Ambiguous Chronology of Military Coins – Untraceable History

Military coins are pieces of metal, or medallions, which commonly bear the organization’s symbol of authority or insignia. They are also known as “challenge coins” for they are presented whenever an involved individual in an organization is asked to prove his or her membership. At present, these coins are widely used. However, their advent is still a historical uncertainty. A great deal of legends have formed challenge coins into being, as some are outlined and discussed in this article.

The Account of a Young Pilot

Many believe that military coins first emerged during World War I. An affluent lieutenant have ordered bronze military medallions to be presented to members of his unit. In a small leather pouch, a medallion was kept by a young pilot. The pilots’ aircraft suffered major damage from ground fire.

As a result, the young pilot landed forcibly behind enemy lines. He was abruptly taken captive by German patrols, who prevented him from escaping by confiscating all of his personal identification except for the leather pouch containing the medallion. Fortunately, he was able to escape when he was brought to a small French town. The French knew that saboteurs pretend to be civilians and wear civilian clothes. The French mistook the pilot for a saboteur and prepared him to be executed. They did not recognize his American accent and he had no personal identification at all, aside from his leather pouch. He showed one of the military coins to his captors and one of them recognized the insignia of his military unit. They did not execute him and gave him a bottle of wine instead.

military coinsThe medallion is impressive as it was able to save the life of the young pilot. It brings security, faith, and trustworthiness to the army members. The military unit of the young pilot started the tradition of carrying a medallion, or a military coin, always. This tradition is rather straightforward – a challenger would request to see another person’s coin and if the challenged person fails to comply, he’d have to buy the challenger a drink. Otherwise, the challenger will pay for the drink.

The Identity of the “Bona Fides”

Other records seem to indicate that challenge coins can be traced way back during World War II. The medallions were known to be first used by a personnel of the Office of Strategic Service. A Jolly sixpence club was proposed amongst the junior officers of the 107th Infantry. In the club, the medallions which are issued only to bona fide members, were used to authenticate one’s personal identification in a meeting. This practice averted the entry of spies in their meetings.

Acknowledging Honorable Service

In the post-Korean Conflict Era, military coins were made by Colonel William “Buffalo Bill” Quinn for those who served under him. Colonel Verne Green also adopted this practice to honor the service of the members of his army. He had an exceptional medallion with the unit’s crest and motto. This practice was upheld until the 1980s, only by his military unit.

May it be for verifying one’s identity, securing an organization, or giving honor to those whoselflessly serve the country – the tradition was collectively used in different locations all over the world. Because of its powerful function, the coin traditions even arrived outside the military, adopted by organizations such as NASCAR, the NFL, cadets of the Civil Air Patrol, Eagle Scouts, and World Series of Poker.

All in all, regardless of their nature and origin, the military coins served their purpose even to this day. Surely, they have had a great impact in the society throughout the decades.

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