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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Eisenhower Jacket; custom tailored World War II; size 38; 5-star rank of General of the Army on each shoulder; sold for $43,875. Photo courtesy of Alderfer's Auction.
Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower requested a simple $80 government-issue casket when he died in 1969. A $115 glass seal was added.

Eisenhower was laid to rest in his World War II uniform: pink trousers and one of the olive green “Ike” jackets he made so famous. As a five-star U.S. General and one of the most decorated military figures in history, his jacket had only three medals on it at the time of his burial. They were the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit.

For a man who boasted about growing up in the “heart” of America (Abilene, Kansas), it was a simple and fitting send off.

As supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe, Eisenhower had his opinions about World War II uniforms. He felt the standard issue field jacket didn’t fit well and was too awkward for combat. He wanted a neater and smarter look.

Ike came up with a field jacket design similar to the British battle dress jacket. Practical, roomy in the shoulders with concealed buttons, the jacket could be worn alone or layered.

For the first time in almost 50 years, an enlisted man's jacket had inside breast pockets as well as two outside pockets. As standard issue for U.S. troops beginning in November 1944, it was nicknamed the "Ike jacket" after its creator.

According to an aide, Ike modified the design at least once by shortening it and making it more comfortable. He wore several versions of the jacket each with different pockets and waist tabs.

Inside the pocket was a label and date of issue, “Gen D. Eisenhower 3/45.” The jacket was part of Ike’s wardrobe during the end of the war in Europe.

With so many movies being made today about World War II, interest in collecting military memorabilia has grown. Some collectors hunt for jeeps and tanks others look for uniforms, patches, medals and helmets.

Soldiers took a lot of pride in their uniforms and most World War II uniforms are named in some way. Often the name is stamped or written onto a tailor’s label. Sometimes you’ll find a monogram label on the interior lining.

The date of a jacket is not difficult to figure out because it’s usually still there. In an enlisted man’s coat the manufacturer’s tag may be in the front right pocket. In the Ike style field jacket it could be on the interior breast pocket. Many tags will have a pattern date as well as a manufacturing date.

There were millions of uniforms produced during World War II so authenticity is always a consideration. If the uniform looks brand new, it probably is. You’ve got to look at the garment as a whole.

The best recommendation is do your homework. If you’re new to this area of collecting study reference books to get a feel for what you’re interested in collecting. Education is power. You’ll need to learn the subtle distinctions of the field.

On Sept. 9, Alderfer’s Auction in Hatfield, Pa., sold a custom tailored World War II Ike jacket belonging to Eisenhower for $43,875. The size 38 regular had the 5-star rank of General of the Army on each shoulder along with a Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces patch on the upper left sleeve.

The jacket came from the collection of James Mountain, owner of James Mountain Antiques in Ashburnham, Mass. What makes this particular Ike jacket so desirable is the fact that it came from the man himself. It doesn’t get any better than that.

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