Jacket, Mess Dress, Winter, M-1958: Lieutenant Colonel, US Air Force
Short-waisted double-breasted jacket of black woollen fabric, featuring a deep shawl collar with narrow rayon-faced black lapels, detachable shoulder epaulettes of black stiffened cloth edged with silver-wire lace, two decorative rows of three buttons to the front, a front fastening of two chain-linked buttons and plain cuffs decorated with black officer-grade mohair braid. All external buttons are of the oxidised silver USAF pattern. Internally, the jacket is fully lined in black viscose fabric.
Embroidered in silver-wire onto the epaulettes is the rank insignia of Lieutenant Colonel, while to the left breast is embroidered the qualification wings of Command Pilot, also in silver-wire. Below the qualification wings are fitted miniature medals of the following awards: Distinguished Flying Cross; Air Medal; Air Force Commendation Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Korean Service Medal; Armed Forces Reserve Medal; UN Korea Medal. (NOTE: these medals are not original to the jacket but were present when transferred to the Museum in 1978).
The Mess Dress uniform was introduced for wear by officers and warrant officers of the United States Air Force in 1958, at first optional but made compulsory in July 1963. The jacket came in both winter and summer varieties, black and white respectively, and in both varieties was worn with a white shirt, black bow tie, black trousers with a black stripe on either side, a black silk cummerbund, black leather shoes and a black peaked cap which could be worn with a white cover for the summer wear. These two styles of Mess Dress were worn until 1981, when an all-season Mess Dress uniform was introduced, almost identical in cut but dark blue in colour.
Donald S Lopez Sr (15 July 1923 – 3 March 2008) was a U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force fighter and test pilot and until his death the deputy director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Lopez had already learned to fly while at college, and volunteered to join the Army Air Force in early 1942. After graduating and earning his Pilot's wing badge, Second Lieutenant Lopez saw early combat in China with the 23rd Fighter Group, later shooting down five Japanese fighters (four in a P-40, and one in a P-51). Returning to the United States in 1945, he flew as a test pilot, mainly in early jet fighters, at Eglin Field (Florida).
In 1948 he married Glindel Barron, sister of Florida State Senator Dempsey Barron. Following this assignment he served two tours in the Pentagon, earned a B.S. and M.S. in aeronautical engineering, and was an associate professor of thermodynamics at the United States Air Force Academy.
Lopez retired from the USAF in 1964 and spent eight years in engineering before joining the staff of the National Air and Space Museum. His publications include two personal memoirs: 'Into the Teeth of the Tiger' (Smithsonian, 1997, ISBN 1-56098-752-9), and 'Fighter Pilot's Heaven': Flight Testing the Early Jets (Smithsonian, 2001, ISBN 1-56098-916-5).