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    

Us M-1 Helmet Early Wwii Fixed Bales & Hawley Liner Silver Rayon Unit Painted New Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault Pack Coyote Medium Futura Frame Backpack SealRare Original Wwii Helmet Steel Pots M1 Hawley Liner Type 2 Fs Fb Usmc UntouchedAwesome Civil War Era One Of General Wilson's Union Cavalry Corps Guidon/flagImperial German Model 1916 Steel Helmet W/liner – Named To Jewish SoldierAntique Mid-19thc Civil War Period Brass Bound Rosewood Lap Desk & Stand, Nr1720-1780 Antique French Halberd Pike Spontoon Revolutionary Indian Wars SpearWwii Us M1 Helmet-fixed Bales Front Seam Firestone Liner Leadership Stripes19thc Antique American Eagle & 20 Star Flag Patriotic Stumpwork Silk EmbroideryBavarian Picklehaube Removable Spike Helmet With Unit Marked Cover, Wwi GermanOldgen Chicken Plate Carrier Psd Low-vis Coyote Brown Molle Navy Seal DevgruOldschool Paca Vest Soft Armor Carrier Tan Medium (md) Khaki Tan MlcsBritish Napoleonic 1803 Pattern Sword - Rare De Roll’s Regiment C.1805 – 1811Rare Civil War Us Army Union Spencer Carbine Cartridge Box 8 Cylinders Remain Scarce Pre Civil War Sword- 1847 Ames Cavalry Sword / SaberAntique East European Flanged Mace Pernach Ottoman Gurz ? Axe Club ArmourWwii German Youth Uniform Shirt -bann #37 Signals Unit -rzm TaggedOriginal Showa Period Wwii Japanese Officers Gunto Sword / Scabbard / Tassle Ww2Ww2 German D.f. 10x80 Cxn Flak Binoculars *original*Very Nice Great Quality Original Japanese Officers Army Katana Sword Ornate Ww 2 German Officer's Naval Kriegsmarine Dress Dagger Dirk By Puma W/hangersGerman Ww 2 Nazi Police Dress Stag Handle Bayonet Dagger Knife-scabbard & FrogUs Wwii Usmc Marines Ship Detachment Dress Blues & Greens Uss Enterprise NamedBritish 1822 Pattern Infantry Sword - Queen Victoria - Scottish Sword RetailerAntique Spanish American War, Battleship Maine, Folk Art Oil Painting, NrAntique Civil War Era Sword U.s.n.model 1850? Etched Blade W.h.horstmann SonsUsmc Ww1 P1917 Forest Green Tunic 2nd Id Ssi Us Marine Corps Uniform CoatMens Regulateur 1914 Omega Switzerland Vintage Collectable Watch Military StyleOriginal Wwii U.s. M4 Aerial M1 Carbine Rifle Bayonet & Usm8a1 Pwh Ww2 ScabbardWwi Austrian Model 1916 Helmet-finn Use-w/ Liner & Chinstrap-scarce Early 1800's French Dagger (antique Knife Sabre Saber) From 1st Empire SwordPour Le Merite Imperial Ww I Medal Knight Cross Original Oak Leaves Marker MarksWw2 German Normandy Camo Helmet. Size 64. Named. With Liner & Chinstrap.Us Army Wwii Hawley First Pattern Helmet Liner With Leather Chinstrap Ww2 German Helmet Dak Hat Cap Visor Usmc Raider-type Fighting Knife/usaac Survival Machete Collins No. 18Wwi Us Army Cavalry M1912 Experimental Shovel Blade W/ Cover-cavalry Unit MarkedWwi Us Ambualance Service, Third Army & Dual Red Cross Insignia Painted HelmetComplete Wwii Us Military Fixed-bail M1 Helmet With 1st Pattern Hawley Liner2 British War Of 1812 Gorgets - Standard 1796 Universal Pattern - Xiv LdWw1 British Army 1914 Pattern Leather Lee Enfield Bayonet Frog Rare Dated 1915H.g. Long ‘marine Raider’ Fighting Knife W/sheath In Ek Box.Wonderful Civil War Era Hand Carved " Soldier In Kepi " Wooden Camp Smoking PipeFrench Dragoon Helmet - Wwi - Horsehair CrestBritish Officer’s Mameluke Sword With Scottish Broadsword Blade -late 19th Cent.Vintage Original Wwii Usaaf Photo Album 89th Bomber Sq Airplanes New Guinea Original Antique British Military Medal 1848 Punjab Queen Victoria Nr!!Authentic German Crusher Cap Ww2Rare American Rev War Era English Scottish Glasgow School Baskethilt Broad SwordMystery Ranch Nice 6500 Backpack Coyote Brown Military Medium Waist/yolk SealVery Old Japanese Samurai Katana Sword With 15th-17th C. Very Well Signed BladeCaptured Civil War Navy Sword And Confederate Stirrup With Old TagItalian Wwii Regio Esercito Combat Flag Savoia Royal Family Shield & Crown Ww2Dress Uniform Wwii Boxed Stetson Visor Cap Hat Named Us Army Military Officer NrOriginal Ww2 German Elit Uniform, Foreign Volunteers, Latvian 15th DivisionVintage U.s. Navy Original Vietnam Era Practice Bomb Mk15 Mod 4 Dummy InertRare Revolutionary War Era Breastplate-44th Regiment Of Foot-infantryOriginal? German Wwii Special Forces Blurred Edge Rauchtarn Oak Camouflage SmockLovely Working Antique Victorian Pocket Barometer/altimeter By Jasper RedfernWwii Us Military Woodsman's Pal Machete W/sheath, Victor Tool #280 & Lc-14-b.