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U.S. Army Brassards & Armbands 1898 to 1918 Part 2


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77th Division General Staff Brassard

Photo No. 73: At least one AEF infantry division had its own Division General Staff Brassard manufactured in France. The staff of Major General Robert Alexander, who the last commander of the 77th Infantry Division in WWI, are all wearing a non-regulation Division General Staff Brassard. The red silk brassard, edged in gold, bears an image of the Statue of Liberty, which was the symbol of the 77th Division, embroidered in gold bullion rather than the prescriber General Staff Corps device.

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Photo No 75: The 77th Infantry Division, a National Army division made up of conscripts primarily from New York, selected the Statue of Liberty as its SSI. This group of WW I era 77th Division SSI shows the diverse styles in which that the insignia was made. All are either hand or machine embroidered on a blue field except for the woven Liberty Loan example at lower left.

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British Tank Corps Brigade

General Staff Armband

According to general orders issued by GHQ, AEF, the staffs of the commander of the Tank Corps and the commander of a Tank Center were authorized respectively to wear a brassard similar to that of the General Staff of GHQ (red, white & blue) and that of an army (red over white), but without the General Staff Corps device in gold. There was no mention as to whether or not if the staff of a commander of an AEF Tank Brigade was authorized to wear a staff brassard. It’s entirely possible that an AEF Tank Brigade, like the 331st Heavy Tank Brigade that was trained by and served with the British Army was issued with a British Tank Corps, Brigade General Staff Brassard.

 

The British armband was approved for the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps (British Tank Corps) in August of 1917. It was comprised of the Tank Corps emblem, centered on a blue cloth armband with an integral buckle fastener.

 

Photo No. 77: At left are two examples of the WW I British Tank Corps badge. The upper emblem is the regulation badge that was issued to all ranks. The lower badge is reported to be a private purchase version that’s typically associated with British officers. However, it has also shown up on British enlisted men’s uniforms. British collectors claim that WWI vintage Tank Corps badges all feature a straight gun barrel. Post WW I Tank Corps badges are said to have gun barrels that are at a 45 degree angle.

The right hand photo shows an AEF Tank Corps soldier with the issued British Tank Corps badge sewn above the left breast pocket of his service coat. Below is the Tank Corps Brigade General Staff Armband in blue.

 

 

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Photo No. 78: The triangular shaped insignia of the Tank Corps bore the branch colors of the artillery (red), cavalry (yellow) and infantry (blue), because the Tank Corps role in combat represented elements of each of those three branches of service. Four of the SSI shown are of the common felt on wool variety. One is of the woven Liberty Loan style and another has been chain stitched. The insignia trimmed in gold was sewn onto an officer’s service coat. Note that the upper right SSI has been incorrectly sewn onto the service coat with the blue segment facing up instead of the yellow.

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General Staff Trench Clips

Because the brightly colored General Staff Brassards were so conspicuous, the AEF issued miniature replicas of the various brassards in the form of a 1 inch wide by 4 inch long Trench Clip. The spring-backed Trench Clip was to be worn instead of the full sized brassard on the front of the service coat or overcoat, between the second and third button while in the front line trenches.

 

Photo No. 79: The red, white and blue GHQ General Staff and the red and white Army General Staff Trench Clips are pictured above the solid blue Division Artillery Staff Trench Clip. The clips have been embroidered with miniature General Staff Corps and Field Artillery insignia respectively. Men such as General Pershing and future Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshal or the men who worked for them at GHQ were all likely candidates to wear a General Staff Trench Clip whenever they visited the front. Note that Colonel Marshal is wearing an unknown dark colored brassard on his left arm.

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French Army General Staff Brassards

During the course of the war, certain AEF units, most notably elements of the 4th Marine Brigade and the 93rd Infantry Division were seconded to the French Army for various operations. Due to this fact, certain AEF organizations placed under the control of the French Army utilized French Army General Staff Brassards while conducting their business. This practice made perfect sense because the French Piolus adjacent to the Doughboys and Leathernecks would instantly recognize the authority that a brassard borrowed from their own Army represented.

 

Photo No. 80: A number of French Army brassards were identified in this page scanned from a pamphlet published in 1917 that was handed out to American soldiers before they shipped out for France.

