MARK R. HENRY, MIKE CHAPPELLTHE
SELECTION OF ARMY BRANCH COLOURS & INSIGNIA
Airborne units displayed an additional 'Airborne' title above their patch to show their status; they also wore a parachute, glider, or later a combined patch on their overseas caps. All armoured divisions and independent tank battalions used the triangular Armored Force patch divided red/yellow/blue (for the antecedent artillery, cavalry and infantry branches) differenced by divisional and unit numerals. (It was only after VE-Day that they began to add strips to the bottom of their triangular patches bearing their nicknames, the 2nd Armored Division's 'Hell on Wheels' being among the first seen.)
Patches were machine-embroidered onto khaki cotton cloth; original World War II patches sometimes show the khaki around the edges, and have a soft off-white rear surface. Some patches were fabricated overseas by local tailors, and bullion-embroidered versions were sometimes available. GIs who served in combat with more than one organisation were authorised to wear the patch of their original combat unit on the right shoulder of the service dress, at the same time as the current patch on the left.
In World War I both the 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisions were awarded the right to wear a fourragère or French-style left shoulder cord, in the green flecked with red of the Croix de Guerre ribbon, as a collective decoration to mark their service to France. In World War II members of those divisions were also authorised to wear it as a remembrance of their forbears' service, but this was rarely seen; actual World War I veterans still in service sometimes wore the fourragère, however.
During World War II the French began once again to award the fourragère to US units; the great majority of these awards were made near the end of the war. When seen worn by GIs the cords tended to be of the old World War I issue; the fourragère for the World War II Croix de Guerre had a slightly different coloration, of red flecked with green, and was in particularly short supply. Post-war GIs wore both kinds. Availability of these items from ruined and only recently liberated France was naturally disorganised. There were two design variants; one was a simple plaited cord, intended to be worn from the left epaulette button down the back of the shoulder, passing forward under the armpit and fixing by a loop to a front button, with a hanging brass ferrule. The other, more elaborate version had a long extra length of smooth cord which was supposed to be arranged under the epaulette so as to hang on the outside of the arm in two loops. Unknowing GIs did wear them on the correct shoulder, but in any number of ways. These cords were also awarded by the Belgian and Dutch governments. The red/green Belgian Croix de Guerre fourragère was worn on the right shoulder; the orange cord of the Dutch Wilhelm's Order was worn on the left, passing into the breast pocket. (Examples are illustrated on Plate H.)
D-Day, Utah beach: two 4th Division medics work on a wounded comrade. Note the 'Ivy' patch on the left shoulder of the casualty's HBTs - not a usual practice in Normandy. The wounded medic still wears his assault gasmask and yoke-style web harness. Medics generally went in on D-Day wearing a minimum of red cross markings.
Most units seem to have been semi-officially notified of their authorisation to wear these distinctions soon after YT.-Day. It commonly took until the 1950s for the official orders authorising these awards to be confirmed.
Women's Army uniforms were almost universally condemned for their poor fit and appearance. By VE-Day, however, they had some of the most practical and best-looking uniforms of any of the women's services. The 1942 drab service dress for enlisted WAACs/WACs consisted of a hip-length tunic with four brass buttons, in the same drab brownish colour (OD shade 54) as used by male personnel. It had scallop-flapped internal breast pockets and plain slashed lower pockets. A skirt reaching to just below the knee, and the stiff-billed 'Hobby' hat, were both in matching drab brown (see also MAA 342, Plate B2). A russet brown shoulder-purse was issued to be carried with this uniform. WAAC/WAC officers wore the same general style of uniform as the enlisted women. Their coat and hat were made of wool barathea in the Army officers' dark green/chocolate colour (OD shade 51), and worn with a skirt made in the colour of officers' 'pinks'. The first coat issued had transverse shoulderstraps and an integral belt; the later model had normal epaulettes and no belt. In service dress, WACs wore sensible russet brown laced low-heel shoes, and sometimes brown gloves.
With the 1943 enrolment of the Auxiliaries of the WAAC into the regular Army the new Women's Army Corps dropped their 'walking buzzard' insignia in favour of the standard US eagle. They retained the use of the Athena head branch insignia, though many WACs serving with a specific branch - e.g. the Air Corps - wore that collar insignia instead.
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