Colors, Insignia and Symbolism
The colors of the National Society of Pershing Rifles are Blue and White. These colors have traditional national significance and each represent the cornerstones of the Society and its members.
- Cleanliness of Life
- Rectitude of Conduct
The Crest (Coat of Arms)
The shield, crossed rifle and torch design has been used by Pershing Rifles as early as 1928. In 1930 our first Pledge Manual described these symbols:
The coat-of-arms is the Torch of Knowledge (from the Statue of Liberty) superimposed upon the crossed rifles of the infantry, in which we are to excel…it is the basis of all of our other insignia…it may be enclosed in a shield with the letters “P” and “R” and the date 1894.”
Based on these symbols, the L.G. Balfour Company of Attleboro, Massachusetts designed the Pershing Rifles Crest, which was adopted at the 1932 National Convention by the National Legislative Body. The official crest consists of a Grecian helmet and torse over the inscription “Pershing Rifles” and the founding date “1894.” The crest is a guide for the members in our organization. It tells a little of our history and explains through the various symbols what is expected of us as Pershing Riflemen, officers, and as ladies and gentlemen. Each part of the coat-of-arms bears some significance pertaining to the Pershing Rifles:
- A. CHAMELEON: The Chameleon represent Pershing Riflemen’s adaptability to change and constant preparedness. After Pershing Rifles became a tri-service fraternal organization in the late 1940s the Chameleon came to represent the tri-service nature of the organization.
- B. HELMET: The Helmet is the symbol of the chivalry of the medieval knights. This spirit is the cornerstone of the character of every Pershing Rifles member. It is a prime requisite for conduct, a necessary part of every true heart. It symbolizes both the courage of the membership of the Society and the Society’s protection of its members.
- C. TORSE: The Torse, a six-divisional rope just below the Helmet, denotes the romantic aspect of the heraldry and is the symbol of the chivalrous attitude for the men for womanhood. It is representative of the Pershing Rifles Cord.
- D. SHIELD: The Shield, which bears the Crossed Rifles and Torch, is the symbol of the readiness of the Rifleman to meet any situation anywhere, on the battlefield or wherever we may be called.
- E. CROSSED RIFLES: The Crossed Rifles, crossed saltier-wise on the escutcheon of Pershing Rifles form a chevron, which has been noted as an emblem of service and of helping one another, here representing the spirit of friendship and the cooperative efforts of units in the Society in serving on another. The Crossed Rifles can also be seen as a symbol for power and military strength for the insurance of peace.
- F. TORCH: The Torch, flamed and superimposed over the Crossed Rifles, represents four values inherent to the Society. First, in its entirety, the torch stands for indomitable leadership embodying both the dutiful following of instructions, like true soldiers, and the intelligence issuance of command. It stands also for the eternal flame of true friendship, a fundamental quality inherent within the Society. The Torch also denotes scholarship and knowledge. To meet the demands of leadership, we must have knowledge. It does not mean just the “minimum effort” of scholarship.
- G. SCROLL: The Scroll bears the name of our organization and the year of its founding, 1894.
The Rank Shields
Pershing Rifles officer rank shields have been worn at least since the 1930s and are blue in color, trimmed in silver, and almost identical in nature to the shield found in the Pershing Rifles crest. Officer rank shields include a torch and crossed rifles in silver. The rank of the officer within the Society is denoted at the top center of the shield, above the torch and crossed rifles. There are rank shields for all officer ranks from Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant General.
Pershing Rifles Warrant Officer rank shields come in two grades. The Warrant Officer One rank is an officer’s shield without insignia and the Chief Warrant Officer Two is a horizontal brown (Army) or blue (Navy/Air Force) bar on which is displayed two vertical silver bars representing the rank. It is believed that there are only two P/R Warrant Officer ranks because in the early 1950s when this insignia was first introduced there were only two grades of warrant officer. It wasn’t until 1956 that the armed forces adopted four warrant officer grades.
The Enlisted Rank Shields are also blue in color, but trimmed with gold. A small gold version of the Shield found in the Pershing Rifles crest rests above the chevrons. These rank shields were authorized by the US Army Institute of Heraldry in May 1969 to replace the cloth enlisted rank shields that had been worn since the 1950s on the lower right sleeve. The metal enlisted shields may have been worn unofficially several years before they were authorized.
