It is widely regarded that The Graduate marked the beginning of countercultural consciousness in American movies. In the fading memory of that moment, now layered with so many ironic reversals, retrenchments, and disappointments, it is less the film that is recalled than the potent effect it produced. Shorn of its contemporary context, Nichols’s film is a nicely executed comedy of romantic embarrassment spruced up with Felliniesque close-ups.

The movie that finally breached the already crumbling fortress of old Hollywood was Dennis Hopper’s 1969 bombshell, Easy Rider. In Easy Rider, the fabled ‘road' equals freedom, befouled by ugly Americana. But in Monte Hellman’s 1971 classic, Two-Lane Blacktop, it becomes something altogether different and far more interesting: a repository of dreams and fantasies, for squares, hipsters, and obsessives alike. Where Hopper’s film is set in the Great American Dreamscape, Hellman’s vision of the American West is far less pretentious, parcelled out in nicely measured, seemingly offhand portraits. Where Hopper wears his hipster credentials on his sleeve, Hellman obscures his and even tones down his well-made soundtrack choices in the mix. Where Hopper and Fonda “play” disenchantment and disaffection (offset by Nicholson’s authoritative charm), James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, and Laurie Bird are three non actors who embody a sense of youthful restlessness (offset by Warren Oates’s heartbreakingly eloquent woundedness). And where Easy Rider is finally a series of choices and strategies and inventions clustered around a big concept, Two-Lane Blacktop is a movie about loneliness, and the attempts made by people to connect with one another and maintain their solitude at the same time—an impossible task, an elusive dream.

The rough cut of Two-Lane Blacktop was three and a half hours long. “We were contractually obligated to deliver a two-hour movie, so we lost half the script,” said Hellman. “We lost some good scenes, for sure, that I fell in love with.” Gone are the flavour and colour of street-racing life and the road, evoked so beautifully in Wurlitzer’s script. What is gained is a trancelike absorption in movement and ritual. Hellman’s film is composed of many of the in-between moments that most filmmakers would cut. In the process, a strange terrain of tenderness and disconnection inhabited by the four principal characters is mapped out: their shared remoteness is exactly what makes it safe for them to venture into one another’s company. This movie about a cross-country race between a car freak in a lovingly souped-up ’55 Chevy and a fantasist in a store-bought GTO moves at an even, gliding pace, and it’s all about stopping to gas up, eat, make some bread in local quarter-mile drag races, pick up hitchhikers, let the engine breathe, share a drink.

Though he visually reads ‘hippie’, Taylor is the classic introvert, for whom everything is swallowed up and contained by the road. Oates is the smiling extrovert-dreamer, for whom everything becomes a part of the Playboy dream he’s spinning on his drive across America. Wilson provides the authenticity of a genuine drag racer and car fanatic who oozes the Californian dream. Taylor’s aquiline face may be the visual center of the movie, buoyed by Bird’s pout and Wilson’s West Coast stoned softness, but Oates is its emotional core. Oates’s nameless would-be hipster is perfect in every way: V-neck sweaters (they keep changing colour), driving gloves, a wet bar in the trunk, music for every mood, a cocky grin that looks like it’s been practiced in the mirror. The actor imbues his character with a strong sense of physical uneasiness—he can’t even lean against a building comfortably.

Unlike Oates’s GTO, who projects his desperate longing out onto the open spaces, for Taylor’s Driver the road is a refuge. Or perhaps a cocoon. The nihilistic tone achieves grandeur in itself, up to the controversial and bravura finale. “It was really the most intellectual, conscious manipulation of the audience that I’ve ever done,” said Hellman. “I thought it was a movie about speed, and I wanted to bring the audience back out of the movie and into the theatre, and to relate them to the experience of watching a film. I also wanted to relate them to, not consciously but unconsciously, the idea of film going through a camera, which is related to speed as well. I think it came to me out of a similar kind of thing that Bergman did with Persona.” Hellman is literally arresting his character’s fantasy of dissolving into pure speed and limitless road (the burn of the image begins in Taylor’s head), a fantasy shared by countless movies, then and now. Including Easy Rider.

Two-Lane Blacktop is the least romantic road movie imaginable. Nonetheless, Hellman saw it as a romance. In finished form, it is ultimately a great film about loneliness and self-delusion. Warren Oates’s GTO (as he’s credited) is every pontificating drunk, every reformed junkie, every guy who moves to another town to begin again. “We’re gonna go to Florida,” he tells Bird in the film’s most acutely poignant moment. “And we’re gonna lie around that beach, and we’re just gonna get healthy. Let all the scars heal. Maybe we’ll run over to Arizona. The nights are warm . . . and the roads are straight. And we’ll build a house. Yeah, we’ll build a house. ’Cause if I’m not grounded pretty soon . . . I’m gonna go into orbit.” Meanwhile, she’s ready to doze off in the passenger seat. Like all dreamers, he’s just talking to himself.

Post WWII thousands of A-2 jackets still remained in air depots and other bases. In order that these garments would give the best continued service they were treated with a reconditioning process which involved the re painting of the outer surface of the shell. Reissue A-2s are jackets that went back to the quartermasters inventory after active service and subsequently went through a refurbishment process. This included a re-coating of the leather shell with a very dark brown lacquer. After years of wear these garments would accrue a distinctive beaten-up vintage patina due to the way the lacquer would wear off. It was a beaten-up re-issue A-2 such as this (and Rough Wear model 16159) that was worn by Steve McQueen in the iconic movie The Great Escape, and is why so may have admired its vintage appeal ever since.

The last contracts for A-2 jackets were placed in 1943 and by the 27th April 1943 it was relegated to 'Limited Standard Use'. When the war ended thousands of servicemen returned home and rejoined civilian life meaning there was an abundance of military equipment and material that had to be sorted and re-inventoried. Countless millions of dollars had been spent producing it, so careful consideration was given as to what was to be kept for continued use, stored or discarded.

As you would expect, tons of it had gone overseas to various theatres of operation, so much thought was given as to what was worth bringing home and what should be left. In those few years of war, military technology had accelerated to a point where some equipment was being made obsolete almost as soon as it was put into service, such was the impetus behind a raging war machine that was totally committed to defeating the enemy. For example, 'flight' went from plodding bi-planes to supersonic jets in less than 10 years. Accordingly, this same degree of improvement took place in all other fields of military design including flight gear. However, the A-2, although being a design from the beginning of the 1930's, was considered a valuable piece of military equipment, even by 1943 it was still deemed worthy of a place in the Quartermaster's wardrobe.

The A-2 was then put in line for 're-issue'. Experience had taught that the darker a garment was the more serviceable it would be, not showing oil stains and soiling. Because the jackets were made from aniline finished hides which tend to absorb rather than repel they were re painted with a dark brown poly-acrylate dye, which provided an altogether tougher barrier. Characteristics of this re-coating process would be that certain hard-to-get-at areas, such as down inside the pockets, back of the windflap etc, were not reached. The finish was often unevenly applied, giving rise to mottled shading and varied texture.

However it transpired that this over painting method whilst initially achieving its aim, very soon started to look shabby. The over paint would crisp and flake off. Not only this, but it would take a lot of the original under-finish with it (effectively skinning the hide), leaving just the pale, buff, skin tone of the dye-base). This left an extreme contrast between the surviving dark painted areas, and the paler skinned ones - not a good look for a military garment. This disastrous technique effectively sealed the fate of the A-2 as unsightly jackets were quickly plucked from service. The finish would wear off in irregular patterns bearing the lighter shade of the nap beneath giving a distinct contrast between those areas, and where the coating remained. All of this however is what has given these garments their latter-day vintage appeal. Nevertheless, the A-2 continued to see service well into the late 40's and can even be seen on occasion in archive images from the Korean War.

Nowhere was this look more immortalised than the jacket worn by Steve McQueen as Capt. Virgil Hilts in the movie The Great Escape. McQueen’s jacket was one such original re-issue A-2. After careful analysis of many original stills from the movie we have been able to confidently identify the jacket he wore as one made by the Rough Wear® Clothing Company, under contract number 16159. So our re-issue A-2 is made as this model. As part of the reissue process that his jacket underwent, it can be seen that the original zip, which would have most certainly been a Talon M-39 (with rectangular puller), has been replaced with a Talon M-42 with bell-shaped puller - a detail replicated on our product.

We have recreated this model in the most discerning method possible, by literally repeating the steps of production right through to the reissue finish, to bring you a garment of stunning vintage authenticity. First we produce the garment as a factory fresh original maker Rough Wear® 16159, which is made in an aniline dyed, Havana shade, veg-tanned horsehide. We then re-coat the garment with the correct shade of dark brown lacquer (just as they did at the quartermasters - by hand, with a brush), after which the garment is put through an extensive and specialised TimeWorn® process to positively re-create the high-contrast distressed wear affect of a classic vintage original. This all requires a tremendous amount of hand-done work, but is the only way this standard of authenticity can be achieved.

In accordance with AAF regulations of that time, re-issue A-2s had a mandatory Army Air Forces decal applied to the shoulder, as well as a stamp to the lining. These stamps were generally randomly positioned somewhere on the back panel no doubt due to haste, not clinically centred and perfect, so our recreation is done exactly the same way.

This garment is presented first and foremost as a plain re-issue A-2, so it comes in standard form without any insignia (apart from the mandatory shoulder decal). However, one can order the jacket with whatever extra insignia one likes from our inventory, and of course in ‘V. HILTS spec’. Click HERE to view the Eastman Re-Issue and 'Escape' A-2.

The star was a drunken hippy. One of the writers was an acid-fried biker. And the director was a paranoid control freak. But the really bad news was that all three of them were Dennis Hopper.

Hopper's subversive road movie burst onto the cinema screens of a confused America in 1969, the title was in itself a double entendre, the term Easy Rider was slang for a hooker's old man - 'not a pimp, but the dude who lives with her, because he's got the easy ride'. But it was also a telling and powerful reference to what was happening to America in the late Sixties, in the words of Hopper - 'Liberty had became a whore and the whole country took an easy ride.'

However, it isn't the sex, music or huge drug intake - both on and off-screen - that links Easy Rider inextricably to the late Sixties. What really marks the film out as a product of that fractured, uncertain age was that it got made at all. And, in particular, that it got made by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.

Certainly, when the pair announced their intention of making the ultimate biker movie, few sane people would have wagered on them finding the finance - let alone producing a film that not only became one of the biggest box-office hits of 1969 but also completely changed the way major studios treated their burgeoning baby-boomer generation. If the film's proposed subject matter - two doped-up philosophising hippies (Hopper and Fonda) use the proceeds from a drug deal to ride across America in search of 'freedom' - wasn't enough to put off potential investors then Hopper and Fonda's Hollywood reputations undoubtedly were.

Hopper was a Dean generation character actor who had been blacklisted following a bust-up with director Henry Hathaway. Kicked out of mainstream pictures, he was reduced to working with underground filmmakers like Roger Corman. It was while shooting Corman's The Trip that Hopper got to know Peter Fonda. The son of Hollywood legend Henry, Peter had thrown away a promising career in respectable cinema to appear in zero-budget exploitation movies like The Wild Angels.

Starring roles in The Trip did little to improve either man's standing. Far more helpful was their decision to hook up with satirical author and screenwriter Terry Southern. Southern's involvement provided them with a title, Easy Rider, and a backer in the shape of Bert Schneider. The latter was a fledgling film producer who had just hit the big time courtesy of his kit-form boy band The Monkees and was happy not only to provide money but to let Hopper and Fonda become director and producer respectively.

As it turned out, any problems the production may have had over finance were as nothing compared with the trauma of the Easy Rider shoot. During most productions, on-set drug-taking and a leading man breaking his ribs would constitute major concerns. In the case of Easy Rider, these seemed minor inconveniences when weighed against the bizarre antics of Hopper himself. A heavy drinker, famed for his to-the-edge performances and confrontational manner, the director's instability and paranoia resulted in clashes with everyone from Fonda downwards. When he wasn't picking fights, Hopper would fill his time forcing Fonda to relive memories of his mother's suicide and dragging actress Karen Black through the streets of New Orleans in search of inspiration.

Hopper justified his behaviour on the grounds that he wanted to make a special film. And he did. The massive commercial success of Easy Rider ensured that for a couple of years major studios were happy to throw money at any wild-eyed auteur capable of capturing some of that youth buck - a period that Hopper himself brought to the close with 1971's The Last Movie.

Peter Fonda later recalled, 'Easy Rider really was a trip. Back when I was making studio pictures like Tammy And The Doctor, I got a lot of fan mail - thousands of letters a week asking for my autography and my picture. When I did Easy Rider, I got letters from people saying, "What do I do?", "How do I speak to my father?", "How do I keep myself from committing suicide?", "How do I live?" Nobody was asking me for my picture and my autograph any more.'

Most importantly, the film represented a crossroads in the film industry, one where the old Hollywood system had become stagnant while young filmmakers were revitalising the medium with fresh, creative ideas that were having a real impact on the culture and their generation. The movie was responsible for launching Jack Nicholson's career at a time when he was about to give up acting for producing. And it certainly enabled Fonda and Hopper to pursue their own separate visions on film while maintaining creative control.

Unfortunately, the tensions that arose between Fonda and Hopper during the film's making erupted into an ongoing dispute over the "authorship" of the movie with Hopper claiming solo credit for the story idea and script in a lawsuit. Hopper, in turn, was later sued by Rip Torn for spreading lies about a physical confrontation the two had in a public restaurant, which may have been the reason Torn was replaced by Jack Nicholson in the film. To it's fans though, none of this matters much, the movie stands alone for its iconic soundtrack featuring songs by Steppenwolf, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix and others, the innovative, freewheeling cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs, Nicholson's scene-stealing performance and the its fresh take on two young nonconformists looking for the real America.

False flag operations have changed the course of World history on countless occasions for hundreds of years. The contemporary term false flag describes government led covert operations designed to deceive the general populous, of its own country, in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by other entities, groups, or nations. Historically, the term "false flag" has its origins in naval warfare where the use of a flag other than the belligerent's true battle flag is displayed as a deception, or, ruse de guerre, before engaging the enemy.

If one follows the money in any false flag operation, you will see that the people with the most to gain have always occupied the key military and civilian positions, not only to ensure the success of the mission, but also to cover up the crime and reap the most reward. Such is the hallmark of false flag operations throughout history. Leading Nazi Hermann Göring once stated: "Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, England, America, or Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

The most common false flag operations consist of a government agency staging a terror attack, upon its own people, to then falsely blame the uninvolved entity (country/organization etc). The resulting carnage brings about a groundswell of public indignation and opinion in favour of the government and whatever policy they put forward. At least two millennia have proven that false flag operations, with healthy doses of propaganda and ignorance, provide a great recipe for endless war. During the 20th century they were as numerous as they were insidious. From The Manchurian Incident in China, the Reichstag Fire in Berlin, the myth of the 'surprise' attack on Pearl Harbour, to the Tonkin Gulf incident that facilitated the Vietnam war.

One operation in particular (which thankfully was never implemented) could have easily precipitated a nuclear World War III - Operation Northwoods.

In 1962, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, headed by General Lyman Lemnitzer, unanimously proposed state-sponsored acts of terrorism on American soil, against its own citizens. The head of every branch of the US Armed Forces gave written approval to sink US ships, shoot down hijacked American planes, and gun down and bomb civilians on the streets of Washington, D.C., and Miami. The plan was only overturned when President Kennedy refused to endorse it. The concept of Operation Northwoods was to engineer a situation where the blame for the (self-inflicted) terrorism would fall on Cuba's leader, Fidel Castro, after which the American public would beg and scream for the Marines to storm Havana. Among other heinous acts, Operation Northwoods proposed faking the crash of an American commercial airliner. The disaster was to be accomplished by faking a commercial flight from the US to South America, the plane would be boarded at a public airport by CIA agents disguised as college students with aliases going on vacation. An empty, remote-controlled, clone of the commercial jet would then swap places for it at a given rendezvous point in flight, as it left Florida, and the real airliner would then land at a secure area in Eglin Air Force base. A May-Day transmission pertaining to come from the commercial jet would then be sent out stating that they had been attacked by a Cuban MIG fighter. The empty remote-controlled clone would then be blown up and the public would be told that all of the US citizens aboard were killed.

