Major League Baseball and the National Football League have been doing it for years, to the delight of fans everywhere: teams around the leagues wear throwback uniforms dating back to the origins of their franchise for special occasions or anniversaries. Now, the US Army is finalizing its decision to bring back a throwback uniform of its own in homage to the WWII Army—the WWII-era officer’s uniform colloquially known as “pinks and greens.”
The original WWII Army officer’s winter service uniform consisted of a dark olive-drab gabardine wool coat with a sewn-on cloth belt (greens) and light-shade drab trousers (pinks). The brim of the service cap and service shoes were Army russet brown. Enlisted personnel of the era wore a far less flashy uniform; both trousers and service coat were of a medium olive-drab shade.
The new incarnation of pinks and greens will be available to all ranks and will serve in the same fashion as the dress green uniform that was phased out in 2015. The current dress-blue uniform will revert back to an optional uniform worn on formal occasions. Based on photos of the prototype, the new uniform looks remarkably close to the original. The final version will incorporate many variations of the uniform that were present during World War II. For example, flight crews were authorized to remove the stiffener from the crown of the service cap to facilitate the use of headphones while wearing it. The resulting effect gave the cap a “crushed” look, which ultimately led aircrews to refer to that particular piece of headgear as the “crusher cap.” It quickly became a status symbol among aircrews as iconic as their silver wings and leather flight jackets. From the photos I’ve seen, the current prototype service cap appears to be styled as a “crusher.”
According to Matthew Cox at Military.com, the Army is also considering making a WWII-styled leather flight jacket as well as a shortened “Ike” service jacket available to soldiers for purchase as alternate uniform items. The adoption of the new uniform is the Army’s attempt to remind the the American public of a time when pride in its Army was at a peak, according to Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey.
In my opinion, Dailey’s logic for the change seems sound. The US Marine Corps has clung to its WWII service uniforms with very minimal changes over the years, and has thus avoided the identity crisis that many other service branches seem to suffer. By August 1945, the US Army was over eight million strong and had fought victoriously in some of the largest and bloodiest campaigns in the history of its existence. Why would you change that uniform in the first place? It would be like the New York Yankees getting rid of their pinstripes, wouldn’t it?
Well, according to a 1954 issue of The Quartermaster Review, the change from the WWII olive-drab “Class A” uniform to the dress green service uniform occurred because of a vast surplus of uniforms. Laborers were using them as cheap work clothes; even prisons were using them to clothe inmates. The Army adopted the dress green uniform simply to reinstall pride among the ranks of the post-WWII Army.
Seventy-five years after World War II, the days of laborers and prisoners wearing WWII-era uniforms have long passed. Kudos to Sergeant Major of the Army Dailey and Chief of Staff General Mark Milley for bringing back the classic.
Larry Decuers is a former Curator at The National WWII Museum and veteran of the US Army's 101st Airborne Division.