Page last updated 26th December 2016

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US Army & Navy Officer's Khaki Uniform Buyer's Guide

Attending a 1940's event at the height of summer on a lovely warm day can be somewhat uncomfortable when wearing full US Class A uniform! It is therefore convenient to have an authentic casual uniform to wear as an alternative. The US Army and Navy both adopted a form of khaki cotton working dress for officers during WW2. In the case of the US Navy, khakis were standard in all theatres. The US Army only authorised khakis for wear in the Mediterranean, Pacific and CBI (China/Burma/India) theatres.

Khaki cotton uniforms were first adopted by the US Navy in 1912 for naval aviators, and for submarine officers in 1931. By mid-1941 khaki uniforms were authorised for US Navy officers and Chief Petty Officers (CPOs) of all branches as a standard working dress in all theatres. When khakis were worn in cool temperate climates, the standard regulation black tie and khaki visor cap were also usually worn. In the European Theatre of Operations, US Navy officers would often wear the M41 field jacket ('Parsons Jacket'), or the USN-issue Deck Jacket over the khaki shirt. Many USN officers commanding LSTs and LSLs on D-Day were dressed in this rig. In Far Eastern and Mediterranean theatres the khaki uniform was worn with the shirt open-necked, and the preferred headgear was the garrison cap, although the khaki visor cap was also commonly worn.

US Navy WW2-issue khakis were colloquially referred to as 'Peanuts' because of their slightly yellowish appearance. This uniform should not be confused with the later post-war 'Sun-Tans' which had a slight pinkish tinge. Unlike their post-war counterparts, US Navy officers of WW2 did not commonly wear a visible white undershirt or t-shirt underneath their khakis. The khaki shirt was always worn long-sleeved, a short-sleeved version not having been authorised or issued during WW2.

The only real difference between the khakis issued to US Army officers and those issued to US Navy officers was that the Army shirt had shoulder straps whereas the Navy shirt did not. USN officers frequently acquired US Army enlisted mens' khaki shirts as these were made without shoulder straps, although there is some photographic evidence to show that naval officers also sometimes wore US Army officer's shirts with shoulder straps. US Navy officers wore their khaki shirts both with and without their standard regulation black tie (see below) depending upon the prevailing climate.



There are a couple of very good sources for authentic WW2-issue khakis. What Price Glory have an excellent uniform package at a very competitive price and made to a very high standard. The shirt comes as standard with shoulder straps so if it is intended to be worn as part of a USN uniform these will have to be removed. The shirt and trousers come in the right shade of peanut-yellow, although it's not always possible to obtain an exactly matching pair. However, this is not a problem as I have seen plenty of period photos which show a similar and obvious mismatch - see the photo in the Footwear section below for an example of this. These uniforms were designed to be laundered in the field and it's probable that the shirts would have been washed more often and subsequently faded faster.

Alternatively, Soldier Of Fortune stock a Summer Service Chino Shirt which does not have shoulder straps as it is sold as an enlisted-men's item. They also have the matching Summer Service Chino Trousers to complete the uniform. These would also seem to be ideal as a USN officer's khaki uniform combination.





The correct trouser belt to wear with khakis is the standard web belt common to all US services. These are available from both What Price Glory and Soldier of Fortune.



19th December 2016



The standard working headdress for a USN officer of the line (i.e. non-aviator), particularly in the ETO, was the visor cap with khaki cover. The presence and type of gold braid on its peak usually denoted the rank of Commander and above, otherwise the peak was plain black. However, in July 1943 the wearing of caps with a plain black visor was made optional for all officer ranks in working dress, so either option is perfectly authentic for Commander and above. The USN cap badge has hardly changed in over a century except for the direction faced by the eagle. Prior to May 1941 the eagle faced to the left and thereafter the design was changed so that the eagle faced to the right, towards the officer's sword arm. At the same time all US military uniform buttons were also changed in accordance with this. However, this change took some time to take effect and was often ignored entirely. Reproduction USN visor caps are available from several suppliers, including Seal Military and Soldier Of Fortune. Please note that, unlike the US Army, the US Navy did not wear 'crusher' caps. Not only was there no need for naval officers to wear headphones with their caps, which was the original reason for the creation of the Army 'crusher', but the construction of naval visor caps prevented the removal of their internal grommet and stiffener. However, as Navy visor caps were designed to have interchangeable cloth covers to suit the uniform being worn (white, khaki, etc), the cover often took on a slightly loose and baggy appearance (see left). My only criticism of the available reproduction caps are their pretty awful USN badges. However, original WW2 period cap badges are readily available on ebay at affordable prices and are very easy to replace the reproduction supplied with the cap.

The preferred headdress for USN officers in hot climates was the khaki cotton garrison cap (see left). The insignia on the left front of the cap was either a miniature copy of the standard cap badge (line officers) or, in the case of naval aviators, optionally a miniature copy of the naval aviator wings (see the Insignia section below). A shirt-collar-size rank badge is worn on the right side of the cap. The best source for the garrison cap is Soldier Of Fortune. They can also supply the correct size of cap badge for the garrison cap (see left), although original WW2 examples are readily available on ebay..

