WHAT WE WORE
Back in Olden Times — the 1950s — military uniforms were not nearly as macho or snazzy as they are today. With a draft, they didn't need to be. No camos, no black berets to lure potential enlistees. Just OD (olive drab) all over the place, except for summertime khaki. The dreary winter "Class A" uniform was the worst, a shapeless bag that made you look like a bellhop in a Soviet backwater town. That's me in the photo on the right, modeling this at Fort Slocum, NY, in 1957. The "A" patch on my left shoulder meant that I was in the First Army (New England and New York).
Another identifying emblem was the round brass thing worn on the left collar. During basic training this showed the image of an eagle; after advanced training it was replaced with a symbol of the particular branch of the army the soldier was assigned to, such as crossed rifles for infantry or a castle for engineers. Since our unit, the Army Security Agency, was so secretive, we just continued using the "unassigned" eagle (photo, left). Regardless of which unit you were in, you always wore a similar brass disk with the letters "U.S." on the right collar of any "Class A" uniform. All brass, naturally, had to be kept polished at all times. Good old Brasso™.
Once we got to Japan we had the "Fuji" patch (photo, right) sewn on the left shoulder. This only meant that we were stationed in Japan. Also while in Japan, us ASA types wore a security badge on a chain around the neck or clipped to a collar — but only while on post. On first arrival these were red, but as soon as all clearances were confirmed a green one with laminated photo, fingerprints, and some secret circuitry was issued. Later, at JCRC-J, we no longer used security badges since everyone knew everyone else. We also had name badges, such as mine from Camp Drake in 1958-59 (left).
The summer "Class A" uniform was much nicer and more comfortable. It consisted of a long-sleeve khaki shirt (sometimes worn with a tie) and khaki pants, worn with black dress shoes and either a hat or a cap while outdoors (or indoors while armed).
All through basic training we of course wore the utility (fatigue) uniform of dark olive drab (OD) shirt, bloused pants, combat boots, utility cap (or helmet), and a really sharp-looking field jacket (photo, right, of me at Fort Jackson, SC). I did not wear these during my advance training at the Information School, but often did for the first few months at the ASAPAC Personnel Processing Detachment in Camp Oji, Tokyo. After that, it was Class A's all the time. Except once. That was when I had to go out on the firing range to demonstrate my meager abilities at shooting the .45 pistol that I carried on off-post courier missions. The office staff responded with quips like "you going off to war?"
In 1958 the ugly Class A winter uniform was replaced with a much nicer one in a dark green shade, which remains in use today (I think). Each soldier had a choice of receiving one such uniform free, or of getting a "kit" for making one plus some cash to help pay the tailor. Since the kit had a better grade of wool I chose the latter as I had to wear the thing every workday from about September through April, or thereabouts. This was worn with a pinkish-tan dress shirt, black tie, black dress shoes, and a dark green cap. The photo on the left shows two of my co-workers at JCRC-J, North Camp Drake, Japan, in 1959. They are, from left, Sgt. Hicks and SP4 John Jubb.
Starting in 1957 the army introduced an optional Class A summer uniform, which could be worn in place of the regular khakis if desired. That is, if you could stand the laughter. Obviously inspired by the traditional Boy Scout uniform, it consisted of a very nice short-sleeve shirt with open collar, made of lightweight khaki, reverse-pleat shorts, anf khaki-colored knee socks. Remember, this was the 1950s, when grown men were not yet up to wearing shorts in public. The cool shirt, however, was much appreciated and soon the army relented and allowed its use with long khaki pants. That was the end of wearing shorts. The photo below shows some of the guys at JCRC-J making a fashion statement.
OF COURSE, whenever off duty we wore civilian clothes. Always.
Most of us had "civies" shipped over from home as the pickings at the PX were pretty awful. The Ship's Store at Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Yokohama, however, had some sharp duds. Japanese clothes made for the local market just did not fit us Westerners very well.
In fact, the army actively discouraged wearing uniforms off base in Japan as they gave the impression of a foreign "occupation."
There were some rules concerning civilian attire. They had to be clean and neat, and such items as blue jeans were not allowed. One guy I knew got around this restriction by dying his black. But on the whole we dressed about the same as we would have back home, both off-post and on-post while off duty.
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