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.
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