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    

Wells-gardner Bc-348-n Signal Corps Hf Shortwave ReceiverWw2 Vintage M1935 Luftwaffe German Helmet, Decals And Liner IntactDediciated Civil War Inf. Off. SwordWw1 Tank Corps Medals And Rare Tankers Face MaskAntique Armour Lobster Tailed Helmet 17thc Civil War Era Armor Pot Morion Sword Antique War Of 1812 Naval Officer Miniature Portrait Painting & Hair Jewelry, NrAntique Prussian German State Diplomat Sword Silver Blue Gold / Gilt Sabre EpeeWw2 Us Army Signal Corps Bc-611-c (scr-536) Original Handie Talkies ~ Set Of 2100% Original Wwii Us Army Denim Buckleback Pants Large Size Super RareWw2 Vintage M1935 German Helmet, Liner And Some Decal IntactOriginal Wwii Fixed Bale Painted Usaaf M1 Helmet Hawley LinerExcellent Model 1850 Ames 'us' Foot Officers Civil War SwordJapanese Wwll Nlf Officer's Sword In Mountings, Gendaito "echigo Sadakiyo"Wwii Us Army Air Corp Eastman Leather B-2 Sheepskin Flying Cap Hat (jacket)Us Army World War 2 Helmet And Liner No Reserve MilitaryOriginal Civil War Confederate Csa Belt Buckle Plate. Possibly Dug. Not Repro!Antique Breastplate Armour Cuirass German Cavalry Armor No Helmet Sword MorionWwi German Or Austrian Trench Club Mace Head 100% Original. (helmet,knife,belt)Antique French Military Uniform Napoleonic Style Coat Tunic Jacket No Shako HatUltra Rare Orig Ww1 Ppcli Pipers Badge Princess Patricia's Cdn Light InfantryUnique? 1882 Sword Antique Italian Officer Sabre French Made Schwert ÉpÉeMedal Of Hero Of The Soviet Union. Number 2308. Original!Ww Ii Us Army Air Forces Type B-c Jacket Size 40German 10x80 Flak Binoculars - Ww2Ww2 German Helmet No Emblems Or Decals Complete With Leather LinerGenuine Heart Shaped Us United States Civil War Era Brass Belt Buckle Plate RareWwii Us Army Air Force Eastman Leather B-3 Sheepskin Flying Jacket. Size -xl.Excellent 1804 Mle French Sword Saber Seamen Guard NapoleonicGerman Luftwaffe National Shield Et66 3c67 M35 Steel Helmet Shell StalhelmWwii Us M3 Trench Fighting Knife Imperial Blade Mark Airborne Dagger W/ M8Original Civil War Leather Ammo Cartridge Pouch Box Musket No Reserve~*~estate Find~*~ Civil War Era Leather Canteen Antique United States War Of 1812 Eagle Head Sabre / Sword1903a3 C Stock Handguard Buttplate & Band K Keystone Smith Corona Remington Us Army Wwii M1938 M38 Tankers Helmet, R-14 Receivers, Resistal Hbny GogglesWw2 German Close Combat Fighting Knife - Boot KnifeAntique Damascus Persian Islamic Shamshir Sword With Gold InscriptionGerman Ww2 Nsdap 1933 Members Badge *rare*1945 180 Photos Album China Chinese Soldiers Wwii Parachute Oss KunmingRolex Antique Ww1 Silver Officers Trench Wrist Watch, 1915 Birmingham England, Original Ww1 1914 Dated Scottish Seaforths Military Kilt With Label X M ClymontConfederate Civil War Short Artillery SwordAmes 1865 American Civil War Cavalry Saber Us Sword W/ Scabbard Chicopee UnionOriginal 19th Early 20th C Imperial German Prussian Army Pickelhaube Helmet WwiWwi Austrian M1916 Trench Fighting Knife Dagger BootWwi Ww1 Aef Dsm Distinguished Service Medal, Legion Of Honor Us Navy CaptainExcellent Sword Saber Vendemiaire An Xii Napoleon Adjudant General Or State OffNice Original Ww1 German M16 Helmet - Rare Maker - BellVintage 50s Military L-2a Usaf Flight Jacket Superior Togs Sz 36 Us Air ForceM.1822 French Sword Cavalry / Artillery Officer Sabre Epee Saber Paris Schwert Ww1 Austrian HelmetWwii Us M3 Trench Knife & M8 Scabbard *blade Marked Case*Wwii Japanese Type 99 Arisaka Rifle Leather Sling-original Ww2 Usmc 2nd Marine Division Uniform And Japanese Flag CoolGenuine State Of New York Sny Civil War Era Belt Buckle Plate Bullet Holes RareWw I Central Ontario 8th Reserve Battalion Cef Uniform Jacket Cap And PantsSoviet Russian Ussr Medal Order Of Labor Glory 2nd Class #4,645Artillery Shell From The Civil War.Rare Wwii Soviet Russia Ussr Order Of Lenin Type 3 Gold Platinum Low# OriginalWw1 German M1915 Ersatz Felt Pickelhaube--original