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  • About Army HBT Uniforms


    About Army HBT Uniforms

    This page consists of my observations and analysis of authentic WWII garments with some input from Risch and Pitkin's QMC Historical Studies, Clothing the Soldier of WWII.
    With over 25 years experience manufacturing reproduction garments, I hope to be able to offer some insights not usually found in typical references. Despite this being one of the most produced and worn uniforms of the Second World War, and authentic examples being relatively plentiful, the available reference material is surprisingly scant.

    Prior to the outbreak of WWII, the US Army issued a blue denim jumper, trousers, and hat for fatigue duties and used the cotton khaki shirt and trousers for a summer uniform.
    By the late 1930's, the Army recognized the need for a more practical uniform in a more suitable color. In 1941, a green uniform made from cotton herringbone twill (HBT) fabric was introduced to replace both the denim and khaki cotton uniforms for work and field operations. Shirts, trousers, coveralls and caps were produced. These garments were issued to all Army personnel in all theaters of operations, ultimately becoming one of the most common garments worn during WWII.

    L to R: 1st pattern, 2nd pattern light shade, 2nd pattern OD7 L to R: 1st pattern, 2nd pattern, 2nd pattern OD7, 2nd pattern April 1, 1944 and later
    The "First Pattern" HBT
    The Army introduced the Two-Piece herringbone-twill work suit in 1941 to replace the creaky denim pants and jumper. This uniform is referred to by collectors as the "first pattern HBT" and the color as "sage green" with both terms being contemporary and were not used by the US Army or QMC in WWII.

    The first pattern jackets, Spec. Number 45, were waist length, with two pleated breast pockets, an adjustable waist band, and bi-swing back. The trousers were essentially the same pattern as the khaki models with straight legs, four internal pockets, and a watch pocket. Both garments used metal tack buttons for closures.

    These uniforms were widely issued and were worn in all theaters of operation until the end of the War. Production of both ran into the Fall of 1942.

    1st Model Jacket Spec. No. 45, April 1941. Bi-swing back, gusseted armpits,
    adjustable waist
    Cuff and waist detail
    1st Model Trousers Same pattern as the khaki
    trousers
    Button fly, watch pocket Lining was either white twill
    or the HBT (same as the
    outside)
    The Simplified Two Piece Suit
    By early 1942, government contractors were struggling to supply enough of the HBT uniforms to supply the needs of the Army. This fact combined with complaints from the troops regarding their design led to the garments being modified in order to simplify production and improve their functional characteristics. Improved designs for both garments appeared in 1942- these uniforms are referred to by collectors as "second pattern"- while the Army termed them "simplified two piece suit".

    The new jacket was greatly simplified; the bi-swing back, adjustable waist and gusseted armpits were gone, the breast pockets were simpler and much larger. The already loosely fitting chest was enlarged another 2". They were now 10" over the marked size due to the design concept that they be large enough to be worn over a field jacket.


    The new trousers had a larger seat for better freedom of movement, a higher rise, and the internal pockets were replaced with two large cargo types on the hips.


    The Specials
    At this point, the Army was going to great lengths to protect troops from possible chemical warfare attack. In late 1942, most tops were modified with "gas flaps" on the chests and cuffs while trousers were fitted with overlapping flys in an effort to prevent blister agents from reaching soldiers' skin. Garments modified or produced with these features had the term "Special" added to their name. The Specials appeared early in 1943, with contracts running concurrently with non-special garments.

    The first second pattern jacket was the only model without a gas flap. This was the 45B which was only made for a brief period at the end of 1942 and early 1943. In Jan 1943 the first Special was approved, the short-lived 45C, (Jan 1943) which was identical to the 45B, except for the addition of the gas flap and buttons under the rear of the collar for an anti-gas hood. In March 1943, this was replaced by the 45D which eliminated the yoke at the shoulders. This model was manufactured through the end of the War in both sage green and OD7. The Quartermaster did differentiate uniforms made in the two colors by assigning them separate stock numbers.

