History

A brief history of the prestigious Combat Infantryman Badge

Of the many accouterments on a U.S. Army uniform, nothing lets everyone know that they're in the presence of a badass like the Combat Infantryman Badge. While the Combat Medic Badge (for medics, obviously) and Combat Action Badge (for everyone else) are highly respected, there's a certain prestige that comes along with the CIB.


Creation

On Oct. 27, 1943, the War Department officially established the Combat Infantryman Badge under Section I, War Department Circular 269. It was created to award infantrymen for their hard work and dedication to their country.

It was also seen, in part, as a recruitment tool, considering that being an infantryman wasn't a very coveted job at the time. They suffered the worst casualties and received the least recognition. The badge would at least try to address the latter.

In case you were wondering why the CIB outranks the CAB... That's why. (Image courtesy of U.S. National Archive)

Expert Infantryman Badge

Created alongside the Combat Action Badge was the Expert Infantrymen Badge (EIB). It was meant to build esprit de corps among the infantrymen who trained harder than others. On March 26, 1944, 100 NCOs from the 100th Infantry Division were selected to undergo three days of hell to prove their worth. Only ten made it through and were personally presented the award by Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair.

If you earned both the CIB and the EIB, you are only authorized to wear one.

Since one says you know infantry stuff and one says you've done infantry stuff, many choose the CIB. (Photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby)

Extra Pay

They may not have been the ones to make the sky blue, but Congress loved the infantry, too.

Between the time it was created in 1943 until 1948, recipients of the Combat Infantryman Badge (and eventually the Combat Medical Badge) were awarded an extra ten dollars a month pay. When adjusted for inflation, that's about $146 a month.

Since infantrymen never change, we all know where that $10 went. (Image courtesy of the National Archive)

Three-time recipients

The CIB can be awarded multiple times for fighting in different eras. The four qualifying eras are WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam and other Cold War conflicts, and the Global War on Terrorism. Back in the day, it wasn't too uncommon to find a CIB with a single star above it and, even today, you can still find salty infantrymen who fought in Somalia in 1994. To date, there are 324 recognized infantrymen who have earned the award three times — all for fighting in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

It's kind of impossible to have earned the CIB for Korea, Vietnam, and the Global War on Terrorism because that's a 48-year time gap and the soldier with the longest time in service, Gen. John William Vessey, gave Uncle Sam 42 years.

But being a three-timer gets you a permanent spot in the National Infantry Museum! (Photo by Z. F. Hanner at the National Infantry Museum)