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Photo No. 81: 1st Lieutenant Wilson Clagett was the 5th Marine Regiment’s liaison to General Jean Degoutte’s XXI French Corps, under which the 2nd Division was attached during the fighting for Belleau Wood. Note that he is wearing a French made gold edged, red staff of a general commanding a cavalry corps brassard. On the right, Clagett along with other staff officers of the 5th Marine Regiment pose for the camera in 1919. Note that Clagett and another officer are still proudly wearing the French General Staff Brassard they were issued during the war.

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British Army General Staff Armbands

It would be foolish to think that British Army General Staff Armbands were not worn by members of the AEF; especially when you consider the fact that eight AEF divisions were either temporarily or permanently detached for service with the British 3rd Army during 1918.

 

Photo No. 83: The upper photo shows and entire British regiment wearing an unknown armband. Underneath from left to right is the red, black and red British General Staff Armband for the HQ staff of an Army and the red, white and red armband for the HQ staff of an Army Corps. A red, white and blue armband was utilized by the HQ staff of GHQ, and a red armband was worn by the HQ staff of a division. The letter ‘G’ embroidered on each armband represented the General Staff.

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Postal Service Brassard & Postal Agent Chevron

According to AEF General Orders No. 9, issued sometime between May and December 1917, the following insignia was prescribed for wear by civilian employees of the Post Office Department attached to the AEF:

 

Postal agents and other employees of the Post Office Department, attached to the American Expeditionary Forces, will wear the service uniform with insignia “U.S.” (only) on the collar, and on the left arm a white brassard, 2 ½ inches wide, bearing the letters “P.S.” in red.

 

AEF General Orders No. 9, Section I, 1917

In 1918, the Postal Service Brassard as worn civilian postal employees attached to the AEF was revoked and was to be replaced by a Postal Agent’s Chevron, which was described thusly:

 

The uniform of postal employees attached to the U.S. Postal Agency in the American Expeditionary Forces shall be the same as that of field clerks, with the following exceptions:

 

The “U.S.” only will be worn on the collar. A chevron of gray postal cloth, 2 ½ inches in diameter, bearing the letters “P. A.”, ¾ of an inch high in red and red border of ¼ of an inch wide of the same material as the letters will be worn on the left sleeve midway between the elbow and the top of the sleeve.

 

AEF General Orders, 1918, date and number unknown

Meanwhile, the 1918 edition of the Uniform Regulations for the Uniform of the United States Army, described a similar but entirely different brassard for the members of the postal service attached to the U.S. Army in the continental United States:

 

Postal agents attached to units in the field wear a gray postal service cloth brassard with the words “Posts U.S.A.” in two lines. [Presumably, each letter was also made from red cloth]

 

Uniform Regulations for the Uniform of the United States Army, 1918

Photo No 84: Several postal employees attached to the AEF are shown below left. Two of them appear to have cut down the early style red on white Postal Service Brassard in an attempt to comply with the 1918 directive that mandated the smaller Postal Agent Chevron. In a similar vein, the British RAMC soldiers on the right have also truncated their red cross brassards and sewn them onto the sleeve of their service dress. At top is the Postal Service SSI which was comprised of greyhound on a blue backing cloth. This example has been made from fine silver bullion wire and gold bullion piping. Following it is the Army Postal Service enlisted man’s collar disc.

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Photo No. 85: Even though this photograph is in black and white, it still shows the light gray shade of cloth that was called for to make the postal agent’s chevron. This postal worker is wearing the gauze mask as protection against contracting the Spanish flu which had spread across the United States and the world like wildfire in 1918.

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Engineer Field Clerk Brassard

Until July of 1917, Headquarters Clerks who worked for the Adjutant General’s Department and Pay Clerks who worked for the Pay Department did not wear a military uniform. When the Commissary, Pay and Quartermaster Departments were all consolidated into the newly established Quartermaster Corps (QTMC) in 1912, the Pay Clerks were commissioned as 2nd lieutenants and donned the uniform of the QTMC. This left the Headquarters Clerks still without a uniform. In the summer of 1916, Headquarters Clerks were re-designated as Army Field Clerks, of which, 200 were assigned to the QTMC to assist the above mentioned clerks of the QTMC. Once again the Army had two different Army Field Clerks, i.e. Field Clerks and Field Clerks, QTMC. In July of 1917, the Army provided enlisted uniforms for all Field Clerks that were destined to serve in France. At the same time it authorized a collar disc with crossed quill pens as their insignia. Because the Army Clerks were highly skilled senior NCOs, they balked at having to wear enlisted men’s collar discs while performing their duty. This eventually led to a change in the uniform regulations, which allowed them to wear officer type crossed quill pens, even though they were not commissioned officers. Special Regulation No. 41, dated December 19, 1917 laid out how the Army Field Clerks in the AEF were to be attired:

 

Field Clerks and Field Clerk, Quartermaster Corps, will wear the same uniforms as officers, omitting all insignia of rank and the brown braid on the cuff of the service coat. Cord for service hat to be of silver and black silk intermixed.

 

Special Regulation No. 41, December 19, 1917

The uniform regulations that the Army published in 1918 mentioned a special Engineers Field Clerk Brassard. The purpose and reason for the brassard is not known. The following photograph taken in France proves that this brassard was worn overseas. However, it is not known if it was worn stateside or if it was only authorized as an article of equipment for the AEF. Regardless, the regulations read as follows:

 

Field Clerk’s Brassard. – Field clerks of engineers wear upon the left arm above the elbow a brassard of maroon cloth with white edges.

 

Regulations for the Uniform of the United States Army, 1918, page 105

Photo No. 86: Sergeant Elliot Finch was the Chief Clerk of the 30th Engineer Regiment, which in July of 1918 was re-designated the 1st Gas and Flame Regiment. As the Field Clerk of an engineer regiment, he wears the narrow, maroon Engineer Field Clerk Brassard, edged in white. Note that the brassard and a pair of officer’s U.S. collar devices are the only insignia he is wearing on his officer’s style uniform.

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Photo No. 87: At left is the enlisted men’s Army Field Clerk Collar Disc. At center and right are the officer’s ‘cut-out’ style of Army Field Clerk Collar Insignia. One with a small shield which represented the clerks of the Adjutant General’s Department and the other with a miniature QTMC insignia was for the clerks of the QTMC.

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Accredited & Visiting

Correspondent Brassards

As soon as America went to war, newspaper correspondents were covering every detail as the nation prepared for war. Almost immediately, the war Department determined that all information from overseas had to be censored to ensure that nothing of value would be unwittingly released to the enemy. To accomplish this, the Army imposed censorship on all soldiers and officers outgoing mail, telegrams and cables. The censorship also included all photography and moving picture footage taken by civilian photographers. It also extended to every word written by the newspaper correspondents and journalists who flocked to Europe to cover every move that the AEF made as it brought ‘Kaiser Bill, to his knees.

 

War correspondents that covered the AEF were divided into two categories, i.e. accredited and visiting. A General Order issued by GHQ explained the difference between the two:

 

War correspondents will be divided into two classes, accredited and visiting. The accredited correspondents will live permanently with the army. Visiting correspondents will come for tours with the Army.

 

AEF General order, number and date unknown

During the first few months of the war no official guidelines in regard to the dress of correspondents and photographers were issued by the War Department. Therefore, like the personnel of the various relief and charitable organizations, early war correspondents and photographers equipped themselves in a wide variety of military style clothing purchased from commercial vendors in America, England or France. This, of course, made their appearance vastly different from the official Army Signal Corps Photographers whose duty was to record the activities of the AEF on film.

 

Photo No. 88: It’s obvious that the two American journalists on the left were outfitted in the United Kingdom as both of their “uniforms” have a decidedly British look. In contrast, Signal Corps photographers like the one on the right were dressed the same as any other AEF officer or enlisted man.

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As early as 1914 or 1916, the U.S. Army made allowances for correspondents to travel with the military, so long as they were properly attired and identified by the proper insignia, which was described as follows:

428. Garb. — Every correspondent shall provide himself with olive-drab garb for the field. He shall wear no accouterments not of a neutral tint. He shall be supplied with a white brassard 1 ½  inches in width, bearing the letter C in red, to be worn on the left arm, in order that his status with the army may be known at aglance by both officers and privates. Messengers* shall observe the same regulations about garb, with the exception that their brassard shall bear the letter M. 
 Army Field Service Regulations, U.S. Army, 1914, corrected to December 20, 1916, page 168
*Note that in the above context, a “messenger” was the correspondent’s civilian assistant. He carried the news reports written by the correspondent, after they had been censored to the telegraph office where they were transmitted to the appropriate news agency.

