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This page features photos and information about original WWII US M1943 Field Uniforms. Most of this information I have learned from examining original uniforms, both ones I own as well as those of other collectors, and searching through period photographs. I consider these the most accurate means of determining what was and was not worn during the war. However, one must realize, that not every variation or modification was photographed, much less survived the conflict. This information is for public consumption and you may link and copy photos without restriction. Likewise, if there are errors or you have some more info, feel free to send it over.
History: The M1943 Field Uniform was the result of several years of experimentation and development by the US Army Quartermaster. It replaced the completely inadequate M1941 Field Jacket (which was more suited to a day on the golf course than combat in the ETO.) It consisted of a 4 pocket jacket and matching trousers made from windproof sateen cotton. The uniform was designed as a layered system, meant to be worn over the wool shirt and trouser and in conjunction with a wool sweater and liners in colder weather. The uniform was first issued to elements of the 3rd Infantry Division fighting at Anzio in Italy in February/ March 1944 for field testing. Despite the high praise the jacket received from those who wore it, General Omar Bradley considered it unsightly and inferior to the wool overcoat. Resistance by Bradley and other commanders in the ETO resulted in the uniform not being issued until shortages of all field jackets finally forced them to relent in the Fall of 1944. The supply situation for clothing for troops already in the ETO was described as "critical" and "very critical" until the end of January 1945. (Shipments of ammunition, fuel and food took precedence over clothing). Thus, troops fighting at Aachen, Hurtgen and the Battle of the Bulge will be seen wearing a mix of M41's, Tankers, M1943's and wool overcoats. The exceptions to this were the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions who were almost entirely re-equipped with the uniform just prior to operation "Market Garden" and troops in new units coming from the US. By February 1945, most troops in the ETO had finally been re-equipped with the new uniforms.
The field uniforms outer components, the jacket, hood and trousers are all made from a tightly woven cotton twill, often called "sateen". When new it has a shiny finish, which rapidly wears off. These are designed to be windproof but not waterproof. (Soldiers were issued rubberized raincoats and/or ponchos for wet weather).
Original Field Jackets are relatively plentiful. Mint condition and large sizes are more difficult to find. The earliest examples I have seen have pattern dates from the Fall of 1943, although the initial contracts were issued in May or June. Small changes were made during each contract, but they are minute- the button under the collar is lowered 1/2", size labels are changed, spec labels moved, cuff stitching altered slightly and so forth. The most obvious change was the addition of the "how to use" label on the Feb. 1944 contract. A diagram was added to the label in 1945 and later the instructions were printed directly on the lining.
All M43 Jackets are made from od#7 sateen cotton twill cloth. The shade varies quite a bit from jacket to jacket- some are very, very dark green, while others are nearly field gray. This simply a production variation- it happens with fabric to this day. Jackets made up until late 1944 usually have od#3 colored lining- it appears to be the outer fabric previously used for M1941 Jackets. It is quite likely that this was deemed an acceptable means of using up material left over from production of the previous field jackets. By late 1944 or early 1945, an od#7 lining fabric seems to have largely replaced the lighter color cloth.
Early production jackets also tend to have lighter colored buttons, while later ones have darker od buttons. Aside from the labeling and button shades, WW2 M43's are very consistent in materials and pattern. The pocket lining also varies- most jackets use white twill, while others use od7 HBT.
There has always been a bit of consternation about the sizing of these jackets. Many people have insisted that they are much too large- but they fail to understand that these were designed to be worn with (or without) a liner. The M1943 Field Uniform was a layered system. The intent was for the soldiers to be able to adjust to different temperatures by adding or removing layers of clothing, rather than having to change (and carry) different jackets or coats. (As had been the case with the M1941 Jacket and the wool overcoat). Normally, jackets are cut 5-6 inches larger than the marked chest size. For example, a size 38R would actually measure 46 inches in the chest. However, M1943 Field Jackets are 6-8 inches larger than the marked size in order to allow for the thick liner, plus wool shirt, sweater and underwear. That's why M1943 Field Jackets seem "too big". So, if you find an original M1943 Jacket with no discernable markings, just measure the circumference of the chest, and then subtract 8. That'll be the size. WW2 production jackets are made in even chest sizes (36, 38, 40 etc) and in short, regular and long lengths. Sometime after the War, the sizing scale was changed to the lettered sizes- S, M, L, etc.. This was due to the fact that these do not need to be as closely fitted as previous uniforms. Fewer sizes mean fewer supply headaches.
The hoods vary similarly to the jackets. Early hoods have a printed label sewn into the neck, while later ones have the instructions printed on the fabric itself. Most have spec labels. The hood is attached to the jacket by buttoning it to the epaulets.
Field Jacket Liners
The liners are made from a heavy cotton poplin shell with a pile lining. Cuffs, waistband and neck are elasticized wool knit. The liners are much rarer today than the jackets. The only real variation I have seen is the shade of od from which the shell is made. Most are od#7, but I have seen a few that were nearly brown or pea green. The liner is heavy- these are similar in thickness and weight to a tanker jacket. It is not uncommon to see them being worn as a coat on their own- even though the regulations (and the instructions) forbid it. Incidentally, the "Ike" Jacket was originally intended to be the liner for this jacket- a few wartime photos seem to bear out that this did indeed occur in some cases. M43 Jackets have no provisions to attach the lining to the jacket.WWII production liners are rather difficult to come by and large sizes can be pricey.
Made from the same cotton sateen as the field jackets and hoods. The lining and pocketing fabric was white twill in early trousers, while late production ones sometimes used shell fabric or od#7 HBT. Most trousers use the same buttons as the jackets, but a few models from 1944-45 use the 13-star tack buttons used on HBT's. Field trousers issued to Paratroopers were often modified by having cargo pockets added to the thighs. The pockets were made from od #7 canvas, not the sateen twill the trousers were made of. Like the jackets, early trousers have no instruction labels, then labels were sewn in, and finally the instructions were printed on the lining fabric directly. The exact wording varies, but basically they advise the soldier that these are oversized (1 inch) to allow them to be worn over "woolen or pile" trousers is cold and windy weather and to therefore, be sure to get trousers in their normal waist size. Sounds like my website doesn't it?