The M-1943 Field Ensemble was meant to be the standard uniform of the United States Army during World War II. While it generally reached most infantry units by the end of the war, the older and outdated uniforms and garments of the early war still remained in use.
The basic uniform consisted of the M-1943 Field Jacket, M-1943 Field Trousers, M-1943 Combat Service Boots, either an M-1943 Field Cap or M1 Combat Helmet, M3 Gas Mask, and M-1943 Entrenching Tool. The jacket is perhaps the most significant portion of the uniform, especially considering that due to shortages, most American infantry only ever received the M-1943 Jacket, perhaps along with some additional equipment. It wouldn't be until late 1945 that most American infantry received their full uniform.
The jacket itself had four pockets on its front and was made with the same water-repellant cotton as its accompanying trousers. Designed as a layered system, the jacket was to be worn over the standard M-1943 HBT wool shirt with sweaters, scarves, and other cold-weather garments as further accessories if need be. Notably, the jacket also came equipped with a detachable hood for use as needed. The color of the jacket was initially a light olive-drab, but was gradually darkened later on. However, it is important to note that some jackets simply had different shades of olive-drab due to production variations.
In practice, the M-1943 uniform performed better than expected, providing a reliable and comfortable uniform that was far better suited for combat than the previous M-1941 Field Ensemble, particularly more so than the M-1941 Field Jacket which in reality was better for civilian life than actual fighting.
The M-1943 Field Ensemble first began its development by the US Army Quartermaster Department in response to American needs for a new uniform that provided more protection from the rigors of combat and the effects of the weather as well as a uniform that would replace all the various specialized garments and add-ons plaguing American logistics. By March 1943, the principle of layering had been decided upon and by November that same year, the full uniform had been put together. The first examples of M-1943 Field Ensembles being used were by the 3rd Division in Anzio in early 1944. While individual soldiers praised the uniform, Allied commanders such as Omar Bradley were reluctant to accept it, finally putting aside their thoughts for the uniform only when shortages of uniforms in mid-1944 forced them to issue it.
Because other necessities such as food, water, and ammunition were given higher priority in combat zones, battles in the ETO in late 1944 could often see American infantry wearing everything from inferior M-1941 jackets to tanker's jackets, with some M-1943 uniforms spread out amongst them. The exceptions to this sparse use of the M-1943 were the airborne divisions, 82nd and 101st who required uniforms prior to Operation Market Garden as well as new infantrymen coming in from the United States. It wouldn't be until late 1945 that the M-1943 had finally replaced just about all old uniforms in the ETO, with thousands of examples produced in all.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 https://atthefront.com/HR/us/uni_M1943_Field_Uniforms.html
- ↑ Mollo, Andrew. The Armed Forces of World War II:Uniforms, insignia, and organization. Orbis Publishing Limited (1981), Page 235
- ↑ http://olive-drab.com/od_soldiers_gear_m1943_jacket.php
- ↑ http://www.history.army.mil/html/museums/uniforms/survey_uwa.pdf