Article by Staff Writer: Red Leg
First established in October of 1943, the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) was the distinguishing mark between a battle hardened Infantryman and the rest of the U.S Army.
The Army wanted a way to promote and distinguish a soldier who had seen combat and one that didn’t. They made the stipulations that a soldier would be awarded the CIB if they had been under direct fire from an enemy combatant while holding the MOS of infantry (Special Forces would be added during the Vietnam War).
Following the end of the Civil War, the Infantry branch quickly dwindled in numbers and became one of the smallest branches in the U.S Army. With the settling of the west the military needed a force that could move faster than the common foot soldier. From the end of the civil war to the beginning of U.S involvement in WWI the U.S Cavalry was the primary fighting force of the U.S Army (damn Cav. Scouts). However with the outbreak of the First World War the allies needed a force that could react to contact, dig in, and withstand the German onslaught. For this they could find nothing better than the U.S Army Infantry. Units such as the first and third infantry regiments would make their marks in American military history at famous battles such as Cantigny and second battle of the Marne.
Following the end of WWI like most countries, we downsized our military, and the infantry took the grunt of it. The army at this time was for the most part generalized in a sense that most branches were thrown into one. Ones pride in their branches wasn’t as strong as it was during the war and certainly not what it is today. However right at outbreak of WWII the war department wanted to find a way too not only recognize battle hardened infantryman, but find a way to increase the recruitment in the infantry.
Going into WWII the Infantry was the smallest branch and had the hardest task ahead. If we were to succeed in destroying the Axis powers the U.S needed troops to do so, and the war department wanted to properly recognize those who fought and took fire for their country.
In the middle of World War II the Infantry came out with the expert infantry badge. It was an award associated within the infantry and worn by infantry members who earned it. To earn it the soldier had to complete a series of tasks associated with infantry skills such as shooting, land navigation, and survival. It is still the current award and the challenges have changed over time to skills our modern infantry has. It’s a Springfield Musket positioned inside an infantry blue box worn on the left side with the service member’s ribbons on the uniform. Both the EIB and CIB designs come from a similar award in the German army (the Infantry Assault Badge and close combat award), but given an American twist to it.
Like the EIB, the Army took the same design and added an oak leaf laurel behind the infantry blue box. The stipulation was a U.S Infantry soldier who took fire after Dec. 6th 1941 could earn the CIB. During the Korean War they added that a soldier could earn the CIB multiple times however only once in a major conflict. Meaning that a WWII soldier who earned the EIB in WWII, could re earn it in the Korean War. A multiple winner of the CIB is identified with how many stars are located at the top of the EIB. No stars means it was earned once, one star means twice, and two stars means three times. Only 230 soldiers have earned the CIB three times all serving in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.
The Civil War was the first war that offered campaign ribbon and has been the tradition since. All soldiers deployed in a war and certain campaign is awarded a ribbon or medal for their actions. Until WWII, all soldiers received the same awards (excluding higher awards such as bronze stars, valor, MOH etc.) no matter what your MOS was. The Infantryman who had been under fire and nearly killed several times received the exact same recognition as the supply soldiers or cooks. With the CIB, the infantryman could be distinguished and given a higher award over others in support roles. It wouldn’t be until 2005 that the Combat Action Badge would be established to honor those non infantry that had seen combat.
The CIB had become a staple in the Infantry tradition, something that the Infantry holds near and dear to not only what they stand for of living the Army values but in their history. Since the first muster of the first standing army, the infantry has been the primary fighting force of any army. The grunts that can arguably be the smartest people in the army by living off next to nothing and win battles at the same time. The CIB is an award that should be worn with honor and fidelity, wear it with pride and be proud to call yourself a battle hardened Infantryman!
Red Leg out