1950s Battle Dress Uniforms

Written by alex diaz-granados
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Since the creation of the United States Army in 1775, uniforms used by its soldiers and officers have evolved with time. Decorative and colourful Army uniforms which were once designed for visibility and unit identification on 18th and 19th century battlefields were eventually replaced at the turn of the 20th century by olive drab and khaki utilitarian fatigues which offered improved concealment in combat situations. The fatigues, or battle dress uniforms, of the 1950s reflected the lessons learnt in World War II.

The Basic M1951 Combat and Work Uniform

The Army issued the M1951 work/combat uniform. Even though large amounts of World War II herringbone twill uniforms remained in its inventory as late as the start of the Korean War in 1950. The M1951 used a design and materials that were intended to help soldiers cope with the harsh climate and rough terrain on the Korean Peninsula during the summer and winter seasons. The M1951 fatigues were intended to be all-weather gear.

Helmets and Field Caps

Army soldiers serving during the Korean War and throughout the 1950s wore the familiar M1942 helmet introduced during World War II, but the adoption of the M1951 fatigues gave them more headgear choices to wear under the "steel pots." Soldiers could wear the helmet over the hoods of parkas or lighter hooded jackets in winter. In the summer months, troops often wore either the M1951 field cap or the Ridgway cap when not wearing their helmets.

The M1951 Parka

The Army designed and issued the mass production-ready M1951 "fishtail" parka to its forces in Korea in 1951. Based partly on the superior but more expensive M1948 parka, the M1951 lacked fur lining for the hood, used cheaper materials for the parka lining and lacked the M1948's sleeve pocket. The M1951 also consisted of three separate components -- the shell, the liner and a detachable hood-- in place of the M1948's two pieces.

Combat Boots

The Army retained the revised version of the World War II M1943 double-buckle boots which had replaced the boot-and-canvas leggings combination used in the early 1940s well into the Korean War. The more advanced M1948 russett combat boot was approved as a replacement for the TM1943s in 1947, but the footwear, which resembled paratrooper jump boots, did not see Army-wide distribution until 1953. The boots' Army-wide colour was changed from russett to black in 1958.

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