Steve McQueen was well known as an unapologetic Hollywood bad boy but a relatively unknown story is how McQueen almost ended up a part of the Manson massacre, and could have shared in Sharon Tate and the other
Singer Bing Crosby sometimes dismissed as simply a crooner, was in fact, according to jazz historian Gary Giddins,
Special Forces personnel began serving in the Republic of Vietnam in 1957. During the early days of the Vietnam military buildup, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy sent Special Forces Units to South Vietnam in a special advisory capacity. In September 1962, United States Special Forces, Vietnam (Provisional) was formed from members of the First Group, stationed on Okinawa, and the Fifth and Seventh Groups from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Studies and Observations Group (aka SOG, MACSOG, and MACV-SOG) was a joint unconventional warfare task force created on 24 January 1964 as a subsidiary command of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). The unit would eventually consist primarily of personnel from the US Army Special Forces, the US Navy SEAL's, the US Airforce, the CIA, and elements of the USMC Recon units. The soldiers, operating in small units, created many patch designs which were locally manufactured and, in many cases, handmade. The first insignia, of course, was the beret flash, which combined the yellow from the first group, black from the Fifth, and red from the Seventh and incorporated them with a bend with bundles that represented the flag of the Republic of Vietnam. This flash, designed by Colonel George Morton, eventually became the insignia of the Fifth Special Forces Group. Popular among the recon teams known as "Mike Force," which is the universal corruption of "Mobile Strike Force". The patches of the Vietnam War present an interesting study in that this was the first time where a fairly large number of in-country made patches were developed by the soldiers fighting there. Many of the government issued patches had been redesigned since Korea and saw the introduction of the new subdued styles. Many of the MACV-SOG insignia were all originally hand-sewn, later reproduced machine-sewn versions can be found in many variants. This is due to the fact that many of the insignia made "in country" were unauthorised wear and preferred by Special Forces Soldiers for their unique individuality and flare, with no two exactly alike. Many patches were issued to Special Forces trained Indigenous Tribesman and new arrivals and/or new recon team members signifying their fighting skills and acceptance as being attached to the team. It is interesting to note that the Green Berets in many cases wore their patches secretly inside the Green Beret, hats or inside of shirts. It was placed there in keeping with the covert nature of their missions. They were secretly flashed to other members of the group or unit, but these patches were basically a private affair. In fact, images of skulls on patches or insignias were officially forbidden by the military. Besides recon teams, MACV-SOG also deployed exploitation teams or "hatchet teams" which were of platoon size and consisted of Americans and indigenous troops. The most famous of all highly classified areas of operations were along the Ho Chi Minh trail, into Cambodia and Laos. The insignia provided a sense of unity, achievement and belonging to represent significant events in a soldier's tour, an unrecognised battle, a particular subgroup or unofficial unit. Originally SOG teams were named after US States. As these were used up, names of snakes (for example, the Adder, Anaconda, and Cobra) became popular. The motto "We Kill For Peace" was almost universally used by these units.
In the early 1970s, Steve McQueen was the man. He was the highest-paid star of the silver screen, a major sex symbol and an obsessed motorhead with a staggering collection of sports cars, four-wheelers and of course
The dichotomy of Communism is no better illustrated than the fact that legendary socialist revolutionaries Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and Fidel Castro both wore Rolex watches. In fact Fidel Castro wore a sport model Rolex Submariner when he overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista during the Cuban Revolution in 1959. In this image from the LIFE Magazine archives we see Submariner wearing Castro standing on the balcony of the Hilton Hotel with friends after his triumphant entry into Havana, Cuba.
His favoured timepiece however was a a no-crown guard Rolex GMT-Master 6542, although he did have a penchant for wearing two Rolex's at the same time on the same wrist, a Rolex Day Date and a Submariner as seen at the Kremlin with Khruschev.
While some might say "Communism for the masses and capitalism for the bosses", it makes sense that in 1959 and through the 1960s that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara wore their Rolex watches as sturdy tool watches, because they were precise timing instruments. Remember this was before quartz watches. Also, in the early 1960s Rolex watches were not nearly as much of a status symbol or "Luxury Watch" as they are today, they were reliable machines built for a purpose and a great ally for a soldier, sailor or pilot.
