Make Army Uniforms Great Again

Army Times did a survey on uniforms recently, and either did it in cooperation with, or at least discussed the results with, the Sergeant Major of the Army.  Traditionally, the SMA is a very influential voice on uniforms, although it’s always the Chief of Staff — top general — whose decision is final. Several messages came through loud and clear, and they’re quite interesting, especially to old fossils who mostly wore other uniforms than the ones the boys and girls are rocking in 2017. (We’ve got bottle green service station attendant fatigues and Okinawa-made tiger stripes hanging up in a closet, not to mention other uniform styles of the sixties through the nineties. Perhaps some day we’ll actually fit into those ancient uniforms, maybe for burial).

Our take on the survey results:

  • Wow, the troops really despise the black beret.
  • The blue Army Service Unifom which replaced the dressier Army Blue uniform and the standard green service uniform worn (in a couple of variations) since 1957 is not quite as loathed, but there is no love for it.
  • There’s heavy nostalgia for great-granddad’s service uniforms of World War II, especially the tan khakis and the officers’ “pinks and greens” (tan trou and shirt with an OD jacket).
  • There seems to be a big difference between what men and women want in terms of uniforms, and there’s a schism between what young women and career female sergeants major want.

The Black Beret

SMA  Dailey has made it pretty clear that the beret, which is now worn as little as possible (due, naturally, to everybody hating it) is not going away. Having to be the adult in the room, he asks the reasonable question: if we get rid of it, what next? The previous hats worn with the service uniform were both hated, too: the bus driver’s saucer hat, and the overseas cap, known to all in the service by a female-anatomically explicit pejorative. (Women had different hats, which they hated, too). But the troops are quite clear in wanting to return to the status quo ante of berets being worn only by SF, Rangers, and Airborne soldiers. (This survey result is the same whether you survey those guys that would keep the berets — although a significant minority of them would gladly toss them, too — and the guys that would lose them under a reversion to pre-Shinseki rules).

No one seems to discuss one reason that the specialist forces prize their berets: the berets bear considerable unit personalization. Paratroopers wear the flash of their brigade or even battalion; Rangers have a flash that is their own (and the Ranger training establishment a different one); every Special Forces Group has its own flash with its own significance. For example, after a period in which the red and gold of the Free Vietnam flag was banished, 5th Special Forces Group recently reclaimed those colors on its black flash. Initially, when the black beret was inflicted on the Army as a whole, and the Rangers given a tan beret as a consolation prize, there was some talk that regular Army units would be permitted to develop their own flashes to accommodate their own unit pride, but this was quickly crib-smothered on cost and uniformity grounds, and every soldier wears the same blue flash with white stars. (There is a small pin-on crest, the Distinctive Unit Insignia, that is worn with every beret, but it’s often of a large unit rather than a natural nexus of unit pride. For example, all SF soldiers in all groups wear the same SF crest over their unit’s distinctive flash).

If you’re going to make every soldier in the army wear the same hat, it should be a sharp-looking hat. This may mean different hats for men and women, which the men and women are cool with but the womyn and social justice warriors are not.

The field uniform hat, which basically is the old 1951 vintage field cap (and which the Rangers kept alive during the grim baseball-cap years), seems popular enough. It’s better than any of the WWII field hats, as long as there’s also a boonie hat for field use, too.

The Service Uniform and the WWII Tradition

The Army started down an unhappy path in 1957 when they began to phase out World War II era uniforms in favor of a new green uniform modeled in part on the open-collar version of the Wehrmacht uniform, and in part on the uniform issued to metropolitan bus drivers at the time. This Army Green uniform soldiered on for about 50 years (with some slight changes of hue and material) until its recent replacement, supplemented by a blue uniform for semiformal occasions, a variety of officers-only full formal rigs, and a service undress “class B” uniform that was a shortsleeved khaki nod to WWII until 1981 or so, and thereafter just the pants and shirt of the Class A greens.

Unkind commenters noted that the green uniform was picked in 1957 because it was better at hiding out of shape middle-aged generals’ and NCOs’ rotund physical condition, than the pinks and greens or Ike jackets of wartime. Kinder commenters noted that it was more like the suits won by businessmen; that was one of the official justifications for the change, at the time.

The green bus driver uniform was replaced by a similar sack suit, only in blue, so it’s more of a doorman suit, or perhaps a 1920s Officer-Paddy-McGillicuddy-of-the-NYPD suit. For daily service wear, it lost the soaring NCO stripes and other flourishes of the formal Army Blue uniform, which harkened back to the Civil War and Indian Wars.

Anybody who’s watched period documentaries or war movies set in the unpleasantness of 1941-45 has noted how much better looking those uniforms are that today’s formless, characterless bags. (Although it’s hard to untangle that from how much better looking the Hollywood stars playing soldiers are, than actual soldiers — except that we really were a stunningly handsome bunch in the 10th Special Forces Group, who could have been matinee idols if we hadn’t felt the call to service).

The old uniforms are approved both on tradition and on style grounds — on fit troops, they look great. We note the Marines cleverly played into this by still wearing their WWII vintage service uniform. And their troops are consistently the sharpest looking. Coincidence?

While some of the other changes are definitely not going to happen, we can definitely see SMA Dailey bringing in a recommendation for a return to WWII styles, perhaps pinks and greens (for all ranks this time) or Ike jackets (probably as an option). And for Pete’s sake, put patches and tabs back on the shoulders, and officers’ branch insignia in the collar area, of all uniforms. Rank in the center of the chest was created in order to have a place to pin rank on Gore-tex jackets without losing the waterproofing, but what started as an unwillingly-forced Least Bad Option has spread like ebola. You want your soldiers looking at each other’s face and head area for rank cues, not center of mass. And you want to know if the captain who corners you in the TOC is the battle captain (guy running things for the commander) or some inconsequential dweeb from MI or the Quartermaster Corps.

Women Trouble?

While male soldiers are all in favor of such changes, women are ambivalent. This is especially true of long-service NCOs, who are more likely than one-termers to be — how shall we put this delicately? — sexual minorities, and to enjoy dressing up just like men, in male or unisex clothing. (They’re the ones who go off duty in plaid flannel shirts and Herman Survivors. In August. At McDill). And during World War II, the relatively small percentage of women in the service generally hated their uniforms, which were designed in great haste, and which they considered crude and frumpy. The Marines and Navy have struggled to keep their women happy with their uniforms, and whoever’s going to tackle this problem for the Army had best get a lot of input, including from current soldiers and from people who lived through the controversies over in the sea services.

