When it comes to changing anything with tradition, Marines are quick to give their opinion. Marines like to think of themselves as some of the biggest military history buffs, and boot camp is where this thought processes begins. So when the Corps talked about changing how their rank will be displayed on combat utilities – from metal chevrons to cloth – Marines took to social media to express their displeasure.
What Marines today may not know is the material and placement of the rank was changed only after the Korean War. For the longest time, rank was placed on the sleeve of the utility uniform. This was to keep in line with the other dress uniforms. Some were cloth, others were stenciled on the sleeves.
WWII-era Marines started hand-marking chevrons on their HBT utilities sleeves with ink, but often in the Pacific they did not bother with rank insignia at all – a way to keep the enemy from knowing who was an officer and who was enlisted.
By the start of the Korean War, utilities chevrons were commonly marked on the utilities with stencil kits.
A WWII-era Marine uniform with stenciled rank on sleeves.
The placement and material of the rank is relatively new, considering the age of the Corps. The change to putting rank on the collar came after the Korean War. Screw in posts were the first type used to attach them. Over the years it changed again to the type secured with pins. Interestingly, the crossed rifles came in 1959, after pinning the rank on the collar. Yes – crossed rifles are new as well.
Which was almost made for Grunts only in 2011.
If Marines are traditionalists at heart, then we should return to our roots when it comes to rank, right? Imagine: no more collarbones writhing in pain from the metal stabbing into it.
Then comes invading someone's personal space so you can address them, which is still a problem in today's Marine Corps. The digital pattern camouflage makes it hard to see a black chevron against a black pattern. Commandant of The Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller wants to fix this, which has lead Headquarters Marine Corps to start looking into the matter.
If Marines really want to keep with tradition, then they should accept wearing rank on the sleeves of utilities – keeping with the oldest traditions of the Marine Corps.