In September of 1917, it was determined that the attire of all accredited correspondent embedded in the AEF should conform more closely to those worn by officers in the U.S. Army. It was further decided that a special brassard would also be worn. Both the uniform and brassard were described thusly:

 

Accredited Correspondents. He shall provide himself with an American officer’s uniform, without insignia, and with a green brassard bearing the letter C, in red.

 

AEF General Orders No. 36, September 12, 1917

Another General Order issued sometime in 1918, amended the above General Order. The changes were as follows:

 

4. Paragraph 3 of G.O. No. 36, September 12, 1917, these headquarters, so far as relates to the uniform of accredited correspondents, IS REVOKED.

Accredited correspondents will wear the American officers’ uniform without any insignia of rank or arm of service. They will wear “U.S.” on the collar of the uniform, Sam Browne belt and a green brassard bearing the letter “C” in red. Overseas cap piping will be of green and red braid.

 

AEF General order, number and date unknown

The same General Order went on to describe the clothing and insignia that was now to be worn by a visiting correspondent:

 

Visiting correspondents may wear such clothing as they may see fit, but will not wear the American officers’ uniform, the letters “U.S.” on the collar, or the Sam Browne belt. They will be furnished with a white brassard bearing the letter “C” in red.

 

AEF General order, number and date unknown

Photo No. 89: Both the green Accredited Correspondent and the white Visiting Correspondent Brassards are shown at left and right respectively.

On the left is Floyd Gibbons, the correspondent for the Chicago Tribune newspaper is wearing the red on green Accredited Correspondents Brassard. Gibbons covered both the Mexican Revolution and the Punitive Expedition prior to WW I. While on his way to cover the war in Europe on February 27, 1917, his vessel the Laconia was torpedoed and sunk some 200 miles off the coast of Ireland. After a night in a small boat on the open sea, the first thing that Gibbons did upon reaching dry land was cable the incident to his editor. It was later reported in Washington D.C. that his firsthand account of unrestricted submarine warfare was one of the determining factors that swayed public opinion in favor of going to war in Europe.

Gibbons met General Pershing when he landed in Liverpool in May and was at his side when the Commander in Chief of the AEF first set foot on French soil. He was also one of only two correspondents to march with the first American troops that entered the trenches on the Western Front. On June 6, 1918, Gibbons went over the top with Major John Berry, USMC among the first waves of attacking Marines in the great battle for possession of the Bois de Belleau. It was there where he was shot in the left arm, shoulder and eye by a German machine gun as he attempted to rescue Major Berry who had fallen during the attack. For his actions, he was cited by General Petain, the Commander in Chief of the French Armies and awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm.

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Photo No. 90: The Accredited and Visiting Correspondent Brassards were identical to the armbands issued for the same purpose in the British Army. Both of these “armbands” offered for sale on eBay United Kingdom were listed as being WW I era. However, I believe them to be of either WW II vintage or possibly reproductions. Nevertheless they aptly show both the color, as well as the overall appearance of the brassards.

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Photo No. 91: Floyd Gibbons is shown here wearing his Croix de Guerre and the Accredited Correspondent Brassard in which the letter ‘C’ is barely visible. On the right is a British correspondent wearing a similar brassard. However, the letter ‘C’ appears to be in gold bullion rather than red.

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Accredited Photographer Brassard

The same General Order that described the correspondent brassards did the same for the Accredited Photographer Brassard:

 

5. Accredited Photographers will wear the same uniform as accredited correspondents except that the brassard will be blue, with white letter “P”.

 

AEF General order, number and date unknown

Photo No. 92: In the absence of any authentic WW I photographs, I’ve included this photo of an official Signal Corps photography section, and a reproduction of a WW II Photographer’s Brassard, which despite the fact that it’s made from green material rather than blue, it’s still a reasonable representation of what a WW I brassard would have looked like, so long as you remember that the background should be blue!

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Railway Transport Officer Brassard

The RTO Brassard was described as follows in General Orders issued sometime in 1918:

 

3. A railway transport officer (R.T.O.) will be stationed at every port; every important station on railway lines used by American E.F. and at such points as may be deemed necessary, R.T.O.’s will, whenever possible, be located at passenger stations. They will wear on the left arm, above the elbow, a brassard about 2 inches wide, of red and white bands, with black letters, two inches high reading, “R.T.O.”