We don’t know what the perfect women’s uniform would look like, but it would have to:

  1. Please the women who wear it, unlike the frumpy WWII version;
  2. Clearly be the same service as the stuff the guys wear;
  3. Be of sufficiently practical style it can be worn every day by office workers and not put them at a disadvantage relative to women in other services and civilian co-workers.
  4. Be of sufficiently classic style so as not to look dated by 2022. Or 2077.
  5. Be clearly female in design; flatter the wide range of shapes that comprise our fit female soldiers. (Fat people looking fat in it is not a reason to reject a uniform. Sorry ’bout that, Chief. It’s a reason to reject the fat people. Trigglypuff, this means you).

How do you get to that end state? Why not hold a design competition, and invite the nation’s (or world’s) fashion designers to take a shot at it? Make a panel of judges, mostly women soldiers who will have to wear the things, mostly young women, but include some of the guys who will have to look at it for their whole career, a design professional or two, and a couple of reps from the veteran, purple heart and gold star family community. That’s the optimizing approach (and it gets the design community invested in their country. And you could get a highly rated reality show out of it).

If that’s too much work, start with the Marine women’s uniform, listen to Marine ladies’ objections and complaints, get a survey of the good-bad-and-ugly of WWII Army uniforms, and remodel them appropriately, in Army colors. That’s the satisficing approach (and you could execute it in six months. Find an ambitious woman officer who’s not afraid to look her best, and give her a free hand).

What to Do After The Change

So what do you do after you change uniforms, the gentlemen’s and the ladies’ alike, this time? The Army has, to the great mirth of our Marine peers, been through lots of hasty and ill-considered uniform changes. So don’t execute this one hastily or half-assed. And once it’s done, commit to it. Freeze it, in terms of design language, for fifty years. Sure, you’ll want to take advantage of material breakthroughs but don’t change the look for a half-century. By then, soldiers wearing these new uniforms will have added incredible new tales to Army lore, and brilliant new streamers to the Army colors.

By then, no one will want to change it. It will be the classic Army uniform.

72 thoughts on “Make Army Uniforms Great Again

    1. Boat Guy

      They’re not as bad as one would think – least in my experience. The black beret was a tradition for Riverine guys dating back to Vietnam and we wore them – sometimes even with semi-official approval (at least at the O-6 level).

    2. Sommerbiwak

      It is not as bad as one might think. Actually the felt material is pretty comfortable summer and winter.

      The best to berets is that you can roll them and put in a pocket when mounting your tank. or keep it on and wear a headset and still able to use optics. But then I am german. We love our black tanker berets. For pride we put our branch insignia in the berets. And all weapons branches are. ;-)

      US Army soldiers are rarely able to properly wear a beret from what I have seen over the years and really should stop doing it. Just wear your patrol cap together with camos and I don’t know what formal head cover with your dress uniform. Be creative!

  1. Boat Guy

    A subject near-and-dear to my heart out of consideration for my Army brothers. My father and Uncles were all members of what they referred to as “The Brown-Shoe Army”. I agree that the Army should go back to the WWII uniforms FORTHWITH – and KEEP them for the half-century you advocate.
    While it IS largely true that there were (and are, no doubt) a great number of handsome and dashing soldiers in 10 SFG(A), I remember an interview with Frank John Hughes who played SGT Bill Guarnere in Band Of Brothers where he said that he wore the OD uniform of 1943 to Heathrow to welcome the real Bill Guarnere during filming and that he was “getting hit on right-and left” by women as he walked through the terminal. Mr Hughes was an unknown at the time so it may be ascertained that it was certainly the uniform -at least in part – that generated such interest.
    I understand tht it may be necessary to keep the beret, much as I ground my teeth alongside my Ranger bretheren when that nucking fumbskull Shinseki decreed it
    I HATE the blue uniform. For a lot of reasons. Disliked the green one for all of the reasons above.

  2. Boat Guy

    Oh, and the only changes to USMC Service Dress Green since WWII is the cloth belt in place of leather and the adoption of black shoes in place of cordovan – which was the color for the shoes and belt in WWII. Even after I was fortunate enough to get USMC blues as a Cpl; I still loved my greens.

  3. Mr. Chubbins

    For foxs sake, nothing is more American than the baseball cap. Why is this not the official hat of the US Armed Forces?
    Why the French beret?
    Can’t we just switch to a hat loved the world over?

    1. Boat Guy

      Sorry. That’s been tried by the Army and it looked … let’s just go with BAD.
      And DO NOT be stealin our eight-point! Saw some PHS dweeb havin one the other day. T’ain’t right.

      1. DSM

        As DCUs were winding down with the emergence of MARPAT and the ACUs my beloved, but very uniform challenged Air Force, were bequeathed pallets of three colored eight points as they were working on transitioning to their abortion of the ABU. While it was refreshing to see something getting used rather than thrown out it looked horrible.

        1. Boat Guy

          Sometime in 03 I saw the Deputy EUCOM wearing USAF 3-4 color tiger-stripes with an 8-point. Sorta glad I had sufficient discipline not to comment directly to him.

          1. Sommerbiwak

            That may have been part of a wear test.
            IIRC the USAF thought about adopting a new cap in either an eight point style or other variations.

    2. Blackshoe

      The Navy actually does, as sort of command specific wear.

      Some commands get pretty aggressive about what sort of icons end up getting put on them (eg an American flag, a command motto), which is fun.

      1. Hognose Post author

        Didn’t know the Navy had such command flexibility, but I heartily approve. (A commander should be king, with hire and fire, and complete “how” of mission accomplishment, authority in his own domain, in which “fire” sends the offending person away without turning his records jacket into a superfund toxic waste site, and mission accomplishment is measured by commanders above. And commanders at all levels should be 360º rated by leaders, peers, and subordinates, with the ratings weighted in that order).

        1. Boat Guy

          Not sure how much “flexibility” there is. There was instituted at “standard” for “Command Ball Caps” sometime in the 80’s – the ship’s full name and hull number would be shown completely in a certain format in gold thread et al, ad nauseum. While some ships did use other colors besides the standard navy blue (I have a red one from one of our PC’s) these were usually used to distinguish Engineers or Damage Control folks or folks who were allowed to be walking around during drills (evaluators)..
          I still prize the first ball cap I got from USS Firstship all-wool, no little adjustment band in the back (you actually got one that was made for your hat-size) and just the hull number.
          Ah, “mission accomplishment” – there’s the rub. Is the “mission” control of the seas or to be “a global force for good”?

  4. Looserounds.com

    My Dad, A Vietnam vet often says he thinks the Army should still be wearing that Khaki tan cotton uniform they wore in warm weather. He calls it the travel khakis or hot weather.

    I know its asking a lot, but when you refer to those uniforms it would have been awesome to have pictures of all those variation. I had no idea there was so many.

