The CBI Patch

CBIVA Sound-off
Spring 1983 Issue

By Brig. General Frank Dorn. USA (Ret.)

How The Emblem Of The CBI Theater Came To Be

According to Colonel M. Virden, the CBI patch was perhaps the prettiest, the proudest worn, then and today, and probably the most sought after by military souvenir collectors. We owe this emblem to the imagination of Brig. General Frank Dorn and this is his story:

Brig. Gen. Frank Dorn, commanding general of Y-Force,
sits at his desk at command I quarters.

"After the Allied collapse in Burma and General Stilwell's march over the mountains to Assam, the American effort in the CBI Theater was concentrated in India, particularly at the port of Karachi. In July and August, 1942, General Joseph W. Stilwell, the Theater Commanding General, left his Chungking headquarters for an extensive inspection tour of India. As his aide-de-camp, at that time, I accompanied him.

"While in Karachi, the local U. S. Commander informed Stilwell that relations between British and American troops were not good - all because their tropical uniforms were almost identical. When the military police of either army received a call to put down a brawl (a many times nightly performance), they arrived swinging night sticks indiscriminately. British soldiers objected to American M.P.'s breaking their heads; and American Gl's objected just as strenuously to lumps and bruises applied by British clubs. Normal differences of opinion and fights in bars and night spots had accelerated at a rapid and disturbing rate.

"Stilwell decided that his men should be designated by some easily recognized emblem in order to reserve their heads for American M.P.'s only. The local British commander concurred that this could be the solution to the restoration of British-American relations.

"That evening when we returned to New Delhi, Stilwell told me to dream up a solution fast; perhaps some form of shoulder patch that would be distinctive and could be turned out in large quantities. After much scribbling, I came up with a simplified U. S. shield on whose blue field the Kuomintang Sun of China and the Star of India were imposed. Since the emblem of Burma was a peacock and we had just lost the whole country anyway, I did not even try to include it.

"I arranged with an Indian tailor shop to make up a few samples of my proposed patches and wore one on my own left shoulder that night at dinner with Stilwell and half a dozen of the New Delhi headquarters staff and command. The old man spotted my creation at once with a characteristic "What-the-hell-is-that-you've-got-on-your-sleeve, Dorn?"

"I replied that it was the brand new shoulder patch of the CBI Theater and gave him one of the samples which he asked me to pin on at once. He then turned to General "Spec" Wheeler and directed that an initial supply of thousands be made and distributed immediately to all U. S. troops in India and China.

Thus the now famous emblem was born out of the necessity to preserve good relations - and heads -- in India."


Other Sites of Interest:

Variations of the CBI Patch

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