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Army specialist ranks 1960's thru 1980's

Started by giconceptsjw , Jul 18 2010 03:33 PM

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#1 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:33 PM

I confess I'm not an expert on the post WWII US Army specialist ranks. I've seen them on uniforms from the late 1950's up to today but I believe only spec 4 & 5 exist today. It seems they were originally designed to replace the WWII T-3 through T-5 ranks (conventional stripes with a "T" beneath) but were inverted and included the federal eagle in the center. Specialists held logistical, technical or support positions including radio operators and medics. I can understand spec 4 & 5 but I can't understand the reasoning behind spec 7, 8 & 9. Since specialists ranks carried no leadership responsibilities, why would they need such high specialist ranks? Spec 9 seems to me to be something like "ultra super special private first class". In other words, somewhat redundant. If anyone can shed more light on the early army specialist ranks, I would really appreciate it. Here are a few pics of the specialist uniforms I've ended up with over the years.

The first is a Spec 4 Ranger. This OG 107 shirt is dated 1971 but I believe it was used into the late 70's or early 80's.

BTW, I've covered all of the name tapes in these pics. Frankly, I don't want to deal with any monkey business from people who search names down. Not forum members but surfers & lurkers who would contact me and say I have their dad's uniform and they want it back.

Edited by giconceptsjw, 18 July 2010 - 03:36 PM.


#2 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:41 PM

Detail of the same shirt. The Spec 4 collar rank is metal pin-on.

#3 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:42 PM

Spec 4 color sleeve rank on an OG 107 shirt.

#4 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:43 PM

Detail of the same shirt.

#5 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:45 PM

Spec 5 subdued sleeve rank on a 101st jungle fatigue jacket.

#6 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:45 PM

Detail of the same jacket.

#7 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:48 PM

Spec 7 subdued sleeve rank on a 25th Division (electric strawberry) fatigue jacket.

#8 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:49 PM

Detail of the same jacket.

#9 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:51 PM

Spec 7 metal pin-on collar rank on a cold weather wool shirt.

#10 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:51 PM

Detail of the same shirt.

#11 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:53 PM

Spec 9 color sleeve rank on a MAC-V OG-107 shirt. I don't recall ever seeing many of these ranks being used either in photos or original uniforms.

#12 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 03:56 PM

Detail of the same shirt.

This is the last. Any info or personal experiences with spec ranks and their structure / use is welcome!

Thanks!

JW

#13 memphismeister

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 06:00 PM

Detail of the same shirt.

This is the last. Any info or personal experiences with spec ranks and their structure / use is welcome!

Thanks!

JW

Calling this guy a "ultra super special private first class" would have not been wise idea. These guys were specialists in their respective fields. This does not mean that a private has rank over them by any means. At the simple end a spec 4 would not take oeder from a pfc.

#14 memphismeister

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 06:05 PM

As the Army expanded for WWII a need for enlisted soldiers
with specialized technical skills was apparent, mostly
noted in the Army Air Corps. To simply the system,
technicians were picked from various grades and given
chevrons marked with a “T” in addition to their stripes. A
technician ranked immediately below a noncom of the same
rank, but ahead of a lesser noncom and technicians did not
serve in a command role. The increase of technicians caused
an inflation of the NCO ranks of WWII. This lasted until
1948, when the Army dropped the “T” designation and they
were appointed an NCO in the same grade. To recognize
combat leader NCOs from technicians, the stripes were of
different colors or backgrounds. The transition caused a
lopsided structure between the number of privates and NCOs.
Coupled with the top-heavy force and the reduced moral of
the combat NCOs, who had earned their stripes over many
years, caused a perceived loss of prestige.
In 1951 all enlisted insignia were standardized to one
color, further demoralizing combat leaders. The Army
entered the Korean War with NCOs making up over 32% of the
enlisted force. In 1953 a committee was formed to address
the perceived decline in attractiveness of military
service. It recognized that the military must “adopt
polices to restore the prestige of noncommissioned
officers” that would place a “premium on leadership and
command abilities.” The committee also recommended that
methods be developed to distinguish between command and
This document was downloaded from http://www.ncohistory.com
Short History of the Specialist Rank
By CSM Dan Elder
technical responsibilities. The Army developed a program to
separate specialists from NCOs, which gave birth to our
current specialist system we now know. This program, which
went in to effect 1 July 1955, grouped NCO grades E-4 to E-
7, which had a corresponding specialist position that
mirrored it. These new specialist would wear distinctive
insignia which is partially still in effect for the
Specialist (E-4/SPC) of today. Noncoms had special
considerations not afforded to specialists. These
considerations were not to reduce specialists privileges,
but augment privileges and prestige of NCOs. Leadership was
the NCOs primary roles and so noted. Specialists received
pay commensurate with his ability.
In 1958 the DoD added two additional pay grades to give
enlisted soldiers more opportunities to progress to a full
career with additional opportunities for promotion. This
included an addition of two specialist ranks at E-8 and E-9
and proficiency pay was incorporated into the pay scales.
In 1968 when the Army added the rank of Command Sergeant
Major, the specialist ranks at E-8 and E-9 were abolished
without anyone ever being promoted to those levels. In 1978
the specialist rank at E-7 was discontinued and in 1985,
the specialist ranks at E-5 and E-6 were discontinued.
Today’s current rank structure only includes one specialist
rank, that at E-4. The Specialist is in the normal career
progression for enlisted soldiers in between the career
path of going from an apprentice enlisted soldier, to the
journeymen role associated with noncommissioned officers.
There is no current method to identify senior enlisted
specialists from those NCOs in a leadership position.

#15 Linedoggie

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 06:48 PM

Detail of the same shirt.

I hadn't realized there was such a demand for Wool Shirts in USARV......

#16 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 07:08 PM

This included an addition of two specialist ranks at E-8 and E-9
and proficiency pay was incorporated into the pay scales.
In 1968 when the Army added the rank of Command Sergeant
Major, the specialist ranks at E-8 and E-9 were abolished
without anyone ever being promoted to those levels.


Thanks very much for all the info.

Interesting, I wonder what the source of that is. Maybe somebody forgot to tell this guy there was never a spec 9. I've had this shirt for years and only paid a few dollars for it so I doubt anyone put it together to make money from it but who knows. It may have been a prop or costume.

Edited by giconceptsjw, 18 July 2010 - 07:12 PM.


#17 giconceptsjw

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 07:11 PM

I hadn't realized there was such a demand for Wool Shirts in USARV......


That occurred to me too. Why would anyone ever need a wool shirt in Vietnam? Possibly in the highlands I guess. I've seen original photos of guys in Vietnam there wearing M-65 field jackets. Anyway, that's how I found it.

#18 oldfireguy

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Posted 18 July 2010 - 07:42 PM

Interesting post. I don't remember ever seeing a Spec rank above Sp-6 and that was on medics during my active time.

#19 Lee Ragan

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Posted 19 July 2010 - 04:37 AM

Emerson's book "Chevrons", pretty well explains all of this with illustrations. Copies are HARD to find, but a new and updated version is in the works. This subject has also been covered in several threads on this forum in the past. Those might be worth checking out.

#20 PaulR

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Posted 19 July 2010 - 06:58 AM

I would still love to see an explaination for the existance of the Spec 9 patch, as well as the nicely worn tunic... someone must have worn the paygrade. Also, there were ten years between the creation of the Spec 8-9 ranks and when it was abolished... surely multiple men wore these insignia!

I have learned a lot from this thread. Thank you.


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