    Whats the difference between a dress and service? Service to me sound like what you would wear in the field. But I know thats probably not the case.

    1. Boat Guy

      Khaki worked for many years and in my many services. Even the Air Force managed to look OK in khaki. The Navy’s Service Dress Khaki was a great uniform and very versatile, though only for Chiefs and officers. Word was that one was dumped when we had a real fat-body for CNO
      The USMC Trop Khakis were very sharp – the enlisted ones were gabardine wool which somehow breathed enough to be comfortable.
      “Service” in this case means the uniform of the day – NOT field/combat uniforms, though up through WWI service uniforms were worn in the field. Come WWII the Army went to fatigues for dirty work or field use, the Marine Corps had “dungarees” (as did the Navy for enlisted) for the same situation. My Gunny used to refer to our “utilities” as ‘dungarees”.
      Actually “Service Dress” is the Navy/Marine Corps term for what used to be the uniform of the day. If one had a ceremony then one wore full-size medals instead of ribbons.

      1. Looserounds.com

        Uniform of the day.

        Does that just mean what you wear when you ain’t doing something the requires getting filthy?

        After this I went looking and i saw an amount of different uniforms that baffles me. Mess uniforms, formal. blues, greens, etc etc. How the hell do you pay for all that?

        How the hell do you even know when to wear what?

        The endless rules and regulations of the military makes me wonder how you remember all that stuff. my hat is off to you guys, I get in trouble when trying to follow the rules of standin in line for a roller coaster ride

        1. Hognose Post author

          Enlisted soldiers get a uniform allowance which is calculated to cover the upkeep on the mandatory uniforms. The only enlisted that are really required to have dress uniforms are in the Old Guard, and they have a special uniform allowance — probably the one place in the Army where being anal about uniforms is justified.

          Most of the more formal crap is required for officers only. In the same circumstances where I (as a civilian now) would wear formal wear, which I avoid like ebola. In most units officers will not ever wear ’em, in others, one or two of the low-end ones, once or twice a year. If you win the no prize of assignment as Military Attaché to Goatbangistan (or even someplace good, say France) you will wear all the freaking variations.

          1. Boat Guy

            Part of the “package” for consideration for an Attaché gig are/were full-length photos of oneself (and one’s “spouse” – ‘spose there’s all kindsa categories there, now) in Mess Dress with the civilian in formal wear.

  5. medic09

    Okay, I admit to being an outsider – though my father and uncles (including one RIP/KIA at the Battle of the Bulge) wore USA uniforms in the 1940s.

    A soldier should look like he means business. Even in a dress uniform. And a uniform shouldn’t be a second-career project to maintain and wear.

    Legacy and esprit de corps are important. Very important. That should be reflected in the uniform.

    All any soldier needs from Pvt to GEN is a field uniform that works, and a fairly simple business-like (in-the-business-of-war) dress uniform.

    Why is that so hard?

  6. jim h

    ive always thought the belted Army greens (USA version similar to the current USMC service greens) was a sharp look. the pinks and greens is nice too, but I don’t think the Ike jackets are all that. Ive got my grandfather’s, and it’s “ok” at best, but it really does need a buttoned shirt and a tie to work. this rush to make the uniformed services look more “corporate” was dumb, and I think reinforces the wrong mentality in a group of people whose primary job is to kill, maim, and destroy.

    I was just a lowly e5 grunt, so never wore one nor had any cause to be around them, but why in the actual hell do we have the mess whites and other forms of stupidity as well?

  7. ThatGuy

    I took a uniform survey back in 2003 when I was still in the Army and the Pink and Greens won overwhelmingly back then and you can see which one was chosen. Scary though were the uniforms that literally looked like they came from Star Trek The Next Generation were options.

      1. Aesop

        Nobody wants the red shirt…

        Au contraire, mon ami.
        The red shirt(s) should be awarded by unit vote.

        Just like BGen Savage organized the B-17 Leper Colony in Twelve O’clock High, and for exactly the same reason.

        Think of it as the command alternative to “Soldier of the Month” games.

  8. Kirk

    Somewhere, out in the land of dead electrons, there’s a bit of a rant on this subject that vanished into the aether when I hit “send”.

    Which is probably all to the good, because it was full of rage and invective directed at all and sundry who are even thinking about raising this issue up out of the grave, yet again.

    Having fulminated for about an hour writing that, most of my anger has dissipated, leaving a cold, raging core of malevolence directed at the effete dipshits who are even considering this bullshit as a course of action.

    Now, please take all this as being directed at the precise individuals who are bothering to waste their time, the Army’s time, and my time as a taxpayer with this bullshit. I’m going to be a little less hateful, this time around, and merely express the wish that you effete faggots who are more worried about the fancy dress bullshit you dress up in at your worthless-ass jobs shuffling paper around the Pentagon would get back to issues that actually matter, little things like the concepts of “readiness” and “training”.

    Cordially, from the troops and taxpayers? Fuck you. Just, fuck you. Your sense of priorities is so far out of accordance with reality that I seriously wonder how you’re making it in to work, and not licking the windows on the short fucking bus they obviously have to be sending to pick you up. I would expect better prioritization from autistic children that can only screech loudly when they encounter bright lights, and I’d probably get it.

    All the issues facing the Army right now, and people want to expend the fucking money and resources to have a new set of dress uniforms designed and fielded? What. The. Actual. Fuck. Anyone who doesn’t laugh this bullshit out of their offices needs to be retired immediately, and at the last pay grade where they actually made a constructive contribution to our nation’s defense–In most cases, that will likely be PFC and Second Lieutenant.

    See, here’s a news flash for all of you idiots: Dress uniforms don’t matter. Shocking, I know, but that’s the truth. Most of you probably think that there were extra-spiffy dress uniforms lurking in everyone’s baggage during the various frontier campaigns we fought, but the oddity is, there weren’t. Dress uniforms were combat uniforms, and if you look reaaaaallly carefully at the ones we issue today, behind all those vestigial sewn-shut pockets and faked-up flaps, that’s precisely what they are: Combat uniforms. All that apparently makes a “dress uniform” is time, and a separation from practicality. So, tell me, why the fuck do we go to the expense and trouble of issuing them?

    Well, children, that would go back to the end of the 19th Century, and the “reforms” promulgated by all the folks who’d gotten used to treating the enlisted soldiers as so many domesticated animals. They’d been penned up in barracks much like other penal institutions, and so when they let them out, they wanted them to be easily identifiable, and to have a hard time blending in with the public. So… Bans on possessing civilian clothes, and a requirement that they dress up in a fancy uniform. Idea was also that they’d be less likely to get into trouble, having to pay for cleaning and fixing those uniforms, but that was an afterthought. So, modern dress uniforms have their roots in a milieu we no longer live in, and conditions that no longer obtain. Why are we still issuing them? When was the last time anyone, anyone at all, said to their buddies on a Friday night “Hey, let’s get dressed up into our Class A uniforms, and go hit the clubs…?”. Outside of the Marine Corps Birthday Ball, and Fleet Week, has that happened anywhere since about 1965?

