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Rank Insignia - Enlisted and Officers

Spanish American War

M1902 era

WW1 Era

WW2 Era

Korean War Era

Vietnam Era

Post Vietnam to Current

Officer Insignia


Chevrons were sewn on the sleeves of uniforms with the point down from approximately 1820 to 1903. They were worn with the points both up and down between 1903 and 1905 after the first reversal from "down" to "up" was authorized on May 1, 1903 in Army Regulation number 622. This confusion period, from 1903 to 1905, was the result of the color change in the chevrons provided for in the regulation which also directed a standard color for each branch, corps or organization and replaced the gold-colored chevrons. Because of the number of gold insignia available, troops were permitted to wear the old-type Chevron until the supply became exhausted.

To assure uniformity in both color and position of the new colored chevrons, War Department Circular 61 dated 30 November 1905 stated that the points of the Chevrons would be worn point upward. It also provided for the following colors as had been directed in Regulation 622 dated 1 May 1903. The colors were: Artillery - scarlet; Cavalry - yellow; Engineers - scarlet piped with orange; Hospital Corps - maroon piped with white; Infantry - light blue; Ordnance - black piped with scarlet; Post QM Sgt - buff; Signal Corps - orange piped with white; West Point band - light blue; and West Point detachment - buff.

As early as 1820, chevrons were worn with the point down, although there was not an official direction of this to appear in regulations until 1821 when chevrons were authorized for both officers and enlisted men. Circular number 65, 1821, stated that the "Chevrons will designate rank (both of officers through the rank of captain and enlisted men) as follows: captains, one on each arm, above the elbow, and subalterns, on each arm below the elbow. They will be of gold or silver lace, half an inch wide, conforming in colour to the button of their regiment or corps. The angles of the chevron to point upwards."

Adjutants will be designated by an arc of gold or silver fringe, (according to the colour of their trimmings), connecting the extreme points formed by the diverging lines of the chevron. Sergeant Majors and Quartermaster Sergeants will wear one chevron of worsted braid on each arm, above the elbow. Sergeants and senior musicians, one on each arm, below the elbow, and corporals, one on the right arm, above the elbow. They will conform in colour to the button of their regiment or corps. Before this time, an officer's rank was indicated by epaulets worn on the shoulder. This regulation also indicated the first use of the arc as part of the chevron.

Chevrons continued to be worn points downward during the 1800s. AGO Order number 10 dated 9 February 1833, stated "Chevrons will be worn with the point toward the cuff of the sleeves."  Article 1577 of the revised United States Regulations of 1861 stated "The rank of Non-Commissioned Officers will be marked by chevrons upon both sleeves of the uniform coat and overcoat, above the elbow, of silk worsted binding one-half inch wide, to be the same color as the edgings of the coat, point down."


1861. During the Civil War, many new designations came into being. The following is a complete list of designations: Sergeant majors; quartermaster sergeants; commissary sergeants; leaders of bands; principal or chief musicians; chief buglers; medical cadets; ordnance sergeants; hospital stewards; regimental hospital stewards; battalion sergeant majors; battalion quartermaster sergeants; battalion hospital stewards; battalion saddler sergeants; battalion commissary sergeants; battalion veterinary sergeants; first sergeants; company quartermaster sergeants; sergeants; corporals; buglers; musicians; farriers and blacksmiths; artificers; saddlers; master wagoners; wagoners; privates; and enlisted men of ordnance.

1866. The following titles disappeared: Leaders of bands; battalion hospital stewards; chief buglers; medical cadets; battalion commissary sergeants; battalion saddler sergeants, battalion veterinary sergeants; buglers; and enlisted men of ordnance. The following new titles were established: saddler sergeants; trumpeters, chief trumpeters; privates (first class); and privates (second class).

1869. The title chief musician again appeared and a first sergeant in the corps of engineers was established.

1889. Post quartermaster sergeants, private hospital corps, general service clerks, and general service messengers were established.

