Service Badges of the US Military
Military collectibles are not a specialty of mine, except as they relate to the White House, office of the president or vice president. In the case of military service badges there is some overlap as they relate to White House service, but there is also a larger community developing for the high level service badges awarded to military and civilian defense officials.
If you are a military or civilian defense official serving directly on the staff of the president, vice president, Joint Chiefs of Staff or Secretary of Defense you are recognized for your service by a distinctive badge worn on your uniform or as a lapel pin (in the case of a civilian). After one year of service, the badges are awarded as permanent decorations and as such are assigned to you as an individual with a specific number etched on the reverse of the badge. The award is accompanied by a signed certificate and in some cases with a lapel pin, too.
So what are these distinctive service badges? There are five that I want to mention here: the Presidential Service Badge (PSB), the Vice Presidential Service Badge (VPSB), the
Office of the Joint Chiefs Identification Badge (OJCIB), the Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge (OSDIB), and the Army Staff Identification Badge (ASIB).
I’ve written a blog about the presidential and vice presidential service badges and you can go directly there by clicking on this link:
If it doesn’t work, I’ll summarize the history of both service badges here.
The Presidential Service Badge (PSB) was created officially in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson to recognize his military staff officers who served the White House directly. A previous White House service badge was used as a decoration for any military officer serving either the president or vice president. Johnson discontinued the White House Service Badge in favor of a distinct presidential badge. President Richard Nixon followed with a distinct vice presidential service badge (based on the 1948 design of an eagle with lowered wings surrounded by 13 blue stars) in 1970. When the seal of the Vice President was changed in 1975, the new seal design also became the design of the vice presidential service badge. Each PSB is numbered on the reverse and is assigned to an individual throughout their military career and the number is ‘retired’ with them. At times, the VPSB is not always numbered, but no less official and more highly collectible because of their relative rarity.
The Office of the Joint Chiefs Identification Badge (OJCIB) is a wonderfully distinctive badge created in 1963 and has remained unchanged since then. It is a Department of Defense badge and is awarded to the Chairman, Vice Chairmen and military staff who can wear the badge as a permanent decoration after one year of service to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge (OSDIB) is awarded to all military and some civilian members who have worked for at least one year on the staff of the Secretary of Defense. It was created in 1949 as the National Military Establishment Identification Badge, then changed in 1950 to Department of Defense Identification Badge, but changed once again to its current designation in 1952. Many serving in staff offices qualify for the service badge, including those in the Inspector General’s office, the General Counsel and other departments and agencies.
The Army Staff Identification Badge (ASIB) is the oldest of all the service badges having been authorized in 1933 after first being promoted as a permanent decoration by General Douglas McArthur as early as 1931. The design is completely unchanged, but its early production was more cloisonné than now.
I have had the rare chance of having each of these original badges in my possession for a short period of time before selling them as a complete collection to an avid presidential memorabilia collector. All of the badges were from the 1960s or 1970s when real gold overlay and sterling silver were used in their manufacturer.
The other service badge that came with the collection, but didn’t quite qualify as a national policy service badge, but is no less distinctive, is the Guard, Tomb of the Unknown, Identification Badge (G,TU,IB). This quite unique service badge is the least awarded badge, according to Wikipedia, except for the astronaut badge. Made of solid sterling silver, those members of the Armed Forces who serve 9 months at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington Cemetery are qualified to wear this badge as a permanent decoration. However, unlike the other badges, this badge can in fact can be rescinded at any time during the career of the holder for bringing dishonor to the Tomb of the Unknown.
First issued in 1958, it became a permanent decoration in 1963.