    The whole concept is ludicrously out of date, and an utter waste of resources.

    And, when you consider that what makes a dress uniform is apparently the sanctity of time plus a combat uniform that’s become horrendously outdated, I have to ask why we don’t just cut to the chase and start issuing the troops the likely dress uniform of 2110, the ACU? Seems like it would save a good deal of money, ya know? Let’s just cut out the middleman, here, and skip the next hundred years of interim dress uniform evolution.

    There’s a rule of thumb historians use, looking at uniforms: Want to pick out the likely loser, of any historical conflict? Simple, take a look at the uniforms, and then pick out the side possessed of the most sartorial splendor, and Hey! Presto!, there are your losers. This isn’t a fucking joke, either–It is, instead, a historical fact. You might want to think about why this general rule is a truism, too. Especially if you don’t instinctively grasp it on first encountering it, something I would take as an indicator of your essential incapacity to be of any real military use, whatsoever.

    The reason for this “rule of thumb” is pretty damn simple: Military forces that have the pretty-pretty uniforms are generally those who have “lost the bubble”, and are focused like lasers on issues that are irrelevant to combat success. They have, in a phrase, mistaken the sizzle for the steak. For examples of this sort of thinking, see Shinseki and his black beret bullshit.

    We have huge backlogs in readiness, training, and equipment. They’re only getting worse, and people are worried about how they look in dress uniforms that they shouldn’t even have the time to wear, if they were doing their damn jobs properly?

    The damnable expense, and the sheer fucking waste are what enrage me about this bullshit. In 25 years on active duty, the only period where I wore dress uniforms on a consistent basis were the few years I was on recruiting duty. All the rest? They got pulled out of the locker for probably a cumulative total of maybe two work-weeks; normally, they came on for an inspection, and then got taken off immediately afterwards, necessitating a trip to the cleaners to get them ready again for the next round of idiocy. It’s not a goddamn uniform at that point of affairs, it’s a fucking fancy-dress costume I had to pay for maintaining–And, with the insane and childish whims of many of the assholes I worked for, that got expensive. One CSM I had to put up with had me remove and re-sew the rank and unit patches on my uniforms six times in the course of a year, because he couldn’t quite wrap his little head around the idea that not everyone is proportioned the same way, and some of us have the chest, shoulders, and arms of our ape cousins. I’d gone into working for that asshole with a brand-new Class A jacket; by the time he was done, I had to buy another, and I’d only actually worn the fucking thing maybe a total of six-seven hours. And, oh, by the way… New jacket didn’t match the precise shade of the pants I had, so had to replace those, as well.

    Dress uniforms are anachronisms, ones that need to be done away with for general issue. Period. You want to have fancy-dress tin soldiers to play with? Might I refer your stupid ass to the many high-school marching bands out there who need sponsors to buy them uniforms; you can play with them to your heart’s content, and since that’s probably all you’re really fit for, have at it.

    The real reason armies with splendid uniforms lose wars is simple: The splendid uniforms are a symptom of an essential inability to prioritize or conceptualize the things that need to be prioritized. You have the pretty uniforms? You likely don’t have the properly-trained and equipped small units with which wars are won, because your soldiers are in the fucking barracks ironing shit, instead of out in the woods training.

    Shitcan the entire concept, I say; if you want splendid uniforms, restrict them to the play-acting elements you use to put on shows in your capital. The rest of the troops could quite handily do for themselves by having the equivalent of a tuxedo-rental agency on post, where they could go rent the fancy dress for special occasions, and which their bosses could fund for the unit functions that absolutely had to be conducted in fancy dress. Of which, I frankly can’t think of too many.

    The waste of resources and time is what enrages me; we’re worried about mandating green fuels for our tanks and ships, but nobody has any concern for the vast amount of resources tied up in these uniforms we hardly ever wear, and their maintenance? God, I shudder to think how many gallons of dry cleaning solvent got put into the environment, over the years, keeping my crap ready to go. I know one of the dry cleaners I used to use down in Tillicum is now a state EPA hazardous materials site, so there’s that…

    Yeah, I’m triggered by this issue. Get over it–My priorities are keeping as many of the lives as we entrust to the military alive, and that means prioritizing on their training and readiness, not how they look on the parade ground. Tough shit.

        1. Kirk

          ‘S funny, really… I always kinda pictured the Good Idea Fairy ™ as being dressed a lot like that Swiss Guard, only with a wand and some cute little fairy wings on his/her back…

          Gender of said fairy to depend on the gender of the senior officer they were beating about the head and upper body with their little wands… Girl fairies for boy officers, and so forth… Picture Tinkerbelle with a SGT Rock cigar hanging out of her mouth, or a cud of chewing tobacco.

          Is it weird I have bothered to come up with a mental image of what the Good Idea Fairy ™ ought to look like…?

    1. Boat Guy

      Yeah I’m over it. Thanks for confirming my choices of services.
      Agree with you that there are far more important issues at stake – and if one could expect the kind of ruthless decision making you advocate (I’d be pretty good with your recommendations) it’d be Ok by me to keep folks in fatigues, ACU’s or whatever – though personally I’d skip the pemethryn.

    2. Scipio Americanus

      If that’s what you wrote after the original disappeared, I can’t imagine what the original was like!

      I don’t mean to contradict your overall thrust, which is certainly correct, but I thought you might find it interesting that there’s a sort of exception-that-proves-the-rule counterexample to that rule of thumb you mentioned. The Landsknecht were famously sartorially flamboyant, but they managed to eventually best their traditional (and less glamorously attired) foe, the Swiss mercenaries.

      1. Kirk

        Yeah, this whole issue is one that tends to really get me going. I’ve never been a big one for mere cosmetics, mostly stemming from some really bad experiences in my early formative years.

        While it is true that what is good often looks good, the converse is not true; appearances are easy to fake, and if you get wrapped around the appearances of things rather than the realities, some fundamental things get left by the wayside.

        Before we went over to Iraq the second time in 2005, my unit got issued the CCO at the last minute; training and zeroing those sights for New Equipment Training got chucked out the window, because the CG wanted a fancy-dancy “casing the colors” ceremony. My unit acquiesced, and we pissed away our chance to get those sights integrated with live-fire training and zeroing; anything of that nature wound up being done in Iraq. A year after that, when we returned? I was still running into troops who had no idea how to go about zeroing their sight, or even using it–And, by that point, they’d had the damn things on their rifles for a full deployment, and some of them had used them in combat.

