One of the most interesting things that happens on Reddit’s military threads is when people find old family military awards and post a picture asking redditors to identify the ribbons and medals.
With just a little research, it became clear that the duck — officially called the “Honorable Discharge Emblem” — was one of the more fascinating military awards in history, and for two reasons.
First, the award — sewn onto the uniform above right the breast pocket — identified discharged servicemembers to civilian police officers and military police so that they didn’t think the veteran was a deserter.
Obviously desertion was a problem.
Second, it was necessary because veterans in those days didn’t have any clothes when they left the military. They were banned from owning civilian clothing, in part, to discourage deserting.
Even so, during that time in American history there was a clothing shortage.
Veterans are allowed to wear their uniforms for 30 days following discharge, which in current times doesn’t mean much, most vets walk off the base their last day in civilian attire; for some WWII vets though, their uniforms were the only clothes they had for that entire 30 days.
So the military had to come up with a distinguishing device for discharged veterans.
The “duck” was actually an eagle, but military members thought it looked like a duck, so they started calling it a “ruptured duck,” since it also represented a servicemember’s exodus from the military, or a rupture.
Finally, they were also issued a ruptured duck lapel pin to wear on their civilian collared shirts, which many did in the years following their discharge as a way to distinguish them as WWII veterans.
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