Why pre 20th century army officers and soldiers wear different uniform in battle?
Today, all the soldiers wear the exact same thing, while in battle, but prior to 20th century, in many countries ordinary soldiers and officers wear different uniform (interesting though, in some pre 20th century nations, officers have armor, while ordinary soldiers wear no or little armor)
Officers were an elite class in the old days. Many even bought their Commissions rather than attend an Academy. They dawned fancy uniforms to distinguish themselves from common soldiers. With the evolution of firearms the practice of shooting Officers slowly became common place. In most modern armies soldiers are not even allowed to salute Officers while in the field.
Like LV said; time and circumstances change.
"Fatigue" uniforms have always been identical between officers and soldiers. It just happens that it wasn't until the middle 20th Century that fatigues were worn regularly in combat. Prior to that, fatigues were considered to be work clothes. Some countries differentiate the officer and enlisted fatigues. The US does not. Part of it is fear of snipers. Part of it is that the US Army tends to be more egalitarian than in the past. For example, a senior NCO today is often treated better and given more privileges than a junior commissioned officer.
But look at the dress uniforms, which are based on the uniforms once worn in combat. Officer and enlisted dress uniforms are still very different today, especially in the Navy.
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