On March 26, 1943, the US Navy authorized an award, known as the Submarine Combat Insignia, for successful completion of a ‘war’ patrol in which the submarine sunk, or assisted with the sinking of at least one enemy vessel or carried out a combat mission of comparable importance. The award consisted of a silver submarine pin approximately 5.6cm (2 ¼ inches) long with a scroll beneath the waves where a gold star was affixed for each successful war patrol. The badge itself represented the first successful patrol, so the addition of the first gold star represented the second patrol, an additional star the third patrol and so on. The scroll only allowed space for three stars (four successful war patrols) so if a fifth successful patrol was carried out, one of the gold stars was removed and replaced with a silver star. The attachment for the badge was a horizontal pin back. Clutch backed versions do exist, although they are post WW2 replacements.
Both officers and men wore the Submarine Combat Insignia on the left breast just above the centre of ribbons or medals and in the case of officers, directly below the gold submariner ‘dolphins’ badge. It should be noted that enlisted seamen who qualified for submarine duty prior to and during WW2 wore an embroidered version of the ‘dolphins’ badge on their right sleeve. This was moved to the chest in mid 1947, but the ‘enlisted’ silver metal variation of ‘dolphins’ badge was only approved in September 1950.
My interest in these badges was aroused when I saw WW2 veteran Australian Special Forces operator, Jack Wong Sue DCM wearing a USN Submarine Combat Insignia badges on his medals during an ANZAC Day commemoration. Jack served with Z Special Unit and was one of a seven-man team that operated for six months behind Japanese lines in Borneo. The team, code named AGAS-1, was inserted by the US submarine, USS Tuna, a Tambor class submarine on it’s thirteenth patrol of the war.
As I researched a little further I started to uncover a multitude of manufacturers variations of this fascinating badge and soon had developed a sideline collection of combat patrol insignia, some of which are shown below.
For any collector interested in exploring these or the USN ‘Dolphins’ qualification badges in more detail, I thoroughly recommend David A. Jones’ excellent book US Silent Service: Dolphins & Combat Insignia 1921-1945.