Recreating the US G.I. look

This page aims to help you create a good WW2 US Officer impression, which will look great at 1940s events.

US troops during WW2 could be said to have had the snappiest uniforms of all the Allied forces.

Officer's uniforms were the nicest of the nice. Reenacting WW2 US Officers has an appeal simply because of the uniforms being so impressive.

The story of WREN Betty Farmer and Capt Irving, US Army

US Officers at a wartime wedding

A US Airborne Officer uniform at the Littlcote House museum, Wiltshire, UK

A US Airborne Officer uniform at the Littlecote House museum, Wiltshire, UK

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Reenactor portraying an officer of the 101st AB

Reenactor portraying an officer of the 101st AB. He is wearing a 'Coat, Service Officer's OD, Dark Elastique' and Olive Drab 51 'chocolate' shirt.

Reenactor portraying General George Patton wearing an Ike Jacket

Reenactor portraying General George Patton wearing an Ike Jacket

USAAF Officers wearing leather flying jackets

Reenactors portraying an Army Surgeon (in Ike Jacket) and a US Army Nurse

USAAF Officers wearing leather flying jackets

USAAF Officers wearing leather flying jackets

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Footwear

Generally US Officers wore 'Oxford' type plain brown shoes. These were privately purchased so there was much variation, which also makes it easy to reproduce this type of footwear. Even 'normal' stores like Marks & Spencers sell modern shoes that look remarkably similar to WW2 US Officers shoes.

Airborne Officers wore their jump boots, with their trousers inside, in true paratrooper fashion.

The story of WREN Betty Farmer and Capt Irving, US Army

US Army and Army Airforce Officers show various styles of dress. Note that all are in 'pink' trousers, although the Officer on the left appears to be wearing a 'chocolate' shirt

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The Basics

The basic US Officer look can be created for around £150, so is also a cost effective look for anyone entering the reenactment hobby; but be warned.

If you join a reenactment group, you`ll be a Private, and so your Officer uniform won`t be used at group events. This may be a consideration if you`re only buying one uniform.

You will need to research the unit and rank insignia that need attaching to the uniform. There are a few useful websites on this page that may help.

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Pinks and chocolates

The basic US WW2 Officer look can be created with a pair of trousers and a shirt with tie.

Both shirts and trousers came in two shades, a pink-beige 'drab 54' shade (nicknamed 'pinks') and a brown-olive 'olive drab 51' ( nicknamed 'chocolates').

Officers were expected to own two colours of trousers and two colours of shirt, and these were mixed and matched. The CO stipulated which combination was to be worn each day.

Whichever colour shirt was worn a khaki cotton mohair tie was worn, tucked into the shirt; between the first and second apparent buttons. This tie was approved in February 1942 to replace the black M-1940 tie.

Shirt, wool elastique, drab, officers as they were officially called were worn with insignia when worn as an outer garment.

Reproduction shirts cost from £50, trousers from £50 and ties around £10; so the mainstay of this impression could set you back as little as £110. Originals are plentiful on Ebay.com, although only in the smaller sizes. People in the 1940s were slighter built than today.....

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Choice of Jackets

Progressing with your WW2 US Officer impression, you`ll want to add a jacket. Here the choice of unit and time period is essential to get the look riight; so do your research.

Coat, Service Officer's OD Dark Elastique

The most common type of jacket was the Coat, Service Officer's, OD Dark Elastique, being authorised in 1940 and modified in 1942 with the addition of the cloth belt, which replaced the leather Sam Brown belt.

This open collared jacket was similar to the enlisted man's wool serge coat, which caused a few cases of mistaken identity with British troops mistakingly saluting US enlisted men.

Reproductions start at around £180, and originals are also remarkably cheap; although again only in the smaller sizes. The post-war Dutch Army jackets are similar in look, but don`t be tempted to have these modified, as the material is very different.

Jacket, Field, Wool, Officer's - 'Ike Jacket'

When General Eisenhower, known as 'Ike`, first saw the British field jacket, he was so impressed that he requested a copy be made for himself. This became a popular jacket with officers, and was soon authorised for production; being known as the 'Ike Jacket'.

The jacket was meant to be used for both combat and formal dress, like in the British forces. It didn`t prove popular in it`s combat role, it soon became more popular for formal and off-duty dress.

The Officer's and enlisted man's jackets have a similar cut, although the Officer's uniform was generally of a better grade material. Many Officer's had their jackets produced by individual taylors as the demand exceeded the supply until the end of the war.

Original Ike Jackets are available in small sizes, with the larger sizes being generally available in reproduction only.

USAAF Pilot's look: Jacket, Flying, Type A-2

One of the coolest jackets designed could surely be the US WW2 flying jacket, Type-A2. Not only was this issued to pilots but often it was aquired by Airborne Officers.

The jacket was also issued to all personnel in the First Special Service Force, although before deployment it was withdrawn from the enlisted men.

The A-2 flying jacket was adopted in 1931, and classified as limited standard in April 1943.

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Choice of headgear

Generally there were two types of headgear worn by US Officers.

This was the peaked cap and the less formal garrison cap. Both had similarities to the items issued to enlisted men, which often led to cases of mistaken identity,as British troops saluted US enlisted ranks.The picture below shows both types of headgear.

USAAF Officers wearing leather flying jackets

US Officers showing different types of US Officer headgear

Cap, Garrison, Officer's, OD, Dark Elastique

Of a similar design but different material to the enlisted man's Garrison Cap, the Officer's version did not use Branch of Service braids. Instead, in Decemer 1940 three types of cap decoration were autorised for Officers.

Gold braid was used for General ranking Officers, gold and black for other ranking Officers, and silver and black for Warrent officers.

Until August 1942 the unit insignia was worn on the left side of the cap, after which it was replaced with the rank insignia. Airborne units placed the insignia on the right side of the hat after 1942.