    "Special" Trousers made in sage green had Spec numbers 42A (Oct 1942), 42B (Jan 1943), and finally 42C (March 1943)- the latter, like the 45D jackets, was made in both sage green and OD7.



    A 45B with a 45D back. Greatly simplified back.
    Label has been edited by hand
    at the factory. According to the
    stock number this is actually
    a Spec 45B jacket- not a 45D.





    Spec No. 45D The gas flap The gas flap shown when
    closed
    This pattern was approved
    in March, 1943
    Buttons for the hood- both
    plastic and metal tack types
    were used
    Example with optional
    center pleated pockets
    Spring 1943 production-
    no such thing as a "3rd
    pattern"
    Simplified aka "2nd pattern"
    trousers

    Spec. No. 42C, March 1943 Early "high pocket" pattern Overlapping fly acts as a
    gas flap

    A New Shade
    During 1942, the sage green color was determined to be unacceptable. Even when new, the color was too light for concealment purposes, and use and exposure led to fading, further exacerbating the problem. After lengthy tests and field trials with various colors and camouflage patterns, the OQMG decided on olive drab shade number 7 as the best solution.

    The "OD7" uniforms entered production in early 1943. Garments were made in both sage green and OD7 simultaneously due to the Army permitting the manufacturers to use up existing stocks of fabrics before switching to the new color.



    The two shades A "classic" example of an
    OD7 HBT Jacket
    An early production jacket,
    in a more greenish shade
    ...and a more brownish shade
    Cuff detail Plastic button variation Spec 45D, OD7 April 1943 contract- made
    concurrently with the sage green
    uniforms
    Pre-April 1944 trousers Spring 1943 production, Spec 42C Notably shaded gas flap- a
    somewhat atypical trait
    Comparison of the pocket
    positions
    April 1944 pattern change Spec date 3-43, pattern change
    4-44, contract signed 7-44
    The "new" pocket location
    was much more practical
    Later trousers (L) vs. earlier
    production (R)
    The Pocket Drop
    The HBT uniforms would retain this same design throughout the end of the War. In April, 1944, one small change was made to the trousers by lowering the hip pockets 3-4 inches to make them easier to access when the soldier was wearing a field jacket. Due to the late date of this change, it is unlikely that any trousers with the lower pocket position were used during the Normandy Landings in June, 1944.


    Manufacture
    The HBT uniforms- jackets, trousers, coveralls and caps were all made using the same assembly methods as other WWII American uniforms. The parts were with power knives or die punched and individually tagged to prevent shading. The contractors used standard lock stitch machines for single seams and two-needle chain stitch models for the felled, interlocking seams. Belt loops and pocket corners were reinforced with bartacks (usually 18 or 28 stitch). Both corded eyelet and standard tacked buttonholes were allowed by the OQMG. Tack buttons were attached with hand or foot presses while plastic buttons were affixed by machine. Spec labels with the item name, size, manufacturer, and contract information were placed in the right hand pocket and woven size labels sewn into the necks, waistbands or sweatbands.

    Production Variants
    With dozens, perhaps hundreds of firms assembling HBT garments, there are several common variations encountered on authentic WWII examples. Some are due to Army permitting substitute components or assembly methods due to shortages of materials or equipment, while others simply come with the territory when hundreds of thousands of garments are being made by numerous manufacturers using fabric and parts supplied by hundreds of companies- often as quickly as possible.

    The "3rd Pattern" fantasy

    On the "second pattern" jackets and trousers, the QMC allowed the manufacturers a choice on how to construct the pockets. They could make them plain front, with an expandable gusset on the outer edge, or sew the edges flat while having a 1" pleat in the center of the pocket. Some enthusiasts have christened HBT uniforms made in the latter style as "3rd pattern" or "Korean War". Neither is true. The pleated pockets were used on both sage green and OD7 uniforms, and the spec labels show production ranging for the entire period (1943-45).


