Military Issue Eyeglasses – A Brief Memorial Day History
Memorial Day is a time when we stop to reflect upon and mourn for the countless lives lost by those serving in the U.S. armed forces; it’s not necessarily a time when we consider what eyeglasses those serving wore and if there were specific GI eyeglasses issued to service members by the military! It may not necessarily be that time, but as it turns out, it’s a rather interesting story.
There has been and remains today an exclusive eyeglass design issued to military service members that require vision correction. The conspicuously unstylish original frames were officially designated as RPGs – regulation prescription glasses. Wire-rimmed and designed for use with gas masks during World War II, the wire was later replaced with a cellulose acetate, basically plastic, after the war.
Government RPG lenses have evolved over time from what was initially called the “P3” lens shape, to the “S9” in the 1970s, and the unisex “5A” in 2012. Suffice to say, the military sets its own trends and styles with functionality and durability in mind.
Contact Lenses in Military
New military recruits are strictly prohibited from wearing contact lenses during basic training, and as a general rule, active service members cannot wear contacts while deployed in the field.
Contact lenses require considerable care to keep clean and sanitized, and when they are not kept in optimal condition, or when environmental conditions become particularly dusty, smoky, and dirty, contact lenses are more prone to contributing to eye infections than eyeglasses.
Modernized Eyeglass Style and Function
Since its introduction in 2012, the “5A” has become the military frame of choice and remains so to this day. The military made the change to the “5A” after an extensive study by the Military Health System's (MHS) Optical Fabrication Enterprise (OFE) concluded the “5A” top brass in functionality, durability, and cosmetic appearance.
The MHS and OFE even went so far as to offer an entirely new selection of upgraded “5A” eyewear to all Active-Duty Service Members as part of DOD’s Frame of Choice program in 2019. The Frame of Choice Spectacle Program is a collection of civilian-style frames that mimic eyewear commonly at commercial “civilian” optical establishments like Berlin Optical Expressions!
If you are looking to sport those retro, vintage military styles, apparently eBay is the place to go for “S9s” and even the “P3”.