I’ve always been a big fan of reproduction military jackets, especially those of the US Army.
Reasons are many, but I guess it’s primarily because of where I live – it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to wear flight jackets or navy deck clothing even during the coldest of Australia’s winters – well, maybe you’d get by with a L-2.
As it’s getting to the coldest of our winter days, I thought it was a good time to give a couple of my jackets a quick brushing. Here’s two from Buzz Rickson’s – the William Gibson edition M-65 field jacket and the M-43 spec. 370C field jacket.
Buzz Rickson’s is a military repro brand under the Toyo mothership, specialising in high end nylon & leather flight jackets and more recently become equally well known for their wool & cotton garments.
Unlike many brands nowadays who would make an A-2 with fashion lambskin and cheap zippers, Buzz Rickson’s goes about making garments the way a hobbyist would appreciate – microscopic examination of materials, fabrics woven in original spec. on old looms, new-old original zippers, put together by experienced and passionate craftsmen.
For a good read on the various specifications and details of Buzz Rickson’s clothing, please do visit the History Preservation Associates’ website – they are the distributor for Buzz Rickson’s products in North America.
Anyway, brief summary of the field jackets:
In the late 30s the US Army began developing a multi-purpose jacket to replace the standard wool jacket in field & work duties.
Design and testing went on from 1938 to 1941, with the “spec. 20 field jacket” of 1941 being the accepted for production. Of course there were subsequent revisions & modifications, but all of these, according to the experts at History Preservation, “proved inadequate for its intended purpose, being flimsy, not very warm, poor in repelling rain and with pockets too small and too few to be of much use, and too light in color to camouflage the wearer well in the countryside of Northwestern Europe”…
What a bummer~
However ineffective the spec. 20 field jacket proved to be, it was still the predominant field jacket produced and issued during WWII and, in fact, was still being issued and worn until the war ended in 1945 even though it’s replacement, the M-43, became available in 1943.
Onto the M-43; the Army realized the inadequacies of the spec. 20 field jacket and began the research & development of it’s replacement in 1942.
The basic design was chosen and accepted in 1943, being known as the Jacket, Field, M-1043 P.Q.D. Specification 370.
The first two version (370 & 370A) began production in the first half of 1943 (although relatively few were made), and in the later half of the same year contract production began on the 370B.
However, it was not until the very end of 1943 that the first widely produced version – the 370C – was approved for contract manufacturing; it is this particular spec. 370C M-43 that Buzz Rickson’s has chosen to reproduce.
The early production of the M-43 first saw combat in Europe in 1943, but it was not a commonly issued jacket until the 370C was employed in Italy in 1944.
Very famously, due to inadequate stock of parachutist suits in England, the M-1943 spec. 370C was widely issued to the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions during Operation Market-Garden (Holland) in September of 1944 (speaking of which, highly recommend watching Band of Brothers!)
The interesting features of the M-43 is as follows…
Size stamp on the 5 oz, #3 shade olive drab, cotton poplin inner lining – the same cotton poplin used by Buzz Rickson’s on the spec. 20 field jacket.
You can see the #7 shade olive drab cotton sateen outshell, and the fantastic construct of button holes and the mil. spec. urea buttons.
4 extra large cargo pockets, supported by elastics, for heavy loads of ammunition and grenades.
The larger button pockets feature a sturdy twill-weave pocket lining.
Button cuff-closure to ensure wind-resistance.
Heavy duty bar-tabs at all stress points.
The button front also features a reinforced wind-flap.
Waist band draw string.
In the above pic, the textures of the poplin inner and sateen outer are apparent.
Superbly made collar; no detail is neglected or rushed-over.
The M-43 also comes with an attachable hood – the installation of which requires a bit of button work…
First, you do up the collar and unbutton the epaulets:
Then you pop the hood on, and secure the flaps:
M-43’s successor, the M-51 field jacket, was issued during the Korean War and early periods of the Vietnam War.
It was modernised with modifications such as a zipper front with snap button windflaps, button cuffs, liner attachments, additional draw-string at the bottom hem – but retaining features such as the four cargo pocket configuration, the button epaulets, and the detachable hood. The outshell also features cotton in a sateen weave.
The M-65 was then introduced during the Vietname War, and was the final installation in the classical series of field jackets, first seeing combat in the central highlands of South Vietnam during the monsoon seasons.
The M-65 is perhaps the most iconic of the field jackets, made famous by film characters such as John Rambo, Travis Bickle, etc, and remains an issued item even today.
Further modernisations include a nylon/cotton shell, a in-built hood stored in a zipper compartment on the collar, and Velcro attachment at the collar and cuffs.
Of course, by then, many specs have been altered – from the shape and composition of the buttons to the twill of the fabrics.
My M-65 though, is from Buzz Rickson’s William Gibson edition, and comes in black instead of olive drab – it is also more fitted than the original, and has some of Cayce Pollard’s phrases on the inner shell.
The outshell is now a sateen weave of 50% cotton, 50% nylon:
The inner is a lighter plain-weave:
Check out the hardware changes:
As you can probably tell, my M-65 is a lot older than my M-43, having been through many storms and a couple of washes.
The Crown zippers are new-old, a few decades old now, and the large aluminium pull-spring zip down the front broke after a few uses – had to fix it myself.
Everything is pretty heavy duty though, and the snaps are one of the best I’ve seen.
In these pictures, you can also discern the weave texture of the improved nylon/cotton sateen.
Tougher and more water resistant than the cotton sateen on the M-43…certainly, it has come a long way from the runty 5 oz cotton poplin on the spec. 20 field jacket.
The large, sturdy four-pocket configuration remains – the lining tougher than the M-43.
The wrist-cuffs, and neck-strap, are now secured by Velcro.
Ridging that comes with wash & wear.
The sateen was actually designed to fade! Can’t wait to see how it turns out in 5 or 10 years time.
Shoulder epaulets still there!
Similar to it’s M-51 predecessor, there is the option to attach an inner quilted lining for Winter conditions.
The draw-string at the waist has been upgraded.
And like the M-51, there is the addition of a draw-string at the bottom hem.
The M-65 has an hood built into the compartment accessed via the collar zipper.
Buzz Rickson’s, again, ensures every detail is attended to – check out the chain-stitch, lock-stitch, and high quality elastic that goes into securing this simple hood.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled out this hood from behind my neck with a smile, just as an unexpected bout of rain starts pouring down!
Definitely much simpler to operate than the M-43.
^ Not an original feature, but this pays homage to William Gibson’s novel.
So there, a quick walkthrough of the M-43 and M-65 field jackets from Buzz Rickson’s.
I’m not sure if I need the spec. 20 (1941) or the M-51 at this stage, as the M-43 provides a perfect mix of old-school & functionality, whilst the M-65 covers my need for a more modern, all-weather jacket.
Maybe later, much later.