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U.S. Navy bridge coats

Doctor Damage

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Bartender Note: This original discussion of Bridge Coats has broken links throughout. @Doctor Damage has recreated this discussion, with proper images, starting at post # 148. It is also in the Guides section without the posts by other members.

Let’s start with some official definitions. These are from 1998. If someone has updated info, please post it. Here’s the link I used: http://timemilitary.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/unif-navy.pdf

39. OVERCOAT, BLUE

a. Description

(1) Men Officers/CPOs.

A double-breasted coat made of blue woolen fabric. May be water repellent treated and fitted with removable sleeveless liner. Extends one-third the distance from kneecap to ground, shaped at waist, held by a two section half-belt at back with the end of the belt overlapped and fastened with two 40-line Navy eagle, gilt buttons. There is a sword slit over left hip, a vertical slash side pocket on each front, and a single row of five 40-line Navy eagle, gilt buttons down each forefront. The collar is made so that the coat may be buttoned to the neck. There are two loops on each shoulder for hard shoulder boards. Required buttons are described in article 5403 (see below).

(2) Women Officers/CPOs.

A double-breasted, water repellent coat made of dark blue napped woolen or worsted fabric, and may be fitted with a removable sleeveless liner. The overcoat has a single row of four 40-line Navy eagle, gilt buttons on each forefront. A strap on each shoulder is fastened at inner end by a 24-line black plastic button. Required buttons are described in article 5403 (see below). (Women CPOs advanced after 1 October 1994 shall be prescribed to wear the reefer. Those advanced prior to this date may wear either the reefer or overcoat until 1 October 1998, when the reefer becomes mandatory.)

(3) E6 and Below Women.

A full length, double-breasted, belted coat made of navy blue/black water repellent
wool serge. The coat has eight blue plastic buttons, welt pockets, raglan sleeves but without shoulder straps. The detachable liner is made of navy blue wool flannel. Overcoat may be worn until 1 October 1998. All personnel are required to have a peacoat by 1 October 1998.

b. Correct Wear.

Button all buttons except the collar button. Collar button may be buttoned in inclement
weather. For insignia, see <article 4103> for officers and <article 4221> for enlisted women E6 and below. CPOs wear no insignia on outergarments.

c. Ownership Markings.

On designated nameplate; and inside left front panel.

5403. BUTTONS

1. The Navy button design consists of an eagle rising, with its wings down. The left foot is on the shank, the right foot on the stock of a plain anchor, laid horizontally, and the eagle's head faces its right. The whole is surrounded by 13 five-pointed stars and a rope. Buttons are designated in terms of "line". One line equals .025 inches, meaning a 40-line button is 1 inch in diameter, and a 35-line button is .875 inches in diameter.

2. Officers and Chief Petty Officers wear Navy eagle gilt and bronzed buttons. Enlisted women, E-6 and below, wear silver oxidized buttons.
[Starting 1 October 1998 enlisted women will wear the peacoat instead of the bridge coat.]

 
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Doctor Damage

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Now for some real-world photos. The easiest source of bridge coat photos is the annual Army-Navy football game. If you look closely at these photos, you will see some interesting variations in materials, although the design of all of these coats, irrespective of rank, is almost identical. Here’s some admirals and senior USN officers with Army officers. You can see that these coats are made of wool but it’s pretty thin, much thinner than standard pea coats and more akin to the sort of wool used in civilian overcoats.



Here’s a bunch of younger officers and midshipmen cheering. These photos are interesting because they show different types of materials in use. Wool is predominant and the basic coat design is the same as above, but also prevalent is a thin cotton or nylon version which shows up and is easy to spot because it apparently wrinkles easily. Note also that the cotton/nylon versions have slightly different hip pockets than the wool versions (which can be seen in the photo of the midshipman jumping above his fellows. The small black-and-white photo shows collars up and buttons fastened. The women’s version of the bridge coat is slightly different and I comment further on it below.

 
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Doctor Damage

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There’s a women’s version of the bridge coat and it buttons the other side (naturally) and has either 6 or 8 gold buttons on the front (see photos above), and differently shaped collar point (see photo below). This army guy looks like he’s trying to score... good luck buddy, lol



Here’s a scene from the famous movie The Sand Pebbles, showing the captain of the San Pueblo speaking to his crew. This coat was sold at auction and had two stripes on the sleeve, which as Peacoat and others have pointed out, was normal practice for officer’s coats until it was discontinued in the early 1950s. I have some photos from e-Bay of old coats with rank stripes and will post them in following posts.




Here’s a great photo: “Frank McNamara presenting Al Jentzsch with the bridge coat he borrowed from him 38 years ago when Al left the Navy”.

 

Doctor Damage

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Here’s several standard bridge coats listed on e-Bay over the past year. The design of these things is more or less standard, but the labels seem to be different with each manufacturer or retailer.

On this coat note the buttons to close the rear vent. The large label say it’s a “regular US Navy uniform” item, although this type of label isn’t always present.



This coat has a USN different label and a name tag which states the material is “blue 16 oz Covert” cloth.

 

Doctor Damage

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This coat has another label. The bottom button is missing on the front. These images are useful since they illustrate the thick shoulder padding used in these coats and how the rear half-belt helps drape the cloth. This coat seems particularly well cut.



Here’s a standard coat but in a much heavier wool than usual.

 

Doctor Damage

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Let’s go back in time for a moment. Here’s where these coats came from, the old “watch coat” worn by USN officers. Unlike the old watch coats, the modern bridge coats are not meant to be worn on day-to-day shipboard duty so they have become thinner, lighter garments for occasional use only.

 
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Doctor Damage

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Sample labels. I could post the coats to which they’re attached, but they’re all virtually identical and you can’t really tell differences as you can with pea coats. In this series the last two labels are from the same coat. It’s quite evident that a wide variety of private manufacturers have made these coats over the years.

