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Herringbone Twill Uniform
(1941 - 1945)

At the beginning of World War II, there were no suitable uniforms available for nurses working in field conditions. Hospital dresses and heels were appropriate for hospitals located in buildings, but certainly not for tents where it was cold, muddy and sanitation facilities were limited. Most of these women were forced to wear men's one-piece coveralls (1938 pattern) or two-piece shirt and trouser set made of herringbone twill (HBT).  The material was very durable, but too thick for hot summer days and too thin for winter days. Another disadvantage was that it did not dry properly after washing and faded.


The HBT coveralls introduced in 1938 were originally intended for mechanics and members of armored units, but due to the lack of specialized women's field uniforms at the beginning of the war, they were also issued to nurses serving in field conditions in the Philippines (1941-1942), North Africa, Sicily and even Normandy (1944). They were also used during basic training.

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Suit, Working, One Piece, HBT 1938

The 1938 men's one-piece suit, initially intended for mechanics and members of armored units, became popular among Army nurses serving in the field. At the beginning of the war, nurses received white hospital dresses made of poplin fabric and lace-up heeled oxfords, which were inadequate for field conditions. The women required clothing suitable for working in tents, such as trousers, coveralls, field shoes and warm socks. Since they could not purchase these items locally, they wore men's clothing in small sizes, which were often too large for them anyway.

A nurse from the Army Nurse Corps preparing dressings in a tent at the 13th Field Hospital

The 1938 HBT coveralls were designed with a belt, two chest and two hip pockets, a watch pocket and one pocket on the right leg. A distinctive feature of the 1938 pattern coveralls is the right breast pocket without a button. The suit is fastened with five metal buttons and both hip pockets are open (without lapels). The suit became popular because of its comfort and ability to resist dirt, but within a few years its shortcomings were discovered, and so in April 1942 it began to be modified and modernized, resulting in the final pattern (1943) in February the following year.

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Army nurses serving overseas wore 1938 coveralls at the start of the war due to a shortage of suitable women's field uniforms. The military rank and the Army Nurse Corps insignia were pinned to the collar. Women often combined this type of coveralls with the M-1 helmet and men's service shoes. The men's OD field jacket (M-1941) became popular in colder weather.

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Men's 1938 suit with "Daisy Mae" hat and basic equipment consisting of M-1936 belt and MIVA1 gas mask bag. This combination is an example of the uniform worn by nurses during basic training.

1st Lt. Vesta L. Hale, France.jpg


The 1943 pattern HBT coveralls were designed after men complained about the cut of the 1938 suit, which made it difficult to relieve themselves comfortably. The 1938 model was also fitted with metal buttons that caused burns, and last but not least, it shrank considerably after the first wash. The cut of the new type was altered so that an extra button was added to the crotch for convenient urination, and burns were prevented partly by the fact that no button touched the skin. Other changes included an extra pencil hole in one breast pocket, the addition of a ruler pocket on the right leg, and a different leg closure. The final design, labeled "Suit, One-Piece, HBT, OD7, Special", had many different improvements, e.g. protection against combat gasses – gas flap – a piece of cloth covering the chest and partly the neck. Other changes included a newer shade of olive green (Olive Drab 7), a belt with a plastic buckle and a front left pocket with a buttoned flap.

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Suit, One Piece, HBT, OD7, Special

The 1943 men's coveralls replaced the existing 1938 pattern. The main difference between the two models is the design of the pockets. This HBT working suit was one of the most popular uniforms of the U.S. Armed Forces. It was used by mechanics, tank crews, infantrymen and nurses.

Original photographs prove that the 1943 men's coveralls were also used by Army nurses serving in the field, but not to the same extent as the previous 1938 pattern. This was because by the time the final 1943 pattern was introduced, nurses had already received the women's two-piece HBT uniform, which was much more comfortable for their work.

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The revised pattern men's olive-drab herringbone twill (HBT) one-piece.jpg
Irene Wold (pictured left, with her friend Helen in Tlemcen, Algeria, in 1944) titled this


HBT coveralls for the Army Nurse Corps had been in development since the fall of 1942. The design resembled the working suit for the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. It buttoned up, had a collar that could be fastened high at the neck, a half belt that was sewn to the back of the suit and was loose in the front, two breast pockets with flaps, and two longer pockets with flaps on the legs.

