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KEVIN LYLES
VIETNAM: US UNIFORMS IN COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

FIRST LIEUTENANT, US MARINE CORPS

When the Marines landed at Danang in March 1965 they were assigned to the protection of the airbase perimeter. Initially confined to the base's eight square miles, the Marines found life tedious and frustrating: instead of sallying forth into the countryside to fight the infamous Viet Cong as they had expected, the men found themselves digging bunkers and filling sandbags. Marine engineers were put to work modernizing the facilities at Danang; meanwhile men sweated up the beach man-handling equipment ashore from anchored supply ships. To the Marines sitting in fighting positions around the airbase perimeter this was not the war they had come to fight. Drained by the unaccustomed heat and plagued by ever-present mosquitoes, they were initially forbidden to run patrols outside the wire. More Marine units arrived in the following months to set up further enclaves on the coast. These areas, such as Chu Lai and Phu Bai, would become major Marine bases as the war developed.

The uniform worn by this First Lieutenant is peculiar to the first few months of the war. The Marines' M1958 Cotton-Sateen Utility Uniform was unique to the Corps, and was obsolete by 1965, having been replaced by the Army's OG107 utility uniform. Some career officers and senior NCOs within the Corps, however, continued to wear the older uniform, though it would disappear entirely by the end of that year. The shirt featured two chest pockets with concealed buttons and an internal map pocket. The Marine's characteristic 'eagle, globe and anchor' stencil was applied to the left pocket. The trousers were full cut and had two rear pockets, one closing with a single exposed button. The Marines had their own trouser belt, shown here, of khaki web with an open face brass buckle. A 1956 version of this uniform was made in a herringbone twill (HBT) material, and though occasionally seen was even rarer than the sateen set. The embroidered name tape was an affectation of the 3rd Marine Division (3MARDIV), who had them made up on Okinawa prior to embarkation for Vietnam. The undershirt is another item peculiar to this stage of the war. The issue undershirts were white, and when orders for Vietnam came through some units dyed these green with varying degrees of success, resulting in some peculiar shades, as here.

Boots are standard black leather combat boots as worn by the Army. Again, some earlier Marine types were worn by traditionally-minded personnel until they wore out. Headgear is the Marine Corps Utility Cap, known (as is all Marine headgear) as a 'cover'. The utility cap was a World War 2 era item unique to the Corps, worn here as per regulations and starched into shape - it would soon collapse in the tropical heat and monsoon rains, to assume a less smart appearance.

The items worn on the M1936 pistol belt are typical of a junior field grade officer, and include a .45 cal. auto pistol in an M1916 holster, an M1910 aluminium canteen in an M1943 cover, and a twin-cell magazine pouch for the pistol. The Knife, Hunting 7" w/Sheath (or 'K-Bar', after the principal manufacturer) was another World War 2 item that had become a Marine trademark. The knife had a parkerized steel blade and a handle of compressed leather washers. By 1965 these knives were issued in dark brown/black leather sheaths, though the older russet brown examples were still to be seen. The map case is a Korean war item officially called a Dispatch Bag. Having no means of attachment to the belt, the case is worn slung over the shoulder.

The pack is the Marines' M1941 Haversack worn as a light marching pack. The haversack, unchanged since World War 2, was in fact only a component of the Corps' M1941 pack system, which included a knapsack and the belt suspenders. These items could be worn in several configurations, from the haversack alone, as here, to the field transport pack', which was the haversack coupled to the knapsack and draped with the bedroll and tent/shelter half. A grometted flap on the top face of the haversack and a buckled strap at the bottom secure the folding entrenching tool in its M1943 carrier.

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