Military and wartime antiques and memorabilia include an enormously wide variety of objects. From the battlefield, there are the uniforms, wristwatches, medals, buttons, and trench art worn, used, and created by those on the front lines. On the homefront, there are the war and propaganda posters produced to keep morale high in difficult times, the postcards mailed to and received by loved ones, and the memoirs and history books written during and after conflicts for the benefit of future generations.

Many pieces of militaria were created for the protection of military personnel. Literally at the top of the protection pyramid are helmets, which evolved from the armor worn by knights in days of old. Like those helmets, some early military helmets protected the head, neck, and face. Other helmets put their emphasis on the visual impression they’d have on the enemy, with nasty-looking spikes on their crowns, as seen in the Pickelhaube, which was worn by members of the Imperial German Army beginning in 1842.

For their part, British troops of the late 19th and early 20th centuries repurposed the medieval kettle hat into a safari helmet made from pith, a lightweight material derived from an Indian swamp plant. Though pith helmets appear stylish to contemporary eyes, metal provided better protection, which led to the grey, blue, or green helmets of World War I. Examples of these easily mass-produced helmets include the French Adrian helmet and the German M16. World War II helmets were simpler still, mostly consisting of plain metal domes such as the American M1 or “steel pot,” which was made from a single metal sheet with an adjustable plastic liner and two metal loops for a chinstrap. The M1 was so versatile, it was used by U.S. troops through 1985.

Hats were not required to be as hard working helmets, but they still had to be practical. The brims of the 18th-century tricorn, or tricorne, were designed to direct rainfall away from the face and shoulders. During the American Civil War, the forage cap, or kepi, featured a flat-topped cylindrical crown to keep the head cool and a black leather visor to shield the eyes from the sun. Navy-blue Union caps were decorated with a crossed sword or golden bugle emblem, while Confederate kepis were grey, yellow, red. Officers wore slouch hats, so named for their wide, circular brims which sometimes attached to the crown on one side.

Also in the 19th century, the beret was popularized by the elite French Chasseurs Alpins, who wore the wool caps for their water resistance and warmth in cold, wet conditions. A century later, a green version of this venerable headpiece was worn in Vietnam by a secretive Army Special Forces Unit called the Green Berets, who were lionized as much for their actions in the field as the caps on their heads.

Military jackets and coats, which are also collected, fall into two general categories, dress and fatigue. The first American Army uniform policy of 1779 called for a “blue, open waistcoat” for American troops, while the British were clad in red-colored jackets with white or blue facings. Similarly, in the Civil War, Union troops wore blue while Confederate fighters wore gray. Eventually, though, military strategists realized that they would do better to call less attention their soldiers, which is one reason why in the late 1800s, British troops donned drab khaki uniforms during the Second Boer War. Khaki-colored jackets would be worn in every major conflict of the 20th century.

Trench coats are another 19th-century military invention, though clothiers Burberry and Aquascutum of England are still fighting over their dueling claims to the style. Regardles...

The most collected jacket of World War II is easily the leather bomber or pilot flight jacket, which evolved from the U.S. Air Force’s Type A-2 jacket of 1931. Companies such as Werber Sportswear and Aero Leather Clothing Co. manufactured the garments, which featured brown horsehide leather, knitted wristlets, and a waistband. High-altitude crews favored the B-3 Shearling Bomber Jacket, originally designed in 1926 for the British RAF by a parachutist. During World War II, these jackets were offered in electrically heated versions, too.

Fatigue jackets and many types of hats are often decorated with embroidered military patches, designating the wearer’s squadron, division, or vessel. Some patches show active rank while others signify prior service and status as a veteran. Medals and pins for service and conduct are typically worn on dress jackets. While medals can hang from ribbons, the word also refers to the colorful decorations awarded during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and wars in the Middle East, when U.S. servicemen and women were given ribbons affixed to bars, which, collectively, are sometimes described as “fruit salad.”

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

myArmoury.com

myArmoury.com

This resource for historic arms and armour collectors provides exhaustive information on modern reproductions (cust… [read review or visit site]

The Civil War

The Civil War

Paul McWhorter’s amazing reference site tells the story of the Civil War through high resolution scans of Harpers… [read review or visit site]