        Priorities. If you don’t have them straight, you’re going to get a shit-load of your people killed for no good reason. This dress uniform bullshit is just more proof the Army needs to be purged, and one way I’d do it is by surveying officers and senior enlisted as to what they think on this issue. Anyone who puts this shit at the top of the list of “things we need to do”, needs to be shown the fucking door. Period, no ifs, no ands, no buts–Out the fucking door, and take your little sycophantic remoras with you.

        That line from Jean Larteguy springs to mind: “I’d like to have two armies: one for display with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, staffs, distinguished and doddering Generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their General’s bowel movements or their Colonel’s piles, an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country. The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage uniforms, who would not be put on display, but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That’s the army in which I should like to fight.”

        Count me in among Larteguy’s minions. The other crew? Well, as I mentioned above, there are just scads of high school marching bands out there who could use some good mentors. Scads.

        1. W. Fleetwood

          When one quotes Colonel Raspeguys outburst, which certainly inspired generations of paratroopers, one should include the old Generals response.

          “You’re headed for a lot of trouble.”

          Which turned out to be quite true, and not just in the book.

          Wafa Wafa, Wasara Wasara.

          1. W. Fleetwood

            It’s from the book “The Centurions” which was made into the movie “Lost Command”. As I recall Raspeguy is taking a break back home in Basqueland between Indochina and the beginning war in Algeria. The old, retired General, whose name escapes me, is the local boy who made good in the Army. They are talking along the lines of “How come we could beat the Germans but not the Viet Minh?”when Raspeguy delivers the above lines, and the General responds. I have read, but can’t confirm, that the lines are a paraphrase of a quote from Colonel M. Bigeard, who is usually assumed to have been the model for Raspeguy. I suspect the Generals response is the voice of Larteguy /Osty.

            Oh, and I’m with you on the “We’ve got much, much bigger fish to fry!” view of uniforms.

            Sua Sponte.

          2. Kirk

            Huh… Do you know that I’ve never encountered that quote as being from one of his novels? All I’ve ever seen that attributed to is as something he said in an interview, not as though it were dialogue from one of his books. Interesting. You learn something new every day, I suppose–Or, relearn something you thought you knew.

      2. Kirk

        Vis-a-vis the Landesknechts vs. the Swiss mercenaries… I’m not really sure where that comparison falls on the whole issue of “sartorial splendor always loses”. The Landesknechts were certainly portrayed as dandies, and may well have been, but… The sort of thing where this stuff becomes pertinent stems more from what the command is doing, vice what the troops are doing on their own. And, most of the Landesknechts were far from uniform; those guys were more like a very well-organized motorcycle gang than anything else we’re thinking of, these days; most of the sartorial splendor was self-financed, not organizational in nature. Soooo… The rule of thumb about splendid uniforms kinda goes out the window, because the things that that syndrome serves as an indicator for were simply not applicable. Those Landesknechts were private contractors, so their uniforms (where such things could be termed as such…) were more advertising than they were examples of foolish boys in men’s clothing playing at a game of soldiers.

        In that era, you might be better served to take a look at other issues, to gauge who has the better odds of winning. The Swiss were poverty-stricken, by comparison; part of the reason they lost against the Landesknechts, a lot of the time, stemmed from a lack of supporting arms, and the general penury of the people they were working for. As well… Mercenaries. They’re not fighting for anything besides a paycheck, so the commitment to victory wasn’t as great as it would have been were those Germans invading the home cantons…

        At any rate, the rule of thumb does have its exceptions, as all such rules will have.

    3. Sommerbiwak

      In principle I agree, but you miss an important point. Those who actually decide on uniforms wear the fancy dress uniform daily. In the Pentagon, Hardthöhe or whatever else name the building has that the chair borne staffers dwell in. To them the dress uniform is important, because it is their daily wear. And they make the decisions.

      1. Kirk

        Which is why they need to be purged from the system.

        These are the guys who thought that the 507th would do just fine, in the combat trains of 3 ID, after having zeroed out their budget for realistic training for umpty-ump decades.

  9. Trone Abeetin

    ^^ holy bleep^^ didn’t know there was that many letters in the alphabet.

    Told my youngest daughter who was then in JR ROTC that they called the overseas cap the c&*t cap. Fro. That point forward that’s all she wanted to call it. That’s a my girl.

    1. H

      Well then Mr. Abeetin here’s a story from my distant past, c. 1967 or thereabouts that you, and perhaps Hognose, will enjoy.

      Mother saw to it that I had a pretty sheltered childhood and bloomed quite late, too late for my tastes but there it is. Anyway, freshman year in high school, everybody either joined the JROTC or got publically shamed as being a faggot, whatever that was. But we knew it couldn’t be good. This was, of course, before it became mandatory, or near enough.

      The NCOIC was a retired Snake Eater and just being around him broadened my horizons amazingly. Anyway, we got an issue of uniforms and upon return home with this bag full of crap my sainted mother asked what kind of cap that was. Not knowing any better, and in honest ignorance and innocence, I repeated what the old Snake Eater had called it. Mother turned quite white, although at the time I didn’t understand why, and stood there working her mouth kinda like a fish out of water……..

      Father snorted, snickered, turned on his heel and left her with the remains of the day, as it were. Was. Whatever.

      As earlier stated, I had no idea why they were acting strangely. But eventually I sorted it all out, the hidden meaning and whatnot. Mother was no help there……yet another opportunity squandered…….oh well…….onward thru the fog.

      Master Sergeant Jimmy R. James, R.I.P., who named his son “Jessie”. MSG James, like some of the other teachers, moonlighted driving a school bus route, and was known to stop off at the tavern on the way back to the bus barn after running his route. There was some squawking about this from some of the other so-called “professional” teachers, but they were never able to do much about it. He had a pretty good story about Dickie Chappell visiting his team in Laos. Hog, if you want to hear it, shoot me an email, this post has dragged on long enough already.

  10. DSM

    The Army’s new blue, service jackets just seem to busy with all the pin-on claptrap. Put unit patches and tabs back on the shoulders, in my humble opinion of course.

    My former service has identity problems too. Let’s not forget McPeak bringing about the airline uniform in the 90s, complete with the sleeve rank borrowed from the Navy. It tries to reinvent itself every few years whereas, just as mentioned in the article, the Marine Corps sticks with and honors it’s traditions.

