USMC SCARLET TROUSER STRIPES (2IN - 1.5IN - 1.125IN)

Scarlet stripes are worn on dress uniform trousers of Officers and Noncommissioned Officers. Use the drop-down box to the right to select the appropriate width based upon your rank.
 
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Looking into the tales of the “blood stripe” found on USMC dress uniforms, you might get the impression that the Marine Corps is the primary source of both the myth and the factual explanations as to how it came to be a part of the uniform—and you also might decide that the truth falls somewhere between the legend and the “facts.”

First, the myth, succinctly stated: the scarlet stripes found on the uniform trousers of Generals, Officers, and Noncommissioned Officers were added as a memorial in honor of the Marines who died during the Battle of Chapultepec in September 1847. (Of course, since Marines had fallen in previous engagements, this begs the question of why the losses of this particular battle should be singled out for special memory, but that’s a rabbit hole we needn’t explore right now).

The “official” explanation can be found in an article titled “Lore of the Corps” at the National Museum of the Marine Corps Web site, Marine uniforms were changed in 1834 to green and white at the request of President Andre Jackson; stripes in the same color as the jacket facings were added to trousers in 1837, but USMC Colonel Commandant Archibald Henderson changed them to buff white. And when Old Hickory left office, Henderson went further and reverted the USMC uniforms back to dark blue coats with facings, and in accordance with earlier regulations the trouser stripes were dark blue with red piping.

And here’s where things get tricky: those stripes weren’t changed to solid red until 1849, two years after the Battle of Chapultepec. (The scarlet stripe as used today wasn’t adopted until 1904). Was the move actually made in honor of the fallen Marines at Chapultepec, but never formalized in writing and instead passed down orally?

In the end, it can probably never be said with 100 percent certainty that the “blood stripe” has nothing to do with the Battle of Chapultepec or vice versa, which actually might be the best way of all of ensuring the legend lives on.
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