What color are those brown boots?

A place for discussion of mounted services uniforms, headgear, footwear and related personal equipment of the horse soldier.
User avatar
Pat Holscher
Website Admin
Posts: 26739
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2000 6:51 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Holscher
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - Origin
Contact:

Horsehide

Post by Pat Holscher » Sun Dec 26, 2004 8:37 am

Originally posted by tmarsh
What are the advantages of using horsehide in comparison to other leathers? I think goatskin would be more supple than horsehide. Or again it might be in the tanning process. Tom
I'm am very far from an expert on leathers, but I think goatskin is more supple. Horsehide is extremely tough. Both horsehide and mule hide are extremely durable leathers. Again, FWIW, a horsehide jacket of the original weight, while it has to be broken in like a pair of shoes, is nearly indestructible while a goat hide one will wear out.

As an odd aside, Germany prior to WWII was an enormous producer of horsehide's. In movies and the like it is a common thing to depict members of the SS or Gestapo wearing leather trench coats. As much of a cliche as that is, it is not completely inaccurate. Germany's production of horsehide was high enough that it was a common item for coats in prewar Germany, and so the depictions showing that in use by various people in WWII is actually not off the mark.

I'm not sure why Germany was a high producer of horsehide's, but I suspect it shows something about the actual state of Germany mechanization, commercial, agricultural and military. Horsehide's were, in effect, likely a byproduct of "horsepower".

Pat

Joseph Sullivan
Website Admin
Posts: 3457
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2000 8:35 pm
Medals: 2
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - 7th
Contact:

Post by Joseph Sullivan » Sun Dec 26, 2004 9:20 am

To key off what Pat and Dave J are saying, it is my understanding that russet is NOT specifically a shade of brown, but is simply natural leather that ages over time to shades of brown, tan, and even cordovan. The flight jackets were most certainly died in shades of brown, and were therefore different from saddlery and equipment that was not. In boots, sam Browne belts etc, there was latitude at least for officers. I have seen and owned true cordovan (horsehide with the burgundy color) belts holsters and pouches. I have seen some that appeared to be died brown. I have seen Cordivan and brown officer's boots. I have seen and handled a box of purported M1909 spur straps with the wide instep that were died brown on one side-- painted die rather than vat die. NONE of these items were of arsenal manufacture and I suspect that ALL were private purchase items.

None of the above was russet. It is true the russet is technically a kind of reddish grey color, like the skins of russet potatoes, and more or less like the color of oiled new leather, but so far as I know, there was never a shade or "color chip" developed by the Army for its russet leather. It was, plain and simple, natural undied material.

Joe

User avatar
Pat Holscher
Website Admin
Posts: 26739
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2000 6:51 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Holscher
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - Origin
Contact:

Post by Pat Holscher » Sun Dec 26, 2004 11:01 am

Originally posted by Joseph Sullivan
To key off what Pat and Dave J are saying, it is my understanding that russet is NOT specifically a shade of brown, but is simply natural leather that ages over time to shades of brown, tan, and even cordovan. The flight jackets were most certainly died in shades of brown, and were therefore different from saddlery and equipment that was not. In boots, sam Browne belts etc, there was latitude at least for officers. I have seen and owned true cordovan (horsehide with the burgundy color) belts holsters and pouches. I have seen some that appeared to be died brown. I have seen Cordivan and brown officer's boots. I have seen and handled a box of purported M1909 spur straps with the wide instep that were died brown on one side-- painted die rather than vat die. NONE of these items were of arsenal manufacture and I suspect that ALL were private purchase items.

None of the above was russet. It is true the russet is technically a kind of reddish grey color, like the skins of russet potatoes, and more or less like the color of oiled new leather, but so far as I know, there was never a shade or "color chip" developed by the Army for its russet leather. It was, plain and simple, natural undied material.

Joe
Picking up on this, it is interesting to note that the flight jackets are an anomaly in Army leather items, in that they were died seal brown. I suspect the original horsehide and the brown color contemplate their original use, as odd as that may sound.

