August 17th ~ Pershing, the 81st Division, and the Cat
It’s August 17th and that means it is Black Cat Appreciate Day, a day that aims to dispel the myths surrounding black cats.
Coincidentally the very first Shoulder Sleeve Insignia patch in the United States Army was designed by the 81st Infantry Division which was organized during World War I at Camp Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. And their symbol is a Black Wildcat.
The story goes, that while at Camp Jackson, much of the division training was conducted in the vicinity of Wildcat Creek.
While there, members of the unit trapped a Carolina wildcat near the creek, and adopted it as the division mascot.
The 81st Division commander, Major General Charles J. Bailey, went a step further in creating a distinctive shoulder patch for his men to wear.
The original design was a circular olive drab cloth patch with a wildcat silhouette surrounded by a black border.
Unfortunately the patch wasn’t authorized and the War Department and even General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force in France wanted the patch removed.
Bailey redoubled his efforts to keep the patch convincing Pershing that the Wildcat was the heart and soul of the 81st and a physical manifestation of Obedience, Courage, Loyalty.
Bailey’s initiative spread and soon units across the Army were requesting their own insignias.
In October 1918, use of the Wildcat patch became official confirming the 81st Division Wildcat patch as the first divisional patch of the Army.
In 1922 the War Department approved the final version of the Wildcat patch, a black cat on an olive drab disc within a black circle, a design which has remained the same ever since.
Today the Wildcat patch is worn by the 81st Regional Support Command (RSC) currently located at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Because of superstitious beliefs in some cultures, black cats are sometimes associated with bad luck and, sadly, are more likely to be put to sleep or wait a long time to be adopted from shelters. But on this Black Cat Appreciation we salute the 81st for showing us all that Black Cats are so much more.