[Lone Sentry: Unit Identification Markings for U.S. Military Vehicles]
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Unit Identification Markings for U.S. Military Vehicles

Regulations:

The official regulations for unit identification markings on vehicles and equipment were specified in the publication AR 850-5. The regulations provide the basic structure of unit identification markings, however photographs show many units' vehicles were not strictly marked according to the regulations.

The following excerpt of Section 10 is taken from the August 1942 version of AR 850-5.

 

10. Unit markings.—Gasoline solvent paint or paint as prescribed by the War Department will be used.

a. Unit markings.—National symbol.

(1) A white five-pointed star will be the national symbol of all motor vehicles assigned to tactical units. Administrative motor vehicles operating in an active theater of operations will be similarly marked when directed by the theater commander.

(2) The size of the national symbol will be determined for each type of motor vehicle and will be large enough to take advantage of the surface upon which to be painted. See figures 1 to 34.

(3) Whenever requirements for camouflage and concealment outweigh the requirements for recognition, the national symbol may be covered by lusterless olive-drab gasoline solvent paint, camouflage nets, oil and dirt, etc., or will be removed.

b. Unit identification symbols.

(1) Front and rear markings.—See figures 1 to 34 for location.

(a) General.—Front and rear markings are identical and consist of four groups in consecutive order, from the left to right when facing the vehicle, separated by a dash 1 inch long. Markings may be on a single line or on two lines, but in no case will groups be broken nor order of groupings be changed. If two lines are used, the first and third groups will be on the top row. Composition of groups is indicated below.

(b) First group.—The first group will designate the smallest appropriate unit listed below in accordance with the following code:

Unit         Designation
Division (infantry)  Arabic numeral.
Division (armored)  Arabic numeral followed by triangle 3 inches high with ¼-inch stroke.
Division (cavalry)  Arabic numeral followed by letter C.
Corps (army)  Roman numeral.
Corps (cavalry)  Roman numeral followed by letter C.
Corps (armored)  Roman numeral followed by triangle 3 inches high with ¼-inch stroke.
Army  Arabic numeral followed by letter A.
Air force  Arabic numeral followed by a star 3 inches high.
Zone of communications  ZC.
Army Ground Forces  AGF.
Services of Supply  SOS.
General Headquarters  GHQ.
Zone of interior  ZI.
Reception center  RC.
Replacement training center  RTC preceded by arm or service symbol.
Training center  TC preceded by arm or service symbol.
Firing center  FC preceded by arm or service symbol.
All others       Nonconflicting letters.

(c) Second group.—The second group will designate separate regiment, separate brigades; groups, separate battalions, or separate companies, and similar units by appropriate number or symbol, followed by arm or service in accordance with abbreviations listed below. When indicating headquarters and headquarters companies or special companies of units identified in first group, the second group will consist only of the letter "X." When indicating brigades, the numeral will be underlined.

Arm or service         Designation
Airborne AB
Army Air Forces units Star 3 inches high.
Antiaircraft AA
Amphibious AM
Armored regiment Triangle 3 inches high with ¼-inch stroke.
Cavalry C
Chemical Warfare Service G
Coast Artillery Corps CA
Corps of Engineers E
Field Artillery FA
Infantry I (preceded by dash ½-inch square)
Medical Department M
Military police P
Ordnance Department O (preceded by dash ½-inch square)
Quartermaster Corps Q
Signal Corps S
Tank Destroyer TD
Tank group       TG

(d) Third group.—The third group will designate companies and similar organizations by letters in accordance with the following code:

Organization         Designation
Headquarters and headquarters company (or headquarters and headquarters and service company) of lowest unit identification in previous groups. HQ
Service company of lowest unit identified in service groups. SV
Headquarters and headquarters company of battalion not previously identified. Numerical designation of battalion followed by letters HQ.
Service company of battalion not previously identified. Battalion number followed by letters SV.
Lettered company Letter designation.
Separate company identified in second group. X or abbreviation of company.
Antitank AT
Maintenance MT
Heavy weapons HW
Cannon CN
Reconnaissance R
Train TN
Weapons W
"Name" company (other than headquarters company, headquarters and service company or service company).       Nonconflicting letters assigned for identification purposes, preceded by the battalion number, when necessary.

(e) Fourth group.—The fourth group will designate the serial number of the vehicle in normal order of march within the organization to which it is assigned. Vehicles assigned to any headquarters will be combined for purposes of numbering with those of the appropriate headquarters company or similar organization, and will be given the smaller serial numbers used therein.

(2) Examples.

