RT Cunningham


Marine Corps Memories: Standard Issue Uniforms and Uniform Clothing

Marine Corps enlisted uniforms The Marine Corps has the sharpest uniforms of all the services, not counting the camouflage utility uniforms. They were the sharpest when I joined back in 1978.

The dress blue uniforms were not issued to Marines straight out of boot camp back then. They were issued to people going to special assignments, like embassy duty.

Service Uniforms

The service uniforms consisted of four trousers, three short-sleeve shirts, three long-sleeve shirts, two coats, one overcoat and two garrison caps. The reasoning behind the numbers has always escaped me.

Two of the trousers were wool and two were a polyester and wool blend. One matching coat and one matching garrison cap for each set of two. One set was for winter and one set for summer. I was told the green color shade was “olive drab” but the only color I ever saw in print was “green shade 2212”.

The khaki-colored shirts were made of cotton. Marines quickly replaced them after basic training with commercial alternatives. The brand names I remember were “Creighton” and “Great Northern”. We dry cleaned them with military creases on the back. In fact, we dry cleaned all the uniforms except for the utility uniforms.

I don’t remember when, but the overcoat was replaced by an all-weather coat a few years later. Like the overcoat, I never wore it.

Utility Uniforms

We were issued four sets of utility uniforms. Two were green sateen and two were camouflage. The sateen utilities were being phased out and my platoon series was the last series to be issued them.

The camouflage utilities were leftover stock from the Vietnam conflict. Some had upper pockets that were straight across and some had pockets that were greatly slanted inwards. Some of the trousers had zippers.

I had to replace all the utility uniforms in 1981, when the woodland pattern became the camouflage replacement. That pattern is long gone with uniforms now but it can still be found in civilian attire.

Uniform Shoes and Boots

We were issued one pair of dress shoes and two pairs of combat boots. All of them were made with black leather uppers but only the boots had rubber soles.

One pair of boots was for training and one was for inspection. The boots for training were worn out before I finished boot camp.

When I stood my first outdoor uniform inspection at my first duty station, I was told to replace my leather dress shoes with commercial alternatives. The alternatives had high gloss uppers made of some kind of plastic. My feet would sweat horribly while wearing them because they were waterproof and almost airtight.

Uniform Accessories and Uniform Clothing

We were issued web belts. One made of cotton and one made of nylon. The belt buckle and tip on each one was made of brass. Along with our shoes and boots, we had to shine our brass every day. After boot camp, everyone replaced the buckles and tips with commercial anodized gold-plated alternatives.

We had to buy our own cap and lapel insignia devices and chevrons. That was okay because we got a monthly clothing allowance.

We were issued six white T-shirts and six white boxer shorts as underwear. We were issued black socks and green socks but I don’t remember how many pairs of each. Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough. I had to buy many more because I had to change my socks twice a day.

My first duty station was at the same base where I attended basic training, MCRD San Diego. It was considered the show base of the Marine Corps. After I was transferred to another base, I started spending a lot less on uniforms and everything associated with them.

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By RT Cunningham
March 28, 2018