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Common Threads Marine Corps

The U.S. Marine Corps is the nation's expeditionary force in readiness, participating in every U.S. war since the Corps' founding on Nov. 10, 1775. Marine Corps uniforms and equipment have evolved to fit the needs and mission of each Marine and every deployment, perpetually increasing warfighters' survivability, mobility and lethality.

Scroll the interactive display to see how the uniform has changed over time.

Disclaimer: Over the years, styles, environments, technology and missions changed. In an attempt to simplify those complex details, we are featuring only enlisted combat uniforms and their regulation equipment.

Uniform Evolution

Click through the timeline to see how the Marine Corps uniform has evolved. Use the scroll bar to rotate the model or click to learn more

1775-1783

1812-1815

1861-1865

1917-1918

1941-1945

1950-1953

1965-1975

1990-1991

2001-2014

2003-2011

2019-2021

 

Revolutionary War

Continental Marines played a crucial part in the fight for independence from Great Britain, serving both aboard military ships and on land. The clothing and equipment they were issued varied among Marine detachments. Much of what was available was surplus from previous conflicts in the colonies, items seized from Englishmen and loyalists or locally manufactured goods. In the early part of the war, Marines wore civilian clothing due to the lack of uniforms. It wasn't until September 1776 that the Continental Congress authorized a uniform for enlisted Continental Marines to distinguish them from personnel in other military services.

 

War of 1812

Marines commonly used dress uniforms for both regular and combat duty during the War of 1812. Marines were often the first representation of American armed forces seen overseas, and their uniform at this time was intended to impress - and even intimidate - the enemy. Inspired by European design, it was considered one of the most ornate uniforms in the U.S. services.

Why Europe Influenced Early American Uniforms
 

Civil War

American military uniforms continued to follow European trends during the Civil War. For the Marines, a newly introduced "undress" uniform – a simplified version of the full dress uniform – would fill the gap for general service and combat duty. The full dress uniform would transition to use for more formal occasions.

 

World War I

In the early 1900s, the Marine Corps added service uniforms for work and field use, replacing the "undress" category used in the Civil War. The Corps initially had both summer and winter service uniforms, but by the time the U.S. entered World War I, the forest-green colored winter service uniform had become the standard field and combat uniform for both temperate and cold climates.

How Coal Mining Helped Combat Chemical Warfare
 

World War II

Wool was the standard material during World War II in the European theater, but a new material – herringbone twill, or HBT – became the standard uniform for Marines in the Pacific theater. The sage green, herringbone twill "utilities" were initially designed as work coveralls to keep other uniforms clean. Utilities quickly became stand-alone combat uniforms.

Heat & Disease: Why the 1-Piece Coverall Wasn't Practical
 

Korean War

The rugged, mountainous terrain and extreme climates in Korea meant Marines required additional clothing to fight in these harsh conditions.

While troops were outfitted with crossover clothing and equipment from World War II technology, additional winter garments such as parkas, winter boots and mittens were introduced.

 

Vietnam War

The Marine Corps uniform, small arms and equipment changed in the decade following the Korean War, from 1954 to 1964.

By the Vietnam War, there was heavy use of synthetic fabric blends and a push to standardize uniforms across all branches. The tropical climate demanded field uniforms or jungle fatigues introduced as a new lightweight uniform.

Changes in small arms resulted in adaptations to Marine Corps field equipment.

 

Desert Storm (Gulf War)

The desert battle dress uniform, or BDU, was introduced on a large scale in 1982 as part of a significant uniform change. This was famously known as the "Chocolate Chip" pattern. Newer technology in materials and body armor added to the safety of troops and improved comfort through better weight distribution of equipment systems.

 

Operation Enduring Freedom

Standard issued clothing and equipment continued during Operation Enduring Freedom across the U.S. military. Insignia and name tapes, sometimes pinned to body armor or taped to the helmet, were the Marines' primary distinguishing identification during this period. Slight differences in weapon technology were used to meet the specific mission of the Marines Corps.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the military services returned to developing their warfighting clothing, boots, body armor and equipment. The slight differences in uniform direction were meant to meet the specific mission of each service branch.

 

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Throughout the Global War on Terror, the Marines Corps continued to improve uniform technology. Since its introduction in 2000, Marine pattern (MARPAT) camouflage had replaced the old generic BDUs. The military services continued developing their own warfighting clothing, boots, body armor and equipment. The slight differences in uniform direction were meant to meet the specific mission of each service branch.

 

Modern

Integrated body armor and equipment, similar to that worn in Operation Enduring Freedom, was issued in a neutral coyote brown color to better blend in with any environment.

The outer tactical vest was the same as used in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The small arms protective inserts, or SAPI, were the same as used in Operation Enduring Freedom.

  • Williams, GySgt Tom, A Tenuous Beginning, The Marines in the American Revolution, USMCHC
  • Williams, GySgt Tom, Don’t Tread On Me, The First American Marines, 1775-1805, USMCHC
  • Williams, GySgt Tom, Historic Uniforms of the United States Marines, USMCHC
  • Williams, GySgt Tom, Battlefield to Paradefield – The Evolution of the Marine Uniform, USMCHC
  • Clothing, equipment and weapons provided by U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company

Historic Research & Review

Concept Creation, Research & Development

  • Regina Ali, Senior Graphic Designer
  • Katie Lange, Social Media/Public Affairs Specialist

Multimedia

  • Edward Hersom, II, Photographer
  • Marvin Lynchard, Photojournalist
  • Jon Poindexter, Senior Editor/Videographer

Models, Bravo Company MCSB Marines from Fort Meade, MD:

  • Revolutionary War: Cpl Cuffle, Andrew
  • War of 1812: Sgt Cranford, Christian
  • Civil War: Sgt Timchak, Jared
  • WWI: GySgt Mairson, Jeffery
  • WWII: LCpl Pereyra, Andrew
  • Korean War: CPL Sommer, Richard
  • Vietnam War: LCpl Henriquez, Christian
  • Desert Storm: LCpl Pompa, Sebastian
  • OEF: Sgt Allred, Benjamin
  • OIF: LCpl Pereyra, Andrew
  • Modern: LCpl Dalmida, Cassandra