The History of Military Patches
Since WWI, every branch of the United States Military has taken pride in the time-honored traditions surrounding them.
While now a fixture in military culture, patches weren’t always a part of military traditions. In this article, we take a closer look at the history and significance of US military patches.
The First Military Patches
The history of military patches in the US is rather brief. Where our British counterparts used patches in the 1800s, the US did not adopt them until WWI.
In WWI, military members began wearing patches that signified their rank, divisions, and skillsets. Soldiers bore these symbols on their shoulder sleeves to identify a chain of command and authority.
In 1917, the 81st Infantry Division of the Army implemented the first tactical patch. It was an insignia bearing the image of a wildcat’s silhouette against a sage background.
Over the next 20 years, the tradition spread to every army division, each developing a unique design.
Changes Over Time
By WWII, the Army began producing different patches. Soon, soldiers wore separate patches with their M.O.S., rank, names, and division. Some patches were subject to regulation.
However, military divisions held creative license over their unique insignias. Such freedom gave birth to many iconic designs. By July of 1970, military patches became mandatory according to Army dress and appearance regulations.
Other branches like the Navy and the Marine Corps also adopted military patches as part of their uniforms. Time tramped on and the US military added sister branches including the Air Force (1947) and the Space Force (2019). These sister branches also require their members wear military patches on their field uniforms.
While each branch continues to wear division patches on their regular uniforms, some also implement morale patches. Custom made morale patches are fun patches that divisions often design and vote on as a team to increase morale within the workplace. Some commanders allow the wear of morale patches on certain days, flights, or for team-building events.
Traditions and Customs
The backward American flag patch is a staple of military uniforms. As the US military continues to regulate uniforms across all branches, this patch will be on the right soldier of every service member. The backward American flag patch signifies the appearance of a flag being carried into battle as the troops press forward.
Division patches also have significant traditions and customs. Whenever service members arrive at a new division, they receive their division patches.
Like coins, sometimes military leaders pass patches on to their subordinates. They give them as rewards for excellent service.
Sometimes members from different units trade their patches when they work with one another. This custom commemorates unique and memorable experiences.
Even civilians take part in the collection and trade of military patches. Some vintage or limited edition patches are of high value to collectors.
Now, you can even make custom military patches. Find out more about getting your military patch.
History Facts and More
As we understand traditions and history surrounding military culture, we garner more reverence for those who serve. The history of military patches is as interesting as it is honorable.
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