US ARMY CHEMICAL CORPS COLLAR DEVICES

Shortly after the 1917 establishment Chemical Service Section (CSS), ultimate progenitor of today’s Chemical Corps, its personnel were given a collar insignia that is almost identical to the one issued today, described as a “benzol ring superimposed in the center of crossed retorts.” The Chemical Warfare Service, successor to the CSS, used the insignia as soon as it was formed in June, 1918. It was worn by members of the 1st Gas Regiment, which had been formed from the 30th Engineer Regiment (Gas and Flame)—one of the pieces of “equipment” they had that was related, at least indirectly, to chemical warfare.

But the design did little to inspired the Soldiers who were on the frontlines dealing with this new and deadly type of munition. The director of the Chemical Warfare Service stated in August, 1918 that the “overseas section” wanted an insignia that was more warlike than then design that had been created for the CSS. A proposal was put forth to replace the rather sterile CSS insignia with a dragon’s head above two crossed gas shells.

The War Department did not approve of this design—but the situation in Europe was moving at a faster pace than the bureaucracy in Washington. Assuming that the insignia would receive a thumbs-up, the new device was actually manufactured and sold through the Quartermaster’s Office of the American Expeditionary Force—but of course its wear was never authorized.

Today’s collar insignia is based upon the initial CSS design, which received official approval in 1921 for the Chemical Warfare Service. The only substantive change since that time has been in the appearance of the benzene (benzol) ring: the color was changed to cobalt blue in 1924.
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