The M-1956 Uniform is the current standard battledress of the United States Army, with a number of different specialized variants for the Marines, Paratroopers and other forces. The M-1956 kit is essentially identical to the older M-1951 system and uses a modified version of the same jacket [picture right]. Differences include the introduction of a new, but externally very similar, model of trousers and "Y" strap suspenders for easier access carrying of light weight equipment such as ammunition pouches and grenades.
The M-1956 [and 1951] Uniform is renown all over the world for its distinctive, smart appearance as well as its quality and ingenuity. The unique and labor-intensive design - pleated edges, scalloped pockets and the complex internal suspension - has become a symbol of American pride and military as well as economic might.
- M3A2 Steel Combat Helmet
- M-1951A3 Field Jacket [Pictured]
- M-1956 Jacket Liner
- M-1956 Field Trousers
- M-1956 Trouser Liner
- M-1956 Equipment Suspenders
- M-1951 Equipment Belt
- M-1956 Field Cap
- M-1956 Garrison Cap
- M-1956 Dress Cap
- M-1956 Greatcoat
- M-1956 Fatigue Shirt [flannel]
- M-1956 Light Fatigue Shirt [cotton & polyester]
- M-1956 Hood
- M-1956 Winter Cowl
- M-1951 High Neck Sweater
- M-1951 Combat Service Boots [essentially identical to M-1943 version]
- M-1956 Goggles
- M-1956 Field Pack
- M-1958 Entrenching Tool & Carrier
- Pocket, Cartridge, Cal. 7.62mm, M-1956
- M-1951 Poncho
- M-1956 Sleeping Bag & Case
- M5 Gas Mask
- M-1956 Gas Mask Case
M-1951A3 Field JacketEditThe M-1951A3 Field Jacket is the principle component of the M-1956 Uniform and is essentially just an M-1951 Jacket with the addition of an internal suspension system. It is a wool, blue-on-dark-blue tunic designed to be serviceable in all non-extreme weather conditions. Unlike the uniforms of most other militaries, which use varying amounts of rayon or other [semi-]synthetic fabrics to reduce costs, the M-1951's body is pure wool.
The jacket is closed with 9 pebble-finished dark blue buttons in three sets of three plus three internal clasps for the skirt, with four scalloped and pleated external pockets (two breast pockets and two hip pockets); the buttons for these are the same as the tunic front. It has a tall, tight, turn-down collar and high, fitted, padded shoulders.
The standard tunic comes in 'Army Blue', a vibrant color similar to Ultramarine [google 'Electric Ultramarine' for an approximation]. The collar, shoulderstraps, cuffs and the turnbacks / vent on the backside of the skirt are a much darker shade called 'Federal Blue', which is a form of Midnight Blue or Prussian Blue. The cuffs and shoulderstraps are fixed with golden brass buttons that have 'U.S.' stamped on them. The Field Jacket, as mentioned above, has four scalloped and pleated pockets with dark blue buttons, matching the front nine that close the tunic. Just above the right pocket is an eagle emblem woven in gold brass metallic thread on a Federal Blue background (this is a patch, but is worked into every uniform during its manufacture). The liner of the jacket also includes two internal pockets: a breast pocket on the right side and a left hip pocket, which is used for storing a pouch of medicated field dressings.
Long rectangular, dark blue patches are worn on the collar on both sides, covering most of the collar up until the crease where it curves around the back of the neck. These patches are edged in the Service Color of the soldier in question and bear his rank insignia as a metal badge (golden brass or silver aluminum) as well a gold brass "U.S." pin, with the pin being placed adjacent to the far edge of the patch (the side further from the center of the neck). The shoulderstraps of the uniform have the soldier's rank insignia toward the inside edge [closer to the button / the wearer's neck], again in the form of a metal badge. Near the outer part of the shoulderstrap is a stylized Regimental number in the Branch Color of the soldier's Division or, in certain cases, independent unit [i.e. light blue for an Infantry Division; white is used for all independent Detatchments and independent Brigades]. The whole shoulderstrap is also bordered with heavy piping in the unit's Branch Color.
