Buzz Rickson’s 1942 ‘Tanker’ jacket, Ball Boys edition

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.


2 thoughts on “Buzz Rickson’s 1942 ‘Tanker’ jacket, Ball Boys edition

  1. Selling repro military clothing with particular unit insignia already imprinted on it is dumb. Unless the buyer is a “wanna be dork”, he won’t want to wear a specific unit’s jacket. The few who were in the unit depicted on the jacket does not make it feasible to mass produce – sell the unit patches seperately, because those who want the the item unadorned are unable to buy it. & there are few outlets that provide the same jacket, but make patches (or will hand paint) to can sew on representing their unit. There are 2 fine A-2s made with 502d & 506th Abn patches sewn on. I was in the 503d, so cannot buy the jacket. We all see fatty wannabes with multiple patch jackets that are idiotss. As we used to say about S.E.A. “if you ain’t been there, shut the **** up.” Your tanker jacket is well made, but worthless to a guy like me.

    1. I understand where you are coming from.

      Indeed Buzz Rickson’s does sell most of it’s jackets unadorned with any insignia or patch.
      I bought this one because I really like the hand-painted design on the back, not because I fantasize about being in the armed services.

      You have to understand that the whole point of Buzz Rickson’s is in the quality of manufacturing – they are for garment dorks as much as military history dorks.
      Buzz Rickson’s customer base does not consist of soldiers or retired soldiers – the relative worth of reproduction garments, I’m sure, are different for you and me.
      But it’s not very fair to call everyone who buys a jacket with a specific units patch a ‘wanna be dork’.
      I don’t really ‘wanna be’, and I don’t see my own profession as less noble than that of a warrior’s.

      Although I admit that I am a dork when it comes to clothing – you’ve probably realised this if you’re reading my blog…I like the jacket’s design, I like the quality of it’s make, I like the little bit of history attached to it.
      The painted insignia on the back makes it extra interesting to me, but nothing deeper or more significant, just purely interesting.
      Your point does have validity to it, but you’re kind preaching to the wrong guy – I neither make these jacket nor feel a strong affiliation to the armed services…perhaps forward your complaints to Buzz Rickson’s.

      As for the worth of the garment – well, to each their own – you’re more than welcome to discuss the issue with ‘guys like you’ in the 503d…
      But my blog is the wrong place to voice your rants regarding how ‘proper’ it is for civilians to wear military insignias – guys like me don’t care~

    2. Obviously Mr. Jones knows not of which he speaks. I purchased this jacket for my husband because his father was a “Ball Boy” and a prisoner of war. It is not a matter of being a “wanna be dork” but to pay homage to a true American hero. Please do your research into history before you make blanket statements. Your comment was offensive on so many levels.

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