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U. S. Army Airborne and Glider Troop Garrison Caps and patches of WW2: Part 3

In 1941 there was much fan fare about the new Airborne Corps. Things were buzzing even at the highest levels of command. It seems that every aspect of the paratroops was visited and uniforms were no exception. Keeping with the tradition of high morale and esprit de’ corps a special cloth insignia was authorized to be worn on the garrison cap. Initially the insignia was to be worn on the left side for both officers and enlisted troops. In 1943 the regulations directed the officer’s insignia to be worn on the left side of the cap. This caused a problem as it obscured the cap patch and made identification of rank difficult even at moderate ranges. One can imagine the butt-chewings that resulted from this practice as the less than overly observant soldier failed to distinguish the officer’s rank insignia in front of the cap patch. This practice was discontinued and the officer’s cap patch was moved to the right side of the cap.[1] Early original caps with the officer’s edge cord and both the rank and the cap patch on the same side are rare indeed. The example depicted shows a 1st pattern, summer-weight khaki garrison cap for warrant officers with black and silver edge cord. It has both the Infantry Paratrooper cap patch and the Warrant Officer insignia on the left side as directed in 1943. As the war progressed different designs emerged for glider troops and eventually a generic para-glider version.

The first patch was for Infantry paratroopers. It consisted of a round patch, approximately 1 7/8” in diameter, infantry blue in color, with white embroidered edge and a parachute embroidered in white on the center. The parachute consisted of a white canopy with 4 gores, (individual canopy panels), and 5 shroud lines. Some versions have 5 gores and 6 shroud lines. The gores were scalloped on the bottom and from the points of each scallop extended one of the 5 shroud lines. The shroud lines came to a point near the lower center of the patch. The canopy was approximately 1 ¼” wide and ½” high and the shroud lines about 1” long. The circle embroidered on the edge was about 1/8” thick. As with all patches manufactured during WW2 numerous variations exist in parachute design, number of shroud lines, colors and types of materials used and the width of embroidery of all components.

Once paratroopers of different combat arms were trained new patch colors arose. For Artillery and Engineer troops the background of the patch was red with white embroidery.

With the formation of glider infantry and glider artillery units a new cap patch was needed. This consisted of a round patch, 1 7/8” in diameter, with white edge embroidery and a white embroidered glider in the center. The glider was very simple in design and consisted of an angled fuselage with canopy details, a set of angled wings and a simple vertical and horizontal stabilizer. The wings are about 1 5/8” long from tip to tip, the fuselage about 1 ½” from canopy to tail and the dimensions of the remaining empennage 3/8” or so. A landing skid with two struts was also included. The fuselage of early patches was embroidered with an upper and lower fuselage part giving the appearance of a hollow craft. In the later Para-Glider patches the fuselage is solid. On the front of the fuselage is embroidered a towline. [2] On officers cap patches the glider faces to the right, and the enlisted glider to the left. This allows the glider to face forward when sewn on the correct side of the cap. Some examples show the improper patch sewn on the wrong side, indicating possibly an unavailability of correctly facing patches or a poor collectors misguided attempt to “put together” an original patch with an original cap. For infantry troops the colors are: white embroidery, (sometimes light blue) on a blue background, and for artillery/engineer troops white embroidery on a scarlet background. As with the paratrooper patch many variations exist in color, material and dimensions. Some specific variations to these are covered later.

As the war progressed a new variation in design emerged. This was called the Para-Glider cap patch. It consisted of a glider, as described above, superimposed over a parachute, also as described above. Initial production included an infantry version with white or light blue embroidery on a blue background and an artillery/engineer version, white on scarlet. The final color scheme allowed a one-patch-serves-all design. It was the white embroidered para-glider design, on an ultramarine blue background with a scarlet embroidered edge. This is the same design used today.


[1] Gerard Devlin, Paratrooper! (New York: St. Martin’s Press,  1979), p. 92

[2] Some collectors refer to this as the pitot tube, but that convention is, in the author’s opinion, incorrect. On nearly all examples the towline connects to the front fuselage and intersects the outer edge embroidery signifying the towline connected to the tug aircraft.

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