The U.S. military has traditionally shied away from incorporating darker images of heraldry into its patches and insignia.
The main exception, however, are the World War II Marine Raiders and their use of the skull.
Col Evans Carlson’s 2d Raider Battalion first used an unofficial skull with crossed cutlasses as its unofficial battalion logo and calling card. It was influential in the adaption of the Marine Raider Regiment shoulder patch. The design is still used in various ways by Marines in the U.S. Special Operations Command (MARSOC) today. Other, lesser known units have also appropriated skulls for their unofficial unit insignia.
In the Halloween spirit of their darker heraldry, the following are artifacts from the Museum’s collection that feature skulls in their design.
World War II Raider Battalion Member Ring
This ring belonged to PFC Ted Dougherty, a former member of the 1st Raider Battalion. When the Raider Regiment disbanded in early 1944, Dougherty transferred to the newly formed 2d Battalion, 27th Regiment, which was part of the 5th Marine Division and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The skull and crossbones on the face of this ring reference the design of the Marine Raider Regiment patch insignia. The design was later adopted into insignia for MARSOC, activated 20 June 2003, and is still used today!