Immediately prior to World War One there were no divisions organized within the U.S. Army. In 1917 the United States organized three classes of troops:
There are certain situations in which a uniform might have more than one shoulder sleeve insignia, but in general one shoulder sleeve insignia was worn on the left sleeve. Some exception include:
MY NAME IS MARK JENNINGS OF REDFORD, MI ASMIC MEMBER #2771 (NEW MEMBER)
I AM STARTING A RESEARCH PROJECT. I HAVE COLLECTED SSI FOR OVER 20 YEARS. I HAVE GOTTEN MORE SERIOUS THE LAST TWO YEARS. I AM VERY INTERESTED IN GREENBACK AND OLIVE DRAB BORDER VARIATIONS OF WW II SSI.
THERE IS A LOT OF GENERAL INFO ABOUT THESE INSIGNIAS, BUT NOTHING SOLID. IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT THE ODB'S WERE MADE BECAUSE GI'S HAD OD THREAD IN THEIR SEWING KITS. SOUNDS LOGICAL, BUT I HAVE NO FACTS.
IT HAS BEEN TOLD AND RE-TOLD TO ME THAT GREENBACKS WERE MADE FROM 1940 UNTIL SOMETIME IN 1943. I HAVE NO SOLID INFO ON THIS FACT. I HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT ONLY ONE COMPANY MADE GREENBACKS. I HAVE BEEN TOLD SEVERAL COMPANIES MANUFACTURED GREENBACKS. IF GB'S WERE DISCONTINUED IN 1943 WHY DON'T SOME OF THE DIVISIONS ORGANIZED EARLY IN THE WAR AND AUTHORIZED PATCHES NOT REPRESENTED BY GB'S OR ODB'S?
I AM AFTER THE FOLLOWING INFOMATION AND I HOPED YOU COULD TELL ME OR STEER ME IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.
I believe that it is possible to over-interpret the significance of variations in manufacture of insignia. The Quartermaster Corps did write specifications and control quality, but within the specifications there might be a great deal of latitude. The olive drab borders may reflect the fact that embroidered on wool patches that were previously in use naturally had a visible olive drab border. Official drawings and patterns would have reflected this. When the fully machine embroidered patches were first introduced they copied the border of the earlier manufacturing style. At some point someone questioned, "Why are we setting up an additional and unnecessary olive drab colored border on these patches?" The "greenbacks" may exist because a manufacturer had a great deal of green bobbin thread on hand or used it out of habit. It would be interesting to know more of the history of greenbacks and I hope that other collectors will help Mark in his project.
J Holmgren wrote:
As you know, there are two versions of the Kiska Task Force patch. One is embroidered (and there are several variations in the design and color) and one is apparently silk-screened on canvas or oilcloth. I would appreciate your thoughts on which one (or both?), was worn during the August 1943 invasion. A veteran told me that the original plan was to wear a white insignia on both sleeves. He said that it was vetoed by the Alaska Scouts as creating a too visible target. He did not know if this was in addition to, or instead of the Task Force patch, as apparently the Scouts (aka Castner's Cutthroats) did not wear the latter. They wore only the Alaska Department polar bear. I saw an old uniform which had, in addition to the cloth Alaska Department insignia, a metal enamel pin about the size of a nickel with the same design. Was this an extra, or part of the uniform? This is the only old Alaska Department pin I have seen.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
Jill in Alaska
Philippe Masy wrote:
Could you give me an explanation about the fact that the shoulder patches are worn on the left shoulder in the US Army?
This is a very basic question, the answer to which I do not know. The insignia of the current unit has been worn only on the left since World War One when shoulder sleeve insignia were first worn by the 81st "Wildcat" Division. It is likely that these were bought with unit funds, since they were not official issued insignia. No doubt it was decided only to wear them on one side to save money. It is customary for anything with a head in an insignia to face forward. If the cat were originally drawn with its head facing the viewer's left it would have been logical to put it on the left sleeve. It is possible that the side originally was arbitrary and might have been either. Once the 81st decided to wear on the left everyone else followed.