Original WWII Japanese Pilot’s Flying Jacket Captured and Decorated By an American GI!

Item Description

Original Item: One of a Kind. This is a very unique piece! This is a WWII Japanese Pilot’s Flight Jacket which was apparently captured by an American GI and personalized akin to a U.S. Bomber Jacket.

The paint is unquestionably period, and very well done. The jacket features a fire breathing dragon on the right chest and the owner’s name “Gene” on the Left. On the left shoulder is painted a 24th Infantry Division Shoulder Sleeve Insignia. On the back of the jacket is a beautifully painted U.S, 57mm Anti Tank Gun with the word “Antitank” written vertically next to it. The quality of the artwork is absolutely phenomenal.

This piece was recently found in an attic in rural Pennsylvania, and came to us exactly as found. It is undoubtedly fragile, with the excessive heat of a hot old attic taking its toll on the delicate material used to make the jackets. We recommend either simply having this piece framed, or placed in a large shadowbox due to the fragile nature of the garment. Despite the damage, this fascinating jacket displays wonderfully!

Collar to shoulder: 10”
Shoulder to sleeve: 23”
Shoulder to shoulder: 18”
Chest width: 22”
Waist width: 22”
Hip width: 22”
Front length: 24.5"

History of the 24th Division During WWII:
The 24th Infantry Division traces its lineage to Army units activated in Hawaii. It was activated under the Square Division Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) on 1 March 1921 as the Hawaiian Division at Schofield Barracks, Oahu. The division insignia is based on the taro leaf, emblematic of Hawaii. The division was assigned the 21st Infantry Regiment and the 22nd Infantry Regiment, both of which had been assigned to the US 11th Infantry Division prior to 1921.

The entire Hawaiian Division was concentrated at a single location during the next few years, allowing it to conduct more effective combined arms training. It was also manned at higher personnel levels than other divisions, and its field artillery was the first to be motorized.

Between August and September 1941, the Hawaiian Division's assets were reorganized to form two divisions under the new Triangular Division TO&E. Its brigade headquarters were disbanded and the 27th and 35th Infantry Regiments were assigned to the new 25th Infantry Division. Hawaiian Division headquarters was redesignated as Headquarters, 24th Infantry Division on 1 October 1941. The 24th Infantry Division also received the Hawaiian Division's Shoulder Sleeve Insignia, which was approved in 1921.

The division was then centered around three infantry regiments: the 19th Infantry Regiment and the 21st Infantry Regiment from the old Hawaiian Division, and the 299th Infantry Regiment from the Hawaii National Guard. In July 1942, the 299th Infantry was inactivated after its ranks were depleted by the transfer of many Nisei (second-generation Japanese-Americans) to form the 100th Infantry Battalion, and the 25th Infantry Division's 298th Infantry Regiment was reassigned to the 24th. Also part of the division were the 13th Field Artillery Battalion, the 52nd Field Artillery Battalion, the 63rd Field Artillery Battalion, the 11th Field Artillery Battalion, the 24th Signal Company, the 724th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company, the 24th Quartermaster Company, the 24th Reconnaissance Troop, the 3rd Engineer Combat Battalion, the 24th Medical Battalion, and the 24th Counterintelligence Corps Detachment.

World War II
The 24th Infantry Division was among the first US Army divisions to see combat in World War II and among the last to stop fighting. The division was on Oahu, with its headquarters at Schofield Barracks, when the Japanese launched their Attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and the unit suffered some casualties during the attack. Among these casualties were Sgt. Paul J. Fadon (killed in a truck 10 miles north of Schofield Barracks), Pvt. Walter R. French, Pfc. Conrad Kujawa, Pvt. Torao Migita (killed by friendly fire in downtown Honolulu), and Cpt. Theodore J. Lewis (who became the 24th Infantry Division's first soldier killed during WWII). The division was then charged with the defense of northern Oahu, where it built an elaborate system of coastal defenses throughout 1942. In July 1942, the 299th Infantry Regiment was replaced by the 298th Infantry Regiment. One year later, this regiment was replaced by the 34th Infantry Regiment from the Hawaiian Department Reserve. The 34th Infantry remained with the 24th Infantry Division until the end of the war. As an active component unit, the 34th was easier to deploy than the reserve component units, which were less trained.

