During my last visit to the Institute of Heraldry to do research on the Combat Infantryman Badge, I learned many things about the CIB and the way the IOH works. The IOH is part of the Federal government that is responsible for the design and production of all military insignia for the Armed Forces of the United States. This includes cloth and metal insignia as well as medals and decorations.
The IOH submits designs to the DoD and, once approved, is responsible for establishing the specifications to be used in the manufacturing of that item. Chosen manufacturers then submit product based on those specifications. If the manufacturers sample is approved by the IOH, it is then tagged and catalogued to be the standard by which future product is judged. The cataloging of these items also provides a time record and production history of the items.
As I was looking through dies and examples of the CIB, I noticed there was a lack of certain grades of the CIB. I asked George Cannizzaro why certain examples of the CIB were present and others were not. George explained to me that in the past, before strong security measures were in place, many items had been “borrowed” or stolen. It had been IOH policy to send items on a honor system to “researchers” through the mail, only to have them not returned or switched with other items. The classic example of this is the gold Combat Infantryman Badge. Sixty of the three-inch size badge in grades four thru six were authorized and produced by the Balfour Company. These were delivered on 2 April, 1965 and on 10 May 1965 the Commanding Officer of the IOH, Lt. Col. Steve G. Davis send out document DCSPER-PSD, Combat Infantry Badge, Regular Miniature Size (5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th) stating “These are prototype samples and not to be placed in the supply system unless need.”
Today (except for two miniatures) no examples of this CIB are found at the IOH. There were no “salesman samples” or “badges slipped out the back door”. According to the IOH any example made by Balfour found in the public is stolen property of the IOH.
Certain parts of the IOH’s cloth insignia catalog are tremendous; their early 20th century rank insignia is superb with each item looking like it was made yesterday. The same cannot be said of their WWI division and unit patch section.
I mentioned to Thomas Casciaro, Chief, Technical and Production Division at the IOH, that I had seen many items with the IOH sample card and seal for sale at many gun and military shows. He told me that these items are the property of the IOH and that they are considered stolen property and should not be sold.
The IOH does not have sales to raise money (they are federally funded), do not have “garage sales” to make room for other items (they have the room and more than one building), and do not throw away items because they think they are not relevant. If anyone can show documentation to the contrary, I would like to see it.
It is also quite interesting that all of the really nice items that collectors would like to have in their collection cannot be found in the IOH. You can find incredible examples of common rank insignia and plenty of brass insignia for musicians but that rare gold CIB is just not there.
The theft is not something that has happened recently.
Best estimate is it started in the 1950s. “Researchers” started plundering the IOH from then right up to the 1980s. Much paperwork is also missing.
All of this misguided desire to add that special item to their collection has not just damaged the IOH but it has ruined any research work or information for the future. What happened to collectors wanting to preserve history? You are not preserving history by hoarding items in your bedroom! The items in the IOH belong to every American and not to the few collectors that have managed to acquire any of these patches, badges, or medals.
Knowing the obsessive and possessive nature of collectors and their willing belief of any plausible story, you will rationalize your stolen property with the fact that you personally did not steal the item.