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Study: USN WWII Gray Uniforms 1943-1949

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Hi All,

I just caught an WW2 Gray Officer USN Uniform from my Friend Rich:

I am studying the Gray uniform history. Please, any contribution and images will be very wellcome!!

Vice Admiral Allan R. McCann, USN(Retired), (1896-1978)

NAVY GRAY UNIFORMS - gray uniforms in the same style as khaki were first introduced on 16 April 1943 as an officers uniform. On 3 June 1943 the uniform was extended to include Chief Petty Officers. On 31 March 1944 cooks and stewards were permitted to wear the gray uniform. The Navy abolished use of "grays" on 15 October 1949.

From: http://usmilitary.about.com/od/navy/l/bluniformhist.htm

Chief Gunner's Mate Eugene Metzel, USN, who has served 24 years on board Wyoming, looks at the bronze plaque commemorating her First World War service with the Grand Fleet. Photographed in 1945. Chief Metzel is wearing the World War II era service dress grey uniform.

During World War II, Fleet Admiral of the US Navy Ernest J. King began to wear gray shoulder marks for a new gray uniform suggested by his wife.

Use of this uniform was short-lived as it was not popular. His shoulder marks were of the standard pattern of flat gray tapered boards with a rounded buttonless collar end and black thread embroidered fouled anchor and five black five-pointed stars in a circle. There have been reports of "experimental" variations of this consisting of an angular squared mark similar to the shape of currently used marks, but with gray cloth and the black embroidered devices. This is an invention and was not considered or done as it would have deviated from the standard design then used. Very few pairs of gray five-star marks were made, and are probably among the rarest of all US Navy insignia marks, are rarely seen, but do exist in a few private collections and museums.

It is recorded in several sources that ADM King never favored the working khaki, which he considered a land-forces uniform. The khaki was still pretty new to most of the fleet, having been authorized in early 1941, and king considered it to be only a "stopgap." He began working on a replacement soon after he got the CNO post in the spring of 1942. After a trip to Britain in July 1942, he expressed admiration for the RAF's blue-gray uniform, and soon had a tailor work up a naval uniform in a gray version of the Marines' herringbone twill fabric.

August 1944. Present are (L-R) Captain William Callaghan, LT Morris R. Eddy (OOD), Yeo1/c Arthur Colton (talker). The OOD is wearing Admiral King's authorized wartime grey uniform.

Despite protests from the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, King obtained Secretary Knox's approval for the gray working uniform in April 1943. After that date, working khaki officially entered a phase-out period. There was so much khaki material in the supply system, however, it outlasted King's tenure. His successor, FADM Nimitz, wasted no time reestablishing khaki as the standard working uniform and it was the grays' turn to enter a phase-out period. Working gray could not be worn after October 1948.

Five-star gray shoulder boards are understandably rare. King, of course, wore them, as did FADM Leahy, as grays were common in Washington where King held sway. After 11 August 1943, the standard gold shoulder boards were authorized to be worn with working gray along with gilt buttons. Leahy wore this uniform at the QUADRANT conference in Quebec in August 1943, he is standing on the right:


King, curiously, is wearing blues, while Admiral of the Fleet Pound is in whites.

FADM Nimitz was known to abhor the gray uniform, and it was unlikely that he ever obtained a set. FADM Halsey is questionable, though I would say it is also unlikely. Gray remained unofficially banned in the Pacific, though it did occasionally make an appearance:


Admiral King was known for tinkering with uniforms. When he was CO of USS Lexington he prescribed a uniform of white blouse with blue trousers and black shoes. Though his officers didn't like it, he brought it back when he was Commander Aircraft Battle Force, and when he was CNO made it official navy-wide as "Service Dress E." He also instuted wearing the light gray shirt with collar insignia with the service blues, and had his own non-regualtion dress whites, cut like khakis with a shirt and tie.

Here is a picture Admiral King in his grays, with a good look at the gray 5-star shoulder boards:


The commander is ace submarine skipper Robert "Dusty" Dornin, note the four "lazy loops" of an aide to a four-star or higher officer. Note also that both officers have dispensed with the scrambled egg on the visors, a wartime measure which was authorized for all officers in service and working uniforms.

Another "war economy" initiative of King's was a black braid chinstrap for use in place of the gold. At a strategy conference in San Francisco, Admirals King and Nimitz emerged from a hotel, with raincoats over their blue uniforms. At the time, navy raincoats did not show any rank insignia, and King was wearing his cap with black chinstrap and plain visor. As the press moved in, a photographer shouldered the COMINCH-CNO aside, saying "Out of the way, chief, I want to get a shot of the admiral!" This may account for King wearing the gold chinstrap later in the war! (The anecdote is recounted in the biography of Chester Nimitz by E.B. Potter)

From: http://forum.uniforminsignia.org/viewtopic...9b701f08fed345d

My best,






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I really like this topic, a while back I started a thread on this topic under the title " USN Slate Grey Uniforms" in May. You have posted some great pics and I am intriuged by the comment that these uniforms were unofficially banned in the Pacific. I know they were unpopular and I know that on some subs grey was never worn but I also know that many chiefs and jr. officers entered the PTO in slate grey and a good number of officers had tailored grey uniforms made. In time I am going to post a pic of a grey cpo summer weight coat that had a Feb 17-23 45 copy of to do today in Honolulu and Oahu in the pocket.

Please do not take anything I say as sarcastic, I am really intriged by this topic and look forward to were it goes.



