Big Red One Patch

Big Red One Patch

Two legends have emerged in answer to the question about the origins of the Big Red One shoulder patch.

The first story says that during World War I, First Division supply trucks were of English Manufacture, so the drivers painted a huge figure “1” on each truck to distinguish their vehicles from those of the other Allies. Later, First Division Engineers carried this measure a step further by sewing a red patch on their sleeves on which was placed the number “1.”

The second, more-often quoted tale involves a general and a lieutenant. According to this version, during the build-up and training days of 1917, a general officer decided that the Division needed a suitable shoulder sleeve insignia. He proceeded to cut a crude numeral “1” from a ragged suit of his flannel underwear. When a brash young lieutenant saw the red numeral, he shouted, “the general’s underwear is showing!” The general shouted back, “all right young man, if you’re so smart, come up with something better.” The lieutenant produced a prototype of today’s patch, using a piece of cloth (probably grey) from a captured soldier’s uniform on which he placed the red “1”.

In October 1918, the patch as it is now known, a red “1” on a solid olive green background, was officially approved for wear by members of the Division.

Proudly worn, the patch symbolizes the legacy and tradition that binds all generations of those who have worn the Big Red One.