    Low morale in a post-Vietnam military saw my career field pick up a beret. Just like the black beret was taken from the Rangers, the blue beret was taken from our early Pararescuemen who adopted the maroon of the Airborne. In fairness to our PJs a lighter hue blue beret had already been adopted by the first combat security police test unit in SEA. (Gee whiz, CCT wear scarlet, TACP has black, special ops weather has gray and SERE people have sage.)
    I wore one my whole career and hated it. No brim to keep sun or rain out your eyes, they stink, are hot and give you the stupidest tan line on your head. They changed our old MAJCOM metal pin-on crest about 20yrs back to this atrociously huge “flash” that looks stupid. I wore a BDU hat every chance I got.

  11. Bill Robbins

    Clearly, there’s a market for “Project Runway: Armed Forces Edition,” hosted by Tim “Gunnery Sargeant” Gunn, from the original Project Runway. Heidi Klum can do Gestapo impersonations.

  12. QuietMan

    I still think we should have snatched up Hugo Boss during Operation Paperclip.

    That said, the first time I saw the new blues was on a one-star friend. “Bill, how do you like the blues?” “I f#$$%%g hate them.” “I can see why: You look like a head waiter.” Son #1’s, at the time a new petty officer, jaw went through the floor. I was taken to task by him on the way home.

    1. Kirk

      Yeppers… I’ve always had my suspicions about the guys who were too wrapped around the handle with the whole uniformity and pretty-pretties on their uniforms.

      It ain’t no accident that a lot of these types are into the whole Tom of Finland thing, either:

      https://www.google.com/search?q=tom+of+finland+art&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiav5Wup6LSAhUHsFQKHZQMAcMQsAQIGw&biw=1566&bih=756#tbm=isch&q=tom+of+finland+military

      I suspect that an awful lot of our higher-ranking uniform-enthusiast types would show some rather interesting results, were you to fit them out with a penile plethysmograph, and then expose them to that gallery intermingled with pictures of real soldiers in field conditions…

      1. Hognose Post author

        Having never heard of “Tom of Finland,” I clicked. Wish I hadn’t done that. Kirk, an NSFW warning would have been in order. I’ll be opening the brain bleach after I get a few things done around the Manor tonight.

        1. Kirk

          Shit… Sorry about that. I thought everyone knew about that little realm of depravity.

          No joke… I used to work for a guy who had that shit all over his work computer, which I found playing low-rent IT dude. Care to guess why I’ve always associated that sort of thing with the uniform martinets? Some things cannot be unseen, can they?

  13. John M.

    Couldn’t someone just get Ivanka to redesign the female Army uniforms in six months and get an optimized solution for a satisficed price?

    -John M.

  14. DTG

    Teensy nit to pick…it’s “MacDill”…not “McDill”….LOL…and, yes, my former branch has uniform woes as well….from ‘bus driver’ to ‘darker suit’ bus driver, with 4,000 ribbons for each and every month spent on AD without catching the clap or otherwise pissing off the First Sergeant. I am so thankful I retired over 20 years ago.

    I enjoy your posts!

  15. Aesop

    No dog in this fight, because taking the stupid out of Army uniform shenanigans would rob me of one of life’s perennial pleasures. And the effort to straighten them out is a lot like offering to tutor the protagonists in Dumb And Dumber: it wastes your time and annoys the pigs.

    That said, if Big Green ever had the wit to go back to the WWII ensemble and stick with it by decree for a century, they could probably single-handedly pull their heads out and smell free oxygen on the subject for the first time since about the 1950s.

    At any rate, Jean Larteguy’s quote on “Two Armies” still applies:
    I’d like to have two armies: one for display with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, staffs, distinguished and doddering Generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their General’s bowel movements or their Colonel’s piles, an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country.
    The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage uniforms, who would not be put on display, but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That’s the army in which I should like to fight.

    1. Sommerbiwak

      Isn’t the old saying “no inspection ready unit is ready for combat. no combat ready unit is ready for inspection” saying the same?

      1. Kirk

        Same general field of military dysfunction, different syndrome.

        When I’m railing against the dress uniform BS, it’s stemming from the guys who treat their units like so many toy soldiers they’ve been given to play with. And, if you think that that isn’t an actual “thing”, I’d love to invite you into a whoooooole bunch of meetings and staff functions I’ve been around–You would be absolutely appalled that some of these people ever got promoted past about Lance Corporal, given the pettiness of their minds and priorities.

        There is a definite factual basis to say that a unit that “looks good” generally is good, but the problems come when people start stressing the appearance of things over the reality of them. “Looking good” that stems from actually being good? A great thing, and a key indicator if you know what you’re really looking at. “Looking good” that comes from a focus on strictly achieving and maintaining a facade, a mirage? Yeah, that’s the place where I have problems. Big ones, because the kind of shit I’ve seen in units that focus on appearance for appearance’s are ones where they are going to get a lot of people killed, once the shooting starts.

        The concern with the dress uniforms is an indicator of this BS, in my experience. Look at the well-known “Black beret fiasco” that Shinseki came up with for examples. There is not a damn thing that the issue of the black beret accomplished, besides justifiably pissing off a lot of folks in the Ranger community. And, as such, it’s a key indicator that the people we’ve promoted to run our Army really don’t understand shit about what real soldiers think, or how they’ll react to things like this. Before Shinseki’s bullshit imposition of that black beret on the rest of the Army, the beret had become a bit of heraldic regalia, a symbol of Ranger excellence. He appropriated it for everyone else, where it had once been something special, something to earn through arduous service, a marker of true excellence. And, that pissed off everyone–He’d have done better to have selected something else as a color, and then replaced the garrison cap with the beret–That might have been a wiser move. Hell, we talked about doing different colors for different branches, too, which might have been wise.

        In any event, it highlights how little these idiots grasp of this stuff–Look at the UK, where unique and esoteric little bits of uniform stuff are unique to specific units, like the double cap badges on one regiment, or the ethnic stuff the Scots regiments wear. That’s how you do “morale-enhancing uniforms”, but you have to have the substance behind it, like the personnel system and continuity such things require. When you shut down and stand up units as though they are mere administrative conveniences, all the “hooks” those things have in the souls of your soldiers evaporate. As well, the turbulence created with our personnel system? Sheesh… The mentality is that you’re working for GM, not an Army. You can’t do that shit, and expect to take advantage of the effects you get with the uniform “markers” for those units. You might as well have everyone in pajamas, and call it good–You homogenize the force to the point where there are no real differences between your generic units, and that’s what happens.

        Now, I’m not going to argue that this is necessarily a bad thing, either: Homogenous, faceless, personality-deficient units can be an overall goal, if that’s what you want. It has its advantages, as well as its disadvantages–But, the point remains, you can’t have some halfway-house between “Grey men in suits” and “35th Staffordshire Wombles”, whose members all wear a silver thorn on their headgear, in memory of the Battle of Rose Valley, where they had to fight the vicious Knid amongst the rose thorn brambles…

        It’s a one-or-the-other proposition; you can’t take advantage of the regimental system, if there’s no real fucking connection between your troops and their regiment. The Army tried grafting that shit back on, and because the idiots administering it fundamentally didn’t understand shit about it, or what makes soldiers tick, they fucked it up. As they do with so much other stuff, like the Cav mystique.