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Nice thread. my father made chief in April 1942. We had one photo of him in a gray uniform. I would have to look and see if that photo still existed. He said something to my mother about the uniform, to the effect that he did not like them. He preferred the khakis, and there were also a lot of photos of him wearing the blue shirt and dungerees with his chief's cap.




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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is a Slate grey Chief Quartermaster jacket in a summer weight material and in one of the pockets was a copy of a small booklet titled "to do today in Honolulu and on Oahu" 1945 WEEK OF FEBRUARY 17 FEBRUARY 23 No. 60 I purchased it with a regular one with the same insignia that seem like it was never worn.


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Any one have USCG or USPHS greys? I have shoulder boards for them but never seen the uniforms.

My neighbor was a medical doctor in WW2 in the Navy & the greys are what he wore in his wedding. He wanted to get married in whites but was told no. I know he was later assigned to a Marine unit and wore USMC uniforms but I don't know if he wore their service uniforms or not. Also, I've read that the Navy brought back the kakhi service uniform.

Be well,


Chad C. Rogers

Retired Army

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It would be great if you could post some pictures of the USCG and USPHS grey shoulder boards.






Any one have USCG or USPHS greys? I have shoulder boards for them but never seen the uniforms.

My neighbor was a medical doctor in WW2 in the Navy & the greys are what he wore in his wedding. He wanted to get married in whites but was told no. I know he was later assigned to a Marine unit and wore USMC uniforms but I don't know if he wore their service uniforms or not. Also, I've read that the Navy brought back the kakhi service uniform.

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The gray uniform was also worn with the gray frame cover for the leather billed hat. This was to be worn with a black chinstrap, black side buttons, and the black Navy officer's hat badge. This was extremely unpopular. Most officers continued to wear the silver adn gold badge, gold chinstrap and side buttons. This was authorized as supplies of the black chin strap, had badge and side buttons were often unavailable. Warrant officers could wear their black hat badge with the thin strap in black.

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OK, you guys are prodding me to break out my 'greys' this weekend and shoot some photos. I've got seven of them around here somewhere along with some covers too.


1. USN Machinist's Mate Chief

2. USN Motor Machinist's Mate Chief

3. USN Ensign






Ricardo, thanks for bringing up this topic as it's long overdue. There are several threads on bits and pieces of USN Grey uniforms scattered about the site, but nothing substantial (except the one John started in May).


So, until I gather up my stuff and shoot some new photos, here are some links to the other USN Grey items members have posted on the site. Perhaps a moderator will eventually collect this mess and make a reference topic?


USN Slate Grey Uniforms


1943-1947 CPO Navy Grey Rates


Post 24 & 25


USN grey cover


My USN Grey Ensign


Slate Gray LCDR


Another Grey cover


There ya go......let's empty out those seabags and show our greys.

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Here is a gray uniform ID'd to a Naval Aviator.




!!!! WANTED !!!!

WWII Prisoner of War items : Medals, Mail, Diaries, Photos, Documents, Scrapbooks + More

WWII Naval Aviation Groupings : Medals, Documents, Scrapbooks, Photos, Flight Logs, Flight Jackets + More




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Here's a gray cpo aviation ordnanceman and he was a pilot as well. Also gray chief's hat. I think I post this uniform some where else on this forum. I think I have a gray cpo machinist's mate uniform with a seabee patch also. I will have to dig for that one. I have a usms gray uniform coming, will post some pictures when it comes. I think I have a gray coast guard hat also, will get some photo's of that some time today. My pictures are not the greatest and I apologize for that.




post-2501-1231594816.jpg post-2501-1231595117.jpg post-2501-1231595145.jpg





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Sweet CB jacket to bad he was just an SK (I know I will take a hit on that one) sorry. Could we see the the chin strap buttons on the Army Trans hat, I know they are a pain to photograph. I have small versions of the UPHS and USCG buttons and cannot get a decent shot to save my life.





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Here's that grey coast guard visor that I mention ealrier today, I also realize I had a gray ARMY TRANSPORTATION SERVICE PETTY OFFICER LINE VISOR HAT.












Here's a scan of the ARMY TRANSPORT hat button






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Here is a pic of my late father-in-law's slate grey cap. He served as the CO of the USS PC-617 and was operating off Omaha Beach, Normandy on 6/6/44. I don't know if he was wearing this cap on that day or not, but I like to think that he was.



Charlie Flick





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Here are some buttons sorry not the best shot.

TopL-R USN Officer, USN CPO, USPH Pocket button

Bottom L-R USCG Chin Strap, USPH Chin Strap and a black threaded back for chinstrap although every hat I have seen comes with metal ones.


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Aloha Everyone,


As promised, these are detailed photos of the USN Grey Uniforms that I have in my collection. I've been collecting them for a while now, and even though several are named, I have not fully researched them.



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Though this Chief's rate is MM, by the Naval Regs of the time (WWII) he could also have been a Boilermaker Chief or Watertender Chief as they also wore this rating until 1948 when the separate specialty Boilerman was established & Watertender was abolished (BPCL 40-47, 21 February 1947 effective 2 April 1948)




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Unfortunately, as this is an unnamed uniform, there is no way of telling which rate this is. You can also see that though this Seadog was a 'one hashmark Chief', he served in the American, Asia-Pacific, and Philippines Campaigns as evidenced by his 1/2 USN Pinback Ribbons.


The Uniform was made by the Portlite Uniform Co.



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This is the typical interior of a Summer Weight USN uniform - no lining, no interior pockets.


What is interesting to me about all of the uniforms I'll be showing is that none of them have 'Ruptured Duck' patch.


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