|Wildcat insignia of the|
US Army's 81st Infantry Division.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
You might forget this sometimes when you’re petting your big lazy tabby who mostly likes to nap a lot, but cats can get pretty fierce. So it’s not so unusual to see cats used on military insignia. Of course we’re talking mainly about wildcats of the large variety—tigers and panthers and such—but our smaller wild cousins have been featured on insignia too. Take, for example, the patch of the US Army’s 81st Infantry Division, otherwise known as the Wildcat Division.
The US Army’s first divisional patch
|Insignia of the various units of the|
81st Division in World War I,
US Army (Base Printing Plant, 29th Engrs., 1919)
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons;
The 81st Infantry Division was first formed in 1917, during World War I. The division, originally called the Stonewall Division, was organized at Camp Jackson, South Carolina, and did some training near Wildcat Creek. The unit took its new name from that creek. Another story says that some of the soldiers trapped a wildcat (we think it must have been a bobcat) and kept it as a mascot.
The patch—a black cat on an olive-green circle—appeared in 1918, when the soldiers started wearing them on the uniforms. After some, uh, conversations, the patch was approved by General John J. Pershing. (It had been unauthorized until then.) This was the army’s first distinctive divisional patch.
The division also adopted the motto “Obedience, Loyalty, Courage.” (Obedience is not one of the first things we think of when we think of cats, but I digress.)
The wildcat insignia basically served two purposes: It identified soldiers as belonging to the 81st Division, and it gave them a sense of pride and helped bond the unit together. They created the same design in different colors to indicate the various parts of the division: headquarters, infantry, artillery, the signal squadron, and the all-important supply train.
A long history of service
|Modern 81st Regional Readiness Command |
Wildcat desert shoulder patch.
US Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
The Wildcats fought in France in World War I and in the Pacific in World War II. The division was disbanded between the wars and again in 1946. In 1967, the 81st US Army Reserve Command was formed, and some of its units were sent to Vietnam. The Wildcats also provided relief after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and again in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. Under the designation the 81st Regional Readiness Command, Wildcats were deployed after 9/11 during Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.
And through it all, the soldiers of the 81st have always been Wildcats and have honored their slogan: Wildcats Never Quit.