Submarine Insignia History
Nelson Institute of Marine Research
Santa Barbara, California
Submarine Insignia Has Distinguished Background
- The origin of the US Navy Submarine Service Insignia dates
back to 1923. On 13 June of that year, Captain Ernest J. King,
USN, later to become Fleet Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations
during World War II, and at that time Commander Submarine Division
Three, suggested to the Secretary of the Navy, via the Bureau of
Navigation (Now Naval Military Personnel Command), that a
distinguished device for qualified submarines be adopted.
- He submitted a pen-and-ink sketch of his own, showing a shield
mounted on the beam end of a submarine, with dolphins forward of,
and abaft, the conning tower. The suggestion was strongly endorsed
by Commander Submarine Divisions, Atlantic.
- During the next several months the Bureau of Navigation
solicited additional designs from several sources. Among the
designs were a submarine and shark motif, a submarine and shield,
and submarine and dolphins.
- A Philadelphia firm, which had done work for the Navy
previously, was approached with the request that it undertake to
design a suitable badge. Two designs were submitted by the firm,
and these were combined into a single design. It is the design in
use today: a bow view of a submarine, proceeding on the surface,
with bow planes rigged for diving, flanked by dolphins in a
horizontal position with their heads resting on the upper edge of
the bow planes.
- On 20 March 1924, the Chief of Navigation recommended to the
Secretary of the Navy that the design be adopted. The
recommendation was accepted by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., acting
Secretary of the Navy.
- The submarine insignia was to be worn at all times by officers
and men qualified in submarine duty attached to submarine units or
organizations, ashore and afloat, and not to be worn when not
- In 1941 the Uniform Regulations were modified to permit
officers and men qualified who were eligible to wear the submarine
insignia after they had been assigned to other duties in the naval
service, unless such right had been revoked.
- The officers' insignia was a bronze, gold plated metal pin,
worn centered above the left breast pocket and above the ribbons
and medals. Enlisted men wore the insignia, embroidered in silk,
white silk for blue clothing and blue silk for white clothing.
This was sewn on the outside of the right sleeve, midway between
the wrist and elbow. The device was two and three-quarters inches
- In 1943, the Uniform Regulations were modified to provide that
"Enlisted men, who are qualified and subsequently promoted to
commissioned or warrant ranks, may wear enlisted submarine
insignia on the left breast until they qualify as submarine
officers, at which time this insignia would be replaced by the
officers' submarine pin."
- In mid-1947, the embroidered device shifted from the sleeve of
the enlisted men's jumper to above the left breast pocket.
- A change to the Uniform Regulations dated 21 September 1950
authorized the embroidered insignia for officers (in addition to
the pin-on insignia) and a bronze, silver plated, pin-on insignia
for enlisted men (in addition to the embroidered device).
Award Silver Dolphins ONLY to those who have walked in the Enlisted Submariner's shoes.
Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) Breast
- An FBM Submarine breast pin is awarded to personnel in the
ship's companies of the silent service missile fleet.
- Successor to the Submarine Combat Patrol Insignia awarded for
submarine patrols during World War II, the device is known as the
FBM Patrol Pin, although its official designation is SSBN
Deterrent Patrol Insignia.
- The new insignia is considered to be in the same category and
will be worn in the same manner as the SCPI. However, only one of
the two may be worn by those individuals who qualify for both. The
choice is the individual's.
- Design of the SSBN pin shows a silver LAFAYETTE class
submarine with superimposed Polaris missile and electron rings
with signify the armament and nuclear powered characteristics of
the FBM Deterrent Force. A scroll beneath the submarine will hold
stars, one bronze star for each 'successful' patrol after the
first or a silver star for five 'successful' patrols. Successful
patrols will be so designated by fleet commanders.
- Awards are being made retroactive to the first FBM patrol of
USS George Washington (SSBN 598) which was completed on 21 January
1961. At that time GEORGE WASHINGTON had set a new record for
submarine submergence: 66 days, 10 hours. Since then SSBN's have
completed more than 2000 patrols.