Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 03-12-2008, 09:52 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: U.S.A.
Posts: 32,909
U.S. Army - Why were the chevrons turned?

If yuo look at images of U.S. Army uniforms in the Civil War era, the chevrons used to indicate the ranks of privates, corporals, and sergeants are clearly point-down, like the current British Army's chevrons (but much wider and thinner).

But today's U.S. chevrons are point up (except for some "specialist" ranks). So far as I can tell, this change happened sometime before the First World War.

Has anyone pinned it down more specifically? When exactly were the chevrons turned, and, more important, why?
Old 03-12-2008, 10:43 AM
chowder chowder is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Manchester, England
Posts: 7,592
According to Wiki the chevron pointed down during the Spanish/American war era, they then turned but no reason is given.

Perhaps you guys wanted to be less like us dastardly Brits
Old 03-12-2008, 11:35 AM
Will Repair Will Repair is offline
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Arcade
Posts: 2,280

Last edited by Will Repair; 03-12-2008 at 11:38 AM.
Old 03-12-2008, 11:38 AM
DrCube DrCube is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Caseyville, IL
Posts: 6,786
Originally Posted by acsenray
But today's U.S. chevrons are point up (except for some "specialist" ranks). So far as I can tell, this change happened sometime before the First World War.
Specialists don't have chevrons; they used to have 'rockers' -- like Staff Sergeants and above, only upside down -- but since they got rid of all the Specialist ranks except for E4, there are no more upside-down rockers.. The Navy has downward pointing chevrons, and the Air Force has downward pointing "stripes" but adds upward pointing chevrons for the higher enlisted ranks. The Army doesn't have any downward pointing chevrons in any ranks at the moment.

Sorry I can't be more useful answering the actual question. The chevrons got turned (and the rank got smaller) around 1902-1903, I think, and the Army was going through a lot of changes around that time. Maybe they just wanted to change the enlisted ranks to reflect all the other changes going on at that time?
Old 03-12-2008, 11:58 AM
DrCube DrCube is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Caseyville, IL
Posts: 6,786
Here's a link showing lots of pictures of both old-style and new-style chevrons:

From the above link:
Nineteenth Century chevrons were worn point down. In the smoky, black powder environment of the 19th-Century battlefield chevrons needed to be large so they could be seen. In 1902 chevrons were redesigned and worn point up. With smokeless powder and accurate firearms smaller chevrons were necessary to avoid making noncommissioned officers targets.
And this one I just skimmed through (but it looks pretty interesting) details the changes that were going on around that time:

Nothing in either of those that says why they decided to flip them point-down to point-up.
Old 03-12-2008, 11:59 AM
minor7flat5 minor7flat5 is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Trenton, NJ
Posts: 4,525
Hey Will, I'll post some quotes from those links for folks (yes this is a pet peeve of mine):
Originally Posted by Your first link
The direction the chevrons pointed changed repeatedly. From 1821 through 1829 chevrons had pointed upward (inverted V); new 1833 cavalry regiment's pointed down (V shape). The war department change of 1847 caused the ranks to reverse once more and point skyward. Chevrons, just changed to "point up" in 1847, were reversed again when the 1851 uniform board simply recorded that by a vote of five to four "the chevrons indicating rank shall be the same form as at present, but that the points shall be downward (V shape) instead of up". Why the chevrons were changed to "point up" (inverted V) is not clear, other than they were "more attractive".
(I converted the text from all caps)
Originally Posted by Your second link
Chevrons were sewn on the sleeves of uniforms with the point down from approximately 1820 to 1903. They were worn with the points both up and down between 1903 and 1905 after the first reversal from "down" to "up" was authorized on May 1, 1903 in Army Regulation number 622. This confusion period, from 1903 to 1905, was the result of the color change in the chevrons provided for in the regulation which also directed a standard color for each branch, corps or organization and replaced the gold-colored chevrons. Because of the number of gold insignia available, troops were permitted to wear the old-type Chevron until the supply became exhausted.

To assure uniformity in both color and position of the new colored chevrons, War Department Circular 61 dated 30 November 1905 stated that the points of the Chevrons would be worn point upward.
As early as 1820, chevrons were worn with the point down, although there was not an official direction of this to appear in regulations until 1821 when chevrons were authorized for both officers and enlisted men.
Chevrons continued to be worn points downward during the 1800s. AGO Order number 10 dated 9 February 1833, stated "Chevrons will be worn with the point toward the cuff of the sleeves."
They don't seem to agree. One says that they flipped up and down a few times, while the other says it was all done in 1903.


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:42 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017