WWI USMC campaign hat provides cover for a century

The real ‘Montana Peak’ of the Devil Dogs

Dark khaki fur felt P1912 crown with bronze EGA device and “68” metal company numerals below. During WWI, 68th Company was assigned to the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  (Photo courtesy www.AdvanceGuardMilitaria.com)

By D.L. Adams

Prior to the adoption of 1912 regulations, officers and enlisted Marines wore a felt field “campaign” hat with a fore-and-aft crease. But, in 1912, the Corps adopted the now familiar “Montana peak” hat. Nearly 100 years later, this revered form of headwear continues service with rifle teams and drill instructors at San Diego and Parris Island.

P1912 USMC Service hat
The Marine Corps Pattern of 1912 (P1912) hat was also made of wool or fur felt and, outwardly, appear identical to the Army’s Model 1911 Campaign Hat and  blocked to a point at the center of the crown with four “dents” around the point forming the distinctive “Montana Peak”, about 5-3/4” high.  Closer examination, however, reveals the P1912 hat has a three-inch brim folded over and reinforced with two rows of stitching, whereas the Army’s hat is usually found with a raw-edged brim reinforced with three to five rows of stitching. Furthermore, the Marine hat has three vents in the crown but no rear vent.

These shipboard Marines are wearing the predecessor to the P1912 hat, the fore-to-aft creased Pattern or 1898 hat. (Photo courtesy John Adams-Graf collection)

Like the Army’s hat, a gross-grain silk ribbon encompasses the exterior base of the crown. These early hats were often fitted with shoestring chin cords anchored on the interior sides between the fur body and the leather sweatband.

Both officers and enlisted men were authorized to wear a bronze eagle, globe and anchor (EGA) insignia fastened through the front vent of the hat. In addition, Reserve officers wore a bronze “R” below the EGA. Enlisted personnel could also affix bronze numerals below the EGA to denote their company.

Officers wore a scarlet and gold hat cord with acorn ends. Marines below officer’s rank wore no hat cord.

The folded over brim is evident on the P1912 hat worn by PFC Stoney Howel Byas of Co K, 11th US Marines, 5th Brigade. (Photo courtesy John Adams-Graf collection)

Term of Service
The Montana peak hat, with very few modifications, remains in service to this day. Apart from a lowering of the peak to an overall height of about 5-1/2” and the addition of a leather chinstrap in 1916, the original P1912 hat remained virtually unchanged until 1920 when the reinforcing strip on the brim was abandoned but the two rows of stitching retained. A leather chinstrap was introduced at the same time making it very easy to distinguish a hat from WWI from a later example.

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