The document also suggested numerous other acts of domestic terrorism including using a possible NASA disaster (astronaut John Glenn's death) as a pretext to launch the war. The plan called for "manufacturing various pieces of evidence which would prove electronic interference on the part of the Cubans if something went wrong with NASA's third manned space launch. Further to this buildings in Washington and Miami would be rigged with explosives and blown up. Cuban agents (undercover CIA agents) would be arrested and confess to the bombings. In addition, false documents proving Castro's involvement in the attacks would be "found" and given to the press. Another element of the plan suggested attacking an American military base in Guantanamo with CIA recruits posing as Cuban mercenaries. This involved blowing up the ammunition depot and would obviously result in material damages and many dead American troops. As a last resort, the Pentagon even considered using public taxes to bribe another country's military to attack their own troops in order to instigate a full-scale war, the plan specifically mentioned bribing one of Castro's commanders to initiate the Guantanamo attack. Below are some of the actual declassified Northwoods documents

Operation Northwoods was only one of several plans under the umbrella of Operation Mongoose. Shortly after the Joint Chiefs signed and presented the plan in March, 1962, President Kennedy, still smarting from the Bay of Pigs fiasco, declared that he would never authorise a military invasion of Cuba and refused to endorse the Northwoods project. In September, Kennedy denied the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Lyman Lemnitzer, a second term as the nation's highest ranking military officer, and by the winter of 1963, Kennedy was assasinated, apparently by Lee Harvey Oswald, a communist sympathiser, in Dallas Texas.

The public would only learn about Northwoods 35 years later, when the Top Secret document was declassified by the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board.

Nearly 40 years later a very similar event would actually take place on American soil bearing all the hallmarks of Operation Northwoods - the destruction of the World Trade Centre on the 11th September 2001.

Military footwear can be traced back over thousands of years, even as far back as the Roman Empire, and just like humans, the combat boot has evolved through generations of change and adaptation. Arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment or gear anyone in a combat situation may possess, the combat boot has come a long way from its humble beginnings.

Several important military traditions were given birth to during the historic break from England in 1770's. The U.S. was still young, and its military was tiny compared to England’s oppressive command. Smaller militias lent aid to the cause from all across the original colonies, most of which had their own distinct colours and apparel, alluding to the different military divisions we know today. The typical dress worn would be - a hunting shirt, breeches, leggings, wool jacket, hat, and whatever footwear was available. Since raw materials were expensive, and taxes high, many soldiers, and even civilians, were forced to improvise with their footwear. In the colder colonies, where shoes were necessary to fight against frostbite and hypothermia, ground troops used whatever materials they had on hand. Scraps of cloth or raw animal hide were popular choices, but on occasion blankets tied to the feet would prove better than going barefoot into battle.

Cavalry, ranking officers, and those that could afford them typically wore Hessian boots. Hessian boots originated in Germany, and were knee high with a short heel, tailored for riding on horseback. The boots typically had tassels on the front, and were later cut lower in the back to help with manoeuvrability white still offering protection for the knee. The boots were styled for a close fit and worn with knee high breeches. Due to the tightness of this boot, a boot hook was often necessary to properly put the boots on, which proved a lengthy process.

Standardised boots were hard to come by during the 19th century, and much of the military still wore whatever shoes they were able to afford. Infantry units wore calf high riding boots in a style similar to the Hessian Boot. Trooper boots that went up past the thigh offered the most protection, but were expensive and impractical for ground units on long marches. The beginning of government issued boots came about in the War of 1812. The War Department ordered as many pairs of ankle high boots that were available to the at the time, and outfitted the soldiers that would need them the most. The boots were typically sewn on straight lasts, a type of shoe mold that made each shoe completely symmetrical. Until they were properly broken in the boots proved uncomfortable, often leaving blisters. Sometimes called Brogan boots, they were usually made of calfskin or patent leather.

One of the first revolutions in military footwear came about in 1837 when a 'pegging' machine was invented, this made for the faster production of cheap boots and booties. The pegs, usually small pieces of wood or metal, were used to hold the shape of the boot, but deteriorated much faster than the hand-sewn method. By the time the American Civil War came, the government reverted back to the original design of hand sewn boots. The price for pegged boots decreased to just over $1.25, while hand sewn Cavalry boots were often purchased at three times that price. The idea of soles became more popular during this time, and most were hand sewn. The Hessian boot was replaced by a Wellington style M1851 Artillery Driver’s boot, which were outfitted to cavalry and artillery drivers. The heel was slightly shorter than the Hessian boot, and the toe was more squared. In an effort to improve durability, brass tacks were inserted in the sole.

Union soldiers had access to better quality materials, while their Confederate counterparts suffered with boots of sub-par quality. The soldiers fighting for the North were first issued hand-sewn boots, and pegged boots only as a last resort. Most boots worn by the Confederate Army were pegged, nailed, or riveted, and fashioned in a style similar to that of the British Military at the time. Some of the greedier manufacturers used poor materials in an effort to take advantage of the civil turmoil. Rumours of cardboard being used circulated, and some even sharpened the pegs or brass tacks in the soles to make them wear out more quickly.

With the evolution of explosives and artillery like grenades and machine guns, trench-style warfare became more common during the early and mid-1900’s. Given the wet, cold, and unsanitary nature of the trenches, military gear and equipment, boots in particular, had to hold up against extreme conditions.

The modern combat boot we know today began to take shape in WWI. Most boots made in the early 1900’s had a distinct left and right, as opposed to previous versions with each shoe being virtually interchangeable. In the early years of WWI, the Russet Marching shoe was the most widely accepted boot worn in the military. It was highly polishable and made of machine-sewn calfskin. The inner lining was made from feathers. While this boot proved far more advanced than previous issue boots, it did not hold up well on French terrain. A later version, modelled with specifications from France and Belgium, was made from vegetable retanned cow hide, and featured both a full and half-sole. Rows of hobnails and iron plates were affixed to the heel of every boot. The heel and sole were attached with screws, nails, and stitching, and despite their superior construction, still did not hold up against the rough conditions.

In 1917 the Trench Boot was born, offering vast improvements from the Russet Marching Shoe. While it offered better protection against the wet conditions, it was not waterproof, which lead to various diseases like trench foot. The look and styling was similar to the marching shoe, but the insole was composed of new materials like; canvas, cork, and cement. Due to the rigid nature of the soles, the boots were highly uncomfortable until broken in and the natural movement of the foot caused excessive damage. The Trench Boot offered little in the way of insulation, and many soldiers complained of cold feet. It became common practice to wear multiple pairs of socks, and order boots a few sizes above what one would normally wear. Several different variations were produced in an attempt to fix the early issues of waterproofing.

A year later, the 1918 Trench Boot, or “Perishing Boot” was released, offering improvements over earlier versions. Better quality materials, such as heavier leather and stronger canvas were used in an attempt to improve the longevity of use. The boot’s soles were attached in a similar fashion with screws and nails, but held three soles in total, as opposed to the previous issue’s one and a half. The metals used in hobnailing conducted the cold, and the thicker sole helped eliminate that problem. Iron toe cleats were added to the toe of each boot, offering extra protection, but making the boots bulkier.

During the initial stages of WWII, the standard issue US military boot was the M-42 'Service Shoe', an all leather toe cap boot with a two piece stitched sole, this style was eventually replaced by the rough-out boot, probably the most recognisable boot of the war. After the Normandy invasion the American military started updating their equipment, one of the items they replaced was the canvas gaiters and rough out ankle boot. They did this by basically making the rough out boot higher by adding a double buckle leather gaiter onto the top of the boot. The M-43 buckle boots where in general issue by the winter of 1944/45 and where worn by all branches of service including the Paratroopers, Armoured and Infantry in the Battle of the Bulge. They were titled 'Boots, Combat Service', and nicknamed “Double Buckle Boots.” While previous military boots like the Trench Boots only had laces, these boots went back to the older buckle style. These boots were made from synthesised rubber and other recycled materials, and had a leather fold-over cuff with two buckles. With only a single sole, they proved uncomfortable, but much easier to move around in than the Trench Boot. In times of shortage, some units, particularly Rangers, were issued Paratrooper Jump boots, which were quite distinct from all other boots at the time. The Paratrooper boots were highly sought after by regular troops who often purloined or "acquired" via alternative means.

Previous issue boots with minimal variation were used during the Korean War, but were not fit for purpose in Vietnam. Vastly different climates and temperatures rapidly deteriorated the soles and integrity of the Combat Service Boot, which was eventually replaced by the Jungle Boot.

The general idea behind Jungle Boots first came about in Panama and the latter part of WWII for Soldiers serving in the Pacific. While these boots consisted mainly of rubber and nylon, they did not hold up well. The government issued boot was typically the traditional all leather combat boot, or the Jungle Boot. The U.S. Department of War tasked the company Wellco with solving the troops various issues with moisture, insects, and sand. Wellco created and sold a prototype which held up better than their previous counterparts. The boot was composed of a black leather sole and canvas upper with an attached tongue, which helped to keep out insects and debris. It built upon earlier generations by using rubber and a canvas with a cotton blend, but added in the durability of leather. Water drains were added to help keep the feet dry and prevent bacteria from growing.

After in-combat testing and feedback, the Jungle Boot was adapted to better suit the soldiers’ needs. The canvas blend was replaced with a nylon canvas that dried faster. Steel plates were affixed to the soles of the boot, to protect the feet against punji stakes used to pierce the foot. Additional nylon webbing reinforced the boots’ uppers, increasing the durability. While these boots did not last as long as all leather combat boots, they did offer a vast improvement over the earlier versions. Soldiers were known to carry multiple sets of boots, and often wore their jungle boots only when absolutely necessary. These high tech jungle boots signalled the dawn of a new era, over the next 20 years combat boots would evolve into the lightweight protective boots worn today.

While impossible to predict the future, it’s a safe bet that combat boots will continue to grow and evolve alongside those that wear them. From the Roman Empire to the sands of present day Iraq, it’s easy to forget that something we see regularly can have such a rich history. With huge leaps in all aspects of technology, who’s to say which direction the design and features of future boots will take.

World War Two conjured up many extraordinary characters. But even among the most exalted company William Ash - the model for the Vergil Hilts character played by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape - stands out. Ash was an American who, while his country was still reluctant to enter the war, crossed into Canada to train as a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was posted to Britain and flew Spitfires with RAF 411 Squadron.

In March 1942 he was shot down over northern France but escaped from the wreckage of his plane and was given shelter by a number of courageous French women and men. He was captured in Paris by the Gestapo and condemned to death. His life was saved by the Luftwaffe who argued that as an airman, Ash was their prisoner. He spent the rest of the war in various Prisoner of War camps. But instead of being grateful for his salvation he became an obsessive "escapologist" - seeking to break free by whatever means came his way.

Ash always modestly denied the claim he was based on McQueen's character. For one thing he didn't ride a motorbike, he said. For another, he did not take part in the breakout from the Stalag Luft III camp, on which the movie is based. The reason he did not participate in that particular breakout was that he was locked up in the "cooler" - as the camp jail was called - as punishment for a previous escape attempt. In actuality, Ash was every bit as charismatic as the fictional Hilts with whom he shared many characteristics. Apart from being American, he was good looking, dashing and more than a bit of a rebel. He was also delightfully self-deprecating. He described some of his exploits in his writings, though he often underplayed his sufferings and achievements.

He had a tough upbringing in Depression-hit Texas where his father struggled to bring up a family on what he made from his job as a travelling salesman. Young Bill worked his way through university but could find no job at the end of it and spent months riding the rails as a hobo, seeking whatever work he could get. His experiences shaped his political views. He was too young to join the idealistic Americans fighting Franco's nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. But when World War Two broke out, he was determined to do his bit to combat fascism.

William Ash

It rankled with him that he did not do more fighting. He only managed to shoot down one German aircraft for certain before he was downed himself. He decided to use his incarceration to wage war on the enemy by other means. Most of his fellow inmates had little interest in escaping. Having survived the trauma of being shot down, the majority decided they had used up their store of luck and tried to pass the time behind the wire as best they could, often studying and acquiring new skills, while they waited for the war to end.

Bill Ash belonged to a hard core devoted to overcoming every obstacle the Germans put in their way to returning home and carrying on the fight. They often found it hard to analyse precisely their motivations. Some felt it was their duty. For others, focusing on a project was a way of combating the stultifying boredom. In Bill's case it boiled down, he said, to "an unwillingness to crawl in the face of oppression".

He lost count of his escape attempts, or the number of times he was condemned to a spell in the 'cooler', which meant solitary confinement and a bread and water diet. Some of the escape bids were opportunistic efforts like the time he wangled his way on to a work detail tasked with unloading a train then made a run for it when the guards' backs were turned.nOthers were complex, long-term schemes that required a huge amount of organisation, ingenuity and endurance. A little-known but extraordinarily ambitious project was the Latrine Tunnel Escape which took place in Oflag XXIB, a camp near the Polish town of Szubin.

Bill had a hand in devising the plan, which was not for the faint-hearted. It involved digging a tunnel more than 100 yards long from a starting point beneath a large lavatory block. Every day for three months teams of diggers would lower themselves through a trap door set into a toilet seat trying to avoid falling into the lake of raw sewage beneath. An entrance set into wall of the latrine pit led into a chamber where the tunnel began. Day after day they would scrape away at the sandy soil working by the light of margarine lamps. They lived in fear of cave-ins and asphyxiation and panic attacks brought on by claustrophobia. Tunnelling was in some ways the easy part. To stand any chance of making it out of Nazi-controlled territory they needed civilian-style clothing, money, and documents. Here they were helped by other prisoners who brought a wide variety of skills either acquired in peacetime or learned in the camp.

Eventually, one night early in March 1943, 35 men dressed in outfits fashioned from Air Force uniform and blankets and armed with convincingly forged identity cards crawled through the narrow tunnel and under the perimeter fence to freedom. One managed to get as far as the Swiss border before being recaptured. Two made it to the Baltic and were on their way in a rowing boat to neutral Sweden when they disappeared, presumed drowned. All the rest were recaptured within a few days. It was a bitter disappointment, but almost all carried on trying to escape. Bill finally succeeded a few days before the war ended, breaking out of a camp near Bremen just as the British Army arrived.

His experiences as a prisoner had a profound effect on his political outlook. After the war he stayed on in Britain and seemed set to follow some of his camp comrades - like Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Tony Barber and TV presenter and historian Robert Kee - into a successful conventional career. He went to Oxford University and joined the BBC, which gave him a top administrative job in India. His increasingly radical views made it hard for him to conform, however. He rejected the Communist Party of Great Britain as being too compromised and helped found a breakaway group. He also lost his full-time job with the BBC, though he continued to do some work for the drama department.

Ash was a happy and gregarious man who never lost a touch of his boyhood innocence. His career as an escapologist showed him that in wartime people were capable of extraordinary selflessness. Why was it, he wondered, that this spirit could not be carried on into peacetime?

World War II changed the world and laid the foundation for the American car-crazy phenomenon that exploded in the 1950s - Hot Rodding. Once the hostilities in Europe and Asia had ceased, those lucky enough to make it back wanted to enjoy living the way they couldn't while serving Uncle Sam. Finally home, ex-GIs couldn't get enough of cool cars, all-American burgers and fries, and the girl next door who had grown up since they left. Building a hot rod or custom car was a method of self-expression, and for many, the cars provided the means for the social life they desired.

Many GIs also found it hard to let go of the adrenaline rush of enemy action. Something inside them yearned for a little bit of that thrill, but without the potential wartime consequences. Getting behind the wheel of a cool hot rod or custom car fulfilled those conscious and unconscious desires. And with many coming back from the war with some money saved and a job waiting, they had the means to acquire what they wanted.

The timeline for hot rods and custom cars starts before World War II. Teens itching to tinker with cars and go fast were racing cheap Ford Model T's on Southern California's dry lakes and street racing in Los Angeles even in the 1920s. The Harper, Muroc, and El Mirage dry lakes -- all 50 or so miles north of Los Angeles -- saw racing activity from the '20s up to World War II. Racing at El Mirage continues today.

