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. . .and What They Wore To The War

June 2024
1min read

American Flight Jackets, Airmen & Aircraft: A History of U.S. Flyers’ Jackets from World War I to Desert Storm


by Jon A. Maguire and John P. Conway, Schiffer Military/Aviation History, 256 pages, $59.95 . CODE: SFF-1

This big book makes it clear that the Second World War was the absolute golden age for leather bomber jackets. The same spirit that so exuberantly decorated the noses of fighters and bombers also enlivened what their pilots and crews wore into combat. The authors have assembled color photographs of jackets worn over seventy-five years, from the long leather flying coats of the biplane airmen to the nylon U.S.A.F. jackets on American pilots over Baghdad. Most of the decorations painted or patched on—leggy bomber maidens and battling cartoon figures—were aimed at fellow fliers, but some were intended to be understood only by a contingency audience. “Dear Friend,” the legend on some jackets reads in Burmese, “I am an Allied fighter. . . . I only want to do harm to the Japanese and chase them away from this country. . . .” The crudely rendered Bugs Bunnys, Popeyes, Devils, Red Skulls, underdressed cowgirls, “PanzerDusters,” “Kraut Krushers,” and righteous Wimpys are mostly appealing, and some of the bombers painted on leather have achieved a softening patina over half a century. Scenes of Hitler as a skunk or of Amazonian women straddling bombs pop with energy. Painted columns of bombs, such as the thirty stacked tidily on the breast scoreboard of Capt. Robert Vickers, tally an airman’s completed missions. “Long after the last flyer has gone west,” writes John Campbell in his foreword, “the jackets will remain as a memorial to those brave men and the world they fought to save.”

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