History of Military Insignia


The Insignia, used by various branches of the military, has a deep root in American history, dating back to the Revolutionary War.  Originally, the initial rankings used in the United States Military (oftentimes distinguished by the insignia) were established using the British military rankings.   The British army would differentiate between rankings using items such as feathers, sashes and stripes, but sometimes, the rank would be identified by the weapon that was being carried or by an eye-catching uniform.  While quite a few of these initial rankings are still used today, more have been added, while some have become obsolete.

The Army (and Marines) carried over many of the English ranks even after the war.  The Navy, however, developed their own ranking system.  Even today, the U.S. Navy and U.S Coast Guard no longer even use the term “rank”.  Among the enlisted Sailors, the proper expression is “rate”.


The history of the military insignia dates back to the Continental Army and General George Washington.  The Continental Army could not afford to purchase uniforms.  As a result, distinguishing between the various ranks within the army became difficult and General Washington requested that badges be designed to alleviate the confusion.  Development of the insignias continued into the Revolutionary War with the distinction of a two star General (major general) and a one star (brigadier).  At that time, these stars would be worn on the shoulder boards or epaulettes.  Insignias continued to evolve, along with rankings, into World War II.


With five U.S. military branches and each with several rankings (or ratings), the number of different insignia over the years reaches well into the hundreds of thousands.  Today, military insignias are highly collectible items.

WWII Tiger I Tank


A tank feared by many of its opponents, the World War II Tiger I, or Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, was first developed in response to the Soviet Armor first encountered by the Germans at the onset of Operation Barbarossa.  This tank, a German heavy tank, was the first to mount the 88 mm gun, a gun already known for its effectiveness not only with ground targets, but air targets as well.  The main focus of the tank’s design was not only fire power, but heavy duty armor.

The Tiger I first saw battle on September 23, 1942 in an attack on Lenningrad. And though they were a surprise to the Russians, the Tiger I was not without its problems. The manufacturing of one tank required 300,000 man hours and required expensive and labor intensive materials. Plagued with mechanical breakdowns, the Tiger I also required costly preventative maintenance. This problem resulted in the crew’s need to either abandon the tank and sometimes to even destroy them. Despite the problems, the tank was still known for being fearsome in combat.

Just over 1,300 Tiger I tanks were manufactured from August 1942 through August 1944. When production of the Tiger II (King Tiger Tank) began, the Tiger I production was phased out. Currently, only a few of the World War II Tiger tanks are known to exist. The Bovington Tank Museum’s Tiger 131, is presently the only model known to be renovated and operational.

Information and Specifications on the Tiger I Tank

  • Categorized as a Heavy Tank
  • Originated in Nazi Germany
  • Service History: World War II (1942 thru 1945)
  • Manufactured by Henschel
  • Over 1,300 built
  • Crew of 5
  • Main armament for the Tiger I: 1× 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56
  • Total rounds: 92 with some designs as high as 120.
  • Secondary armament: 2× 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34
  • Total Rounds: 4,800
  • Tiger I Range of Operation was between 68 and 121 miles.
  • Speed for this tank: 24 miles per hour

The Tiger I Tank played a vital role in WWII.

WWII M4 Sherman Tank

The M4 Sherman Tank was the true work horse of the American Forces during WWII. The origin of the Tank came from the bloody battles toward the end of WWI.  Tanks during that time were slow, had limited mobility, and were not properly used on the battlefield.  Most military experts agreed after the war that the Tank would have a future.  Much advancement in technology came about between WWI and WWII and when war came to the shores of the United States on December 7, 1941. That’s when an iconic tank emerged, the M4 Sherman Tank.

During WWII the primary battle Tank was the M4 Sherman Tank.  The M4 was named after the great Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, who drove his Army deep into the south all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.  Between the years of 1940 to 1945 the United States produced over 50,000 Sherman Tanks.  Initially they were produced by the Lima Locomotive works, but as the war progressed, nearly a dozen companies, such as Detroit Tank, Pacific Car and Foundry Company produced the many variants of the Sherman Tank. Its primary gun was the 75 mm which had a muzzle velocity of 1,850 feet per second. After 1942 more were outfitted with 76 mm gun.  It had other weapons to assist in its missions, such as Browning 50 and 30 caliber machine guns.  It had a crew of five, but in most situations the crew usually consisted of four, led by an NCO.  At the time the armor on the M4 was the thickest of any American Tank which ranged between three inches to less than two, depending on the different areas of the vehicle.

The Sherman’s maximum speed was between 24 to 26 miles per hour.  The M4’s heart truly was its powerful Continental R-975 motor, which was used by numerous armored vehicles of WWII. Originally, it was a nine cylinder engine that was air cooled with over 400 horse power. Later on it was improved to produce over 470 horse power by the classic Chrysler A 57 multibank L-Head. General George S. Patton baptized this great Tank in the battlefields of North Africa starting off with “Operation Torch” in the North African Country of Morocco.  At first, the M4 did well against Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s German Panzer IV tank, but later as the war progressed, it had more difficulty against the powerful German Panther and Tiger Tanks. This led to the rapid advancement of the primary gun being switched to the 76mm.  After the June 6, 1944 landings in Normandy, all Sherman’s that were produced had the 76mm. The upgrades, however, only made it capable of defeating a Tiger or Panther at close range.