(a) 1—X—HQ—10    10th vehicle, Hq Co, 1st Inf Div.
1—X—1S—1010th vehicle, 1st Sig Co, 1st Inf Div.
1—X—1R—1010th vehicle, 1st Rcn Tr, 1st Inf Div.
1—16-I—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 16th Inf, 1st Inf Div.
1—F—HQ—1010th vehicle, Hq Btry, Div Arty, 1st Inf Div.
1—33F—D—1010th vehicle, Btry D, 33d FA Bn, 1st Inf Div.
1—1E—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 1st Engr Bn, 1st Inf Div.
1—1M—A—1010th vehicle, Co A (Coll), 1st Med Bn, 1st Inf Div.
1—1Q—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 1st QM Bn, 1st Inf Div.
(b) 1Δ—X—SV—1010th vehicle, Serv. Co, 1st Armd Div.
1Δ—81R—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 81st Rcn Bn, 1st Armd Div.
1Δ—1Δ—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 1st Armd Regt, 1st Armd Div.
1Δ—27F—A—1010th vehicle, Btry A, 27th FA Bn, 1st Armd Div.
1Δ—16E—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 16th Engr Bn, 1st Armd Div.
1Δ—6I—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 6th Inf, 1st Armd Div.
1Δ—TN—HQ—1010th vehicle, Hq Co, Div Tn, 1st Armd Div.
1Δ—1-O—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, Maint Bn, 1st Armd Div.
1Δ—1Q—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, Sup Bn, 1st Armd Div.
(c) 1C—X—HQ—1010th vehicle, Hq Tr, 1st Cay. Div.
1C—X—1S—1010th vehicle, 1st Sig Tr, 1st Cav Div.
1C—91R—A—1010th vehicle, Tr A, 91st Rcn Sq, 1st Cav Div.
1C—X—27-O—1010th vehicle, 27th Ord Co, 1st Cav Div.
1C—1C—HQ—1010th vehicle, Hq Tr, let Cav Brig, 1st Cav Div.
1C—12C—HQ—1010th vehicle, Hq Tr, 12th Cav, 1st Cav Div.
1C—F—HQ—1010th vehicle, Hq Btry, Div Arty, 1st Cav Div.
1C—61F—A—1010th vehicle, Btry A, 61st FA Bn, 1st Cav Div.
1C—8E—A—1010th vehicle, Tr A, 8th Engr Bn, 1st Cav Div.
1C—1M—A—1010th vehicle, Tr A, let Med Sq, 1st Cav Div.
1C—1Q—A—1010th vehicle, Tr A, 1st QM Sq, 1st Cav Div.
(d) 2A—21Q—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 21st QM Regt, Second Army.
3A—61Q—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 61st QM Bn, Third Army.
★—1Q—SVAV—1010th vehicle, 1st QM Co, Serv Gp, (Avn) AAF.
3A—21Q—CAR—1010th vehicle, 21st QM Car Co, Third Army.
3A—56Q—COM—1010th vehicle, 56th QM Sales Comm Co, Third Army.
3A—67Q—REF—1010th vehicle, 67th QM Ref Co, Third Army.
4A—79Q—DP—1010th vehicle, 79th QM Depot Co, Fourth Army.
1A—87Q—RHD—1010th vehicle, 87th QM Rhd Co, First Army.
1A—132Q—TRK—1010th vehicle, 132d QM Trk Co, First Army.
★—862Q—MT—1010th vehicle, 862d QM L Maint Co, AAF.
(e) GHQ101MA1010th vehicle, Co A, 101 Med Regt, GHQ.
II—40M—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 40th Med Bn, II Army Corps.
3A—1M—VET—1010th vehicle, 1st Vet Co, Third Army.
II—701M—SAN—1010th vehicle, 701st Sn Co, II Army Corps.
II—3M—EV—1010th vehicle, 3d Evac Hosp, II Army Corps.
3A—53M—GEN—1010th vehicle, 53d Gen Hosp, Third Army.
1A—151M—STA—1010th vehicle, 151st Sta Hosp, First Army.
3A—63M—SUR—1010th vehicle, 63d Surg Hosp, Third Army.
3A—16M—VET—1010th vehicle, 16th Vet Evac Hosp, Third Army.
1A—1M—DP—1010th vehicle, 1st Med Sup Dep, First Army.
3A—2M—LAB—1010th vehicle, 2d Med Lab, Third Army.
(f) 1A—101P—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 101st MP Bn, First Army.
ZI—704P—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 704th MP Bn, ZI.
IV—X—44P—1010th vehicle, 44th MP Co, IV Army Corps.
(g) IX—18E—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 18th Engr, IX Army Corps.
II—62E—D—1010th vehicle, Co D, 62d Top Engr, II Army Corps.
(h) 1A-41-OA1010th vehicle, Co A, 41st Ord Bn, First Army.
I—1-O—HQ—1010th vehicle, Hq & Hq Det, 1st Ord Bn, I Army Corps.
3A—X—60-O—1010th vehicle, 60th Ord Co, Third Army.
★—714-O—AB—1010th vehicle, 714 Ord Co, AB, AAF.
(i) IIΔ—1S—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 1st Sig Bn, I Armd Corps.
III—26S—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 26th Sig Bn, III Army Corps.
★—X—S—1010th vehicle, Sig Co, AAF.
III—X—280S—1010th vehicle, 280th Sig Co, III Army Corps.
ZI—1S—SV—1010th vehicle, 1st Sig Serv Co, ZI.
(j) 1A—2G—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 2d Cml Bn, First Army.
3A—3G—MT—1010th vehicle, 3d Cml Co Maint, Third Army.
3A—3G—DP—1010th vehicle, 3d Cml Co, Dep, Third Army.
(k) II13FHQ1010th vehicle, Hq Btry, 13th FA Brig, II Army Corps.
I—17F—A—1010th vehicle, Btry A, 17th FA, I Army Corps.
1A—6F—A—1010th vehicle, Btry A, 6th FA Bn, First Army.
GHQ—71F—A—1010th vehicle, Btry A, 71st FA Bn, GHQ.
I—1FOB—A—1010th vehicle, Btry A, 1st FA Obsn Bn, I Army Corps.
(l) 3A—33CA—HQ—1010th vehicle, Hq Btry, 33 CAC Brig, Third Army.
1A—2CA—A—1010th vehicle, Btry A, 2d CAC, First Army.
AA—302CA—A—1010th vehicle, Btry A, 302 CAC, AA Comd.
(m) 2A—601TD—A—1010th vehicle, Co A. 601 TD Bn, Second Army.
TD—693TD—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, 693 TD Bn, TD Comd.
(n) ★—850E—A—1010th vehicle, Co A, Engr Bn Avn, AAF.

