Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, October 17, 2015

AEF Shoulder Insignia

The first official designation of the wearing of shoulder sleeve insignia came in a memorandum dated 15 October 1918, from GHQ AEF that “some distinctive cloth design which will be worn by every officer and man on the left arm.” It should be noted that while divisional insignia was approved during the war, it generally wasn't worn by the troops during the fighting, but became nearly universal during the post-Armistice period, while some of the men were on occupation duty and others were being kept busy awaiting transportation home.

The first U.S. Army patches were produced by sewing or gluing pieces of cloth together. Most of these early patches were made from material the soldiers either had at hand or could obtain easily, such as the brown wool from their U.S. Army blankets, shirts, or puttees (their wrap-around leggings). Most of the colored cloth came from discarded or captured French and German uniforms.

Click on Image to Enlarge

The first official "shoulder patch" as it is worn today was officially introduced into the U.S. Army in October 1918 by soldiers of the 81st Division who wore a hand-embroidered "wild cat" badge on their upper left arm. This reflected the fact that Wildcat Creek ran through Camp Jackson, South Carolina, where the division had been organized on 25 August 1917. The division adopted the name of the "Stonewall" Division after General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson of War Between the States fame. It was further agreed that since the majority of its personnel had come from all the Southern states surrounding South Carolina and were mostly from the mountains and other agricultural and sparsely settled communities, that the wildcat (which was common in the Carolinas) was adopted as the insignia of the division.

Early Versions of the 81st Division "Wildcat" Patch


  1. The patch for the 27th Division from New York State features the Orion constellation in honor of its commanding officer, Maj. Gen. John F. O'RYAN

  2. Thanks for this post. I like the fact that the poster shows divisions that were in training and never made it to combat.

  3. Is this available for purchase?