THE 1941 PATTERN UTILITY UNIFORM


A Marine rifleman as depicted in a training manual from 1945. The loose cut of the utility uniform is evident in this photograph. This uniform was designed for comfort, not for the parade ground. USMC Photo

Prior to 1941, the Marine Corps did not have a specific field uniform. Marines in combat and field training wore the winter or summer service uniform, depending on the time of year, and geographic location. During the early battles of World War II, Marines in combat wore the summer service uniform with the World War I-style M1917A1 steel helmet.

The 1941 pattern utility uniform was standardized for wear on 7 November 1941. It was originally intended to be a general purpose work uniform to be worn over the service uniform for working parties, field day, etc. But it quickly supplanted the service uniform for field wear. The utility uniform gave the World War II Marine a workmanlike appearance. It was simple, easy to maintain, and devoid of any frills or unnecessary features.

The 1941 pattern utility uniform was a two piece suit made of heavy sage green cotton herringbone twill. The jacket had three flapless pockets, one on the left chest, and two on the front hips. It was secured by three metal riveted buttons embossed with "U. S. Marine Corps." The trousers had a button fly with four pockets. There were several arrangements of pockets on the trousers, depending upon manufacturer.

The utility uniform had superior wearing and camouflage characteristics. It was well suited to conditions in the Pacific campaigns. Marines wore it for all evolutions, from field training to combat. As a consequence, the service uniform was reserved for formal occasions, liberty, leave, etc.

The environment that Marine lived in was harsh on uniforms and equipment. Utilities quickly faded to an aged appearance. Sometimes, Marines sped up the process by washing their clothes in sea water to give them a "salty" look. In combat, they dispensed with everything that was not absolutely necessary. For example, leggings were often discarded. They were difficult to lace on when wet, took a long time to dry and chafed the ankles in the heat. Sometimes, Marines rolled up their trouser legs, but not always.

During the war, the word "dungarees" was the common nickname for this uniform in keeping with the nautical heritage of the Corps. Marines also frequently called the uniform simply, "utilities." It was never called "fatigues," this being an Army word.

Navy medical personnel assigned to the Fleet Marine Force wore the same uniforms and equipment as Marines. There was no specific identifying mark for Navy personnel, and their uniforms were issued through Marine Corps supply channels.

Cpl Luther Woodard, 4th Ammunition Co, with his Bronze Star awarded for gallantry in action during the campaign for Guam. He wears the utility uniform in the casual manner often seen in the Pacific. Cpl Woodard's Bronze Star was later upgraded to the Silver Star, America's third highest award for combat heroism. USMC Photo

The utility uniform's sage green color is clearly visible in this image. Although camouflage uniforms were issued and worn in the Marine Corps during World War II, the majority of ground Marines in combat and training wore the standard utility uniform. Still image from USMC motion picture film

Combat engineers sweep an area with an SCR-625 mine detector during the Saipan campaign in the summer of 1944. The Marine with the detector wears utilities with leggings. Still image from USMC motion picture film

The crew of a 75mm self-propelled gun with their vehicle during the campaign for Saipan in the summer of 1944. Marine armored vehicle crewmen did not have a special uniform and wore the same clothing as other Leathernecks. Still image from USMC motion picture film

Infantry Marines marching to embark aboard ship. This photo illustrates the variations in color from wear and tear along with repeated washing. The Marine closest to the camera wears a salty dungaree shirt, while those following appear to be wearing newer uniforms. Conditions in the Pacific were hard on uniforms and equipment, and Marines often struggled to maintain their seabag issue in servicable condition. Still image from USMC motion picture film

Peleliu, September 1944. A 1st Marine Division litter team hurries a casualty to the rear under fire. USMC Photo
An infantry Marine on Iwo Jima wearing the utility uniform in 1945. He wears an Army-pattern field jacket, many thousands of which were issued to Marines going into combat in the northern Pacific during the war's final campaigns. USMC Photo


 


WORLD WAR II GYRENE HOME

WEAPONS & EQUIPMENT INDEX

 

 

 

 

This site is owned & maintained by Mark Flowers, copyright 2004, all rights reserved.