Army Challenge Coins:

Posted by dunitzsantrino on December 29th, 2014

The first known record of the challenge coin tradition in the United States Army can be traced back to the First World War days. The most widely accepted and known story about the army challenge coins is a miracle story in itself.During the perilous times of the Great War, a young Ivy league-dropout, wealthy lieutenant of an Armed Air Forces squadrondistributed specially minted coins that bore the unique sigil that represented his squad among all his fellow squad members with the sole intention to bind all the members with a common sentiment of brotherhood and to boost their moralsin the face of the dire adversity and travesty inflicted by the war. The purpose of the coins was also to serve as an unmistakable proof of identity.So it was insisted upon that all the men must carry their coins with them at all the times.One particular young pilot treasured the coin ardently and wore it around his neck with the coin inside a leather pouch.With some unfortunate turn of events, the squadron plane was shot down and it crashed in the German territories (behind enemy lines). While nobody of the squadron could make it alive from the crash, this young pilot luckily survived only to be made aprisoner by the Germans.Later he managed to escape into the French lines where again he was captured and sentenced for execution since he was mistaken as a saboteur. It was then on the display of his challenge coin with American sigil on it that made the French realize their mistake and spare his life.

Ever since then challenge coin tradition has not just managed to persist in the US Army but has also found its roots in various other domains of the Armed Services like Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, non-armed forces like Fire Fighting squads, Police departments, Peace Corps, Red Cross, etc,and even in the day-to-day civil activities and ceremonies such as sport functions.

After almost 80 years, the challenge coins are still presented to all the team members by their commander-in-charge as a token of brotherhood and allegianceto the cause of the army. To make it a compulsory habit in the army for all the army-men to carry theircoins a coin challenge is practiced. The challenge is initiated the moment armypersonnel displays his coin and challenges his fellow member to show his. This challenge can made anywhere at any time. If the challenged fails to produce his coin then he owes the challenger a drink and if he wins then the challenger owes him a drink.

Usually the challenge coins are spherical but they can also adorn various other shapes based on the squad and the customization details. With so many minting companies to provide a huge multitude of customization options, minting unique challenge coinsat a fair price isn’t troublesome.These days with the promotion of e-commerce getting challenge coins hand-crafted and shipped from an off-shore company isn’t a challenge anymore.

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