Army retires green service uniform after 61 years

The green service uniform has finally been laid to rest after 61 years of approved wear.

As of Oct. 1, the “Green Class As” are no longer permitted for wear.

From 1902 through World War II soldiers wore an olive and/or khaki/tan combination of some sort. But then the Army wanted a sharp, classic and dignified look to distinguish soldiers in a postwar era.

Enter the Army Green Uniform in 1954. The dark green color, specifically “shade 44”, was a throwback to the distinctive color for rifle units back in Revolutionary times, and was recommended to the Army by scientists and fashion experts.

The jacket featured four buttons, matching pants, light gray undershirt and black tie. The green uniform experienced only minor alterations since; from Vietnam to the early years of Iraq and Afghanistan, it served as the primary dress uniform.

n this file photo, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey wears his green Class As. (Photo: Army)

The Army wore blue from the Revolution through the Spanish American War, except for a short period from 1812-1821 due to a shortage of blue cloth. But in 1902 the Army introduced olive drab and khaki service uniforms. While that year’s Order 81 eliminated blue, a phase out continued in the ensuing years; blue full-dress uniforms remained authorized until 1917.

The Green Class As were born largely of the Army’s desire to restore dignity and prestige to a uniform the Army saw become diluted and often sullied due to extensive wear by veterans and non-veterans alike after World War II. Nationwide, “Olive Drab” Army uniforms became a ubiquitous and inexpensive clothing items of the late 1940s. By the last year of the war, the Army had more than 8 million active duty members — nearly 6 percent of the U.S. population. Many would go home and wear out their uniforms; many other uniforms turned up in surplus stores.

In an article in 1954, Major A. M. Kamp Jr. decried the resulting debasement of the uniform — including wear by criminals and prison inmates — and its effect on the Army’s reputation and morale.

This led to the Army Green Uniform, which replaced the old ODs and became the official uniform the year after the Korean War armistice. The service uniform went on to a long life. It was not only the uniform worn by generals-to-enlisted soldiers, but also a variety of famous soldier-playing actors in thencontemporarymovies.

While green dominated, Army actually had three types of service dress uniforms by the turn of the millennium. The white service uniform was introduced as a summer uniform in 1902 and remained optional until last year. And between World Wars, the blue dress uniform re-emerged as optional wear, and remained so after introduction of the Green Class As as the primary service uniform.

But in 2006 Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker announced the Army’s plans to streamline its wardrobe and make the blues king. He notably rolled the Army Service Uniform out at the 2007 State of the Union address.

An All-Army Activities message in 2008 formally informed the Greens they had but six years to live. The green service uniform is survived by the Class A and Class B Army Service Uniform. The greens at this time lost favor among troops, in-part because the stiff, dated polyester fabric was unchanged from the 1970s.

The ASU’s blue color represents a nod to the first century-plus of the Army, from the Revolution to the Civil War and Spanish American War. The blues became standard issue in 2010 and from there quickly became the most popular service uniform. The Army added a year to the life to the condemned Green Class A uniform in a 2011 ALARACT, pushing back the wear-out date until 2015. But the green uniforms already faded significantly in prominence, limping to the end of the road.