The CBI Patch

Ex-CBI Roundup
December 1982 Issue

By L. Robert Castorr, Col., USA Inf. (Ret.)

While visiting with General Frank "Pinky" Dorn, one of our early rugged infantry comrades of the CBI and just shortly before he passed away on July 26,1981, he related the history and origin of how this distinguished patch came into being. I pass on his remarks presented to me for those of our readers who may find the story of interest.

It was after the long ordeal of the May 1942, walkout over the Chin Hills of Burma with Stilwell that the then Lt. Col. Dorn, as aide-de-camp to "Vinegar Joe," arrived in India. This sad rag tagged remnant of the American contingent of the Chinese Expeditionary Force could not be classified as troops in uniform due to the wear and tear that was encountered through the jungles and mountains in reaching their destination and freedom from the enemy.

Since there was no U.S. supply depot or a quartermaster issue station to draw upon for new clothing that was so badly needed immediately, the British offered their uniform stock, as an expedient, to the Americans.

All was well, until our well deserved men frequented the local pubs and indulged in their thirst craven beer or other long deprived spirits. Thus mixing company with our British compatriots and perhaps becoming a little more boisterous than usual, a call to arms was initiated by British M.P.'s along with a few banged heads and a trip to the brig resulting.

When Gen. Stilwell was so informed, he would not accept that "his boys" were as bad as all that and felt that, just maybe, the British were more involved in this drinking bout and disturbing the so-called peace of the countryside. That evening, Col. Dorn having dinner with The Boss, as he was affectionately called, was given the assignment of coming up with a unique identifying feature that the Americans could be differentiated from the British since their uniforms were alike. This did present the problem as to who was doing what to whom.

Later that evening, Col. Dorn returned to his hotel room and went to work sketching some ideas for identification means. Once having accomplished his desire for a patch truly unique, the following morning had him running down one of our well known Hindustani tailors and telling him to go to work and have ready at least a half dozen completed versions of his design by that evening. This same evening and again having dinner with the top man, Gen. Stilwell spotted the unusual, out of the ordinary, and bright contrasting insignia on the khaki left arm shoulder high shirt of his aide-de-camp. He remarked, "Pinky, what's that?" pointing at the insignia. Dorn replied, "You told me to come up with something to identify our men from those of the British. Well, this is it! Do you like it?" A further hard look and then another and then the exclamation coming forth from Gen. Stilwell by his statement that "It was great!"

Col. Dorn then reached into his pocket, anticipating that his patch would be acceptable, handed the General a few of the newly tailored handicraft insignias and suggested that he too have them sewed on his shoulder sleeve. The General countered with an order to Dorn to round up every tailor in town to put them to work making similar patches and wanting several thousand made, as soon as possible. His reason, he stated, was expecting new American replacements for the continued fight against the Japanese and he wanted to be ready with the issue.

Thus, the most beautiful patch in the history of our Armies was launched. It should be noted that this patch of ours was the only patch ever designed and utilized for a theater of war. All others conceived were for Armies, Corps, Divisions, Regiments, Squadrons and the like, but never for participants in a campaign within a theater such as China, Burma and India. Something to think about and reflect upon with a proudness that each of us can enjoy.

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Variations of the CBI Patch

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