This jacket (officially named JACKET, WINTER, COMBAT, P. Q. D. Spec. No. 26A) is the second version of the famous ‘tanker’ jacket, the 1942 revision of the 1941 original design.
The tanker jacket was designed to meet the requirements of tank armour personal during the European theatre of WWII – the inside of the tanks would become very cold during the winter times, and the flight jackets that were issued to armour personal (due to the unavailability of specialised outerwear) were too bulky for the cramped interior of the tanks. Also, when a combat vehicle did suffer damage/catch on fire, the bulky flight jackets often got snarled up in the machinery, impeding escape from the wreckage.
The tanker jacket was created to solve this problem, providing armour personnel with a flexible, slim-fitting alternative to the cumbersome leather flight jackets – it become so popular in fact, at one stage the USAAF (amongst others) officially made a requisition for this jacket.
However, wider distribution was officially denied, due to the fact that the most efficient way for warming personnel was through multi-layering of thinner garments, and not one single, heavy outerwear. However, officers and pilots would snatch a ‘tanker’ where they could, and wear it instead of their issued outerwear. I guess the sheepskin flight jackets were too inconvenient & uncomfortable in the tight cockpits of the P-53s & B-17s…
The tanker was revised in 1942 after feedback from the field & live-testing at Pine Camp back in the States. The open-top pockets and the double-sided cotton wind flap on the original ‘tanker’ were replaced with slash pockets and a wool-backed wind flap.
This Buzz Rickson’s special edition 1942 tanker is made with 12oz light olive drab cotton (West Point Twill) outer lined with 26 oz ‘special wool’ blanket. All cotton stitching and cotton twill-lined pockets. 2-ply wool collar, wristlets, & waistbands. It uses a vintage brass Conmar zipper. Important note: The original tankers and the Buzz Rickson’s reproductions are light olive drab in colour (as per original spec.), NOT KHAKI! Don’t listen to the Rakuten vendors, it’s not khaki, I repeat, not khaki….
As a special edition, this tanker features hand-painted patterns of the 511 bombardment squad, operating under the command of Major Clinton Ball and part of the 351st Group, active from 1943 to 1945 with their base at the Polebrook Airfield in Northamptonshire, England.
Photograph from Toons At War blog: 351st planes dropping bombs on Berlin.
Every B-17 in the squadron was name [something]-ball, e.g. high-ball, linda-ball, screw-ball, archi-ball, no-balls, etc, after their Major. The legendary men of this squadron were known as Ball Boys. The ‘J’ logo (as depicted on the back of the jacket) was painted on the tail of every B-17 Flying-Fortress in the squad.