The Marine Corps takes rightful pride in the dress and deportment of its members. No other uniform defines the image of the Corps like dress blues. Trim, dashing and fit; the Marine wearing his blues was the symbol of the Corps for most Americans, especially in the prewar years.
Leon Uris described it in his classic novel Battle Cry: "The Sea School Marines were a sight to make any boot cringe. Six feet tall, husky and tanned, they were the men who manned the guard of battleships and cruisers of the fleet. The air was alive with the color of their dress blues. Their sergeant rippled cadence from his tongue and in his hand swung a beautiful golden saber. The polish of their golden buttons and buckles, the mirror of their shoes and cap brims, the white of their belts and gloves and the magnificent unison of their movement was a sight to behold."
At odds with the public image, most World War II Marines never wore dress blues during their time in the service. Many expected to be issued a set when they reported to boot camp, especially those who enlisted early in the war. More than one Marine has reported his surprise in first learning that the Corps was uniformed in drab colors during the war.
In the prewar years, the dress blue uniform was authorized for all hands. But issuance of blues to new Marines was suspended in about 1940. This move was followed by HQMC Letter of Instruction 179 dated 6 August 1942. In it, the Commandant specified that only recruiters, Marine Barracks, Washington DC, and Marine Barracks, London were authorized to issue dress blues to enlisted Marines.
Before the war, enlisted Marines were furnished with blues as part of their sea bag issue. Officers and warrant officers were required to purchase and maintain blues at their own expense. After issuance was suspended, Marines could buy their own, but there were few opportunities to wear them during the war.
The photo at left shows Sgt Les Groshong, USMCR, at home in California in late 1944 after he was wounded in the invasion of Saipan with the 2nd Marine Division. As a prewar Marine, he is wearing the blues issued to him before the war.
For all ranks, the dress blue blouse had a standing collar. Officers' blouses had five buttons on the front fly and enlisted blouses had seven buttons. Officers' blouses had four pockets on the front and those for enlisted Marines had no pockets. Enlisted blouses had scarlet piping on the front fly, epaulets and French cuffs. Officers' blouses were without these accoutrements.
The trousers were sky blue in color for enlisted Marines, warrant officers, and company and field grade officers. Trousers for enlisted Marines were issued with a button fly and no hip pockets. Stripes were sewn on the outer seam of the trousers based upon rank. Non-rated Marines wore the trousers without any stripe. Officers. warrant officers and noncommissioned officers wore a one and one-half inch scarlet stripe on their trousers. General officers wore dark blue trousers with a black mohair stripe.
Enlisted dress blue blouses were made of melton wool cloth and trousers were kersey wool. Officers were authorized to purchase uniforms of doeskin, fine melton wool, gabardine, etc.
As with other Marine Corps uniforms, many combinations were authorized for different purposes. Dress blues were used as a duty uniform, for formal occasions, parades, ceremonies, and for leave and liberty. They are described in the chart below:
Marine Corps Uniform Regulations, 1937
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