The soldier's rank is further worn on both sleeves as a patch of Federal Blue with the insignia itself done in the soldier's Service Color. An American Flag patch goes on the right upper sleeve, the canton [stars on blue] being oriented toward the soldier's front, while the Division's Distinctive Unit Insignia is in the same place on the opposite sleeve. Just above both cuffs is a thin, upwards-oriented chevron in the Branch Color of the soldier's Division.
For more details on insignia and indicators, see (that portion of the article discusses the collar, sleeve and shoulderstrap markings in exhaustive detail):
Observe, on the waist of the uniform, four sets of three small eyeholes. These are for the hooks of the Jacket's internal suspension system, which attach to small rings on the soldier's belt to support the weight of his equipment.
- Wool - the M-1951 Field Jacket is made largely out of wool with no substitute synthetic materials, making it of high quality but also more expensive
- Badgecloth - Badgecloth is the name given by the U.S. Military to the material used as the basis for manufacturing of essentially all sew-on markings, embellishments and so-forth on their uniforms. Badgecloth is a tightly-woven fabric essentially like velvet, but made from wool rather than silk (not that velvet can't be made from wool).
- Metals - the metallic embellishments on the uniforms - chiefly the pins - are made from one of two different metals depending on the desired effect. Both of these are treated to make them non-reflective. When a golden appearance is desired, gold-colored brass is used; silver is approximated with aluminum. The rank insignia badges also use brightly-colored untreated aluminum foil that has been machined into very narrow threads to decorate the insignia.
Silk - the piping and certain other embellishments are made using a form of silk that is partially rayon (cheaper synthetic silk).
Metallic thread - certain other parts of the uniform, such as the breast eagle, use machined thread made of golden brass or silver aluminum
- M-1953A1 Combat Tunic - the M-1951 derivative used by the United States Marine Corps. Unlike the Army model, it is purely Navy Blue (the collar, shoulderstraps, etc are not highlighted by being a different color). It also has only five, larger, buttons, which are a non-reflective silvery-grey metallic color. The skirt is closed with two larger clasps. Other differences include slight alterations to the general fit of the cut, a shorter skirt to suit amphibious assault and landing operations, and the elimination of the distinct cuffs and turnbacks / vent on the back of the skirt. The internal suspension system is also different, having been developed separately to better suit the USMC's specific situations (Marines generally being expected to have to carry more weight during landings); thus, there are four eyeholes to each set (making for 16 rather than 12 in total) and these, as well as the hooks themselves, are slightly larger.
- M-1958 Airborne Tunic - Paratrooper model which is significantly different from the Army's M-1951 and was developed separately, but still retains the same overall style. It will be discussed in detail in a separate entry at the end of this article.