1899. Electrician sergeants, sergeants first class, drum majors, stable sergeants, mechanics, and cooks were established.

190l. The titles post commissary sergeant, regimental commissary sergeant and color sergeant were established.

1905-1919. The designs and titles varied by branch and there were 45 different insignia descriptions in specification 760 dated 31 May 1905 with different colors for different branches. A wide variety of insignia was created by General Order 169, dated 14 August 1907. Specific pay grades were not yet in use by the Army and their pay rate was based on title. The pay scale approved in 1908 ranged from $13 for a private in the engineers to $75 for a master signal electrician. The system identified the job assignment of the individual, e.g. cooks, mechanics, etc. By the end of World War I, there were 128 different insignia designs in the supply system.

1919. Prior to 1919, the insignia of private first class consisted of the insignia of the branch of service without any arcs or chevrons. The Secretary of War approved "an arc of one bar" for privates first class on 22 July 1919.

1920. The number of insignia was reduced to seven and six pay grades were established. War Department Circular 303, dated 5 August 1920 stated that chevrons would be worn on the left sleeve, point up, and to be made of olive drab material on a background of dark blue. The designs and titles were as follows:

  • Master Sergeant (First Grade): Three chevrons, and an arc of three bars, the upper bar of arc forming a tie to the lower chevron.
  • Technical Sergeant (Second Grade): Three chevrons, and an arc of two bars, the upper bar of arc forming a tie to the lower chevron.
  • First Sergeant (Second Grade): Three chevrons, and an arc of two bars, the upper bar of arc forming a tie to the lower chevron. In the angle between lower chevron and upper bar a lozenge.
  • Staff Sergeant (Third Grade): Three chevrons and an arc of one bar, forming a tie to the lower chevron.
  • Sergeant (Fourth Grade): Three Chevrons.
  • Corporal (Fifth Grade): Two Chevrons.
  • Privates First Class (Sixth Grade): One Chevron.

1942. The grades of technician in the third, fourth and fifth grades were added by War Department Circular No 5, 8 January 1942. Change 1 to AR 600-35, dated 4 September 1942 added a letter "T" to the formerly prescribed chevrons for grades three, four and five.

The first sergeant was moved from the second grade to the first grade per Change 3, AR 600-35, dated 22 September 1942. This change described the first sergeant's chevron as three chevrons and arc of three bars, the upper bar of arc forming a tie to the lower chevron. In the angle between lower chevrons and upper bar, a hollow lozenge. This change also included the material as khaki chevrons, arcs, T and lozenge on dark blue cotton background or olive-drab wool chevrons, arcs, T and lozenge on a dark blue wool background.

1948. Changes made by Department of the Army Circular 202, dated 7 July 1948 discontinued the sergeant 4th grade and recruit was added as the 7th grade effective 1 August 1948. The new insignia was smaller and the colors changed. Combat insignia worn by combat personnel were gold color background with dark blue chevrons, arc and lozenge. Insignia worn by non-combat personnel were dark blue with gold color chevrons, arcs, and lozenge. The circular also deleted the technicians effective 1 August 1948.

1951. The size of the chevrons was changed from 2 inches wide to 3 1/8 inches wide for male personnel per War Department Circular No. 9, dated 5 February 1951. The pay grades were reversed with master sergeant becoming E7. The insignia continued to remain two inches wide for female personnel. The insignia was authorized to be manufactured in one color: a dark blue background with olive-drab chevrons, arc, and lozenge.

