The Ike Jacket

Today’s post comes from Timothy Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. In honor of Veterans Day and those who have worn a uniform while serving their country, here’s the story behind the famous jacket now on display in our exhibit “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures.”

General Dwight D. Eisenhower considered the Army’s World War II military uniform to be restricting and poorly suited for combat. Instead he had a standard issue wool field jacket tailored to be “very short, very comfortable, and very natty looking.” The resulting “Eisenhower jacket” or “Ike jacket,” as it came to be known, was standard issue to American troops after November 1944. This “Ike jacket” was worn by Eisenhower.

One of General Eisenhower's jackets is currently on display in the "Making Their Mark" exhibit at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.
One of General Eisenhower’s jackets is currently on display in the “Making Their Mark” exhibit at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

Ike urged theater-wide adoption of the shorter jacket in a May 5, 1943, letter to General George C. Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff:

I have no doubt that you have been impressed by the virtual impossibility of appearing neat and snappy in our field uniform. Given a uniform which tends to look a bit tough, and the natural proclivities of the American soldier quickly create a general impression of a disorderly mob. From this standpoint alone, the matter is bad enough; but a worse effect is the inevitable result upon the general discipline This matter of discipline is not only the most important of our internal military problems, it is the most difficult. In support of all other applicable methods for the development of satisfactory methods we should have a neater and smarter uniform. I suggest the Quartermaster begin now serious work to design a better woolen uniform for next winter’s wear.

Ike’s argument won the day, and the “Wool Field Jacket, M-1944” debuted in the European Theater of Operations in November 1944. The iconic jacket continued to be issued to American troops until 1956, when a general phase out begin. The Ike jacket was gone from the Army inventory by October 1960, according to the US Army Center of Military History.

Buried in a plain Army casket and adorned in his namesake jacket, Eisenhower rests in peace in the Place of Meditation on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives (63-92)
Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives (63-92)

7 thoughts on “The Ike Jacket

  1. I joined the Air Force January 1956 and was issued the wool blue “Ike” jacket along with the blouse (suit coat likeness?) . I retired in 1976 from the Air Force and do not remember what happened to any of my former uniforms including the Ike jacket. We had many uniform changes during my career. Everyone back then loved to wear it. A side comment: I was part of the Air Force contingent that helped bury General Eisenhower in 1969 in Abilene Kansas. I was an Air Force SSgt and this was one of the highlights of my military career. Thanks for the memories General “IKE”!

    1. I joined the same year you retired. During my 6 years I saw the 1505 tans retired (1978), E4 Sergeant split into Senior Airman and Sergeant, the stars in the blue stripes removed except for Sergeant and higher, and all name tags and USAF tags on fatiques changed to subdued colors. I always felt that the USAF should not have fatiques but one piece jump/flight suits. Of course, all those on the “fat boy” program would have been identified much more quickly wearing those.

  2. I have another Eisenhower jacket question. If the soldiers did not wear them in combat and wore them while on leave or on the base would they have to wear a tie with the jacket.

    1. Yes, they would have to wear a tie. The US Army Uniform Regulations AR600-40 states that wearing the Ike Jacket would require the soldier to wear a tie in garrison or while on leave. The Ike jacket was considered a hybrid piece of uniform that functioned as both a field uniform and service uniform.

  3. I have my father’s Ike jacket; it fits my grandson! What was worn as shirt and pants with that olive-drab Ike jacket. I’d like to complete that set for my grandson.

  4. Being so short the Ike jacket had to be worn with trousers that went up to one’s bellybutton, at least. Unless one has a narrow waistline, these trousers tend to scoot down. Did Ike wear suspenders under the jacket? Suspenders were popular with men of his generation.

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