M3A2 Combat HelmetEditThe "Combat Helmet, Steel, M3A2" is the successor development of the M1 line of helmets and is now the new standard of the modern U.S. Military, having completely replaced the M1 & M1A1 general-issue as well as M2 & M1C Paratrooper helmets. Like its predecessors, the M3 is often referred to as the 'Fishbowl' or 'G.I. Pot' by its users, and by the Public, for its perceived resemblence to such objects - or, perhaps, simply as a carry-over from the preceeding helmets of Anglo-American War and East Asian Intervention fame, given that the M3's resemblance to a bowl or pot is not as readily apparent. Even so, the M3 is quite similar to the M1 in appearance. It differs in its more defined and prominent, down-turned angular rim, its less-protruded visor, a body which is near-straight for most of its outline but which rounds off suddenly near the crown, the vents which are visible on either side and its much-improved strap / suspension system. Several designs for new helmet liners were submitted as part of the project that developed the M3, but ultimately none of these were adopted. As such, the design of the M1/M2 liner & suspension was simply modified to suit the new M3 instead, making it quite similar (differing only in dimensions and minor details). The liner is a 'soft' inner hard-hat - basically a treated plastic version of the actual helmet with smaller, less defined edges - that fits snugly inside the steel shell, conformingly and exactly. Within the liner is the suspension system that actually interacts with the wearer's head, fitted to the plastic shell by way of six equadistant steel clips. Nylon canvas ribbons are attached to each of these clips by a hook and they meet in the center around a large ring, while a seventh band of fabric is sewn around the circumference of their bases and held in place by the hooks (which also serve as bolts). This forms a 'cradle' or 'net' for the wearer's head, with an adjustable leather sweatband at the base (sewn onto the nylon suspension cradle at six points exactly half-way between each of the hook / bolts attaching it to the liner). Along the back of the plastic shell is another nylon band called the 'nape strap' which sits below and behind the cradle / sweatband, resting against the top of the wearer's neck. This serves as additional support, compensating for the helmet's off-balance weight as the rim becomes larger and more pronounced in back to protect the soldier's neck. The interior liner - the plastic hardhat - is, like with the M1 / M2, designed to be removed and worn separately. As such, it has its own simple auxiliary removable chinstrap fastened with snap-buttons [which has been removed in the picture above]; this is often worn looped around the back of the helmet or over the visor when not needed (i.e. when the actual steel helmet is being worn). The main chinstrap, attached to the outer hard metal shell rather than the liner, is extremely secure and is designed in an advanced four-point retention system. An extra band is connected to both halves of the strap, just above the chin-cup, and it runs back up into rear of the helmet, giving the suspension straps a 'y'-like appearance from the side. This configuration of suspension / attachment was first designed for paratroopers, but has since been adopted as a universal feature of the M3. /each of these extra bands is fastened to its half of the chin-strap band by a pivoting boss that allows it to turn. The primary chinstrap also has a pressure-release buckle on the cup that disconnects the two halves automatically once a certain pressure threshhold is reached, preventing the soldier from having his neck snapped by the tight-fitting suspension and the weight of the helmet. The fact that the secondary chinstrap is attached by simple snap-on buttons produces essentially the same effect.
U.S. Army M3s are painted 'Federal Blue' - a dark shade like 'Prussian' or 'Midnight Blue' using semi-textured weather-resistant paints. They typically have the a number of insignia applied to them post-production.
M-1951 Combat Service BootsEditThe M-1951 Combat Service Boots are essentially identical externally to the older M-1943 boots used during the Anglo-American War. The M-1951 has small modifications to better water-proof it and make it more comfortable, and all M-1951s were standardized in black (largely for asthetic reasons). The M-1951 boots' biggest difference from the early footwear is the presence of hobnails on the underside. These are essentially small spike-like nails inserted into the soles and serve the practical purpose of improving traction. The boots also have a steel "heel iron", a horse-shoe shaped insert in the back of the boot, and steel toe inserts. While these features offer no real benefits in terms of practical protection, they help shield the wearer's foot from debris and objects in his path - which is particularly important in Alaska, where rocks and other obstructions can be hidden by the thick snow. Perhaps the main reason for the adoption of these hobnails, however, is asthetic: they produce a distinctive 'clicking' sound when they strike paved surfaces, making for a powerful and impressive auditory spectacle during parades.
Author's Note: The distinctive, stereotypical 'clap clap clap' of marching German soldiers during Nazi Parades is produced by these hobnails, which were added to the American Military footwear of the Napoleon's Legacy Universe for the same effect.
