The uniforms and equipment of World War II continued in use until the war in Korea (starting in June 1950.) Harsh cold weather conditions in the mountains of Korea and the advent of new materials led to the M-1951 changes in clothing and gear.
Lt. Gen. Hugh Harris, commander U.S. Seventh Army (left) and Maj. Gen. Edwin Burba, commander 2d Armored Division wearing M1951 field jackets, M1951 pile cap (right) and Ridgeway cap (left).
The U.S. Army entered the Korean War with largely the same uniforms and equipment, subject to minor modifications, as those used in World War II. This was the case because the clothing and uniforms of World War II had undergone rapid adaptation under the pressure of the war and were very well suited to the technologies of the time and to battlefields all over the world. For field uniforms, olive drab herringbone twill battle dress was formalized in 1949 when the U.S. Army Uniform Board created the "field and work clothing" category of uniforms. In Korea, there was further adaptation of the basic styles already in use, especially for the harsh winter weather of the Korean peninsula.
The M1951 U.S. Army Cold Weather Uniform
Cold weather conditions encountered in Korea in the winter of 1950-1951 caused considerable suffering and loss of effectiveness of U.S. troops, whose supplies of cold weather clothing did not reach troops in time for their first winter in Korea. While well designed clothing was in the Army (and USMC) system, efforts to work off existing supplies of M1943 pattern and post-war pattern clothing kept the newer, more effective clothing from ramping up to full production.
The M1951 uniform had a number of components intended for all weather conditions but was particularly aimed to be effective in cold weather, wet or dry. The following items were included in the uniform:
Field Jacket M-1951 (Jacket, Shell, Field, M-1951) with or without hood and/or liner (Liner, Jacket, Field, M-1951) (See notes below)
Trouser, Shell, Field, Arctic, M-1951 (extreme cold weather), with or without Liner, Trousers, Field, M-1951
Trousers, Field, Wool M-1951 with Trousers, Shell, Field M-1951 (to be worn over trousers) or Liner, Trousers, Field M-1951 (to be worn inside the trousers). The M-1951 trouser shells had side cargo pockets like the WW II paratrooper uniforms.
M1951 OG 108 wool/nylon blend shirt (Shirt, Field, Wool, 0G108)
The list of uniform components could be worn in various combinations to handle any weather, hot or cold, wet or dry. Other cold weather field uniform components utilized by the Army with the M1951 uniform in the late 1950s included:
Undershirt, Winter, M-1950
Drawers, Winter, M-1950
Suspenders, Trousers, M-1950
Socks, Wool, Cushion Sole, O.D. (worn as one or two pairs)
Many of the M1951-related clothing items were also used by the Marine Corps. Certain items were specially manufactured for the USMC with small variations in design and nomenclature. Such items will have labels that indicate "Supply Department, U.S. Marine Corps" or similar.
M1951 Field Jacket
In 1950, the very successful World War II M-1943 Field Jacket had been replaced by a modified version, the M-1950 (specification MIL-J-843), nearly identical to the M-1943 but with the addition of inside buttons for the M-1950 liner. The M-1950 clothing was quickly replaced by the improved M-1951 Field Jacket, which modified the front closure buttons with a zipper (except the neck button) and the pocket closure buttons with metal snaps. A separate button-in liner and button-on hood were supplied, the hood made from the same OD cotton material as the jacket. The hood will fit the M-1951 Field Jacket, the Overcoat, and the M-1951 and later Parkas. The M-1951 liner closes at the neck fully, matching the outer jacket, while the M-1950 had an open V at the neck.
The Field Jacket "system" was the key garment around which the proper weather protection was built. The label provided these instructions:
JACKET, SHELL, FIELD, M-1951
1. WEAR AS THE OUTER GARMENT IN COLD-WET CLIMATES
AND THE INTERMEDIATE GARMENT IN COLD-DRY CLIMATES.
2. WEAR ALONE IN MILD WEATHER.
3. FOR COLD WEATHER, BUTTON IN LINER JACKET,
4. TIGHTEN WAIST AND SKIRT DRAWSTRINGS AND SLEEVE
CLOSURES FOR WARMTH-LOOSEN TO VENTILATE. AVOID
OVERHEATING TO PREVENT CHILLING AFTER EXERCISE.
5. BUTTON ON HOOD FOR HEAD AND FACE PROTECTION.
6. BRUSH SNOW AND FROST FROM GARMENTS BEFORE
ENTERING HEATED SHELTERS.
7. DRY GARMENTS SEPARATELY.
8. DO NO DRY TOO CLOSE TO HEAT.
9. WATER REPELLENCY MAY BE RESTORED BY TREATMENT.
10. LUBRICATE ZIPPER WITH GRAPHITE OR CANDLE WAX.
The M-1951 Field Jacket carried different labels as it progressed through its life history. Early versions were "Jacket, Shell, Field, M-1951" (as above) with dates in the early 1950s and specification MIL-J-11448. By the early 1960s you will find jackets with labels like, "Coat, Mans, Cotton, Wind Resistant, Sateen, OG107" and codes similar to DSA-1-1673-63-C or DSA-1-4518-64-C. The DSA in the code indicates Defense Supply Agency, introduced in 1960 and 1961 and these lables would be for production in 1963 and 1964.
Late versions of the M-1951 pattern Field Jacket carried two labels indicating "Coat, Mans, Cotton w/r Sateen OG 107" with codes similar to DSA-1-8296 and a second label indicating "Coat, Mans, Field Olive Green 107 M-1951." The "8296" is probably the date code indicating 1968, the 296th day of the year.
President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower (left) reviews troops of the Republic of Korea's Capitol Division, 4 December 1952. Eisenhower is wearing a Pile Cap along with a fur collar parka. U.S. Army photo from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library.
Other Uniform Items Used in Korea
World War II "double buckle" boots were used throughout the Korean War, while being slowly replaced by a lace-up jump boot style and boots for cold, wet conditions. Thermal vacuum insulated "Mickey Mouse" boots were developed to prevent frostbite during winter duty in the frozen mountain areas.
Most items in the M-1951 uniform were made in several patterns over their lifetime. In addition to the M1951 uniform components used in Korea and the later 1950s, there were many leftovers from World War II and the late forties as well as other new clothing and individual equipment components developed during the war. These ranged from the "Mickey Mouse" boots to flak vests. After the 17 July 1953 cease fire in Korea, when static lines and garrison duty set in, there was a move toward more styled and militarily attractive uniforms (such as the Ridgeway Cap) at the expense of combat gear that served the soldier well in the field. The latter trend lasted until the Vietnam War brought combat effectiveness to the fore once again motivating uniform changes in the 1960s.
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