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Ribbons, Patches and Medals….Oh, My!

February 11, 2013

In a post from June 24, 2012 entitled The GI Bill and Its Impact on Al’s Return, you can see the service  medals Al earned during his service in the Army.  They indicate where a soldier served during the war.  The information came from his service documents, but I couldn’t find the ribbons.  In the box recently discovered, many of Al’s medals, ribbons and patches lay waiting to be found.

His medals :

World War II Victory Ribbon

World War II Victory Ribbon

ARMY_GOOD_CONDUCT

Army Good Conduct Medal

American Theatre Service Ribbon

American Theatre Service Ribbon

These three ribbons are repeated in the bars he wore on his dress uniform.  In trying to distinguish the various ribbon bars, there was much frustration until we realized that some were more faded than others.  Believe it or not, these two bars (below) have the same ribbons shown:

?????????????????????????????If you look closely, you can see a few small stars on the bottom bar, few big ones on the top.  The small stars are known officially as “campaign participation stars” or “battle stars”.  They represent the number of battles in each theatre, one bigger star representing multiple smaller ones. The European Theatre (ETO) was divided into 19 main campaigns with specific times and geographic areas.  For example, the Normandy campaign lasted from June 6., 1944 through July 24, 1944. Any serviceman in that designated area during that time was allowed to wear one small star on his ribbon.

Al Patches

Al also had patches, representing  his units.  For example, the patch with the large A over the smaller 5, represents the Fifth Army.  The Fifth Army was activated in the European Theatre of Operations in 1942, under Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark. The unit played a major roe in Operation Avalanche, the invasion of Italy at Salerno in September, 1943.  Naples fell on October 1st and the The Army pushed on  By the time Germany surrendered in Italy, the Fifth Army had experienced 604 days of continuous combat.  The triangle patch is from the Seventh Army, which fought and conquered Sicily and Palermo.  They participated in the invasion of southern France among other battles, as well.

The patch on the top right represents the U.S. Army European Theater of Operations, whose mission was to prepare for and carry on military operations against the Axis powers. In early 1944, it relinquished its planning and tactical operations functions to the Supreme Allied headquarters. After that, it  mainly  was responsible for the administration and supply of U.S. troops. Finally, the patch in the bottom right represents the Ozark Division (the 102nd Infantry Division, which was activated in September, 1942, saw 173 days of combat in the Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns.  Because of the Army’s use of replacements in units to fill in for injured or deceased staff, there was alot of mobility in the ranks.

Finally, we have his rank patches.  He entered the Army  a green recruit and left it as a Corporal.

Al's Ranks

The top patch is for a Private First Class.  The second one was the one he wore longer as a Corporal. The monthly base pay for a “plain” private was $50/month after June, 1942.  Once a soldier made Private First Class, pay increased to $54/month.  A Corporal’s pay jumped to $68/month.  The bars on the bottom patch show longevity of service.

I researched this post through the web and by picking the brain of my father-in-law, another serviceman who served in World War II, who has proven to be a great resource for this project. Still, any mistakes are mine and mine alone, and I’m open to any corrections sent my way.

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8 Comments
  1. Richard Duffel permalink

    Thank you for putting all of this together and posting it. I have thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. My Father was corporal W.A. Duffel ,T5 medical corpsman, 548th AAA AwBn (Mbl). He was assigned to the battalion in 1943 and served with them until it was deactivated in the summer of 1945. The battalion was attached to the 102nd Infantry Division upon arrival in Normandy in the first part of October and moved onto the front lines in November of 1944. They were authorized to wear the division patch,The Ozark patch, in January of 1945. The blue and gold in the patch stand for valor and distinction. The patch in your photo should be rotated 90 degrees clockwise to depict the “O”, “Z”, and an “arc” for Ozark. It is a common mistake. I have an Ozark lapel pin on one of my sport coats and when soneone asks about it I explain it to them and then they say “Oh, now i see it”. Again , thank you so much for doing all of this, it is greatly appreciated.

    • Thank you for your informative reply. I’ll try to update the patch image so that it’s displayed correctly. This blog has been a source of education for me on all things World War II, and I continue to learn. Thanks again!

    • Did you notice that Al spent some time in the 548th AAA as well? He was sent there around December 19, 1944. It was with that unit, Al said, that he smoked his first cigar, a Robert Burns. On December 24th, he was sent out to “B” Btry and put in charge of the machine gun section of number “6” section situated at the front. He seemed to have stayed with that unit through the spring. I looked for your father’s name in Al’s autograph book, but didn’t see it. Surely their paths crossed. Thought you might like to know.

  2. Richard Duffel permalink

    I found your blog a few months ago when I googled the 548th looking for any updated information that might show up. Dad was assigned to Headquarters Btry. Being a medic in HQ Btry, he was in the battallion aid station. I”m sure that they saw each other if just in passing during all that time. Being a medic at the aid station at the time that Al was assigned to the battallion, during the Bulge, the aid station was overloaded with casualties from other units also. Dad said that he did not take his boots off for three weeks. One can only imagine the stories that are untold.

  3. My dad had a 5th Army patch too. He was a MP and did occupation duty in Germany. My mom wore his “Ike” jacket well into the 50’s.

    • Their stories certainly have similarity. Al found himself in the Quartermaster Depot Company after the war ended, protecting army property and supplies from the flourishing black market, and came home with them on the Montclair Victory in November of 1945. I appreciate you sharing your dad’s story with me.

      • Sure thing. He was in Stuttgart and Cologne. I wish I had paid more attention to the details when I was young. Your site is a nice tribute site to Al.

  4. found my granddad was in this unit got boxs of pics,year books ,letters, just getting started

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