How to Identify Old Military Pins

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Military pins are emblems that showcase a service member's accomplishments during service. Modern pins have been around since World War 1, but the idea of commemorating a person's achievements dates back to medieval times. There are several hundred pins that have been produced to date, specialized for the air force, navy and ground services alike.

Examine the pin to determine what military division it belongs to. Many pins will have the words, "United States of America, Department of the Army" or something similar. These words will distinguish one service's pin from another. Using the reference guide (see References), search the terms Navy or Air Force, for example. View the pins listed under the particular division to locate yours.

Look for certain flag emblems on the surface or in the detail of the pin. Coast Guard pins have a flag in the very center of the pin. The flag has a blue band on the top and the red and white stripes of the U.S. flag running vertical. Many army pins will have two flags that are crossed at the staff. One flag is the U.S. flag, and the other is white with the eagle.

Search for specific markings that would set apart one division from another. Many Coast Guard pins will have two anchors, crossed in the center of the pin. Most of the Marine Corps pins have an eagle in the upper left corner, and an anchor that is angled from the upper right corner to the lower left. When searching through the guide, use keywords that describe the pin. Eagle wings, flags, guns, tanks, aircraft, etc.

Check for sect markings for specific occupations. A paratrooper pin is in the shape of a man parachuting in the sky. An expert medical pin has the classic medical symbol with eagle wings at the top of the cross. Search through the guides listed in References using key terms that clearly describe the pin, such as parachute, submarine, stealth fighter, etc.

Review your pins with the pictures in the online guide (see References). If you are unable to determine the pin by the instructions listed above, you will find a replica or image of the pin, along with a brief description, on the websites listed.