Some of the most desirable military items out there to collect are WW2 US Airborne uniforms. In particular, anything from the 101st Airborne Division, who were depicted in the hit series Band of Brothers. Named items from either the 82nd or 101st Airborne are now super rare and command vast prices. However, there are also less expensive examples of unnamed Airborne jackets on the market.
The US Army designed the M42 parachutist’s jacket to be worn underneath a soldier’s combat equipment and parachute. So generally when you do find these jackets, they are worn and well used. But below we have found a few examples for sale which are in great shape.
An exceptionally clean M42 Jump Jacket
First up, this stunning example has its original Philadelphia Quarter Master’s label in the pocket, which reads “COATS, PARACHUTE, JUMPERS”, along with the manufacturer’s name and date of contract. Any Airborne tunic with a label still inside is a real bonus for the collector and it does add value. All of the pockets are fastened using press-stud poppers and the zips on this one are in good working order, too.
The size is a 38 inch chest, long jacket, which you can see from it being marked 38L on the label. This is a reasonably big size for a paratrooper during WW2 as they tended to be the smaller guys. There wasn’t a whole lot of space in C47 (the plane they would have jumped out of) and there was also a combined weight limit. Each paratrooper would carry around 70 pounds’ worth of gear (~30kg / ~4 stone 10lbs) so the smaller the actual soldier was, the better!
This jacket is for sale by The Collector’s Guild in the USA. $2,025.
M42 US Airborne Jacket and trousers with reinforced pockets
This is a rare matching pair of khaki airborne trousers and M42 jacket. The jacket does not appear to be size marked anywhere but it is a reasonable size – approximately a 36-38-inch chest. The trousers are around around a 34-inch waist. They still have an army laundry number stamped inside and the remains of the manufacturer’s label inside the jacket pocket.
Interestingly, this pair have reinforcing on the pockets which is sewn on in the typical brownish thread. The trousers have a Talan marked zip and the jacket has one made by CONMAR – both of which are period correct and are in good working order.
This set is being sold by Clements Militaria in Holland. €3,995.
Large size 101st Airborne Jump Jacket
Below is another Airborne M42 jump jacket in fabulous condition. It belonged to a staff sergeant in the 101st Airborne as seen from the badges on the sleeve.
The size is approximately a 38-40-inch regular chest, which again is a great display size. This is something to consider when buying any uniform. As usual, there are a couple of laundry numbers stamped on the inside, as well as the two zips which are both marked SERVAL USA. On the shoulder it has an American-manufactured one-piece 101st Screaming Eagle badge. This has been hand sewn onto the jacket, probably by the soldier himself.
The vendor of this jacket is located in Normandy, so it could be worth asking if they have any history with the jacket and if it was found in the area. If you can get hold of any provenance with a jacket like this, it can add real value later – if you come to re-sell it.
Available from Selles Military Antiques €2,775.
101st Airborne ‘Screaming Eagles’ Shoulder Patch
The 101st Airborne became known as the “Screaming Eagles” because their insignia depicts a bald eagle – often referred to as “Old Abe” – on a black shield. The eagle was originally used as a mascot during the American Civil War by the Wisconsin Regiment. He was supposedly named in honour of US President Abraham Lincoln.
On D-Day the men of the US 101st Airborne were some of the first men to land in Nazi-occupied France. Their insignia is very distinctive and as various manufacturers made them – both in England and in the US – they are now a must-have in any collection.
This example is being sold by ICMS Militaria in Holland. ICMS are located close to where the 101st landed as part of Operation Market Garden. €165.
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