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Author Topic: Hamilton tailor created Eisenhower jacket  (Read 4318 times)
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« on: March 31, 2008, 09:03:29 PM »

Journal-News, Wednesday, July 4, 2001
Michael Popp, Hamilton tailor, created popular Eisenhower jacket
By Jim Blount
Civilian fashion during World War II was notable for plainness. Patch pockets, cuffs, pleats and other clothing adornments that consumed fabric and materials succumbed to conservation measures dictated by the federal government.
One of the era's most popular apparel items -- a military issue -- was created by Michael Popp, a Hamilton tailor who wore sergeant's stripes for more than three years.
The garment didn't originate on Sgt. Popp's drawing board. He wasn't its designer. He was the person who adapted a drab army coat into a coveted jacket popularized by one of the war's most-photographed personalities. In doing so, Popp was following orders from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, his commander.
Eisenhower -- later a two-term president -- led Allied forces in the North Africa landing in November 1942, directed the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of the Normandy coast of France, and was supreme Allied commander in the defeat of Germany in 1945.
"During World War II, the popular image of General Eisenhower depicts him wearing a well tailored, short-waisted, smart-looking jacket," reports an Internet web site of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library & Museum.
Its popular names are the Eisenhower jacket or the Ike jacket. Officially, it was Wool Field Jacket M-1944, and informally known as the ETO jacket (European Theater of Operations).
Dissatisfaction with existing apparel and a desire for a distinctive ETO look led to creation of the Eisenhower jacket. He didn't like the army's long wool jacket, recalled Sgt. Mickey McKeough, a military aide to the general. "It didn't have any shape. . . . And he made it clear he wasn't going to wear anything that looked like that first battle uniform."
"He tried it on and sent for Sgt. Popp, our tailor," McKeough said. "When Popp showed up, the general told him what he wanted. He wanted the jacket shorter; he wanted it to fit -- he gave Popp quite a job to do. Popp went at it and the result was the Eisenhower jacket -- very short, very comfortable and very natty looking."
"The Boss was pleased with it and began to wear it, and when we got ours, all of us on the staff yelled for Popp. He was a good guy and he cut down all of our jackets to make them look as much as possible like the one the Boss wore," McKeough explained.
Following their commander's example, other officers individualized their uniform. "It is not known how many changes were made to the jacket," the Eisenhower Museum notes. "Some models have side slash pockets, many with concealed buttons, others had patch pockets or only flaps," and there also were "different types of waist tabs."
The creator of the Eisenhower jacket was born in Cincinnati Dec. 24, 1905, a son of Yugoslav immigrants, Peter and Elizabeth Popp. When he was 18 months, his mother died and the boy went to Yugoslavia to reside with his maternal grandmother.
At age 18, Michael Popp returned to the United States, first to Cincinnati and shortly after to Hamilton to work as a tailor in local clothing stores. In the 1939 city directory, he is listed as a tailor at the Worthmore Clothes Shop, 136 High Street.
Popp joined the U. S. Army in 1942 and was assigned as a tailor to Eisenhower's staff during the North African campaign. He held that post until discharged in December 1945. June 19, 1945 -- about five weeks after fighting had ended in Europe -- Sgt. Popp married Lucienne Gaillard in France.
In the late 1940s, he was a tailor at the Siebler Tailoring Co., men's clothier, at 109 South Third Street.
He and his wife opened their own tailor shop in 1949. They operated the business on the second floor at 205 Court Street for more than 18 years. In a 1951 advertisement they offered "custom tailoring for men and women, large selection of fine fabrics, civilian suits, top coats, overcoats, slacks, sportswear, Eisenhower jackets, military uniforms, alterations."
The Popps were the parents of three children, a son, Michael Dwight Popp, and two daughters, Mary France and Lucienne Jane. Michael Popp died at the age of 62 Jan. 6, 1968, in Mercy Hospital in Hamilton.
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