Che Guevara and Fidel Castro were fellow revolutionaries and long-time friends. After the Cuban revolution Che became the economic controller of Cuba before he took on a new mission in Bolivia. The photo below is the earliest known of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara together, and neither of them have what would later become their trademark beards. Fidel Castro was a lawyer, and Che Guevara was a doctor.
Che's Rolex of choice was an Espresso GMT Master as shown below.
The supreme irony is that Rolex became The International Mark Of Success not only in the West but in the Communist world. The father of the Chinese Communist Revolution Chairman Mao wore yellow gold Rolex watches as did Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Korean Supreme Commander. At least Che and Fidel had good taste!Vive La Revoluci
1953?s iconic biker movie The Wild One starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin, was loosely based on two actual California motorcycle clubs of the day having a highly charged clash in the small town of Hollister, CA. Brando portrayed 13 Rebels leader Shell Thuet, while Lee Marvin
Sergeant Stubby was the most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat. Stubby was a stray Boston Terrier that appeared at Yale Field in New Haven, Connecticut while a group of soldiers were training. The dog hung around as the men drilled and one soldier, Corporal Robert Conroy, developed a fondness for the mutt. When it came time for the outfit to ship out, Conroy hid Stubby on board the troop ship. The story goes that upon discovery by Conroy's commanding officer, Stubby saluted him as he had been trained to in camp, and the commanding officer was so impressed that he allowed the dog to stay on board. America
The first American attempt at a printed camouflage uniform came in 1940 when the US Army Corps of Engineers began experimenting with a disruptive-patterned overall that was tested but never issued. By 1942 the USA had joined WWII, and in July of that year the Quartermaster received an urgent request for 150,000 sets of jungle equipment from General Douglas MacArthur, who was high command of US troops in the South Pacific. Fortunately, the engineers had already tested the series of printed camouflage suits dubbed "frog-skin" or "leopard spot", and had shown them to the Quartermaster earlier that month. This pattern was chosen and rushed through testing and approval procedures in order to get the new uniforms out to troops as quickly as possible. US Marine Raiders in the Solomon Islands were the first to receive the
As the Second World War progressed, altitudes got higher, speeds got faster, and temperatures grew colder so warmer clothing was required for pilots and aircrews. Most heavy bombing raids in Europe took place from altitudes of at least 25,000 ft, where it could reach temperatures as cold as minus 50 degrees Celsius. For fighter pilots, the temps grew even colder as they flew higher than the bombers. High casualties over Europe brought bomber air crews new equipment such as the M-3 Flak Helmet, made to fit over the B3 leather helmet, and also a kind of rudimentary early model Flak Vest made by the British Wilkinson Company. With the need and use for such additional amour for flight crews, problems arose on how it was all going to fit on a person. Aircraft were just not insulated against such cold and freezing air so heavy flight clothing was certainly essential. Leather flight jackets such as the A-2, B-3 and G-1 were all functional but the problems of high altitude flight along with the heavy weight and the encumbrance of such thick clothing begged another solution. The need for shearling lined jackets at high altitude was apparent but in the confines of a cockpit or gunning position they proved cumbersome and heavy. The US Army Air Forces Material Division had been developing a technically modern replacement for the leather clothing since 1942 and the Roughwear Clothing Company of Middletown, PA was selected to manufacture the new B-Series flight jackets in late 1943. Designated No 3157, the B-10 was the first cloth flight jacket to be issued and was designed to be worn with the matching A-9 tousers. With a shell made from a 100% fine cotton twilll, the jackets were lined with Alpaca pile which has incredible insulating qualities and a Mouton sheepskin collar similar to that found on the US Navy G-1 jacket. The B-10 afforded the wearer all of the warmth found in the older B-3 and B-6 sheepskin jackets but the cotton twill outer meant the jacket was light and flexible, allowing for quick reactions that often meant the difference between life and death. Subsequent development quickly introduced the new Endzone Twill B-15 model, replacing the B-10 and seeing service right through the Korean War in its various modifications. From 1943 to 1945, military and personal photographs of the period show air crews wearing a wide plethora of flight gear and jackets, a mixed bag of issued flight equipment and apparel. Officers of one crew might be wearing an A2 jacket or AN-J-4 Shearling Jacket while several other lower ranks might be wearing an A4 Flight suit with a B-10 or B-15 Jacket worn over it. Several other crew members may have on a B-3 Shearling jacket. The assortment of jackets worn on any one mission by different crew members is astonishing and it seems that keeping warm and functionality was a very personal thing for each crew member. Post WWII jet aircraft could fly at much higher altitudes and in much colder temperatures than propeller aircraft and were more streamlined in design. Cockpits were cramped and filled with new equipment. Speedy, unimpeded access to and exit from cockpits became even more critical for safety. The B-15
