(PatriotWise.com)- US Army Major General John V. Meyer III, the new commanding officer of the Army’s First Infantry Division will now wear the shoulder patch dating back to World War Two that is believed to have been worn by a soldier during the D-Day invasion.
The First Infantry Division’s shoulder patch insignia is a large red number 1 on a khaki background, which is why the unit is nicknamed “the Big Red One.” And each new commanding general gets the honor of wearing the World War Two-era shoulder patch on his uniform.
Maj. Gen. Meyer became the latest temporary caretaker of the patch when he took over command of the First Infantry Division on May 11 at the Cavalry Parade Field at Fort Riley, Kansas.
While welcoming Maj. Gen. Meyer, outgoing commanding general, Maj. Gen. D.A. Simms II said removing the “Big Red One patch” from his left shoulder would be “one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.”
The division, initially known as “Fighting First,” was constituted on May 24, 1917. It was one of the first units of the First Expeditionary Division to arrive in France during World War One.
While the origin of the shoulder patch design is unclear, the popular legend is that the First Infantry Division’s supply trucks had a large “1” painted on the side to distinguish them from other units. Soldiers then began to put a red “1” on their sleeves as well.
Another legend is that an officer thought the unit needed a shoulder insignia, so he cut a number 1 from his flannel underwear and added it to a piece of gray cloth from a capture soldier’s uniform.