By Major Matt Cavanaugh
As I write my dissertation, I’ve spent an awfully long time in General Eisenhower’s papers (emphasis on awful). Though the spade work can get tedious, there have been some bright spots. In The War Years, Volume III, I came across the gem below (on page 1888, entry number 1711). It’s General Eisenhower writing to Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall roughly one week before the Normandy landing.
This, to the best of my knowledge, is the genesis of the Army’s “green tab” for leaders. Although I’m certain the marking has some deeper lineage, I’d wager this was the kickstart for adoption in the modern era. Actually, what’s funny is that I’m not altogether certain units still use these green felt flashes – today’s uniforms don’t seem altogether conducive to the wear of something like this.
Either way, it’s interesting to get a sense for where one of our less-noticed traditions comes from.
To [General] George Catlett Marshall May 29, 1944
Dear General: I have just approved a project for placing on the uniform of commanders of actual combat units, a distinctive marking. In this Theater we have encountered such a variety of staff activities, all of which are manned by commissioned officers, that it becomes exceedingly difficult to give any kind of recognition to the man that definitely leads troops in action. The form of the marking we are adopting is a narrow green band around the shoulder loop of the officer’s uniform, and for the enlisted man a narrow green stripe just below his chevron. We intend this to be worn by every man who commands others in combat echelons, and no one higher than Army Commander will be allowed to wear it.
This matter has been under discussion between [General Omar] Bradley and me, along with a few others, for a long time and we have come to the definite conclusion that it is a very good thing. The second a man ceases to command a combat unit he takes off his marking.
I feel quite sure that the War Departments could have no strong objection to the contemplated action as long as it applied merely as a Theater matter and the distinctive marking is removed before any officer or enlisted man returns home. On the other hand, it occurred to me that you might like to consider the matter as having some desirable application to the whole Army.
The marking itself will be nothing but a small, inexpensive piece of green cloth.
[Signed General Dwight D. Eisenhower]
*General Marshall approved the concept on May 29, 1944.