About Army HBT Uniforms
Prior to the outbreak of WWII, the US Army issued a blue denim uniform for fatigue duties and used the cotton khaki shirt and trousers for a summer uniform. In 1941, a green uniform made from cotton herringbone twill (HBT) fabric was introduced to replace them for field and fatigue use. Shirts, trousers, coveralls and caps were produced. The HBT uniforms were issued to all Army personnel in all theaters of operations. The "first pattern" HBT uniforms were made from a lighter "sage green" color cloth. Closure was provided by metal tack buttons with a 13-star logo printed on the face. The jacket had two pleated breast pockets and a waistband. The trousers were constructed with internal rear and hip pockets like the khaki cotton trousers.
In late 1942 this was replaced with the second pattern uniform, which became the most common field uniform of the War. The jacket had patch pockets and the waistband was eliminated. The hip and rear pockets were eliminated on the trousers and were replaced with two cargo pockets. In 1943, the color of the fabric was changed to a darker green "olive drab No. 7". A third pattern exists, which differed only by having folded pleats on the breast and cargo pockets.
The HBT jackets were made greatly oversized as they were designed to be worn over the field jacket. Although the trousers were not so oversized, many troops wore them over their M1937 wool trousers as the HBT was more durable than the wool serge during hard use. The HBT coveralls were intended for vehicle and aircraft mechanics but, as with most US uniforms, troops from all branches of service acquired them.
Issue, Use and what's "correct":
All army soldiers received one or more sets of "fatigues". The first pattern HBT's were issued until stocks were exhausted. From examining production and pattern dates on labels in original uniforms, most 1st pattern uniforms are dated 1941 or '42 while the majority of 2nd pattern uniforms are dated 1943 or 44. However, the 1st pattern uniforms were not all discarded on 1 january 1943 as some fools may claim. They were used until the end of the War- it is not difficult to find them in original photographs and newsreels taken during the fighting in Normandy in the summer of 1944. Nevertheless, after the North African Campaign, the 2nd pattern uniform is definitely predominant.
2nd pattern uniforms were made in both the standard design and a "Special" with gas flaps. Both variations were made in sage green and od#7. We have made both of our 2nd pattern HBT's in the standard configuration.
Both designs and colors were issued concurrently and likely indiscriminately- for any impression from early 1943 onwards there is no "right" or "wrong" HBT uniform. Pick the one you like best or, if you are in a reenacting/ living historically outfit, ask your unit leader for guidance on their preference.
Coveralls were not just worn by mechanics and vehicle crews. They were issued to many other units- including the airborne and First Special Service Force as a training uniform. What the criteria was to use these rather than the two-piece uniform is unknown. There are two patterns of coveralls- the main difference being in the pocket designs. Both were made in sage green and od#7 color HBT and there was no special meaning to the patterns- they were simply a change in the contract specifications.