Speed junkies could jump in their hopped-up, chopped-down Model Ts and be at one of the dry lakes in less than three hours. Or, if the need was urgent, they could find a deserted back road or open field. At the lakes, the cars were timed with handheld stopwatches and placed in a class determined by the resultant time. The vast majority of the cars being run were four-cylinder Ford Model Ts or their successor, the four-cylinder Model A. The cars were cheap, plentiful, lightweight, and easy to work on. They responded to simple "hop ups" like higher compression, ignition and timing adjustments, additional carburettors and more radical cam grinds.

The drill was fairly simple: Buy the nicest roadster you could find (because roadsters were the lightest); strip off everything not needed to go fast, like the fenders, headlights, hood, and top; find some cheap used tires to replace your bald ones or to mount over your existing tires for a little extra tread; and go racing. Paul Chappel's Speed Shop on San Fernando Road in Los Angeles and Bell Auto Supply in neighbouring Bell were the first stores in the country devoted exclusively to supplying speed parts for those who wanted to run with the fast pack. Performance parts included high-compression heads, exotic overhead-cam conversions, and radical cams (also called "sticks").

The Ford flathead V-8 was born in 1932 and with it a new opportunity to go fast. Though slow to be accepted by hot rodders, more 65- and 85- horsepower flathead V-8s found their way into junkyards as the '30s progressed and thus began the transformation from four-bangers to flatheads. Also released in 1932 were the lightweight '32 Ford or "Deuce" frame and roadster body. The combination was unbeatable in terms of performance potential and looks. To this day, a flathead-powered Deuce roadster is the quintessential hot rod. That engine and frame combination would also provide an excellent foundation for many types of bodies, or sometimes hardly any body at all.

As interest in racing grew, kids began to try out their "gow jobs" more often on public streets. What was mostly good, clean fun could get ugly -- and it often did. "Speed contests," as the police called them, were occurring with greater frequency and more dire consequences. Casualties were described in detail in local newspapers, branding the hot rodder as a social menace requiring increasing control or, better yet, elimination. More hot rodders were finding the dry lakes a safer, less public alternative to racing on the streets. But this "detour" was having its own problems. Multiple casualties were reportedly occurring during the middle of the night on the dark racing courses of the dry lakes. Hot rodders ran unmonitored, without thinking that a like-minded racer could be coming from the other direction. The result was sometimes catastrophic.

Help was on the way, though. In 1937, the Southern California Timing Association was formed. The SCTA formalised classes, developed more sophisticated timing systems, and made racing safer and more organised. Then, in 1941, a monthly publication called Throttle Magazine was created to track racing results, feature some of the better cars, and report on new safety and speed issues. The scene was starting to gel, but after Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, and the U.S. became involved in World War II, hot rodding would have to wait.

As the 1940s began, the hot rod and custom car fad continued to trickle down to car enthusiasts throughout the Los Angeles area. Now it involved older used cars that were transformed into "mystery cars" through sometimes minor, sometimes major body modifications. But it remained a relatively small and localised fad before many of the participants in this trend were called into service in WWII. Two things happened to spread the gospel of hot rods and custom cars during World War II. First, many servicemen were filtered through California on their journey to the Pacific. There, they witnessed firsthand America's car-culture capital, with its unique customs and stripped down hot rods ripping through the streets. It must have left quite an impression on many.

Second, many GIs from Southern California spread information and pictures of hot cars to any soldier with time to spare. The racing and cruising activities must have seemed cool and exciting to any young soldier. Simple exposure must have been enough to spark the interest of young soldiers. So once the seed was planted, it had to be nurtured, and for that we can thank Robert "Pete" Petersen and Hot Rod magazine, which came on to the scene in 1948. After the war, the economy boomed. Young veterans had a bulletproof attitude after facing the horrors of combat, and they now found themselves with excesses of time and money, along with mechanical skills learned in the service. The postwar energy helped hot rodding grow more than it ever had in Southern California, and Hot Rod spread the word nationwide.

Hot Rod picked up where Throttle left off, the latter never returning after its one-year run in 1941. The fledgling magazine touched on all aspects of the car-enthusiast arena, covering hot rods, custom cars, drag racing, and even circle-track racing. Hot Rod also informed readers about the latest speed equipment, and taught them how to perform engine and body modifications. Hot Rod was in a good position to promote safety, and to help organise early drag racing and car shows, all of which helped promote and organise hot rodding itself. Speed-parts manufacturers and custom and performance shops had a place to advertise. It was a win-win situation for all involved.

As the end of the 1940s approached, hot rods and custom cars were poised to become not just a trend but a lifestyle. Postwar adolescents were discovering the freedom and social significance of driving a unique automobile on the streets of Downtown, USA. Picture this - It's a summertime Saturday night in the 1950s, and the Southern California suburbs are hopping with hot rods. In the San Fernando Valley just north of L.A., ex-GIs are bent over their crude roadsters doing last-minute checks before heading out at midnight to one of the dry lake beds east of Los Angeles.

Their goal is to be first in line for the heads-up racing that starts at dawn. Soon they'll aim their headlights for the excitement of speed and the camaraderie that goes with running the straight, dusty courses. But first, a few of them conduct impromptu light-to-light races down San Fernando Road to check out the clutch and size up the competition. Over in the bedroom communities of Lakewood, Lynwood, and Compton a few miles west of L.A., cruisers in their late teens and early 20s are "drive-in hopping." It's a ritual that takes off from The Clock drive-in in Bellflower, then heads down Pacific Coast Highway to The Clock on Sepulveda in Culver City, over to Tiny Naylor's in Hollywood, onto the freeway to Toluca Lake and Bob's Big Boy, over to Bob's in Pasadena, a straight shot west to Nixon's on Whittier Boulevard, and finally back to The Clock in Bellflower.

Occasionally, street racing accidents end up on the front page of the Orange County Register in grisly detail. There is safer, organised racing in Orange County, too. It's the abandoned airstrip, which is considered the first organised drag racing venue in the country -- Santa Ana Dragstrip.

It's the golden age of the hot rod and custom car, and Southern California is the place to be. Decades from now, these scenes will be relived and recreated thousands of times. Hot rods and customs from this period will be revered, copied, and restored to preserve for all time this magical era in automotive history.

The 1930's fatigue uniform of the US Army consisted of blue denim pants, shirt and 'Daisy Mae' - a floppy brimmed hat nicknamed after a character in the popular hillbilly cartoon strip 'L'il Abner'. In 1938 this was changed to medium weight sage green cotton cloth woven in a herringbone twill (HBT) pattern. The blue denim remained the fatigue issue until 1941 however. The green of the original HBTs was found to fade quickly in use to an unsuitably light shade. In the Pacific this problem was sometimes remedied by vat-dyeing them en masse to a darker, even blackish colour. In 1943 the HBT manufacture colour was changed to the darker green OD7 shade.

Most GI's felt that the HBTs were hot and rather slow to dry, but generally pretty good. In North Africa and Europe HBT's were commonly worn as combat clothing alone and over brown woollen uniform for extra protection , camouflage and warmth. One 32nd Division Pacific veteran summed up the question of uniforms with the pithy and convincing comment, 'I don't believe there is any clothing or equipment adequate for jungle fighting'.

The HBT shirts all featured flapped breast pockets and exposed blackened steel '13 star' (or sometimes plain plastic) buttons. The M1942, the first of four patterns, had a two button waistband with buttoning cuffs and rear 'take up' straps; the pleated breast pockets had clip cornered flaps. The more common M1943 HBT shirt had larger breast pockets but lost the buttoning cuffs and two button waistband; it was made in a darker green than the first pattern,. The first version of the M1943 shirt had unpleated pockets, while the next had a pinched sort of pleat. The rarely seen last pattern HBT shirt (M1945) was made with smaller pockets with clipped bottom corners and squared flaps. At the end of the war a new thinner cotton poplin fabric was just beginning to be issued.

Rank was rarely displayed on fatigues, though NCO stripes were sometimes inked onto HBT sleeves. According to Capt Edmund G Love, a 27th Division historian, this formation at one time had a coded unit and rank symbols stencilled on the rear of the HBT combat uniform in black - a system copied from the US Marines. The division was identified by an outline parallelogram, enclosing unit symbols - eg a T, a 'bar sinister' and a Irish harp shape for the 105th, 106th and 165th Infantry Regiments respectively. Left of this, numbers indicated some ranks (8 for sergeant, 15 for captain) and right of it company letters were stencilled. Given the actual conditions of combat and the frequency with which HBTs had to be replaced, it is doubtful this complex system was maintained for long. Even in the six Marine divisions, which in 1943-45 seem to have had a throughly worked out system of back stencils, it is comparatively rare to see them in combat photographs.

An HBT one piece jumpsuit work uniform had been designed in 1938 based on the B1 Air Corps Mechanics coveralls. In 1941, the M1938 was produced in HBT and featured a full buttoning front, an integral belt and a bi swing gusseted back; it had two breast pockets and rear and sideseam pockets. It was intended to be worn loose over other clothing, and the sideseam pockets opened to allow the wearer to reach inside. It was commonly worn by tank crewmen and mechanics but sometimes by other front line troops. It could be cumbersome to take off and proved incomfortably hot. A 1943 version was simplified and made in the darker OD colour.

Both HBTs and issue wool shirts commonly featured an extra length of material inside the buttoned closure, intended to be folded across to protect the skin against chemical agents; this 'gas flap' was sometimes cut out by the user. Trouser flys were also made with an extra interior flap of material for the same reason. In the Normandy landings of 1944 chemically impregnated HBTs and woollens were worn by landing troops as a precaution against chemical warfare.

The first pattern HBT trousers had a sideseam and two rear pockets of a very civilian style. The second pattern (M1943) had thigh cargo pockets and sideseam pockets but no rear pockets. The last pattern of the M1943 trousers had pleated thigh cargo pockets.

HBT fabric was also used for the first widespread use of camouflage by American military forces in 1942. Prior to this point, the US Army Corps of Engineers had been applying themselves to developing camouflage for military applications as early as 1940. Nevertheless, the process of its introduction into the US supply system was rushed, brought about by an urgent request General D. MacArthur in July of 1942 for production of 150,000 jungle camouflage uniforms for use in the Pacific Theatre. The pattern chosen was actually designed by civilian Norvell Gillespie (horticulturist and garden editor of Sunset, Better House and Gardens, and the San Francisco Chronicle). The green dapple or spot design, reversing to a tan/brown variation, began distribution to US military forces beginning in August of that year. Nicknamed 'frogskin' by many GIs, the pattern consists of a five colour green dominant 'jungle' camouflage pattern printed on one side, with a three colour brown dominant “beach” pattern printed on the opposite side. Produced in a variety of uniform styles as well as some articles of field equipment, the pattern was most widely utilised and made famous by the US Marine Corps in the Pacific Theatre.

'Frogskin' fatigues were also issued to a limited number of Army units in the European Theatre of Operations, most notably the 2nd Armored Division. The Germans already had a highly evolved set of different camouflage uniforms which resulted in some confusion and friendly fire incidents in the ETO. The frogskin camouflage garments were withdrawn from use in the ETO because of these incidents. Consequently, the production of frogskin uniforms and field gear was limited.

The first style of frogskin combat camouflage uniform was issued as a one-piece jungle jumpsuit. It had built in suspenders to help keep the suit up under load. It is rare to find these specimens with the suspenders intact as many were cut off in the field as they were felt to be a nuisance and very warm. The one-piece jungle jumpsuit fell rapidly out of favour by Marines as it was way too hot to wear in the Pacific and made evacuating bodily functions a major operation, leaving the Marine quite vulnerable.

Note that step number one in authenticating frogskin camouflage is the presence of Herringbone Twill in the Army pattern, not in the USMC pattern. The USMC pattern of Herringbone Twill is HBT in a true chevron pattern. The material repeats rows of chevrons. This type of HBT was used on the green USMC utilities from WWII. The Army pattern of which all frogskin uniforms were made has a non-slanting row interfering alternately with the chevrons.

R & D went back to the drawing board following the failure of the one piece suit and then issued the P42 combat shirt and pants. The design was simple. The shirt and pants featured frogskin Herringbone Twill. The shirt had a front bottom right top opening pocket with brown button closure. The right chest featured a patch pocket with USMC Eagle Globe Anchor stamp and no button closure. It had midline snap closures and was reversible frogskin with a green pattern opposite a beach brown pattern. The pants were also reversible and had domed snap pockets or metal buttons. The pocket configuration was front right slash and rear left patch. Once broken in, the camo uniform wore like a comfortable pair of pajamas.

Because P42s were used in all the legendary campaigns such as Tarawa, Bougainville, Peleliu and New Guinea among others, they are the most sought after of the basic frogskin uniforms. The P42s are associated with all the early victorious battles that were publicised in the newsreels.

Late in the war, P44 combat shirts and pants were issued. They were quite different than the P42s. P44 shirts had large buttoned vertical slash pockets just to the side of the midline button closures. The trousers had large three or four button side snap flaps. One pocket connected to the other pocket in the seat of the trouser, creating a pouch in which garments like a poncho could be carried. Drawstrings on the ankle cuffs were found in the 1st pattern P44s. Because these P44s arrived late in the war, it is much more common to find mint unissued specimens than the P42s. Frogskin camouflage is representative of some of the most celebrated battles in US history. Consequently, artifacts are heavily sought after and command high prices.

At sunset on February 23, 1942, Commander Kozo Nishino of the Imperial Japanese Navy and his I-17 submarine lurked 1,000 yards off the California coast. It was less than three months since the attack on Pearl Harbor. Los Angeles residents were tense to say the least, soon after dark, the I-17 surfaced and began firing armour piercing shells at the Bankline Oil Company refinery in Ellwood, a small oilfield community 12 miles north of Santa Barbara. Commander Nishino targeted oil storage tanks, piers and other facilities he had toured before the start of World War II. Several of the shells struck while others passed over Wheeler’s Inn, whose owner reported the attack.

“We heard a whistling noise and a thump as a projectile hit near the house,” recalled another witness. “I thought something was going wrong with the refiners.”

The shelling continued for 20 minutes before I-17 escaped into the darkness. It was the first Axis attack on the continental United States of the war. “Shell California! Enemy U-boat sends many shots into oilfields near Santa Barbara, entire area is blacked out,” declared the February 24 front page of the Chicago Tribune.

Although there were no injuries and minimal damage (a wrecked derrick and pump house), the barrage led to a public panic that soon intensified. Witnesses claimed seeing offshore enemy “signal lights.” Many newspapers began referring to the attack as the “Bombardment of Ellwood.”

sub attacks oilfield

Commander Nishino sailed on to new combat assignments in the Aleutians – unaware of the strange result of his attack on Ellwood’s oil refinery. Despite missing their targets, dropping into the sea, on the beach, and into nearby cliffs, the Japanese artillery shells brought dramatic result not least an “Avenge Ellwood” fund-raising campaign was created in early 1943 for a war bond drive whipping up local fervour and also bringing about Japanese- American internment in California.

The attack not only fuelled West Coast invasion fears, but also soon led to the largest mass UFO sightings in U.S. history. In the early morning hours of February 25, 1942, the sleep of two million Americans, in the vicinity of Los Angeles, California, was interrupted by the sound of air raid sirens and anti aircraft fire. Groggy residents awakened by the high pitched warnings and the almost ceaseless firings of artillery were rewarded with a light show that made the night into day.

Thousands of U.S. Army anti-aircraft searchlights flooded the skies searching for attacking aircraft. They rapidly crisscrossed the black void desperately hoping their beams would pierce the black veil and disclose the enemy planes. Only days after the surprise Japanese attack, Los Angeles was not prepared for another sneak attack as the events of the morning would reveal.

Air raid wardens stopped cars and insisted lights be extinguished and home window shades drawn. Neighbourhoods and streets were now darkened, denying the enemy easily lit targets. Overhead, silently, a glowing object was moving slowing as air craft batteries focused by spotlights began took aim.

Katie, a young woman that had volunteered to be an air raid warden received a phone call from her district supervisor. The supervisor notified her of the alert and then asked if she had seen an object in the sky that was very close to her home. Without hesitation she went to the window and looked into the sky. "It was huge! It was just enormous! And it was practically right over my house. I had never seen anything like it in my life!" she said. "It was just hovering there in the sky and hardly moving at all." "It was a lovely pale orange and about the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. I could see it perfectly because it was very close. It was big!"

