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Miniatures Adventure => The Conflicts that came in from the Cold => Topic started by: AKULA on March 01, 2022, 04:48:55 PM

Title: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: AKULA on March 01, 2022, 04:48:55 PM
Looking to add some US troops to my Cold War project - am already eyeing up the Underfire minis, but have some questions for the LAF hive mind  :)

My understanding is that the PASGT helmet and vest began to be introduced from 1983....replacing the M1 helmet completely by 1985.

Meanwhile the BDU uniform pattern was being introduced from 1981, being fully adopted by 1989.

SO....in theory

Q 1. could you field US troops in M1 helmets, wearing a BDU uniform, or would it make more sense to field units either in M1/Olive Drab or PASGT/BDU?

Q 2. Could you then field different units wearing one or the other combo, on the same table? Pretty sure I’ve seen both options in photos from Grenada, but perhaps that was because it was considered a “tropical” deployment ?

Needless to say, being able to field both options (and possibly mix BDU with M1 helmets) for different units would provide more interest.

Title: Re: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: CapnJim on March 01, 2022, 07:39:20 PM
I was in the US Army from 1980 to 1995.  So, I'll take a stab at this...

The standard US Army field uniform in 1980 was what we called "the pickle suit".  Very similar to the uniform worn by the US troops in We Were Soldiers, but with subdued name, US Army, rank pins on collar points, and unit shoulder patches; and button-cuff shirt sleeves.  Helmet covers were either Vietnam era camo, or a pattern similar to woodland BDU pattern.

During the transition to BDUs and PASGT Kevlar helmets, some units got BDUs before their Kevlars, so from '82 to '84 soldiers in BDUs and M1 helmets with BDU(ish) helmet covers would have been possible.  But from '85 on, I don't remember seeing anyone not in BDUs after late 1984.

Remember, though, the M16A2 rifle was not fielded by the US Army until the late 80s.  By then, just about nobody would have had the M1 helmet...any soldiers prior to '85 who would have had M1 Helmets with their BDUs would almost certainly have had M16A1 rifles.  But that didn't keep me from getting the Under Fire figs.... :D 
Title: Re: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: Grumpy Gnome on March 01, 2022, 07:50:02 PM
I hit Basic Training in July 1988 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

There was certainly a mix of steel pots and k-pots but not generally within the same unit. Combat Arms tended to get k-pots before pogues, er I mean non-combat arms soldiers. But it was not like guys in the same platoon, company, battalion generally had different helmets. If your battalion had k-pots then everyone had k-pots. When exactly Berlin started getting k-pots I can not recall.

More interestingly even in Berlin in 1988 there was still a mix of olive drab flak vests and newer camo ones. Some of us preferred the older olive drab ones because they were softer, had a more comfortable collar and were easier to sleep in.

I do not recall seeing much mix of camo BDUs and olive drab uniforms in the 80’s within the same unit. Usually by the 80’s only “elite troops” wore olive drab and regular troops wore camo, opposite that of the 60’s and 70’s. Rangers, Jungle School for sure I remember wearing olive green. Maybe Airborne School instructors, not sure now though, my memory is a bit hazy on that. But I remember a few of us regular grunts envying the look of Rangers in their green jungle fatigues and black berets at Fort Benning.

For me, generally by the 80’s k-pot says Regular Army and steel pot says Army Reserve or National Guard.

I also recall wearing a steel pot helmet liner in Basic Training and then switching over to a k-pot but I can not recall if that was when we qualified with our rifle or when we finished the “basic” part of our Basic Training and started our Advanced Infantry Training. It was a long time ago but I think it was qualifying with our rifles. It really is frustrating because I am struggling to remember if I first qualified on an M16a1 before switching over to the M16a2. Ah, my poor brain cells… too many casualties from the Berlin night life.

Edit: I posted before I saw CapnJim’s post. He has service time more in line with your question AKULA…. and what he says rings true to my battered brain cells.

Also, wanted to add in Berlin I was in the 4.2 inch mortar platoon of the headquarters company of the 4th Battalion 502nd Infantry. Scouts wore k-pots and the sniper platoon wore boonie hats in the field. I always envied them their boonie hats. They used iron sight m14s as well as their sniper rifles, which if I recall right were M21s.
Title: Re: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: carlos marighela on March 01, 2022, 11:52:20 PM
Grenada is a bit of an odd one. The Rangers landed in M1 helmets and Vietnam era jungle utilities. The 82nd that followed them into Grenada were in full PASGT gear and BDUs and suffered IIRC most of their casualties from heat stress. Polyester blend clothing isn’t ideal in warm weather.

Greens here were made with a poly-cotton blend in the seventies and eighties but I sought out the older Vietnam era cotton ones for bush wear as they were a lot more comfortable. My tweenage daughter is currently getting around in one made in 1966, so built to last.

