Wednesday, 8 January 2014

US Army 5 Button Pullover

An Original Dead-stock Military Sweater

US Army 5 Button Sweater
I wonder what else Carthage Knitwear made?
As regular readers will know I love my knitwear. Spring is still some way off, but I recently began searching for something a little lighter than my North Sea Clothing Intrepid for the coming months.

My researches led me to the 5 Button US Army sweater. Military they may be, but they look fantastic, particularly the buttoned placket front. The olive drab is almost a light brown and works well with both denim and tweed.

US Army 5 Button Sweater
The 5 button placket front in all its glory.

A Bit of History

First issued in 1942, these jumpers replaced the earlier roll neck sweaters as part of a much needed overhaul in American Army clothing, most of which had been found unequal to the rigours of operations in Europe. 

Out went the heavy wool combined service & combat uniforms of WW1, in came Herringbone Twill (HBT) and the very modern idea of a layered combat uniform.*
Something was still needed to help keep troops snug in winter - this is where the 5 button jumper came in. Made of pure wool, it is however not a particularly heavy gauge knit - perfect for layering over / under shirts or jackets.
bakelite buttons
These look like the original Bakelite buttons.
Several places on the web sell these jumpers, but I was led back to Jerry at WPG, as he still has a few of the original items left.
This one dates from 1st December 1950, and is in such good condition I doubt it was actually issued. As with most military kit these sweaters were made by various contractors, here by Carthage Knitwear Corps. (I tried to find out more on them but to no avail, has anyone come across them before?)

In fit these jumpers are quite snug - a medium coming close to a 36" chest, and, reflecting the higher waistlines of the period, they're not cut particularly long.

US Army 5 Button Sweater
Ribbed cuffs and hem - a heavy duty pullover, despite a slightly light gauge knit.
WPG do also make repro versions - I've not seen them but it would be interesting to see how they compare.

If you're interested you can buy one here.

US Army 5 Button Sweater
Slightly rough button hole stitching perhaps, but it is 64 years old..
*Woolen Jeep Coats and Great Coats were still widely worn on winter combat operations however. Kit would have been issued until stocks were depleted, obsolete or not. Such was the clothing shortage in the ETO that GI's would sport whatever they could get hold of.

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