The Enlisted Rank Shields have service specific devices denoting rank of Army, Navy and Air Force Pershing Riflemen which recognizes our tri-service affiliation. However it is important to note that a Rifleman steps out of his or her service in interest of the Brotherhood. It is for this reason that the Shield, Torch, and Crossed Rifles are the basis for both the Officer and Enlisted Rank Shields. We are proud to be tri-service in nature and recognize that our ability to work together now will increase our effectiveness on the battlefields of the future.
The US Army Institute of Heraldry authorized the wear of the P/R Officer’s Shields in March 1951 and the Enlisted Shields in May 1969. Air Force Instruction 36-2903, AFROTC Supplement allows for the wear of the P/R Rank Shields on the male and female uniform.
The Membership Shoulder Cord (Fourragère)
The Pershing Rifles Shoulder Cord is a symbol of honor bestowed to the Pershing Rifles member upon initiation and is to be worn on the left shoulder. The Cord is purple and white with the tip bearing the Pershing Rifles Crest.
First worn by Pershing Riflemen at the University of Nebraska as early as 1924, The original colors of the cord were blue and white – the colors of the Society. This style of modern fourragère originated with the French Army which fought alongside Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force in World War I. The French awarded a fourragère to units that distinguished themselves in combat. So it is fitting that the fourragère is a sign of distinction that represents membership in the National Society of Pershing Rifles.
The membership cord remained blue and white until at least the late 1950s. Sometime in the 1960s the colors of the cord changed to purple and white. There is no documented evidence as to why this change was made. However, Pershing Rifles lore is that during World War II along with many other rationed items, blue dye was in short supply. The company that made cords substituted purple for the blue.
It was thought that following the war and the end of rationing, the cords returned to blue and white for a short period of time. But in the 1960s to honor the sacrifices of the Vietnam War and World War II, the cord was to have once again returned to purple and white and has remained as such since.
Authorization: Although worn since 1920s, the US Army Institute of Heraldry provided official written approval for the wear of the Pershing Rifles Membership Cord in May 1951. Air Force Instruction 36-2903, AFROTC Supplement states that the P/R Membership Cord can be, “worn whenever the service uniform, semi-formal or mess dress uniform is worn.”
Wear: P/R National SOP (2007), Page 21, Section B, “Membership Cord. The Pershing Rifles shoulder cord is to be worn on the left shoulder. It shall be worn with no other fourragere, shoulder cord, or aiguillette. The braided strand shall be worn under the arm and the two single strands shall be worn outside the arm. The alternate cord (without tip) is authorized only for members enrolled in Air Force ROTC, and then only for situations where the official membership cord cannot be worn. It is not a replacement for the official membership cord, and may not be worn at Pershing Rifles events. “
The Membership Ribbon
The current Pershing Rifles Membership Ribbon was created by the US Army Institute of Heraldry in May 1951 to replace a pre-World War II design that was deemed to be too similar to the Italian War Cross. The design of the P/R Membership Ribbon is identical to the Army Good Conduct Medal (except it is blue rather than red), which denotes exemplary conduct at all times. It is worn on the left breast of the uniform. The six white stripes on the membership ribbon, from the wearer’s right to left stand for:
- Devotion to Duty and Country
- A Bold and True Heart
- Readiness to Meet any Situation
- Military Proficiency
The US Army Institute of Heraldry provided official written approval for the wear of the Pershing Rifles Membership Ribbon in May 1951. Air Force Instruction 36-2903, AFROTC Supplement states that the Pershing Rifles Membership Ribbon, “may be worn on the AFROTC cadet uniform in precedence according to AFR OTCI 36-2011 and AFROTCVA 36-3.”
For more information on Pershing Rifles insignia and ribbons see our P/R Award and Ribbons page: https://pershingrifles.wordpress.com/awards
Symbolism of the White Rose
The official flower of the National Society of Pershing Rifles is the white rose. Traditionally, this flower represents the most important man or family of the era. White roses are also associated with honor and reverence. For the Pershing Rifleman, the white rose symbolizes the great life of our founder and patron, General of the Armies John Joseph Pershing, who made the ideals of the Pershing Rifles a reality.