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OD Alpaca-lined USMC Vests

Started by Bob Hudson , Jun 14 2007 04:44 PM

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#1 Bob Hudson

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 04:44 PM

Picked up two vests as part of a large grouping from the estate of a USMC Sgt Major. The vests are OD cotton with an alpaca lining. They each have a small tag in the collar area and one has the remains of a gauzy tag that looks like the material they used for those 1943 field jackets (the ones that had the label in the bottom right pocket). They were apparently made by DEMOTEX, which seems to have specialized in moth-proofing compounds, according a website that lists a catalog of old military research document. There is very little online though about Demotek.

I did find one source that ID's these as USAAF flyer's vests, and another source - a Japanese language website - show a Demotek coat with the US Naxy WWII-era contract labels. I also found two references to Demotek Navy bib overalls.

Of the two vests I have, one has an HBT patch of some sort sewn in at the colllar area. It's a very nicely done job and obviously not something a GI stitched up while sitting on his bunk.


odvest.jpg
odvestlabel.jpg
odvesthbtpatch.jpg

#2 Greg Robinson

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Posted 15 June 2007 - 04:10 AM

That dark brown alpaca pile lining reminds me of the lining used in Navy/Marine Corps parkas from the post WW2 thru early Korean War era. And that's probably when this Marine picked up this vest during a time when they had to make do with M1943 field jackets with no liners yet available.

#3 Bob Hudson

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Posted 15 June 2007 - 06:17 AM

That dark brown alpaca pile lining reminds me of the lining used in Navy/Marine Corps parkas from the post WW2 thru early Korean War era. And that's probably when this Marine picked up this vest during a time when they had to make do with M1943 field jackets with no liners yet available.


ljmilitaria.com has one on their site: it has handwritten references to Korea on it. pandkmilitaryantiques.com has one with an AAF patch and 1943 date stamp but it has snaps not a zipper. I'm starting to believe that there was an AFF version and a USN version.

#4 Johan Willaert

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Posted 15 June 2007 - 06:54 AM

I have a short version with white alpaca lining, no pockets and zipper up front...
No label nor markings at all...

Will post photo later tonight...

Johan

#5 Johan Willaert

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Posted 15 June 2007 - 08:05 AM

Here are the photo's of my similar vest.

It bears all signs of 'home-made' rather than factory production. Zipper is marked USA. Lower hips have two adjusting tabs. Fabric looks like M1941 Field Jacket fabric, lining resembles the lining of the winter overparka....

No history on this one, bought it in Belgium from another collector about 15 years ago....

Attached Images

  • UnknownVest_001.jpg
  • UnknownVest_002.jpg

Edited by Johan Willaert, 29 December 2011 - 01:27 PM.


#6 QED4

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Posted 15 June 2007 - 11:42 AM

These vest are most often attributed to the AAF but Ken Lewis' book show one with the Navy Amphibious Forces insignia drawn on the back and also in a government picture of Mountain Troop equipment one can be seen. So apparently they were used by just about everybody. I have never seen one with any label other than just the size and have wondered if maybe they weren't a PX item or something from the Red Cross or some other like origination.

#7 Greg Robinson

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 11:31 AM

Brig General Edwin Simmons, author of FROZEN CHOSIN......US MARINES AT THE CHANGJIN RESERVOIR, one of the MARINES IN THE KOREAN WAR COMMEMORATIVE SERIES, states that the Chosin few wore an "alpaca vest" in those early bad days of Nov-Dec 1950. So Forum Support's vest is a legit USMC Korean War item. As to who manufactured it.....don't have a clue. But Marines wore them under their field jackets.

Greg

#8 Bob Hudson

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 07:21 PM

Brig General Edwin Simmons, author of FROZEN CHOSIN......US MARINES AT THE CHANGJIN RESERVOIR, one of the MARINES IN THE KOREAN WAR COMMEMORATIVE SERIES, states that the Chosin few wore an "alpaca vest" in those early bad days of Nov-Dec 1950. So Forum Support's vest is a legit USMC Korean War item. As to who manufactured it.....don't have a clue. But Marines wore them under their field jackets.

