Armed Forces: Beyond Buckles & Bloomers

The interservice dispute waxed hot. The Air Force argued for 1¼ in. The Marines insisted upon 2⅜ in.—and at that the Navy balked. Only the Army seemed agreeable to any specification. The services met, disagreed, kicked the question upstairs to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. Infuriated, McNamara ignored the services, resolved the issue with a swift decision of his own: officers' shirt collars must be ½ in. high.

To McNamara, the collar controversy in the fall of 1961 was the last straw in decades of squabbling over how to get the services together on...

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