The US Army's equivalent to the garrison cap was their officer's linen overseas cap. This was worn with miniature (shirt collar-sized) rank insignia on the left front and no insignia on the right. In common with all US officer's garrison or overseas caps, this has the standard black and gold piping to denote officer status. The only source I know of for this cap is What Price Glory.

US Army officers also wore a khaki version of the standard service cap (see below). Seal Military stock a light khaki service cap. I have just acquired one of their Luxenbergs in light tan and I can highly recommend it. The fit and finish is excellent and it is definitely my own personal favourite khaki service cap.



26th December 2016


There has been a tradition in the US Navy since the 1930's that line officers wear black shoes, and naval aviators wear russet brown shoes with khakis. In fact, the US Naval Aviation branch was often referred to as the 'Brown Shoe Navy'. However, the group photo at left illustrates the wide variety of footwear commonly worn by US Navy officers. On board ship, officers often acquired pairs of tough, durable 'Roughouts', the leather combat ankle-boots worn by US Marines (see bottom left). Later in the war the US Navy introduced the N-1 Field Shoe which was identical to the Roughouts except that the leather was reversed with the smooth side on the outside to allow the application of dubbin for waterproofing.

Black shoes can be any suitable pair of plain black Oxford pattern with toe-cap, such as would be worn by RAF officers. Please refer to our RAF Uniform Guide for advice on sourcing appropriate black shoes.

The correct aviation officer's footwear was the Shoe, Low Quarter, Russet. This was a plain-fronted (no toe-cap) lace-up shoe in a reddish-brown leather. Please refer to our Class A Male Officer Guide for advice on sourcing these.

Roughouts, sometimes known as 'Boondockers', were a standard combat ankle-boot issued to both the US Marine Corps and the US Army during the early part of the war. They acquired their name from their suede-like appearance, with the smooth side of the leather on the inside and the rough side on the outside. These boots are available from Soldier Of Fortune.





The US Navy had two distinctive insignia worn by officers above the left breast pocket of their khaki uniform: the Submariner's badge and the Naval Aviator's wings. No other badges, other than rank insignia, nor shoulder patches were worn by naval officers. USAAF officers dressed in khakis wore their aviation qualification wings above the left breast pocket, and the shoulder patch of either the Army Air Corps or their particular Army Air Force on the left upper arm.

The Submariner's Badge and Naval Aviator's Wings are both available from Soldier Of Fortune. For advice on sourcing USAAF wings and other insignia, please refer to our Class A Male Officer Guide. My own personal preference is for original insignia rather than reproduction, and these are usually available on ebay.

USN officers always wore their rank insignia on both collars of their khaki shirts. USAAF officers wore their winged propeller branch of service insignia on their left collar and their rank insignia on the right (see rank insignia chart below).

Re-enactors intending to wear USAAF khakis should bear in mind that this uniform was only authorised in the Mediterranean and Far Eastern theatres, and that the formation patches worn on their left sleeve should reflect this. Applicable Army Air Forces were the 5th (Pacific), 12th (North Africa), 13th (Pacific) and the 14th (China, Burma, India). Reproduction patches for these formations are readily available from Soldier Of Fortune,  or originals can be obtained via ebay.




The USN officer's and CPO's tie was a plain black pattern. Perfectly acceptable modern alternatives are available from ebay and Amazon at sensible prices. Please do get a proper woollen, cotton or silk tie and not one of the shiny modern ones of some man-made fibre or other - apart from the fact that they look awful, they also tend to loosen their knot very quickly. Unlike their Army counterparts, USN officers did not tuck the ends of their ties away in their shirt.



19th December 2016




23rd December 2016

USN officers, particularly those whose duties took them ashore, often obtained field jackets from the Army (see left). The most popular was the M1941 Field Jacket, otherwise known as the 'Parsons Jacket' after the US general who popularised the design. This is a lightweight wind-proof cotton jacket with a warm blanket lining and is zip-fastened with a buttoned wind flap. It is ideal for wearing over khakis on cooler days.

Soldier Of Fortune stock a couple of different versions of the Parsons jacket but the best is their slightly more expensive version by Kay Canvas (see left and below left). It is considerably higher quality than their cheaper alternative.

Having prefaced this page by citing the warmer weather as the main reason for wearing khakis, it may now seem a little odd for me to recommend a winter coat to wear with them! However, as the USN khakis were worn as year-round working dress, a suitable warm coat will extend the wearing of your khakis through the colder months of the event season. The correct winter coat to wear with USN khakis is the N-1 Winter Jacket, otherwise known as the 'Deck Jacket', which was a windproof coat made from olive drab 'Jungle Cloth' (a kind of textured cotton Bedford cord) with a brown pile lining (see bottom left). The coat had a small black 'U.S.N.' stencil on the left upper chest and a larger black 'US NAVY' stencil across the shoulders at the back. One of the best and most authentic examples I have found is sold by Seal Military (see below). This is extremely well-made and well worth the asking price. Just be careful with the sizing - I am a 44" chest, but the XL size with a 52" armpit-to-armpit measurement proved to be a perfect fit. Be sure to request the optional rear stencilling which is essential for authenticity.