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Artifact Friday: B-7 Arctic Parka

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

In the middle of summertime, very rarely do we think of snow, cold, and winter clothing. However, if a nation is fighting a war across the globe, then every single scenario and situation must be considered.

By 1941, the U.S. military had tried out several different winter jackets for flight and ground crews to not only cope with the high-altitude cold temperatures, but also for the freezing weather in such places as Greenland where bombers transported to Europe would often have to land for fuel. One of the best flight jackets produced was the B7 Arctic Parka. This unique piece of winter clothing was made from shearling-sheepskin that has been tanned on one side keeping the wool on the other. This protects from moisture but retains body heat. The hood was trimmed with wolf fur keeping the airman’s face from freezing. The B7 was mid-thigh length and usually came with matching pants that were made with the same material.

The B7s were a success with the airmen, but because of the high war costs, this type of parka was discontinued in favor of the more economical M422 leather jacket.

The Arkansas Air and Military Museum recently received a donation of the infamous B7 Arctic Parka. It was worn by World War Two Veteran Robert “Bob” Abbs.

Abbs was a B-17 bombardier on the “Delta Rebel No. 2”, and on his flight from the United States to England, he had to stop in Greenland. Thus, he needed the B7 not only for flight, but also for the extremely cold stop before his destination in the European Theater of Operations.

The Arkansas Air and Military Museum will soon open a display telling Lieutenant Colonel Robert Abb’s story in detail and will feature the historic B7 Arctic Parka.

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