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U.S. Army 1950s Uniforms

Changes in U.S. Army garrison and field uniforms began after World War II and were accelerated by the Korean War that started in 1950. During the 1950s, significant new uniforms were introduced. In particular, the Army Green Uniform, adopted in 1954 as a result of a post-WW II long range uniform improvement program, became the basis of a stable uniform, expected to remain with the Army until at least 2014.

U.S. Army recruiting ad, appearing in magazines during 1958, featured the then-new Army Green Uniform
U.S. Army recruiting ad, appearing in magazines during 1958, featured the then-new Army Green Uniform.

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U.S. Army Uniforms in the Korean War and 1950s

Dressed in parkas (Overcoat, parka type, with pile liner), Missouri infantrymen pose for a New Year greeting, 19th Infantry Regiment, Kumsong front, Korea, 14 December 1951
Dressed in parkas (Overcoat, parka type, with pile liner), Missouri infantrymen pose for a New Year greeting, 19th Infantry Regiment, Kumsong front, Korea, 14 December 1951.

In 1949 the U.S. Army Uniform Board separated all uniforms into two categories:

  1. Garrison and Duty
  2. Field and Work

The first category included all uniforms for dress, general duty, formations and ceremonial use. The second category was for fatigues, combat and utility uniforms and any other informal or specialized work clothing. Before this, service uniforms were used for both garrison and field duty, overlapping the new categories.

This table indicates the major items supplied to soldiers in the 1950s within the two categories. As always, actual distribution of supply to the field often lagged formal adoption. Many items of World War II vintage continued in use through the 1950s and even beyond until production and distribution realities caught up with standards for new procurement. For example, when the then-new OG-107 carded cotton sateen uniforms were first distributed in Korea during the 1952-53 winter, Quartermasters attempted to first reduce stocks of the old style OD#7 trousers and shirts. The new olive green items were extremely popular, however, exceeding all expectations, and the olive drab trousers and flannel shirts were avoided by the troops. With two types of shirts and trousers in the field, some soldiers became clothed in an undesirable mixture of uniform items. Nevertheless, maximum use was made of the remaining olive drab clothing stocks; for the 1953-54 season OG-107 shirts and trousers were issued to all troops in Korea.

CategoryItemNotes
Garrison and DutyOD Winter Duty UniformM1950 (or earlier pattern) Ike-style wool serge jacket and trousers, shade OD#33. Worn with khaki shirt and khaki, black, or OD necktie. Phased out 30 Sept 1958.
 Army Green UniformUniversal uniform for all seasons, ranks, and non-field usage. Adopted 2 Sept 1954 and phased in during 1956-1961, becoming mandatory winter service uniform in 1960 and summer uniform in 1964. Color: Army Green Shade OG#44 or OG#344 for lightweight fabrics. Worn with khaki or tan shirts, black tie. Black shoes phased in starting in 1956.
 Army Khaki Wool UniformKhaki lightweight wool tropical worsted or gabardine coat and trousers uniform for summer duty or semi-dress uniform for officers and warrant officers. Renamed Army Tan Uniform (shade 61) in 1959. Often worn by officers and NCOs with coat removed as a replacement for the issue Army Khaki Cotton Uniform. Worn with khaki or tan shirt. In 1948 the necktie changed from khaki to OD.
 Army Tan UniformSame as Army Khaki Wool Uniform, renamed in 1959.
 Army Khaki Cotton UniformSummer garrison duty uniform, shirt and trousers. Originally long sleeves and full trousers only; from 1956-1962 the abbreviated warm-region version was adopted with shorts, knee socks, and short sleeve shirt. Summer use of the short sleeve shirt combined with long trousers continued until 31 Aug 1985.
Field and WorkHBT UniformWorld War II Herringbone Twill (HBT) garments continued in use with simplified styling, made as OD#7 cotton HBT one piece coveralls and two piece fatigues. "US Army" gold on black (changed to black on OG-107 in 1966) insignia above the left jacket pocket was authorized 27 Oct 1953.
 Utility UniformOG-107 carded cotton sateen shirt and trousers introduced in 1952 as replacement for earlier HBT fatigues. Shirt replaced by improved cotton sateen design in 1963
 M1951 UniformOG#108 field shirts and trousers made of wool/nylon blend, to be worn under the field jacket (or parka) and trouser shells of the M1951 cold weather clothing system.

This table is not all inclusive, excluding in particular the formal uniforms:

  • Army Evening Dress Uniform
  • Army Blue Uniform
  • Army Blue Mess Uniform
  • Army White Uniform
  • Army White Mess Uniform
  • OD Winter Semi-Dress Uniform

In addition, Women's Uniforms and specialized clothing are not included here.

U.S. Army Headgear in the 1950s

During the 1950s, the Field and Work Uniforms were generally worn with:

When a helmet was worn, there were many choices for what to wear under the helmet assembly. With a parka, or field jacket with hood, the helmet was often put on over the hood. Others wore a field cap or knit cap under the helmet, or a pile cap with the flaps down. A special cotton insulating cap with a domed top, ear flaps, and closure under the chin was also available for use under the helmet as part of the cold weather uniform ensemble.

Garrison and Duty Uniforms were worn with Service Caps or Garrison Caps, usually in fabric and color matching the uniform, such as Army Green or Khaki, but other combinations were also used. Specialized occupations had their own headgear, such as Drill Instructors with their Campaign Hats.

U.S. Army Footwear in the 1950s

At the beginning of the 1950s, the World War II double-buckle boot, revised in 1947, was still issued for field and work duty. By 1953, the Boots, Service, Combat, Russet M1948 (introduced in 1948) replaced the WW II boot. The new combat boot was 10 1/2 inches high with rubber sole, polished grain leather and cap toes. In 1958, the boot color was changed to black and remaining stocks of russet boots were dyed to match.

For extreme cold weather, rubber "Mickey Mouse" thermal boots were introduced, first to the Marine Corps, then to the Army. By mid-November 1951, all troops in Korea had the new boots, in time for the second brutal winter there. Issued at first in black, a white version followed, made for lower temperatures and snow camouflage.

Other U.S. Army Clothing and Equipment in the 1950s

The 1950s Soldier's clothing allotment included many other items, from socks and underwear to poncho, sweaters, scarves, and belts. Individual equipment, such as load bearing suspenders, pistol belt, ammunition cases, packs, and much more were all in addition to the uniform components.

Clothing and uniforms from the 1950s are further described in these Olive-Drab.com pages:

Recommended Books about U.S. Army Uniforms

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