The Crush Cap is a storied article of WWII Army Air Corps gear. Nothing
made an aviator look more seasoned than when sporting a floppy, crumpled cap
riding at a jaunty angle atop his head.
The Visor Cap, or Service Cap, is essentially the primary dress
headgear of servicemen and it bears, in the case of the Army and
Army Air Corps, the insignia of the coat of arms of the United
States. As such, the service cap is a crisply angled cap with
stiff support to maintain its respectable posture.
Army Air Corps personnel, while wearing the visor cap in flight,
took to removing the stiffening in order to comfortably wear a
communications headset over the cap. In time, the cap would become
crushed and softened. A cap which had seen a lot of action eventually
came to be known as a "50 mission crush cap," and the wearer of such
a cap came to be recognized as an experienced veteran.
In deference to the air service the Officer's Guide states,
"Officers of the Army Air Forces wear a similar cap [to officers
of the Army] except that the front spring stiffening may be
omitted and the grommet may be removed."
The front spring stiffening is what supports the insignia and also
keeps the front of the cap jutting strongly upward and forward. This
can vary from a curled piece of wire spring to a solid metal plate.
The grommet is a round support, often simply a stiff piece of metal
wire, that keeps the top of the cap round and suspended. While the
grommet can be readily extracted from the cap, the front spring
stiffening is typically sewn integrally into the cap and is not
Eventually, manufacturers began to make caps specifically for aviators.
These caps were specially made to be soft and crushable with a thinner and more
flexible leather visor, little or no front spring stiffening, and a
softer headband. While there was some variation in crushability
between the different models, some of these caps could be very easily
rolled up and stuffed into a pocket.
Standard service caps are found to be constructed of several types
of material. For the winter uniform there are the olive drab (O.D.) shades
and these are usually either of a felt type of material or of the
darker shade wool elastique. For wear with the summer uniform, caps
were a tan khaki shade of either cotton, rayon, cotton/mohair blend, or
True crush caps are most commonly found in the O.D. shade and seem to be
exclusively of elastique material, presumably since the elastique
is lighter and more supple than the felt.
Crush caps in khaki shades appear to be primarily of the wool
worsted material but, due to the limited numbers of these around,
this observation may not be accurate.
While most crush caps were made for officers, there are examples of
both O.D. and khaki enlisted men's (E.M.) crush caps. These seem
to have been in much more limited quantity compared to the officer's
Many service caps these days are pitched to collectors as having
a crushed look. As has been described here, however, not all crushed
caps are crush caps. In the collector's market, the true crush
caps are more highly prized and carry higher market values.
While there are a few sources for reproduction crush caps, only one which
has recently come to my attention truly lives up to the quality and
character of the originals, the Diamond Cap Co. For a link to Diamond
and some other sources, see Section 1.5 of the Previously Asked Questions Page.
Below are several examples of crush caps and standard visor caps.
Officers' Crush Caps
Probably the best known and apparently most widely used crush
cap was the Flighter by Bancroft. The visor on the Flighter
model has a rather distinctive dome shape and had, as claimed
on the Flighter logo, "curve control."
Possibly the best quality caps were those produced by
Luxenberg, a highly regarded maker of military clothing and
also insignia. Luxenberg items are prized by collectors.
- Bancroft example in O.D. elastique
and shown with a headset. (29k JPEG)
- Bancroft logo on the sweatband.
The words, "curve controlled" are seen rounding the "F." (9k JPEG)
- This example shows how soft and crushable
the Flighter is. (21k JPEG)
- This Luxenberg example is in excellent
shape. (27k JPEG) Compared to the Flighter and most other crush caps, the
Luxenberg pieces were constructed of noticeably higher quality
and heavier weight materials. Even though the Luxenberg crusher
is softer than a standard cap, it isn't nearly as flimsy other crushers.
- Luxenberg sweatband logo (17k JPEG).
- A Luxenberg cap which belonged to Glenn Miller can be found on
display at the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. Here is an
(43k JPEG) and an
internal view (53k JPEG).
- The Lewis Fly-Weighter in O.D.
- Lewis sweatband logo. (24k JPEG)
- This Lee Flight cap by Berkshire is an especially
interesting specimen as it is in an unused, uncrushed condition (35k JPEG).
A tan khaki wool gabardine example, it has all stiffening still in place
and this cap appears crisply at attention.
- Here is the box the cap came in. (41k JPEG)
- And this is a view of the interior of the
cap. (50k JPEG)
- Lee sweatband logo. (16k JPEG)
- This cap (28k JPEG) is virtually unmarked
inside except for the size (7) and the sweatband logo (17k JPEG).
- Photo of the Airflow with headset. (27k JPEG)
- Here's an example outside of the WWII era, but interesting still. This is an
Air Force blue crush
cap with a thick but flexible visor, a soft headband, and no stiffening anywhere.
It is just as crushable
as any WWII crusher. (Cap is from the collection of Jim D.)
- The crown material is not
elastique, but rather a wool gabardine.
- A rear chinstrap is applied along
with the front, the two being joined by the new
Air Force button.
- The cap is marked as made by Dobbs
and also has the E-Z Cushion marking
on the sweatband.
Enlisted Mens' Crush Caps
The two major differences between the officers' and enlisted mens'
caps are the insignia format and the decorative band sewn to the outside
of the headband on the officers' version.
Standard Visor Caps
- Luxenberg officer's cap in O.D. felt. (27k JPEG) This
particularly nice example is virtually mint except for the small
inscription of the owner's name on the underside of the visor. This
cap also bears the distinctive Luxenberg marked officer's insignia.
- This side view of the Luxenberg cap
illustrates the rear chin strap. (26k JPEG) These rear straps are
equipped with a buckle for adjustment, likely to keep the cap held
tightly on the head when necessary. They may also have been a
- Luxenberg interior view (36k JPEG)and
sweatband logo (17k JPEG).
- An enlisted men's cap in O.D. felt. (24k JPEG)
Updated: 8 September 2008.
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