abilene

2

In honor of Veterans Day, here’s the story behind the famous wool jacket (a style worn by many veterans during their time of service) now in display in “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures.”

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, seen here in this photograph.

Ike urged theater-wide adoption of the shorter jacket in a May 5, 1943, letter to General George C. Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff:

“I have no doubt that you have been impressed by the virtual impossibility of appearing neat and snappy in our field uniform. Given a uniform which tends to look a bit tough, and the natural proclivities of the American soldier quickly create a general impression of a disorderly mob. From this standpoint alone, the matter is bad enough; but a worse effect is the inevitable result upon the general discipline This matter of discipline is not only the most important of our internal military problems, it is the most difficult. In support of all other applicable methods for the development of satisfactory methods we should have a neater and smarter uniform. I suggest the Quartermaster begin now serious work to design a better woolen uniform for next winter’s wear.”

Ike’s argument won the day, and the “Wool Field Jacket, M-1944” debuted in the European Theater of Operations in November 1944. The iconic jacket continued to be issued to American troops until 1956, when a general phase out begin. The Ike jacket was gone from the Army inventory by October 1960, according to the US Army Center of Military History.

Buried in a plain Army casket and adorned in his namesake jacket, Eisenhower rests in peace in the Place of Meditation on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas.

Image: Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum National Archives (63-92)