WORLD WAR I FRENCH FOURRAGERES

The Croix de guerre was originally established on 2 April 1915 as a way to recognize individual acts of courage on the battlefield that were noteworthy enough to be cited in the French Army’s orders of the day. Various devices were attached to the ribbon to indicate at what level the individual had been cited, ranging from bronze stars for mentions at the brigade level to a bronze palm for citations in Army orders.

Less than three weeks later, a special insignia was announced that honored entire units that had been cited in orders more than once at the Army level—the unit equivalent of an individual receiving the Croix de guerre with a palm attachment. Instead of a ribbon or medal, this new award would be a plaited shoulder cord featuring the green and red colors of the Croix de guerre, and thus the fourragère was born.

In the last year of the war, however, an issue arose regarding the fourragère: how to distinguish units that received the honor multiple times as opposed to a lone citation. In February 1918, the French Army issued a memorandum detailing a new system in which the colors of the fourragère would be tied directly to the number of Army-level citations a unit received.

Units which had been cited two to three times would wear the original green-and-red fourragère; those cited four to five times would wear a green-and-yellow fourragère, colors mirroring those of the French Médaille militaire; six to eight mentions and the fourragère would be colored red like the ribbon of the Légion d’honneur. Units mentioned nine or more time would wear double fourragères in combinations of those basic colors.

Because of the United States late entry into the First World War I, only a handful of units were awarded fourragères. Both the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments earned the fourragère aux couleurs de la Croix de guerre, or “fourragère in the color of the Croix de guerre” (green and red), as did the Army’s 23rd Infantry Regiment. Multiple sources state that the 370th Infantry Regiment of the 93rd Division (Provisional) was also awarded the fourragère.

Guidelines regarding the wear and precedence of French fourragères are found in the Marine Corps Uniform Regulations (MCO P1020.34G) and Army regulations (DA 670-1 and AR 670-1).
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