Pearl Harbor & American Cockades

World War II had a dramatic effect on the cockades of the world.

▪ It was the last time Americans would widely wear ribbon patriotic cockades.

▪ It was the first time Americans would widely wear metal patriotic "cockades."

▪ Modern American airplane roundels were created - based on cockades!

An Infamous Date
75 years ago, on December 8, 1941, President Roosevelt addressed Congress and the nation with one of the most remembered of all American speeches.

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

And thus our nation entered one of the greatest conflicts the world has known.

Patriotism in America was already high. Most sympathies were with the European Allied nations fighting the power of Germany's Hitler, Japan's Hirohito, and Italy's Mussolini. So the people of United States willingly settled in for the long fight to preserve freedom in the world.

Fabric to Metal
One example of people's patriotic fervor was the "victory ribbons" they wore to public events. But as time went on, many items became rationed in order to help the war effort. This included textiles, which were devoted mainly to the army's use.

So people began what would become a permanent switch - from ribbon cockades to plastic and metal pins. You can see this example of a celluloid "victory pin" in my collection. It's shaped like a cockade, but made out of early plastic.

French cockades, by the way, underwent the same transformation. This is a picture of a World War II metal cockade with the French slogan "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," written on its pendants.

Cockades In the Air
But the most dramatic new use for cockades was in the air. National emblems, usually based on cockades, were painted on airplane wings and tails as a mark of identification. These were called "roundels."

Actually, the first use of roundels was in World War I. But it was during the second world war that a version of the modern United States roundel was introduced.

Throughout the war, it went through many changes. The early design featured a blue circle, white star and red circle in the middle. Unfortunately, this was rather close to the Japanese roundel of a red circle on a white circle. So the American roundel was changed - quite a few times! Eventually the US government chose the modern design of a white star on a blue ground flanked by white bars. (See the complete history of how it changed and why here.)

Whether the national colors were worn as ribbon cockades, metal or plastic pins, or roundels on airplanes, the people of the United States were proud of their country and willing to fight for freedom. President Roosevelt said it well:

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

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