Mikes Tanks

Mikes Tanks

Mike Seeber’s extensive collection of over 500 diecast tanks and military vehicles, dating back to WWII. Browse b… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Normandy Camouflage German Wwii Helmet 100% Original Huge Size 68 Real Camo Ww2German Wwii Helmet Paratrooper Normandy Camo Germany Camouflage Fallschirmjager Rare! Antique Wwi Edison Us Army Air Aero Disc Army Navy Phonograph Machine1860's George Armstrong Custer Civil War Cdv Photo In Near Mint ConditionWwii British Mk Ii Paratrooper Airborne Helmet-guaranteed Original-complete-rareFrench Napoleonic Era Sword With ScabbardGreat Civil War Era Relic- Cavalry Sword From Battle Of Brandy Station VaBritish Royal Air Force Raf Wwii Original Leather Flying Helmet And HeadphonesV-42 Ww2 Knife Original With Scabbard - Tank Mask An Interesting Variant1917 Rare Ww1 Officers Trench Vintage Military Watch Silver Case World War OneRare Original Japanese Wwii Tropical Field Combat Jacket Japan Ww2 Uniform Beautiful Zeiss 8x60 Blc U-boat Commander's BinocularsNamed Wwi 35th Division, 138th Infantry Officers Uniform & Footlocker CollectionWw Royal Flying Corps Raf British Fabric Roundel FramedNamed Ww1 Highland Light Infantry Officer's Khaki Foreign Service Helmet. UaeRare Wwi Period Negretti & Zambra Three Drawer Leather & Brass Telescope.Fantastic 36th Div. Italian Made Ssi With Texas Title & War Correspondent Title Good 1827 Pat. Antique Boer War Colonial Era British Army Officer's Sword Sabre Awesome Named 1939 Usmc Marine Officer Uniform Ww1 & Ww2 Medal Award Winner #1German World War I M16 Helmet With LinerAntique 19thc Nautical1-draw Brass Telescope, Sailor Made Braided Wrapping, NrRare Officer Of Mounted Artillery Sword And Scabbard-1820-1840-maker MarkedWw2 ParachuteRare British Mameluke Cavalry Sword Early 19th Century3133rd Signal Service Company Shoulder Patch ~ Original ~ Removed From TunicVtg Wwii Uc M3 1943 Fighting Knife - D-day Vet Owned W Diary - Normandy InvasionGreat Italian Made Ww2 U.s.army 4th Ranger Battalion Shoulder Sleeve TitleComplete Wwii Us M1 Fixed Bale / Loop Helmet W/ Msa Liner & Od Buckle ChinstrapPre Ww1 German Ks98 Erfurt Sawback BayonetWwii Us Collins # 18 Usmc Bowie Fighting Knife Bowie Army Survival Horn EarlyWw1 Imperial Prussian Pickelhaube Feldgrau German Army StampedUs Ww2 Oss Stiletto Commando Knife W/pancake Flapper SheathPickelhaube-spike Helmet-inf.reg.92-braunschweig-1900!!German Scope Zf41 Zielfernrohr K98 Cxn Original Sniper & Bracket K98kBritish Para Helmet With Fibre Rim, Dated 1942Antique Napoleonic Era Military Bicorn HatOriginal Ww2 Practice 37 Inch Dummy Bomb Wwii Training Nice!Original 1788 Antique British Cavalry Sword Sabre Untouched Relic.Original Unopened Wwii Supper Ration Type K Green Box - Packaged By Kellogg Co.Wwi Mark I Second Pattern Cruise Chainmail Visor Brodie HelmetWwi German Artillery Luger Holster-guaranteed Original-1915 Dated W/maker Mark Original R.a.f Mk Viii Flying Goggles. Original Box, Spare Lenses & Anti Wwii Us M1 Helmet Early Fixed Bale Mccord Hawley General Fibre Liner - Exc++Bc-474a Scr-288 Ww2 Military Radio Receiver Transmitter Us Army -original-wwii-wwi-german-helmet Sword Dagger Medal Award BayonetWw2 Japanese 99 Rifle Bayonet Flag Original Vintage Pacific Theater Army Navy Japanese Wwll Army Officer's Sword In Mountings, "kanemune", DatedAntique Civil War Relic 42" Horstmann Philadelphia Cavalry Sword & ScabbardVtg 40s Wwii Us Navy Usn N1 Deck Jacket Coat Alpaca Lining Size 38 Rare Htf Rare1860's Civil War Cdv Photo Of Union Sergeant 71st New York Armed Full EquipmentStunning Wwi Us Army M1905 Bayonet Sa 1910 / M3 Scabbard M1903 Springfield RifleWw2 German Army Dak Dessert Goggles, Original. World War 2 Japanese Knee MortarWw2 Us Navy Blue Deck JacketOrig Rare Wwii 506th Airborne Inf Rgt Oval Fully Emb Seldom Found No GlowWorld War 2 German Army Tropical M-42 Camouflage Combat HelmetUs Ww1 M1905 16" Bayonet W/scabbard Ria 1918 1903 Springfield M1 GarandOld Estate Find Ww11 ? Japanese Original Military Samurai Sword & ScaberVietnam Tiger Stripe Camouflage Pants Large Special Forces Green Beret Army