWII are in my opinion the best looking and most interesting military uniforms of American History. To break this blog down into understandable and interesting parts, I will talk about the differences in field uniforms and in garrison AKA dress uniforms.
To start with, one must understand the American Army pre WWII. The U.S. Army was significantly unprepared for war in all aspects with regards to manpower, equipment and uniforms. The basic army uniform that was made for in garrison wear as well as in the field is known by collectors as the 4 pocket dress uniform. This heavy wool tunic was reminiscent of the tunics worn by servicemen of WWI in both its look and style. The notched open lapels and heavy brass buttons was more suited for a dress uniform, but was used for a brief period in the beginning of the war as the main battle uniform of the US soldier. The 4 pocket tunic was worn with wool trousers, a wool shirt, a 1917 Kelly Helmet which was again a helmet designed and updated following WWI ( the dough boy look) and web gear plus brown russet grain side out leather boots and leggings ( think of canvas spats). The uniform lacked warmth because of its open lapels among other reasons and was impractical for field and garrison use. The 4 pocket remained the dress uniform for most of the war until the Ike jacket came in 1945.
With the deficiencies of the early War uniform, the military decided to simplify the uniform by adding in a field jacket designed by a General Parsons in 1938. The Parsons jacket was designed and based off of civilian windbreakers of the 1930s. The design was made for movement and warmth as it was wool lined. It featured open lapels and was a button down mid length jacket that was mildly successful. The army had advice from NY fashion designers on how to improve the design as it was ineffective at keeping the user warm because of the open lapel design and was described as having a “ kid reefer look” but Parsons denied any improvement to the jacket until 1941 when slit pockets were added as the only improvement. This jacket is known to collectors as an M41 because of the design and was the main field jacket for the entire war. It was worn with either heavy cotton HBT ( herringbone twill) pants or wool pants and with a wool shirt and kelly and later M1 helmet. The boots were either the russet leather boots, or by mid War the rough out boots ( they were like a suade boot) and towards the end of the war the double buckle boots which did not require leggings.
The late war uniform consisted of the 1943 jacket which is basically a modern day field jacket/ grandaddy of one and a wool shirt and pants and or the HBT uniform which was made of heavy cotton and was worn in the pacific since wool was really not advisable/ non existent. The M1 helmet was the standard helmet worn with the uniform.
The final dress uniform change came about in 1944/45 as General Eisenhower loved the British battle dress more than the U.S. one. The Ike jacket as it is known as was hip length in accordance to the British design and was supposed to be “ short and natty”. The troops in Europe were the first to get the new dress uniform and loved it due to its new design ( the 4 pocket was discontinued in 1943/44 when the Ike came out). Troops who came back in 1945/46 loved the new look and it was the main dress uniform design into the 1950s. As usual wool trousers and a shirt plus a OS ( overseas cal) were worn with the uniform.