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question on eagle heads buckles US Navy


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#1 1st Sgt CES

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 02:54 PM

Hello everyone--dumb question how do you date US Navy Officer buckles ? 1900 to 1945. When did the eagle head change direction ?Thanks Mark

#2 craig_pickrall

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 05:42 PM

I'm not sure which buckle you refer to but normally the eagle faces the feathers in peace time and the arrow heads in war time.

See if this helps on your question. It is from LIFE Magazine dated 12/15/1941.

USN_CAP_INSIGNIA_12_15_41_1A.jpg
USN_CAP_INSIGNIA_12_15_41_1B.jpg

#3 sigsaye

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 05:46 AM

I'm not sure which buckle you refer to but normally the eagle faces the feathers in peace time and the arrow heads in war time.

See if this helps on your question. It is from LIFE Magazine dated 12/15/1941.

USN_CAP_INSIGNIA_12_15_41_1A.jpg
USN_CAP_INSIGNIA_12_15_41_1B.jpg

1940. The direction of the eagle was never actually regulated prior to 1940. When the USN first adopted the eagle motif in 1797, it just happened to be facing to the left. A look at many early American art eagles, such as embroidery or sytalized in painting and print, show the eagle facing left. In 1846 when the USN adopted the eagle for enlisted Petty Officers badges, again they did not specify which direction the eagle should face. Please keep in mind also that at this time, each PO badge was individually made by the Sailor himself, there fore no two are alike. Any way, The PO badge was just that, a badge identifying a PO. Seniority was based on "Rate" or job, the Master-At-Arms being the most senior followed by the Boatswains Mate and so on. They wore their badge on the right sleeve, so they made their eagles to face forward, which happened to be the left. Most POs who wore their badge on the left followed suit although there are surviving examples of "Left"arm PO badges with the eagle facing to the right. In 1866, the Navy started changing insignia. They created templates for enlisted insignia to be embroidered in by the Sailor but of a standard pattern. They went with existing tradition and had the eagle facing left. Officers had had the left facing eagle on sword belt buckles from the start, so it was simply transfered to buttons and eventually to the cap badge. In 1939, the Navy dedecided to replace the fully embroidered cap badges on officers caps with metal "Pin On" types like the Army. This was so that officers did not have to toss an expensive cap eagle just because it got tarnished or began to unravel (remember, at the time these were the only caps available to officers). They commissioned Tiffineys of NY to design and cast the cap crests. After spending about $5000 1939 dollars to make the original metal cap badeg, following the, then, Navy pattern of facing left, some one in the office of heroldry pointed out the meanings of left and right facing eagles. So, the Navy dropped another 5 grand to have a new mold made facing the eagle to the right. At the same time, it was decided to face all officers eagles to the right for the same reason, and all left arm rating badges for enlisted Sailors to the right (Or forward). BTW, the original left facing Tiffinys officers cap badge mold is locked up in a safe in the Naval archives (so it's said).

Any way, before 1940, every thing faced left. After 1940, it was to face right. But as you can see from the above article, items that were no longer reg were replaced slowley over time as the old stuff became "Unservicable". so, left facing eagles probebly served right along with right facing eagles through WW 2. Remember, Chiefs wore eagle buttons on their coats, and replacing a bunch of buttons would cut deeply inot Liberty and Beer cash. Priorities. :rolleyes:

Steve Hesson

#4 Justin B.

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 05:53 AM

1941 was the big year for eagles changing direction. Someone realized that under the rules of heraldry the eagle should face "dexter," or the wearer's right. The 1941 Uniform Regulations saw this implemented for the officers' cap device, buttons, and belt buckles. The crow on the rating badge was ordered to face forward of the wearer, which reversed its direction for left-arm rates.

Unfortunately the 1941 URs don't illustrate the officer's belt buckle closely enough to really see the eagle's head, but you can get the idea from this comparison:

belt_plate_22v41.jpg



ETA: I see Steve gave a very comprehensive answer while I was fiddling around with my scanner. Thanks!

Justin B.

Edited by Justin B., 05 May 2012 - 05:58 AM.


#5 1st Sgt CES

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 01:16 PM

Hello everyone---Thank you all for taking the time to answer my questions on the direction of the eagle head. Here is a photo of the two buckles that I have. Thanks again-----Mark

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  • 9_May__2012_US_Navy_Buckles.jpg


#6 29navy

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 04:15 PM

Hey Steve, Regarding your comment on "The direction of the eagle was never actually regulated prior to 1940", I was just perusing the USN 1922 Uniform Regs and it does indicates that the eagle on the officer's crest is to be facing left.

"...surmounted by a silver spread-eagle face turned to the left when cap is worn, the whole placed upon two crossed fou] anchors in gold."

Charlie Jones

#7 sigsaye

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 05:03 PM

Well OK then. I stand corrected.


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