Englishman Larry Burrows was the most versatile press photographer of his generation, approaching each of his subjects and stories with the same curiosity and intensity, eager to learn and understand all about what he tried to express and show in his images. His greatest reportage came during the Vietnam war. Working for Life Magazine, Burrows immersed himself into the conflict, not only telling the stories of the average Grunt in-country but also attaching himself to US Special Forces including LRRP and SOG units behind enemy lines. His masterpiece was the classic Life photo essay
The US Navy Ball Cap was very popular with the Navy and Marine pilots of WWII. These were non issue private purchase items usually obtained from the base PX. It was common for the name or number of their unit to be sewn or embroidered across the front. Original examples exist in a variety of colourways and fabrications. The most common being the navy wool with 6 panel construction. On or off duty, if they weren
And then came Korea.... Possibly the greatest and most subversive commentary of the Korean conflict came in the form of Robert Altman's movie M*A*S*H. Rather than a straight war flick, Altman alongside a cast including Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould and Robert Duvall created a statement that analysed and deconstructed the madness of war through the eyes of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital doctors and nurses. Between exceptionally gory hospital shifts and countless rounds of Martinis, wisecracking surgeons Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre make it their business to undercut the smug, moralistic pretensions of Bible-thumper Maj. Frank Burns and regular Army true-believer Maj. "Hot Lips" Houlihan. Abetted by such other hedonists as Duke Forrest and Painless Pole, as well as (relative) innocent Radar O'Reilly, Hawkeye and Trapper John drive Burns and Houlihan crazy with ongoing practical jokes while engaging in such additional blasphemies as taking a medical trip to Japan to play golf, staging a mock Last Supper to cure Painless's momentary erectile dysfunction, and using any means necessary to win an inter-M*A*S*H football game. The movie creates a casual, chaotic but ultimately realistic atmosphere emphasising the constant noise and activity of a surgical unit near battle lines. Although the on-screen war was not Vietnam, M*A*S*H's satiric target was obvious in 1970, and Vietnam War-weary and counter-culturally hip audiences responded to Altman's nose-thumbing attitude towards all kinds of authority and embraced the film's tasteless yet evocative humour and its anti-war, anti-Establishment, anti-religion stance.
The Apollo Space missions were designed to end in the ocean (which is why astronauts spent so much time practicing getting out of a capsule in swimming pools) but what if they missed the ocean entirely? For this contingency, NASA sent the astronauts to the jungle and the desert for survival training. The Apollo mission astronauts attended the Panama Jungle Survival School on Albrook Air Force Base in the Panama Canal Zone. Astronauts including Alfred Worden, Harrison Schmitt and Ronald Evans were present at the school in 1968 learning survival techniques from a local tribesman and US Special Forces.
69 years ago today the men of the Allied forces embarked upon the colossal endeavor to re take France and Europe from German occupation. Over the course of Operation Overlord and its extended campaign there were a total of 226,386 Allied casualties, approx 80,000 men lost their lives to this noble cause. The photograph above shows No 4 Commando preparing for their part in Operation Neptune.
Although automobile racing had occurred pre WW2 on the dry lakebeds of the Mojave desert it wasn't until after the War that the returning servicemen had developed the skills and knowledge to take it to the next level. Many of the original racers had become aircraft engineers at Edwards AFB and honed their Flathead tuning skills on the Allison engines of the P-51 Mustangs. Advancements with the jet aircraft engine also allowed for advancements in how fast an engineer could make an automobile run. Veterans also discovered that certain elements of their military issued gear blended easily into civilian life. Khaki pants and Navy dungarees were a common sight on the lakes following the War. USAAF Flight goggles and cloth helmets were very popular with drivers as were leather USAAF flight jackets such as the A-2 and B-3, as were Army M-41s and USN N-1s and G-1's, all are prevalent in images from this era. Clothing was strictly functional for the racers with warmth, durability and low cost the key criteria and their issued clothing served this purpose perfectly!