Going back to the fact that they were horsehide at first, another aspect of that has to do with their contemplated use. Now the A2 is so strongly associated with fighter pilots of WWII that use is easy to forget. After all, WWII fighter pilots are really of our own era, with the pilots of P51s and P47s being easily associated with those of F86s and P80s, and ultimately the modern jet. Indeed, the A2 lasted into the early jet age, and I think Yeager may have worn one in some of the early rocket aircraft experiments.

But they were really designed in the open cockpit era, and the pilots who flew the P51s and P47s of WWII had started training in an open cockpit trainer. The open cockpit fighter was a thing of the very recent past in the USAAC of WWII, and a few open cockpit aircraft remained in use in the war. So the flight jacket needed to be able to withstand high wind velocities and keep the pilot form wicking off all of his heat. The horsehide jacket was good for that.

I've never heard an explanation for the seal brown color, but I also suspect it is related to those open cockpit aircraft. Sitting in the open cockpit aircraft of the 20s and 30s exposed the pilot to the oil and grease coming off the aircraft engines. Some of the pistons of rotary aircraft engines were exposed directly to the open air, and therefore to the air flowing into the cockpit. So I suspect the seal brown color contemplated an oil drenching from aircraft. A russet jacket would have been spotted at first, and then some dark oily color anyway.

On flight jackets, it is interesting to note that their use in WWII, and before the war, was much broader than now imagined. The A2 was also issued to paratroopers in the US Army at least in to 1944, where it was used as sort of a dress jacket. The A2 was also issued to bomber crews in addition to their B3 jackets, with one B24 veteran stationed in Italy (who had been a NG cavalryman before the war) telling me that he thought they were only good for show in town (given the high altitdue cold of B24 flight). The A2 was also worn by some high ranking officers as well, most notably MacArthur who wore an early horsehide one in WWII. Near A2 jackts, likely private purchases, were worn by some officers, with a famous Life Magazine photo of Lucian Truscott showing him wearing one, with breeches and riding boots, in Italy. Philip once put up a photo of some NG officers of the 1930s wearing leather jackets much like civilian motorcycle jackets, so informal leather jacket wearing extended pretty far.

And as noted, the Navy issued a jacket very much like the A2 to PT Boat officers. I suppose this reinforced their fighter pilot of the seas image at that time. I think this may have only been done right before, and very early, in WWII.

B3 jackets saw wider use than imagined also. The heavy sheepskin coat was also issued to ground crews at bomber bases, both overseas and in the States. I've sometimes wondered if there was a special pattern for general officers as well. Patton is famously depicted wearing a modified B3 in 44 and 45, which featured epaulets and triangular elbow patchtes (also a feature of some pre war Navy flight jackets), but I've seen at least one photo of the exact same pattern in use by another US general. I wish I could recall who, but I can't. However, Patton actually closely adhered to uniform regulations, in spite of his reputation, and the appearance of a second jacket like that being worn by a general officer in the US Army makes me wonder.

Of course sheepskin bomber jackets also seem to have been popular with senior British officers. However, above the rank of major, British officer seem to have adhered to nearly no uniform regulations at all during WWII.

Pat

User avatar
Pat Holscher
Website Admin
Posts: 26739
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2000 6:51 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Holscher
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - Origin
Contact:

Post by Pat Holscher » Sun Dec 26, 2004 11:11 am

Originally posted by dallas
Pat mentioned having to polish the roughout combat boot after WWII. I can attest to the fact that it could be done. Some men used lighter fluid and burned off the heavier pieces of the roughout. We all used many coats of Kiwi polish and a lot of elbow grease and got a pretty fair shine. Brings back a lot of memories.
Dallas Freeborn
I'll bet that does bring back the memories! Funny that the Army would twice adopt rough out boots in twenty or so years, to phase them out both times. Both times I think the appearance of them had something to do with it.

It has never occurred to me before, but it must have been the case that the Army issued some sort of boot dressing material for Pershing boots and M1943 boots to try to keep them water proof. What was it?

Pat

selewis
Society Member
Posts: 2153
Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2003 1:47 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Lewis
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - 3rd

Post by selewis » Sun Dec 26, 2004 11:14 am

Merry Christmas and sincere best wishes to all, here and abroad.

