Artwork Made with Honor, Pride: The Institute of Heraldry Celebrates 50th Anniversary

By Hames, Jacqueline M. | Soldiers Magazine, November 2010 | Go to article overview

Artwork Made with Honor, Pride: The Institute of Heraldry Celebrates 50th Anniversary


Hames, Jacqueline M., Soldiers Magazine


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IN the Middle Ages, knights--whose view of the battlefield was limited to what they could see through tiny slits in metal helms--recognized the need to be able to better identify friend from foe. Rather than clatter around the battlefield and hope they were lighting the right person, the knights decided to create a system of identification. So, the knights painted their shields with the colors and symbols of their clans or fiefdoms.

Thus, heraldry was born.

However, traditional heraldry did not exist in America officially until 1957, when Public Law 85-263 was signed, allowing the secretary of the Army to provide heraldic services to all agencies within the federal government, Charles Mungo, director of The Institute of Heraldry, explained.

"This ultimately led to the creation of The Institute of Heraldry in September 1960," Mungo said.

On Sept. 15, 2010, TOIH celebrated its 50th anniversary. The institute held a symposium on heraldry in America, explaining the institute's origins and current processes, as well as the relevance of heraldry in the military today.

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When the colonists declared independence from Britain in 1776, heraldry was found in every aspect of European life; religious communities, trade guilds and aristocratic households alike had coats-of-arms, TIOH's website (www.tioh.hqda.pentagon. mil) states.

To sever the United States from any associations with the monarchy and nobility, the Founding Fathers believed that honors, titles and privileges given to Europe's elite had no place in the new republic. For more than a century, the government and military had no centralized authority to register, record or regulate the design and use of military symbols, or insignia.

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But during World War I, President Woodrow Wilson considered having the wide variety of insignia present in the military catalogued.

"He confided in the secretary of war at the time to see if he could create a heraldic program office that would oversee the development of insignia for the Army," Mungo said. "So our roots were very Army-centric, and we were created just to oversee the development of the different types of insignia for the Army uniform."

In 1919, the first heraldic program office was created under the Army staff, Mungo said. When World War II began, the office expanded, providing heraldic services to all branches of the armed forces. That expansion continued until 1957, when the program office began providing services to all federal government agencies.

Today, TIOH designs heraldic symbols such as coats of arms, medals, flags, textile insignia, qualification badges, decorations and organizational seals. Their customer base includes the Office of the President of the United States and all federal agencies and branches of the military.

"Heraldry is a very narrow field of art," Mungo said, "and there are not many schools or institutions that really study the art of heraldry, so a lot of what we do resident here is the only agency in the federal government that has this kind of knowledge base."

The institute has three divisions, each playing a key role in the design and maintenance of heraldic items.

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The Heraldic Services and Support Division is in charge of project management, research, library maintenance, some policy maintenance and website administration, said Petra Casipit, chief. This division keeps the heraldic work lowing seamlessly and answers questions from the public and various agencies about heraldry.

The Heraldic Design Division, run by Pamela Madigan, conceptualizes and designs heraldic symbols, from shoulder sleeve insignia and streamers to coats-of-arms and lags.

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Artwork Made with Honor, Pride: The Institute of Heraldry Celebrates 50th Anniversary
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