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Suit, Working, One-Piece, Nurse’s

HBT coveralls designed specifically for Army nurses were the first attempt to create suitable clothing for nurses working in field hospitals. Unfortunately, their one-piece construction proved uncomfortable over time.

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Flight Nurses Resting Before 13-Mile Hike Bowman Field, KY, January 1944.jpg

At the back, the coveralls had a so-called "drop seat" – an opening that could be unbuttoned, which was supposed to make it easier for women to relieve themselves (so they didn't have to remove the entire suit). In practice, however, even this convenience proved impractical.

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Like the modified men's version of HBT coveralls, the nurses’ suit provided protection against poison gas in the form of a gas flap and adjustable sleeve and leg closures that could be tightened close to the skin to prevent gas vapors from penetrating the body. A suit so modified, not impregnated, was designated Special.

ANC coveralls are rarely seen in war photographs. They were mostly used during training in the United States, but there are also single examples from Italy, Normandy and the Pacific. The 1938 men's overalls were definitely used more extensively by nurses. 

One-piece work suits proved uncomfortable and impractical in practice (mainly for hygiene reasons), so a two-piece field uniform made of HBT material was soon standardized

Somewhere in Italy...tense scene in the operating room of the evacuation hospital near the


Women’s two-piece HBT set was a summer field uniform used in both Europe and the Pacific. This type of uniform came into use in 1944 and was designed not only for nurses but also for other female organizations serving in field conditions (e.g. Women's Army Corps and American Red Cross members).


The HBT shirt was worn with the collar spread or buttoned at the neck, had two flap pockets and darts at the waist for a better fit. A nurse’s caduceus was pinned on the left side of the collar, and military rank was pinned on the right side.


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Some shirts had metal buttons while others had plastic buttons. The shirt was always worn tucked into the pants. Like the other HBT uniforms, it provided protection against poisonous gasses and had adjustable cuffs (one button and two holes).

The HBT trousers were buttoned on both sides at the waist. There were two patch pockets on the front and an adjustable closure at the bottom of the pant legs.

Shirt, Herringbone Twill, Women’s, Speci

Shirt, Herringbone Twill, Women’s,


A tailored waist of standard fabric and design, for rough field work. The fitted collar can be worn open or closed; darts and pleats give trim appearance and allow for freedom of movement. To be worn with trousers, herringbone twill, women’s, special.

Trousers, Herringbone Twill, Women’s, Sp

Trousers, Herringbone Twill, Women’s, Special

Special women’s HBT trousers are well fitted slacks to be worn with shirt, herringbone twill, for field work and also for mosquito protection. They may be worn with or without leggings, have adjustable button closure on each side of the waistband and two large pockets.

Women's HBT uniforms came in only three, later four sizes – Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large. The limited range of sizes caused problems with fitting. In addition, the fabric was difficult to maintain because it tended to shrink after washing, faded, dried poorly overnight, and caused rashes. Nevertheless, by the end of the war, HBT uniform was widely used by nurses and other women serving in the United States military in all corners of the world.

Army Nurse Lt. Helen Flippe.jpg


In addition to the helmet, a common headgear among nurses was a woolen cap, known as the Jeep Cap. The double fold allowed it to be pulled over the ears for extra warmth. These caps were issued to both men and women. Another option was the Daisy Mae Hat, which was a HBT hat introduced in 1941. It was not uncommon to wear the HBT hat or the wool cap under the helmet – in winter for extra warmth, in summer to absorb sweat.

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Helmet, Steel,


The complete M-1 steel helmet worn by all combat units consists of a steel helmet with a canvas chinstrap and a liner with a leather chinstrap.

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Cap, Wool, Knit, M-1941
“Jeep Cap”

A knit wool cap with reinforced visor. The double fold can be pulled down over the ears for warmth.

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Hat, Herringbone Twill, M1941 “Daisy Mae”

The HBT hat was a popular choice among men and women serving in warm climates. It can be worn under a helmet or on its own. They were most used in the early stages of the war.

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The Daisy Mae Hat could be worn in several different styles (see photo below):

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Wool caps proved much more popular with most men and women, so the HBT hat was phased out starting in 1943. The HBT cap could be used as a replacement.

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Cap, Herringbone Twill

Light green work cap introduced in 1941. Occasionally used by army nurses. Pictured with the rank of 1st Lieutenant pinned on.

