Army Field Jacket & Top Army Jackets

In today’s post, we’re going to discuss the Army Field Jacket and share the top 7 Army Jackets of all time.

Since the United States Army was adopted back in the days of the United States Revolution, soldiers and officers have wore coats and jackets. In those early days, most jackets were the soldier’s personal property they brought with them.

At a certain point in time, the U.S. Army began issuing service coats that soldiers and officers would wear. But at a point, the Army issued a jacket called the U.S. Army field jacket that was a part of the soldier’s uniform.

The U.S. Army field jacket has gained almost mythical status among vintage-buyers and designers. Nearly every brand has either re-interpreted or replicated one of these famous pieces of military history. Modern American history may have immortalized the field jacket, but historically very few G.I.s actually enjoyed this piece of their uniform. Unlike a handsome flight jacket, or jauntily-cocked sailor’s cap, the field jacket was often a study in poor planning and general discontent. ~ Heddels

The Army Field Jacket: 13 Cool Facts

In today’s post, I am going to give you 13 cool facts about the Army field jacket. So scroll down and learn more about the history of the Army field jacket.

army field jacket

# 1: Field Jacket Fact: Before The Field Jacket

During World War I and even before, soldiers and officers wore a wool coat with four pockets that was called a service coat. It was impractical. It was not water resistant, and was wore for everything – field and garrison. In the late 1930’s, the U.S. Army realized they needed something more practical.

# 2: Field Jacket Fact: Known As The Parson’s Jacket

Major General James Parsons recognized a huge need for a better field coat. He used the design of a civilian coat and proposed what would be known as the M-1941 Field Jacket.

# 3: Field Jacket Fact: M-1941 Design

The Parson’s Jacket was made of water and wind resistant material. The color was olive drab. In 1940, that Field Jacket was adopted by all Army service members. It was cotton outside and had a wool lining. It closed with a zipper and also had a button storm flap.

# 4: Field Jacket Fact: 1943 Uniform Overhaul

The United States Army realized that much of the uniform’s worn by soldiers were inadequate. The Field Jacket was a huge part of this reasoning. They determined that fading of the color put soldiers in extreme danger because it was easily seen through camouflage. Plus, the coat was not as water and wind resistant as it should be.

# 5: Field Jacket Fact: M-1943 Design

The M-1943 Field Jacket was made longer than the M-1941. It came to the upper thighs and it was first made with a lighter olive drab and later a slightly darker. The M-1943 came with a hood that could be detached and a drawstring waist. It also had four large pockets.

While it was supposed to be field tested in Italy during the War, many non-combat personnel used their positions to get the new uniforms and left the others using the older M-1941 jackets through the rest of World War II.

# 6: Field Jacket Fact: M-1950

Most soldiers still recognized it as an M-1943 because not much changed. The M-1950 was nearly the same except it had a button inside liner.

# 7: Field Jacket Fact: M-1951 Design

The M-1951 was based on the M-1943, but the outer shell was a specially water repellent treatment. Instead of a zipper and buttons, the M-1951 used snaps. It came with a hood that could be buttoned on and had a pointed collar.

# 8: Field Jacket Fact: The Infamous M-1965

This became the outer wear of soldiers throughout the Vietnam War. The M-1965 has such popularity, you often see them on civilians. As a matter of fact, some companies have designed civilian coats in various colors based on the M-1965 design.

The M-1965 had a hood that could be rolled up and put in the pouch designed for it. The Field Jacket originally came in olive green but also came out in the camo effect too.

Worn everywhere from the jungles of Vietnam and the deserts of the Middle East to iconic Hollywood movies and high-end fashion runways, the M-65 field jacket has left an enduring mark on fashion history. Not much has changed in the original design, which was first created by Alpha Industries in 1965, but throughout the decades this jacket has come to represent many facets of American culture in surprising ways. Civilians who don the M-65 — among them movie stars, hippies, and activists — have fashioned it into a bold statement, while the jacket’s emphasis on functionality ensures that it never goes out of style. ~ Alpha Industries

# 9: Field Jacket Fact: How The Big Screen Used The M-1965

We have seen M-1965 Field Jackets used in television and movies. Just watch some of these and look for that M-1965:

  • Serpico with Al Pacino
  • Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro
  • First Blood with Sylvester Stallone
  • Annie Hall with Woody Allen
  • Year of the Dragon with Mickey Rourke
  • Run All Night with Liam Neeson
  • and many others such as the long running television series MASH.

# 10: Field Jacket Fact: The Invention Of Gore-Tex

Everything changed in 1969 when Robert Gore stretched heated rods which was polytetrafluoroethylene. He had discovered what would be called Gore-Tex. This started an evolution in military clothing design because this invention was waterproof, breathable, and stretched.

# 11: Field Jacket Fact: The BDU

In the early 1980’s, the U.S. Army began issuing BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms). The Field Jacket still looked much like the M-1965 but had a lighter weave and used an infrared technology which helped soldiers blend in to their surroundings when the enemy was using infrared detection devices.

# 12: Field Jacket Fact: The DCU

The only change with this was the coloration. It was designed to blend in in desert environments. This was the primary wear in the Iraq War.

# 13: Field Jacket Fact: What Current Soldiers Wear

In 2004, the current wear was released for United States Army soldiers. It is the Army Combat Uniform (ACU).

ACU jackets are quite similar in design to the BDUs and DCUs. They are designed with Near Infrared (NIR) Signature Management Technology. They also have IFF squares so soldiers using night vision can determine if the soldier is friendly. There is also a flame retardant variation.

