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Infantry tank officer’s field jacket with several ribbon bars and pins worn by a US soldier

Object | Accession Number: 2013.442.2

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    Brief Narrative
    Infantry tank officer’s field jacket with 3 ribbon bars and several pins worn by Captain James Edward Kirkebo, who served in the US Army from 1940-1945, and fought in Europe from December 1944-May 1945. A 1943 study by the Quartermaster Corps found that dress uniform coats were impractical in combat. Eisenhower recommended the short British battle jacket as the basis for a new design, and it became known as an Eisenhower jacket. Kirkebo, 19, enlisted in the US Army in 1940 and, in August 1942, 2nd Lt. Kirkebo became commanding officer, C Company, 21st Armored Infantry Battalion, 11th Armored Division. In December 1944, Kirkebo's unit landed in Normandy, defended Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, and spearheaded the Allied advance into Germany. Kirkebo received a battlefield promotion to captain on February 1, 1945. On May 5 and 6, soldiers from the 11th Armored liberated Gusen and Mauthausen concentration camps. At Mauthausen, the unit was tasked with caring for 19,000 starving inmates. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. Kirkebo was awarded a Silver Star and 3 Bronze Stars for his leadership and heroism in action.
    use:  approximately 1944 November-approximately 1945
    manufacture:  approximately 1944
    commemoration:  1939-1945
    manufacture: Philadelphia (Pa.)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Estate of James Edward Kirkebo
    jacket, interior waistband, snap back, engraved : SCOVILL
    jacket, interior collar, tag, embroidered, black thread : 42R
    jacket, interior, right breast pocket, label, black ink : JACKET, FIELD, WOOL, O.D. / Stock No. 55-J-384-730 / B. MAIMON & SONS, INC. / P.O. 9180 / Dated Dec. 15, 1944 / Pat Date May 10, 1944 / Spec. P.Q.D. No. 437 / 42R / Phila. Q.M. Depot / INSPECTOR
    U.S. pins, clutch-backs, engraved : PAT / AMCRAFT / PENDING
    combat infantryman badge, clutch-backs, engraved : PATENT PENDING STERLING / B / 2308412 PAT. NO’s. 2308424 / STERLING / B
    name tag, paper insert, black ink : KIRKEBO
    Subject: James E. Kirkebo
    Issuer: United States. Army
    Manufacturer: American Metalcrafts Company, Inc.
    Manufacturer: B. A. Ballou Company
    Manufacturer: Maimon & Sons, Inc.
    James (Jim) Edward Kirkebo was born on April 22, 1921, in Tacoma, Washington. He was the second of three children born to Gerhard and Irene Kirkebo. His parents were both born in Norway and immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Gerhard was a building contractor. In spring 1939, James graduated from high school and took a job as a shipping clerk.

    On September 14, 1940, he enlisted in the US Army. Following the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II. James was deployed for four and a half months with the Asia Pacific Technical Operations (APTO) unit, through December 1941. James rose to the rank of Sergeant, with a specialty in reconnaissance. On December 7, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor,a, and a few days later the US entered World War II. On May 11, 1942, James was selected to attend the Army’s newly formed Officer Candidate Course at Fort Benning in Georgia. In early August, Staff Sergeant Kirkebo, 2nd Training Regiment, 16th Co., graduated from the Officer’s Candidate Course and was reenlisted as a Second Lieutenant with a specialty in automotive maintenance and repair. In mid-August, the 11th Armored Division, the Thunderbolt Division, was activated, as part of the Third Army. James was made commanding officer of C Company, 21st Armored Infantry Battalion. The unit was deployed in September to Great Britain. In early December, his unit landed in Normandy, France, and moved north into Belgium. They entered combat on December 30, defending the road to Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. In January 1945, the Division spearheaded the Allied advance into Germany. On February 1, James received a field promotion to Captain. In February and March, the 11th Armored overran several cities, then crossed the Rhine River. In April, the unit turned south towards the Danube River and Austria. James was wounded by shrapnel on April 25, but continued fighting. On May 5 and 6, the Division liberated Gusen and Mauthausen concentration camps, two of the largest camps in Austria. The Medical Inspector’s report on Mauthausen stated that "the situation in the camp on the arrival of the US Forces was one of indescribable filth and human degradation." There were over 19,000 prisoners, most little more than skeletons, and over half in need of immediate medical care. They had to keep the inmates from leaving the camp, until they were able to eat again. After starving for so long, they became sick from eating the soldier's rations or regular food. The 11th Armored Division turned to the task of providing medical services, caring for the inmates, and improving conditions in the camp.

