Friday, February 06, 2004


I have long known that the Marine dress blues were redesigned in 1947, but I was not aware of the reasons behind this. But alas, there is a story here too. Myself, I have always thought that the old blues blouse w/o the pockets looked better than the new version. I have mentioned this before on my sites and forums, and I have received a few responses back from old salts stating that they had been issued old style blues after 1947, and most disagreed with my opinion, preferring the appearance of the new blouse w/pockets over the previous blouse.

Once again, a few facts related to the above have come to my attention from the writings of Colonel Robert Debs Heinl USMC (Ret.), deceased.

Col Heinl writes in his book, Soldiers Of The Sea, that in the years immediately following World War II, and this was during that period of the unification battle where the Marine Corps was threatened with being legislated out of existence and/or being absorbed into the Army, the War Department had convened a board to survey the post-war lot of the enlisted man. The recommendations of this board, which Col Heinl describes as "mischievous insofar as the regular forces were concerned." It called for an almost complete leveling between officers and enlisted men, with a concomitant abandonment of disciplinary traditions proven in peace and war. Saluting was to be deemphasized; officer and enlisted uniforms were to be made alike; badges of enlisted rank made small and inconspicuous; and, officer and NCO priviliges slashed. "From the "egaltarian tenor of the Doolittle report, one had the impressions of the peasants and workers remolding the Tsarist armies of the 1917. Everything was there but political commissars and comrades."

Col Heinl goes on to say that Marine uniforms were then made to make it difficult to tell officers from enlisted men; officer-style pockets were put on redesigned enlisted blues; enlisted chevrons were kept small, and; the salty and distinctive barracks cap was abolished in favor of a more conservative one like the officers.

The Corps was (almost forced) to accept the Army ranks of master sergeant, technical sergeant, and staff sergeant, but accept them it did. It had been recommended that the rank titles of chief sergeant, sergeant 1st, 2d, and 3d class be adopted, and this nearly came to be. No wonder the CMC accepted the Army rank titles as a compromise.

"That this stroke created a new Corps without gunnery sergeants and abolished rank titles in some cases going back to 1798 (such as quartermaster sergeant) was seemingly overlooked."

As a matter of fact, "Doomed by the war, but not killed until a year afterward was the prolifery of enlisted ranks which had gradually flowered since 1922." When the rank titles of master sergeant, technical sergeant, staff sergeant, sergeant, and corporal were adopted for Marine NCOs, so too were gone the enlisted rank titles, in addition to the quartermaster sergeant already mentioned above, of sergeant major, first sergeant, master gunnery sergeant, master technical sergeant, paymaster sergeant, gunnery sergeant, supply sergeant, drum major, platoon sergeant, chief cook, field music sergeant, field cook, field music corporal, assistant cook, field music first class, and field music.

I take note here that the Marine Corps had indeed previously already used the rank titles of M/Sgt, T/Sgt, and S/Sgt (in addition to many other rank titles) for some years, but these were known to have been originally Army ranks. What was being imposed upon the Marine Corps here was the then current rank titles in use by the U.S. Army.

Interestingly, the Marine Corps had combined two of these previous Army ranks to create their Master Technical Sergeant rank. And, of course the Master Gunnery Sergeant was a variation of both the unique Marine gunnery sergeant rank which dates to 1898, and the (Army) master sergeant rank.

Surprising it is that these cases of politics as usual, political correctness, or just plain bullshit, depending upon your personal perception and choice of terms, seems to appear not only without ending through the years, but also seemingly almost without beginning--unless, of course, in general, you would go all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

Some things never change.

Semper Fidelis
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
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By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis