A Glance At The History Of Military Challenge Coins

Posted by dunitzsantrino on December 29th, 2014

Since the bloody beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, U.S. soldiers have been carrying military challenge coins. What began with soldiers simply wanting a small reminder of home has now turned into a time honored tradition. These special coins have now become a symbol of brotherhood and unity, which each military unit designated their own unique coin. Unit mottos, symbols and mascots have all been captured and help to show the military members pride and loyalty to themselves and each other. These personal mementos are now referred to as military challenge coins and they are an integral part of every branch of the American armed forces.

The History of Military Challenge Coins

Military Challenge Coins first routinely began appearing in the pockets of soldiers during the American Civil War. As early as 1861, soldiers wanted a small reminder of home and this was especially important during this period in American history. With the southern states declaring their independence, it was important for southern soldiers to carry coins displaying their home states. These coins were often traded between soldiers and became poignant reminders of lost friends and shared experiences after the war’s end. As America’s involvement continued to grow in global affairs, the importance of the military challenge coin also continued to grow. With the start of WWI, almost every G.I. who left for Europe was carrying one of these special coins. While these coins were still being minted as symbols of pride and unity, they were also beginning to show their practical side as well. One story recounts how an American WWI pilot used his unit’s military challenge coin to convince his French captors that he was not a German spy. As this inspiring story gained in popularity, almost every branch of the military began issuing these special coins.

Throughout WWII soldiers carried their unit’s coins, often taking care to send the coins belonging to their fallen comrades’ home. The Vietnam War saw the greatest rise in the popularity of these coins, with many of the Special Forces units minting their own unique versions. This display of unity and solidarity among the troops was extremely important when the American military was missing its support at home. Coins commemorating acts of bravery and unit achievements also began appearing more frequently, with the oldest one dating back to the Korean War.

Today’s military challenge coins are proudly carried by all branches of the military, including police and fire departments. They serve as reminders of where the unit has been, and describe their mission. They are proudly shown off at military gatherings, and are carried by every member of the unit’s command. They are given out as small awards, and also used to show appreciation. One of the most important things to remember about a challenge coin is that it must be carried at all times. Penalties can and do occur for any service member found without their coins. This is shows that these coins are still an important part of American military life.

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