    The pleats were a variation, not a later pattern Both trousers are Spring 1943 production

    Buttons & Buttonholes

    The most common closures used are black (or occasionally olive drab) metal tack buttons with a 13 star design on the cap. One occasionally finds sage green uniforms made using tack buttons with a hollow center and wreath design in lieu of the 13 star type. Lastly, some uniforms (both sage green and OD7) were made with plastic buttons- sometimes the caramel colored type seen on wool trousers or the OD7 style used on M1943 Field Uniforms.

    As with the pleated pockets, uniforms with plastic buttons are often declared "Korean War" by less experienced enthusiasts- but the spec labels clearly prove otherwise. (The soldier on the far right in the June 1944 photo at the top of the page clearly has plastic buttons on his jacket.) Their use is scattered throughout the range of production dates (1943-45) with the precise reason being unknown. It could have been, like the pocket pleats, a manufacturers' option since buttons require a specific machine to sew them on while tack buttons can literally be put on with a hammer.

    Both the standard "bartack" and corded eyelet type buttonholes are found on original garments.

    Thread
    The thread color was obviously meant to match the fabric- but during the transition from the lighter color to OD7, it's obvious the factories were using up what was already on hand. There are sage uniforms sewn with dark olive drab thread vice versa.


    Shading
    As with all wartime garments, the shades of sage green and OD7 vary markedly. The sage green can range from nearly a gray to a bizarre green approaching a faded turquoise- very reminiscent of ACU's. The OD7 is likewise quite variable. At times the two colors appear nearly the same depending on the variations on the garments being compared.


    Q: Is that OD7? Or is that OD7???
    A: Yes.
    Issue and Wear
    The HBT uniform was general issue to all personnel in the US Army thus the number produced was several million pieces. The garments were utilized throughout the entire conflict, in all theaters. Wear depended on the weather- in hot climates, this was the main uniform, worn often by itself. In cooler areas, the was worn in conjunction with the OD's (wool shirts and trousers) and field jackets. Some units and troops chose to wear the top over their field jackets- the best known photographic example being the 4th Division troops on Utah beach. Others worn it underneath other uniforms- American soldiers were famous for their habit to improvise and customize their uniforms and gear in the combat zones.

    Jackets were frequently worn tucked in at the waist.

    All patterns and both colors were issued and worn through the end of the War, and some were later utilized in Korea.

    Both light and dark shades
    clearly used together
    4th Division troops wearing
    the HBT top over their field
    jackets


    Concerns for Living History


    Models: Which pattern/ color is "correct"? From early 1943 onward all styles were issued and in use. First pattern uniforms were undoubtedly still being worn on VE Day. The second pattern, OD7 uniform (also the most plentiful reproduction) is historically correct for anything from mid-1943 onward. Since 99% of living history is concerned with D-day and afterward, it's an easy choice. All variations were in wear prior to D-day except for the low pocket trousers....

    The Pocket: The post April 1944 production trousers were probably not used at D-day. It's within the realm of possibility that some were finished in May and flown over (there were rush air shipments of various critical items constantly being sent to England) but regardless, the vast, vast majority would have had the higher pockets.

    Light shade? Dark shade? Which is correct? The most despised answer for Living Historians- BOTH. Sorry.

    This jacket is way too big! Blame the US Army. These were designed to be worn over a field jacket- so they are cut 8" oversize on 1st Patterns, and 10" over on "2nd Patterns". (ie: a size 40 HBT jacket has a chest circumference of 48" or 50"). Most men's jackets are 6" or 7" oversized.

    Cap visors(bills)- short or long? This appears to be a manufacturing variation. I've seen long visor caps with early dates, short visor caps with late War dates and vice versa in all directions. There is zero, repeat ZERO evidence that the caps with shorter visors were "Airborne" or "Ranger" models. Just another teenie reenactor fantasy.

    The pants aren't sexy: This is a common complaint- not a joke. Trousers in the 1940's were not cut like they are today- the rise (the measure from your navel to tailbone via the junk) is much higher than today. The front and rear of the pants from WWII are typically 2" higher than most made nowadays. These were designed by the US Army for engaging in manual labor, military training and combat. Not showing off one's curves at the county fair.