    On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. The Division was placed on occupational duty until August 31, when it was deactivated. On September 1, James was reassigned to the 9th Armored Division, 52nd Armored Infantry Battalion, C Company. The 9th armored continued occupational duties in Germany until early fall. James returned to the US on October 13, 1945, the same day the 9th Armored Division was deactivated. He was relieved from active duty and honorably discharged. James had participated in the Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe Campaigns and received many medals for his service, including a Silver Star, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in leadership while in action against the enemy, Bronze Stars for heroic conduct, Purple Heart, American Defense Service, and campaign medals. James returned to Tacoma and went into business with his father as a building contractor. In the late 1940s, James married Lorna (1920-1998), and the couple had two children. James joined the 6th Army Reserves Company, Instructor Group, transitioning to retired in 1962. James, age 70, died on June 4, 1991, in Tacoma, Washington.

    Physical Details

    Clothing and Dress
    Physical Description
    The a-j component designations have been added for cataloging purposes only.
    a. Olive drab, long-sleeved, waist length, single-breasted wool field jacket with 1 button epaulets, a notched collar, and lapels. The collar turns up into a high stand collar, secured by a concealed buttonhole tab and button. It has barrel sleeves with gussets and 2 button cuffs. The front has a full-length, concealed placket with 5 brown, plastic buttons; 2 exterior, flap patch breast pockets with box pleats; and a concealed buttonhole tab with button. The waistband has an extension tab and a concealed snap fastener with adjustable straps, and 2 black buckles on the back sides. The interior is fully lined with light olive drab cloth. The inner collar band has a hanging loop and size tag. There are 2 interior, welt breast pockets, with a label in the left pocket. On the lapels are 4 gold-colored metal pins: 2 U.S. above the notches (b-c) and 2 infantry tank officer below (d-e). Above the left pocket is a combat infantryman badge (f) and 3 plastic covered ribbon bars, 2 with 3 ribbons; 1 with 1 (g-i.)
    b., c. U.S. lapel pin of shiny, gold colored, die-cast metal in the shape of 2 squared-off, connected uppercase letters, on upper left and right lapel point.
    d., e. Infantry tank officer insignia pin of shiny, gold colored, die-cast metal in the shape of a tank tread on top of 2 flintlock muskets crossed diagonally with barrels pointing upward, on lower left and right lapel point.
    f. Combat infantryman badge of silver colored, die-cast metal in the shape of an oak leaf wreath under a rectangle with an embossed flintlock musket at the center, surrounded by light blue enamel paint, on upper left chest.
    g. Silver Star ribbon bar with 9 vertical stripes: wide center red flanked by wide white, which is flanked by wide blue with narrow white and blue on both ends, on upper left chest, top bar.
    h. Ribbon bar pin with 3 ribbons: Bronze Star ribbon with 7 vertical stripes: white, red, white, blue, white, red, white; Purple Heart ribbon with 3 vertical stripes: narrow white, very wide purple, narrow white; American Defense Service ribbon with 9 vertical stripes: wide yellow, blue, white, red, very wide yellow, red, white, blue, wide yellow; on upper left chest, center bar.
    i. Ribbon bar pin with 3 ribbons: 3 small black metal star pins on a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon with 13 vertical stripes: wide brown, green, white, red, wide green, blue, white, red, wide green, white, black, white, wide brown; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon with 13 vertical stripes: wide yellow, white, red, white, wide yellow, blue, white, red, wide yellow, white, red, white,wide yellow; American Campaign ribbon with 15 vertical stripes: wide blue,white, black, red, white, wide blue, narrow blue, white, red, wide blue, white, red, black, white, wide blue; on upper left chest, bottom bar.
    j. Rectangular, brown leather name tag holder with a cutout center plastic covered window, an open right end, and a paper insert printed with a name, found in right pocket.
    overall: Height: 24.250 inches (61.595 cm) | Width: 19.000 inches (48.26 cm)
    overall : wool, cloth, metal, plastic, thread, ribbon, leather, paper, ink, silver, enamel paint

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The jacket, pins, and ribbon bars were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by James Kirkebo, on behalf of the Estate of his father, James Edward Kirkebo.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-28 10:34:55
    This page:

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