M-1956 Field Cap & M-1956 Garrison CapEdit
Garrison CapEditThe M-1956 Service Cap - the most-used nicknames of which are "Pisscutter" and "Cunt-cap", but also "little ship", "envelope cap", etc. (all referring to the shape) - is a popular type of headwear issued to all U.S. Military personnel in every branch in one form or another. This type of headwear is also common in many other armies, but the American form is by far the most distinctive and well known. The American "Garrison Cap" or "Service Cap" was originally copied from the "flight caps" of RAF (Royal Air Force) uniforms after the Anglo-American War as the "M-1951 Garrison Cap", and was re-designed as the "M-1956 Service Cap" for the current uniform ensemble. It is a type of Sidecap or Wedge-cap. This particular form of the headwear has a two-part fold secured at the front by two large golden brass buttons, which can be unfastened and folded down over the ears. The edges of the cap are trimmed in the Branch Color of the wearer's Division (i.e. light blue for infantry, etc.), and bear increasingly-elaborate detailings according to the wearer's rank. The cap is intended primarily for wear when not in combat, i.e. in Service Dress, and thus the official name. Each cap features the Americans' distinctive "fan wheel" cockade (the so-called "James Monroe cockade", named because he created the particular design and originally wore it on his hat while Minister to France). This distinctive cockade is on the front, above the button-up flap, and is evenly divided into red, white and blue sections "whirling" around a small golden star pin. On the M-1956 Garrison Cap in particular, the small cockade is sewn into it and cannot be removed.
Field CapEditThe M-1956 Field Cap is a copy of a distinctive piece of German headwear worn by the German Confederation's Bundeswehr since the early 20th Century. It features the same folding, button-up flaps as the Service Cap, but otherwise has a conventional "cap" appearance: a prominent bill / visor and a rounded shape, with an internal leather insert that creates a "peak". The Field Cap is more commonly worn in battle by U.S. Forces than the Service Cap, although both can be seen (personnel of rank, especially, prefer the Service Cap even in the field as a mark of distinction). It is especially popular with Artillery and Anti-aircraft personnel, who find their M2 helmets cumbersome (only the gunners of the small 75mm 105mm infantry-support pieces, who operate close to the front, commonly wear their helmets). However, the Field Cap is not as ubiquitous as the Service Cap; tank crews, Marines, Paratroopers and airmen (including ground crews) are only issued with their own distinctive versions of the Service Cap, although regular vehicle crews (including IFVs apart from the tanks) have Field Caps. Among most troops, a mixture of Service and Field Caps is common. Vehicle crews, however, normally only wear their Field Caps when in the field as a show of difference to the elite and specially-uniformed tankers.
Like the Service Cap, the Field Cap features a cockade worked into the fabric above the flaps, on the very top front (like the badges on the Austro-German caps above). The decorations on the Field Cap do not change with rank, however.
M-1956 Dress CapEditThe M-1956 Dress Cap is a type of Kepi (or Képi) - a cap of French origin - and of a style that was originally worn during the American Civil War, under the name 'forage cap' or 'fatigue cap'. A form of this 19th Century headwear was reintroduced for Parade and Dress uniforms to hearken back to that historically significant time period. however, the M-1956 Dress Cap features a leather liner which gives it a stiff cylindrical shape, more in keeping with the French style; it does not "sag" and "flop" like the originals. Different varieties of Kepi exist for different ranks and branches within the U.S. Armed Forces, but it is by far the most ubiquitous form of headwear when the troops are "turned out" in their best dress. These caps are also worn in the field by U.S. officers - in place of the peaked caps more common in other armies - and as such have been included in this article (which deals primarily with the U.S. Army's standard combat uniform).