Some second and first hand knowledge to pass along. Shoer's aprons are made from mule hide because of its toughness. And motorcycle leathers used to be made from horsehide for the same reason. I'm told by friends who own some Harley Davidson products that this is no longer the case with modern 'leathers'. A drop in quality?

As to the natural color of leather which has been tanned using the most popular method of the last hundred years or so (chromium) it is bluish gray when the hides come out of the tumblers. It is then split and shaved to the desired thickness and then dyed to a 'natural' color, or not. Of course there are other processes used to tan leather than chrome but even these, I'm guessing, would produce something grayish prior to being dyed. The tannery in Peabody Mass. where I worked for a short time (thankfully) produced shoe leather. At the turn of the 19th century this region of the country was the largest leather producer in the world. Changes in the world economy and a series of devastating fires crippled the industry from which it never recovered. Peabody, Salem and Danvers still had a few relics from that era producing leather when I lived there in the 70's.

I would be curious to know if my surmise as to the gray color of 'Oak Tanned' leather and other 'natural' tanning methods is correct. Given the color of raw hides I would think that its not far off- but I'm used to being wrong.

Best, Sandy

User avatar
Pat Holscher
Website Admin
Posts: 26739
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2000 6:51 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Holscher
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - Origin
Contact:

Post by Pat Holscher » Sun Dec 26, 2004 11:20 am

Originally posted by selewis
Some second and first hand knowledge to pass along. Shoer's aprons are made from mule hide because of its toughness. And motorcycle leathers used to be made from horsehide for the same reason. I'm told by friends who own some Harley Davidson products that this is no longer the case with modern 'leathers'. A drop in quality?
As a nearly useless addition to this on my part, I'd note that I once had a cowhide motorcycle jacket vaguely resembling an A2 which I wore out. It had been purchased, over 20 years ago, at an HD vendor. In comparison the horsehide Averex A2 I have is so much tougher it isn't even funny.

A2 jackets became popular for some reason about a decade and a half ago. From personal use I can relate that a good one makes sort of a nice field jacket for certain types of Spring and Fall use, for people with some technical type field jobs, but they have to be a good one. The knockoffs that became widely available when they became popular do not even vaguely compare to the originals or one made to true original specifications, which are a very heavy duty item.

Pat

User avatar
Todd
Website Admin
Posts: 2388
Joined: Tue Nov 28, 2000 4:10 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Holmes
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - Origin

Post by Todd » Sun Dec 26, 2004 11:37 am

I looked around a few years ago, and only found one bunch actually making a horsehide jacket - just googled them, and they seem to be doing quite well. Much larger selection now, and price is about 60% less than it once was.

http://www.legendaryusa.com/category/11 ... de_jacket/

Todd

Dave J.
Posts: 247
Joined: Wed Dec 22, 2004 11:41 am
Last Name: Jacobs
Location: USA

Post by Dave J. » Sun Dec 26, 2004 12:28 pm

Originally posted by selewis
And motorcycle leathers used to be made from horsehide for the same reason. I'm told by friends who own some Harley Davidson products that this is no longer the case with modern 'leathers'. A drop in quality?
It's not a drop in quality. More of a drop in availability. Horsehide just isn't as available as it was in the 40's & 50's.

Also, more people are/were wearing the jackets for fashion rather than protection, and I understand the horsehide requires a break-in period.

Dave J.
Posts: 247
Joined: Wed Dec 22, 2004 11:41 am
Last Name: Jacobs
Location: USA

Post by Dave J. » Sun Dec 26, 2004 12:34 pm

Originally posted by Pat Holscher
A2 jackets became popular for some reason about a decade and a half ago.
Two words. TOP GUN. [:D] The return of the popularity also caused the Air Force to approve an updated A-2 for official use.

Joseph Sullivan
Website Admin
Posts: 3457
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2000 8:35 pm
Medals: 2
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - 7th
Contact:

Post by Joseph Sullivan » Sun Dec 26, 2004 1:23 pm

I don't know, Sandy. Not by any means an expert on this, but a few observations:

I own some indian home-tanned deer and cow hide items (more deer than cow) and have seen quite a few more -- and all are some shade of tan or brown. Also, the tanned hides of deer you shoot these days are tan. And, when I was in the luggage and case business, some tan colored leathers were called natural undied leathers and you could clearly see the blemishes in the leather. So I suspect what you were seeing was the result of the specific process.