In May 1943, the 24th Infantry Division was alerted for movement to Australia, and it completed the move to Camp Caves, near Rockhampton, on the eastern coast of Australia by 19 September 1943. Once deployed, it began intensive combat training. After training, the division moved to Goodenough Island on 31 January 1944, to prepare for Operation Reckless, the amphibious capture of Hollandia, Netherlands New Guinea (now Jayapura, Papua province, Indonesia).

The 24th landed at Tanahmerah Bay on 22 April 1944 and seized the important Hollandia Airdrome despite torrential rain and marshy terrain. Shortly after the Hollandia landing, the division's 34th Infantry Regiment moved to Biak to reinforce the 41st Infantry Division. The regiment captured Sorido and Borokoe airdromes before returning to the division on Hollandia in July. The 41st and 24th divisions isolated 40,000 Japanese forces south of the landings. Despite resistance from the isolated Japanese forces in the area, the 24th Infantry Division advanced rapidly through the region. In two months, the 24th Division crossed the entirety of New Guinea.

After occupation duty in the Hollandia area, the 24th Division was assigned to X Corps of the Sixth United States Army in preparation for the invasion of the Philippines. On 20 October 1944, the division was paired with the 1st Cavalry Division within X Corps, and the two divisions made an assault landing at Leyte, initially encountering only light resistance. Following a defeat at sea on 26 October, the Japanese launched a large, uncoordinated counteroffensive against the Sixth Army. The 24th Division drove up the Leyte Valley, advanced to Jaro and captured Breakneck Ridge on 12 November 1944, in heavy fighting. While final clearing operations continued on Leyte, the 24th Division's 19th Infantry Regiment moved to Mindoro Island as part of the Western Visayan Task Force and landed in the San Jose area on 15 December 1944.There, it secured airfields and a patrol base for operations on Luzon. Elements of the 24th Infantry Division effected a landing on Marinduque Island. Other elements supported the 11th Airborne Division drive from Nasugbu to Manila.

The 24th Division was among the 200,000 men of the Sixth Army which moved to recapture Luzon from the Japanese 14th Area Army, which fought delaying actions on the island. The division's 34th Infantry Regiment landed at San Antonio, Zambales on 29 January 1945 and ran into a furious battle on Zig Zag Pass, where it suffered heavy casualties. On 16 February 1945 the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry took part in the amphibious landing on Corregidor and fought the Japanese on the well-defended island. The rest of the division landed at Sablayan, Mindoro on 19 February, cleared the remainder of the island and engaged in numerous mopping up actions during the following month. These operations were complete by 18 March, and the division moved south to attack through Basilan. the division landed at Mindanao on 17 April 1945 and cut across the island to Digos until 27 April, stormed into Davao on 3 May, and cleared Libby airdrome on 13 May. Although the campaign officially closed on 30 June, the division continued to clear up Japanese resistance during July and August 1945. The 24th Infantry Division and the Philippine Commonwealth military patrolled the region until the official surrender of Japan ended the war. On 15 October 1945 the division left Mindanao for occupation duty on mainland Japan. Four Soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during their service with the 24th Infantry Division during World War II. They were James H. Diamond, Charles E. Mower, Harold H. Moon Jr., and Francis B. Wai. Members of the 24th Infantry Division also won 15 Distinguished Service Crosses, two Distinguished Service Medals, 625 Silver Star Medals, 38 Soldier's Medals, 2,197 Bronze Star Medals, and 50 Air Medals. The division itself was awarded eight Distinguished Unit Citations for participation in the campaign.

Occupation of Japan
After the end of the war, the division remained on mainland Japan. It occupied Kyūshū from 1945 until 1950. During this time, the US Army shrank. At the end of World War II it contained 89 divisions, but by 1950, the 24th Infantry Division was one of only 10 active divisions in the force. It was one of four understrength divisions on occupation duty in Japan. The others were the 1st Cavalry Division, 7th Infantry Division, and 25th Infantry Division, all under control of the Eighth United States Army. The 24th Division retained the 19th, 21st, and 34th regiments, but the formations were undermanned and ill-equipped due to the post-war drawdown and reduction in military spending.

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