    Insignia? Yes or no. Wartime photos exist of these uniforms being worn devoid of rank and unit patches- as well as otherwise. With combat troops, sterile (plain) jackets are far more common.

    Honor guards and parades: This was a work/ combat uniform. George S. Patton would likely have snarled at the idea of it being worn for an honor guard, but there was a war on and all manner of distasteful things happened- the grooming standard was undoubtedly violated now and then.

    Marines? This is not the USMC Utility uniform. However, w
    artime stories of the Corps' skill at obtaining Army property abound, and there are a few period photos of Marines wearing Army HBT uniform components. So yes, it happened, but the Marines had their own, specific HBT clothing which was different in cut, weave and color than these.

  • What they wore on D-Day



    What did they wear on D-Day?


    NEW! To try to help with the D-Day mania, we now have several "D-Day" Packages to simplify things.
    Click here to go to the D-Day Packages Page.

    This is the number one question of 2019. The short answer is, basically, anything and everything. If a uniform had been issued by 1944, someone, somewhere, was wearing one on June 6th. We realize that this is not the answer most people are looking for, so here are the most common outfits seen in Normandy.

    IMPORTANT! If you are new to reenacting/ "living history", and have not already done so, find a unit before you buy an impression. You will not be allowed to participate in an event unless you belong to a unit and a reenacting organization. Few if any events permit "freelancing". Greaser's guide for Newbies is a good FAQ for those considering or new to the hobby.

    Although US Army impressions are pretty straightforward, many units have certain requirements and may be able to assist you with "loaner gear" or have alternative sources for some items. A good place to start is the Reenacting Units and Organizations page.


    General Guidelines for WWII US Army Impressions

    Below are the timelines for wear of the most common US Army uniforms and gear. We strongly recommend that you do your own, more in depth research into the particular unit you want to portray. Some outfits had peculiar methods of wearing their uniforms and gear, or were issued particular uniforms more often than others.

    "D-Day"
    :The items below are not "just for D-Day". The only things somewhat unique to D-Day were Gas Brassards, M7 Gas Mask Bags, Assault Vests and anti-gas impregnated clothing. (The latter amounted to soaking the uniforms in a nasty substance similar to shellac which you really don't want to mess with.)

    Army Infantry in Europe: The exact uniform(s) and gear used at D-Day were worn throughout the entire War. From 1941 until the Fall of 1944, most infantrymen wore the same uniform- M41 or Tanker Jacket, wools and service shoes with leggings. Finally, in the Fall of '44 the M1943 Field Uniforms and new boots began to appear, but there were never enough on hand, and many troops never got them. Many soldiers wore the earlier uniforms until VE Day.
    Generally, veteran troops were stuck with the older types and fresh replacement troops arriving in late 1944 had the new uniforms.

    Wool shirts and wool trousers:
    1940-45. Correct for the entire War.

    HBT's:

    From Summer '43- 1945 all 3 styles would have been in use. So, at D-day through the end of the War all styles are correct.
    1st Model:
    1941-45
    2nd Model Light and Dark Shade:
    Mid-1943-45. (Some light shades might have made it to Tunisia.)

    Field Jackets
    :
    -M1941, Tanker, Mackinaw: 1941-45.
    -Arctic M41 in limited numbers, (1941-45) more common after October 1944.
    -M1943 Field Jackets, Field trousers: A few units fighting in Italy received them in the winter of '43-'44 for trials. Units fighting in France generally didn't get them until the Fall of 1944, but many troops never got them at all.

    Boots
    -
    Service Shoes (both styles) 1941-45
    -Jump Boots 1941-45 (many infantrymen acquired them.)
    -Combat Service boots: "Two buckles" appeared in small quantities in late 1943, but did not become common until the Fall of 1944.

    Helmets and Fieldgear:
    These remained largely the same for the entire War. OD#7 (dark green) gear appeared in 1943 and became more common as the War went on.