Also, 19th century black leather is often black on one side, and tan on the other -- and the black shifts to brown with age.

Does anyone have a conclusive answer to this?

Joe

selewis
Society Member
Posts: 2153
Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2003 1:47 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Lewis
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - 3rd

Post by selewis » Sun Dec 26, 2004 1:36 pm

True enough, Joe. That would certainly seem to be the case with hides tanned by the American Indians. I wonder at what period in the process the color goes from rawhide to tan. Is this the tannin itself?

Sandy

User avatar
Pat Holscher
Website Admin
Posts: 26739
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2000 6:51 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Holscher
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - Origin
Contact:

Post by Pat Holscher » Sun Dec 26, 2004 8:12 pm

>Originally posted by selewis
True enough, Joe. That would certainly seem to be the case with hides tanned by the American Indians. I wonder at what period in the process the color goes from rawhide to tan. Is this the tannin itself?

Sandy
A friend of mine tans quite a few hides every year by traditional brain tanning methods. It's a hobby of is. Some of those hides, from elk and deer, are white unless smoked in the process.

Pat

User avatar
Pat Holscher
Website Admin
Posts: 26739
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2000 6:51 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Holscher
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - Origin
Contact:

Post by Pat Holscher » Sun Dec 26, 2004 9:13 pm

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Todd</i>
<br />I looked around a few years ago, and only found one bunch actually making a horsehide jacket - just googled them, and they seem to be doing quite well. Much larger selection now, and price is about 60% less than it once was.

http://www.legendaryusa.com/category/11 ... de_jacket/

Todd
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></blockquote id="quote"></font id="quote">

They're listing the Avirex jacket. In hunting around, I found that Avirex has a website too, although it is poorly organized, and I note they now sell it as the A2 "MacArthur".

Odd how use by a general, even if it is an issue item, can become so identified by them that the item becomes thought of as their design.

Was the officer's hat with the scrambled eggs an actual issue item? MacArthur certainly favored those, but I can't recall anyone else using one. Also, at least one biographer claims that MacArthur was responsible for pulling the stiffener out of officer's peaked caps which later came to be identified with aviators. He was doing that as early as WWI. In WWI MacArthur used quite a few peculiar clothing items, sort of the George Armstrong Custer, in terms of dress of the First World War.

Pat

User avatar
Pat Holscher
Website Admin
Posts: 26739
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2000 6:51 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Holscher
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - Origin
Contact:

Post by Pat Holscher » Sun Dec 26, 2004 10:00 pm

This archived thread has some nice photos in it donated by Ron Smith of officers of the 112th wearing leather jackets prior to WWII.

topic.asp?ARCHIVE=true&TOPIC_ID=800

Pat

Joseph Sullivan
Website Admin
Posts: 3457
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2000 8:35 pm
Medals: 2
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - 7th
Contact:

Post by Joseph Sullivan » Mon Dec 27, 2004 10:29 am

Could be that the tan color comes from smoking. Of course, although I cannot speak authoritativley, my observation has been that smoking is a usual part of that process. In fact, I was taught by my grandfather to smell the leather when buying indian beadwork and leatherwork. The texture combined with a smokey smell are good indicators of real home-tan. My experience has been that comnmercial vendors will get a goofy look and start talking fast if the "home-tan" they are trying to sell does not small smokey, and if it DOES have the smell they will give you a knowing smile and be more respectful.

It is a good idea to look for a "made in Taiwan" stamp, too. That usually indicates that the beads are not authentic.

Actually, I walked into an "Indian Trading Post" in Chinatown, San Fransisco, one evening, to see a couple of Chinese women making beadwork. Despite the obvious, they vigorously insisted that all the work they had was, er, er, oh yes, Cherokee. They then vigorously recommended that I shop elsewhere.

Joe

OH, Pat -- most "fair" leather oxydizes to darker and darker shades of tan. Does your friend's white leather go tan after a while? That could be another part of the answer.

