Military patches are sewn on military uniforms and are regarded as Shoulder Sleeve Insignia. Every patch is unique to units, divisions, brigades, and every aspect of the U.S. Military. Many of the patches are designed by the Institute of Heraldry and every color and design has an intent and purpose.
During the Vietnam War, there were units specifically created and reinstated for the conflict. Along with the creation of units come the design of patches and insignia.
Units Created in/for Vietnam
Many of the units that served in Vietnam were created specifically for the war and disbanded afterward and served under multiple branches. The creation of units and divisions sprung from the increasing need of U.S. forces in South Vietnam as the conflict raged on.
A handful of the units that were created and disbanded after Vietnam are:
- MACV, Military Assistance Command
- United States Army Vietnam
- I Field Force, Vietnam
- II Field Force, Vietnam
- 1st Aviation Brigade
- MAC-V SOG
The Signal Corps
The Signal Corps is a corp of the U.S. Army and played a huge role in the Vietnam War; the Signal Corp is the Army’s communication arm and carried high-stakes roles throughout the war. As the war waged on, so did the need for cross-country communication, and with that demand came more brigades and the need for more troops on the ground.
During the war, the Signal Corps had more than 21,000 soldiers, six signal groups, 22 signal battalions, and specialized communications agencies.
Many of the Vietnam-specific Signal battalions, companies, and groups, were deactivated after Vietnam. Some of the Signal Corps in Vietnam were:
- 1st Signal Brigade
- 556th Signal Company
- 510th Signal Company
Unit Military Patches
Each unit that was created for and during Vietnam has a distinctive patch with its own pattern. A reoccurring theme with Vietnam era military patches, especially for the Army and multi-service units listed above, is a vertical sword in the center of the patch. The Signal Corps’ tell-tale sign is the presence of a lightning bolt somewhere on the patch. The lightning bolt represents the radio signals sent out by their equipment.
Many military patches are designed and authorized via the Institute of Heraldry, responsible for the design of medals, ribbons, badges, and patches, for each branch of the military. But because of the urgency and quick reaction to forming and deploying units, some of the patches were not “officially” designed and released. For example, the MAC-V SOG patch was created by the members of the unit.
MACV: Military Assistance Command, Vietnam: The MACV unit patch is in the shape of a typical ‘crest’, where the top is rounded and the bottom of the patch is a point. The body of the patch is a brick red with a sword in the center of the patch. The blade is white and the hilt is the same color gold as the border of the patch and the other interior design of the patch.
United States Army, Vietnam: Another patch that has the sword as a centerpiece, the United States Army Vietnam patch has a white sword with a gold hilt in the center of the patch that is the same shape as the MACV patch. This patch features one gold, one blue, and one red horizontal stripe in the patch with a white border.
I Field Force, Vietnam: This unit patch has a very unique patch shape, it fans out at the top like the previous patches, curves in at the center, fans back out to create two parallel points and curves back in to make a point at the bottom. It, again, has a white sword and gold hilt. There are red, yellow, and blue diagonal stripes. The gold stripe is thinner than the other two and goes corner to corner of the patch, and the red fills the top of the patch and blue at the bottom.
II Field Force, Vietnam: Similar to the I Field Force patch the II Field Force patch has the same red, blue, and gold and kept the patch shape and iconic sword design. This time, there is a blue skyward arrow encasing the sword. The top part of the patch, parallel to the bottom triangle of the arrow is red, and the rest of the patch is gold. The patch also has a white outline as opposed to white.
1st Aviation Brigade: The 1st Aviation Brigade patch is a little more distinct than the rest of the patches on this list. The color scheme of gold, red, and blue are present in the patch but not how the trend has gone. The background color of the patch is all blue, with a gold border. There is, of course, a vertical sword in the center of the design, this time the hilt of the sword is red. Perched on the hilt of the sword is a gold eagle.
MAC-V SOG: The MAC-V SOG patch was created by the men that served in it rather than the Institute of Heraldry. Different from the other patches listed, the center of the patch has a skull in a green beret and around the skull is a black and gold starburst with jagged lines. The patch is in the same shape as the MACV patch down to the gold border. It has a red background as well as part of an anchor at the bottom and a Master Air Force Pilot wings at the top above the skull.
1st Signal Brigade: Reminiscent of the MACV patch, the 1st Signal Brigade patch is in the shape of a shield with a gold border and features a sword front and center. This time, the vertical sword has a blade in the shape of a lightning bolt, a classic icon of the Signal Corps. The patch has three stripes, the two stripes on the outside are orange, and the center stripe is blue.
556th Signal Company: The 556th Signal Company has the classic lightning bolt going from the left corner of the patch to the right bottom, dividing the patch. In the gold colored bolt the Company’s number is sewn in, and below the number is the nickname of the Company, “Mountain Men”, and has a red background. The upper right portion of the patch, above the bolt’s division, is blue with the design of a radio tower and radio signals in gold.
510th Signal Company: This patch has a black radio tower and the bolt-shaped signals coming from it as well. The rocker at the bottom of the patch has “VIET NAM” stitched. In black as well The Patch is all white with red stitching on the border and has “510th Signal Company” in orange.
Military Patches worn and made during Vietnam are huge collector’s items for Vietnam Veterans, their family, historians, or anyone who loves history. The military patches represent not just a uniform insignia but people the veterans served with, their friends, and the experiences they went through fighting the war.