Dedicated to Preservation of the History of the US Air Force and the US Space Force Through Their Patches

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Notice to Airmen

29 January 2023 — Apologies for the lengthly delay but USAFpatches.com is back online. A software update went wrong which necessitated the down time rebuild the site.  I am still in the process of rebuilding portions, so please bear with me. Please feel free to contact me if you run into an problems.

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A patch is a design depicted on cloth or other material, such as leather or PVC, that can be affixed to a uniform. Besides uniforms, patches can be seen affixed to helmet bags, engine covers, shadow boxes, cubicles, and many other places. Patches foster unit cohesion and morale.
USAF and USSF patches trace their origins back to World War I. In 1917, the Army authorized “enlisted men of the Aviation Service” to “wear embroidered insignia on the right sleeve just below the shoulder.” This insignia consisted of their squadron number embroidered on a blue background with white, embroidered crossed propellers below. These insignia are the first “official” squadron patches.

In 1918, as the war was coming to a close, General John J Pershing, authorized the wear of Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (SSI) by US Army personnel in theater. Some service members wore modified SSIs which added a roundel to denote being part of the Air Service.

While squadron insignia were authorized for use on aircraft, they were not officially authorized for uniform wear. Despite being against regulations, some Air Service members wore unauthorized patches, the earliest examples of Air Force “morale patches”.

During the period between World War I and World War II, patches based on the squadron insignia approved for aircraft or on the Distinctive Unit Insignia for the group-level and above were sometimes worn by pilots and other aircrew members on their flight jackets. This includes the legendary “A-2” jacket adopted by the Air Corps in 1931.

In 1937, the Secretary of War authorized a SSI for personnel serving in the General Headquarters Air Force, thus becoming the first widely worn officially approved patch by Airmen.

World War II is the considered the heyday of military insignia and patches. The Army Air Forces (AAF) continued the optional wear of flight jacket patches and expanded the practice to coveralls worn by maintenance personnel.

The AAF “Hap Arnold” insignia was approved in February 1942 and authorized for wear as a SSI for all AAF members. In March 1943, the first Numbered Air Force insignia were approved and patches were made for wear by their assigned personnel.

Unofficial morale patches were also made and worn by AAF personnel. Patches were highly popular not just among service personnel but also the general public.

By the time World War II ended in 1945, millions of patches were produced for service members.

On 18 September 1947, the US Air Force was established as a separate service. While the USAF would end the wearing of SSI by the 1950s and patches were worn not only on flight jackets but directly on flightsuits.

With the adoption of a standardized utility uniform in the 1960s, patches were also worn by non-aircrew personnel.
“Subdued” patches became standard on utility uniforms in the early 1980s. In 2011, the Air Force eliminated wear of patches on the Airman Battle Uniform.

In 2018, with the adoption of the Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform, every Air Force member would again wear patches on their uniform.

On 20 December 2020, the US Space Force became the newest military service under the Department of the Air Force. It continues a proud patch tradition that stretches over 100 years.