CAP Cadet History Project


Wear of the new Air Force Uniforms is Authorized for CAP, 1951:

The Air Force separated from the Army, and became its own service on July 26th, 1947.  For the next two years the Air Force wore WWII era Army uniforms.  In 1949 the Air Force released all new seasonal uniforms, although they were not widely available until 1950.  The Air Force authorized CAP to wear the new uniforms in 1951, with a required phase-in January 1956. 

The new winter uniform was the first blue uniform.  The Army style winter uniforms were fully phased out by the Air Force in 1952.  However, the Air Force retained the Army's khaki shade 1 summer uniform until 1959, but revised it by adding epaulets to the shirt and blue accessories (tie, belt, flight cap). 

Frequent Air Force uniform changes complicated uniform wear.  Since the Air Force was a new branch, it struggled to find its identity and establish a lasting uniform.  The Air Force went through a painfully long series of different uniforms.  They changed coat lengths, cloth weights, colors, and designs - too many to present on this website.  Someone else has done it better than I could: usafflagranks.com  

I will focus only on the uniforms commonly worn by cadets. 

Portland, Oregon, 1945

Cadets in khaki and OD uniforms.

Cadets check in for summer encampment, DE Wing, 1944.  Note the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve patches on their left pockets.

Female khaki shirt, skirt and tie, circa 1944

A SAC Security Policeman wearing the shade 84 shirt, early 1960s.  This was the only coat-less uniform option for the winter.

NJ Wing Cadets pose for a photo before boarding a C-47 to encampment, 1951.

Note the Civil Defense based CAP patch on the left with the NJ Wing on the right.


UNIFORMS

NJ Wing C/PFC P. Betz prepares to depart for encampment, 1951

Cadet Julia Iris Pomeroy, Jacksonville, FL, 1945

Airmen model the new summer and winter USAF uniforms, 1950

Smoking is very bad for you.


 



A quick word about uniforms: exceptions exist to everything you'll read and see.  Mixed wear of items, phase-in/out periods, and mistakes lead to some interesting photos.  Local and Wing Commanders also authorized items that were not approved, or even prohibited, by National HQ.  It is tough to remember, but it wasn't all that long ago that receipt of uniforms, insignia, patches, and directives would take months.  Sometimes people made do with what they had.  It was a different time... sometimes it's easy to forget how far we have come.






















Cadets of the first technical squadron, NE Philadelphia Airport, 21 Dec 1947 Cadets are wearing the OD Ike jacket with a mix of khaki and OD shirts.

Cadets and an Army Air Force Flight Officer examine a Dauntless bomber, circa 1944.
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Air Force Seasonal Uniforms:

An eclectic blend of khaki and OD uniforms.  Note the black ties which are indicative of the earliest CAPC uniform.  Syracuse NY, circa 1943

Use of color image of OD uniform approved by WWII Impressions, a manufacturer of reproduction uniforms and equipment.

Use of color image of khaki uniform approved by WWII Impressions, a manufacturer of reproduction uniforms and equipment.

The Army Air Force becomes just the Air Force, 1947:

The Air Force became its own service September 18th, 1947.  CAP became the USAF Auxiliary on May 26th, 1948 by Public Law 557.

CAP continued to wear the old Army Air Force uniforms until the new Air Force uniforms were approved in 1951.  The phase-in/out period lasted until January 1956.

A Word About Shoulder and Wing Patches, 1948:

Wings began to ask for their own distinctive patch in 1945.  The idea was approved, but on the AAF uniform, it had to be worn on the right shoulder, and National Headquarters had to approve the design first.  When members switched to Air Force uniforms, the Civil Defense-based patch was removed and the Wing patch went on the left shoulder.  See shoulder patches for more information.  Pennysylvania Wing's patch was the first to be authorized in 1948. 


Second design of the CAPC patch, 1944

The highlights:


A dark blue uniform was worn in winter, with a light blue shirt underneath.  The coat was always worn.  There was one "coatless" option - the dark wool shade 84 shirt, later known as the shade 1549.


