Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The 45th Division Shoulder Patch

Each division in the US Army has its own shoulder patch. The 45th Division, made up of National Guard units from New Mexico and Arizona was one of the first unites to be shipped to Europe. They arrived in North Africa in May of 1943 and fought in Sicily, France and finished the war in Germany. Perhaps the 45th’s most famous member was Bill Malden, a cartoonist and creator of Bill and Joe, two archetypal infantrymen.

They did experience problems with its shoulder patch. Originally, they had chosen as their symbol an ancient Navajo good luck sign. However, the top brass suggested that they change it. They acceded to the brass’s request to remove the swastika, replacing it with a thunderbird symbol. I can only imagine what the reaction would have been in the closing days of the war, when the 45th liberated the Nazi death camp at Dachau. I can only imagine what the inmates would have thought had they seen their liberators wearing swastika shoulder patches.

The original 45th infantry insignia with the swastika is now one of the most highly prized bits of WWII memorabilia. On a similar topic, I have always admire the panache of an American soldier, Sergeant Paul Hitler. When he heard suggestions to change his name, Sergeant Hitler said, “Let that other guy change his name.”

The first design for the 45th's patch, and the redesign, from www.45thdivision.org/Veterans/Barnhart179.htm.

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