The Great Success of this tank was mainly because of its high numbers of production and the fine training of its crews who fought with it in the European and Pacific Theaters.  The men who fought with this tank gave it its great history.  After WWII the M4 remained in service with United States well into the Korean War and shortly afterward into the late 1950s.  It was replaced by the Patton Series Tanks, who saw service during the Vietnam War and beyond. The Sherman saw service with many other military units throughout the world well into the 1970’s.  In the world of militaria, the M4 Sherman tank is one of the most sought out tanks in the world. It is truly an American Classic.

May 26th – Memorial Day Family Fun Fest

Join the Armed Forces History Museum for their 6th Annual Memorial Day Family FunFest on Monday, May 26, 2014 – from 10 AM to 3 PM.  Admission to this family-friendly event is just $10 for adults and $5 for youths 4-12.

 (Tickets can also be purchased at the museum, or by calling the museum at 727-539-8371. Please note: A small service fee applies to all on-line orders and phone orders.)

As in previous years, enjoy rock wall climbing, a bounce house, power bungee jumping, face painting, military dress up, photo opportunities, and more (not all activities are included in the admission cost).  The Fun Fest also has a number of great presentations lined up for the day:

  • 10:00AM – Meet Sandy O’Hara Miss Armed Forces Pin Up – Vietnam 1971
  • 10:30AM – WWII re-enactors from the 1st Infantry Division conduct drills and presentations.
  • 11:15AM – Martial Arts Fitness provides martial arts demonstrations.
  • 11:45AM – Clearwater High School’s JROTC will showcase a color guard, a drill exhibition and cadet duels.
  • 12:15PM – Swing dancers from Swing Gang teach you how to swing dance.
  • 1:15PM – WWII re-enactors will once again conduct drills and presentations.
  • 2:00PM – Meet the Bomber Girls

Florida Blood Bank will also be on hand and all who donate will receive 2 MOVIE TICKETS, a $5.00 Outback Coupon and a chance to SAVE 3 LIVES!!!

It’s a great line-up added to a great day of fun for the whole family.  Food, drinks and snacks will on hand for purchase.  In season’s past, this event has drawn a rollicking crowd looking to celebrate the long weekend.  Make Memorial Day a memorable event this year – Don’t miss out!  

 (Please note: A small service fee applies to all on-line orders and phone orders.)

MEM Re-enactorsThe Armed Forces History Museum is located just off of Ulmerton on 34th Way N (between Belcher and Starkey) in Largo, FL.  Turn at the Citgo Gas Station.  Click on the link below for driving directions.

Driving Directions to AFHM

Memorial Day Family FunFest is presented in part by Q105, ReMax and Swing Dance USA.


The Vietnam War

The Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL has a section of the museum dedicated to the Vietnam War.  The dioramas include the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Vietnam Firebase.  Memorabilia from this era are also on display in the Vietnam War area of the museum.

A Look at the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War took place during the Cold War era, begining in November of 1955.  The two opposing sides consisted of the communist Allies who supported North Vietnam and the United States, along with other countries who were against communists and supported South Vietnam.

The United States became involved in the war in an effort to ward off a communistic overthrow of South Vietnam.  U.S. involvement during the war escalated in the early 60s.  The first combat units were deployed in 1965 within a year of the North Vietnamese firing on two U.S. naval ships located in international waters.  The United States relied highly on their air superiority and immense amount of available firepower when conducting their search and destroy missions in Vietnam.  These missions not only involved ground forces, but also heavy artillery and airstrikes.

Aircraft dispensing agent orange

Aircraft dispensing agent orange

Great controversy surrounded the Vietnam War and the United States’ involvement in it.   Many U.S. citizens were in opposition of this conflict, feeling there was no way to win.  Other controversy has since focused on the widespread use of chemicals.  Their use was implemented to defoliate large areas of the countryside to expose otherwise, well hidden enemy camps.  No one knew the long term implications to applying the chemicals, which to this day, contribute to an ever changing landscape and is at the base of many of the diseases and birth defects being experienced by those who were exposed to them.

The Vietnam War came on an end on April 30, 1975, but not before a high number of casualties were inflicted on both sides.  The United States troops lost over 58,000 soldiers during the Vietnam War with an additional estimate of 1,700 still MIA.  In all, anti-communist forces lost over 315,000 military and over 2 million South civilians.  The Communist forces suffered over one million losses and also an estimated 2 million civilians.  To this day, the Vietnam War serves as a reminder for the United States in what “not-to-do” when engaging in foreign conflicts.