 
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Doctor Damage

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Now for the two types of liners which these coats seem to have:
(1) normal, non-removable liner, much like you’d see in any civilian overcoat; or
(2) removable warm liner, usually zippered.

I suspect the cotton/nylon bridge coats likely have a removable liner since otherwise they’d be useless in cold weather, but I’ve never seen one on e-Bay over the past year so I have nothing to confirm that suspicion.

Here’s a bridge coat with the normal liner. Note the removable throat flap buttoned inside the front skirt. Note also the corduroy pockets—incidentally this is the only bridge coat I’ve seen with anything other than white canvas/cotton pockets.



This coat has a removable warm liner.

 

Doctor Damage

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Here’s another coat with a removable liner, which zippers in and out obviously. These photos show nicely the buttons which close the lapels up to the neck and the small black buttons which fasten the rear vent. Interesting that the size is an 'odd' size (35R).

 

Doctor Damage

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Vintage coats with rank stripes on the sleeve cuffs. According to Peacoat and others, these distinctions were discontinued in the early 1950s (1953?), although it’s possible some officers never bothered to remove the stripes. It’s important to note that these vintage coats often have black flat buttons instead of the gold USN buttons (which every modern bridge coat is required to have).

Coat with one cuff stripe.



Coat with three cuff stripes (source).

 
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Doctor Damage

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Coat with 1 thick, 1 thin cuff stripes plus gold buttons.



What’s interesting to me about these vintage coats is that their condition is often excellent, which I think demonstrates that many of these coats never got much use.
 

wquiles

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By the way, first question: Does the sizing between the Peacoats and bridge coats "similar"? In other words, would a size 42 mean the same thing on both garments?
 

Peacoat

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Nice job Doc. I notice many of the bridgecoat labels are the same as the ones in peacoats. This is most interesting, considering they are both sourced differently. Or at least I have always thought that. I know that when I was in, the uniform purchases* I was required to make had the private label tags in the garments, and the issue garments had the standard contract tags. They were definitely sourced from different manufacturers.

At some point, the officer is no longer issued any items of clothing, and must purchase whatever he needs. These purchases will be from both contract suppliers and approved private suppliers, such as Kaufman. A clothing allowance is given for this purpose.
______
*Officers are required to have certain different and additional items of clothing than enlisted and NCOs have. These items must be purchased by the officers. Some of the companies are approved vendors and others are under contract, such as Pembroke, Major Coat Company and Sterlingwear (current contractor), for example.
 

Peacoat

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By the way, first question: Does the sizing between the Peacoats and bridge coats "similar"? In other words, would a size 42 mean the same thing on both garments?

Bridgecoats are fitted to be worn over a suit jacket, just like a civilian overcoat; peacoats are not. So, a size 42 bridgecoat would fit larger than a size 42 peacoat.
 

wquiles

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Bridgecoats are fitted to be worn over a suit jacket, just like a civilian overcoat; peacoats are not. So, a size 42 bridgecoat would fit larger than a size 42 peacoat.

Thanks much for the clarification. Besides a backup Peacoat I am also considering a bridgecoat, so it is great to know how they fit.
 

Doctor Damage

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Peacoat said:
I notice many of the bridgecoat labels are the same as the ones in peacoats. This is most interesting, considering they are both sourced differently. Or at least I have always thought that. I know that when I was in, the uniform purchases* I was required to make had the private label tags in the garments, and the issue garments had the standard contract tags. They were definitely sourced from different manufacturers.
It makes sense to me that many of the firms who have made peacoats would be able to make bridge coats. Many would already have the contacts with military procurement departments and would have proven reputations. I'm hoping you can make sense of some of the tags, possibly with dates. Have you found quality differences between various peacoat manufacturers, or are they all more or less the same?
At some point, the officer is no longer issued any items of clothing, and must purchase whatever he needs. These purchases will be from both contract suppliers and approved private suppliers, such as Kaufman. A clothing allowance is given for this purpose.
Do you mean to say that new midshipmen are issued much of their gear? It makes me wonder if many of these guys (and gals) buy their stuff as part of a semi-organized bulk deal with a single manufacturer, much like school or university leather jackets are handled (you know, "Smith Bros who supply our leather jackets will be on campus Monday so make sure to place your order with them"). They're buying their own stuff, but from one company which has a monopoly, at least for that year. We need to find a recently minted midshipman and get him/her to post! lol
 

Doctor Damage

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Peacoat said:
Bridgecoats are fitted to be worn over a suit jacket, just like a civilian overcoat; peacoats are not. So, a size 42 bridgecoat would fit larger than a size 42 peacoat.
wquiles said:
Thanks much for the clarification. Besides a backup Peacoat I am also considering a bridgecoat, so it is great to know how they fit.
I think watching e-Bay is your best bet to get one, although I've been watching for almost a year and haven't found one in my size (42L) and for a reasonable price, which has been disappointing. I find prices are all over the map and seem to have no relation to other listings. Some of those vintage coats with rank stripes can sell cheaply. Based on what I've seen listed, you will probably have the best luck if you are 38 or 40 and Regular length. But I emphasize these are just my casual observations and your experience may vary.
 

Treetopflyer

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Thanks for posting this great info. I had to purchase my bridge coat, but I am an Officer Candidate School grad. From my understanding the Mids in NROTC are required to turn their bridge coats back in upon graduation. I have a friend that graduated from the Academy and he says that since they have to pay for all of their issued gear, they get to keep their bridge coats.

I have just spent the last year at the Army Command and General Staff College, and I tried to wear my bridge coat as much as possible because it made the Army guys jealous. They don't have anything like it anymore and they would always comment on how much they were impressed by it.
 

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