Work Outfit HBT
HBT Field Uniforms in WW II
Herringbone Twill (HBT) lightweight fabric was used for several styles of utility and field uniforms during World War II, replacing the former blue denim summer work uniform.
In 1938 the U.S. Army introduced cotton herringbone twill for summer weight coveralls. In 1941 the former blue denim summer work uniform was replaced by a new light shade olive drab HBT uniform consisting of a jacket-style shirt and trousers. The HBT uniform was originally intended to be only for work duty but quickly became the standard dress for all types of informal temperate weather activity, including combat, replacing the cotton khaki uniform. It was also used as an outer layer over wool shirt and trousers in very cold weather locations where more layers were needed.
Jacket, Herringbone Twill
The popular uniform jacket-shirt was made in several styles. The original 1941 pattern jacket (PQD 45) had a button front with lapels, two pleated breast pockets with angle-cut flaps, and adjustments by straps at the waist and buttons on the sleeves. Metal buttons with 13 stars and black paint were used, although plastic buttons for use in hot weather or inside armored vehicles were also issued. It can be identified by two closely spaced buttons at the sewn double hem.
In 1942 another pattern HBT jacket was introduced (PQD 45B), featuring square cut cargo pockets, side pleats, and a plain hem with only one button near the bottom. A further modification was the Special version of the same jacket (PQD 45C) with the addition of a gas flap and buttons at the back of the collar to attach a gas hood. Finally, in 1943, another pattern (PQD 45D) was the same as PQD 45C but made in the darker shade of OD called OD #7, mostly issued in 1944 or later. The 1942 pattern and its later variations are the most common, having been used in Europe and the Pacific for all types of service.
The size of these jackets was much larger than the size tag that was sewn into the inside collar. They were meant to be worn over other layers of clothing -- for example, the wool shirt could be worn under the HBT jacket for extra warmth in cold weather. If you picked the jacket for your normal size, and wore it alone, you were swimming in it.
Herringbone Twill Combat Fatigue Trousers
For each of the HBT jackets there is a corresponding pattern of the "Trousers, Herringbone Twill". The first, in 1941 (PQD 42), matched the jacket in the style of pocket and metal buttons. The second (PQD 42A) had cargo pockets with square cut flaps, like the 45B jacket, and a gas flap. With the gas flap, Special was added to the nomenclature. Spec PQD 45C came in 1943 with the only change being the color, now the darker OD #7.
Herringbone Twill Coveralls
The one piece coverall was part of the Army clothing inventory throughout the war. Originally issued only to mechanics and armor crews, the comfortable and inexpensive garment was later used by truck drivers, signal corps linemen, and also for general infantry use, especially the jungle version for troops in the Pacific. There were two main types issued to the Army before and during World War II.
1. Suit, Working, One Piece, HBT 1938
The one-piece herringbone-twill work suit was initially only issued to mechanics and to personnel of the Armored Forces. It was designed with a bi-swing back, a belt, two breast pockets, two patch hip pockets, a watch pocket and one leg pocket. Other than the mechanics and armored personnel, all other enlisted men received a two piece work suit (fatigues), also of herringbone-twill.
The right-hand breast pocket has a buttonless flap, a distinguishing feature of the 1938 Model I pattern. The suit is opened and closed by one zipper. The two back hip pockets are patch style, open without a flap cover. There is a buttoned pass through on one hip pocket.
The suit was popular due to its comfort and its resistence to dirt. Usage revealed numerous faults however, such as a tendency to shrink badly when first washed, and also the need to practically disrobe to urinate. Tank crews objected to the metal buttons which became too hot in summer inside a tank.
This suit was altered with a new spec issued in April 1942.
2. Suit, One Piece, HBT OD Special 1943
Improvements in the design of one-piece HBT suits were discussed within the OQMG during 1942 and 1943. After a February 1943 conference at the Philadelphia Depot, the design emerged changed in many respects. Because of the complaints about burns from hot metal buttons, the placement of buttons was changed so no metal touched the wearer's skin. Other changes: provide a single breast pocket with a pencil slot, eliminate the button and buttonhole from the hip pocket, adding a rule pocket to the right leg, changing the leg closure to a small tab, and substituting a plain back for the bi-swing back.
The final design was called "Suit, One-Piece, HBT, OD7, Special" incorporating all the design improvements plus flaps to protect from gas infiltration (hence the "special" designation). The specification was PQD No. 92F, dated 23 May 1944. The color was the newer OD #7, the dark shade of late war items. This HBT worksuit was one of the most versatile clothing items of WWII, widely used in a variety of roles throught the American armed forces. The suit was used by mechanics, linemen and infantry personnel alike.
The top front left pocket comes with a flap and a button, absent on the right side, This is a unique characteristic of the third pattern suit. The wide cotton waist belt has an OD plastic buckle.
In addition, there were WAC coveralls, in its own section below. An Army camouflage One Piece HBT suit is discussed on the Camouflage Uniforms page, a suit similar to a suit used by the USMC in World War II.
During 1942-1943, the work uniform for enlisted women assigned as mechanics or as chauffeurs, bus, or truck drivers was a one-piece coverall made of cotton jean cloth in the khaki shade. This uniform was worn by WAC officers only during unusual circumstances. The one piece garment was replaced in 1943 by a two piece outfit.