ROB PARISE | 3 SEPTEMBER 2019
The Service Uniform, also known as Class A Uniform, is the Army equivalent to the business suit. This was the uniform to be worn when on leave, conducting official business, or for any other occasion requiring formal dress. This is not to be confused with the Dress Uniform, also known as Dress Blues, which were equivalent to a civilian Tuxedo in formality and were suspended during the war to conserve material. The Enlisted Service Uniform as worn during the war consisted of the following garments:
M37 Wool Shirt: Made of OD3 Wool Serge to match the trousers and cap. The Khaki Cotton Shirt was also authorized at the discretion of the CO and commonly worn on leave.
M37 Wool Trousers: Made of OD3 Wool Serge to match the cap and shirt.
Belt: OD with open or closed face buckle. The open face buckle was issued to Enlisted Men but the closed face buckles were available for purchase at the PX.
Necktie: OD3 Wool or Khaki Cotton ties are both authorized for wear with the Service Uniform. A black wool tie was authorized prior to 1942 but was worn, albeit with increasing rarity, throughout the war.
Cap: Officially, the Service Cap (visor cap or peaked cap) was authorized for stateside wear only and the Overseas Cap (aka Garrison Cap) was to be worn abroad. In the case of the 401st and many other infantry outfits, the Overseas Cap in OD3 Wool Serge was the cap worn both stateside and abroad. For a Normandy or Prior 401st Impression, the Glider Infantry patch is to be worn on the right side of the cap as seen in multiple photos of 401 and 327 troopers. For post-Normandy, a Glider Infantry or Combined Airborne patch is worn on the left side of the cap. According to my research, there is no evidence of the 401st DUI being worn until 1945 at the earliest. Private purchase caps in OD33 also exist but are in the minority. By regulation, the cap should be piped with colored lace (blue in the case of enlisted infantry) but un-piped caps are fairly common, especially later in the war.
Service Coat: Made of Olive Drab 33 Wool Serge, it is a different shade than the trousers, shirt, and cap. There are many variations in construction throughout the war, particularly in regards to the back of the coat. The 1940 pattern coat had a bi-swing back with sewn-in half belt and hooks for the leather garrison belt. First the hooks were deleted and then the bi-swing as well leaving a coat with plain back and sewn-in half belt. All variations are appropriate for a post-1942 impression.
Ike Jacket: The Ike Jacket was initially issued as a liner layer with the M43 uniform but was quickly adopted as a substitute for the Service Coat. It is a waist length jacket of the same OD33 Wool Serge as the Service Coat, in fact some service coats were converted into Ike Jackets by tailors for GIs who had not yet been issued the new jacket. Wartime Ike Jackets have a rather baggy fit, adjustment tabs on the waist, and buttoned cuffs as opposed to the postwar jackets which lack these features.
Footwear: Prior to Normandy, only the Service Shoes were authorized for wear with the Service Uniform by Glider Infantry. The Service Shoe Type II (smoothside leather and cap toe) is preferred, but the Type III roughout boot is authorized. Post Normandy, Glider Troops were authorized to wear Jump Boots with the Service Uniform. Double Buckle boots are also authorized for wear with the Service Uniform but are more commonly seen during the post-war occupation.
Insignia: Collar disks are to be worn on the collar of the Service Coat or Ike Jacket with the US disk on the right collar and crossed rifles on the left. DUIs are to be worn on each lapel and one on the right side of the garrison cap, for occupation impressions only. For Normandy impressions, a light blue Glider Infantry Badge is to be worn on the right side of the cap with the glider facing backward. By regulation, this is incorrect but it is how 401 troopers wore the badge at this time. For later impressions, either the light blue glider badge or the combined ParaGlider patch may be worn on the left side of the cap. On the left sleeve, the 101st Shoulder Sleeve insignia is worn, generally about 1/2” to 1” below the shoulder seam. Any rank stripes are worn approximately halfway between the elbow and shoulder. Overseas Service Bars (Awarded for 6 months service overseas) and Service Stripes (Awarded for 3 years service) are worn on the left cuff, starting 4 inches from the cuff hem with Service Stripes (if any) below the Overseas Bars.
Decorations: There are multiple schools of thought as regards decorations, but the most prevalent is that one should wear the minimum decorations that are applicable to the impression, focusing on those that would be worn by nearly every GI in a given unit. I will be taking this approach in my recommendations. Decorations can be split into Pre-Normandy, Post Normandy, and Occupation.
- American Campaign Ribbon: Awarded for service of 30 days overseas or 1 year stateside.
- Good Conduct Ribbon: Awarded for vaguely defined good conduct, this ribbon was widely awarded during the war for morale purposes. It would be common for more than half of all GIs in a given unit to have one.
- ETO Campaign Ribbon: Awarded for Service in the European, Mediterranean, and African Theatre of the war.
- Combat Infantry Badge: Awarded for engaging as an infantryman in combat with the enemy.
- Glider Infantry Badge: Awarded for completing a Glider training course OR participating in a combat Glider mission. Not authorized until July of 1944.
- Belgian Fourragere: Awarded by the Belgian Government to units that took part in Market Garden. Worn around the left shoulder. Awarded in fall of 1945 but not officially authorized until 1950.
- Distinguished Unit Citation: Awarded to 401 GIR in March 1945 for actions in the siege of Bastogne.
The Service Coat should be form fitting to the body without pulling at the buttons. It should lay smoothly across the shoulders with the shoulder seam laying precisely on the break of the shoulder. The waist should be tapered to match your own and the sleeve should terminate just above the break of the wrist (IE it should cover about 3/4 of your watch) and leave approximately 1/4-1/2” of shirt cuff exposed when the arms are relaxed at the sides. The hem of the Service coat should end at approximately the middle of the palm when the arms are relaxed at the sides.
The shirt cuffs should terminate at the break of the wrist and the collar should fit with just enough room for a finger to fit between the collar and neck.
Trousers are worn at or just above the navel. Period trousers are straight legged and baggy through the length of the leg, generally with a full break on the shoe.
The Ike Jacket will generally have a baggier for but should be snug across the waist and shoulders with its cuffs terminating at the break of the wrist as the buttoned cuffs preclude showing the shirt cuffs. The Ike Jacket’s hem should overlap the waist of the trousers by approximately 1 inch.