Katie added that the anti-aircraft searchlights had completely surrounded the object. "They sent fighter planes up and I watched them in groups approach it and then turn away. There were shooting at it but it didn't seem to matter." Katie states that U.S. fighter planes did attack the object. "It was like the Fourth of July but much louder. They were firing like crazy but they couldn't touch it." "I'll never forget what a magnificent sight it was. Just marvellous. And what a gorgeous colour!", said Katie.

With lights off, residents were now able to witness what was to be known as the "Battle of Los Angeles". It was a scene often depicted in future Hollywood science fiction movies. The "War of the Worlds" seems eerily familiar as U.S. military personnel bombard the space invaders with hundreds of artillery shells, bathed in brilliant light from an array of searchlights. The 37th Coast Artillery Brigade's antiaircraft batteries began firing at 3:08 a.m. and ceased at 4:14 a.m. In total nearly 2000 12.8 pound artillery shells were fired into the night sky at an undisclosed and seemingly indestructible object. The all clear siren was heard at 7:21 a.m. and the citizenry exhaled a collective sigh of relief. They had survived! The question as yet unanswered, who or what had attacked?

Newspaper reports were scarce. Government and military officials often gave conflicting statements to the press. Local resident witnesses were not interviewed or the information they gave not deemed credible by the news agencies. The only mention of the event in the Los Angeles Times was a brief article of page one which started with the headline: "Chilly Throng Watches Shells Bursting in Sky". The article written by Marvin Miles went on to describe "explosions stabbing the darkness like tiny bursting stars" and "searchlight beams poking long crisscross fingers across the night sky" and so on. The article did not mention an unknown object or enemy planes.

Initial reports cited witnesses seeing formations of warplanes overhead resulting in dogfights between enemy and U.S. fighter planes. Still others reported seeing flares falling from the sky. A naval intelligence warning indicated an attack was expected within the next 10 hours. Various radar stations picked up an unidentified object 120 miles west of Los Angeles. Immediately following the blackout the information centre was inundated with phone calls from patriotic citizens reporting enemy planes in the sky.

A Coast Artillery colonel spotted 25 planes at 12,000 feet over Los Angeles and others saw a balloon carrying red flares hovering over Santa Monica. The military stated that no U.S. aircraft were in the air. Stories of dogfights were erroneous. Officials explained that because of its limited number of aerial assets, the planes had remained grounded, until identified enemy planes could be located and verified.

The Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox announced at a February 25 press conference that there was no evidence of enemy planes and that the raid was simply a "false alarm". The Fourth Air Force believed that there had been no enemy planes over Los Angeles. Finally the Army issued the War Department report which indicated that between one and five unidentified objects had flown over L.A. These objects were believed to be Japanese. However, at the conclusion of World War II, the Japanese claimed that they did not send aircraft and did not attack Los Angeles or Southern California in February 1942!

Non-military witnesses, some using binoculars, describe a large orange object that moved slowly over the coast between Santa Monica and Long Beach. The object traveled the twenty miles in approximately 30 minutes and then disappeared. An employee of the Los Angeles Herald Express said that he was certain many of the artillery shells had hit their target - but had had no effect. The photograph below seemingly shows the unknown object, caught in the web of searchlights.

The incident has ended up with conspiracy theories attached. Was it a flying saucer attack? Was it a weather balloon? Was it a false flag operation designed to inspire support for the war effort? According to a 1980s investigation, it was just itchy trigger fingers and ‘war nerves’. The incident went on to inspire Steven Spielberg’s first war film, 1941 and demonstrates the power of mass hysteria and media manipulation.

One band that has kept me well sustained over many years is Baltimore’s critically acclaimed Arbouretum, a mighty psyche/folk/rock beast often compared to Crazy Horse era Neil Young with definite leanings toward the country and folk traditions. Engaging, hypnotic and truly beguiling, Arbouretum's live shows are far from self-indulgent; every note, every tone, every solo and every beat is an essential component to expansive and engaging story telling.

Although a fan for many years, I first met Arbouretum's leader Dave Heumann while developing the Eastman sister brand ELMC. While planning the brand launch it was decided a short film would be made to communicate the concept of our new American motorcycle culture based project. The film was to embody the ethos of the brand and the freedom associated with riding a motorcycle along with the cameraderie and brotherhood of being part of a club. The soundtrack was an all important component to this and would essentially drive the film itself. Our immediate thought was to use an Arbouretum song, we contacted Dave Heumann for permission and after many discussions and a lot of work on Dave's part, the result was "Out to the Reaches", a song written and recorded specifically for the film, perfectly capturing a dark journey with an endless moving horizon.

After 5 albums with Arbouretum and numerous other acclaimed projects, Dave Heumann has just released his first solo album entitled "Here in the Deep". Taking this as an opportunity to explore other sides of his song-writing craft, while still bearing a few of the hallmarks of his band, it is a record steeped more in country/folk traditions than psychedelic epics. Of course, under the surface it was always a sense of traditional song-writing that drove Arbouretum, but here it’s much clearer and allowed a sense of freedom to roam. Unhurried, it takes its time to unfold allowing moments of clarity as the music betrays it hidden depths. The almost simplistic nature of it is disarming though and there is much happening under the surface, or indeed on some of the more experimental tracks that show a musician unafraid to take risks. Arbouretum’s thicker tones are replaced by more dappled textures that privilege the folk-rock formalism that has long underpinned much of Heumann’s music.

Anyone who has seen Arbouretum live will be aware of Heumann's prowess in creating mesmerising, trance-like guitar solos which often take the songs into unexpected places, "Here in the Deep" though channels an almost English folk nature into an otherwise very old time American album. Almost as if to nod to bands such as Fairport Convention, it accepts that a widening of musical influences is necessary to a greater understanding of what makes a song tick. It an album concerned more with song writing and consequently, the songs contained within its groove are shorter and more compact affairs and ones that display another side to Heumann's craft. The subtlety that's displayed throughout the record is deftly played out on the penultimate song "Ends Of The Earth", a ruminative jam that builds from gentle foundations into a substantial climax of increasing tempos, noise and sensitive guitar work.

We caught up with Dave last week as he prepared for his current European tour and asked him some questions about his approach to music and the album itself.

This is your first solo record, what were the driving themes and impulses behind it?

I wanted to make a record with the kinds of sounds and textures not usually found in an Arbouretum album- acoustic guitars, hand percussion, etc., also I wanted to include some song ideas that occurred to me at the time to be a little more pop in their sensibilities than what was common for Arbouretum to do.

With a solo project, one would assume you have complete creative autonomy, as such how did this process differ from making an Arbouretum album?

With Arbouretum, it's usual for me to come in with a skeletal idea and then say to the guys, "how do you think we should come in? How many times should this part go? What should the tempo be like?", etc. With this project I didn't have the usual guys giving feedback on these kinds of things, so I really had to trust my own judgement there.

Your lyrics are crammed with rich and evocative imagery, often communicating a complex story or allegory, is this literary approach to songwriting something you consider key to your work?

It's what works for me. I like to appeal to whatever parts of the psyche that respond to poetry. My lyrics aren't poetry, but they are designed to be expressive in a similar manner.

Nature appears to play a big part in your creative process, can you explain why?

To me, nature is as pure or as real as anything else in the world of experience. Much of what we surround ourselves with wasn't around 100 years ago and won't be in 100 more, but nature is enduring and true, even when it's degraded by human activities to an extent.

You're well known for incredible modal sonic excursions in your work, can you tell us about your chosen equipment for this record - guitars, pedals and so on?

For this record I used mainly a smaller Ampeg amp - I forget the model number, but it's all-tube and low wattage. It has a really great quality when paired with my Martin EM-18 electric, and also with my recently acquired Westone Thunder guitar. Pedal-wise, I'm still using my Eventide Time Factor as my main delay, along with an assortment of other stompboxes- Fulltone tremolo, Electro-Harmonix Freeze and so on. I didn't use much overdrive on the record. I mainly would use a boost pedal for the solos to bring out more amp tone.

You're also an avid photographer, what is it about the photographic process you find appealing?

It's just another means of self expression. I mainly just shoot on my phone these days, because mine has a good shooter and it's conveniently always with me, though I've experimented with film cameras and DSLRS in the past. My process with it has a lot to do with editing, and I'm more natural at shooting landscapes as opposed to people-oriented shots.

What records are currently on your own playlist?

I've been listening to a lot of Hamza El Din lately. Also a current band from Australia called Dick Diver is something I find myself putting on a lot. Red River Dialect, whom we are honored to be playing with soon in London, has also been a mainstay. There latest record is fantastic, and so was the previous one.

You're currently on tour in Europe with a fantastic backing band (comprised 1 part Arbouretum and 2 parts The Trembling Bells), with Alex Neilson who is considered one of the finest freestyle drummers around today, can you tell us how this special group came together?

Yes. I asked Alex because not only is he a very expressive and fluid drummer who can play very freely, but he has an extensive background in the folk tradition, which is something I'm always looking to explore more. He recommended Alasdair Mitchell as being a fine bass player with a good ear for vocal harmonies. Matt I asked because he's a reliably good musician on any instrument he plays, and also having someone from Arbouretum with me on this tour helps me feel anchored a bit more than if I had gone to solely with people I hadn't previously toured with.

What's on the horizon for you in the future?

I haven't mapped out all of it of course, but the next thing planned is to finish writing and recording another Arbouretum record. After that, who knows!

"Here in the Deep" is out now and available from al good record shops, iTunes and Thrill Jockey HERE

Dave is currently on tour in Europe with dates below remaining, check out a show if you can!

Fri Nov 13th Prague, Czech Republic – Divadlo Dobeška
Sun Nov 15th Leipzig, Germany – UT Connewitz
Mon Nov 16th Berlin, Germany – Magnet Club
Tue Nov 17th Cologne, Germany – King Georg
Thu Nov 19th Schorndorf, Germany – Club Manufaktur
Fri Nov 20th Utrecht, Netherlands – Le Guess Who?
Sat Nov 21st Oxford, UK – Audioscope Festival
Sun Nov 22nd London, UK – MOTH CLUB

More at

The Type B-3 flight jacket, arguably the most recognisable flight jacket in history, was principally inspired by the British 'Irvin' flying jacket. Leslie Irvin first designed what we now regard today as the classic sheepskin flying jacket during the early 1920's. In 1926 he set up a manufacturing company in England, and became the main supplier of flying jackets to the Royal Air Force during most of WWII. However, the demand during the early years of the war was so great that the Irvin company engaged subcontractors, which explains the slight variations of design and colour that can be seen in early production Irvin flying jackets.

The USAAF took the classic 'Irvin' design and from it developed the type B-3, standardised on May 8th 1934, the jacket underwent a series of specification changes over the years, culminating in the simplified pattern of late 1943. As aerospace technology improved, the altitudes at which aircraft operated increased. Most heavy bombing raids in Europe during World War II took place from altitudes of at least 25,000 ft, where ambient temperatures could reach as cold as negative 50 degrees Celsius (negative 58 Fahrenheit). The cabins of these aircraft were uninsulated, so a warm, thick flight jacket was an essential piece of equipment for every member of the crew. The B-3 would become the standard issue 'Heavy Zone' flight jacket for the next 10 years.

During the autumn of 1942, the United States introduced the B-17, a long-range strategic bomber better known as the Flying Fortress, in Europe. The plane would prove instrumental in winning the war. Over the ensuing months, as the bombing campaign intensified over the skies of France and then Germany, the men who flew the armed colossus proved their mettle against incredible odds. As the Allied crews flew punishing 8-9 hour missions, it was essential to retain body heat in the cold, unpressurised cabins at altitudes of up to 30,000 feet. No amount of armour, fire power, or flying savvy could prepare the men for these brutal, below freezing temperatures. It was then and there that sheepskin leather made its fateful appearance and the B-3 Jacket earned its place in aviation history. No man-made material could master such inhospitable temperatures over a sustained period and allow the crewmen to perform their critical duties.

Even today's high-tech synthetic fibres strive to provide the same incredible warmth and soft-as-butter comfort that natural sheepskin jackets offer. Unlike other materials, the crimp of the sheep's wool creates insulating air spaces, naturally retaining heat and wicking away excess moisture when the body generates it. This protection was essential to the crews of the B-17. The men who donned the B-3 Jackets relied on their rugged and tough exteriors as much as they did on their soft and pliable interiors. Furthermore, the unforgettable images that emerged from the fabled dogfights above London, Paris, Hamburg and Berlin have remained in American consciousness way past that Great Generation's heyday. The B-3 Jacket perfectly reflected that ethos of bravery and determination. The rugged simplicity of its materials squarely embodied the country's character as a no-frills, tough-as-nails but stylish uniform that could withstand the elements while providing much needed comfort and succour to cold, battle-weary men.

The type B-3 has become an item proudly passed from father to son, generation after generation, not to be replaced, traded or retired, but cherished and worn for its amazing natural properties. It has been immortalised in history and on film by some of the worlds greatest icons from McQueen to Monroe. Our many exacting reproductions of this timeless flight jacket can be found HERE in the Eastman USAAF Sheepskin section.

Due to the escalation of WW2 in 1940, American Congress funded an increase in the strength of the US Army Air Corps from 29 to 54 combat groups and increased pilot training to 7,000 per year. The quickest way for the Air Corps to obtain additional bases was to utilise existing civil airports. Across the nation airports were commandeered for military usage in readiness for war.

On September 21, 1940, the Air Corps announced a $1.5 million project to build facilities at Daniel Field in Augusta, Georgia to support 100 to 110 pursuit aircraft and 2000 men. Because of technicalities in the land transfer, construction did not begin until March 1941. Once begun, a large construction program was needed to turn the civil airport into a military airfield. Construction involved runways and airplane hangars, with three concrete runways, several taxiways and a large parking apron and a control tower. Several large hangars were also constructed. Buildings were ultimately utilitarian and quickly assembled. Most base buildings, not meant for long-term use, were constructed of temporary or semi-permanent materials. Although some hangars had steel frames and the occasional brick or tile brick building could be seen, most support buildings sat on concrete foundations but were of frame construction clad in little more than plywood and tarpaper.

Although the Army initially planned on using Daniel for fighter aircraft, it was utilised instead mostly by transport and observation squadrons. This was due to the fact that Daniel's longest runway was a relatively short 4,200 ft (1,300 m). The geographical restrictions of ravines to the west and the city of Augusta to the east made the extension of the runways impractical. Aside from aircraft training, enlisted men were also given regular firearms and PT instruction.

Initially assigned to the Army Air Corps Southeast Air District ,the first units at Daniel Army Airfield the 14th and 15th Air Transport Squadrons of the 61st Transport Group arrived on July 12, 1941 from Kelly Field, near San Antonio, Texas. The 61st's group headquarters was formed at Olmsted Field, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The squadrons flew C-47 Skytrains, as well as Doulas C-39's, which was the Air Corp's version of the Douglas DC-2. After organisational training and flying a few paratroop operations, the 61st and its squadrons were sent to Lubbock Field in Texas.

During the week of October 20, Daniel Field hosted the 40th Pursuit Squadron which came to Daniel Field from Selfridge Field, Michigan which took part in III Interceptor Command exercises, flying P-39 Aircobras.

With the United States at war in 1942, activity at the airfield expanded dramatically. In early February. Five transport squadrons of the Air Force Combat Command 89th Transport Group, the 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, and 28th were activated at Daniel AAF. These squadrons were equipped with C-47s and Douglas DC-3's pressed into military service from the airlines. The 89th stay at Daniel was a short one. Only five weeks later the group moved on to Air Technical Service Command depot at Harding AAF, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Also during February, three observation squadrons, the 16th, 111th, 122nd, and 154th, arrived from various other bases and forming the Third Air Force 68th Observation Group. Pilots trained on Douglas O43-A, Vultee / Stinson O-49 / L-1 Vigilant and Douglas A-20B Havoc aircraft performing antisubmarine patrols along the South Carolina and Georgia coast.

In 1942, newly built Army Airfields were becoming available in the southeast and the Air Force no longer had the need for Daniel Field and its short runways. No other operational units were stationed at Daniel after August 1942. In February 1943, Daniel was reassigned to the Air Technical Service Command. The facilities became a repair and replacement depot for Third Air Force aircraft. Most of the military flying at Daniel was by transient aircraft undergoing 3d and 4th echelon heavy maintenance work.