Plenty of photos showing the BDU/ M1 pot blend so the Underfire Miniatures are quite viable for say 1983 through to 1985 or so and possibly longer with ANG. It’s the M16A2s that strike a jarring note but with some judicious work with a file and putty those could be fixed. I know I’ll be getting some for Berlin at some stage.
Title: Re: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: SJWi on March 02, 2022, 06:07:41 AM
Akula, I won't disagree with our contributors who were in the US army at the time but I have two Ospreys from the period and will mention what they say. The first is MAA 159 on Grenada 1983. Not much textual detail on uniforms except but some commentary on the plates.Marines are shown in the new BDUs but with M1 helmets with camo covers. I have similar photos of US Marines in the Lebanon at that time.  The 82nd are shown in full PASGT and camo BDUs with the comment that they were the 1st unit to equip with them.  I have a 2nd book "Inside the US Army Today" dating to 1988. Again little uniform data and none of the photos are dated.  However again they do show troops in camo uniforms with the M1 helmet ( with camo cover). There is a single plate of a guy in Korea with a "woodland pattern" field jacket and older olive green trousers.   
Title: Re: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: Grumpy Gnome on March 02, 2022, 07:15:44 AM
Ah, that jogs the memory a bit. I seem to recall having some olive drab cold weather trousers when I first got to Berlin, back before we got the camouflage Gortex kit.

Even in the “elite” Berlin Brigade I remember us having some stuff floating around from a lot earlier, like before polypropylene cold weather kit I wore an issue wool sweater that was basically the same since the 40’s.

And for some reason I also now recall having an even earlier olive drab flak vest at one point, one without the high collar and marked 1955 inside.

Normally NCO’s in the Berlin Brigade were even more uptight about consistent uniform appearance than other units I later served in, things like you can only have two canteens and they have to be worn the exact same way on everyone’s ALICE webbing. This was before camelbacks. But that some things like flak vests had a little diversity. They are memorable because of that diversity.

I also wanted to say, in my particular company at least in Berlin it was a big deal for folks to own their own handgun. Sidearms were not issue for many of us. If you were over 21 you could buy your own handgun, keep it in the armory and if the “balloon went up” you would be issued it with your normally issued weapons. I wanted a CZ75 in 9mm but was too young. I thought it odd that I could drink alcohol on base as it followed German drinking laws not the usual 21 drinking age of America and that I could be issued an M16a2 but was considered too young to own a handgun.

Also, a little detail… back in the day you could generally tell a Soldier from a Marine by their k-pot. The Soldier would have a helmet band around the crown of the helmet, usually with their name on it and cats eyes on the back. Marines did not wear those over the camouflage cover of the k-pot.

Also, wearing additional camouflage on the helmet was generally a unit sop. Some units did it others did not. I got teased for being an over-enthusiastic “cherry” in Berlin for cutting off part of our vehicle camo net to wear on my helmet so I could “look like a British Para at Arnhem.” I do not recall my squad leader and platoon sergeant indulging me in that very long.

 Whereas when I served with the Royal Welch in Berlin for 4 months they were very flexible in what they allowed soldiers to wear in the field, citing “what works is better than what looks good”. I seem to recall taking advantage of that to wear sunglasses and cutting the fingers off my leather work gloves so I could “be more efficient” without trying to look like some sort of Hollywood 80’s Action Star fighting Aliens.
Title: Re: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: Grumpy Gnome on March 02, 2022, 07:17:44 AM
Doh! I obviously need more coffee, sorry for the mispost.
Title: Re: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: CapnJim on March 02, 2022, 04:08:33 PM
Yeah - while the USMC fielded the BDUs and Kevlars at about the same rate the US Army did, they actually fielded the M16A2 before the Army did.  So Marines could have M16A2s with BDUs and steel pots in the mid-80s....but not the Army.  But like Carlos said, a bit or reconstructive surgery could make those M16A2s M16A1s...
Title: Re: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: AKULA on March 02, 2022, 04:25:55 PM
Thanks everyone - really appreciate your responses  8)
Title: Re: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: carlos marighela on March 02, 2022, 08:23:27 PM
The one fly in the ointment for USMC is that regardless of what they have on their heads and yes, they were definitely wearing tin pots in Grenada and Beirut, they should be wearing a flak jacket of some description. Body armour seems to have been an SOP for the marines from the end of Korea onwards.
Title: Re: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: commissarmoody on March 03, 2022, 01:36:25 AM
And just to mess with you. You could have the guys with M1 helmets BDU covers and OD uniforms represent Air Force security augmenties. Cooks, admin, supply, ground crew etc who are called to defend the air base or searching out for a better location once the Base has been compromised.
Title: Re: Questions - US Army Uniform early/mid-1980s
Post by: Grumpy Gnome on March 03, 2022, 01:29:35 PM
Good point on the Air Force Security troops.