J

User avatar
Pat Holscher
Website Admin
Posts: 26739
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2000 6:51 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Holscher
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - Origin
Contact:

Post by Pat Holscher » Mon Dec 27, 2004 10:35 am

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Joseph Sullivan</i>
<br />OH, Pat -- most "fair" leather oxydizes to darker and darker shades of tan. Does your friend's white leather go tan after a while? That could be another part of the answer.

J
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></blockquote id="quote"></font id="quote">

I don't know. He gives most of his hide work away, and I have not seen any of it that wasn't relatively new.

When my duaghter was born he gave us a pair of baby mocassins that he had made out of deer hide. They were really nice. We still have those, but they haven't really had a chance to oxidize much.

His new hide work has been quite interesting. He's used most of the native ungulate hides around here, so I've seen deer, elk and antelope. Antelope have a very thin hide, and the hair is hollow, so I've assumed that it would be difficult and messy to work with, but I don't know.

Pat

User avatar
Pat Holscher
Website Admin
Posts: 26739
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2000 6:51 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Holscher
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - Origin
Contact:

Post by Pat Holscher » Mon Dec 27, 2004 10:38 am

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Pat Holscher</i>
<br /><blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Joseph Sullivan</i>
<br />OH, Pat -- most "fair" leather oxydizes to darker and darker shades of tan. Does your friend's white leather go tan after a while? That could be another part of the answer.

J
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></blockquote id="quote"></font id="quote">

I don't know. He gives most of his hide work away, and I have not seen any of it that wasn't relatively new.

When my duaghter was born he gave us a pair of baby mocassins that he had made out of deer hide. They were really nice. We still have those, but they haven't really had a chance to oxidize much.

His new hide work has been quite interesting. He's used most of the native ungulate hides around here, so I've seen deer, elk and antelope. Antelope have a very thin hide, and the hair is hollow, so I've assumed that it would be difficult and messy to work with, but I don't know.

Pat
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></blockquote id="quote"></font id="quote">

Following up on this, and straying away from the main point of the thread, I've read where Indian women would strip dead soldiers of their boots to use the uppers for moccassins. I'd wondered about that until I saw deer hides tanned in their entirety. They are so thin in comparison to cowhide that it is very noticable. Cutting up the uppers on Army riding boots no doubt provided a much more durable leather to work with. Buffalo, of course, would be quite thick, and no doubt was used whenever possible.

Pat

Joseph Sullivan
Website Admin
Posts: 3457
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2000 8:35 pm
Medals: 2
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - 7th
Contact:

Post by Joseph Sullivan » Mon Dec 27, 2004 10:50 am

Buffalo, yes, and moose. The Ojibwa/Chippewa of the north woods still prize moose hide to make footwear for their dancing costumes. I have seen white antelope used for women's dance clothing (for those of you who are not aware, most of the better bead, quill and leather work made by American Indians is NOT made for commercial trade, but rather for themselves to wear in their big summer dances and powwows).

Just as an ironical side comment -- the Indians who participate in the dances usually in English call the clothing "outfits" but often enough "costumes" despite the fact that they are variations on their own ancient ceremonial clothing and have nothing to do with Hollywood or Halloween.

Joe

aircorps_usa
Posts: 52
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2002 12:01 pm
Location: USA

Post by aircorps_usa » Mon Dec 27, 2004 3:36 pm

I'm not an expert on this by any means but two different parts of my background might come to play here.