    Army Paratroopers

    Jump Uniforms:

    -Standard M1942's: 1942 - September 1944.
    -Reinforced M42's. (Reinforcing was done in May-June '44 specifically for the Overlord Jumps.)
    Note: Both styles of M42 were worn at D-Day. Many troops did not receive a reinforced suit in time for the jump.

    -M1943 Field Uniform with Rigger modified trousers: September 1944-1945. Market Garden, Holland, Battle of the Bulge, Germany.
    Note: Although all troopers were supposed to switch to the new uniform, a few veterans kept wearing their M42's out of pride and stubbornness.

    Other Uniforms:
    Paratroopers were issued all the standard Army uniforms in basic training, before they became "Airborne".
    -Wool shirts and trousers: Most troopers wore wools under their jump suits. Europe is cooler in the Summer than the USA.
    -M41's, Tankers, etc: When it got cold, they wore whatever they could get their hands on. Some paratroopers can be seen wearing parts of "infantry" uniforms in period photos.

    Boots:

    -Jump Boots: 1941-45.
    -Combat Service Boots: Issued in August/ September 1944. Many troopers kept their jump boots.

    Paratrooper Helmets:
    -M-2 1942-45
    -M-1C 1945
    -M-1 Many troopers did not get "correct" parachutist steel pots and simply used regular M-1 helmets with paratrooper liners.

    Fieldgear:

    Generally it was the same as that used by the infantry, except that the Haversack was replaced by the Musette Bag and Combat Suspenders. od 7 (dark green) gear became much more common toward the end.








    D-Day US Army Infantry
    (includes Rangers and Glider Troops)

    Our US Infantryman Package is "D-Day" correct.

    Uniform:
    -M-1 Helmet (most were "fixed bale": swivel bales did not become common until late 1944)
    -Wool shirt and trouser
    -Tank top or t-shirt
    -M41 Field Jacket, Parsons Jacket or Tanker Jacket
    -HBT's (2nd pattern)
    -Service Shoes or Roughout Service Shoes with leggings

    Many troops wore jeep caps, sweaters, long johns etc under their uniforms.

    Basic Infantry Gear:
    -Troops landing on the beach were issued M7 Assault Gas Mask Bags and Gas Detection Brassards.
    -Assault Vest (some troops)
    -Haversack or Musette Bag (any model)
    -Cartridge Belt, BAR Belt, or Pistol Belt with ammo pouches for their respective weapon
    -Canteen w/ Cover
    -T-Handle or M1943 Shovel with carrier
    -First Aid Pouch (any model)
    -GP Ammo Bags were often used for added capacity
    -Bayonet (for troops carrying M-1 Garands or Springfield rifles)

    Nice article: There is a crew of wannabe historians who insist that HBT's weren't worn in combat, and certainly not at D-day. I suppose all those original photos have been "photoshopped". Here's a good write up- it applies to the ETO in general, not just 5th Rangers.






    D-Day US Army Paratroopers:
    (includes 82nd, 101st, and Pathfinders)
    Our US WWII Paratrooper Package is "D-Day correct".

    Uniform:
    -M2 Paratrooper Helmet (M-1C's did not appear until 1945. Many troopers actually wore regular M-1 "Infantry" helmets with paratrooper liners.)
    -M1942 Jump Suit, Standard or Reinforced (not all troops got their uniforms modified.)
    -Wool Shirt (worn underneath the jacket)
    -Jump Boots
    -Many troopers wore jeep caps, A4 caps, sweaters, long johns, etc, under their uniforms.

    Basic Paratrooper Fieldgear:
    -Like the troops landing on the beach, most were issued M7 Gas Mask Bags and Gas Brassards.
    -Musette Bag
    -Combat Suspenders (any model)
    -Cartridge Belt, BAR Belt, or Pistol Belt with rigger or ammo pouches for their respective weapon
    -Canteen w/ Cover
    -T-Handle or M1943 Shovel with carrier
    -First Aid Pouch (any model)
    -GP Ammo Bags were often used for added capacity
    -M-1 Bayonet (for troopers with M-1 Garands or Springfield rifles.)
    -Many troopers carried M3 Knives

    Reference: These websites are useful for historical information about WWII Paratroopers.
    WWII Airborne: Many, many original photos and unit information.
    Trigger Time: Mark Bando's site has massive amounts of information on WWII Airborne.






