Dating Metal Insignia of the Military

Metal insignia are generally small enameled pins denoting branch of service, unit within a branch or some type of accomplishment by the individual.  The word insignia is Latin in origin and means “to mark upon” or “to distinguish by marking”.   When dating metal insignia from the military the front of the insignia does not provide much information.   Turning the insignia over and observing how the insignia attaches on the reverse side, however, will offer a good foundation for dating the item. The different variations of attachments used on metal insignia have undergone a steady evolution.  The earliest mode of attachment was simply prongs soldered to the back side of the insignia pin.  Insignia with this form of attachment date back to Civil War and post-Civil War time.  Another form of attachment commonly found from this era is the use of a single wire loop, also soldered on the back.  This form of attachment allowed the metal insignia to be sewn or pinned into place. Insignia were originally stamped out of sheet metal.  But prior to the Spanish-American War this all changed when the insignia began to be cast.   The casting method required a new attachment method since it did not have an indented area to allow room for the pooling of the soldered metal.  Several means of attachment evolved at this time – screw back, hinged pin modes and latched pin modes.  Hinged and latched pins underwent an additional change prior to WWII.  At that time, a locking device was added to the catch. The last major change for metal insignia attachment took place in 1942 when the Ballou...

History of Military Insignia

RANKS The Insignia, used by various branches of the military, has a deep root in American history, dating back to the Revolutionary War.  Originally, the initial rankings used in the United States Military (oftentimes distinguished by the insignia) were established using the British military rankings.   The British army would differentiate between rankings using items such as feathers, sashes and stripes, but sometimes, the rank would be identified by the weapon that was being carried or by an eye-catching uniform.  While quite a few of these initial rankings are still used today, more have been added, while some have become obsolete. The Army (and Marines) carried over many of the English ranks even after the war.  The Navy, however, developed their own ranking system.  Even today, the U.S. Navy and U.S Coast Guard no longer even use the term “rank”.  Among the enlisted Sailors, the proper expression is “rate”.   INSIGNIA HISTORY The history of the military insignia dates back to the Continental Army and General George Washington.  The Continental Army could not afford to purchase uniforms.  As a result, distinguishing between the various ranks within the army became difficult and General Washington requested that badges be designed to alleviate the confusion.  Development of the insignias continued into the Revolutionary War with the distinction of a two star General (major general) and a one star (brigadier).  At that time, these stars would be worn on the shoulder boards or epaulettes.  Insignias continued to evolve, along with rankings, into World War II.   ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AVAILABLE With five U.S. military branches and each with several rankings (or ratings), the number of...

Unofficial Badges and Obsolete Military Insignia

UNOFFICIAL BADGES Unofficial badges (some refer to them as emblems) are one of many categories of military insignia.   An unofficial badge met the standards of the military regulations, but for one reason or another, never appeared on the official precedence chart.  One such example of an unofficial badge would be one that was presented to a military individual by a higher authority, or even his local commander for a one time deed.   Though issuing regulations of badges are strict, the word badge can still be used when referencing badges that were proposed though never distributed, badges that a member of the military would chose to place in their personal display of accolades and also some that would be worn on civilian clothing – once in a while, an individual would be known to even wear the badge on his uniform which often led to the person being chastised. Military personnel would often be backed up by fellow enlisted whenever a debate would ensue regarding the validity of the medal.  And while they were often granted permission to wear the unofficial badges for exclusive events, the majority of them would not have sewn it onto their uniforms as was mandated for the official badges.    OBSOLETE INSIGNIA Though some of the unofficial badges throughout war history may now be obsolete, other insignia outside this category have also become obsolete over the years.  Categories for obsolete insignia often fall under the following guidelines: Revolutionary War Period 1913-1926 (which includes World War I 1914-1918) Army Air Forces  (1941-1947) Army (1775-Present Day) Coast Guard  (1790-Present Day) Navy (1775-Present) Marine Corps (1775-Present Day)  ...