Thursday, March 10, 2016

Army Campaign Streamers

Today would have been my father-in-law's 98th birthday. In honor of his life and military service during World War II with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, I am starting an occasional series about what I have learned while researching his military service, which I have been doing for nearly 30 years. Today I'm describing Army campaign streamers. If you have visited a museum of a color-bearing Army organization, you've probably seen some of them.

Campaign streamers are ribbons that hang from the top of a military color-bearing unit's flag staff. Each streamer (2-3/4 inches by 4-feet long) is embroidered with the designation of a campaign and the year in which it occurred. The Army flag currently has 189 ribbons commemorating all of the campaigns in which the service fought since its founding in 1775. Individual color-bearing elements of the Army's organization are privileged to add streamers to their flags for each campaign in which they fought.

The concept of campaign streamers became popular in the Civil War when several Army organizations embroidered the names of battles on their organizational colors. This practice was replaced when Army units were authorized to place silver bands, engraved with the names of battles, around their flag staffs. American Expeditionary Force units in World War I were unable to obtain these silver bands so General Pershing authorized the use of small ribbons bearing the names of World War I operations. In 1921 all color-bearing Army organizations were authorized to use the campaign streamers currently used today.

Army flag with campaign streamers; source unknown

Each war or conflict includes a different number of streamers depending on how many campaigns comprised it and each war has a different ribbon design. The design of the streamers are also used for the campaign medals and ribbons soldiers are awarded. The specific names of the campaigns are embroidered on the ribbon.

World War II European Theater of Operations (green/brown) campaign streamers;
photograph courtesy of the 63rd Infantry Division

The complete list of Army campaign streamers, along with an image of the ribbon design, may be found here:
  • Revolutionary War (16 streamers)
  • War of 1812 (6 streamers)
  • Mexican War (10 streamers)
  • Civil War (25 streamers)
  • Indian Wars (14 streamers)
  • War with Spain (3 streamers)
  • China Relief Expedition (3 streamers)
  • Philippine Insurrection (11 streamers)
  • Mexican Expedition (1 streamer)
  • World War I (13 streamers)
  • World War II (38 streamers)
  • Korean War (10 streamers)
  • Vietnam War (17 streamers)
  • Armed Forces Expeditions (4 streamers)
  • Southwest Asia (3 streamers)
  • Kosovo (2 streamers)
  • War on Terrorism (13 streamers)
My father-in-law's division earned five campaign streamers during World War II:
  • Normandy
  • Northern France
  • Ardennes-Alsace
  • Rhineland
  • Central Europe
I began trying to collect the streamers several years ago and pretty easily was able to collect the first four streamers. However, Central Europe proved a challenge. A few weeks ago a seller on eBay offered that streamer and had a Buy It Now Button (love that thing!). I've cleaned the ribbons and am having them framed now as a gift to my husband.

World War II European Theater of Operations Central Europe campaign
streamer; image courtesy of

If you are interested in learning more information about your ancestor's Army service, then the Center for Military History is a good website to visit. If you want to read something informative buy quite dry, Army Regulation 600-8-22: Military Awards will explain campaign streamers in exhaustive detail.

NOTE: My third cousin once removed, Haskins Thomas Farrar, served in 10th Infantry, 5th Infantry Division. He died on 19 November 1944. A previous post, Fortress Metz and the 5th Infantry Division, told his story.

I have written about my father-in-law's war experiences: Historic WWII Assault Crossing of the Rhine River, They Called It Ireland, and When Things Went Sour on the Sauer.

To read all my posts related to World War II, click here.


  1. Schalene, do you know if the streamers are the same as the ribbon bar shaped pins? I have several that I think belonged to my grandfather but don't know how to find out what battles they are for. Kat

    1. Yes, the campaign ribbon pins will have the same design as the streamer, but many other types of medals may have been awarded as well. I suggest you click on the Wikipedia link I provided and try to match them up. Or you can post photos of them to my Facebook page and I'll try to help identify them.

  2. Schalene,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!