    US Marines:

    The Marines did not hit the beach in Normandy. The only Marines present were the security details on US Navy warships and a few officers there as observers and liaisons.
    Our Marine Infantryman Package is correct for campaigns from mid-1942 until the end. This covers all major battles except Wake Island and Corregidor. (It was also worn in the early stages of the Korean War, Inchon etc.)



  • About M43 Field Jacket Liners

    Jacket, Field, Pile, O.D.


    The M1943 Field Uniform, which, with gradual updates, remained in production for the US military for over 40 years, had a rather controversial and tortuous birth. Despite apparent utility of the design, numerous high ranking officers attempted to stop or sabotage production repeatedly due to differing personal preferences, mostly regarding "soldierly appearances". One of the most embattled components of the new layered uniform was the liner. After months of testing, a pile lined jacket with knit cuffs and collar was decided upon by the QMC. However, another faction within the US Army continuously lobbied for the Ike Jacket to become the new uniform instead- when that battle appeared lost, they insisted that the short wool jacket be used as the liner. Months of bickering ensued which caused repeated production delays, ultimately causing a critical shortage of M1943 Field Uniforms in the Fall of 1944.

    This resulted in liner production to beginning in the Summer of 1943, followed by a gap in new contracts (while the generals battled to get some other uniform more to their liking produced instead) with new batches not being started until the following Summer.

    Issue of the liners was by no means universal, with many soldiers wearing sweaters or other jackets to accomplish the same purpose. Given that the liners have a sturdy outer shell, they were often worn on their own without the field jacket. In period photos, they can often be mistaken for tanker jackets unless the front is visible. allowing one to see the buttons.

    The first liners were spec number 368A, Jacket, Field, Pile, O.D. approved 30 June 1943, with the contracts dated in late July. Quantities made are unknown, but I suspect they were substantial, given that 75+ years on, original examples are not terribly rare. The liners generally appear to be a rather ugly child born of a B15 Flight Jacket and the mailman. The shell is O.D. 7 cotton poplin, similar (if not the same) as that used on M41 Field Jackets, with two slash pockets. The interior is lined with woolen pile, and the neck and cuffs are trimmed with knit wool to prevent the wind from entering. The fronts is closed via 6 large plastic buttons, fastened through cord loops rather than buttonholes- likely due the difficulty of sewing buttonholes through the pile and impracticality of zippers for troops likely to be wearing gloves in freezing conditions. No provision was made to attach the liners to the field jackets themselves- they were simply worn as one coat over another.
    In March of 1944, the design was amended slightly, with the new contracts being issued starting in May, as spec. 368B, as Jacket, Field, Pile, O.D. Type B. Some spec labels describe these as "Pattern B" in addition to or in lieu of "Type B". All Type B's appear to have an instruction label added below the size tag at the neck.

    Additionally, some 368B's have the pile lining covered with a layer of OD3 cotton twill (the fabric used for Tanker Jackets and Jump Uniforms). Examples of this type with the "khaki" interlining, to date, were all from the May 1, 1944 contract. 368B's from subsequent contracts have all had the more typical exposed pile inside. Despite the substantial difference in the design, the spec labels make no mention of it and all 368B's share the same spec and stock numbers regardless of interlining.
    Later production runs of 368B's appear to be identical to the 368A's from the previous year aside from the instruction label in the neck. In the liner produced in the immediate postwar period, the pile lining was again covered, but this time with a nylon or rayon fabric instead of the cotton twill of the early 368B's.

    Given that the liners have a sturdy outer shell, they were often worn on their own without the field jacket. In period photos, they can often be mistaken for tanker jackets unless the front is visible. allowing one to see the buttons.