Olive Drab Cotton Field Jacket (also known as OD Cotton Field Jacket, Parson's Jacket, M-1941 or M-1938) is a field jacket used by US Army soldiers, most famously during the beginning of World War II. In the late 1930s it started to be phased in as a replacement for the wool four pocket service coat, but around 1943 it was replaced in turn by an improved M-1943 model. Due to wide adoption, M-1941 is usually recognized as a symbol of the World War II American G.I..
The First Field Jacket
From World War I up until 1940 soldiers in the United States Army wore a wool four pocket service coat as the outer garment of their uniforms, both in garrison and in the field. This followed the general pattern adopted by most major armies of the world, but proved to be rather impractical. At the end of the 1930s, the Army moved to adopt a new outer garment that was intended to be more utilitarian and provide better protection in combat. The army's first unsuccessful attempts included adding a pleated "bi-swing" back to the service coat, a change adopted with the M-1939 Service Coat. This first field jacket was based on a civilian jacket suggested by Major General James K. Parsons, for whom it was unofficially named. The Olive Drab Cotton Field Jacket was standardized and adopted in June 1940 for use by all members of the US Army for wear with both the winter and summer service uniforms. Jackets of similar design were later also adopted by the navy and Marine Corps.
Note that many individuals have referred to the OD cotton field jacket incorrectly as either the "M-1941" or "M-1938" (hence the title of this article). This designation is, however, false. The Army Quartermaster Corps, who developed clothing, used model numbers sparingly and only used them to differentiate two or more similar types of garments from one another. In 1940, there was only one field jacket, so there was no need to give it a model number.
The jacket was modeled after a civilian windbreaker, and was constructed of an olive drab shade 3 cotton poplin outer shell with an olive drab wool flannel lining. The jacket had a front zipper front closure with a buttoned flap. The jacket also had buttons at the collar for attaching a hood as well as buttoned adjusting tabs on each side of the waist and at the cuffs, and buttoned shoulder loops. There were two front slash pockets and a notched lapel collar. Earlier models of the jacket do not have the shoulder loops or buttoned tabs, but the two front slash pockets have buttoned flaps.
World War II
When the US entered the war in 1941, the OD cotton field jacket was the standard outer garment for all army personnel, except those that had other specialist clothing (such as paratroopers, who wore the parachutist's coat and trousers) or in extreme climatic conditions (parkas in cold weather, etc.). As a result, the field jacket could be seen worn in every theater of war and by nearly every type of soldier, making a rather ubiquitous symbol of the World War II American G.I..
Throughout the course of the war, the OD cotton field jacket proved to be an inadequate outer garment. The jacket's thin lining provided poor insulation during cold weather and the light cotton shell provided little protection from wet weather. In addition, the light OD shade 3 shell, chosen to be worn with both the khaki summer or dark OD winter uniforms, stood out making soldiers more visible.
The OD cotton field jacket was officially replaced as standard with the adoption of the M-1943 uniform ensemble, which included the much improved M-1943 field jacket. The OD cotton field jacket was redesignated limited standard and was to be issued until supplies were exhausted when the M-1943 jacket was unavailable. Photographic evidence shows that soldiers continued to wear the older jacket all the way through the end of the war. The jackets even show up in limited use during the Korean War.
"Seated at a box in a storehouse for artillery shells, in Germany, Pvt. Walter E. Prsybyla, member of the 2nd Infantry Division, addresses Christmas cards to the folks back home. 11/30/44. B Btry, 37th FA, 2nd Inf. Div., FUSA, Heckhalenfeld, Germany": http://www.history.army.mil/photos/Holiday/SC197242.jpg
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