England – 1942 The American Heavy Bombers Arrive

When the Flying Fortress B17, and the Liberator B24 Heavy Bombers flew over to England in early 1942, their bomber crews took the best leather bomber jackets on the planet with them. What were they, you ask? The Military Issue Type A2 Leather Bomber Jacket and the Type B3 Bomber Jacket made of pure 100% Sheepskin.

They arrived in February 1942 at the USAAF Headquarters in High Wycombe, England. Just a few miles north of London. In Europe, flying a little over 30,000 feet, found the air crews facing horrible and formidable temperatures made even more harsh by the winds. Not a kind environment for the kind of battle they were going to face. With temperatures at that height dropping to over -65°, the B3 jacket protected the crew. And it came with sheepskin trousers and heavy lined boots. Many pilots and crew wore their A2 bomber jackets under their B3 for added warmth. This was pure cold at an altitude in an environment that lacked oxygen as well.

In images of the day, especially in a colored image, the Bomber Jackets can appear slightly different on tone, texture, and color. The reason for this is rather simple. So many different shades of hides, from horsehide, goatskin, cowhide, and sheepskin were all being produced into many different styles of leather bomber jackets and flight jackets. Many thousands had to be produced on the double, and this meant that a lot of small leather apparel workshops and mom & pop leather workshops went into overdrive to produce the A2 leather bomber jacket and the B3 sheepskin bomber jacket, plus the Navy’s G1 leather flight jacket. It was impossible to keep every leather bomber jacket the same shade of color and texture. Production was the key, not the quality of shade of color. Slight differences were accepted by the Department of War and the Quartermaster’s Agency. As for Sealskin – it was out. Too many jackets were needed and that need was immediate. There was no time for hunting up seals to make jackets. America used what was at hand to fill its needs.

Leather, like all of the war materials, was precious to the Military effort. Aluminum pans and parts, used leather, cotton, tires, silverware, were just a few of the materials saved and given over in huge war drive piles to support the war effort. People went without meat and salt, lard, butter, and a sever reduction in gas usage. Many folks just drained their autos and trucks of fluids and parked them on blocks until the war was over. The tires were taken off and donated to the war effort. New clothes were rare as cotton and wool were needed for the troops. Even women went without nylons on their legs. Nylon, cotton and silk blends were used for various war needs, like parachute materials, handles on ammo cases, boot-linings, hats, other forms of linings, aircraft seats, bedding, and all those uniforms.

When the Americans arrived in England with those heavy bombers, the American War Material Effort was just getting revved up back home to high speed. The cold the American’s would face would be conquered over the next two years with the use of the leather bomber jacket and the new heavy duck canvas ‘heated jackets’ and flight gear.

It was clearly more than just heavy bombers, crews, and their weapons that arrived in England that February in 1942. The A2 Leather bomber jacket and the B3 Sheepskin bomber jacket had also arrived right alongside the total American Material War Effort. These important bomber jackets right along with all of the materials needed, provided the war effort with the whole package needed for victory.

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