The United States Marine Corps entered World War II wearing essentially the same summer field uniform that it had worn during the "Banana Wars." The Marines defending America's Pacific outposts on Guam, Wake Island, and in the Philippines in the late months of 1941 wore a summer field uniform consisting of a khaki cotton shirt and trousers, leggings, and a M1917A1 steel helmet. Plans to change this uniform had been underway for at least one year prior to the opening of hostilities.
As had the Army, the Marine Corps had used a loose-fitting blue denim fatigue uniform for work details and some field exercises since the 1920s. This fatigue uniform was either a one-piece coverall or a two-piece bib overall and jacket, both with "USMC" metal buttons. In June 1940, it was replaced by a green cotton coverall. This uniform and the summer field uniform were replaced by what would become known as the utility uniform. Approved for general issues on the Marine Corps' 166th birthday, 10 November 1941, this new uniform was made of sage-green (although "olive drab" was called for in the specifications) herring-bone twill cotton, then a popular material for civilian work clothing. The two-piece uniform consisted of a coat (often referred to as a "jacket" by Marines) and trousers. In 1943, a cap made of the same material would be issued.
The loose-fitting coat was closed down the front by four two-piece rivetted bronze-finished steel buttons, each bearing the words "U.S. MARINE CORPS" in relief. The cuffs were closed by similar buttons. Two large patch pockets were sewn on the front skirts of the jacket and a single patch pocket was stitched to the left breast. This pocket had the Marine Corps eagle, globe, and anchor insignia and the letters "USMC" stencilled on it in black ink. The trousers, worn with and without the khaki canvas leggings, had two slashed front pockets and two rear patch pockets.
The new uniform was issued to the flood of new recruits crowding the recruit depots in the early months of 1942 and was first worn in combat during the landings on Guadalcanal in August 1942. This uniform was subsequently worn by Marines of all arms from the Solomons Campaign to the end of the war. Originally, the buttons on the coat and the trousers were all copper-plated, but an emergency alternate specification was approved on 15 August 1942, eight days after the landing on Guadalcanal, which allowed for a variety of finishes on the buttons. Towards the end of the war, a new "modified" utility uniform which had been developed after Tarawa was also issued, in addition to a variety of camouflage uniforms. All of these utility uniforms, along with Army-designed M1 helmets and Marine Corps-designed cord and rubber-soled rough-side-out leather "boondocker" shoes, would be worn throughout the war in the Pacific, during the postwar years, and into the Korean War.--Kenneth L. Smith-Christmas
The Hyperwar site...
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Gunny G's Old Salt Marines Tavern
Sites & Forums!