Daniel also activated and trained 32 chemical warfare companies. Chemical companies were equipped and taught to use smoke pots, tear gas, chemical trailers, trucks, blasting caps, and how to fill aircraft spray tanks. During the last part of the war, Daniel was used to prepare vehicles for use in the planned Invasion of Japan. In addition, the field had a branch prisoner of war camp with about 1200 POWs working on the field and in the nearby forests.

By war's end, the Army's air operations at Daniel were discontinued, with the airfield being returned to full civil control on October 31, 1945.

We have made an exact reproduction of a late war Daniel Field t shirt, made from a superior quality 'slub yarn' cotton, they are constructed as per the original in terms of cut, seam-style and shade and feature a print taken from an original 40's Daniel Field AFB t shirt. You can find them HERE in the webshop.

Originally starting out in July of 1943, this squadron’s was first designation was VB-146 (bombing squadron). After going through a number of other designation changes without any recorded insignia it finally became VP-ML-6 (Medium Patrol Squadron) on the 15th November 1946.

Upon the inception of this new designation the squadron was given its first official squadron insignia emblem featuring the animated icon Popeye the Sailorman. The usage of cartoon characters on unit insignia had been popularised during WWII with Walt Disney granting usage of all its characters to the US Military. The VP-6 insignia was developed by Bradley Kelly of the King Features Syndicate, it depicts Popeye astride a P2V Neptune bomber with missile in left hand and and .50Cal machine gun in the other, blazing away. Originally introduced as a minor walk-on character on the 1920's animated cinema short ' Thimble Theater', Popeye quickly became the star. With Popeye’s arrival came a host of new, off-beat funny folks such as Swee’pea, the “infink” Popeye adopted; J. Wellington Wimpy, the world’s most notorious hamburger-obsessed moocher; and Bluto, his hard-headed, lead-fisted antagonist. Popeye joined the U.S. Navy in 1941, with The Mighty Navy (1941), the first of several war-related shorts and the first time he would appear in an all-white uniform. Popeye was the one of the most popular cartoon stars from the 1930s through to the 1960s with over 753 Popeye cartoon segments existing to date.

In 1950 VP-6 deployed to Korea as the first patrol squadron in the theatre of operations after the outbreak of hostilities and the first to fly the Lockheed P2V Neptune in combat. During this tour the squadron operated from Johnson AFB, Japan 7 July-6 August 1950: Tachikawa AFB, Japan, 6 August 1950-12 February 1951: and a detachment at Atsugi Japan, 5 January-12 February 1951. Combat patrols were flown over the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan from bases in the north of Japan. Special assignments included reconnaissance flights, cover for the Inchon landings and the evacuations of Hamhung and the Chosen reservoir.

In July 1950, two VP-6 P2V-3s, piloted by Lieutenant Commander R. L. Ettinger and Lieutenant William J. Pressler, sighted a train along the Korean coast near Chongjin. The two crews destroyed the train with 5-inch rockets and 20-mm bow guns. The following month two Neptunes, led by Lieutenant Commander E. B. Rogers, attacked several boats and barges engaged in mine laying near Chinnampo. Three boats and two barges were sunk. Roger's P-2 Neptune was holed six times by enemy fire. On the same day, other VP-6 aircraft damaged two surface craft near Wonson, Korea. Later that month a VP-6 P2V-3 Buno 122940 piloted by Ensign William F. Goodman, attacked an enemy patrol vessel near Chinnampo, Korea. The starboard engine of his aircraft was damaged by enemy AAA fire and was ditched 6 miles west of Paeng Nylong-do. The entire crew was rescued by Royal Navy cruiser HMS Kenya. As a result of this loss, patrol aircraft were no longer assigned attack missions in Korea.

While on deployment in Japan, Patrol Squadron SIX acquired the name "Blue Sharks" as a result of a feature story in Collier's magazine entitled "Ble Sharks off the Red Coast". The article described the Lockheed P2V "Neptune" as a "Blue Shark." The unit took on this new moniker and went on to participate in the Tonkin Gulf Crisis with the 7th Fleet during the Vietnam war.

In collaboration with clothing brand TSPTR we have recreated the VP-6 US Navy jacket model M422A - along with the Korean era Popeye unit insignia taken exactly from the original and made on the correct military quality looms to produce a high-quality reproduction. As with all of the garments in the Elite Units section, it is subtly time worn to give the garment true vintage appeal and is our homage to this great unit. This is an officially licensed product from King Features Syndicates.

Many of the original West Coast motorcycle clubs were formed by ex-servicemen just returned from World War II. They were men whose lives had been interrupted by the horrors of war. They were looking for excitement and craving fun but more importantly, they were longing for the brotherhood they had while serving on the Worlds battlefields. They gravitated together through these desires and the commonality of riding motorcycles.

The club gave them the sense of belonging they had experienced in their military units but also afforded them a new found freedom you could only find on the open road. Infamous clubs including the Hells Angels, Boozefighters and the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington came together not long after the end of World War II, bringing a new culture and language to post war America. The Fall 2015 ELMC collection celebrates these innovators, not only for their spirit and sense of adventure but also for their knack for turning military issue equipment into functional motorcycle riding gear.

This series was shot by regular Eastman collaborator and well known motorcycle aficionado and collector Gary Margerum.

“Jabara, you’re shooting at me!” screamed Lieutenant Dick Frailey in a desperate attempt to get Major James Jabara, the third ranking American ace of the Korean War, to break off his attack. But his frantic radio transmission came too late. Jabara had opened up with his .50-caliber machine guns from a range of 3,000 feet and then followed up his initial trigger squeeze with eight more bursts. His bullets smashed into the left wing, engine and canopy of Frailey’s North American F-86 Sabre. Several rounds passed between Frailey’s arm and chest, ripping through his instrument panel.

Frailey’s engine started to smoke, and his jet rolled over into a dive. He managed to temporarily recover control of the fatally damaged plane and point it toward the Yellow Sea, where he thought he might have a better chance of being rescued.

With 64 missions over Korea under his belt, Frailey was an ex­perienced combat veteran. Ironically, he was flying Jabara’s usual aircraft on this mission and often flew as his wingman.

Frailey had purchased an expensive camera on a recent trip to Japan, intent on becoming the first American pilot to take a still photograph (other than gun camera footage) of a MiG-15 in flight. “I don’t want to eject,” Frailey announced to his flight mates. “I’ve got my new camera with me.” Jabara replied, “Screw the camera, I’ll buy you a new one.”

Frailey had difficulty getting out of his seat in the course of bailing out, but he managed to deploy his parachute just before his feet hit the water. His chute promptly landed on top of him, and he escaped from the web of tangled shroud lines only to discover that one of Jabara’s bullets had punctured his one-man life raft. To make matters worse, he had ejected within range of Communist shore artillery. Fortu­nately for Frailey, a U.S. Air Force Grumman SA-16 amphibian pilot braved the ensuing barrage and plucked him from the water.

The Air Force tried to keep the incident secret because it reflected poorly on Jabara, a celebrated war hero. Moreover, Air Force officials didn’t want the public to know about one of the factors that had contributed to this case of mistaken identity: American pilots frequently violated the rules of engagement prohibiting flight into Chinese airspace. Frailey’s flight leader had taken his four Sabres north of the Yalu River on a MiG sweep. Jabara saw the flight’s contrails tracking from the north across the border to the south and assumed they were a formation of MiGs. His pursuit curve put him on Frailey’s tail.

Jabara was known for his aggressiveness. During one World War II mission on May 28, 1944, his flight of four North American P-51D Mustangs was escorting Allied bombers to targets deep in the heart of Germany when 50 Messerschmitt Me-109s swarmed the bomber formation. Undaunted by the overwhelming odds, Jabara plunged into the furball with reckless abandon. A Luftwaffe pilot shot off Jabara’s canopy during the ensuing melee, yet the Mustang pilot re­mained unfazed. He continued his attack and managed to claim a probable victory despite the fact that he was flying a “convertible” at that point.

“Jabara was the ultimate warrior when it came to going to the sound of the guns without orders,” recalled Lt. Gen. Earl Brown, a Sabre pilot who flew 125 combat missions with the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing in Korea. “He would go wherever the guns were sounding, looking for some; if you’re with him in a bar fight, he’s just looking for a guy to punch—but if you’re not careful, he might, in his excitement, punch you.”

Many of the top aces in Korea, including Jabara, seemingly suffered from an affliction known as “MiG Madness.” They obsessed over their MiG tallies and worked themselves into a frenzy whenever they saw another aircraft airborne. In the heat of the moment, they sometimes saw what they wanted to see. Hal Fischer, the 25th ranking Korean War ace, wrote about another friendly fire incident in which he observed his wing commander, a man with a “visual problem and a great desire for shooting down MiGs,” fire on two Sabres heading south across the Yalu despite repeated calls over the radio explaining that they were friendly aircraft.

No official Air Force record chronicles the number of friendly fire incidents, but plenty of anecdotal evidence exists to suggest it occurred more than one would expect. On a few occasions, pilots who returned from a mission claiming a kill had their celebrations cut short when their gun camera footage clearly showed an F-86’s identification markings. A senior officer in the 4th Wing, for example, was transferred after a review of his gun camera film from a mission on June 22, 1951, conclusively showed that he had shot down Lieutenant Howard Miller, a pilot in the wing’s 336th Squadron.

In addition to fostering friendly fire incidents, MiG Madness sometimes caused pilots to take unnecessary chances in combat, and consequently resulted in the death of many talented aviators. MiG Madness claimed the life of Major George Davis, then the leading American ace of the war (12 victories), on February 10, 1952. “George’s main goal in life was to shoot down MiGs,” reminisced squadron mate Charlie Mitson. Just prior to Davis’ death, Mitson remembered him “dwelling on his score a lot.” The ace’s quest to build his victory total undoubtedly clouded his judgment during that last fateful mission.

Davis was leading 18 F-86s with orders to screen out any MiGs that attempted to intercept U.N. fighter-bombers attacking targets at Kunu-ri. Perhaps out of boredom, Davis broke away from the formation and took a four-ship flight up to the Yalu looking for action. His decision to embark on a MiG-hunting lark is pretty remarkable, especially since he was the mission commander for the Sabre screen. Moreover, MiGs frequently flew in large formations (often in trains of 60 to 80 aircraft), so Davis should have expected to be outnumbered if his flight encountered any enemy jets.

Sometime later Davis spotted 10 MiGs heading southeast at high speed. Unfortunately for the mission commander, his element leader (No. 3 in the formation) had run out of oxygen and returned to base with his wingman (No. 4). Davis decided to bounce the MiGs even though he and his wingman were outnumbered 5-to-1. He waded into the enemy formation, blasting away. The MiGs scattered, but one hesitated just long enough for Davis to rack up his 13th kill.

A slashing attack at that juncture would have guaranteed an escape option, but Davis was not satisfied with just one victory. He elected to immediately pursue another MiG, which meant he would have to sacrifice his energy advantage. Davis expertly maneuvered his jet behind the fleeing enemy plane and squeezed the trigger. Thick black smoke immediately poured from the MiG’s engine, and the jet entered a steep dive. The Communist pilot never recovered from the hit, and Davis claimed his 14th and final victory.

But Davis had bled away his speed while maneuvering to achieve his two kills in rapid succession, and as a result he was a sitting duck. At 32,000 feet a slow-moving F-86’s turning performance is marginal. Even so, the Sabre ace was attempting to turn to engage a third MiG when a fourth drilled his cockpit with cannon fire. Davis’ jet spun out of control. His wingman repeatedly yelled for him to bail out, but there was no answer, and the F-86 smashed into a Korean mountain.

The Air Force posthumously promoted Davis to lieutenant colonel and awarded him the Medal of Honor for his “indomitable fighting spirit, heroic aggressiveness, and superb courage in engaging the enemy against formidable odds.” His citation observed: “Rather than maintain his superior speed and evade the enemy fire being concentrated on him, he elected to reduce his speed and sought out still a third MiG-15. During this latest attack his aircraft sustained a direct hit, went out of control, then crashed into a mountain 30 miles south of the Yalu River.”

Davis’ refusal to break off his attack even after scoring a kill may have been motivated by a desire to achieve greater public notoriety. The American press treated the first aces of the jet age as knights of the air. They became household names, rivaling in popularity even sports stars of the day. The media piled praise on Sabre pilots in part because they were achieving tangible victories over the Communists during a period when the ground war stagnated.

The Communists chose to challenge American air power principally in “MiG Alley,” the northwestern quarter of North Korea bounded on the west by the Korea Bay and on the east by a line running roughly between the Sui-ho Reservoir and the town of Huichon. MiGs could launch from the Antung complex of airfields in Chinese Manchuria and be ready to fight within a few minutes, whereas Sabre pilots needed to fly a considerable distance just to make it to MiG Alley, let alone fight there. Basically, MiG Alley was at the edge of the F-86’s endurance. Sabre pilots often had less than 20 minutes’ on-station time before they had to return to base.

In an effort to stretch their time on station, many pilots would fly past “bingo” (the minimum fuel required for a safe return to base). To get home, they had to shut down the Sabre’s engine and glide part of the way. The F-86 could glide 69 miles from an altitude of 30,000 feet. The idea was to hopefully arrive over home base with enough fuel to restart the engine and land. But the Sabre’s engine did not always cooperate. The practice was so widespread that one squadron commander noted his unit made a dozen dead-stick landings each week in 1951-52. Squadron, group and wing leaders generally did not punish pilots for flying past bingo fuel. Instead they tended to celebrate it as a sign of an aggressive fighter pilot who pushed the flight envelope.

Captain Robinson “Robbie” Risner, a Korean War ace with eight victories, was one of those celebrated aggressive pilots. On October 22, 1952, he chased four MiGs across the Yalu while escorting a flight of fighter-bombers. Risner finally caught the tail-end Charlie deep inside Man­churia and fired a burst that shattered the MiG’s canopy. The enemy pilot, trying to escape, performed a split-S and managed to pull out of the maneuver 10 feet from the ground. The MiG was so low at that point that Risner saw its jet engine exhaust kick up dust from a dry riverbed. “He was not in very good shape,” recalled Risner, “but he was a great pilot—and he was fighting like a cornered rat!” The MiG pilot pulled his throttle to idle and put out his speed brake in an effort to get the Sabre to overshoot. Risner rolled over the top of the MiG and came down on the other side next to his wingtip. “We were both at idle with our speed brakes out, just coasting,” Risner recalled. “He looked over at me, raised his hand, and shook his fist. I thought, ‘This is like a movie. This can’t be happening!’ He had on a leather helmet, and I could see the stitching in it.” The MiG valiantly evaded his pursuer all the way back to Ta-tung-kou airfield, 35 miles into China. Risner and his wingman, Lieutenant Joe Logan, doggedly pursued him even as the enemy jet flew at 300 knots between two of the airfield’s hangars. Risner eventually got in an opportune shot and peppered the enemy with bullets until he blasted off part of the MiG’s wing. The MiG crashed alongside the runway.

During the high-speed pass between the hangars, Chinese anti-aircraft artillery punctured Lieutenant Logan’s fuel tank. Jet fuel was pouring out of his Sabre, and Risner told him to shut down his engine to save gas and then attempted to push Logan’s aircraft to safety using the nose of his F-86. He had to back off after two attempts, though, because venting fuel and hydraulic fluid from Logan’s crippled jet covered his canopy. Logan bailed out near Cho-do and drowned after becoming entangled in his parachute risers. On his way home, Risner’s F-86 ran out of gas, but he managed to glide back to base and make a successful dead-stick landing.

Many senior Air Force leaders not only condoned but encouraged pilots like Risner to break the rule that prohibited pursuit of MiGs into China. In fact, the top pilots routinely crossed the border. They did so both in hot pursuit and as part of preplanned missions that flagrantly broke the rules. Two-thirds of the 39 American jet aces crossed the Yalu, including the three leading aces. Eight of 11 pilots who scored 10 or more kills admitted after the war that they had crossed into Manchuria. General John Roberts remarked, “There were a lot of airplanes shot down in Korea by guys who…[did] not necessarily play by the rules.”