Currently in development in the Eastman workshop is the much anticipated US Navy M-444. The jacket will form part of our 'original maker' range, emulating the version made by the Monarch Mfg Co. Authentic details such as labels, and the unique 'Anchor Brand' slide buckles, which are synonymous with the US Navy sheepskin jackets, have already been produced so it's release is imminent. The M-444 was the standard issue, intermediate weight, sheepskin flight jacket of the US Navy during the 1930s and early 40s. Produced in smaller quantities than its heavy weight counterparts, the M-445 and M-445A, original surviving examples are few and far between. The design is virtually identical to that of the M-445, and is often confused with it, however, the M-444 is made from a much lower pile fleece (1/4 inch, compared to 1 inch), making it more versatile for general use.
Well before World War II became imminent, women had already made their mark as pilots. Amelia Earhart, Jacqueline Cochran, Nancy Harkness Love, Bessie Coleman and Harriet Quimby were only a few of the women record-holders in aviation. In 1939, women were allowed for the first time to be part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program, a program designed to train college students to fly, with an eye to national defense. Women were limited by quota to one woman for every ten men in the program. Jackie Cochran and Nancy Harkness Love separately proposed the use of women pilots by the US Military. Cochran lobbied Eleanor Roosevelt, writing a 1940 letter urging that a women's division of the Air Force be established especially to ferry planes from manufacturing plants to military bases. With no such American program supporting the Allies in their war effort, Cochran and 25 other American women pilots joined the British Air Transportation Auxiliary. Shortly after, Nancy Harkness Love was successful in getting the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) established, and a few women were hired. Jackie Cochran returned to establish the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD). On August 5, 1943, these two efforts -- WAFS and WFTD -- merged to become the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), with Cochran as director. More than 25,000 women applied -- with requirements including a pilot's license and many hours experience. The first class graduated on December 17, 1943. The women had to pay their own way to the training program in Texas. A total of 1830 were accepted into training and 1074 women graduated from WASP training during its existence, plus 28 WAFS. The women were trained "the Army way" and their graduation rate was similar to that for male military pilots. The WASP was never militarized, and those who served as WASP's were considered civil service employees. There was considerable opposition to the WASP program in the press and in Congress. General Henry "Hap" Arnold, US Army Air Force commander, first supported the program, then disbanded it. The WASP was deactivated December 20, 1944, having flown around 60 million miles in operations. Thirty-eight WASP's were killed, including some during training. Records of WASP were classified and sealed, so historians minimized or ignored the women pilots. In 1977 -- the same year the Air Force graduated its first post-WASP women pilots -- Congress granted veteran status to those who had served as WASP, and in 1979 issued official honorable discharges. You can find the Eastman reproduction 1944 pattern womens B-17 flight jacket here, specifically designed for the WASP's, the B-17 was the female version of the B-15. Also available is the WASP squadron patch in the Eastman Insignia category, the authentic chenille patch features Fifinella, a female gremlin designed by Walt Disney for a proposed film from Roald Dahl's book The Gremlins.
The end of World War II saw young men returning from combat in droves. Many found the transition back to a peaceful civilian life a more monotonous chore than they could handle. While at War, be they Army Air Corps flight crews, Seamen, Infantrymen, Airborne or Marines, the one constant thread that was sewn throughout these men was the ubiquitous post-mission celebration. Upon their successful return from combat missions, marines, airmen, soldiers and sailors retired to the nearest drinking establishment in an attempt to drown the memories of battle with booze, to heal the scars of armed conflict with laughter, and to try and feel human again, if only for a short while. These men became brothers born of warfare, atrocity, and death, a kinship that runs deeper than blood relations. It is also important to consider the ages of these men: the average age of WWII servicemen was only 26. Many returning combat vets reported feelings of restlessness and a general malaise; their pre-war personalities had been forever changed. It seems logical that the horrors of war and the hell of combat may have melted down the pre-war personalities of these men only to recast them forever in a new form, a form that didn
A sneak peak at the forthcoming new colourway of the Thunderbird Field Jacket! Hot off the machine, the jacket utilises a super dense Fox Brothers navy blue wool, woven in England to US wartime specifications, to replicate another of the USAAF Instructor Jackets worn on the base. Available soon from the Civilian Classics department.