Militaria is unmistakable and it is everywhere: worn by men, women and children across the globe. From streetwear to thrift-store chic, military appropriations are ubiquitous. You only have to look at BAPE’s signature camouflage or Raf Simons coveted FW03 parka jackets to see how brands from all ends of the scale have long borrowed elements of utilitarianism from the style sheet of military uniform. ~ Paynter

acu jackets

Top 7 Army Jackets of All Time

In the paragraphs below, we will examine the top 7 Army jackets of all time. Now, this is my opinion and you may think differently. That’s cool! As a matter of fact, feel free to share your opinions in the comment area at the end of this post.

# 1: The Eisenhower Jacket

It is actually the M44 jacket, but since it was designed because of a request by General Dwight Eisenhower, the jacket is better known with his name. It was during World War II and the conditions could be bitterly cold. The primary jacket used at that time by Army personnel was the M-1943. Dressing in layers was taught to battle the freezing conditions.

The Eisenhower jacket was designed as an under-jacket to be put on before the M-1943. The Eisenhower jacket was a waist length coat that was an olive drab color and featured:

  • a storm collar
  • front “snag-free buttons that were flapped
  • breast pockets
  • shoulder straps
  • and staggered cuff buttons

In 1944, the Eisenhower jacket became standard issue. When President Eisenhower died in 1969, he was dressed in one of these jackets and buried with it. Eisenhower jacket remakes are big sellers.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower considered the Army’s World War II military uniform to be restricting and poorly suited for combat. Instead he had a standard issue wool field jacket tailored to be “very short, very comfortable, and very natty looking.” The resulting “Eisenhower jacket” or “Ike jacket,” as it came to be known, was standard issue to American troops after November 1944. This “Ike jacket” was worn by Eisenhower. ~ Prologue

# 2: M-1951 Field Jacket

We used to love these jackets for hunting. The M-1951 is both water repellent and wind resistant. It was made of a cotton sateen cloth and colored olive green. Some of the features of the M-1951 were:

  • snaps inside to install a liner
  • a zipper with flap that snaps
  • button cuffs
  • separate hood that buttons to collar

The M-1951 jacket also came with Field Trousers made of the same material.

The M-51 Green Field Jacket is the purest symbol of the ultimate iconic American design. In November 1956, the M-1951 was redesigned as the field coat used by the military. ~ Forces Jackets

# 3: M-1943 Field Jacket

The Army felt that the previous Army jackets were inadequate, so they developed the M-1943. Made of the cotton sateen cloth and much better protection against wind, the M-1943 was an Olive Drab #9 color. The length was unique in that, it came down to the upper thighs. Other features included

  • detachable hood
  • drawstring waist
  • two large breast pockets
  • and two skirt pockets

The M1943 Field Jacket was the main component of the the US Army’s improved combat uniform issued in the latter part of the Second World War. This jacket, with only minor design changes, was issued to American troops for the next 50 years, and is still manufactured today for the civilian market. ~

# 4: M-1965 Field Jacket

A great cold weather jacket. The M-1965 was designed with the Vietnam Highlands in mind.

Originally, it came in Olive Green, but many manufacturers now make it in various colors.

The M-1965 has a built in hood that is rolled and pouched on the back of the neck. Velcro was used for cuff adjustment

The M-1965 also had a button inner-lining available for colder weather. The jacket has two bellows type breast pockets and two lower inside hanging pockets all with flap closures secured by snap fasteners.

The M-1965 was also used by actors in many movies such as:

  • Taxi Driver;
  • Serpico;
  • Annie Hall;
  • First Blood;
  • The Exterminator;
  • The Terminator;
  • RoboCop;
  • Jacob’s Ladder;
  • Jaws 2
  • and more.

# 5: M-42 Field Jacket

While many troops stuck with the M-1941, the M-42 was issued to paratroopers. It had 4 front patch pockets with button snaps. The cool thing with the M-42 was the dual zipper knife pocket on the upper lapel. The color was a dark olive drab. It didn’t take long, but the M-42 was phased out for the M-1943, but many airborne soldiers kept their M-42s just to show their experience.

# 6: M-1941 Field Jacket

Widely known as the Parson’s Jacket, the idea came from Major General James Parsons. This was actually the first Army issued field jacket. The design was based on the windbreaker and was made of cotton poplin and was an olive drab color. It came with a dark olive drab blanket wool flannel lining.

The color would fade quickly in weather conditions becoming a green beige. It had a front zipper front closure with a buttoned storm flap. The jacket also had buttons at the collar for closing the lapels to warm the neck region, as well as buttoned adjusting tabs on each side of the waist and at the cuffs to seal in body heat, and buttoned shoulder epaulets.

# 7: A-2 Flight Jacket

Many may say this was an Air Force Bomber jacket and it is true but, the A-2 was issued before the Air Force was a separate military force. So it is an Army jacket. The A-2 was leather and had 2 waist pockets with snap fasteners.

Final Thoughts

So this is the history thus far of the U.S. Army Field Jacket, along with my thoughts on the top Army Jackets of all time. I would like to hear your thoughts. Do you feel the current design is competent, or what changes would you make? Also, what is your favorite Army Jacket?

When I was in the United States Army, I was issued BDUs. As a kid, you would often see me on the streets wearing an M-1965 Field Jacket I had bought at a military surplus store. I loved that jacket and I have thought about going shopping for another one.

Tell us your experiences with Army Field Jackets. You can post all comments and questions below. Thanks.

Other posts you may enjoy:
  1. Military Auctions: Good to Know Stuff
  2. Survival In The Cold: 13 Top Tips
  3. The History Of The Military Helmet
  4. Top 17 Army Customs and Courtesies Every Soldier Should Know
  5. The Battle of Gettysburg

Looking to buy a field jacket? You should check out the one I found on Amazon. Click on the image below to see it.

Military Jacket

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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