81st Infantry Division Wildcat Shoulder Patch

81st Infantry Division Wildcat Shoulder Patch

81st Infantry Division Wildcat Shoulder Patch


George Willcox Mclver Papers (Addition #6), East Carolina Manuscript Collection #251

Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo


The Carolina Wildcat insignia displayed here is a reproduction of the shoulder patches worn by Headquarters units of the 81st Infantry Division during World War I. Although the division included troops from Florida, Puerto Rico, and New York City, the insignia recognized the fact that the bulk of troops in the 81st were from the Carolinas. This insignia is known as the first divisional insignia to be adopted in the U. S. Army. It quickly proved popular in the division. The various brigades, regiments, and specialty units quickly adopted slightly modified versions for their patches. The 161st Infantry Brigade had a white wildcat insignia. The 162nd Infantry Brigade wore a blue patch; the 156th Field Artillery Brigade patch was red; and the 306th Field Signal Battalion wore a yellow insignia. The patch served an important purpose in creating and enhancing unit identity, cohesion and pride.

When the 81st Infantry Division embarked for France in late July 1918 its morale was low. One of the last units of the American Expeditionary Force to arrive in France, it was unprepared for combat. It lacked much of its transport and equipment. Many of the men lacked training. Ethnic and racial tensions created disunity within the ranks. But after the adoption of the Carolina Wildcat shoulder patches, the 81st behaved heroically in combat. The 81st made significant gains against intense last-ditch German resistance. The popularity of the shoulder patches quickly spread to other divisions in the AEF. By the end of the war most had adopted their own patches. Today shoulder patches are prevalent throughout the U. S. Army. Although its official nickname continues to be the “Stonewall Division,” the 81st Division is today best known throughout the Army as the “Wildcat Division.”

Source: Shoulder Patch Insignia (ca. 1918-1945) of the 81st Division. George Willcox McIver Papers (Addition #6) #251.7.a

You may access the finding aid to the George Willcox McIver Papers at: Manuscript Collection 251

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4 thoughts on “81st Infantry Division Wildcat Shoulder Patch

  1. Dear Fifeart: Thank you for your interest and comment. I’m glad you liked the 81st Division shoulder patch. It was the model from which all US Army shoulder patches evolved. Please visit again. Best wishes, Prof. Jonathan Dembo.

  2. Thank you for your very kind comments about my Staff Pick blog post on the 81st Infantry Division Wildcat Should Patch. It is very good to hear that people appreciate the time and effort that I and my colleagues put into the blog. Please return weekly to see the latest post. Best wishes, Prof. Jonathan Dembo

  3. Dear Options Trading IG: Thank you for your interest and comment. I’m glad you found the information you wanted. Unfortunately, this repository has only one 81st Division Shoulder Patch for archival purposes. It does not sell anything from its collections. There are a number of vendors who do sell shoulder patches including copies of the 81st Division patches. You should be able to find one by searching online. I hope that this helps. Best wishes, Prof. Jonathan Dembo

  4. Dear New York Travel Deals: Thank you for your interest and comment on my 81st Division Should Patch post. I too like the Joyner Library Staff Pick Blog. In answer to your question, we designed it in-house. Unfortunately, however, the staff person who designed it is no longer employed by the university. If you like, I may be able to put you in touch with that person. Please let me know if you would like me to forward your contact information to her. Best wishes, Prof. Jonathan Dembo

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