The Development of the Army Field Cap (1932-1938)
Why a Field Cap?
The legacy of WWI put the development of steel helmets and gas masks on the priority list for the Japanese Army, and as both had to share space on the head of a soldier, they had to be developed in tandem, tested in tandem and issued in tandem. The pair was conceived to be compatible, but this celebrated pair was creating a new conflict elsewhere, a conflict with the uniform visor cap. The helmet and gas mask were conceived as assault gear, and the helmet was only worn by limited people under limited conditions, so the visor cap could initially stay on the head of the soldier most of the time. However, with the introduction of the Star-vent/Cherry blossom helmet as a Provisionary Standard in 1922, the steel helmet gradually spent more time on the soldier’s head and the poor visor cap found itself more and more often looking for a place to stay while the helmet took over. Anyway having to switch back and forth between the helmet and visor cap was becoming a problem. By 1927/28 this conflict could no longer be left alone. They had to find a solution.
Which shall we fold, the helmet or the cap?
The army became desperate enough to consider folding, of all things, the steel helmet in 1928. They even patented it. Slightly earlier than that an alternative approach of developing a replacement to the visor cap to be compatible with the helmet was also launched when on September 15, 1927 the Army’s main clothing depot put in a request for a helmet sample “for the purpose of clothing item studies”. At this time, the type 90 helmets were early prototypes at best, so the sample could have only been a cherry blossom helmet, which must have largely sufficed for the purpose of developing a compatible cap to replace the visor cap in the field.
The folding helmet ended as a curiosity and the Type 90 Steel Helmet was born on 28th October 1930, so now it was the cap that had to yield.
16th March 1932: Which looks better on us “A or B”?
By the time that the new type 90 helmets were starting to reach the troops in some quantity, a memo from the clothing office dated March 16th 1932 informed the chief of staff of the Kwantung Army in China that two alternative designs of “prototype combat caps” were to follow in quantities of a thousand pieces each for field assessment.
An attached memo gave detailed instructions;
Onsite testing requirements of prototype combat caps (1932)
1.Purpose of test
In comparison to the current visor caps these combat caps were prototyped with the aim of being convenient for carrying and if necessary, be used in combination with the steel helmet and gas mask.
The purpose of this onsite test is to judge its suitability.
2.Spec outline of the prototypes
Pure wool as the base material, the star in yellow wool, leather sweatband added and a rear split allowing adjustments from large to small. Sizes in Large, Medium and Small and two alternative external designs Kou (A) and Otsu (B) provided.
From the arrival of the samples till roughly until the end of October 1932
4.Reporting of results
First report: Roughly by end of June you are expected to come back with a value judgment, whether the prototypes are suitable for wear, any improvement suggestions and provide a general report.
Second report: By end of November, a detailed report is expected.
Design A was an overseas cap, B was the billed field cap