Greg


Thanks Greg. Today I checked out the name on the one listed at ljmilitaria.com and it did belong to a Marine who served in Korea.

I think it is safe to say these were a USMC issue item, at least early in the Korean War.

#9 Bob Hudson

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 07:28 AM

[quote name='Forum Support' post='94482' date='Jan 13 2008, 07:21 PM']Thanks Greg. Today I checked out the name on the one listed at ljmilitaria.com and it did belong to a Marine who served in Korea.

I think it is safe to say these were a USMC issue item, at least early in the Korean War.[/quote]


It turns out that ljmilitaria.com has two of the vests listed.

The one on ljmilitaria that I mentioned above belonged to a guy name Jack Opsal (John K Opsal) who died 2004 here in Oceanside. Lee Jackson calls it a USAAF vest but I found his obit at http://nctimes.com/a..._0422_14_23.txt

Opsal's obit says "SAN DIEGO - John "Jack" Kenneth Opsal, 73, died Thursday, Nov. 18, 2004, at his home.

Born June 18, 1931, in Minnesota, he lived in San Diego for more than 30 years. He retired from self-employment. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the Korean War and was a member of the Chosin Few."


The other one on ljmilitaria.com is called a "Marine Tanker's Vest from Korean War era" and belonged to an RA Swank, USMC. http://www.ljmilitar...marine_gear.htm


This morning I found citations from two different books which show this as being a Marine issue item:

First, from: http://theforgottenw...d...6734&page=1

Book Review- "The Last Parallel"
« Thread Started on Nov 18, 2007, 5:58pm » [Quote]
First, let me start by saying I didn't like the way this book was written. It's basically the guy's notebook diary from the last few months of the Korean war. Sometimes it rambles, and the guy sounds like some kind of wannabe academic. Skip the first 30 pages or so, it's just about him being dramatic and trying to get laid before he left.
After saying all that, If you have any interest in the last phase of the war, or small unit action and patrolling, then you really have to read this one. The whole book is basically this guy going on patrols, and the guy included sketches of terrain, positions, ect. He was a Marine, so I'll be looking for similar books by Soldiers in order to compare. The sketches make it probably one of the easier to follow military books I've read.

Things of interest to reenactors/Living historians:

This guy served with 1st Ordnance battalion and with 1st Marines. He gives a list of what winter gear he was issued before he left (Oct 27, 1952). And I quote:

Canvas clothing bag, waterproof
Mountain brush (a small whisk broom, for mud and snow)
polarized sunglasses
trouser suspenders
shell gloves (rough chamois)
wool gloves, two pairs
mittens w/ trigger finger
mitten inserts
winter underwear (long johns), two pairs
parka w/ hood
cotton cap
wool scarf
alpaca lined vest w/ zipper
high necked wool sweater
cold weather trousers, two pairs
mountian sleeping bag
thermal boots




and then from http://tinyurl.com/2dg8bhv "The Outpost War: Us Marine Corps in Korea : 1952
By Lee Ballenger":
Posted Image



#10 Bob Hudson

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 09:39 AM

Thanks to Lee-Jackson Militaria http://www.ljmilitar...marine_gear.htm for giving us permission to use photos of the Korean War USMC alpaca vests they have listed for sale.

This first one is marked "R.A. SWANK (1113400) U.S.M.C." (Greg found out that R A Swank retired in July 1972 (1949-1972 service) as a Master Gunnery SGT. ):

swankvest.jpg

This next one belonged to the above mentioned Korean War Marin Jack Opsal and the writing on the vest says "'50 KOREA '51" and "Jack Opsal loves Julia....", printing on front reads: “Have No" and "J. K. Opsal." This is the vest that was ID'ed as Army Air force, but ljmilitaria said they will change it now that we've sent them Opsal's obituary showing his USMC service:

opsalvest.jpg

I don't know what Lee-Jackson is asking for these vests but I have seen them selling for $40-80 until recently when this one was ebay sold for $405! It has a post-Korean War EGA stenciled on the front and a name written on the back (but that photo is no longer on the listing since the sale closed). What amazes me is that two people stayed in the bidding up to the $400 range and a third bidder stayed in up to the $178 range. A couple weeks after this sale another one was listed on ebay (by a different seller) and it "only" went for $89. So looks like whomever paid $405 was was willing to pay an extra $320 or so for a non-period EGA (: What's that saying about a fool and his money? While writing this post I checked ebay for other such alpaca vest and bought for a $45 buy it now price. It was called a "WWII USAAP Alpaca Flying Vest" (that's what they wrote: USAAP).

