Although we have recently opened this gallery to allow all AAFM members the opportunity to post missile patches they have that are not already displayed, the gallery was created to allow me to share a portion of my rather extensive patch collection with you. I have thousands of missile-related patches, and this gallery illustrates patches from virtually every organization that ever produced missile-related insignia. You’ll be viewing “pieces of history” that, collectively, relate the mission of primarily nuclear-tipped missiles and those who operated, maintained, guarded, and supported that mission—and, in fact, who are still doing so today. Patches are a tangible part of our rich missile legacy, linking us to those who wore them. A patch announces, “Hey, I am part of this organization, and I’m proud of what I do!” It was true more than 50 years ago and it’s still true today.
One thing I have learned from collecting and studying what I collect is how diverse the missile community is--and how important the TEAM effort is to ensuring mission accomplishment. It’s not just crew members sitting on alert, or team members turning wrenches in a silo or on an ALCM, it’s also the cops providing security, technicians maintaining the lines of communication, transportation folks readying vehicles, logistics personnel providing supplies, weather forecasters warning of blizzards, helicopter pilots rushing a part or a person to or from the support base or flying top cover for a convoy, transport pilots and crews delivering boosters or components of special weapons, engineers fixing glitches, even the contractors and sub-contractors who built the weapons systems--and all the other individuals doing the jobs they were trained to do so that we have the capability to accompany the will that makes nuclear deterrence effective. You may not have the launch codes, but your individual contribution is key to the team’s success. That is why not every patch in this gallery has the word “missile” on it, but without a doubt every patch pictured is a missile-related patch!
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Is this gallery comprehensive? No, but it’s close! This is believed to be the most extensive image collection of missile-related emblems in existence. Notice I said “emblems” rather than “patches” because a number of the images are of decals, plaques, or art work. But it is important to remember that just because something other than a patch was scanned does not necessarily mean a patch does not exist. Even after more than 40 years of collecting, I still occasionally discover a vintage patch I have never seen before. Viewers will note that there are a lot of patches from recent times, but fewer and fewer the further back one goes on the missile timeline. Some early units never had a patch--even Strategic Missile Squadrons! Elmer Peterson was an Air Force staff sergeant working with early missiles in the late 1940s, who in 1993 wrote: “Nobody had any thought of military patches at that time. We were too busy with the day to day tracking exercises to concern ourselves with military trappings--although, in retrospect, I must admit that it would have been a good morale booster! Even the contractor personnel were not concerned with ‘memorabilia’.” That attitude was prevalent from the late 1940s through much of the 1950s. But as weapon systems evolved and matured, missile patches began to appear. With a few noted exceptions, all scanned patches are authentic insignia from the period when the unit was active rather than modern reproductions or collector copies. You may have noticed I said “a portion” in my opening paragraph. Not all of my missile-related patches are posted. That’s because I also have what collectors call variations, and because most viewers aren’t really interested in subtle differences in colors or size, you will be viewing only patches that differ in some clearly significant way (i.e., a difference that would have been recorded in an official description). If you are a collector and you’re curious about sizes or variations not shown, please contact me.
Where did I get the patches? I started collecting missile patches in earnest while assigned to the 4 ACCS at Ellsworth AFB from 1989 through 1991. Although the ALCS branch there was not large, it contained missileers from all six Minuteman wings, all three of the recently inactivated Titan II wings, and several of the Gryphon (GLCM) wings. For a patch collector, it was a “target-rich environment”! Fellow crew members gladly donated patches from their former units. I added to my collection during my follow-on tour with the “Looking Glass” at Offutt AFB, and between those two assignments I took leave and visited all six Minuteman bases. It was the opportune time because all the wings and missile squadrons had just lost their “Strategic” designations, and the squadrons were still trying to figure out if they were supposed to use MLS, MIS, or MS. I obtained nearly all of the patch versions! And during my final tour in “the schoolhouse” at Vandenberg AFB, I was once again working with former crewmembers from all of the missile wings, including all six recently inactivated Gryphon wings--so it was another target-rich environment! Since retiring from active duty, I have continued to add to my collection by trading patches with other collectors--foremost among them, Monte Watts--and also buying at militaria shows and on eBay. But I value the patches donated by other missileers the most because, like me, the contributors wanted to see our missile heritage preserved!
Where did I get all the information that is posted with the images? For officially approved patches, their description, significance, and approval date are on file at the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA). For most, I was able to retrieve this information during several week-long visits there; the remainder of what is posted here I got from wing historians or I found online or in published sources. For the others, I have entered “(unavailable)”--meaning the info almost certainly exists, but has not yet been retrieved. Similarly, the active dates for the organizations are listed, when known, but viewers will note there are many question marks where a date should appear. We need to replace each “?” with a date. Hopefully, as time progresses, the missing information will be accessed and added. For the unofficial patches, each time a patch was handed to me, I asked the five “W” questions, hoping to learn as much as possible about it. But too often, I got shrugs rather than answers. Bottom line: If you can help “fill in the blanks” about a patch, please forward what you know. This is especially true for launch and class patches.
If you have a patch that’s not pictured and you’d like to share it with everyone else, please scan it or take a high-resolution photograph of it and forward to AAFM so we can add it to the gallery (instructions are provided elsewhere on this site). Remember, any enjoyment you derive from viewing these patches has been made possible only because someone took the time to image and post them. And if you have access to newly created patches, like those for test launches, SELMs, competitions, training (class patches), or other unofficial “morale” patches, please scan and forward those “newbies” for all to see. Also, AAFM would like to record the backstory of your patch to preserve the rationale, subtleties and nuances that can otherwise easily be lost over the years, so along with the scan please tell us what you know about the patch (e.g., significance of the elements, who designed it, when it was created, how many were made, etc., etc.). Such information not only preserves the history, but also enriches the viewing experience. And now, I invite you do just that – look, read, and enjoy your journey through this gallery!
AAFM Life Member
P.O. Box 937
Lompoc CA 93438-0937
(or contact Greg through AAFM at email@example.com)
Need help in navigating through the gallery? Click here for brief instructions.
Patches and emblems are displayed in albums by system, sometimes by base, and also for specific purposes (achievement, commemorative, competitions, exercises, etc.). Click here for a directory listing the 77 albums in the 31 sections of the gallery.
Experiencing the Galley: Useful Information! - Before you enter the gallery, please visit this section that addresses the following topics: Acronyms, Blazon, Dating a Patch, Illustrations, Motto Translations, Presentation Format, Software Limitations, Sources, and Terminology.
For information about a system or base, visit the AAFM Online Museum.