Being set in the 50s the show provides a good opportunity for people to observe 50s era uniforms, insignia and equipment. For the majority of episodes Bilko and co wear standard summer khakis, though at various times Class ‘A’ Ike uniforms, field jackets, parkas and flying jackets can be seen. In the final season, Army Green visor hats and garrison caps began to appear, mixed with the khakis, just as they did in the regular army at that time.
Bilko’s uniform changed several times during the course of the series both in terms of their placement and composition. Being broadcast in black and white it is sometimes necessary to freeze the frame in order to ID the various ribbons. Often, they were incorrectly placed or not in the correct order of precedence. This I assume was due to the wardrobe department getting it wrong? Surprising really, being so soon after both WW2 and the Korean War when many men associated with the series would presumably have been in the military.
For a tribute, we have put together a replica of Bilko’s khakis with insignia as they appeared in the later episodes of the show. By then, the ribbon rack and badges had evolved into what you see here. The shirt is a mint, unissued 50s example and wherever possible we’ve used the correct period insignia.
However...let’s not forget that this is essentially a copy of a stage costume and not a “real” uniform. Bilko’s rack reflects service in the Pacific Theater of Operations but the only patch worn is that of the 69th Division which served in the European Theater of Operations. In the interests of accuracy a Pacific Theater of Operations combat patch should be displayed on the right shoulder...but for whatever reason it never was. Enjoy!
First up, the headgear. Both Khaki and later AG visor hats were worn by Ernie!