        What the US Army does with this stuff exudes a sense of falseness, a fraudulent air redolent of little boys playing dress-up. If we want to have homogenous mediocrity, then I say abandon all that crap, and just go for it. One or the other; you can’t have both in some happy half-way house where tradition and heraldry are honored and important. What we do winds up looking like slavish imitation, and should just be stopped if they don’t want to go through the effort of having the actual underpinnings of it all in place.

        So, yeah… That’s a lot more than I meant to say, but it speaks to the facet we’re referring to with the question of prioritizing on yet another asinine dress uniform as a presumed solution to morale issues. It is literally the same damn thing as addressing the deck chair arrangements on the Titanic, as the ship is heading off to hit the iceberg, whilst ignoring the fact that the binoculars for the guy on iceberg watch are still locked in the locker they’re stored in, because the guy with the key took it with him back in Liverpool, when he was transferred off the ship. That’s a fucking metaphor, that is, for the uniform issue this post is all about–And, the Army leadership is doing precisely what those dipshit deck officers were doing, when they nattered on about how the deck chairs should be arranged, instead of getting that locker open, and putting those binoculars into the hands of the guy on watch.

        The whole “no inspection-ready unit ever passed combat; no combat-ready unit ever passed inspection” is an entirely different facet of the same dysfunctional military syndrome. What it speaks to is the inability of the leadership to effectively determine what the hell they need to be looking at, when they do deign to come looking at their subordinate units. You see this shit all the time, and it really rankles when it happens–The general or colonel comes down from on high, and is guided around the unit area, on an inspection tour. While he’s there, he’s shown all the wondrous things that the commanders and senior NCOs think he wants to see, like painted rocks and neatly laid-out field gear for him to peruse like some wine-sniffing snob being proffered the cork by the sommelier of the overly-priced restaurant he’s gone to. The reality is, that unit blew off machinegun qualifications and crew training to prepare for that dog-and-pony show, and probably won’t get out of the motor pool if the balloon ever goes up for a real alert. Yet, because the higher commander focuses on these inessentials like the painted rocks, and laid-out field gear, he thinks he’s done his job by conducting an “inspection”. One that really doesn’t tell him shit about the unit.

        The problem isn’t the inspections, per se, it’s the unrealistic and entirely erroneous things the idiots conducting them are looking for. If you have a good idea of what’s really vitally important, you can do an effective inspection and learn a lot, while motivating the lower-level unit you’re inspecting to actually focus on the important shit, like knowing how to do their jobs. The problem is, nearly none of our senior commanders have clue one about how to actually do this, or put something sane into effect. Which, in turn, stems from how we have been promoting and training these guys for the last few generations.

        It’s all of a piece with that Confucian analect I keep mentioning, the one about the “Rectification of Names”. He’s not really talking about the names, in that; what he’s really discussing is the vital problem of any civilization, namely the issues of separating truths from falsities in thinking, discussion, and conduct.

        Most military dysfunction flows from these issues, in the final analysis.

  16. Texas Dude

    Terminal Lance had a comic on point for this topic:

    http://terminallance.com/2014/07/22/terminal-lance-335-past-tense-dress/

    The WWII uniforms were really sharp, and the lightweight wool is a better uniform than other options, even in hot weather.

    But dressy uniforms are stupid for anything remotely utilitarian, and should be the lowest priority for any organization actually concerned about fighting (or working, for that matter). Try to shoehorn working cops and all of their gadgets into 19th Century uniform patterns and load-bearing solutions is stupid. 24 pounds or gear carried daily on a belt is a great way to develop lower back problems at the 10-15 year mark, and is very, very common.

  17. Martyn C. Reiss (Montana Chapter 28, SFA)

    Hognose, be advised the the SF VN Flash colors represented the three SF Groups (1st {yellow, not gold} 5th and 7th) that rotated A & B teams through RVN for 6 month tours until the full 5th Group was assigned in Oct 1964 and the year-long tours began. That it more or less matched the RVN flag colors was just coincidental. The uniform when not wearing jungle fatigues was what we called Class B Khakis (see picture dtd 11/65, attached). This could be worn in country as well as to and from CONUS and on military bases in CONUS. Class A Khakis were long sleeve shirt with black tie tucked into said shirt, not worn except in CONUS for summer formations, etc and off base. Bloused jump boots for both. As an aside, when the 5th Group got the nod for full deployment, the 7th (also based at Fort Bragg) and the 5th personnel were allowed to swap positions (usually, but not always, rank for rank, MOS for MOS). The married guys in the 5th who had already done one or more 6 mo tours swapped for the hotshots from the 7th who had not gone over. As the time to leave got closer and closer, money started to change hands. I heard but was never ever to verify , that a 7th SSG paid $500 to get into the 5th. We were young once (and dumb)!

    1. Hognose Post author

      Martyn, that is a great story, and exactly the kind of SF legend and lore that needs to be preserved. When I came in the 70s, the only khakis left were shortsleeve, open collar, and they went out circa Oct 81, I think.

  18. Ray

    I’m a WW2 collector as well as a university trained historian, and I’d like to correct some mistakes. “Pink and Green’s” were an odd dark green often called “chocolate”. It was most often worn with a “chocolate” shirt and black tie and “pink” trousers (officially called “drab”) that were actually a drab dark pink/sand color.(like everything else, wartime uniforms were made in the tens of millions and color shades varied wildly) The “officer only” uniform could be worn with optional “drab” shirt or “green” trousers, depending on what uniform of the day the CO wanted at HQ. Black or Brown shoes were seen with them throughout the war. Combat Officers also wore the same OD33 uniform as the enlisted men (Officers who wanted to live tried hard not to stand out). There are actually more than a dozen major and minor changes in the ww2 dress uniform from 1936 to 1953. So you should try to be specific about which one you like. The style, cut, pattern, and color can very wildly. There was NO EFFORT to make a uniform, uniform issue to any service organization at any time during the war. It is entirely possible to see 50 men in a field photo dressed in dozens of uniform combinations and have all of them issued on the same day by the same quartermaster.(DON’T YOU KNOW THERE’S A WAR ON BOY!) I could document this all week so I’ll end with this: From 1940 to 1953 the US Army (alone) authorized MORE THAN 200 different uniforms. Many in two or more different colors and/ or fabrics and ALL OF THEM were issued and used at the same time. Some would remain in issue until the 1960’s.