First, as the Air Corps guy...the A-2 Jacket originally dates to about 1935 +/- (I have the exact date somewhere). It, in turn, was a replacement for the Type A-1 leather jacket, also made of brown dyed horsehide and first issued about 1926+/-. (Note that, in the thirties, the Bureau of Aero, USN had a similar leather flight jacket to the A-1 but in green/OD dyed leather-don't confuse this with the Air Corps Type A-1 wool liner, in green/OD, that could be worn under the A-1 leather outer jacket) The A-1 jacket has similar lines and cut to the A-2 but has a button up front and a knit collar, like a letterman's jacket. The knit collar is the same brown wool knit as the waist band. The invention or, more correctly, the ability to produce them in quantity, made the "interlocking fastener" (zippers to those who don't know) an easier way of getting jackets on, off or slightly open, while wearing flying gloves, than the button type A-1 which is, perhaps one of the basic reasons for the change to the A-2. The Air Corps was so small in those days that the supplier(s) had no problem producing them in horsehide as the specs called for and, this was still the case in the mid to late 1930's when the A-2 replaced it as STANDARD. Though OBSOLETE, some A-1's were still in the supply chain when the War started. So, if you see a leather flight jacket in a photo, that appears to have a button-up front and no leather collar, it is probably an A-1 or, as often the case, a privately purchased one available from many of the period Officer Outfitters. But also, keep in mind, that many A-2's (as well as early shearling B-3's) had been made and issued prior to the outbreak of WWII so seeing them in photos that seem out of context of their commonly accepted dating of WWII, is not unknown. The early WWII era Navy leather flight jacket, similar to the A-2 and the predecessor to the Navy G-1, was, if memory serves, the M-442, which differed from the A-2 mainly in its brown mouton fur collar. The original specs here too, called for horsehide. However, those I've seen over the years, seem to be dyed a darker brown than the Air Corps A-1 or A-2's. As the number of horsehides was no where near the requirements of jackets needed, by as early as late 1941, specs were changed to cowhide. The Office of Strategic Materials started a huge program with ranchers to provide appropriate numbers of hides for military usage which, I imagine, included leather for Army boots and such as well. (As a note of interest, the Eastman Leather Company jackets, though not the cheapest, are probably the best repros available and, can be ordered in several of the original leathers including horsehide or even sealhide as some test A-2's were made in. The English chap behind the company has spent years collecting original spec info on virtually all USAAC, AAF, USN, RAF and GAF leather jackets, gloves, hats etc. I'll contact him and see if he has any material in his archives defining leather colors for the US.) When the Government and QMC development offices switched, in 1943, to the new, layered principle, of cloth clothing and eliminated leather flight clothing, ranchers/tannerys who had set up these huge facilitys were stuck holding the bag, with millions of useless hides. Legal action over these cancelled contracts lasted well beyond the end of WWII.

My other angle to this is that my web business, Wakeda Trading Post (http://www.wakeda.com), sells tanned hides and rawhides to Native Americans and crafters. The modern tanning process, sometimes referred to as Chrome Tanning, does turn out a leather that is almost a pale blue/gray. Bleaching turns the hides to white and they are then dyed, in vats to produce the required colors, or occasionally, smoked for the beige colors. On the other hand, in the original Brain-Tanning process, most well known thru Native American tanners, the hide comes out a white color. Most hides are then smoked, often repeatedly, to soften them. The reason they are smoked is that, if a non-smoked, brain tan hide gets wet it becomes permanently stiff. If they are smoked a number of times (each smoking adds a little yellow to the hide) then the hide can get wet and not stiffen up.

Finally, an aside on MacArthur...if I remember correctly, he had resigned his commisson in the Army, at some point between Wars, to become the head of the Phillipine Military though I don't recall his exact title. This is similar to Chennault's position with the Nationalist Chinese government-he too resigned his Commission to take that position. I believe that is where he first wore a "scrambled egg" hat as part of that country's dress uniforming. As to the leather flight jacket, he was known to frequent the Officers Club at Clark Field during his long period of service both to and in the Phillipines and held life-long friendships with many in the early Air Corps, probably the source of his A-2. Almost all of the well known names in the Army Air Forces of WWII had rotated thru Clark in the twenties and thirties as junior officers, when it often took 10-15 years to advance a single grade!

Hope this isn't too much so please pardon my verbosity.
doug taggart
the Air Corps guy

User avatar
Pat Holscher
Website Admin
Posts: 26739
Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2000 6:51 pm
Medals: 2
Last Name: Holscher
Location: USA
:
Society Member Donation - Origin
Contact:

Post by Pat Holscher » Mon Dec 27, 2004 4:41 pm

Originally posted by aircorps_usa
I'm not an expert on this by any means but two different parts of my background might come to play here.

