Militaria: Q&A: Submarine Badge and Marines in Army Patches

The submarine combat patrol badge, top, and SSBN deterrent patrol badge. (Images: U.S. Navy)
The submarine combat patrol badge, top, and SSBN deterrent patrol badge. (Images: U.S. Navy)

Jim Carpenter asks when the Navy's submarine combat badge was approved and what its history is. The Navy approved the badge early in World War II to recognize service on a combat patrol during which the wearer's sub sank an enemy vessel or accomplished a combat mission of equal importance -- for instance, landing a demolition team on hostile territory.

Submariners wore the badge below their service ribbons on the left breast. After a first combat patrol, the submariner got the badge. Patrols two through four earned one gold star each in the holes at the bottom of the badge. After his fifth successful combat patrol, the submariner replaced the three gold stars with a single silver star. After seven patrols (one silver and two gold stars), the sailor had to drill a fourth and fifth hole in the badge before getting to two silver stars for 10 patrols. We have no idea who earned the most stars during the war, but would love to hear from anyone who does.

The submarine combat patrol badge is still authorized but rarely seen on uniforms today. However, the ballistic missile submarine deterrent patrol badge, commonly worn by veteran submariners of today's Navy, recalls the design and purpose of the original badge.

Marines in the Indianhead Division

Thomas McGeeney notes that James Cagney's brother in the classic film "Public Enemy" wears a 2nd Infantry Division patch on his World War I Marine Corps uniform. We are pleased to confirm McGeeney's suspicions that this is accurate to the period.

Two examples of the 2nd Infantry Division's Indianhead patch.

The first American troops to deploy after the U.S. entry into World War I assembled quickly to move to France as expeditionary forces. They organized as the 1st and 2nd Divisions in France, the latter on Oct. 26, 1917. It was a provisional field organization at the time, probably not expected to remain in continuous service as an Army unit after the war. The 2nd Division's 2nd Brigade consisted of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments, along with the 6th Marine Machine Gun Battalion. Army units made up the division's 1st and 3rd Brigades.

Two Marines commanded the 2nd Division during periods of World War I -- Maj. Gen. Charles A. Doyen during its first two weeks of existence, and later but more famously, Maj. Gen. John A. Lejeune, namesake of Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Marines of this brigade won immortal fame in the Battle of Belleau Wood during June 1918 and, as McGeeney notes, wore patches that since have been strictly Army insignia.

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