Uniforms 1 94649

A rather portly major of the US-led Training Advisory Group based at Kunming, wearing a superior quality cotton tunic and ski-type cap. He has the usual collar rank patches, an abbreviated chest ID patch, and the left shoulder patch of the TAG - the KMT sun superimposed on red and white diagonal stripes (see Plate E3). His revolver appears to be the short-lived US 1908 .45cal Colt Army Special. (US National Archives)

Kmt Soldier

The uniforms worn by the Nationalists during the Civil War were a chaotic mixture of old and new. Although new uniforms had been introduced after 1945 a large number of Nationalist troops still looked identical to those who had first fouaht in 1937. In the aftermath of the Japanese surrender the Chinese and US governments concluded an agreement whereby large US surplus uniform and equipment stocks in the Pacific theatre could be purchased at knockdown prices. Huge stockpiles of equipment of all kinds had been built up on the Pacific islands in anticipation of Operation 'Olympic', the projected invasion of the Japanese home islands in 1946. Needless to add. many of these items never reached the ordinary Chinese soldier, since they were diverted and sold on by corrupt officers and KMT officials. However, any pre-1945 US Army or Marines uniform item could and probably did find its way into Nationalist service.

Individual units would still have relied upon the influence or open-handedness of their commanders in the matter of clothing issue, and some officers had the means to clothe and equip their units better than others. While there was a marked lack of standardization, units did tend to wear the same types. As with the pre-1945 anny, there were distinct summer and winter uniforms. The summer uniform was again in light cotton in various shades of khaki and was worn with either the old ski-cap. 1946 model peaked cap. or steel helmet. Winter uniforms were usually of grey wadded cotton worn with either a peaked cap or new model winter hat (see below). Veiy few mentions of Nationalist uniforms are found in eyewitness reports of the time. However, John F.Melby in his book Mandate From Heaven noted during a visit to the headquarters of Gen Wang Yao-wu's 96th Army that the discipline and general condition of the men he saw on parade indicated a very well led unit - although about half the men were unarmed and very few had steel helmets.


The ski-type field cap continued in used throughout the Civil War but was gradually replaced by other types. Prominent during 1946-48 was the US summer/tropical peaked service cap in light khaki, either stiffened or with its stiffening removed to make it 'crushable'. This cap was worn in summer and winter alike, but was often adapted for cold weather. These improvised winter hats were produced by sewing woollen ear flaps to the band, worn tied up above the crown in warmer weather. Although described as being of US origin, many of these peaked caps may have been copies manufactured in Chinese factories. Other types of US surplus caps were also worn, including the soft fatigue cap and several types of baseball caps.

The US Ml steel helmet was imported in large numbers and was one of the most common models in use. During the Civil War the KMT insignia was usually placed at the front rather than the left hand side. The German M35 was still seen in service until the end of the war in some regions, e.g. Shanghai in 1949. but it seems to have been more commonly issued to the various paramilitary units. The old 'plum blossom' helmet was still in limited service at the start of the war. Given the parlous state of some Nationalist units, any available type would have been pressed into service. Large numbers of Japanese M32 helmets were certainly worn by Nationalist troops, although not 011 the same scale as by the Communists. Some Japanese helmets had a KMT sunburst badge attached to the front, and if these were not available then the Japanese Army five-point star emblem would have been removed or defaced. Second model Japanese cork sun helmets were also widely worn, especially by support troops, with the brass star emblem removed.

During the Civil War, a Nationalist crew prepare their Chinese Type 24 water-cooled heavy machine gun - the local copy of the old. heavy, but reliable MG08 Maxim, which was used right up to 1949. They are all dressed in the new grey winter clothing, and the hat with ear cut-outs in the flaps (see Plate H2); the No.2 has woollen gloves.

'Model 1946' winter clothing

While most Nationalist soldiers continued to wear the old blue-grey wadded clothing, a new and more uniformly manufactured suit of grey cloth with a padded lining was also worn in large numbers and seems to have been produced in state workshops. Although 110 official date for this item is known, it did appear after the start of the Civil War and was probably introduced in 1946. In 1949 units of rather hastily enlisted KMT troops are often pictured wearing this smarter padded jacket and trousers with a distinctive new model winter hat (see Plate H, and H2 for the hat). The matching trousers were often worn without puttees. The fact that these last-ditch conscripts were well uniformed suggests a considerable stockpile of these garments. Large units are seen wearing them, suggesting mass production at least in the last year of the war.

A padded grey cotton double-breasted greatcoat was also issued to some soldiers, either with or without fur collars. The Japanese sailcloth winter coat with detachable sleeves and fur collar was also worn; Chinese workshops may well have copied it, although substantial numbers of them must have been captured in 1945.

Captured Chinese Soldiers


In May 1946 the rank system in the Nationalist Army was changed, basically to conform with the US system. Although the new insignia were seen in use by some officers during the Civil War, most officers and other ranks continued to wear the pre-1946 sequence illustrated on page 35. The following insignia were worn 011 the shoulder straps of the tunic:

Special Ranking General =

General of the Army =

General =

Lieutenant-General =

Major-General =

Colonel =

Lieutenant-Colonel =

Major =

Captain =

Lieutenant =

2nd Lieutenant =

Warrant Officer = Under the post-1946

5 sold stars forming a circle c c

= 4 gold stars forming a square

= 3 gold stars forming a triangle

= 2 gold stars

= 3 gold plum blossoms forming a triangle

= 2 gold plum blossoms

= 1 gold plum blossom

= 3 silver bars

= 2 silver bars

= 1 silver bar

= 1 silver bar system the branch-of-service colours were replaced by a US-style system of gold metal badges:








Military Police Quartermaster crossed batons crossed rifles crossed sabres cannon tank castle crossed flags w crossed pistols wheel

Officers below general rank wore the branch device on the left side of the collar with a gold plum blossom on the right side. Generals wore a plum blossom on both sides of the collar with no branch insignia. Piping on officers' uniforms was red for general officers, yellow for field officers and blue for company officers.

Officers' uniforms

The mixture of pre- and post-1946 uniforms was also evident in the dress of Nationalist officers. Officers had a better chance to acquire US uniforms, and photographs suggest that the decision to do so was often an individual choice. Photographs of officers of the same units show some wearing ski-caps and pre-1946 field uniforms while comrades wear post-1946 US-type uniform. The difference, perhaps surprisingly. does not appear to have depended on the age of the individual, and may have been a question ofwealth.

Nationalist soldier armed with a Thompson SMG guarding a dejected group of Communist prisoners; the Civil War was not a continuous series of Communist victories, and the Nationalists achieved several notable successes. The soldier wears a fur-lined cap, wadded winter clothing, and what seem to be good leather boots. It would often have been difficult to tell the adversaries apart, especially as the Communists sometimes wore captured Nationalist uniforms. (US National Archives)

Kmt Thompson Smg

Paramilitary uniforms

The uniforms of the various paramilitary and militia forces were usually indistinguishable from those of the regular army. The PPC and the other militarized police and militia had a low priority for new uniforms and weapons. Photographs suggest that most PPC soldiers wore the US-type khaki peaked service cap along with nondescript winter grey or summer light khaki uniforms. Police units were usually seen in dark blue uniforms with either peaked caps or the German M35 steel helmet.

Helm Earcut China

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