The New York Post touched off a media firestorm two weeks ago with their headline Obama wants Marines to wear ‘girly’ hats. Following the firestorm, there has been a concerted effort to reframe the issue to make it appear that the Post and other news organizations got it all wrong. The Stars and Stripes ran an article announcing not only that the the proposal had been pulled, but claiming that the proposal had never been serious in the first place:
Still, Marines say the Daly cover was added to the survey as a throwaway option.
“The Marine Corps commandant had and has zero intention of changing the male cover,” Marine officials said.
This post-media-firestorm claim contradicts an Oct 21st story by the Marine Corps Times which predates the New York Post story:
The Marine Corps Uniform Board may recommend the adoption of a universal cover for men and women to be worn with dress and service uniforms.
The change could take one of two forms. Either women could begin wearing current male covers with slight modifications, or all Marines could begin wearing new “Dan Daly caps,” according to a Marine news release.
Either the Marine Corps Times made up a Marine news release, or the idea was under serious enough consideration to announce to the press.
The vaguely sourced claim in the Stars and Stripes that the proposal was never serious is a difficult one to swallow since as the same article points out the USMC has been directed by the Secretary of the Navy to adopt a universal cover for male and female Marines. The Secretary of the Navy’s goal is for male and female Marines not to be distinguishable by their uniforms:
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has asked the Navy and Marine Corps to look at moving to one cover for men and women.
“The secretary believes that when you look at a group of sailors and Marines, you should see a group of sailors and Marines, indistinguishable by uniform,” said Cmdr. Tamra Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Mabus.
Where did the Dan Daly cap come from?
Mixed in with the denial that the Dan Daly cap was ever seriously considered for adoption by male Marines is denial that the cap is “girly”. The Stars and Stripes article takes care to identify the proposed cap with the heroism of its namesake, while suggesting (without outright stating) that the cap under consideration is a recreation of the one Daly wore:
Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly, a two-time Medal of Honor recipient who yelled, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” as he led Marines into the fight at Belleau Wood during World War I, wore a cap similar to the option proposed by the survey, as did other Marines in the early 1900s. The current male Marine dress cover was adopted in 1922.
This girly cap comes with a manly story; maybe the Post has it all wrong. But the New York Post in defending their original article has published a memo which they describe as background for the survey. The memo explains that the cap in question was originally designed as a cap for female Marines in 2002/2003. This cap was approved as the “improved female cap” by the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) in 2007, but procurement efforts were halted in 2012 in order to explore a DoD mandate for a universal cover.
The memo further explains that when the improved female cap was proposed as a universal cover for male and female Marines, it was renamed the “Dan Daly” cap (emphasis mine):
It was suggested, via the on-line survey process, that the improved female cap is very similar to the uniform cap worn by Sgt Maj Daniel Daly (see enclosure (2)), and would make an acceptable “universal” cap for all Marines. The cap worn by Dan Daly was in the Marine Corps inventory from 1904-1918, but its shape dates back as far as 1897. From this point forward the improved female cap will be known as the “Dan Daly” cap.
As far as I can tell, neither the veracity of the memo itself nor the history it presents of the Dan Daly cap is in dispute. The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Kesling explains the same basic history. Isaac Cubillos of militaryreporter.net went after the NY Post hard with When a phony military story is written for political reasons, it hurts real journalism and readers. Yet Cubillos not only republished the memo, he used it to make his case that the Post was wrong:
The New York Post released The Marine Corps Uniform Board document (all yellow highlights are from the Post). You will note, there is nothing indicating the President of the United States was involved in this. Additionally, you will note the Marines specifically say the manufacturer went out of business, not because it’s less expensive as the original NY Post story claimed.
But even here, the original Post article never stated that adopting the women’s cap for both men and women was proposed to save money. In fact, the Post had explained that the proposal was made despite the fact that it would cost money:
According to the memo obtained by The Post, requiring all troops to use the Daly cover will cost $8,221,958. Going with the traditional cap will save $284,043, because the current female caps are more expensive.
This seems par for the course for the critics of the Post on this topic. Straw man arguments are set up and knocked down, but the core of the story remains undisputed. Probably the best example of this is the ridicule of the Post for connecting the Obama administration with the proposal. While it is true that the Post headline and story named Obama, in the story itself it clarified that the specific direction for a universal cover was from the DoD. Technically the criticism is accurate; there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that President Obama asked to have the men who hold his umbrella wear girly hats. However, what doesn’t appear to be disputed is that under pressure from Obama’s Secretary of the Navy for a universal cap, the USMC Uniform Board renamed a female cap the “Dan Daly” cap and offered it (as one of two options) as a universal cap to be worn by male and female Marines. An official photo shoot was ordered with men wearing women’s caps, and this allegedly non serious proposal was presented as one of only two options in a survey to all Marines in preparation for the final decision to be made by Gen James Amos, CMC.
Assuming the history of the Daly cap presented by the Post and the Wall Street Journal is accurate, the critics of the New York Post are arguing that the Post and before them the Marine Corps Times were taken in by an elaborate scheme by the Marine Corps Uniform Board and Marine press department to make it appear that the CMC was seriously considering ordering all male Marines to wear women’s caps. Due to the obvious public relations nightmare such a scheme is bound to create, this strikes me as highly unlikely. However, either way the blame for the public relations disaster must rest with the leadership and press department of the Marine Corps itself, and not with the Post and the other news organizations who were ostensibly fooled by the charade.