US Army shoulder sleeve patches - the Guide

You will find on this page a full guide about the US Army patches, including WW2 patches. We will give you historical details about these patches and a list of US Army patches with pictures. 

History of the US Army patches

Civil War patches

It was during the Civil War that the first distinctive fabric patches appeared. They were simple geometric shapes cut out of colored cloth and sewn on headgear or coats.

WW1 US Army patches

But it was during the First World War, on the initiative of the Commander of the 81st Infantry Division (Major General C-J Bailey) that the first arm insignia of the US Army was created. This one took again the drawing of a wild cat which was in fact the symbol of the 'Wild Cat' county where had been raised the 81st ID.
It is at the beginning of August 1918, just before the departure of the division for France that were delivered the first specimens of the badge. The wearing of this insignia was not lawful, but it had such a success with the other units of the AEF (American Expeditionary Force) that the general staff decided on October 19, 1918 to authorize all the units stationed in France to wear a distinctive insignia.

Manufacturing of US Army insignia 

1) 1918 -> 192~
Until the twenties the manufacture of badges was carried out by sewing or gluing pieces of fabric or felt together. During the Great War, soldiers sometimes made their own insignia with pieces of colored fabric recovered from French and German uniforms.

2) 192~ -> 193~
During this period the first embroidered badges (Embroider) appear. They are made on felt or woollen cloth. We can also see badges that mix the two processes 'Cut and Paste' and 'Embroider'. In fact we glue or cost on a piece of fabric the symbol then we add embroidery afterwards.

3) 193~ -> 1968
Subsequently the mechanical means modernizing the manufacture was done by embroidery machines. In fact the military patch was embroidered on large strips of fabric (usually Khaki or Olive Drab color) and then cut by hand. We speak of manufacturing type 'Flat Edge', we also use the term 'Cut Edge'. The fabric used was cotton and the thread could be cotton or nylon.

It should be noted that during World War II, there were several types of manufacturers:

- Workshops of the US ARMY (recognizable by the olive green weft and edge)
- American Civilian Manufacturers
- Local manufacturers of the theaters of operations (Italy, France, Germany, Australia, ...)

We can therefore find for the same unit, a multitude of different insignia, whether by the design, the materials used (fabric texture, color of threads, ...), or size.

The locally made insignia in canetille, although worn, was not authorized by the high command.

During the 50s, the fabric used was the same color as the background color of the badge which allowed to use less embroidery weft or a certain economy of thread.

From 1957 to be in accordance with the new color of the uniforms, the border of the badges is made with thread of color Army Green.

In the 60's, the badges are made with fabric and nylon thread. This gives a much firmer texture to the badge compared to the badges made with cotton thread (softer).

4) 1966 -> 1968
Another badge variant appears for combat outfits, the subued version, i.e. bi-color (black and green).

5) 1968 -> to the present day
The manufacture is of Merrowed type, i.e. with hemmed edge. Indeed the main defect of the Flat edge badges was to fray. They are easily distinguishable thanks to the Trailing Edge or Pig Tail that protrudes from the badge.

Examples of US Army insignia manufacturing :

. Flat Edge :

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. Felt patches :

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. Local made insignia :

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. US-made insignia :

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. German-made insignia :

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. Merrowed edge patches

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Some examples of WW2 US insignia

Army group patches 

Here are some example of Army group patches of the WW2 :

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. Based in England, the 1st Army Group prepared the landing in Normandy 

. Based in Corsica, the 6th Army Group prepared the landing in Provence during WW2.

. The 12th Army Group prepared the liberation of France. (based in France)

. Based in North Africa, the 15th Army Group prepared the landing in Sicily and Italy.

WW2 Armies patches :

Here are the patches of the various armies of the US Army during WW2 :

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List of WW2 Army Corps Patches :

Here are an almost complete list of US Army Corps insignia of the Second World War : 

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List of WW2 Infantry Division Patches :

And here you will find an almost complete list of US Infantry Division insignia of WW2 :

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We hope you will find this list useful, we will complete it in the future weeks. 

A great book to learn everything about the US Military Patches :

If you are interested in US military patches, I recommend the book by J.L. Pete Morgan : "United States Military Patch Guide". It is a great reference book containing many new additional patches from the previous edition. It is a must-have for all US military patch collectors ! 

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Make Your Custom Patches

If you are very interested in Army patches from the Second World War, in addition to buying ready-made patches on the market, you can also customize them yourself. Just upload the Army badge picture to GS-JJ and you can start customizing. You can choose your favorite style and material. For example, custom embroidered patches, PVC patches, printed patches, etc. These patches are of exquisite quality and are great for collection, or you can use them to personalize your clothes or school bags.

A great book to learn about US military patches :

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More details here