Sabre pilots were encouraged by the lax attitude of senior leaders, whom they expected would wink at border violations. For the most part their assumption was correct. After watching a radar display that showed two F-86 pilots twice circling a Chinese airfield 100 miles beyond the border, General Frank Everest, commander of the Fifth Air Force from June 1951 to May 1952, pretended to angrily storm into the postflight debrief and threaten the two pilots with court-martial. He then stomped out of the room and slammed the door. Moments later, he poked his head back in the room and said, “And furthermore, if you are going to violate the Manchurian border, for Dog’s sake turn off the damn IFF [identification friend or foe].” Likewise, General Glenn Barcus, the Fifth Air Force commander after Everest, told pilots during one premission brief to “Screw the Yalu!”

Many commanders not only permitted and encouraged border violations but also engaged in the practice themselves. Lieutenant Michael DeArmond, a young F-86 pilot, recalled one commander telling the squadron before a mission that any pilot caught north of the border would face court-martial. On that same mission, the commander led a flight of four Sabres deep into Manchuria and shot down a MiG. Wanting to keep the rules of engagement violation a secret, the officer quizzed DeArmond on the location of the shootdown. DeArmond answered, “Somewhere around the mouth of the Yalu.” The colonel responded, “Son, you have a bright future in the Air Force.”

Colonel Francis Gabreski, the top American ace in the European theater during World War II, chased a MiG over the main runway at Antung. After shooting down the Soviet pilot, Gabreski interrupted his flak-dodging maneuver to execute a victory roll over the Chinese airfield. Gabreski admitted to Colonel David Jones, a Fifth Air Force staff officer and later Air Force chief of staff, that his unit frequently crossed into China. When Colonel Jones expressed his dismay, Gabreski suggested that the colonel or his general was free to fly up to the Yalu and write down tail numbers. Furthermore, he declared that if the Fifth Air Force wanted “to kick ass” for the border violations, they should start with his own. Colonel Harrison Thyng, commander of the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, or­dered a pilot to buzz Antung at an altitude of 10 to 15 feet at Mach .9. He reasoned that the sonic boom would infuriate the MiG pilots and entice them to rise to the bait.

Sabre pilots shied away from strafing MiGs on the ground, perhaps because two unlucky F-80 Shooting Star pilots were court-martialed after they became lost and shot up a Soviet airfield in October 1950. Even so, MiGs did not have to get too far off the ground before American airmen would shoot at them. Georgy Lobov, the first Soviet MiG commander of the war, complained, “Americans were constantly crossing the border.” Lobov’s unit, the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps, lost 26 aircraft over their own airfields during the first six months of 1952. American planes would often circle at high altitude over the mouth of the Yalu and swoop down on Communist pilots after seeing dust swirling on their airfields, an indication that MiGs were taking off. The Soviets were so frustrated by the aerial blockade that they simply kept their jets on the ground when Sabres were re­ported overhead.

Sabre gun camera footage sometimes showed MiG-15s with their landing gear extended, with other enemy planes plainly visible in the background, parked on the tarmac of Chinese airfields. Understandably, this type of incriminating evidence tended to get “lost” or destroyed.

Air Force officials mostly turned a blind eye to flights into Manchuria. But they did haphazardly and inconsistently enforce the restriction. Captain Joe McConnell, the highest-scoring American ace of the conflict, was grounded for two weeks for repeatedly crossing the border. The 51st Wing commander, Colonel John Mitchell, intervened and forced McConnell’s superior to allow him to fly again. Usually Air Force leaders cracked down only after an embarrassing incident occurred that they could not ignore.

On January 23, 1953, cannon fire from a MiG broke the right arm of Lt. Col. Edwin Heller, commander of the 16th Fighter Squadron, during a sortie over Manchuria. Bullets also severed his Sabre’s control stick and disabled its ejection system. Heller’s F-86 went into an uncontrollable dive from 40,000 feet. He struggled to disconnect his seatbelt, stood up in his seat and started trying to claw his way through an eight-inch hole in the canopy—at which point the 650-mph wind stream sucked him right through the opening. Among other injuries he suffered during the bailout, Heller’s left leg was fractured when it struck the horizontal stabilizer. Peasants captured the downed pilot, who endured 28 months in Chinese captivity.

Heller’s shootdown over Chinese territory resulted in diplomatic protests that jeopardised ongoing peace talks. At about the same time, Swiss observers traveling through Manchuria to Panmunjon for the peace talks witnessed a dogfight well north of the Yalu. Their complaints finally forced senior Air Force officials to take action.

Captain Dolph Overton, an ace with possibly the hottest streak in Air Force history, became the scapegoat. Overton shot down five MiGs in just four days (January 21-24, 1953). During a visit to an Air Force radar site on Cho-do, he had learned where MiGs orbited while waiting to land, how long they stayed airborne and how they made their approach to landing. Overton positioned his jet above the MiGs’ landing pattern, flying a racetrack pattern with minimal manoeuvring to lessen the possibility that the sun’s glint off his Sabre’s wings would give away his position. Then he waited to pounce on his prey. He turned off his IFF, hoping to fool enemy radar operators into thinking his aircraft was just another MiG getting ready to land.

Overton also tried to keep his jet between the sun and the MiGs in order to arrive at their 6 o’clock position undetected. All of his kills were achieved at close range without the use of the radar-ranging feature of the Sabre’s gunsight. “They never seemed to see us or recognize us until too late,” he boasted.

The day after his fifth kill, Overton was called into Colonel Mitchell’s office. He responded truthfully when asked, “Were you over the river yesterday?” Under pressure from higher headquarters, Mitchell grounded the ace. He also gave Overton a terrible efficiency report for his “inability to follow orders,” took away his captain’s bars and sent him home without decorations and without official recognition of his five victories. The Air Force eventually did bless Overton’s claims, but it took almost a year (normally victory claims were processed, reviewed and confirmed within a month).

Mitchell’s actions were an extreme example of hypocrisy. The wing commander had not only condoned flights across the border, he had personally participated in them. Overton’s treatment was particularly unfair because on the day in question he was flying as the No. 4 aircraft in a four-ship flight—in other words, he was just a wingman. Overton remarked, “I know that shit flows downhill, but it seemed to me that this was a long way down.” Within a year he resigned his commission and left the service. The squadron was grounded for a short period, but no other pilot was individually punished—possibly because the ground crews threatened to mutiny after learning of Overton’s fate.

Not all top pilots violated the rules of engagement in search of MiGs. In the foreword to MiG Alley to Mu Chia Pass: Memoirs of a Korean War Ace, which chronicles the air exploits of nine-victory ace Cecil Foster, Overton wrote: “Sometimes the MiGs just did not leave China. You cannot shoot a plane down if it does not fly when you are flying or does not fly into your combat zone. During those inactive times, some pilots ventured across the Yalu River into China hoping to engage in enemy activity. Cecil Foster never crossed the Yalu illegally.” Just the fact that Overton celebrates Foster’s disciplined adherence to the rules as a way to testify to his character suggests that the practice of crossing into Manchuria was widespread and routine. “[Our pilots] were coming back with blackened gun ports after every mission,” recalled one officer. “That meant they were shooting at MiGs every time they were up there. That couldn’t happen unless they were on the wrong side of the border.”

The punitive actions taken against Overton failed to deter other F-86 pilots from continuing to break the rules of engagement. On April 7, 1953, Hal Fischer, a double ace, spotted four MiGs crossing the border into Korea. The enemy jets turned around and escaped back into China, but Fischer gave chase anyway. He cleared his wingman to return home without him after the latter reported that he was low on fuel. Flying alone, Fischer continued to press the attack even after three more MiGs appeared. Official Soviet records describe what happened next: “At 1640 upon approach to Danu airfield, Senior Lieutenant Berelidze’s pair attacked one F-86 which was pursuing Senior Lieutenant Ugryumov at an altitude of 1,000-1,500 meters. Senior Lieutenant Berelidze shot down one F-86 from a distance of 400 meters at a 14 quartering angle. The pilot: Captain Harold Edward Fischer, service number A02204126, Flight Commander, 39th Air Squadron, 51st Wing, was taken prisoner.” The Chinese held Fischer in solitary confinement until June 1955. He had more than two years to reflect on his bout of MiG Madness.

Undoubtedly, the aggressiveness of the leading American Korean War aces in pursuit of MiGs propelled them to the top of the pecking order and helped secure air superiority for U.N. forces. For that, they should be honoured. But tales of friendly fire, rule-breaking and recklessness blemish the stellar combat records of these legendary airmen.

For some time now William Hamper has been a regular Eastman and Buzz Rickson's customer. His working pseudonym for the past 38 years has been Billy Childish - one of the few remaining bastions of British originality and talent today. A cult figure in America, Europe and Japan, he is by far the most prolific painter, poet, and song-writer of his generation. In a twenty year period he has published over 40 collections of critically acclaimed poetry, recorded over 100 full-length independent LP’s and produced over 2000 paintings.

Born in 1959 in Chatham, Kent, he left Secondary education at 16 an undiagnosed dyslexic. Refused an interview at the local art school he entered the Naval Dockyard at Chatham as an apprentice stonemason. During the following six months he produced some six hundred drawings. On the basis of this work he was accepted into St Martin’s School of Art to study painting. However, his acceptance was short-lived and before completing the course he was expelled for his outspokenness and unorthodox working methods. With no qualifications and no job prospects Childish then spent some 12 years developing his own highly personal writing style and producing his art independently.

Since then he has had solo and group exhibitions internationally including New York, London, Seoul and Berlin. He was included in British Art Show 5, which toured throughout four cities - Edinburgh, Southampton, Cardiff, and Birmingham. In 2010, he was the subject of major concurrent survey exhibitions at the ICA in London and White Columns in New York, and in 2011 he became Artist in Residence at the Chatham Historic Dockyard where he currently works.

As fan's of Billy's work across all genres it was a pleasure to speak to him recently regarding his work and patronage of eastman products.

To define you as eclectic in your influences and projects would be a huge understatement, in your view does creativity have to be approached in a wide variety of media?

No, I just happen to get bored if I do anything every day. As a kid I wanted to be painter as I didn’t fancy a ‘real’ job. Music came along in 77 and I was happy to be included. But we were never with an agency or big label – our tours were 2 weeks tops in the back of a transit round Germany etc. Writing, again, I just write when I feel like it, but within that I am very disciplined and can apply myself with quite an intense focus - but then I need a break and to do something else. This suits me but isn't a 'have to' for everyone else.

Would you define one particular facet of your work as more important to you than the others?

Yes, painting is nearest my basic nature.

You've been an Eastman and Buzz Rickson's customer for some time now, what initially attracted you to the brands?

I found out about Eastman from a friend who recommended I take a look. As a boy I used to buy old military jackets and hats and wore some of that stuff as a punk in 77. As a teenager through to the 90’s I bought most my cloths in Oxfam, as I hated regular fashion. I then began to notice people who made stuff with the same attention to detail as the old gear I liked. I found out about the Buzz Rickson from Eastman Leather. Really you vote with your money & patronage, and I vote for people who care about what they do, be it art, cooking, or any type of making. If your going to engage in materialism make it good materialism, not careless stuff often made by underpaid children in the 3rd world without piss breaks. Of course there can be compromise, but I really try to engage in life with love and prefer people who do the same.

You have a strong sense of style that is clearly motivated by the context of the clothing you wear as much as the aesthetic, can you explain why this is important?

In a strange way it's not that important to me. I often don’t remember what I've put on in the morning - or look like - unless I'm confronted with myself in a shop window. All of my eclectic choices are based on liking the colours in the weave and weft, or a button. I've always been like this; when I was seven I used to wear an old fedora that I brought for 3d from a local jumble sale. I liked it because it was of the old world and coloured green.
I was one of the few punks to wear shorts (8th army) and sometimes an old homburg hat. To understand where I'm coming from I'd have to say I have a childlike relationship with stuff. There is no mandate other than some stuff fires my imagination and things that are real and cared about allow my imagination fuller reign.

Your style could almost be described as a reaction to the burgeoning subcultures during your formative years in the 1970's - glam, punk and so on. Is this a conscious move to relocate yourself in a different era?

I've covered this a bit, but for sure I liked all the old soldiers who worked in the dockyard when I was 16. I was an apprentice stone mason in the yard 1976 and it was normal to wear an old WWII beret and work duffel coats from back then. (my overalls were WW11 RAF,). I certainly felt more affinity with the old boys than my contemporaries.

You made a fantastic Super 8 film based on the British retreat from Mons in WWI, can you tell us more about the motivation behind this?

I was a RE cadet when I was 12 and have always liked a bit of serge. I've been a member of a living history group, The Great War Society for many years, and in 2004 we did an 80 mile march in full kit to mark the 90th anniversary of the retreat from Mons – also raising money for the British Legion (as a punk one of our venues in 1977 was the British Legion Hall in Chatham). For the march I decided to borrow my mates old super 8 camera he bought at the Rochester flea market and bought 10 reels of out-of-date Russian super 8 stock on the cheap. I was run ragged as I was also on road duty on my old bike, but I got some shots in and luckily it all came good. I recorded the soundtrack on an old cassette recorder and dubbed that on and we had a little story.

You seem to approach all of your creative projects in a specifically old fashioned manner, the phrase, 'if a jobs worth doing, its worth doing well' springs to mind, is this something you adhere to?

That’s nearly true. But I'm no stickler – I never had a lesson in anything and really found my own way copying mates (and the masters). I'm fast and a bit of a bodger – but I bodge with love and now have somehow learned to do some of this stuff with ease and grace. What I admire in others is their care and ability to measure (I couldn’t really manage to be a stone mason as I've got no maths. I'm dyslexic, left school at 16 was not allowed in the school choir as they said I was tone deaf, and I was thrown out of art school. So I'm a bit of a contradiction.

Can you tell us what you're working on at the moment?

I'm just finishing a new LP – we still record on analogue and have always made our releases on vinyl. I have a solo show of paintings opening in New York this September. I've made a hand coloured etching edition to tie in with this and as a fund raiser for the Whitchapel Gallery in London. There's a new bronze edition about to come out through L-13 (skull and femur) + some affordable prints of paintings. I've also been writing a novel about 77 /78 punk rock – 7 drafts and 4 years in now - and have numerous other side projects I'm messing with as well.

Billy's latest exhibition entitled 'Flowers, nudes and Birch trees' is currently showing at Lehmann Maupin in New York from
September 10 - October 31 2015

His latest collection of poetry titled '
In the Teeth of Deamons' was published this year by Tangerine Press, Tooting

In the years during and preceding the Second World War the U. S. Navy developed and issued a multitude of different styles of cold weather gear and clothing. Winter jackets, commonly referred to as “Deck Jackets,” became the most cherished clothing articles of sailors during WWII and among collectors today. Most of the deck jackets used in WWII evolved from a dark blue, waterproof, zip-front design that was very similar in appearance to the U. S. Army’s Winter Combat Jacket (Tanker Jacket). In 1943, the second version of this Deck Jacket design was introduced, featuring a new-style front closure that was both an improvement over the zipper closure and a distinguishing characteristic of this jacket style that would later be considered a design classic.

This new Deck Jacket took into account the lessons learned from several years of warfare at sea. By the time America was actually at war and fighting in 1942, it was concluded that Navy personal who found themselves on shore or beach landing operations needed to be instantly and obviously recognized as U. S. Navy personnel when viewed mixed-in with various Army troops. Likewise, the USN had such different working uniforms from the U. S. Army that it was also feared GI’s unfamiliar with the Navy clothing might mistake USN personnel on the beach as enemy troops, many of whom were themselves also blue-clad navy forces manning the coastal defences that U. S. forces were assaulting. This potentially deadly dilemma was rectified in late 1942, whereby the newer-production zip-front Deck Jackets leaving the factories had the upper back area boldly stenciled with the identification text “U. S. NAVY” in block letters using an opaque, semi-reflective, silver-coloured silk screening ink.