  19. Bob Bobson

    Left an essay of a response on the survey in 2012. The gist was, the most important of the service uniforms (so called because it identifies one as a servicemember) is the combat uniform. Everything other variation (business suit, tracksuit, etc) should be a variation of that.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Fleetwood can probably confirm, but ISTR that for the extremely combat-effective Rhodies, most units’ dress uniform was your best cammies with a regimental “stable belt” and shined boots.

      1. Ray

        I always found it interesting that the top WW2 US Army flag officers (Ike ,Bradley, Patton Et Al.) ALL spent huge amounts of time designing uniforms. Ike and Patton both needed a three truck convoy (6X6) to move there personal uniforms and furniture. In the middle of a war, where the US Army couldn’t supply winter coats to every solder .Ike redesigned the service coat twice and the field jacket twice AND ORDERED THEM INTO PRODUCTION. Patton (who forced his men to use neckties in combat) was repeatedly photographed in self styled non regulation uniforms. Bradley went so far as to try and force his army group to fight in dress uniform. The difference in mindset seems to me to be a Garrison Vs. Field Army. You SF guys are combat troopers, and until recently the Army brass was most definitely NOT.

        1. W. Fleetwood

          To be fair to George, the whole package was that every man in his units would not only wear the necktie, but, in their left shirt pocket carry a pencil and a note book wrapped with not one but two sheets of oil cloth. Madness right?

          Well doing that ensured that every man in his units had the ability to plug both ends of a sucking chest wound and the makings of a tourniquet on his person at all times. And everybody knew right where they were. Sometimes there is method in the madness.

          The notebook was just along for the ride I guess.

          Sua Sponte.

          1. Ray

            Actually it was two US Army issue hand kerchief’s, as prescribed in the WW1 uniform regulation. Not exactly a “blood stopper”. I was always more fascinated by Bradley’s forcing everyone to run around Normandy in wool uniforms in high summer. Kinda’ like Patton’s making everyone in the North Africa and later Sicily landings put long under ware on under wool uniforms with wool lined field jackets–in the summer. And fabric won’t treat a sucking chest wound. The medics would use bits of rain coats , or the rubber coated “K” ration boxes or a plastic wrapper from a field dressing Or the foil wrapper inside the cardboard inside the plastic wrap on the M-43 field dressing. Pretty much anything to get an air tight seal. The trick is to make the sucking chest stop sucking.

          2. W. Fleetwood

            Really? Well….dang. I was told about the tie, notebook, pencil thing by Gale Dorthy of Mill City Oregon. He was one of my fathers best friends and one of the few Mill City boys who ended up going to Europe instead of the Pacific.

            He was in an Engineer bridging unit. One of his favorite stories was about the time General Patton, his very own self, stopped at the bridge they were working on. Pvt. Dorothy and his buddy “Smitty” were notorious for “misplacing” their tries but on this particular day of days they were actually wearing them and others weren’t. The General chewed out the CO of the unit and then Patton pointed at Gale and Smitty and said; “All your men should look like those two!” and then rolled onward. Mr Dorthy found this endlessly amusing.

            So, lo these many years I’ve been defending George on the Stupid Ties charge and it turns out it was actually an, unknown at this remove, Engineer Commander who had method.

            Thanks. To paraphrase Mr. Kirk, on this site you learn, or relearn something new every day.

            Sua Sponte.

      2. W. Fleetwood

        The Rhodesian Army, in terms of uniforms, was pretty much a clone of the British Army. The set up you describe would be a walking out dress; on duty, not under arms. It would be perfectly acceptable at ComOps headquarters or on base, or eating at a civilian restaurant. Most Rhodesian soldiers probably never wore anything dressier than this.

        Dress uniforms were another story. The basic uniform was along the lines of the old US “Class A”s. Basically a suit coat and pants in Rhodesian green with Regimental headgear and special doodads added. These were for formal occasions, Parades, Change of Command ceremonies, and so on. Officers carried swords (Dave Hill still has his.). Aside from standing still while the unit photos were taken there was an unspoken agreement to never, ever, let LT Fleetwood be seen in public attempting to do Drill. This was wise.

        And then there was Mess Dress, with Scarlet Jackets, miniature medals and the whole nine yards. This was for special occasions; Dining Ins, Weddings, and the like. It was splendid, and, thankfully, only Captains and CSMs (Or above.) were expected to have it.

        During the battle of Entumbane I went rolling past the Command Group which included my Battalion Commander, LTC McKenna and Brigadier Shute. I was wearingan Armored Corps camouflage coverall, a helmet, and my stable belt with a Colt .45 acp Commander stuffed in it like a Pirates of the Caribbean sash. The Brigadier noticed and spoke to LTC McKenna saying something along the lines of “Americans, what can you do? Mick, when things settle down have a chat with the lad, would you?”.

        When evaluating the above we should probably keep in mind that the RAR was, with the possible exception of the Artillery, the most “Regimental” of the Rhodesian units, and the First Battalion was the most “Regimental” of the RAR units.

        Boy was that a long answer to a short question or what? Hope it helps.

        Wafa Wafa, Wasara Wasara.

      3. Boat Guy

        Back in the dawn-of-time when most of the Navy didn’t wear cammies ours were plain; no name tapes, nothing was sewn-on. If you needed to go sterile you took your rank insignia and warfare pin (all subdued metal) off your shirt. If your cammies became too faded or torn they were reserved for working or underway and your newest best set was the one you’d wear for inspections, visits, dog n’ pony shows etc.
        Once SOCOM became pre-eminent we were ordered to sew on name and service tapes, then sew-on rank warfare device etc. You did that with your new cammies and kept the older ones for sterile or operating. THEN (of course) someone decided we needed to roll our sleeves like the Army did and things descended into real craziness.

  20. Seacoaster

    Possibly apocryphal Marine beret story:

    In 1955, as General Lemuel Shepherd was finishing his career and his tour as Commandant, he came home from a visit to the Royal Marines in Britain. He was taken with their green berets, and began asking Marines everywhere he went what they thought about wearing berets. Invariably he was told no, Marines liked their field cover, which had a performed well and was part of the Corps’ proud Pacific history in WWII.

    One day, while touring a Marine regiment and continuing to ask about berets, General Shepherd was taken aback to get an enthusiastic endorsement of the beret from a salty old supply staff sergeant. He told the staff sergeant that he was the only Marine to express support for the beret. Why, he asked?

    The staff sergeant replied, “Sir, the Marine Corps is a fighting outfit. I reckon if a Marine went out in town on a Friday night wearing that pretty little hat, he’d get all the fights he could ask for.”

    The Marine Corps did not adopt the beret.

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