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1903-1910 U.S. Army EM khaki coats


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When Schottzie posted his new ca 1907 113th CA coat the other day, it occured to me that most forum participants are not all that familiar with the evolution of the khaki coat from the Spanish American War on until they were phased out in 1913.

 

Some 20 years ago another collector and I researched this subject and published an article in the Company of M ilitary Historians' "Military Collector & HIstorian".

 

I have been able to acquire examples of all of those coats described there and am sharing them here.

 

Most collectors realize that the US Army started wearing khaki during the SAW, but there was no definitive specification for these coats published until 1898, after the war ended. Even so, there were frequent changes often every year. These are shown here.

 

First up was Spec. No 467 & 471 -- 1899.

It features a turned down collar, pointed cuffs, pleastred breast pockets and detachable branch-colored shoulder straps. The buttons were gilt.

 

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Minor changes were made in 1901 with Spec. No. 551. The most easily recognized change is the exact location of the pockets. Note the breast pockets are now at the level of the second button.

 

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Late in 1902 there was a massive overhaul of the Army uniform regulations. Khaki coats changed also, but not a whole lot structurally. In Spec. No. 631, 1903, the branch-colored shoulder loops were dropped in favor of matching khaki ones. The buttons were now the new 1902 blackened bronze rimless eagles. Infantry chevrons were now light blue, but not for long. Collar insignia was added, also in blackened bronze.

 

Stocks of detachable khaki shoulder loops are still to be found. It is assumed that by using these, Spec. No 467, 471 and 551 coats could be brought up to the new standard, using the blackened buttons too, of course.


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The 1903 pattern was superseded the next year by Spec. No. 688. The only real change was the introduction of "choke bellows" pockets. These are flat on the front but have a side gusset to allow more to be carried in the pockets. (The Spec. specifically mentions the various soldier manuals.)

 

Note that the Infantry color is now white.

 

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Early in 1906, Spec. No 815 was published. The coat was identical to the 699, except for the fact that a "Standing/Falling" collar was specified. This is like a WW1 era collar, with an extra flap folded over the top.

 

Note that by now branch-colored chevrons have been replaced by chevrons nearly matching the coat.


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Apparently soldiers complained about the new collars chafing their necks. Spec. No. 850 followed later in 1906 and provided for a softer collar liner. It is visible in the neck opening in the photo.


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The new khaki coats were fine for the tropics, but they were not all that covert, especially in the jungles of the Philippines where American soldiers were facing Muslim fanatics called the Moros.

 

After a series of field tests, it was decided to adopt a drab cotton uniform. This was done in 1909 in Spec. 1038. The patern of the coat was identical to the previous #850.

 

Cotton khaki was to be used up in Panama and Hawaii. It was eventually faded from use by about 1913.


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There had been gret dissatisfaction with the cut-out pin-back collar insignia. It was easily bent and/or lost. ABout 1908 there were experiments with pin-backed collar discs. These were an inprovement. Better yet were the screw-back collar discs adopted in 1910.

 

Coat Spec. No. 1059 recognized this change by calling for a pair of thread-grommeted holes on each side of the collar for the new insignia.

 

The next year the "WW1" style straight standing collar with a single disc on each side was adopted.


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I got fascinated by this era when I saw several a friend had. When I asked him to explain the evolution, he blew me off. Several years later I acquired several of them and I hooked up with a Callifornoa collector, Mike Bruun. He had written several articles for the Company of Military Historians and we ended up collaborating on a 14-page article covering the evolution of khaki until superseded by the drab cotton shown above. That article was published in Military Collector and Historian in 1983. I am told it remains the best researched thing ever published on the subject. (Since the OD wool coats follow a similar evolution and timeline, it is even more useful)

 

I found a ca 1907 Cavalry officers uniform (with numbered brass) at SOS last year, but I have only seen a handful in the last 5 years. I bought it, but only because they are hard to find.

