The First US Army Parachute Badge
Posted 13 January 2008 - 02:30 PM
I'll start off with highlights from a summary on the development of the Parachute Badge that was sometime in the late 1960s by a TIOH staffer.
Posted 13 January 2008 - 02:44 PM
Following the activation of the 501st Parachute Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia on 1 October 1940, it soon became apparent that an insignia was needed to identify the members of this unique organization. This subject was raised by the Chief of Infantry, who suggested a design, on a light blue background, allegedly similar in appearance to the badge of Air Corps pilots.
G-4, War Department General Staff (WDGS), referred the matter to the Office of the Quartermaster General (OQMG) pm 14 February 1941, to determine if the design was suitable. G-4 also advised that authorization of a shoulder sleeve insignia for parachute troops would involve a departure from existing regulations. On 21 February 1941, OQMG advised G-4, WSGS. that a shoulder sleeve insignia should not be limited to wear by a single organization or confined to personnel of one arm or service, no more than, for example, should such an insignia be authorized for the exclusive use of the Air Corps.
In reviewing the design submitted by the Chief of Infantry, OQMG questioned the use of the Infantry color as a background for any insignia since future needs of the service could dictate that other arms and services could be involved in airborne operations. OQMG then suggested that parachute troops be identified by a qualification badge rather than a shoulder sleeve insignia. With this thought in mind, OQMG prepared a suggested design on 5 March 1941 and submitted it to the G-4 WSGS for consideration. This design was the result of a meeting between Mr. A.E. Dubois (The legendary director of TIOH who who served in that organization and it's predecessors from the 1920s to the late 1950s), OQMG and Captain W. P. Yarborough who represented the Chief of Infantry (who at the time was commander of C Company, 501st). The size of the proposed badge was of considerable importance; Mr. Dubois suggested the size prevalent today, Captain Yarborough suggested making the same size horizontally as that authorized for Army Air Corps Pilots.
Posted 13 January 2008 - 03:00 PM
The firm Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company (BB&, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was selected to make the badge and was advised informally on 6 March; the firm confirmed the order on 7 March when they advised OQMG that the work was scheduled on a "crash" basis. The parachute was modeled almost half round and with good high well modeled wings. The lead strike form the dies prepared by BB&B Co. were approved by OQMG on 12 March 1941. OQMG advised the 501st Parachute Bn on 13 March 1941 that 350 badges were being shipped and were due to arrive on or before the 15th. OQMG request the organization to furnish a roster of the individuals who were to receive these badges in order to complete the records of the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot. The organization however had already submitted the lists on 12 March 1941.
Formal approval of the Parachutist Badge occured on 10 March 1941 when the Adjutant General by 3d Indorsement to letter, subject, "Insignia for Parachutists" (30 December 1940) advised the Chief of Infantry of the War Department of approval of the design submitted by OQMG.
Posted 13 January 2008 - 03:06 PM
In April 1944, William P. Yarborough, then a Lieutenant Colonel Commanding the 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion in Italy, recommended to the War Department the authorization of additional features to the parachutist badge to show attainment of certain degrees of proficiency beyond those initially required for qualification to show combat jumps. he pointed out that a parachutist who had made his required five jumps at the Parachute School wore the same badge as a parachutist who had made 50 or more jumps, three or four of which were in combat. Two designs were submitted; the first showed a star above the canopy representing a combat jump and another star below the risers to represent 50 jumps. The recommendation was not favorably considered by the War Department.
Posted 13 January 2008 - 03:27 PM
During World War II the only embroidered items authorized to be worn on the uniform were insignia of grade. Insignia of grand (and service ribbons on an optional basis) were authorized for wear on the field uniform but not on the work uniform. Regulations did provide, however, that the parachutist badge could be worn on any uniform when equipped for combat or simulated combat. A special uniform was authorized for parachutists and was the one normally worn in the field. Shortly after the authorization of the parachutist badge, commanders in the field fearing that the medal parachutist badge might interfere with the lines of the parachute, authorized wear of the parachutist badge in cloth within their commands. This practice was brought to the attention of the Department of the Army a number of times between 1954 and 1965 when attempts were made to obtain authorization of a cloth badge. Commanders pointed out that wear of the cloth badge was traditional within airborne units and a requirement existed within the XVIII Airborne Corps that the badge would be worn. Department of the Army did not favorably consider these requests indicating that the field or work uniforms were designed to be utilitarian in nature and therefore normally devoid of ornamentation; authorizing this award to be made in cloth would devalue the significance of such awards ad would increase rather than reduce the number of items in the supply system since approval would establish a precedent for wear of other badges such as the CIB, Medical and Aviator in cloth.
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