Over one hundred years elapsed between the establishment of the offices of Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Army and Judge Advocates (JAs) and the creation of an insignia to identify the officers serving in those roles. One reason for this long lapse in recognizing the office with an authorized insignia was its intermittent status.

Congress abolished the office JAG in 1802, continued to appoint Judge Advocates to serve with units; the Act of January 11, 1812, for example, specified that a Judge Advocate was to be appointed to each Army division. The number of Judge Advocates allocated per divisions (and per geographical regions in peacetime) varied up until 1821, when the passage of the Act of March 2 made no provision for any Judge Advocates. As a result, the Army did not have any Judge Advocates appointed by statute between 1821 and 1849.

Congress authorized the appointment of Judge Advocate of the Army in 1849, but it was not until 1862 that the office of Judge Advocate General was re-established and, along with it, the foundational structure for a Corps of JAG officers. Two years later, the Bureau of Military Justice was established in the War Department, and in 1884 it was combined with the Corps of Judge Advocates to create the Judge Advocate General’s Department. Another six years would elapse before the insignia of a crossed pen and sword wreathed in laurel was adopted for war by the officers. An insignia for enlisted members of the JAG’s Corps was not approved until August 4, 1967.

The design of the insignia is elegantly simple; the pen represents the recording of testimony, the sword represents the military aspect of the Corps’ mission, and laurel wreaths symbolize achievement. But for some reason, the JAG Corps experimented with another design—a set of golden scales balanced on the tip of an upright sword, with a silver ribbon forming a border around the bottom half of the insignia. Approved in February, 1924 and introduced late in that year, the new insignia was disliked by nearly all JAG officers, and in December the Adjutant General rescinded it.

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