Battle Relic
: 101st Combat Aviation Brigade Black Diamond Helmet Patch; U.S. Army; Current.
Introduction: This is probably the most contemporary Battle Relic featured by this agency and certainly the one that we have acquired at the lowest cost.
We obtained it as a “Res Derelicta” from the US Cavalry Store across Gate 4 of Fort Campbell, Kentucky on Veterans Day 2012.
While visiting the showroom we also stopped at their tailor shop.
Here, soldiers can have their uniforms altered and patches sewn on.
With regards to the latter, the US Army has recently adopted a new regulation allowing soldiers to sew name tapes, service tapes, rank insignia and skill badges on their Advanced Combat Uniform (ACU), instead of using Velcro™.
On the counter of the tailor shop stood a small plastic basket with used patches and the lady staffing this section invited us to help ourselves getting some of them.
Happily we obliged and picked three martial insignia:

- one HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) parachute qualification badge, embroidered on ACU camouflage for sewing on according to the new regulation;
- one green felt combat leader shoulder loop with First Lieutenant rank embroidered on directly;
- one helmet patch in the shape of a black diamond of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, which will be featured here as Battle Relic # 18.

(click for enlargements)


Item Description: Our helmet patch is a fully embroidered patch on twill, both in black thread and fiber, in the shape of the diamond symbol in a deck of cards. It is 2 1/2" in length and 2"wide.
The patch has a black merrowed edge and the backside is coated with a rubbery shiny substance intended to easily iron-on the patch on another cloth surface.
This patch has clearly never been attached to another item by means of the iron-on substance.

(click for enlargements)

From an article titled "Legend of Diamonds and Tail-booms", dated 13 OCT 2010 on WWW.ARMY.MIL
by Spc. Tracy R. Weeden we learned more about this patch's history.

The black diamond worn on the helmets of soldiers in the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade is an iconic part of their uniform and history.
The legend began in World War II, when the 101st Airborne Division created tactical helmet insignias to help reassemble the paratroopers on the ground.
After jumping into Normandy on D-Day, the troops were divided over miles of terrain.
If they were unable to recognize each other, it would be difficult to regroup.
"The four infantry regiment commanders pulled cards from a deck before D-Day, which is why they were labeled with card suites", said John O'Brien, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, installation historian at the Brigadier General Don F. Pratt Museum.
Some additional symbols were later added to designate other assets within the division; such as the artillery, engineer and medical units.

(click for an enlargement)

Helmet markings of the various sub-units of the 101st Airborne Division in World War Two

In World War Two, paratroopers of the division's 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment wore the diamond symbol on their helmets.

(click for an enlargement)

Left: Helmet of Headquarters Company of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment
Right: Helmet of 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment found in Saint-Côme-du-Mont, Normandy, France

In May 2013, in the 101st Airborne Museum on 11 Avenue de la Gare in Bastogne, Belgium we were given a behind the scenes tour of recently acquired artifacts soon on display in the museum.
Among them was an M1 steel helmet with unit stencils of 2nd Bn. of the 501st.

At the end of World War II, the 101st was deactivated and helmet symbols were abandoned.
When the division was reactivated, it was reorganized several times, finally being designated as an air assault division.

Diamond Symbol of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade
The 101st Combat Aviation Brigade was constituted in 1968 at Camp Eagle, Republic of Vietnam under the 101st Airborne Division, which makes the history of their helmet symbol, different than their brother infantry units of the 327th, 502nd and 506th Regiments; the main infantry components in the division’s 1st, 2nd and 4th Brigades respectively.
"Helmet markings were rarely seen after World War II," said O'Brien.
"It appears to me that the 101st Aviation Regiment and the 159th Aviation Brigade can trace their helmet symbols not to the deck of cards scheme of World War II, but to the tail markings of Vietnam."

Helmet patches
Helmet markings were reestablished for esprit de corps and unit pride after the attacks on 11 SEP 2001.
They came back into use when CPT Jim Page, 1st Brigade assistant operations officer, recommended they readopt the Club patch of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment of World War Two, O'Brien explained.
CPT Page later became the division’s official historian and is featured in several articles on this website.
Unfortunately he died at the age of 42 in January 2013.

By 2003, as units were deploying to Iraq, the other brigades were adopting their units' patch and gluing it to their helmets.
The use of helmets made from Kevlar™, fitted with covers manufactured from camouflaged fabric, made stenciling the unit’s symbols with paint useless and cloth patches were introduced.
Units who did not have one of the initial helmet patch designs adopted symbols representing their lineage, such as tail-boom markings.
Another example is the "Torrii" symbol on the helmets of the men in 3rd Brigade "Rakkasans"; the traditional emblem of the 187th Infantry Regiment.
All units within the division now wear the markings on their helmets to pay tribute to their rich heritage.
Diamond Symbol of the 501st Parachute Infantry
The 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of World War II is not a part of today's 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
It consists of one battalion (1st Bn. of the 501st) of paratroopers and has been assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army, located in Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Only the 4th Brigade Combat Team is on airborne status, not the entire 25th Infantry Division.
Continuing the World War Two tradition of the white diamond stencils, the men in the 1st of the 501st today wear similar helmet patches as their brothers in arms in the 101st Aviation Regiment but with an even older traditional background.

(click for enlargements)

Soldiers of 1st Bn./501st Infantry, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division

The 101st Combat Aviation Brigade links their current use of black diamond helmet patches with the use of color-coded diamonds on UH-1 helicopters by the unit during Vietnam.
The tail-boom marking of the 101st Aviation Battalion helicopters was the diamond. We have obtained one of these patches and with it, own a piece of American martial tradition.
What the exact history of this patch is and where it has been, is not known.
But because it was found in the used patches basket of the tailor shop across the road form Fort Campbell, "Home of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)", it is very likely that is was removed from a war torn uniform or helmet cover that had seen action in Iraq or Afghanistan.


(click for enlargements)
1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

1 & 2: UH1 helicopters in Viet Nam with 101st Aviation Brigade diamond symbols on tail booms
3: 101st CAB soldier with black diamond helmet patch in Afghanistan
4: 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division patches on Multicam camouflage uniform as worn in Afghanistan
5: Ad sign for the US Cavalry store across Gate 4 on Fort Campbell Boulevard North of Clarksville, Tennessee


Back to Battlerelics

(c) 2007-Present Day Email: all rights reserved.