1955. Army Regulation 615-15, dated 2 Jul 54, announced a new grade structure effective 1 March  1955. The new titles were:

  • E-7 Master Sergeant (First sergeant was an occupational title) and Master Specialist
  • E-6 Sergeant lst Class; Specialist lst Class
  • E-5 Sergeant; Specialist 2d Class
  • E-4 Corporal; Specialist 3d Class
  • E-3 Private First Class
  • E-2 Private E2
  • E-1 Private El

War Department Circular 670-3, dated 12 October 1955, stated the effective date for the above change was 1 July 1955. New descriptions contained in AR 670-5, dated 20 September 1956, changed the color of the background to Army Green (the color of the new uniform) or Army Blue with the chevron, arc, lozenge and eagle to be gold. There were no changes in the design for NCO and privates; however, the design for specialists was an embroidered eagle device on a two inch wide background arched at the top and shaped like an inverted chevron on the bottom with embroidered arcs as follows:

  • Master Specialist. Three arcs above the eagle device.
  • Specialist First Class. Two arcs above the eagle device.
  • Specialist Second Class. One arc above the eagle device.
  • Specialist Third Class. Eagle device only.

1958. Grades E-8 and E9 were added and restructuring of titles changed and was announced in DA Message 344303, June 1958. The specialist insignia was also enlarged for male personnel. The insignia remained the same size for female personnel. The new regulation, AR 670-1, dated 28 September 1959, described the insignia as follows:

  • Sergeant Major E9. Three chevrons above three arcs with a five pointed star between the chevrons and arcs.
  • Specialist Nine E9. Three arcs above the eagle device and two chevrons below.
  • First Sergeant E8. Three chevrons above three arcs with a lozenge between the chevrons and arcs.
  • Master Sergeant E8. Three chevrons above three arcs.
  • Specialist Eight E8. Three arcs above the eagle device and one chevron below.
  • Platoon Sergeant or Sergeant first class E7. Three chevrons above two arcs.
  • Specialist Seven E7. Three arcs above the eagle device.
  • Staff Sergeant E6. Three chevrons above one arc.
  • Specialist Six E6. Two arcs above the eagle device.
  • Sergeant E5. Three chevrons.
  • Specialist Five E5. One arc above the eagle device.
  • Corporal E4. Two chevrons.
  • Specialist Four E4. Eagle device only.
  • Private First Class. One chevron.

Specialists were authorized to continue to wear the smaller insignia. The chevrons formerly authorized for E5, E6 and E7 were authorized for continued wear until the individual was promoted or demoted. They also continued to use the previous title.

1965. The Specialist Eight and Specialist Nine grades were discontinued.

1967. Subdued black metal insignia was authorized for wear on the collar of the work uniforms by DA message 292128Z Dec 67.

1968. A new insignia was authorized by DA message 865848, dated 28 May 1968, for sergeants major assigned at the principal NCO of battalion and higher. This insignia was the same as the sergeant major insignia except the star was small and a wreath was placed around the star.

The insignia, consisting of a single chevron, which was previously authorized for private first class, was authorized for private E2. A new insignia was authorized for private first class which consisted of one chevron above one arc per DA Message 868848, dated 28 May 1968.

1975. Bright shiny brass metal insignia was authorized for wear on the overcoat, raincoat and windbreaker per DA message 212019, dated February 1975.

1978. Specialist Seven was discontinued.

1979. In 1979 an insignia of grade was authorized for the Sergeant Major of the Army. The insignia had three chevrons above three arcs with two stars centered between the bottom chevron and the upper arc.

1981. The Chief of Staff approved a recommendation for shoulder marks for enlisted personnel in the grade of corporal and higher. The shoulder marks were a yellow embroidered device on a black base cloth for wear on the green shirts and black sweaters. Privates and privates first class continued to wear the bright metal insignia on the green shirts.

1985. The grades Specialist Five and Specialist Six were discontinued effective 1 October 1985.

1994. The insignia for Sergeant Major of the Army was changed to add the coat of arms of the United States between the two stars in the center of the insignia. The pin-on insignia is polished gold-plated with a black enamel background.

1996. The male and female sizes of chevrons were changed to large and small insignia. The former male insignia (3 1/8 inches wide) was designated the large size and a new small size (2 5/8 inches wide) was approved to replace the size and design formerly authorized for female soldiers.

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