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The First US Army Parachute Badge


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#1 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 02:30 PM

As promised in another thread I'm starting one on that provides background on the development, design and making of the first US Army Parachute Qualification Badges. Back in 1999 I was working on a short internet article on the history of the Parachute Badge for the Quartermaster Museum website. As part of my research I had the opportunity to visit the US Army Institute of Heraldry (TIOH) and copy their file on the Parachute Badge.

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.

Kevin

#2 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 02:44 PM

The document does not do well with my OCR Scanner, so I'm typing it by hand so please be patient. Notes in () are my addition.

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.

#3 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 03:00 PM

The Parachutist badge was, in effect, authorized on 6 March 1941, when G-1, WSGS, by telephone, notified OQMG to purchase 350 badges for shipment to the 501st Parachute Battalion, with delivery date no later than 15 March 1941. (As a Yarborough recalled years later the amazing speed of design and approval of the badge by the War Department staff was due to his diligence in personally appearing at each office were approvals were required) The size selected was the smaller one as suggested by OQMG. On 10 March The Adjutant General notified the Chief of Infantry of this selection and of the disapproval of the request for a shoulder sleeve insignia, pointing out its similarity in size and shape to that authorized for Air Corps Pilots.

The firm Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company (BB&B), 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.

#4 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 03:06 PM

The Marine Corps expressed an interest in the adoption of the Parachutist Badge for wear by it's personnel. The War Department interposed no objection to this request, and on 26 September 1941, the Secretary of War informed the Secretary of the Navy that the approved US Army Parachutist badge "may be worn by personnel of the US Marine Corps".

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.

#5 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 03:27 PM

The subject of degrees to the parachutist badge was again considered in 1949 by the General Staff, US Army. As a result, the Master and Senior Parachutist badges were authorized by Change 4 to Army Regulation 600-70 on 24 January 1950.

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.

#6 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 03:38 PM

It was pointed out in correspondence from III Corps and Fort Hood on 28 October 2964, that metal skill badges, when worn with the work uniform were a source of inconvenience and a definite safety hazard when the wearer must move in and out of close fitting turrets and cockpits while wearing a parachute or other shoulder harnesses. The recommendation that all skill badges be embroidered was concurred in by Fourth US Army and CONARC on the basis that the war of cloth insignia on the field or work uniform had been an accepted practice for many years but restricted to the aviator badge and the insignia of grade and branch. The safety factor among Airborne and Armor units was emphasized and the appearance of the field uniform and morale of personnel was considered. The safety factor was recognized by Hq, Department of the Army, however not all elements of the staff recommended adoption of cloth skill badges citing the rather unfavorable image created by excessive ornamentation of field clothing. On 16 April 1065, Hq, Department of the Army approved the wear of embroidered special skill badges on a optional basis on the work and field uniforms. This authorization first appeared in par 4-8a(5) AR 670-5, 23 September 1966.

#7 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 03:52 PM

Here is the earliest correspondence in the file a letter from Mr. DuBois at OQMG to Major Miley at the Office of Chief of Infantry dated 22 Oct 40.

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  • ParaBadge22Oct40.jpg


#8 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 03:53 PM

I believe this is the illustration, but it is not marked, so I'm not 100% certain -

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#9 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 03:57 PM

14 Feb 41 correspondence on the Chief of Infantry's request for a shoulder sleeve insignia for parachute troops -

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  • ParaBadge14Feb41.jpg


#10 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 04:03 PM

21 Feb 41 response from the Office of the Quartermaster General -

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Edited by ehrentitle, 13 January 2008 - 04:06 PM.


#11 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 04:11 PM

6 Mar 41 letter initiating BB&B manufacture of the first parachute badges -

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  • ParaBadge6Mar41.jpg


#12 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 04:15 PM

Letter to BBB requesting badges -

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#13 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 06:38 PM

Attachment -

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  • ParaBadge6Mar41b.jpg


#14 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 06:42 PM

6 Mar 41 OQMG Internal Memo relating to Manufacture of Para Badges -

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#15 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 06:46 PM

Specification drawing from OQMG (I had mistaken this for the Patent drawing back in 1999 as it was faxed to me by TIOH with the Patent document). I'm not sure what date this was done as there are no other markings -

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  • ParaBadge6Mar41d.jpg


#16 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 06:49 PM

BB&B Co letter to OQMG 7 Mar 41. Note that the letter give the impression that the dies will be returned to OQMG upon completion of the project -

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  • ParaBadge7Mar41d.jpg

Edited by ehrentitle, 13 January 2008 - 06:58 PM.


#17 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 06:55 PM

Adjutant General's 10 Mar 41, letter to the Chief of Infantry with notification of the design selected for the Parachute Badge (Note the drawing is the same as the one previously posted) -

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  • ParaBadge10Mar41.jpg


#18 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 07:00 PM

follow up 10 Mar 41, memo from the AG to the Quartermaster General -

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#19 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 07:04 PM

Cover letter from HQ, 501st for by Company lists of names of personnel qualified as Parachutists -

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#20 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 07:07 PM

Memo from OQMG to Cdr, 501st providing notification of impending shipment of badges -

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  • ParaBadge13Mar41.jpg


#21 Bob Hudson

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 07:08 PM

Thanks so much for sharing!

#22 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 07:09 PM

Response from the 501st -

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#23 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 07:15 PM

OQMG internal memo dated 18 Mar 41 indicating that the list of 501st names have been sent to the CG, Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot. I believe the reason why BB&B was selected to make this badge was it location in relation to the Philadelphia Depot. -

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#24 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 07:18 PM

OQMG internal memo dated 21 Mar 41 indicating that the unit had received the badges -

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#25 ehrentitle

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 07:22 PM

Internal OQMG 31 Mar 41, memo to COL Littlejohn recommending disapproval of a SSI for Parachute Jumpers -

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  • ParaBadge31Mar41.jpg



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