Military personnel, police officers, have grown fond of morale patches, with the age-old tradition remaining strong a century after it became a thing. Military morale patches are typically small strips of fabrics with letters, quotes, logos, or insignia sewn into the uniform. They are traditionally used to identify membership of a unit and are supposed to elicit loyalty or pride from the member wearing them.
1. Military Morale Patches are more than 100 Years Old
Having been around since the first World War, morale patches have a deep rooted military history. The first one in US Army history was worn by the 81st Division Wildcats, who wanted a simple and easy-to-identify unit representation. Shortly after, every division was ordered to create their own designs, something the police and military departments have held onto since.
2. Morale Patches did not begin in the Military
The first moral patch was created back in the late 18th century by then-US president George Washington. The recipient was French balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard who had visited to demonstrate his hot air balloon.
However, since he couldn’t decide where his balloon flew or landed and even speak English, he needed a way to communicate with the locals in his eventual destination and ask directions back to Philadelphia where his flight started. The president created a blood chit obligating any American who bumped into Blanchard to help him. The note worked, and chits were later incorporated into official military use.
3. Individualisation Bore Morale Patch Trading
When morale patches were first introduced, there were not many laws dictating what a soldier could put on them, leading to a great deal of customisation. Soldiers could include humorous messages revealing their personalities and expressing their loyalty to their divisions, a trend that gave birth to patch trading and collecting. In an era where armed forces and law enforcement officers were not particularly approachable in the eyes of the public, trading went a long way toward bringing unity between the two parties.
4. The Term ‘Morale Patch’ was first used in the Vietnam War
Before the Vietnam War (1955-1975), ‘morale patch’ was not a known term. Soldiers started using the name to tell apart approved tactical patches from unapproved ones, which bore humorous messages mostly about the war, which had bred division among citizens back at home. During World War I, morale patches were simply referred to as tactical patches.
5. Morale Patches are not Entirely Approved
Unsanctioned morale patches became extremely common after the Vietnam War, giving a misleading impression that they had been approved. Many soldiers still keep sarcastic patches to date, but thanks to restrictions it is rare to find anyone wearing theirs during official duty. It is also worth noting that various divisions have different restrictions, and there is no particular military rule outlawing the use of morale patches.
For both military personnel and the general public, morale patches carry a lot of significance. They are still being collected and traded today. However, unlike in the past, where embroidered patches dominated the market, today’s manufacturers are offering them in a variety of materials and designs as they look to appeal to various preferences.