AEF General order, number and date unknown

Photo No. 93: Many of the early arrivals to the AEF were the railway engineer regiments who laid the track, assembled the locomotives, maintained the rolling stock, and of course operated the trains. Clockwise from left are the SSI fir the: 34th Railway Engineers, 14th Railway Engineers (shop and supply), 32nd Railway Engineers (standard gauge railway construction), and the 16th Railway Transportation Corps.

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Transportation Department Brassard

The Transportation Department (TD) Brassard was described as follows in the same General Orders issued sometime in 1918. However, there was no mention of color of the brassard. The phrase ‘in a like manner,” may have meant that the color of the brassard and letters were to be the same as the RTO Brassard:

 

All other designated representatives of the Transportation Department will, in a like manner wear a brassard, 3 inches wide, with black letters, two and one-half inches high, reading “T.D.”

AEF General order, number and date unknown

Photo No. 94: The Motor Transport Corps (MTC) was formed out of the QTMC by General Orders No. 75, dated August 15, 1918. The bulk of the men who staffed the new corps were comprised of skilled tradesmen from the American automotive industry. The MTC was responsible for the design, procurement, storage, maintenance, replacement and supervision of all motor vehicles in the AEF. Motor vehicles were defined as: bicycles, motorcycles, automobiles, trucks and trailers. Caterpillar tractors and tanks did not fall under the purview of the MTC, as they were the sole responsibility of the Ordnance Department.

The variety of SSI worn by the Motor Transport Corps (MTC) is evident by this selection of SSI; all of which are comprised of variations of the initials ‘MTC’, as well as a wheel with spokes or the winged helmet of Mercury.

 

 

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Motorcycle Dispatch Service Brassard

The Motor Dispatch Service Brassard (MDS) was also mentioned in the same General Orders issued sometime in 1918. However, the colors of the brassard were not given:

 

5. Couriers for this special service will also wear the M.D.S. brassard.

AEF General order, number and date unknown

Photo No. 95: Here two AEF couriers or dispatch riders, both of whom look to be wearing red brassards bearing the letters ‘MDS’ in black. Beneath, is a MDS Brassard that was part of the effects of a Doughboy who served in the 7th Infantry Division and the Army of Occupation. This is the only example of a MDS Brassard that I have ever seen. The fact that the letters ‘MDS’ are in white, instead of black on a red field, could suggest that the color scheme of the brassard was changed at a later date … perhaps for better visibility? The crudeness of the brassard’s construction makes it look as if it was theater made. If this was the case, it’s possible that there was no black material available, and white fabric was used instead of black.

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AEF Fire Marshal Brassard

After America declared war on Imperial Germany, the QTMC soon realized the great danger from fire in the hundreds of wooden buildings that has sprung up all across the nation to house the millions of arriving volunteers, recruits and conscripts. Provisions for camp fire departments were made and fire stations were erected in training camps, troop staging areas, warehouse storage facilities and at Army hospitals. Camp fire marshals, officers, NCOs and soldiers with experience in big city fire departments were culled from the officer corps and the arriving recruits to help fill the ranks. Overseas, the AEF created similar fire fighting outfits to protect the myriad of installations that were constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from fire.

 

Photo No. 96: The photo on the left depicts the Fire Marshal of Brest and what one would assume to be his driver. Note that both men are wearing a brassard composed of two colors on the left arm. It’s possible that this brassard whether it was of AEF or French manufacture, might represent the office of the Fire Marshal and his staff. The close up of the two enlisted men from the following photo (both of whom were also members of the Brest Fire Brigade) are both wearing a dark colored brassard. This brassard could be the symbol of an AEF Fire Company or perhaps a French Fire Brigade.

 

Does any forum member know anything about U.S. Army or AEF firefighting insignia from WW I?

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AEF Fire Brigade Brassard

Photo No. 97: If you look closely, you’ll notice that all of these enlisted men from the Brest Fire Brigade are wearing matching brassards made from a dark color of fabric. There’s no way to know for sure, but logic dictates that these brassards indicate the men were part of either an AEF or French fire brigade.

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