Fashion Decrees Greenish-Grey for the Army Uniform in Place of Olive Drab, if the G.I. Approves the Change
By Dr. Stephen J. Kennedy
The Quartermaster Review – January/February 1952
Thumbnail sketch on the development of a proposed new Army Dress Uniform
A PROPOSED new Army uniform has just been issued for service test to two battalions of the Third Infantry Regiment, one at Fort Myer, Va., and the other at Fort McNair, Washington, D. C. The new uniform, to be worn by the units this winter in a test of its acceptability as to color, design, and fit, is the greenish-grey uniform in shade G..G. #44. Prototypes have been shown to some Quartermaster troops in the European Command, when this uniform was included in a presentation of new clothing items at a number of posts in Germany.
This uniform was developed by the Research & Development organization of the Quartermaster Corps in collaboration with consultants and technical experts from industry, under a directive from the Department of the Army Uniform Board as part of the Board’s complete survey of Army uniforms.
It differs from the existing uniform in a number of important respects, most apparent of which are the change in color and the substitution of a comfortably fitting beltless coat for the present short jacket, usually referred to as the Eisenhower jacket. The same uniform, except for distinguishing insignia, the officer’s sleeve braid, and the chin strap on the cap, will be worn by both officers and enlisted men.
The color of the proposed new uniform, its most striking characteristic, is a neutral shade of deep greenish-grey, selected after a comprehensive study of a wide range of possible colors for an Army uniform. Careful study was given to the blues, greens, greys, browns, and other colors having potential desirability in a military uniform.
It was desired to obtain a distinctive military color which would not be confused with the uniforms of mail carriers, service station attendants, policemen, movie theatre ushers, and other service personnel, and yet would be attractive and give the wearer a well-dressed appearance. In other words, it was desired to obtain a color which a man in civil life would regard favorably and would like to wear, and yet not a shade which every retail store in the country sold every day in the week in civilian clothing. Furthermore, it was necessary to select a neutral shade that would not clash with colors of trim and decorations.
The selection of the color was based upon a fundamental policy which has been in the making since the end of World War II, involving the separation of combat clothing from general wear or service uniforms. The attempt to make one uniform do for both jobs, which the Army had followed in the past, required compromises which have provided neither a satisfactory service uniform nor combat garment, while at the same time detracting from the military appearance of the uniform and the soldier’s respect for it–a vital factor in maintaining good morale and pride of organization.
One of the most desirable characteristics of a good combat uniform is the provision for a small number of sizes so that it can be supplied in the field on a practical basis under a clothing exchange system. On the other hand, for a uniform to fit readily without major alterations, a large number of sizes is required.
These two requisites cannot be compromised without giving up to much from each side. Thus, a good retail men’s clothing store normally carries at the start of a season no less than 100 sizes in men’s clothing. They have found from experience that such a size range is necessary to satisfy customers as to fit and appearance, and also to reduce the waste involved in major alterations.
Contrast this with the ideal of 9 to 12 sizes of combat clothing and it will be apparent that compromising of these two requirements creates an impossible situation for providing a well-fitting uniform, as well as making it unduly difficult to operate an efficient clothing supply system in the field.
Furthermore, some features useful in functionally efficient combat clothing would not be desirable in a general wear uniform. In a wet-cold clothing ensemble for winter wear, the most important element is an outer water-repellent, wind-resistant layer which is completely washable. The wool garment serves as an insulator or space filler to provide dead air space for insulation. These garments do not require the tailoring of a suit – padding of the shoulders, inner linings, shaping and full sleeve fitting necessary to make a good-appearing suit coat. The cost of these elements is wasted if they are used in making garments which are strictly insulating layers. In addition they result in a more constrictive garment than is desired for free-fitting field clothing.
A further consideration in the matter of color of the general wear uniform is the fact that while the shade (O.D. #33) of the present service uniform was originally selected as a camouflage color for a field uniform, this type of color is no longer regarded as satisfactory from this standpoint. Research undertaken during World War II led to the adoption of a darker green color (O.D. #7) as the basic color of the combat uniform. This color has lately been modified slightly and a somewhat deeper shade with a slightly different cast (Olive Green #107) but otherwise very close to O.D. #7, has been adopted as the basic color for camouflage of the soldier’s combat uniform. Accordingly, there is no requirement for shade O.D #33 from a camouflage standpoint. Without this advantage, the only other basis for retaining this color would be a definite preference for this shade for the service uniform; such preference has not been strongly evidenced.
As a matter of fact, the O.D. color for the service uniform came into use at the time of the Spanish-American War. The Army entered that war with a blue uniform for winter wear and a cotton khaki uniform form for summer. After the war, the Army had two uniforms: a so-called field uniform of wool olive drab melton cloth, and a blue dress uniform used for ceremonies and off-post wear by enlisted men.
After World War I, for reasons of economy, it was decided to discard the dress uniform for enlisted men and to make the so-called service uniform.of olive drab woolen cloth do for both field and garrison wear. This situation continued up to the beginning of World War II, when it became clear that the existing uniform was actually unsuited for field use.
