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United States Navy

Naval Officer's Blue Uniform of John F. Kennedy


The young John F. Kennedy in his naval uniform.

The United States Navy has been very conservative with respect to its traditions and particularly conservative with its uniforms. On the eve of the Second World War officers were still wearing frock coats with epaulettes and cocked (fore and aft) hats, recalling the days of sail. However, on March 17, 1919 with Change No. 27 to the 1913 Naval Uniform Regulations, the Navy introduced a new blue service coat with a lapel or turned down, rolling collar. The basic design was that of a modern business suit. In this regard the Navy introduced its lapel coat before the Army. As so often was the case this coat was similar to one being worn by the British Navy. It was double breasted with two rows of three buttons.

John F. Kennedy's Blue Uniform Coat and Visor Hat
Courtesy of The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Visor Hat Coat

An officer's grade was indicated by cuff braid and his corps by an embroidered device placed above it. The illustrated coat is that of John F. Kennedy, on exhibit in the Kennedy library and shows the star of a line officer and the braid of a lieutenant junior grade. There is nothing special about John F. Kennedy's uniform, thousands of other young naval officers serving during the war would have worn a similar uniform. Unlike an Army uniform of the period it is more difficult to "read" a Naval officer's service by just looking at the uniform. Naval aviators and submariners wore qualification badges and ribbon bars would have spoken to service.

The headgear worn with the coat was a visor hat. In the front was a hat badge displaying a shield over crossed anchors and surmounted by the American eagle facing to the left. The direction that the eagle faced was changed to the left or heraldic side of honor in 1941 on both buttons and hat badges. The visor hats of admirals had two rows of embroidered oak leaves on the visor. The hats were manufactured such that the covers were removable and might be changed to blue, white, aviation green or gray to match the uniform worn at the time.

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