ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

History Of The Military Challenge Coin.

Updated on January 23, 2012
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6)
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) | Source

A fascinating story of how they came to be,

For years, I have been carrying a military challenge coin in my pocket. At military functions and parties, to be without one would mean having to buy a round for the bar.

But where did the tradition of carrying a military coin all start?

Well, there are a few back stories that I'd like to share and they are quite interesting to say the least!

First let's explain just what a challenge coin is. It's coin or medallion that depicts a military unit or organizations insignia or emblem. They are given to members of that unit to prove membership and when challenged by others to prove their assignment to that unit, they have to produce it immediately or face punishment of some sort. Usually by paying for a round of drinks at command functions. Over the years they have become highly prized and collected by service members the world over.



NBC News Story on the Challenge Coin

For some historians it all started way back in WWI. The newly formed Army Air Corps had just been formed and the new aircraft squadrons were mostly comprised of volunteers from all over the country.


One such volunteer was a wealthy officer who decided to have solid bronze medallions struck and given to his fellow fliers as mementos of their service together.


He had them made with gold plating and were quite valuable. One of the pilots who wasn't so well off as his fellow gift giver decided to keep his coin on his person at all times in a small leather pouch attached to a lanyard to hang around his neck. I supposed to ensure his coin didn't get lost.


Not too much later this fellow was involved in a dog fight and found himself shot down behind enemy lines and on the run.


Well he didn't get very far before he was captured by the Germans. They took all of his belongings except his necklace that had his squadron coin.

When he was being transported to a POW camp, the small town where he was being held at overnight became the target of an allied bombing raid which caused massive confusion giving the flyer the opportunity he needed to escape.

The pilot was able to evade German patrols by wearing civilian clothes but was eventually found by a French patrol. With no identification and not knowing how to speak French, he was just about on the verge of being shot.

Desperate to prove he wasn't a German spy his only saving grace was his military unit coin which he promptly produced. One of the French military members recognized the unit emblem emblazoned on the coin and halted the execution just long enough to verify the young pilots identity.

Once he returned to his squadron, he told the tale of his harrowing escape. Needless to say, his fellow pilots took to wearing their coins around their neck as well! To make sure they had their coins, the flyers started "challenging" each other to see if they had them in their possession. If not, the victim had to buy a round for the challenger. If he could produce the coin, it was the challenger who had to buy the drinks.




The Vietnam Version of the tale.

During the Vietnam conflict (many would rightly argue that it was a war), many young and superstitious warriors would take to carrying in their pocket a "lucky" piece of ordnance.

Many felt that if it was a bullet, that thing may have their name on it so better to keep it in your pocket than in the enemies magazine!

Over the years the size of the ordnance started growing. So much so that soldiers would try to out do each other by bringing mortar shells, hand grenades and other live high explosives into establishments that weren't real condusive to the safe handling of these "lucky" bits of ordnance.

Unit commanders, after having received word that their men where carrying large pieces of live ordnance naturally became concerned. After quickly banning the practice, commanding officers suggested to the senior NCO's that a much safer alternative was a command coin that the men could carry instead and the practice of carrying a coin took off.


There are other versions on just how the military challenge coin came to be but these two were my favorites. I've tried my best to never be without my coin because I've been on the losing side of a challenge.

Didn't have my coin at a Chief Petty Officer function back in San Diego one time and that was one expensive bar fine!

Many of my fellow Chiefs have taken up the hobby of collecting these coins. Many of them are very intracite with fine detail work that would make a jeweler proud. All of mine were given as gifts or as a swap coin when meeting a fellow service member.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Military Challenge Coin, head on over to the links I've provided.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • John J Gulley profile imageAUTHOR

      John J Gulley 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Great bit of history. I never knew about them. Thanks for sharing!

    • ThePelton profile image

      ThePelton 

      7 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

      Another military money related custom of world war two was the "Short Snorter". It was a piece of paper money, or a series of pieces of paper money taped together with the soldier's name and unit on it. He would also get other soldiers to sign it, thus the need for multiple bills. The could be of almost any source, just as long as there was space on them for a signature, and might contain more than a dozen different bills from a dozen different countries.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)