Aside from the astounding accolade of being the first human on the Moon, Neil Armstrong was also an aerospace engineer, US Naval aviator and ace test pilot. Prior to his NASA career, Armstrong was an officer in the US Navy serving with VF-51 during the Korean War, flying over 78 combat missions in his F9F Panther. Later as a research pilot at Edwards AFB, Armstrong served as project pilot on the F100 Super Sabre A and C variants, F 101 Voodoo, and the Lockheed F 104A Starfighter. He also flew the Bell X-1B, X-5 and most notably the X-15 rocket plane taking the longest and highest flight of any test pilot then successfully landing the aircraft in one piece. It was unanimously agreed amongst all of Armstrong's Air Force and NASA superiors, colleagues and friends that he was the most technically capable of any pilot they had know, he was clinical and single minded, two of the key attributes for astronaut selection. Combining his superior capabilities with clean cut All American good looks, he was the perfect poster boy for the US governments new Man In Space Soonest program. On July 20th 1969, Armstrong did what no human had ever done before and was immortalised in history. The classic image above shows Armstrong resplendent in his lucky red USAF PX cap, you can find the Eastman 6 panel version here in the same red colourway with a subdued wash.
While the Vietnam War is inextricably linked to the usage of Tiger Pattern Camouflage, its links with actual Tigers are less known. The Bengal Tiger is native to Southeast Asia. It grows up to 10 feet in length and weighs around 400 to 575 pounds. It was hunted, captured, and poisoned to such an extent that it has practically disappeared however during the Vietnam conflict its numbers were relatively abundant compared to today. Reports of tiger attacks from both sides of the war were prevalent, there were stories amongst the Viet Cong of tigers making off with people in the night and short time G.I.
Thunderbird Field was a military airfield in Glendale, Arizona, used for contract primary flight training of USAAF pilots during World War II. Created in 1939 as a collaborative project by Hollywood agent and producer Leland Hayward, former Air Service pilot John H Connely, and LIFE Magazine photographer John Swope, the project was financially backed by investors that included Hollywood legend James Stewart ( later commander of the USAAF 445th Bomb Group), singer-actor Hoagy Carmicheal, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Robert Taylor, and Margaret Sullavan. Construction of the pilot training facility began on 2 January 1941, and was completed in three months. The site, 25 miles from central Phoenix, was laid out by artist Millard Sheets to resemble (from the air) an etching of a mythical Anasazi Thunderbird. The control tower formed the head of the bird, the administration buildings and barracks its body, the hangars its wings, and the gardens its feathered tail. A Hollywood movie, Thunder Birds (directed by William Wellman), was filmed on location at the field in the spring of 1942. Aerial shots clearly show the original Thunderbird design. In November 1943, the facilities peak was reached; 615 cadets flew an average of two hours a day, making 1,845 separate takeoffs and landings. In a period of ten weeks, students received a total of 65 hours of flight training and 109 hours of ground school. In spite of the intensified training, the field gained a widespread reputation for thoroughness of instruction and high caliber graduates. Every graduating cadet received the coveted Thunderbird Field patch depicting the Anasazi Thunderbird. Head over to the Eastman Civilian Design Classics section to check out our exacting replica of the 40's period Thunderbird Field A-1 flight instructor jacket complete with a beautiful reproduction patch made on original 1920s looms with authentic rayon yarns.
In February 1954, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were just married and on a Honeymoon trip to Japan. The bride decided to take a detour to Korea to entertain the troops, performing ten shows in four days, in front of audiences that totaled more than 100,000 soldiers and Marines while making the B-15 Flight Jacket sexy in the process. Later Monroe recalled that the trip "was the best thing that ever happened to me. I never felt like a star before in my heart. It was so wonderful to look down and see a fellow smiling at me."
Back on a cold Sunday morning in 2012 we ventured into the wilds of Sussex to shoot the ELC / Buzz Rickson's AW12 Lookbook with renown photographer John Isaac. Above is a selection of shots from that day featuring a variety of ELC and Buzz gear. The lookbook itself gained a lot of blog and media attention both here in Europe and the US and also in Japan and we had a lot of fun in the process so it was well worth the frost bitten hands and chapped lips!