The United States Military is full of symbols. Some insignia denotes a soldier’s rank, others represent their achievements, and others display their role within their respective branches. So much meaning is packed into simple forms of insignia either worn on the uniform, flown on a flag, or other ways. But above anything, all are symbols of honor that collectively represent a soldier’s dedication to their branch and service to the country they proudly call home.
While there is a countless amount of insignia used in the military, some have interesting stories behind their designs. In this blog, we’ll take a look at some well-known insignia from the military, what they mean, and how they came about.
The 101st Airbourne is a light infantry division trained for air assault operations. Their courageous history includes a huge involvement in Operation Overlord during World War II, better known as “D-Day,” which was a turning point in favor of the Allied Forces in the European theater. The 101st Airbourne is one of the most highly decorated units in the US Army.
The 101st Airbourne’s “Screaming Eagle” insignia depicts a full color bald eagle head against a black background. This is in tribute to “Old Abe,” an eagle mascot who was present at over thirty battles with the 8th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment under General Sherman in Georgia and later Alabama during the Civil War. Old Abe’s likeness was adopted as the official insignia of the 101st Airbourne in 1921, where it serves not only as a symbol of American courage and pride to the wearer, but also as an indication to the enemy that they’re about to get creamed.
Special Forces, also known as “green berets” referring to their distinctive head wear, is a highly trained, elite division of the Army consisting of some of best the branch has to offer, with its members being chosen via a strict selection process. The main functions of the Special Forces are the conduction of unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special recon, direct action, and counter-terrorism.
The Special Forces insignia consists of three elements: a blue arrowhead, a gold fighting knife, and three gold lightning bolts. The arrowhead represents the stealth and field crafts of Native American scouts, which directly alludes to the recon function of the division. The fighting knife represents the unconventional nature of the Special Forces, often utilizing carefully planned guerilla warfare tactics in the field. Finally, the three lightning bolts represent the ability of the Special Forces to strike rapidly by air, land, or sea.
The 1st Infantry is the oldest serving division of the regular US Army, also known as “The Big Red One” and “The Fighting First.” There are two popular theories surrounding how the 1st Infantry’s insignia came into existence. One is that during World War I, the division’s supply trucks were made in England. So as to not be confused with other allies, drivers would paint a red “1” on the sides of the trucks. The other is that a 1st Infantry general decided that the division should have a shoulder insignia, and cut a “1” out of his flannel underwear. When he showed this rough draft to his troops, a lieutenant jokingly stated “The general’s underwear is showing!” Less than amused, the general challenged the lieutenant to come up with a better idea, so the lieutenant cut a piece of gray cloth from the uniform of a captured soldier and combined it with the general’s red “1.”
The “Devil Dog” is a popular symbol of and motivational nickname for Marines. Legend has it that the term was first coined by German soldiers during World War I, describing Marines who fought during the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918. They said that the Marines fought with such ferocity that they were like”Teufelshunden” or “Hounds of Hell.” Since then then “Devil Dog” continues to be used as a term of endearment and pride amongst members of the Corps, and the bulldog is used as the branch mascot due to its rough and tough appearance.
The Recon Battalions are a valuable part of the United States Marine Corps.
The insignia used by each of the four Recon Battalions usually feature several of the same elements, but in different arrangements with different colors. The motto “Swift, Silent, Deadly” refers to the speed with which Recon completes their missions, the superior stealth tactics they utilize to remain undetected by the enemy, and the firepower and supporting arms Recon has at their disposal. The skull features three holes in its head which represents the pain, hurt, and agony Recon soldiers often face, and the crack in the skull symbolizes their ability to continue with their mission despite these things.
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