World War II was raging in Europe when General Dwight D. Eisenhower wore this jacket.
At the time, he was in a position of great authority—supreme commander of all Allied forces in Europe. He directed the D-Day invasion of Normandy, and after the German surrender oversaw the U.S. occupation of Europe. Later, "Ike" would rise to national prominence and serve two terms as president of the United States.
Eisenhower's powerful role in World War II belies his humble beginnings. He was born in 1890 in Denison, Texas, where his parents lived briefly before returning to Kansas where they had met and married. Ike and his six siblings-all boys-grew up in Abilene, Kansas. He once said of his childhood, "I have found out in later years we were very poor. But the glory of America is that we didn't know it then. All we knew was that our parents could say to us that opportunity was all about us. All we had to do was to reach out and take it."
Young Ike acted on his ambitions by securing an appointment to the U. S. Military Academy at West Point in 1911, graduating with the class of 1915. While assigned to the 19th Infantry at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, he met and married Mamie Doud.
Ike's military career over the next two decades was one of a steady rise in responsibility and rank. His assignments included organizing the 65th Battalion Engineers, commanding the Tank Corps troops at Camp Dix, serving in the Office of the Chief of Staff, and chief military aide and later assistant military advisor to General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines. He attended both the Army War College and the prestigious Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, graduating first in a class of 275.
Supreme Allied Commander
Just seven months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Eisenhower was appointed commanding general of the European Theater. After successfully directing invasions of Sicily and Italy, in December 1942 he was appointed supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. He directed the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June 1944, and shortly thereafter was promoted to General of the Army (five stars).
The jacket pictured here was both designed by Ike and actually worn by him. The original World War II uniform was considered by Eisenhower and many others to be poor for combat use because it fit badly and was restrictive. Ike wanted a "neater and smarter uniform" and designed this style which could be worn by itself or over layers. Standard issue for U.S. troops beginning in November 1944, it quickly became known as the "Ike jacket" after its creator. (See this and more images of Eisenhower in Kansas Memory.)
Eisenhower modified the basic design of the field jacket at least once. His tailor adapted it to be "very short, very comfortable, and very natty looking," according to an aide. Other officers also had the style tailored to suit their preferences, and a variety of modifications were made to the prototype of "Wool Field Jacket M-1944." Ike himself was known to have worn several versions featuring different pockets and waist tabs.
Although originally intended for wear in battle, most soldiers preferred to save the "Ike jacket" for non-combat situations.
Following the end of the war, Eisenhower served as Chief of Staff for the U. S. Army and then president of Columbia University before seeking the U.S. presidency. He served two terms, from 1953 to early 1961, and died in 1969 after a long illness.
This jacket came to the Kansas Historical Society in 1961, loaned by Ike's son John for a display celebrating the state's centennial. Eventually, ownership of the jacket and its matching trousers was transferred to the Society. Today the jacket is exhibited in the main gallery of the society's Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: Ike Jacket
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2003
Date Modified: May 2015
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.