(3) How marked.—Unit identification markings will be painted in white letters on olive-drab background.

(4) Height of letters and figures.—Letters and figures will be of a character style and dimensions as designed for use for traffic signs. Where space does not permit this size, letters and figures will conform to space available. See figure 35.

(5) Marking not required.—Rear marking only is required on trailers, except on trailer, bomb, M5 and trailer, tractor, crane (see figs. 29 and 30). Unit marking will be placed on motorcycles when practicable.

(6) Removal of unit markings.—The first two groups of unit markings will be removed from all motor vehicles when leaving home stations for movement to theaters of operations or ports of embarkation and in the theater of operations when directed by the theater commanders.

(7) Administrative vehicles, motor vehicles assigned to administrative units or functions at posts, camps, and stations or similar activities will substitute abbreviations or words for the first two groups in order to show station and activity represented, Abbreviations will be those commonly used and where practical will conform to those prescribed in these regulations.

 

Photographs:

Following are some example vehicle markings from the website's photograph collection:

[Truck, 995th Field Artillery Battalion, WWII]     7A  995F  A17

The bumper markings on this truck follow regulations fairly closely except for the omission of the dash between each group. The "FA" designation has also been shortened to simply "F". On the left of the bumper, an unit identifier of three horizontal colored bars with the letter "S" is seen. Most sources associate the use of these color identifiers with amphibious operations. See also: 995th Field Artillery Bn Photo Album.

 
 
[Captured German RSO Tractor - Raupenschlepper Ost] 11Δ  42Δ  SV-61

Captured German RSO (Raupenschlepper Ost) tractor with markings for vehicle 61 of Service Company, 42nd Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division. See also: 11th Armored Photo Album.

 
[WWII US Army Truck, 3rd Army, 34th Evacuation Hospital] 3A-34M  EV-24

Truck from 34th Evacuation Hospital, Third Army marked according to regulations. (See example in (e) above.)

 
[WWII Military Police Jeep] TSF  BP  382P  HQ

Jeep of the Military Police, Theater Service Forces with complete unit markings. This photograph is most likely a post-war photograph taken during occupation duty.

 
[Jeep of General Patton from Third Army Headquarters, WWII] 3AX  HQ

A GI poses beside General Patton's jeep from Third Army Headquarters. The jeep has unit markings for Third Army HQ along with a three-star flag and plate. The jeep also mounts the trombone airhorns used by General Patton on the hood.

 
[Jeep from 103rd Engineer Combat Battalion, 28th Infantry Division] 28-103E  HQ-4

A jeep from the 103rd Engineer Combat Battalion, 28th Infantry Division photographed on a bridge somewhere in Europe. The unit bumper markings are applied according to regulations and designate the 4th vehicle of the Headquarters of 103rd Engineers, 28th Infantry Division. The windshield carries the addition marking "T4 Cole" in white.

 
[Truck of Third Air Force, 411th Bombardment Group, 648th Squadron] 3 ★ 411  648

A soldier poses in front of a truck marked with the unit identifier for Third Air Force, 411th Bombardment Group, 648th Squadron. The 411th Bombardment Group was a replacement training unit which was activated July 1943 and disbanded May 1944. The markings are missing the fourth group containing the vehicle number.

 
[Jeep of 102nd Infantry Division] 102-406-I  MED-4

A jeep and trailer from the Medical Detachment of the 406th Infantry Regiment, 102nd Infantry Division carry regulation markings.

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