1945- U.S. Marine pilot teaches a nurse how to load a Springfield rifle before heading off

By prior arrangement and with the approval of the unit commander, it was possible to wear a men’s or women’s olive drab officer's garrison cap with the HBT uniform. This combination became especially popular in England.

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Cap, Garrison, Wool, Women, Officers’

Women’s banana-shaped garrison cap. The rounded shape was intended to fit better to hairstyles of the time.

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Nurses initially lacked suitable footwear for the harsh field conditions. They wore men's service shoes, which were often unsatisfactory because of ill-fitting sizes. In late 1942, women's field boots were developed in a style very similar to men's boots. They had rubber heels and soles. 


In winter, the nurses had the option of using overshoes that reached to mid-calf and protected their feet from the cold and snow. Some nurses serving in Europe could also be seen wearing non-standard paratrooper high leather lace-up boots (Jump Boots) in combination with the HBT uniform.

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Shoes, Service, Rubber Taps (Type II)

Men's ankle boots with smooth leather surface in red-brown color with rubber soles (reproduction).

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Shoes, Field, Women’s

A 4 ½ -inch laced shoes, similar to the Army field shoe, in proper design for women. They have 1-inch rubber heels and full rubber soles.

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Jump Boots

High lace-up boots with distinctive toecap (reproduction). Designed for American paratroopers, these comfortable boots quickly found many fans among other men and women serving in the military.

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Overshoes, Arctic, 4-Buckle

An Arctic type overshoe which will fit over the women’s field shoes and comes halfway up the leg for protection against snow and cold. They are made of woven, water-repellent, cashmerette upper and have rubber soles. The size of the overshoe corresponds to the size of the shoes.


Leggings protected shoes and trousers from dirt, water, prevented the penetration of poison gas to the skin and protected against mosquitoes. Their use was not compulsory. The leggings were always worn by lacing them on the outside of the legs, and a short strap was stretched under the heel to make the leggings fit better on the leg. At first, all nurses were issued with the standard men's M-1938 leggings, but later a new type was created especially for women, which differed from the original only in height. At the beginning of the war the leggings were produced in olive-green (OD3) and later in the darker olive-drab (OD7). There were three sizes to choose from, 1R, 2R and 3R, depending on the calf size.

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Leggings, Canvas, M-1938, Dismounted

Men's leggings for field wear. To be worn with men's service shoes or women's field shoes. The pair pictured is in a light OD3 shade and size 2R [Regular]. The hooks and eyelets are made of blackened metal.

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Leggings, Canvas, Women’s

Women’s canvas leggings are similar to the leggings worn by the enlisted men. They are for wear normally with the herringbone twill trousers for protection in the field and against insects.

Army Nurse Lt. Helen Flippe (2).jpg

In June 1944, the development of new field boots was started. They had a higher cut to better hold the leg (thanks to this, leggings did not have to be worn anymore). However, this type of shoes rarely appeared in combination with the HBTs, and when it did, it was towards the end of the war.

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Boots, Service, Combat, Women’s

This type of women's boot used by ANC and WAC members in field conditions was similar in appearance and construction to the men's combat boots. The form used for designing the combat service boots was identical to its predecessor, the classic ankle lace-up field boot. Therefore, both types of footwear provided comparable comfort.

1st Lt. E.M. Marty Gendron, Belgium, 1944.jpg


As mentioned above, the HBT material was too thin to provide enough warmth in winter. For this reason, another layer of clothing was often needed – be it a coat or one of the popular field jackets such as the OD field jacket, the winter combat jacket (Tanker Jacket) or, towards the end of the war, also the M-1943 women's field jacket.

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Jacket, Combat, Winter

The men's winter combat jacket, better known as the Tanker Jacket, was very popular with nurses serving in Europe because it was warm and comfortable.  This jacket is characterized by its high collar and knitted cuffs.

Captain Anne Roebuck receiving Bronze Star for valor from 1st Army Surgeon in Belgium, 18
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Jacket, Field, OD (M-1941)

The only women who were officially issued the OD field jacket were Army nurses. It was often worn in combination with the women's two-piece HBT uniform, as can be seen in the picture above.

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Jackets, Field, M-1943, Women's

Two-piece HBT uniform with women's M-1943 jacket. This combination can be seen in some photographs taken during the winter of 1944/45 and later.

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