U.S. Air Force


This is the portion of the website devoted to patches from the United States Air Force (USAF), established in 1947, and also from its predecessors. The War Department created the first antecedent of the USAF—the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps—in 1907, which through a succession of changes of organization, titles, and missions advanced toward eventual separation 40 years later. Few patches were produced during those formative years, but that changed during World War II, when the organization was called the US Army Air Forces (USAAF). The war-era patches are generally of two types: jacket patches (large and usually painted leather), and shoulder sleeve insignia, or “SSI” (smaller and usually embroidered). In practice, the USAAF was virtually independent of the Army during WWII, but officials wanted formal independence. The National Security Act of 1947 was signed on 26 July 1947 by President Harry S. Truman, which established the Department of the Air Force, but it was not until 18 September 1947, when the first secretary of the Air Force, W. Stuart Symington, was sworn into office, that the Air Force was officially formed—becoming the newest branch of the US Armed Forces. Today, the USAF operates thousands of military aircraft, hundreds of ICBMs, and dozens of military satellites. It is comprised of active duty military, civilian, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard personnel. With few exceptions, the civilians in the Air Force do not wear unit patches. Prior to the 1980s, nearly all patches on uniforms were vivid (full color). Since the early 1980s, the wear of vivid patches has been limited almost exclusively to aircrews and space and missile crews. Customarily, everyone else who wears a patch wears a subdued version (Woodland colors during the 1980s and desert colors since the first Gulf War). Exceptions were made for special events (William Tell, Gunsmoke, etc.) when a full color patch was worn on fatigues or the Battle Dress Uniform. Demonstration Team uniforms and blue fatigue uniforms also included full color patches. Guidance pertaining to the design and approval process for Air Force patches is contained in Air Force Instruction (AFI) 84-105, and guidance for the proper wearing of patches may be found in AFI 36-2903. The Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB maintains the records for most of the officially approved organizational emblems, and more information is available on their website at www.afhra.af.mil. The official Air Force colors are Ultramarine Blue and Golden Yellow, and these colors are used on most official USAF patches. Again, welcome to the USAF section of this site!

Randy Troutman