Luftwaffe Blue Summer Flight Jacket
Image courtesy of Hermann Historica Auctioneers, Munich
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The German Wehrmacht was composed of three main branches, the Heer, the Kriegsmarine, and the Luftwaffe. The Heer and Kriegsmarine uniforms were based upon the designs utilized by their predecessor organizations, the Deutsches Heer and the Kaiserliche Marine. Conversely, the Luftwaffe uniforms were based upon the uniforms worn in the sports and para-military organizations that were the forerunners of the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe uniforms were specifically designed to deviate from the designs of the other Wehrmacht service branches. It was also necessary that the uniforms differentiate between military and civilian pilots.
There were two main organizational precursors of the Luftwaffe, the German Air Sports Association (DLV or Deutscher Luftsportverband), and the National Air Raid Protection League (RLB or Reichs Luftschutzbund).
The DLV and the RLB were created in 1933. These civilian organizations were used to secretly train members for future roles in the Luftwaffe. The DLV became obsolete after Hitler’s official introduction of the Luftwaffe in 1935, and it was disbanded and replaced by the National Socialist Flyers Corps (NSFK or Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps).
The Flight Jacket is also known as the Aviator Jacket or the Flight Jerkin. It was worn in combination with the Flight Trousers as part of a two-piece flight suit, sometimes referred to as a “Kanal” (channel) suit. The two-piece flight suit was favored by Luftwaffe personnel because it was simpler, and less expensive, to replace or repair the jacket or trousers, rather than replacing an entire flight suit.
The jacket was not an official uniform garment, but it was worn by Luftwaffe pilots and aircrew personnel in a semi-official capacity. The ambiguity regarding the jacket’s status resulted in many authentic variations in its design and material during the Second World War. The exact introduction date of this jacket is debated, but it is widely believed to have been introduced between 1942 and 1943.
There are two main versions of this jacket: the summer jacket for warm weather and the winter jacket for cold weather. The general design of these jackets is the same, wherein they feature zipper closures, lining, pockets, a fitted waist, and insignia. Known jacket colours include white, blue-grey, and tan/brown. Known jacket materials include leather, cotton blends, and wool blends.
The front closure has a metal or plastic vertical zipper that is covered by fabric. The bottom of both arms has an uncovered zipper with a buttoned flap closure.
The summer jackets tend to be lined with silk, linen, or synthetic silk. The winter jackets are lined with a warmer material, such as faux fur or fleece, and also feature faux fur or fleece lining on the collar. The winter jackets may also have internal circuitry for heating the jacket in extreme weather conditions. There may be a tag sewn into the lining that is stamped with the Reich numbers (Reichsbetriebsnummer) (RB-), and the wearer's name.
There is generally a single external pocket cut vertically into the top left breast of the jacket with no closure apparatus. An internal pocket may also be featured on the left inside panel. Additional pockets may be present on both sides of the jacket, quantities vary.
The jacket waists are fitted, either through the use of elastic fabric such as webbing or by a buttoned closure on the front of the waistband.
The insignia that may be present on this jacket includes the Luftwaffe pattern national emblem eagle on the right breast, sleeve rank insignia in the style of flight clothing rank insignia, and shoulder boards. It is not unusual for there to be no insignia on these jackets.
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