What had happened during that period was the same as what had happened before World War I. The uniform, as Lt. Gen. Edmund B. Gregory, then The Quartermaster General, pointed out in 1946, had gradually undergone a change from a comfortable loose-fitting garment to a tight-fitting uniform suitable only for garrison wear. At the outbreak of World War I, one of the things the Army had to do was develop new loose-fitting patterns which the men could live in, as well as stand at attention on the parade ground. As General Gregory pointed out at the time, this gradual change to a tight-fitting uniform in peacetime has been characteristic of the history of uniforms in all armies.
A military mission sent to France early in 1917 reported as a matter of urgency that to make it more practical the service coat of the field uniform should be made looser in the chest and arms and should have larger pockets. It was stated that as an essential item of uniform in France either in the field or for garrison duty, and since the men would have to sleep in their coats, a looser fitting coat than the existing one was needed.
When World War II broke out, the same situation existed. Under the influence of skin-tight form-fitting parade ground uniform doctrine, exemplified in the uniforms of the military academies, the Army had spoiled its uniform as an item of field equipment.
In 1943, the Quartermaster Corps and Army Field Forces developed on a joint basis a new winter or wet-cold clothing ensemble. This uniform continued the principle of compromising the service and combat uniforms, but adopted the short Eisenhower jacket in a loose-fitting model. This jacket was fitted so that it could be worn over heavy underwear, a wool shirt and a sweater, or under the 1943 cotton water-repellent field jacket. At best, it was a compromise as to fit, number of sizes. comfort, and functionability.
After the war, the Eisenhower jacket seldom had to be worn over winter underwear, a wool shirt and a sweater, and was worn principally as an item of service uniform over a thin cotton shirt and summer underwear. Accordingly, soldiers began the practice of cutting it down to get the old skin-tight effect. Local tailors attempted what is probably the most difficult job in the whole field of tailoring-trying to cut down the equivalent of a size 42 jacket to fit a size 38 man, or what is just as bad, trying to fit a size 38 tall man with a size 36 short jacket, so as to raise the waistband from the hips to the waist.
The proposed new coat represents simplification of design by return to a coat in traditional military style. Like the Army’s present coat for the summer uniform, it is made without a belt. This brings unity to the Army’s uniform, and avoids the practice of having a belt on the winter uniform and no belt on the summer uniform. The model is free-fitting, a semi-drape model which avoids the skin-tight theory, discarded in civilian clothing over 20 years ago, to provide comfort and improved appearance, and yet has no exaggerated lines.
There is only one color trim-gold. The buttons are gold, the chevrons of non-commissioned officers are in gold embroidery on a ground matching the color of the uniform, and gold braid is used on the officer’s sleeve and chin strap. The necktie and socks are in a dark green shade matching one of the primary colors in the mixture that makes up the G.G. #44 color of the uniform. The shirt is a light tan shade and is made of 128 x 68 cotton broadcloth. The shoes and cap visor are a deep russet shade somewhat darker than the present Army russet color for leather. With the uniform, either the officer’s gabardine coat in taupe color 70 or the present olive drab overcoat in O.D. #7 color may be worn.
When this uniform was shown in the European Command to more than 15,000 soldiers, questionnaires selected from 10 per cent of the audiences showed a 95 per cent preference for the new shade over the existing shade of O.D. #33.
No final approval has been given to the new uniform, which is still on an experimental basis, with the outfitting of the two battalions of the Third Infantry Regiment strictly a service test. In the event that favorable action should be taken on this new uniform, it will be some time before its issue can be implemented. This would be done on an integrated basis with the existing uniform. In addition officers would have the usual opportunity of a considerable period for wearout of their existing uniforms.
On 2 September 1954, the adoption of the Army Green Uniform in shade 44 was announced in Circular 102 – nearly 10 years after the first postwar efforts to find a solution to the semidress uniform problem.
The uniform became available at Quartermaster Supply outlets in September 1956 and was initially issued to inductees a year later. After a transition period to allow wear-out of existing uniforms, the Green Uniform became mandatory semidress attire in September 1961.
Between the adoption and actual procurement of the Army Green Uniform, Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor became the Chief of Staff and ordered several changes in the uniform’s appearance.
The uniform as originally proposed carried out a green and gold color scheme with gold buttons, grade insignia of gold on a green back-ground for enlisted men, and a gold-colored sleeve band for officers. It was to be worn with a light tan shirt, a dark green tie, green socks, and russet-colored cap visor and low-quarter shoes. The gold trim and russet leather were selected as a pleasing contrast to the gray-green coat, trousers and cap. The russet shoes and visor also were considered economical since similar items were then worn with existing uniforms.
Late in 1955 the officers’ gold sleeve band was replaced with a black mohair braid. At the same time a black mohair braid was added to the officers’ trousers – two vertical narrow stripes for general officers and one wide stripe for other officers. The black trim reduced the contrasting color effect, leaving only the gold buttons on the coat as a color contrast with the green of the uniform fabric. The Army Green Uniform was now primarily green and black since the shoes, cap visor, tie and socks had already been changed to black from the shades originally proposed.
The black accessories had been adopted in the interest of a Department of Defense Standardization Program established by Congress in l954. The first change was from russet to black shoes identical with those worn by the Navy and the Air Force. The cap visor was similarly changed to match the leather of the shoes. Black socks and neckties were adopted next to reduce the number of items in the military supply system and to harmonize with the other accessories.