405vest.jpg

What amazes me is that two people stayed in the bidding up to the $400 range and a third bidder stayed in up to the $178 range. A couple weeks after this sale another one was listed on ebay (by a different seller) and it "only" went for $89. So looks like whomever paid $405 was was willing to pay an extra $320 or so for a non-period EGA (: What's that saying about a fool and his money? While writing this post I checked ebay for other such alpaca vest and bought for a $45 buy it now price. It was called a "WWII USAAP Alpaca Flying Vest" (that's what they wrote: USAAP).

These vests have long been seen primarily as an Army Air Force item but I am finding much more concrete evidence of Marine Corps?Navy use than AAF use.

In this thread we have citations from three books positively linking them to Marine issue in the Korean War and between the two vests on http://www.ljmilitaria.com/ and the two I got from the estate of a Sgt Major we have four positively ID'ed to KW Marines, and as reported elsewhere on this thread "Ken Lewis' book shows one with the Navy Amphibious Forces insignia drawn on the back."

But in doing extensive Google searches I can so far find no concrete proof these were actually used by the Air Force. pandkmilitaryantiques.com used to have one listed with an AAF patch but that had snaps not a zipper. The only citation I can find for these as an AAF item is a picture of this style vest on page 65 of Combat Flying Clothing by C.G. Sweeting. As someone wrote, "According to the book, these were used in the later part of WWII, but never had an official nomenclature designation, so also no tags inside." Does anyone have Sweeting's book with that photo or examples of their use by the Air Force?

#11 Bob Hudson

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 09:51 AM

One more discovery today: some of these vests have a label which says "DEMOTEX-ED" - I found out that is indeed a mothing process and apparently not the maker of the garment. Here's a couple of items with this label including a WWII Navy jacket:

pantsdemotex.jpg navydemotex.jpg

and here's the label from one my vests:

Posted Image

We also have here a clue to who may have made these vests: notice the one label says "Timme Tuft" - that was a brand name of E.F. Timme & Sons which specialized in alpaca clothing in the 40's and 50's.

#12 Rustykamel

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 10:37 AM

Hi, Attached is picture of the vest that belonged to my father, who wore it as a 1945/46 North China Marine. He put his name over the first owner. There isn't any inside label stating who made vest.

Jim
forum_vest.jpg

#13 Greg Robinson

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 11:00 AM

Jim,
With that service number your dad must have enlisted in the Marines pre/early WW2.

Now I wonder when those vests were made. In the Marines in Korea Commemorative Series book I own is a reference to to a "Marine Corps 1943 Cold Weather Uniform". And the Marines had to deal with cold weather when they went to Iceland prior to WW2. So the Marines had been there and done that with frigid temperatures before they went to Korea in 1950.

#14 Rustykamel

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 12:09 PM

Jim,
With that service number your dad must have enlisted in the Marines pre/early WW2.


Hi, 245885 dates from October 1934. The photos that I've seen of pre-war Marines in cold weather usually pictured greens including green overcoat. I know that there were exceptions, but I doubt very many. I can remember my father's 1930's shooting jacket as being sort of handmade, and perhaps any of the unusual clothing items were private purchase or not factory made. So, my guess is the vest is circa WWII.

Hope this helps, Jim

#15 Bob Hudson

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 12:26 PM

So, my guess is the vest is circa WWII.

Hope this helps, Jim


Yours is immediate post-war as are all of the references to them - I think these were post-War. Did your dad serve in Korea?

