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J. ARNOLD, S. SINTON, illustrated by DARKO PAVLOVIC
US COMMANDERS OF WORLD WAR II. NAVY AND USMC

Admiral Spruance (right) is aboard his flagship, the heavy cruiser Indianapolis, off Saipan in 1944. Admiral King is in the middle, Admiral Nimitz on the left. (National Archives)

D: MIDWAY

D1: Admiral Marc Mitscher

Admiral Mitscher was the commander of Carrier Task Force 18 during both the Doolittle raid on Tokyo and the Battle of Midway. A special aviation working uniform of "forestry green" was authorized for "men of the aeronautic organization." The coat was of the same cut as the khaki working uniform except that the aviation green coat had shoulder straps of the same material. This coat was usually made of wool elastique, though serge, gabardine, and whipcord were also authorized. Black embroidered stars and mohair rank rings of the same size and arrangement as those on the blue service coat were worn on the cuffs of the green coat. Aviation branch officers wore brown shoes with this and the khaki working uniform exclusively, giving rise to the expression "brown shoes" to indicate aviators.

D2: Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance

Rear Admiral Spurance was the commander of Carrier Task Force 16. This figure represents the full khaki working uniform. The coat was made of cotton duck, unlined, with three gilt USN buttons down the front, the lowest in the middle of the belt. The belt was of the same material as the coat and was sewn down all around. The cuffs were plain, although in the '30s, black worsted rank rings had been worn. A bellows pleat in each rear side seam was optional. The coat was worn with a cotton khaki shirt and plain black tie. Rank insignia was worn on the shirt collar and on the shoulder boards, called "shoulder mark," which were the same as on the dress whites. The universal combination cap was worn with a khaki cotton cover.


Marc Mitscher on the bridge of the carrier, Lexington. (National Archives)

D3: Lieutenant-Commander Clarence Wade McClusky Jr

Lieutenant-Commander McClusky Jr was the commander of the Enterprise Air Group (CEAG) at the Battle of Midway. He is shown wearing a flight suit and flying gear from this period. The flight suit is a one-piece, warm weather model made of khaki cotton. It is worn with the inflatable life preserver, M1940, the so-called "Mae West." The leather shoulder holster was the same model as that used by the army, holding a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver. The flying helmet was also cotton, unpadded, with radio earphones sewn into the helmet itself. These helmets varied widely, since the replacement of earphones was done on board ship; often helmets were completely remade in the process.

E: GUADALCANAL

E1: Vice Admiral Ghormley

Due to the tropical nature of Guadalcanal's climate. Admiral Ghormley wears the typical khaki long sleeve shirt, trousers and overseas cap. Even though gray working dress had officially replaced khaki in 1942, the navy allowed officers to wear their old khaki uniforms until they were worn out. The gray service uniform was not unknown in the Pacific Theater but it was unpopular with most personnel and was. eventually, withdrawn from service in the 1950s.

E2: Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher

Vice Admiral Fletcher is also kitted out in the ever-present khaki long sleeve shirt, matching trousers and khaki service dress hat. In addition, the admiral wears the US Navy version of the Army M1941 "Parsons" jacket (see Elite 85: US Commanders of World War II (1) Army and USAAF). This light OD jacket differs from the army counterpart, chiefly in the omission of shoulder straps and the addition of a black USN stencil on the breast of the coat.

E3: Major-General A. A. Vandegrift

Major-General Vandegrift, the commander of the 1 st Marine Division, is dressed for service ashore on Guadalcanal, in the USMC version of khaki shirt and trousers. The general also wears the tropical pith helmet with the addition of the USMC Eagle, Globe and Anchor device affixed to the front. Ground commanders, like Vandegrift, would substitute their black oxford service shoes for army-style russet ankle boots and would often carry small arms and wear web combat gear.

E4: The 1st Marine Division insignia "the Old Breed"

The 1st Marine Division insignia was the first patch worn by USMC troops during World War Two. This came about in response to a rumor that USMC troops might have to wear US Army uniforms during the war. Faced with this possible loss of identity, the division's operation officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Merrill B. Twinning, designed the insignia for the division. The number one represents the division, with its association to the Guadalcanal operation, and the stars are arranged in the pattern of the constellation, the Southern Cross, to symbolize the area where the action occurred.

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