The sometimes drab badges represent colorful bits of Hawaii history

By Burl Burlingame

THEY'RE just colored thread on drab cloth, but they also represent vivid periods of history. Military insignia represent a whole spectrum of collectibles, ranging from cheap to outrageously expensive, and best of all, you can put your whole collection in a shoebox.

The Hawaii Military Insignia Collectors are having a show and sale Sunday at Washington Intermediate School. We're talking insignia, uniforms, equipment, paper collectibles, books, models and other displays.

We asked militaria collector Jonathan Darr to share the most collectible patches that are connected to Hawaii. They are:

A. Hawaiian Department The "Lazy H" insignia was approved in 1922, even though the department had been created a decade before. It's fairly common and gained fame as the patch seen on soldiers' uniforms in "From Here to Eternity."

B. Hawaii Territorial Guard The ancestor of the Hawaii National Guard, and used between 1942 and 1947. It's thought that versions with a brown border might signify Reserve troops.

C. 442nd Regimental Combat Team This is the original version of the 442nd insignia, used only between summer and Christmas 1943, and relatively rare. The Nisei troops objected to the depiction of a yellow hand clutching a bloody sword, and it was changed to ...

D. 442nd Regimental Combat Team This is the 442nd patch that was adopted in December 1943. It is fairly common and much more patriotic-looking.

E. Hawaii Defense Volunteers One of many local militias formed during World War II to aid regular-duty troops, the HDV were a well-organized group of Chinese and Filipino citizen-soldiers.

F. Maui Volunteers A neighbor-island militia, like the Kauai Volunteers. Since these were small organizations, the patches are relatively rare.

G. 24th Division The "Hawaiian Division" was formed in 1921, based at Schofield Barracks. In 1941 the organization was split, becoming the 24th and 25th Divisions. The 24th kept the insignia.

H. Hawaiian Cadre As the 442nd RCT and the 100th Battalion were formed of Nisei, other Hawaiians felt left out. This combat team was formed of Hawaiians only and went to train in North Carolina. The team was broken up after a few months and the Hawaiians were scattered to other units.

I. Filipino Battalion This unit was composed of Filipinos living in the U.S. who wished to fight the Japanese. There are many variations of this patch and Darr says there are reproductions available.

J. Hawaii Separate Coast Artillery The guys who manned the big guns on shore. This insignia was adopted in 1936.

K. Business Man Training Corps A civilian defense militia on Oahu composed primarily of white executives.

L. Hawaii Rifles A cavalry militia on the Big Island composed primarily of plantation works; the insignia features a lehua flower.

M. 25th Division The other half of the split Hawaiian Division. If it looks familiar, that's because it's still in use at Schofield.

Early patches were made of colored-felt shapes glued together. Embroidered patches became common during World War II. After the war an outfit called Patch King bought surplus patches and sold them in sets. When stock ran out, Patch King began manufacturing some of the more popular and rare patches. Darr suggests keeping an eye out for these, because they're not authentic.

"In the 1950s, thread manufacturers began using artificial brighteners in thread so color would be brighter," Darr said. "These always glow under a black light, so I have a small, battery-powered black light to shine on patches.

"For example, we were once shown a uniform of a man who had supposedly fought in the Battle of the Bulge. The patches were correct, and the uniform type was correct, but under the black light the threads holding the patches on the uniform glowed. The uniform wasn't what it was purported to be."

The facts

What: Hawaii Military Insignia Collectors show and sale
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Washington Intermediate School
Cost: $1, $10 for table rental
Call: 941-3414

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