In the one post above we have two different Marines saying the vest was issued with the most direct being the one about "This guy served with 1st Ordnance battalion and with 1st Marines. He gives a list of what winter gear he was issued before he left (Oct 27, 1952)."

I just found what is now the fourth book showing these as Marine Corps items (plus one book showing one with Navy Amphibious Forces insignia drawn on the back).

The latest is from The US Marine Corps Since 1945 By Lee Russell:

chosinvest.jpg

#16 Rustykamel

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 12:40 PM

Hi, The best that I can do to date the vest is to say that my dad served Mar. 1945 to Mar. 1946. This was with the Sixth Division, and mostly in Tsingtao, China. This vest had been issued to a Marine before my father. If post-war, then very, very early post-war.

Best wishes, Jim

#17 Bob Hudson

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 01:03 PM

Hi, The best that I can do to date the vest is to say that my dad served Mar. 1945 to Mar. 1946. This was with the Sixth Division, and mostly in Tsingtao, China. This vest had been issued to a Marine before my father. If post-war, then very, very early post-war.

Best wishes, Jim


Was he the Harry C Shaw who was in Shanghai in late 1937 and early 38? Have you posted a thread about him? That would be interesting reading. I clicked your link but that did not work.

#18 Rustykamel

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 01:51 PM

Was he the Harry C Shaw who was in Shanghai in late 1937 and early 38? Have you posted a thread about him? That would be interesting reading. I clicked your link but that did not work.


Hi, Yes, the Harry C. Shaw you found is my dad. He went by Chad Shaw, but Harry true first name. The web site I have, or had, pictures the Marine art and photographs he took while stationed on Guam and in Shanghai during 1930's. The photo captions are my own. I've received permission from Dirk and Matt to embellish with some of their China Marine research. I also feature some post-war Tsingtao items, plus two stories from my friend Don Dull, USMC. Don was First Division MP who served in Tientsin. What I tried to do was show how Asiatic Station Marines related to locals during 1930's. My small local internet server, wclynx. crashed over a week ago. So far, no luck in getting back on line quickly.

Best wishes, Jim

#19 doyler

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 11:10 PM

I have a couple of the vests and one is from a veteran of the 5th Pioneer Battalion.He served on Iwo and was wounded there also.This was part of a fairly large USMC clothing group that walked into a Kansas City gunshow and was purchased by a friend of mine.There were several M41 field jackets,HBT shirts,socks,t- shirts,M43 field trousers etc.Some items mint some not,most all were named or had initials of the owner.I havent confirmed it but I suspect he went on to Japan or China for the occupation period.He wasnt in during Korea.From all of the woolen socks and long underwear in the group I figured he went to China.

I have also heard the theory these were issued to the Para Marines for a vest under the smock.In my opinion they were issued Corps wide as a cold weather liner.Also not unusual to see them in Korea as we all know the Corps never threw anything away and were the last to get the newest and latest gear http://www.usmilitar...tyle_emoticons/default/evilgrin.gif

Edited by doyler, 14 January 2008 - 11:13 PM.


#20 Bob Hudson

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 09:44 PM

Hi, Attached is picture of the vest that belonged to my father, who wore it as a 1945/46 North China Marine. He put his name over the first owner. There isn't any inside label stating who made vest.

Jim


Well Jim we found some photos of the Marines wearing them in post WWII Japan. There actually was a question about them in a post on this forum: http://www.usmilitar...showtopic=11116

It included this photo and mentions that these are seen on Marines in occupied China and Japan:

Posted Image

There are photos from this series of the 2nd Division in Japan at http://s98.photobucket.com/albums/l271/flyboy1592/2nd%20Marine%20Division%20in%20Japan/ and some also show the vests being worn.

One photo shows a 6th Div Marine wearing one in China: http://i98.photobucket.com/albums/l271/flyboy1592/6th%20Marine%20Division%20in%20China/6thDivisionMarinesChina1946.jpg
Were these a quick and easy solution for occupation Marines needing some cold weather protection after several years of being pretty much equipped for tropical weather?


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