First, as the Air Corps guy...the A-2 Jacket originally dates to about 1935 +/- (I have the exact date somewhere). It, in turn, was a replacement for the Type A-1 leather jacket, also made of brown dyed horsehide and first issued about 1926+/-. (Note that, in the thirties, the Bureau of Aero, USN had a similar leather flight jacket to the A-1 but in green/OD dyed leather-don't confuse this with the Air Corps Type A-1 wool liner, in green/OD, that could be worn under the A-1 leather outer jacket) The A-1 jacket has similar lines and cut to the A-2 but has a button up front and a knit collar, like a letterman's jacket. The knit collar is the same brown wool knit as the waist band. The invention or, more correctly, the ability to produce them in quantity, made the "interlocking fastener" (zippers to those who don't know) an easier way of getting jackets on, off or slightly open, while wearing flying gloves, than the button type A-1 which is, perhaps one of the basic reasons for the change to the A-2. The Air Corps was so small in those days that the supplier(s) had no problem producing them in horsehide as the specs called for and, this was still the case in the mid to late 1930's when the A-2 replaced it as STANDARD. Though OBSOLETE, some A-1's were still in the supply chain when the War started. So, if you see a leather flight jacket in a photo, that appears to have a button-up front and no leather collar, it is probably an A-1 or, as often the case, a privately purchased one available from many of the period Officer Outfitters. But also, keep in mind, that many A-2's (as well as early shearling B-3's) had been made and issued prior to the outbreak of WWII so seeing them in photos that seem out of context of their commonly accepted dating of WWII, is not unknown. The early WWII era Navy leather flight jacket, similar to the A-2 and the predecessor to the Navy G-1, was, if memory serves, the M-442, which differed from the A-2 mainly in its brown mouton fur collar. The original specs here too, called for horsehide. However, those I've seen over the years, seem to be dyed a darker brown than the Air Corps A-1 or A-2's. As the number of horsehides was no where near the requirements of jackets needed, by as early as late 1941, specs were changed to cowhide. The Office of Strategic Materials started a huge program with ranchers to provide appropriate numbers of hides for military usage which, I imagine, included leather for Army boots and such as well. (As a note of interest, the Eastman Leather Company jackets, though not the cheapest, are probably the best repros available and, can be ordered in several of the original leathers including horsehide or even sealhide as some test A-2's were made in. The English chap behind the company has spent years collecting original spec info on virtually all USAAC, AAF, USN, RAF and GAF leather jackets, gloves, hats etc. I'll contact him and see if he has any material in his archives defining leather colors for the US.) When the Government and QMC development offices switched, in 1943, to the new, layered principle, of cloth clothing and eliminated leather flight clothing, ranchers/tannerys who had set up these huge facilitys were stuck holding the bag, with millions of useless hides. Legal action over these cancelled contracts lasted well beyond the end of WWII.

My other angle to this is that my web business, Wakeda Trading Post (http://www.wakeda.com), sells tanned hides and rawhides to Native Americans and crafters. The modern tanning process, sometimes referred to as Chrome Tanning, does turn out a leather that is almost a pale blue/gray. Bleaching turns the hides to white and they are then dyed, in vats to produce the required colors, or occasionally, smoked for the beige colors. On the other hand, in the original Brain-Tanning process, most well known thru Native American tanners, the hide comes out a white color. Most hides are then smoked, often repeatedly, to soften them. The reason they are smoked is that, if a non-smoked, brain tan hide gets wet it becomes permanently stiff. If they are smoked a number of times (each smoking adds a little yellow to the hide) then the hide can get wet and not stiffen up.

Finally, an aside on MacArthur...if I remember correctly, he had resigned his commisson in the Army, at some point between Wars, to become the head of the Phillipine Military though I don't recall his exact title. This is similar to Chennault's position with the Nationalist Chinese government-he too resigned his Commission to take that position. I believe that is where he first wore a "scrambled egg" hat as part of that country's dress uniforming. As to the leather flight jacket, he was known to frequent the Officers Club at Clark Field during his long period of service both to and in the Phillipines and held life-long friendships with many in the early Air Corps, probably the source of his A-2. Almost all of the well known names in the Army Air Forces of WWII had rotated thru Clark in the twenties and thirties as junior officers, when it often took 10-15 years to advance a single grade!

Hope this isn't too much so please pardon my verbosity.
doug taggart
the Air Corps guy
Very interesting on both points, thanks!

Pat

Post Reply

Return to “Uniforms and related”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest