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American Military Patches, Other Insignia and Decorations of World War Two by Dr. Howard G. Lanham c.2002

Variations of Shoulder Sleeve Insignia

Second World War

China Burma India Theater


Captain Robert Phillips and his wife Ruth
(Courtesy: Christina Sharik)

The China Burma India Theater shoulder sleeve insignia is presented as a study in variations that exist for a given shoulder sleeve insignia. Certainly with respect to theater-made shoulder sleeve insignia C.B.I. variations are perhaps the most numerous. I do not claim that I show all existing variations. The United States Armed Forces, China Burma India Theater was established on March 4, 1942 to control American forces on the Asia mainland. The goal of the force was to assist American allies, particularly China, in containing Japanese expansion westward. The C.B.I. Theater did not contain large numbers of U.S. combat troops, but posed logistical problems beyond any previously faced by the U.S. Army. From India to the interior of mainland China thousands of American soldiers ran railroads, built roads, provided medical care, flew cargo planes, trained Chinese troops, etc.

The shoulder sleeve insignia of the China Burma India Theater was approved November 13, 1944, but had seen unofficial use since 1942. It is interesting that a veteran I spoke to said that he never saw a CBI patch used in the field until he was getting ready to come home. Still the number of variations of the insignia is among the greatest of any shoulder sleeve insignia of the Second World War. Hand made bullion embroidered patches are particularly well represented.

Machine Embroidered U.S. Made

Machine Embroidered
light blue ring in sun
Machine Embroidered
thinner dark blue ring in sun
Machine Embroidered thinner width,
wider light blue ring in sun

Fully machine embroidered patches are generally made in the United States.

Cotton Hand Embroidered Theater Made

Theater made 1 Theater made 2
Cotton Hand Embroidered
larger upper section (fess ordinary 1)
Cotton Hand Embroidered
smaller upper section (chief ordinary 2)
Theater made 3 Theater made 4
Cotton Hand Embroidered
More detail in Sun
Cotton Hand Embroidered
On Blue Trill

These shoulder sleeve insignia appear to be embroidered by hand with heavy cotton thread. Their manufacture is not typical of U.S. made shoulder sleeve insignia but the workmanship is of very high quality. The bottom part is woven.

Bullion Embroidered

Bullion Embroidered 1 Bullion Embroidered 2 Bullion Embroidered 3 Bullion Embroidered 4
Bullion Embroidered
bullion horizonal in the sun
Bullion Embroidered
bullion vertical in the sun
Bullion Embroidered
Bullion Embroidered
scalloped top

Many soldiers had hand embroidered insignia made for their uniforms and wore them in place of issued insignia. These are very similar in manufacture style suggesting a common point of origin.


Stenciled embroidered embroidered
Stenciled Hand Embroidered in Cotton Tread
Hand Embroidered in Cotton Tread
Cotton (Indian Made)
embroidered leather leather metal
Hand Embroidered in Cotton Tread
Cotton (Indian Made)
Leather Smaller Leather Star and Sun in brass

Stenciled shoulder sleeve insignia are very unusual for American insignia. The hand embroidered in cotton ones have wool as the base material in the upper part and either gabardine or cotton in the lower part. CBI shoulder sleeve insignia were also made in leather for A-2 jackets.

  1. A term in heraldry indicating a shield the top part of which is half.
  2. A term in heraldry indicating a shield the top part of which is a third.

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