How technology and policy changed U.S. Army uniforms --
On Jan. 12 from 1 to 4:30 the Illinois State Military Museum Historians will display weapons, web gear, uniforms and artifacts that illustrate the change in U.S. Army uniforms from blue to brown. At 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., Historians Richard Schachtsiek and Don Ferricks will discuss the evolution of the Army mission and equipment.
The Museum is two blocks north of the intersection of MacArthur Blvd. and North Grand Ave. Admission and parking are free.
More than 100 years ago changing Army uniforms from blue to khaki wasn’t a fashion statement. New weapons coupled with the changing mission of the U.S. Army and the National Guard drove the need to change what an individual Soldier wore and carried on the battlefield.
First came the change in technology from black powder to smokeless powder. A cloud of smoke from a black powder rifle gave away the shooter’s position and left no need for camouflage on the battlefield. With black powder weapons, bright blue uniforms were acceptable. But the change to smokeless powder and rifles with longer ranges brought the need to change from an easily seen blue uniform to a harder-to-see khaki.
Second, the smokeless powder and longer range weapons came at time when the U.S. government was changing its national strategy. In addition to their homeland security role the U.S. Army and the National Guard became more expeditionary forces, deploying to Cuba and the Philippines during the Spanish-American War and preparing for European combat.
Two laws, the Militia Act of 1903 and the National Defense Act of 1916, set the stage for the professional National Guard of the 21st Century. The laws required the National Guard units to meet Regular Army training standards but provided federal funding to pay for weekly training meetings and annual training periods. The intent was to have standardized equipment and training between the Regular Army and the National Guard so that the Guard could be integrated seamlessly into operations. The strategic change to become a global power is still being felt today as Illinois Army and Air Guard personnel deploy and serve worldwide.