Anti-Aircraft (AA) and Air Defense originally fell under the purview of the Coast Artillery Corps via the National Defense Act of 1920. When that Corps was disestablished in 1950, its personnel and equipment were reassigned to the Artillery branch under the organizational purview of Army Anti-Aircraft Command (ARAACOM); they and their fellow “field” artillerists wore the crossed-cannon collar device that had first been introduced in 1834.
But this insignia would soon be modified to reflect the evolution of anti-aircraft warfare. Ballistic-missile technology, both offensive and defensive, advanced at a tremendous rate in the 1950s. With the introduction of the Nike Ajax surface-to-air missile (SAM) was introduced in 1954, the days of ground-based artillery pieces forming the backbone of the Army’s AA arsenal began to draw to a very rapid close.

The transition from AA artillery to missiles was first acknowledged in the redesignation of ARAACOM as Army Air Defense Command in 1957; a year later, a new insignia featuring a missile vertically superimposed over the crossed cannons was authorized for wear. While uniform regulations did not authorize the placement of regimental numbers of the Artillery branch insignia, this didn’t stop units deployed around the globe from doing just that in a variety of ways: sometimes directly over the missile at the cannons’ intersection, sometimes in the horizontal “quadrant” to the left and right of the intersection, even on directly on the cannon as bookends to the missile. The numbers were typically red, in homage of the Artillery branch’s color of scarlet.

The importance of air-defense capabilities was at the forefront of all military strategists’ minds during the Cold War, especially during the 1960s. Finally, in 1968, the Army decided to establish the Air Defense Artillery branch, with the cannons-and-missile insignia—minus the ad hoc regimental identifiers that had been incorporated into the design—authorized for wear as a  device.

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