The revised Deck Jacket of 1943 was exclusively produced with the silver stencilling across the back, unlike the earlier jackets it replaced. It retained the waterproof, celluloid plastic interlining (sandwiched between the outer shell and Melton wool inner lining) of the earlier jacket style, but the most recognisable improvement incorporated in the 1943 Deck Jacket was the new style frontal closing method. The earlier jackets closed via a metal zipper. During very cold weather conditions, any collected water spray on the zipper would immediately freeze, making the zippers very difficult, if not impossible to operate. Likewise, deck personnel wore heavy gloves in cold weather, the wearing of which often made operating the zipper slide unduly hard, and if the zippers were ice-caked with frozen spray, more often than not they would simply fail completely. The solution to this problem was found in the typical fireman’s coats of the era. Naturally, firemen wore heavy gloves and were often coated in water from head to toe, and in winter, this water froze to their coats, yet they could fasten or unfasten their coats without great difficulty. The fireman’s coats, however, fastened not with zippers but with a metal hook-style clasp fastener that pivoted on a hinge pin and folded around and through a metal bracket. It was this same fastener design that the U. S. Navy incorporated into the 1943 Deck Jackets.

There are a few variation in the production of this "hook" type as well, the vast majority of original issued jackets includes the "D" patch pockets and single hook at the bottom of the jacket, however similar "hook" types without the "D" pockets exist and some have double hook enclosure at the bottom. This is no surprise as the patterns are usually modified to suit the situation and varies from one manufacturer to another.

This new Deck Jacket became synonymous with WWII U. S. Navy operations around the world and has since become a prized collectors item.

The 80th was the first USAAF fighter group to be stationed in Burma since the Japanese ran out the famous Flying Tigers in 1942. The 80th fighter group was unmistakably a vital element in the victory in Burma. During its two years in combat, this group, which called itself the "Burma Banshees", kept the supply lines open to China. These planes and pilots fought a forgotten campaign over the ‘Hump’ of the Himalayas and into Burma from late 1943 through the end of the war, engaging Japanese Army aircraft over isolated jungles and unmapped green hell in support of General Stilwell’s Chinese Troops and General Merrill’s Marauders.

The 80th had a motto, "Angels on our Wings," because its primary mission was to escort and conduct combat air patrols for transports but the group's nickname, the "Burma Banshees," sent a message to its Japanese enemies - when they heard the wailing sound of a Banshee's machine, death and destruction were coming their way. Their distinctive ghost skull was nice contrast to the more traditional shark jaws often seen on Warhawks in U.S. and British service.

The 80th Pursuit Group was born in the wake of Pearl Harbor shortly after America's entry into World War II. It was commissioned on January 13, 1942 along with dozens of other fighting units under a special order of Congress. Less than a month later, on February 9, 1942, the 80th was activated at Selfridge Field, Michigan, with the 88th, 89th, and 90th Pursuit Squadrons. The first several months of the 80th's history were quite uneventful. Its ranks, almost totally enlisted, performed administrative and organisational functions while waiting for planes and pilots. During this period, on May 12, 1942, the Department of the Army changed the designation of the group and its squadrons from "pursuit" to "fighter." In July of 1942, the pilots arrived and began training, first in the P-47 Thunderbolt and later in the Curtis P-40. By 1943 they were ready for combat.

On May 10, the 80th shipped out of New York harbor headed for Karachi, India. From there the journey continued over land. From September, 1943, until March, 1944, the 80th established its base of operations in the Assam Valley just outside of northern Burma. Since its main purpose was the defence of supply routes to China, the majority of missions flown were patrols in support of the cargo airlift between Assam and Kunming, China. The 80th also provided offensive strikes in the Huwang Valley of northern Burma to protect allied engineers building the Ledo Road, a land supply route through the Burmese Jungle. The official mission of the 80th Fighter Group was soon extended to include offensive strikes in northern Burma to prevent the establishment of enemy bases from which Allied airlift planes might be attacked. Therefore, in the months that followed, the group launched several attacks on Myitkyina Airdrome in an effort to reduce Japanese attacks on the Hump cargo planes. Myitkyina, the only all-weather strip in northern Burma, was the principal Japanese base for the defence of Burma from the north. Japanese opposition was not the only enemy. In the dense jungles temperatures sometimes soared to 140 degrees and the humidity hovered near 100 percent. Crews worked in swarms of beetles, flies, and gnats. At night, sleeping required the use of mosquito netting. Supplies came by ship from half way around the world and were nearly impossible to obtain. Finally, disease and fungi claimed more troops than opposing enemy fire.

By the time the 80th Fighter Group left Myitkyina it had compiled an impressive combat record. The Banshees launched 18,873 planes on 4,719 missions, destroyed more than 200 bridges and destroyed 80 enemy planes in the air or on the ground. It received the Distinguished Unit Citation for a most remarkable defence of a critical Indian oil refinery. This fighter group kept the supply lines open and helped Allied bombers and ground troops defeat a Japanese onslaught that at one point in this war seemed unstoppable. By the spring of 1945, targets were becoming scarce as the war was drawing to a close. Shortly after the end of the war in September, the 80th returned to the United States and was deactivated on November 3, 1945.

West Coast artist Bruce Minney was born October 2, 1928 making him an impressionable teenager during the years of WWII. In 1946 he was accepted to the prestigious California School of Arts and Crafts. However, after graduation work as a firefighter left him unfulfilled artistically so in 1955 he packed up his family and moved to the mecca of advertising, paperback and pulp publishing – New York City.

In the days of Mad Men, men's adventure magazines thrived. With titles like Stag, Male, For Men Only, and Man's Illustrated their crazy covers and even crazier stories were distinctly American. Minney spent 20 years working as an illustrator for men's adventure magazines painting beautiful scantily clad women, gorillas, lions, tigers, bears, elephants, alligators, headhunters, Nazis, airplanes, aircraft carriers, tanks, guns, and many explosions. His style evoked boys own adventure and spoke to men on a base level. As the 1960s wore on and US involvement in Vietnam increased and magazines like Penthouse became more explicit, circulations for the men’s adventure magazines dropped and jobs were harder to come by. One of the last men’s adventure magazine illustration Bruce did was for National Lampoon in November 1970. The illustration is a brutal, acerbic parody in the men’s adventure style set in Vietnam.

He worked another 20 years painting covers for all kinds of paperbacks, over 400 in total, including western (The Lone Ranger), historical romance, action, military (Hornblower), biography, and Gothic horror. He truly was the man who painted everything.

His populist hyperrealist style, while similar to that of Mort Knustler and others, has been embraced and preserved, and is now highly collectable. The winner of numerous awards and the shaper of men and boys for a generation or better, he died on August 5, 2013.

On May 12th 1940, five obsolete Fairey Battle light bombers of No.12 Squadron RAF took off from their base near Amifontaine in France. Under the command of Flying Officer Donald Garland, the five Battles attacked a strategically vital bridge over the Albert Canal in Belgium. Braving their way through intense anti-aircraft fire and decimated by German fighters immediately after releasing their bombs, the horrifically outperformed British aircraft were still able to deliver their bombs on target. Only one Battle returned to base. Of the crew of the lead aircraft, both Flying Officer Garland as pilot and Sergeant Thomas Gray as his observer were awarded their nation’s highest decoration for bravery – the Victoria Cross. But with them throughout, sharing the danger as he kept up a constant stream of fire from his single Vickers K machine gun, was 20 year old air gunner Leading Aircraftsman Lawrence Reynolds. He died with his crew. As he was deemed not to be in a position of leadership or influence, he was the only one of the three not to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

The vital role played by the air gunner has often been tragically left in the shadow of that of the pilot. Gunners required far less training and were therefore cheaper and easier to replace, and were not given powers of captaincy within the crew of an aircraft. Whilst there were many roles within multi-crew aircraft which also necessitated manning a machine gun, such as navigator, observer, radio operator or bombardier, it is the purpose of this article to examine only the air gunner: the brave individual whose sole job was to keep enemy fighters at bay.

It is easier to appreciate the gunner’s role within his crew by examining the crew itself: taking a typical USAAF bomber such as the B17, ten men were required to operate the aircraft. This consisted of two pilots, a navigator and a bombardier, all of whom were commissioned officers. A flight engineer and a radio operator flew alongside four dedicated gunners; these last six crew members were all non-commissioned. Aside from the two pilots, every crew member had at least one machine gun position immediately to hand in the event of attack by enemy aircraft.

For those conscripted into the armed forces in the Second World War, flying seemed like an attractive alternative to the infantry to many. With this in mind, applicants for officer aircrew roles within the USAAF were required to have completed a minimum of two years’ college education, although this was reduced to an entrance examination once casualties began to mount. Gunners were not expected to have as much of an academic background and therefore tended – although it certainly was not a rule – to come from less affluent backgrounds.

After basic training, those selected to become gunners would attend one of the USAAF gunnery schools. This consisted of six weeks of studying the operation and maintenance of both gun and turret, ballistics, enemy vehicle recognition and most importantly, live firing. Gunners trained to fire at land, sea and air targets as, although their primary role was no doubt the defense of their aircraft, there were also obvious offensive capabilities against land and sea targets inherent in their new role. For the USAAF, this same gunnery course formed part of the training for navigators, bombardiers, radio operators and flight engineers. At peak output, the USAAF was training 600 gunners every five weeks.

Comparisons can be drawn to the system employed in Germany for training gunners within the Luftwaffe. In the early days of the Second World War, new recruits were first assigned to a Flieger-Ersatzabteilung, or Aircrew Replacement Battalion, where after uniform issue and medical exams, the traditional core military skills of drill, physical training and weapons handling were also accompanied by basic navigation and radio operation. At the end of six months of training, recruits were streamed with those considered suitable being selected for pilot training. The remainder received a further two months training at an Aircrew Development Regiment, being instructed in further navigation and radio operation as well as technical training and gunnery. Later in the war, the streaming process was undertaken far earlier and potential gunners found themselves at the Aircrew Development Regiment almost immediately.

Those who were then selected to specialize as gunners, often accompanied by a number of individuals who had failed to make the grade during pilot training, were now sent to the Luftwaffe’s five month course on air gunnery. This involved familiarity with weapons ranging from handguns up to air-to-air machine gunnery in aircraft. The latter was initially with gun cameras but then progressed onto towed targets with real ammunition. Airborne training was often conducted concurrently with other branches, with students and instructors of several specializations all crammed into a single training aircraft. Upon completion of training, gunners were sent to their front line squadrons.

Across many roles of every air force gunners suffered horrific casualties, notable in the statistics of RAF Bomber Command in Western Europe, through Soviet light bomber gunners on the Eastern Front to the gunners of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s carrier borne torpedo and dive bombers. Not afforded the rank or pay of their commissioned comrades, gunners took all of the same risks. All crews were fiercely and rightly proud of their vital air gunners.

The Eastman reproduction Air Corps Gunnery School t shirt is available now in the T SHIRT section

While the story of the Women's Air Service Pilots (WASPs) in the United States is relatively well known, much less well known is the story of the Russian 588th Night Bomber Regiment. Made up of only women, the regiment, unofficially known as “Stalin’s Falcons,” were given a much more chilling moniker by the Germans: Nachthexen, or “The Night Witches.”

The year was 1941 and Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union. By November the German army was just 19 miles from Moscow. Leningrad was under siege and 3 million Russians had been taken prisoner. The Soviet air force was grounded.

In the summer of 1941 Marina Raskova, a record breaking aviatrix was called upon to organise a regiment of women pilots to fly night combat missions of harassment bombing. From mechanics to navigators, pilots and officers, the 588th regiment was composed entirely of women. The 588th was so successful and deadly that the Germans came to fear them and Luftwaffe pilots were promised an Iron Cross for shooting down a Night Witch!. The women, most of them barely 20 years old, started training in Engels, a small town north of Stalingrad. The 588th flew its first bombing mission on June 8, 1942. It consisted of three planes; their target was the headquarters of a German division. The raid was successful but one plane was lost.

The 588th flew thousands of combat bombing missions. They fought non-stop for months, sometimes flying 15 to 18 missions on the same night. They flew obsolete Polikarpov Po-2 wooden bi planes that were otherwise used as trainers. They could only carry two bombs that weighed less than a ton altogether. Most of the women who survived the war had, by the end, flown almost a thousand missions each.

Nadya Popova recalls those missions and comments that it was a miracle the Witches didn't suffer more losses. Their planes were the slowest ones in the air force and often came back riddled with bullets, but they kept flying. In August of 1942 Nadya and her navigator crashed in the Caucasus. They were found alive a few days later.

Years after the war, Nadya commented that she used to sometimes look up into the dark night sky, remembering when she was a young girl crouched at the controls of her bomber, and she would say to herself, "Nadya, how did you do it?"

There was a great deal of resistance to the idea of women combat pilots from their male counterparts. The women had to fight both enemy aircraft as well as the resentment of their male colleagues. In spite of the never-ending fatigue , the loss of friends, and sexual harassment from their suspicious male counterparts, the women kept on flying. Eventually the Soviets formed three regiments of women combat pilots -- the 586th, the 587th and the 588th.

The 586th also trained at Engels, first in the two-seat Yak-7 trainers and later on in the Yak-1 fighters. The women proved themselves to be as good as the men. The most outstanding pilots were Raisa Belyaeva and Valeria Khomyakova. The later was allowed to fly solo in the Yak-1 after just 52 minutes of dual instruction. She earned the grade of "excellent" during one trial flight but on a subsequent flight crash-landed on the frozen Volga River when she switched to an empty fuel tank. All of the women had their hands full, learning so much information in such a short amount of time.

The female mechanics also had their hands full with the demanding task of keeping the planes flying. The winter of 1942 was brutally cold, with temperatures plunging as low as -54F and countless snow storms. One night in March of that year the women were called upon to save the aircraft from being blown over by gale-force winds. Several women would literally lie on the wings and horizontal stabilisers of each plane, using the weight of their bodies to keep the planes from blowing away. When the wind subsided, the women looked like snowmen, but the planes were intact. Their respite was brief however. By noon the storm had resumed, and again the women rushed to the airfield to save the planes. The storm finally blew itself out around midnight, and the exhausted women, soaked to the skin and half frozen, could finally rest.

The Night Witches practiced what is known as harassment bombing. Their targets were encampments, supply depots, rear base areas, etc. Their constant raids made rest for the troops difficult and left them feeling very insecure.

The top speed of the Po-2 biplane was 94 mph ((82 knots). This is slower than even most World War I fighters and left them very vulnerable to enemy night fighters. But the Night Witches learned their craft well. The Po-2 was very slow, but it was also extremely maneuverable. When a German Me-109 tried to intercept it, the Night Witches would throw their Po-2 biplanes into a tight turn at an airspeed that was below the stalling speed of the Me-109. This forced the German pilot to make a wider circle and come back for another try, only to be met by the same tactic, time after time. Many of the Witches flew so low to the ground that they were hidden by hedgerows! Completely frustrated, the German pilots would finally simply give up and leave the Po-2 biplanes alone.

The stall speed of an Me-109 E,F and G models was about 120 mph ((104 knots). This made the top speed of the Po-2 biplanes slower than the stalling speed of the German fighters. The Focke-Wulf, also used in the Eastern front, had a high stalling speed as well, so it suffered the same fate.

The Witches developed the technique of flying close to their intended targets, then cutting their engines. Silently they would glide to their targets and release their bombs. Then they would restart their engines and fly away. The first warning the Germans had of an impending raid was the sound of the wind whistling against the wing bracing wires of the Po-2s, and by then it was too late.

The Po-2 would often pass undetected by the radar of the German fighters due to the unreflective nature of the canvas surfaces and also because they flew so low to the ground. Planes equipped with infrared heat seekers fared no better at detecting them due to the small heat emission from their puny little 110-hp engines.

Searchlights, however presented a big problem. The Germans at Stalingrad developed what the Russians called a "flak circus". They would arrange flak guns and searchlights (hidden during the day) in concentric circles around probable targets. Planes flying in pairs in a straight-line flight path across the perimeter were often ripped to shreds by the flak guns. So the Night Witches of the 588th developed their own technique to deal with the problem. They flew in groups of three. Two would go in and deliberately attract the attention of the Germans. When all the searchlights were pointed at them, the two pilots would suddenly separate, flying in opposite directions and maneuvering wildly to shake off the searchlight operators who were trying to follow them. In the meantime the third pilot would fly in through the dark path cleared by her two teammates and hit the target virtually unopposed. She would then get out, rejoin the other two, and they would switch places until all three had delivered their payloads. As Nadya Popova noted, it took nerves of steel to be a decoy and willingly attract enemy fire, but it worked very well.