The caps feature a glossed black leather visor, a single raised seam running longitudinally from front-to-back, a decorative chin-strap that is fixed in place and cannot be moved, and a decorative band around the base, above the visor. Details and stylizations of these farious features vary considerably between personnel. The basic enlisted infantryman's Dress Cap is the same Ultramarine-like blue as his uniform, with a darker blue band (matching the detail color of the jacket's epaulettes, collar & so-forth), a strip of knotted golden cord around the top of the band, a plain glossy black leather visor with golden trim around the outer edge, a glossy black decorative chin-strap fixed by two golden brass buttons and a large brass 'boss' in the center of the band. Both edges of the fake chinstrap, as well as the seam running up and around the middle of the cap, are done in the Branch Color of the soldier's Division. Usually, the soldier's unit insignia will be fixed, in badge form, to the right side of the cap, just beside the seam; opposite it, on the left, will be a small James Monroe cockade pin. Officers' Dress Caps have a chinstrap that is either silver or gold (rather than golden brass) metal chain [whichever metal his rank insignia is made from], a seam in the form of knotted golden cord and elaborate patterns around the band & along the rim of the visor. These high-rankers' caps also usually have no badges or additional embellishments, but the amount of 'finery' worked into them can be immense and intricate. The officers' caps also usually have a flat top with a rim of yet more gold knot thread. A black version, for tank crews, also exists, replacing the boss in the center of the band with a silver deaths' head. In keeping with the simple elegancy of their uniforms, the Armored Dress Caps have no golden embellishments of any kind; chinstrap is secured with small silver buttons and it has no Service/Corps/Branch Color trim, the band is black with no gold rim and the visor is likewise just leather, so that the only points of color visible from the front are the death's head insignia and the seam of Rose-red / Pink [the Armor's Branch Color] running along the centerline. Tankers also wear their Dress Caps without a cockade, while the flashy Unit Insignia badge is replaced by a simple, small Roman Numeral pin of silver to indicate the number of their Division.
M-1956 GreatcoatEditThe M-1956 Greatcoat is a standard piece of clothing issued for use in colder weather. It is generally worn over the M-1956 Field Jacket (which is itself goes on top of the flannel shirt and the high-neck sweater). The coat's cut is double-breasted with prominent stepped lapels and voluminous side pockets. It is made of heavy wool of the same color as the soldier's uniform jacket and has ten buttons of non-reflective gold brass in two evenly-spaced columns of five. The sleeves end in large barrel cuffs without buttons or folds. For enlisted personnel and NCOs, there are shoulder-straps (duplicates of the ones on the M-1956 tunic); these are trimmed in the Branch Color [as with the M-1956 Jacket] of the soldier's unit and the lapels are as well. Each soldier is issued with two sets of pins / patches: one for his jacket and another, slightly different arrangement, for the coat (because it largely covers up those of the jacket). Officers' coats do not have shoulder-straps because they wear the more decorative longitudinal rectangular boards, which go on the outside edges of the shoulders along the sleeve seam [see left]. These coats also have increasing levels of embellishment according to rank, having features such as gold braid Austrian knots on the sleeves with a different cuff design [also on an Officers' Uniform Jacket - see right], additional gold knot piping on the breast & lapels and augillettes strung through the buttonholes. General Officers' coats have sixteen buttons, eight to each side. For those General Officers who are members of the General Staff Corps (i.e. almost all of them), the lapels are much enlarged and are a dark, rich purple color, indicating their special status.
M-1956 Equipment SuspendersEditThese "Y-strap" suspenders were introduced with the new M-1956 ensemble to supplement the internal suspenders of the M-1951 Uniform Jacket, enabling more effective carrying of ammunition, grenades and other such things which the soldier needs easy access to. They are made of black leather and incorporate buckles to alter their length so that they can be worn over the Greatcoat. They attach themselves to the soldier's belt.
There is no standard as to how the individual soldier should arrange his equipment, what should go on the suspenders and what should go on the belt. It is entirely dependent on personal preference, or on the orders of each man's direct commanding officer. As a general rule, soldiers keep part of their rifle ammunition and their grenades on the suspenders; any additional M14 magazines, pistol magazines and other components of the kit are kept on the belt.
The standard U.S. soldier is equipped with two pairs of gloves. The first is for mild weather and largely to protect the wearer's hands rather than to provide warmth. They are made of black cloth with leather reinforcements and, somewhat unsually, have the fingers cut out but not the thumb. The heavier gloves for cold weather are black cloth and cover much of the forearm, being anchored by a buckle-and-strap. The fingertips are reinforced, as they are made to be worn over the lighter pair of gloves in especially cold weather. Vehicle crews and gunners are issued with a single pair of gloves, which are lighter than the standard winter gloves but heavier than the light gloves. Officers are also given a pair of heavier wool-lined gloves, since they do not have to make as much / as precise use of their fingers.