The summer uniform was the Army-style shade one khaki uniform, with khaki epaulets, worn with the blue tie, belt, and flight cap, with black shoes and socks.


Women wore the khaki uniform until a new Women in the Air Force (WAF) uniform was authorized in 1952.

Cadet khaki shade 1 shirt, circa 1949-52.  The ribbons are slightly out of order.

Cadet Uniforms, 1942:

All military services had seasonal uniforms.  For the Army and AAF khaki was worn in the summer, and olive drab (OD) was worn in the winter.

The cadet program was authorized October 1st, 1942.  Due to rationing cadets were only authorized to wear the "shirt sleeve" khaki shade 1 Army Air Force uniform, meaning no coat was worn.  Cadets wore either a metal CAPC pin or cloth CAPC patch over the right pocket, the cadet flight cap patch, cadet shoulder patch, and a black tie instead of khaki.  (Cadets switched to khaki ties by 1944.)  Nothing was worn on the collar.  The CAP flight cap had red piping.  If the cadet could not obtain an Army Air Force uniform, they could wear civilian khaki shirt and pants.  While CAP only authorized the khaki uniform, plenty of photos show cadets wearing OD combinations. 


Initially, cadets were specifically prohibited from wearing the red Senior Member officer shoulder loops.  (The red shoulder loops were meant to distinguish CAP Senior Members from AAF.)   However, some cadets are seen wearing them in early photos.  They became approved but optional, and then were removed in Oct 1944.  Some hat insignia variation is also noted - cadets are seen wearing the metal Senior Member flight cap device.

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Use of color image of OD uniform approved by WWII Impressions, a manufacturer of reproduction uniforms and equipment.

Details of the Air Force Seasonal Uniforms:

    The winter uniform had a dark blue (shade 84) coat and pants, with a light blue shirt underneath.  The coat was always worn.  The shirt worn under the coat was no more than a blue collared shirt, much like one would wear with a civilian coat and tie.  There was one winter uniform option that did not require a coat, and it is not commonly seen.  It featured a dark blue wool shade 84 shirt that is seen occasionally until the late 1967 when the shade and cloth became 1549.  Historically, the shade 84  or 1549 shirt was worn by the elite SAC guards. 

CAP wore the Army-style khaki shade 1 summer uniform into the late 1960s.  The basic cadet uniform was the long sleeve khaki shirt and pants with the Air Force blue tie, belt, and flight cap.  The summer uniforms were made of 100% cotton and required a lot of starch to keep them presentable.  (Nothing like a ton of starch worn with a tie in the summer.)  Cadets were not authorized to wear all possible uniforms.  For instance, the silver-tan (khaki) summer service uniform with the coat was restricted to wear by senior members.

 Initially female cadets wore the male khaki uniform, or a khaki skirt, until a new Women in the Air Force (WAF) uniform was approved in 1952.  (Women were not considered fully part of the Air Force until 1976.  It's worth a google search to understand the history of women in the military.)

The service cap was not officially authorized for cadet wear until 1961, although cadets did wear it throughout the 1950s.  See the subject hat devices for more details.


The first design of the CAPC patch, 1942-44

August 1944
CAPC Cadet John Byron, 16, and AAF Cadet Robert Marnard, 23
Image provided by George Brizek, PA Wing

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Cadets Have More Uniform Options, 1949:

A new cadet program and new manuals were introduced in 1949.  In the Civil Air Patrol Manual cadets officially have more uniform options available to them, although they certainly wore them prior to 1949.  Cadets were allowed to wear the Army seasonal uniform combinations, including service coats.  All military services at this time wore winter and summer uniform combinations.  In this case, cadets wore khaki in the summer and OD in the winter.  If a cadet could only purchase one uniform, it was the khaki uniform. 

The OD and OD combination uniforms were phased-out January 1956.