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Warrant Officer's Uniform - World War I Era


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Several years ago I picked up on E-Bay what was described as a WW I Officer's Uniform coat. Raidergirl was kind enough to take a look at it, and thinks it may be an early Warrant officer's unform given the cut and material quality and the fact it has an area on the collar for screwback enlisted insignia but also has officer's braid on the cuffs. I checked the uniform very carefully for any tags or markings, but did not find any - I did however find an artillery insignia in one of the pockets. If anyone has any thoughts about this uniform, I would be most anxious to hear them.

 

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The coat appears to be a contract M1912 that an officer converted by adding the cuff braid. The enlisted soldiers that went through the officer training programs wore enlisted uniforms. It would no surprise me in the slightest if some of the newly commissioned officers’ converted one enlisted coat to wear until they got their clothing allotment and to a tailor. I did the same thing to one or two of the Class A coats issued to me after I was commissioned.

 

Note that since the militia was established in the colonies officer's purchased their uniforms and usually acquired tailor made uniforms in materials of their choice.

 

Some things to check: The contract label should be under the coat lining at the bottom. Roll the cuffs back to see if the braid was added after the coat was finished (this is not necessarily the case because a good tailor would separate the lining from the sleeve materials, sew on the braid and re-sew the lining, as I did to mine). See below regarding appointed master ranks and check the right sleeve for evidence of a patch sewn in the usual position for rank insignia.

 

During WWI there was a class of ranks that were "appointed" but not known as warrant officers, but were probably the forerunners of the WO ranks. They held ranks like "Master Electrician," "Master Gunner" (CAC), "Engineer" and "Assistant Engineer" (CAC), "Master Hospital Sergeant" and "Master Engineer" (Engineer Corps). There was special rank insignia for these technicians and I don't recall they had sleeve braid. If your service coat had been used by one of these appointed positions there should be a rather unusual rank insignia on the right sleeve.

 

I knew a veteran that had served in the Kansas National Guard and later in the 35th Infantry Division. As an enlisted soldier his unit was federalized for service on the U.S.-Mexico border in 1916. After U.S. entry into WWI he was appointed to one of these master grades and later commissioned as a 2lt.

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Thanks for the information. I checked for the tag, and it was exactly where you said it would be. It reads, "Phila. Depot, Q. M. Corps, U.S. Army, Inspected By Phila. Depot Q. M., Aug 18, John Newton." I also checked the braid, and it was added later - the stitching goes through the lining. I could find no signs that the sleeves ever had any rank insignia sewn on them.

Thanks again for your help,

Jeff Giambrone,

AKA Championhilz

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I echo the opinion that it's an upgraded enlisted uniform. Remember, back during WW1, officers were often commissioned for very short periods of time - some seeing even less than a single year of service before being demobilized. If someone was an officer going immediately to the front, it would have been imprudent to have bought new uniforms simply to head to the frontlines and have them destroyed. Thus, it would be wise to use their original enlisted uniforms for some of the more "dirty" work.

 

As far as warrants are concerned, they were established in 1916, and the first mention of rank insignia came in 1917. The part we're concerned about (the cuff braid) was specficially mentioned in 1917 that the warrants would wear officer uniforms, but without the cuff braid - and all other insignia of rank. Thus, were this a WO uniform from WW1, it would be sans the cuff braid for certain, and probably without the collar disk holes as well as most WOs were "behind the lines" fellows who would have been expected to have a suitable uniform to reflect their rank rather than a converted one.

 

Hope that helps!

 

Dave

Only a weak society needs government protection or intervention before it pursues its resolve to preserve the truth. Truth needs neither handcuffs nor a badge for its vindication. -Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

Peace is not the absence of war, but the defense of hard-won freedom. -Anton LaGuardia

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Great thread! Very informative about the WWI uniforms. I thought it might be an early WO, but I hadn't thought about the enlisted for officer training! That makes total sense! thumbsup.gif

 

Its nice to see all the great discussions and knowledge base on here! thumbsup.gif

WANTED: USMC / Marine Corp items from all periods!

 

"The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle!" - John J. Pershing

 

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I was curious regarding Warranted Officers during WWI so researched some uniform catalogs and tables of organization. I could not find any reference to Army warrant officers, but the U.S. Navy had warrant officers at that time.

 

The following tables of organization are provided for general information regarding the strength, organization and equipment of a division in 1917. Note that "Field Clerks" appear between commisioned officers and non-commisioned officers. I believe it is the Field Clerks that were the forebearers of the WOs.

 

Personnel strength by rank:

 

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Infantry division table of organization November 1, 1918. These tables are from United States Army in the World War 1917-1919, Organization of the American Expeditionary Forces. Note that Field Clerks are also listed in this table. Not shown are the tables for corps and army organization that also show field clerks.

 

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Here is the history of Army Warrant Officers:

http://usawocc.army.mil/History/index.htm

Kevin

 

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  • 5 months later...

Here's a closer look. Note that officer style collar insignia is worn, but there is neither rank device on the shoulder or cuff band on the sleeve.

 

Also note this fellow apparently never went overseas. He wears two silver chevrons on his left cuff.

 

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And finally, here is a closeup of the collar insignia. Note the "fire bronze" U.S.'s -- these are fairly uncommon.

 

The Field Clerk crossed quills has a shield under it. This means he was doing Adjutant work. Others will have a minature QM insignia. Others will have none.

 

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Here is another Adjutant Field Clerk Grouping.

 

This tunic belonged to Adjutant Clerk, Mr. C. During the war, he was an Adjutant Field Cerk later, By 1920, he was awarded the rank of Warrant Officer.

 

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Notes:

- Uniform is tailor made

- No provision for braid on the cuffs

- 41st Division SSI

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  • 3 years later...
Nice example. What is the cap insignia? Looks like an officer eagle.

For this time period the WO wore a blackened bronze enlisted hat eagle until the traditional WO "eagle rising" was approved/authorized for wear in 1921. This is why you won't find any WO insignia in photos/records predating 1921. Also the first WOs were mine sweepers and not admin clerks. The rank won't come around until WW2 denoting Warrant Officer Junior Grade and Chief Warrant Officers; 2 grades only.

Thanks,

Tom

 

I collect US Army militaria (WWI thru Vietnam). I also collect the history that I have been a part of...Saudi Arabia/Iraq (ODS/ODS), Haiti (OUD), Bosnia (OJE), Iraq (OIF), Afghanistan (OEF 8 and 10), Horn of Africa (OEF), Qatar/Oman (OEF), Germany, Puerto Rico, Italy/Yugoslavia (OPP), Vietnam (4 yrs POW/MIA investigation team).

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