World War I Uniforms

What did they look like when they went to war?

3rd Infantry Division, First Battalion,
my grandfather James Madison Pearson, bottom row, center


The U.S. borrowed the design of its uniforms from the British tunic, using khaki colored canvas to look like mud, with the idea that soldiers would be invisible in the muck. Pressed for time to join the fight, uniforms were manufactured in England and France.

The uniforms of officers and enlisted were truly uniform. Pockets, high collars and shoulder straps were identical for all ranks. Trousers were tapered, meant to be tucked into boots. Boots were leather that rose to the calf with plenty of eyelets to lace, up to 24 a side. Finally, a puttee, was added, a covering for the lower part of the leg from the ankle to the knee.



My grandfather, James Madison Pearson, Matt to friends, Daddy Matt to his grandchildren, served with the 3rd Infantry Division, whose major battles included the Aisne-Marne Offensive, Château-Thierry, the Second Battle of the Marne, and the Meuse Argonne Offensive in reserve.

My great uncle Sergeant Varlourd Pearson posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action during the Meuse Argonne Offensive while serving with Company I, 137th Infantry Regiment, 35th Division, near Baulny, France, wounded three times by shrapnel and machine-gun bullets, refusing to leave his men, and wounded mortally a fourth time on 28 September 1918.

Without an image of my great uncle in uniform, I came across the image of Clyde Walter, who was from Varlourd’s same unit. Clyde Walter enlisted in the army in 1917, leaving his job as editor of the Nashville Journal. Clyde hailed from Nashville, Kansas, Kingman County, population roughly 200.

I cannot find any of his post war history, but the Nashville Journal continued to be published after the end of the war.* Nor have I yet found a roster for Company I.

One can view a history of the 137th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Division.




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