Army’s special uniforms for the 2022 Army-Navy Game aren’t just designed to honor the 1st Armored Division; they’re telling the story of “Old Ironsides” during a critical time in the history of the U.S. Army and the United States itself: World War II.
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On Nov. 8, 1942, the U.S. launched Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa. After the fall of France in 1940, a Nazi-allied Vichy puppet regime governed the French possessions in North Africa. The Americans, including the 1st Armored Division, landed at three points in Morocco and Algeria while the British launched attacks against the German Afrika Korps in Egypt and Libya.
Before the Army landed in North Africa, Americans had little to celebrate. With a few exceptions, World War II was not going well for the Allies. The Japanese were on the offensive across the Pacific, and the U.S. Army had not been tested in Europe or Africa. Operation Torch, however, was a success that led to the downfall of the Vichy French in Africa.
Following Operation Torch, the Americans met the German and Italians for the first time at the Battle of Kasserine Pass. The U.S. Army took a beating from the Axis forces, but elements of the 1st Armored Division held their ground long enough for reinforcements to arrive and blunt the Axis offensive.
By the time the two sides met again at the Battle of El Guettar, the U.S. Army in North Africa was no longer inexperienced and had a new commander, Gen. George S. Patton. The reorganized and reinvigorated Army, along with 1st Armored, not only repulsed the Axis advance, it broke the Axis defenses in Tunisia. The Axis surrendered on May 13, 1943, a little more than six months after Operation Torch, with some 230,000 prisoners taken.
Even the German Afrika Korps commander, Erwin Rommel, was forced to admit “the Americans had fought brilliantly.” This is the story the Army Black Knights’ uniform will tell during the 2022 Army-Navy Game.
On the left shoulder of the jersey is a World War II-era flag, with 48 stars (Alaska and Hawaii didn’t become states until 1959). The flag was flown forward on the left shoulder in 1943, so it would be identifiable to the Vichy French. It wasn’t moved to the right shoulder until after the North Africa Campaign.
On the side of the new helmet is the 1st Armored Division unit patch. In the center is the North Africa Campaign streamer. Flanked by brown stripes on the edges that represent the sand of North Africa, it also includes blue, white and red stripes from the American Defense Medal, representing the defense of Pearl Harbor.The streamer’s other stripes represent the colors of Germany and Italy. There is also an arrowhead device to represent Operation Torch.
The uniform jersey has a mud splatter design to show the reality of fighting in the North African desert, and their numbers are reminiscent of the type used on the M3 Lee tank. The colors were also inspired by the M3 tank. There is also an insignia on the uniform pants similar to the “bumper numbers” that identify tanks of the 1st Armored Division.
The 123rd Army-Navy Game kicks off at 3 p.m. at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 10, 2022. The game will air nationally on CBS.
— Blake Stilwell can be reached at email@example.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.
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