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American Military Patches, Other Insignia and Decorations of World War Two by Dr. Howard G. Lanham c.2002


United States Navy

Navy Seaman's Jumper


Sailor in Jumper with the White Braid of the Seaman's Branch

The United States Navy has been very conservative with respect to its traditions and particularly conservative with its uniforms. On the eve of the Second World War officers were still wearing frock coats with epaulettes and cocked (fore and aft) hats, recalling the days of sail.

The basic sailor's garment, worn by those below the grade of chief petty officer, was a loose fitting shirt, known as a jumper. This was similar to those worn in the days of sail when sailors needed freedom of movement to work aloft. It was worn with a black silk neckerchief, which was rolled, draped around the neck under the square sailor's collar and tied below the neck opening in such a way that the two ends hung free. The issue blue wool jumper had only a single small outside pocket over the left breast. Privately tailored jumpers might have additional pockets, though not outwardly visible.

Two features of prewar jumpers were dropped in 1941. The first of these was eyelets and drawstrings in the bottom hem that were designed to draw the skirt snug to the hips. The second was a loop of blue wool cloth in the front just below the neck opening that enabled the sailor to tuck in the ends of the neckerchief should work require it.

The cuffs of the blue jumper had a white braid trim, which indicated grade: one stripe for apprentice seamen, two stripes for seamen 2nd class and three stripes for seamen first class or petty officers. An additional distinction was a branch mark. Those below petty officers who were members of the seaman's branch(1) were identified by a three-eighths inch braid stripe sewn around the shoulder seam of the right sleeve. This was white on blue jumpers and blue on white jumpers. This can be seen in the above photograph. Non-rated men of the artificer branch (engine room force)(2) wore a similar branch mark on the left shoulder seam, which was red on all uniforms. Sailors who were neither seaman's branch nor artificers' branch (engine room force) wore no branch marks. Petty officers wore a rating badge on the upper mid sleeve their jumper, which indicated both rate (grade) and rating (job specialty). Petty officers of the seaman's branch wore rating badges on the right sleeve and other petty officers on the left.

Jumpers were worn by lower grades of seamen and petty officers. Chief petty officers, warrant officers and commisioned officers wore a blue lapel coat. In addition to the blue coat there was a white coat with standing collar for officers and warrant officer and with lapels for chief petty officers, as well as several other working uniforms.


  1. The seamen's branch consists of boatswain's mates, fire controlmen, gunner's mates, minemen, quartermasters, signalmen, torpedomen, and turret captains. The other major branches were the artificer branch, artificer branch (engine room force), aviation branch, special branch, commissary branch, specialists and steward's branch.
  2. The artificer branch (engine room force)consists of machinist mates, water tenders, boilermakers, electrician's mates and motor machinist mates. (from John Stacey's U.S. Navy Rating Badges, Specialty Marks and Distinguishing Marks 1885-1982)

Thanks to John Stacey for his help with this page.
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