Military Officers Uniform Breast Patches (Fruit Salad)

On Military Officers Uniforms, what are the colorfull rectangular patches (Fruit Salad) representing, what’s the meaning and where did they origin?

Do you mean these?

As Henrichek noted, they are called “ribbons.” Some represent medals awarded to servicemembers so that a servicemember could be recognized for a particular award without having to wear the actual medal all of the time. Other ribbons do not stand for a medal; typical of these are unit service awards, such as the U.S. Navy Sea Service Ribbon.

Also, they are not patches, and are awarded to all servicemembers, not just officers. Finally, nobody calls them a “fruit salad” outside of Hollywood.

Here’s a pic of what it would look like if they didn’t give us the ribbon bar - can you imagine having to wear that rack on the left breast the entire time you’re in any kind of working uniform?

Not bad, but you really need an insane dictator to get a truly ridiculous chest of medals.

In this case, is he only showing the ribbons on the bars for which he does not have an actual medal? (as explained above with regards to awards)

Is there a picture of someone just wearing the ribbon bar?

Can’t speak to the American services, but in the British/Commonwealth services, ribbons began to be worn on uniform sometime around the 1880s (the full-sized medals would still be worn on special occasions, dress parades, etc.), as more practical than having 5 or 6 large silver coins jumping about on your tunic.

Victorian campaign medals (and the British had a lot of these!) don’t seem to have had any symbolism to the colours chosen for the ribbon; this seems to have changed during WWI, when the inter-Allied Victory Medal of 1919 had a ribbon showing the rainbow (in hopes that this type of war would never happen again).

In WW2, the 1939-45 Star (issued to pretty much everybody) had a ribbon of navy blue/red/sky blue, to represent the three services; likewise the Italian Star was red, white and green, the Africa Star a sandy yellow (with navy blue, red and light blue stipes).

There is a difference in medals (generally given for “service,” i.e. being somewhere or long service), decorations or gallantry medals (awards for bravery or exemplary service) and orders (appointed by the crown for various types of service to the nation, and includes the orders of chivalry to create a Knight, for example).

British order, decoration and medal ribbons.

Here is a picture of Adm. Michael Mullen, the current JCS chairman.

Yes. When only ribbons are worn, they are worn on the left side of the chest.

In full dress uniforms, when full-sized medals are worn, the medals are worn on the left side of the chest. Ribbons for which there are no equivalent medals are then worn on the right side of the chest.

I could be wrong, but I believe my mother has referred to them as such, and her father was a brigadier general.

Each branch of the service regulates their uniforms (and the medals & ribbons that appear on them).

For example, the US Navy:

You can were the ribbon that “represents” your medal in regular working (office) uniform. Usually, the actual medals themselves are only worn to important official ceremonies (Change of Command, Promotion or Awards Ceremonies, Retirement Ceremonies, formal Dinner/Balls, etc.)

Not of a person, but of a blank ribbon bar.

I got out of boot camp in June and have 2 ribbons. They make ribbon bars to hold as little as one ribbon.

Everyone graduates boot camp (at least in the Coast Guard) with the National Defense Service Medal and Pistol Marksmanship. They also have little letter pins you can add to show your level of marksmanship. They have other ribbon devices (scroll halfway down the page) that are added to the ribbon/medal. Aside from the marksmanship one, I honestly couldn’t tell you what some of them are for.

Like some ribbons are framed with gold, some have different colored stars. I assumed the stars represent the number of times someone has achieved a particular recognition and been awarded for it. Please someone let me know if this is true or not.

A few others get the honor graduate medal.

ETA: What mlees linked to.

Cool, thanks, all, that does look classier.

Actually, I should rephrase. Everyone graduates (Coast Guard) basic with the National Defense Service Medal. If you qualify as a marksman in basic, you get the pistol marksmanship medal/ribbon and an “S” for sharpshooter or an “E” for expert if you reach that level of marksmanship. I assume the same goes for rifles in other branches. USCG doesn’t train you on the rifle, just a .9 mm.

Yes, for most of the stars. If you read the little captions below them, in your fourth link, it actually says “-Additional service award” (for a repeat award) or “-(5) additional unit awards”. :slight_smile:

The Navy has a silver “E” to be worn on the “Battle Efficiency” (a unit award) ribbon. But I see it can also be used to denote “expert” marksmanship, on the appropriate ribbon.

The National Defense Medal was reinsituted for Desert Shield (Gulf War 1).

I did not get it for my service. (1983-1989) :sob:

Simple Mind, if you ever see someone in uniform with a single ribbon worn above all the rest, a little blue bar with white stars on it…buy them a drink.

I don’t know accurate or updated it is but this site says that there are only 99 left and over half of those remaining are 70+ years of age.

But if anyone ever deserved a drink, it’s these guys.

Thanks for all the information, realy a great Message Board/Site…