The first two decades of the Twentieth Century saw tremendous growth and changes in what we now call the National Guard of the United States. In 1903, Congress passed the Dick Act, which overturned the Militia Acts of 1792 and divided the “militia” into two distinct categories: Unorganized Militia, which consisted of all able-bodied males aged 17 to 45, and the Organized Militia, which comprised state militia units receiving federal funding—which the Dick Act conveniently boosted to $2 million to pay for equipment and training. Five years later, the Dick Act was amended to clarify, among other things, when militia units could be mobilized for Federal service and how long they could remain in that service. It also created the Division of Militia Affairs, the forerunner of today’s National Guard Bureau.

The National Defense Act of 1916 provided an annual budget to cover the expenses incurred by the state militia, but with this funding came more Federal oversight as the Division of Militia Affairs was expanded to form the Militia Bureau. Officer commissioning requirements, enlistment contracts, and oaths of office would be overseen by the Militia Bureau. The National Defense Act also resolved the issue of whether or not National Guard units could be called into overseas service by specifying that in the event of war they would be drafted into Federal service and would therefore no longer be operating as a militia of a state.

National Guard units made up a significant percentage of the troops sent to Europe in World War I, with their Militia Bureau playing an important role in their organization and deployment. In 1920, the War Department turned to the Commission of Fine Arts for assistance in designing an insignia for officers who served in the increasingly important Militia Bureau. The design by Anthony de Francisci features two crossed fasces signifying the unity of the States superimposed over an eagle, traditional emblem of the Federal government. In May 1921, the Army Chief of Staff sent a memo to the Quartermaster General indicating that Francisci’s design had been approved; it was adopted as the official insignia of the Militia Bureau on May 12, 1921.

The Militia Bureau was redesignated the National Guard Bureau nearly a dozen years later with the passage of Public Law No. 64 on June 15, 1933, but the name change was the only alteration made to the insignia.

The National Guard Bureau is the command authority for the National Guard of the United States, which is comprised of the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. In 2011, the Chief of Staff of the National Guard Bureau was added to the roster of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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