G-1 Flying Jacket, U.S. Marine Corps

Painted jacket of a radio operator in the Korean War

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Personalizing government issue uniforms has been a part of American military history since the Revolutionary War. By World War II, personalization had evolved into elaborate artwork found on aircraft and flight jackets. This trend continued through the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Radio operator Svoboda belonged to the Marine Night All-Weather Squadron 542 of the 3rd Marine Air Wing. For the first year of the Korean War (1950–1953), the squadron flew night interdetection and fighter missions in F7F-3N Tigercats, a twin engine heavy fighter plane. Svoboda's squadron and air crewman wings are painted on the front of this jacket. The map painted on the back of his model G-1 flight jacket shows Korean airfields and the 38th parallel, which is the line of latitude that roughly demarcates North and South Korea.

The art found on flight jackets usually incorporated common themes and symbolism, like the name of the pilot, squadron, and bomb group, the plane's nickname, and bombs representing the number of missions flown. Images from pop culture, like Walt Disney and Looney Tunes characters, as well as pin-up girls were also common. Most personnel hired someone in their squadron to paint their jacket, but some did it themselves or hired European street artists who had turned painting flight jackets into a cottage industry.

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G-1 Flying Jacket, U.S. Marine Corps Artifact from San Antonio
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