After the war, a number of the women continued to fly, some as test pilots. Others retired to a quiet life or returned to work, either in factories or on farms. In spite of the danger and their heavy losses, most of the women later described their combat experience as the most exciting time of their lives. They endured loss of family and homes in their absence, met and lost lovers and husbands, and were often wounded or killed in action.

A fitting tribute was made to the dedication of this unit's airwomen by the male Free French pilots of the Normandie-Niemen Fighter Regiment who often fought alongside the Night Witches:
Even if it were possible to gather and place at your feet all the flowers on earth, this would not constitute sufficient tribute to your valour.

One of the great American signifiers is the California Highway Patrol officer. Dressed in traditional khaki campaign hat and blue-and-gold trouser stripe, the motorcycle riding CHP officer has become iconic.

The founding of the California Highway Patrol really was an evolution more than a birth – one that started in 1911 with the hiring of the first rural traffic officer by San Mateo County. It was formalised in 1929 with the passage of a bill to create a formal Highway Patrol to be part of the Division of Motor Vehicles. However, a few county boards – most notably Los Angeles county – elected to maintain separate traffic squads. It finally became a truly statewide entity when the Los Angeles Motor Patrol was absorbed on July 1, 1932.

The final piece of the puzzle came on October 1, 1947, when the Department of California Highway Patrol was created – to be headed by a commissioner appointed by the governor.The California Highway Patrol was created by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. C.C. Young on August 14, 1929. During its first 10 years, the CHP grew into a force of 730 uniformed personnel. The legislation which created the CHP also created its academy for training future officers. Cadets attend a 27-week program and receive more than 1,100 hours of training. They receive training in weapons, emergency vehicle operations and emergency medical services.

Early CHP motorcycles included Indian, Harley Davidson and Henderson manufactured bikes during the 1920s and 30s, though by 1941 the main manufacturers used at the training academy were Harley-Davidson and Indian. This continued through to the seventies when CHP decided to renew their Harley fleet and tested many motorcycles including the Honda 750 four, the Suzuki 850, Moto Guzzi and finally the Kawasaki Z900 and then 1000C1 made famous in 'CHiPs'.

CHP officers are sworn to uphold the elements represented by the seven points of the CHP badge -

  • Character: The qualities of moral strength, vigor, and stability
  • Integrity: The moral defence against corrupting influence
  • Knowledge: Acquaintance with facts and laws, combined with the awareness and understanding that sustain an officer through daily duties
  • Judgment: The ability to apply knowledge to the best advantage of all concerned
  • Honor: Highest esteem for the principles upon which the California Highway Patrol has been built
  • Loyalty: Faithfulness to the precepts of the Highway Patrol and to fellow officers
  • Courtesy: Respect for law and order and for the individual

In 1955, the CHP got its first blast of national publicity when “Highway Patrol” starring Academy Award winner Broderick Crawford debuted on television. Although the show was technically about a generic highway patrol that could have been located in any number of states, TV lore has it that the show was first promoted by CHP Commissioner Bernard Caldwell, who had one of his civilian public relations people go to Hollywood and “get us a show like Dragnet.” And for the first three seasons, the actors (except Crawford) wore actual CHP uniforms with slightly altered arm patches and badges. The show ran until 1959.

In 1969 the CHP was notably involved in the Student Demonstrations at Peoples Park in Berkley. Governor Ronald Reagan had been publicly critical of university administrators for tolerating student demonstrations at the Berkeley campus. Reagan called the Berkeley campus "a haven for communist sympathisers, protesters, and sex deviants." He considered the creation of the park a direct leftist challenge to the property rights of the university, and he found in it an opportunity to fulfil his campaign promise. On Thursday, May 15, 1969 at 4:30 a.m., Governor Reagan sent the CHP into People's Park. The officers cleared an 8-block area around the park while a large section of what had been planted was destroyed and an 8-foot (2.4 m)-tall perimeter chain-link wire fence was installed to keep people out and to prevent the planting of more trees, grass, flowers, or shrubs. It became the impetus for the "most violent confrontation in the university's history."

Women joined the CHP officer ranks in 1974 after several women challenged regulations that restricted them to non-officer positions. For the first time, female cadets entered the CHP Academy with their male counterparts. By the end of the 16-week training, female cadet Deborah A. Street had captured the pistol shooting award with a perfect 300 score. Academically, five of the top eight graduates were women.

From 1977-1983, the Highway Patrol received a second extended showering of television adulation from the show CHiPS, starring Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox. The show was a hit worldwide exposing foreign audiences to the California dream and California crime in equal measure. It also served to embed the CHP Khaki and Gold into cultural memory creating an iconic signifier for California Law Enforcement.

When Bessie Stringfield tossed pennies onto a map of the country, she did more than decide where to steer her motorcycle for each trip. She began creating a legend. In 1927, African American's were rarely found on roads alone, so to see a 16- year-old African American woman motoring along on her bike – in the South – must have been something. The Jamaican-born Stringfield insisted that she wasn’t out to create a scene. She just wanted to experience more of the world. She was not ignorant of what was surely rampant racial discrimination; she simply chose to live her life around it.

Bessie B. Stringfield, a.k.a. “BB,” was the first black woman to make eight long-distance solo tours across the U.S. on a motorcycle. In the 1930’s, BB rode her motorcycle through areas known for racial violence and prejudice. She earned the nickname “The Negro Motorcycle Queen.” On her tours, she traveled through Brazil, Haiti and parts of Europe. Her next destination was determined by tossing a penny on a map. As she rode through Jim Crow country, BB would sometimes sleep on her motorcycle with a blanket if there were no safe places for her to stay during her trip.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Stringfield came to America as a child and was given up for adoption. At age 16, she was given a motorcycle by her Irish adoptive mother, who’s name she was not allowed to repeat. It was said that the woman gifted Bessie anything she wanted as long as she prayed to “the man upstairs” for it first. After she was given her first 1928 Indian Scout bike, she would later purchase another 27 motorcycles throughout her life.

“I never got the sense that she thought of herself as a flag-waver or a champion of civil rights,” says Ann Ferrar, who spoke with Stringfield for her book, Hear Me Roar: Women, Motorcycles and the Rapture of the Road. “Remember, she was dealing with it before the advent of what most Americans think of as the ‘modern’ Civil Rights Movement. I think Bessie was just being Bessie.”Orphaned, then adopted at age five by an Irish woman in Boston who obviously didn’t mind defying convention either, Stringfield asked for a motorcycle while in high school. She got a 1928 Indian Scout. She spent the ‘30s and ‘40s completing eight solo rides across America, on one of the 27 Harley-Davidsons she would own during her lifetime. She is quoted as saying, “To me, a Harley is the only motorcycle ever made.” At 19, calling her coin-chosen trips “penny tours,” Stringfield said she depended on the Lord to protect her as she traveled. “She was Catholic and believed very strongly in Jesus Christ and that He was watching over her,” says Ferrar. Perhaps her outspoken nature disarmed any would be attackers,even though her 5-foot, 3-inch frame may have made her an easy target. She stayed with other black people when she could and slept on her bike when she couldn’t.

Her brave spirit found her serving in the army as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider during World War II, carrying documents between bases. Again, Stringfield unintentionally carved out a space for herself in history by being the only woman in her unit. No doubt she was the only African-American.As she approached her 40's, she settled in Miami, now single after marrying and divorcing six times, she secretly entered riding contests as a man, and after winning, removed her helmet to reveal her gender. As a result, she was often denied the prize money. Stringfield suffered the loss of three babies while married to her first husband and never had other children. She spent her time performing at stunt shows with her dogs. Now nicknamed the “Motorcycle Queen of Miami,” she also founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club and became a licensed practical nurse.

An enlarged heart began to limit her activities, but not her joy of life, says Ferrar of this “very accomplished yet very understated woman.” Stringfield died in 1993. When told by her doctor to stop riding because of her condition, Stringfield answered, “I told him if I don’t ride, I won’t live long. And so I never did quit.” In recognition of Stringfield’s pioneering spirit, the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) created the Bessie Stringfield Award in 2000. It is given to “women who have been instrumental in showing other women they can be active participants in the world of motorcycling.” Two years later, she was inducted into the association’s Hall of Fame.


For those who seek the ultimate in flight jacket authenticity, not just in detail and spec, but in historic reference and vintage appeal the 'Elite Units' department will fulfil your quest. In here you will find jackets from famed units and even specific airmen that have excelled in one way or another. They are embellished with various insignia, paintings and details that are totally authentic in their representation. Our latest addition coming very soon to this range is the famed B-3 worn by General Patton during the Battle of Bulge. This legendary piece currently resides in the Patton museum, Fort Knox Kentucky but after many months of painstaking research we've recreated this jacket in exacting detail including the stunning hand embroidered bullion, over coloured layered leather 1st Armored Division patch, original NOS 3rd Army bevo roundel, hand painted and stitched layered leather 3 star General insignia making this the most accurate reproduction ever offered of the Patton B-3. Below is a photograph of the bullion patch on Pattons actual B-3. Above is the Eastman reproduction.

The jacket is made as it would have looked at the height of Patton's wartime career, when the then 3 star General made the incredible push with the 3rd Army in December 1944 to relieve the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne. The iconic painting by Micheal Gnatek of Patton stood proudly in his B-3 in front of the Bastogne sign, holding binoculars and dog at his side immortalised him in this jacket at this point in time and is one of the reasons this jacket has become so synonymous with him.

Patton's colourful image, hard-driving personality and success as a commander were at times overshadowed by his controversial public statements. His philosophy of leading from the front and his ability to inspire troops with profanity-ridden speeches, such as a famous address to the 3rd Army, attracted favourable attention. His strong emphasis on rapid and aggressive offensive action proved effective. While Allied leaders held sharply differing opinions on Patton, he was regarded highly by his opponents in the German High Command. The popular, award-winning 1970 biographical movie starring George C Scott as Patton helped to deservedly transform Patton into an American folk hero. We celebrate Patton and his achievements with this Elite Units reproduction of his famed B-3.


Formed by Ralph Bagnold in 1940, the Long Range Desert Group played a major part in the Allies victory in North Africa during World War Two, acting as their forward eyes and ears. The LRDG had two specific roles in the war in North Africa. They were to get behind enemy lines and act as scouts and gather intelligence to feed back to British military headquarters.

Often cited as the forerunner to the Special Air Service (SAS), the LRDG and SAS were in fact separate units operating alongside each other. The Special Air Service formed in July 1941 by David Sterling and originally called "L" Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade—the "L" designation and Air Service name being a tie-in to a British disinformation campaign, trying to deceive the Axis into thinking there was a paratrooper regiment with numerous units operating in the area (the real SAS would 'prove' to the Axis that the fake one existed). It was conceived as a commando force to operate behind enemy lines in the North Africa Campaign. Due to their expert navigation skills. members of the LRDG were often seconded to the SAS for specific missions.

LRDG roadwatch

Initially the LRDG was known as the Long Range Patrol Group. After receiving the agreement of General Wavell to create such a unit, Bagnold was given 150 New Zealand volunteers, most of whom had a farming background. Bagnold believed that they would be more adept at maintaining vehicles in a difficult environment should mechanical problems occur.

The LRDG had three main patrols of forty men each. Each patrol was equipped with ten Lewis machine guns, four Boyes anti-tank rifles, anti-aircraft guns, Bren guns and Thompson sub-machine guns. Communication with base was maintained with the use of wireless sets. Their vehicle of choice was a Chevrolet 30-cwt truck. The first batch of these vehicles was obtained from the Egyptian Army or bought in Cairo. Each vehicle commander was allowed to modify his vehicle as he saw fit. The normal range for the Chevrolet was 1,100 miles and it could carry three weeks supply of food and water. In many senses it was the perfect desert vehicle.

On September 13th, 1940, the LRDG set up its first base at the Siwa Oasis. To get to this base, they had to drive about 160 miles across the Egyptian Sand Seas. Just two days later, the unit had its first experience of combat when a patrol led by Captain Mitford attacked an Italian petrol dump and emergency landing fields along the Palificata. Another patrol led by Captain Clayton crossed into French held Chad and persuaded the French forces there to join the Free French Forces. The two patrols met at Gilf Kebir, where they could re-supply, and travelled back to Cairo. By the time they returned, both patrols had covered about 4000 miles and had achieved a great deal.


Buoyed by such success, the War Office agreed that the LRDG could double in size to 300 men. The unit was officially now called the Long Range Desert Group and Bagnold was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Volunteers were heavily vetted for such difficult work, but Bagnold found the extra 150 men he wanted. They came from the British, Indian and Rhodesian armies. Their primary targets were enemy held oases. The attackers went in quickly and disappeared just as quickly. Evidence points to the fact that the Italian commanders in North Africa were bemused by what happened to them and even Bagnold recognised that “the Italian army was halted for months”.

The LRDG returned to Chad and, combining with the Free French there, fought the Italian in the region of the Murzuk Oasis. They also succeeded in capturing Kufra, which in 1941 became the headquarters for the unit. Bagnold later wrote that the temperature frequently exceeded 50 degrees C, which, he claimed, his men found tolerable as it was dry heat. His main iisue was not being able to eat properly during sandstorms, which lasted for several days. Because of the hostility of the environment, few other Allied units got to the Kufra region. To all intents, the LRDG commanders there were de facto full commanders of an area the size of northern Europe.


One of the main keys to their success was their choice of vehicles. The LRDG vehicles were mainly two wheel drive, chosen because they were lighter and used less fuel than four wheel drive. They were stripped of all non-essentials, including doors, windscreens and roofs. They were fitted with a bigger radiator, a condenser system, built up leaf springs for the harsh terrain, wide, low pressure desert tyres, sand mats and channels, plus map containers and a sun compass devised by Bagnold. Wireless trucks had special compartments built into the bodywork to house wireless equipment. Initially the LRDG patrols were equipped with one CMP Ford 15 cwt F15 truck for the commander, while the rest of the patrol used up to 10 Chevrolet 30 cwt WB trucks.From March 1941 the 30 cwt Chevrolets were replaced by the CMP Ford 30 cwt F30, although in some ways this was a retrograde step; because they were four wheel drive and heavier than the Chevrolets, they used twice as much fuel, which in turn reduced the range of a patrol. From March 1942 the Fords were progressively replaced by 200 Canadian Chevrolet 1533 X2 30 cwts which had been specially ordered for the LRDG. From July 1942 Willys Jeeps began to be issued for the patrol commander and patrol sergeant.


In May 1943 the LRDG was sent to Lebanon to retrain in mountain warfare. However, following the Italian armistice they were sent to Leros, one of the Dodeconese Island, to serve as normal infantry. They later took part in the Battle of Leros, where the commanding officer John Richard Easonsmith was killed and replaced by Davis Lloyd Owen. After the battle the last New Zealanders, two officers and approximately 46 men, were withdrawn from the LRDG and returned to their division.


In December 1943, the LRDG re-organised into two squadrons of eight patrols. Each patrol contained one officer and 10 other ranks. Major Moir Stormouth Darling was given command of the British Squadron and Major Kenneth Henry Lazarus the Rhodesian Squadron. Patrols were then parachuted north of Rome to obtain information about German troop movements, and also carried out raids on the Dalmatian Islands and Corfu.

In August 1944, British Squadron patrols were parachuted into Yugoslavia. One patrol destroyed two 40 feet (12 m) spans of a large railway bridge, which caused widespread disruption to the movement of German troops and supplies. The commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Owen and a team of 36 men were parachuted into Albania in September 1944. Their mission was to follow the German retreat and assist Albania Resistance groups in attacking them. In October 1944, two British Squadron patrols were parachuted into the Florina area of Greece. Here they mined a road used by the retreating Germans, destroying three vehicles and blocking the road. Firing on the stranded convoy from an adjacent hillside, they directed RAF aircraft in to destroy the rest of the convoy.

After the end of the war in Europe, the leaders of the LRDG made a request to the War Office for the unit to be transferred to the Far East to conduct operations against the Japanese Empire. The request was declined and the LRDG was disbanded in August 1945.