 

I think collectors also are anxious to have wartime examples only that they forget the SAW and the combat we saw in the PI afterward. On the otherhand, perhaps those wars are not as politically correct as WW2.


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Here is a variation. This khaki coat has State Seal buttons. Originally I thought this was an Indiana National Guard coat, but now I believe it is a WWI era State Guard coat (still willing to listen to other opinions!). Various Indiana State Guard units were raised after the National Guard was mobilized. The coat has matching buttons throughout, however, I have added the "IND" and Infantry collar disks.

 

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" We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. "

View my website honoring the men and women of Indiana: http://indianavets.wix.com/indiana-at-war and follow my updates on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IndianaModernAgeofWar/
Interested in US uniforms? Join the Association of American Military Uniform Collectors! http://aamuc.org/or find us on Facebook! facebook.com/AAMUC.ORG

 

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I suspect that material is really drab cotton as opposed to true khaki. I am told that doughboys often washed their cotton iniforms and webgear in salt water to make them fade to khaki so they would look like veterans though they were not. I suspect this is why we see so many light shade cotton coats in WW1. I think there were also problems with the domestic dyes -- before the war we got dyes from Germany, but not during.


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After looking at it again and comparing the photos, I think you are correct.

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" We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. "

View my website honoring the men and women of Indiana: http://indianavets.wix.com/indiana-at-war and follow my updates on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IndianaModernAgeofWar/
Interested in US uniforms? Join the Association of American Military Uniform Collectors! http://aamuc.org/or find us on Facebook! facebook.com/AAMUC.ORG

 

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  • 1 year later...
I suspect that material is really drab cotton as opposed to true khaki. I am told that doughboys often washed their cotton iniforms and webgear in salt water to make them fade to khaki so they would look like veterans though they were not. I suspect this is why we see so many light shade cotton coats in WW1. I think there were also problems with the domestic dyes -- before the war we got dyes from Germany, but not during.

 

I can say from personal experience that the practice of artificially fading uniform items was still in practice at least as late as 1966.

 

While I was in boot camp at CRD San Diego, whenever we did our laundry we scrubbed our khaki web trouser belt with toothpaste to fade and lighten it to look more "salty." By the time we graduated, many of us had bleached them to an extremely light beige color.

 

Cheers and Merry Christmas to all............Bill

Semper fi; Bill











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  • 2 years later...
I got fascinated by this era when I saw several a friend had. When I asked him to explain the evolution, he blew me off. Several years later I acquired several of them and I hooked up with a Callifornoa collector, Mike Bruun. He had written several articles for the Company of Military Historians and we ended up collaborating on a 14-page article covering the evolution of khaki until superseded by the drab cotton shown above. That article was published in Military Collector and Historian in 1983. I am told it remains the best researched thing ever published on the subject. (Since the OD wool coats follow a similar evolution and timeline, it is even more useful)

 

I found a ca 1907 Cavalry officers uniform (with numbered brass) at SOS last year, but I have only seen a handful in the last 5 years. I bought it, but only because they are hard to find.

 

I think collectors also are anxious to have wartime examples only that they forget the SAW and the combat we saw in the PI afterward. On the otherhand, perhaps those wars are not as politically correct as WW2.

 

By off chance, do you know if that article is available as a reprint?

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post-528-1174938737.jpg

 

Late in 1902 there was a massive overhaul of the Army uniform regulations. Khaki coats changed also, but not a whole lot structurally. In Spec. No. 631, 1903, the branch-colored shoulder loops were dropped in favor of matching khaki ones. The buttons were now the new 1902 blackened bronze rimless eagles. Infantry chevrons were now light blue, but not for long. Collar insignia was added, also in blackened bronze.

 

Stocks of detachable khaki shoulder loops are still to be found. It is assumed that by using these, Spec. No 467, 471 and 551 coats could be brought up to the new standard, using the blackened buttons too, of course.

 

 

In 1902 when this pattern was adopted, was the shirt worn under it also changed? I have it in mind that the shirt remained a blue wool shirt up until this time.

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