The world is such a big place that it is impossible to record every single thing that happened accurately. According to common knowledge, the inventor of the telephone is Alexander Graham Bell, but what they failed to report is that an individual from a less established society was the inventor of the first prototype of the telephone. There are two sides to every story and it would be best to give recognition to both.
For military coins, the popular back story was about an American fighter pilot from World War I who escaped from German lines and was able to sneak back to the other side. The French did not believe his story and was about to shoot him. Thankfully, he produced the medallion from his squadron and he was acquitted. That was how the coins were used as alternative proofs of identification.
Who would have known that these coins have been around since the age of the Roman Empire? The emperors of Rome used bronze and metal coins with special designs on them to award soldiers for their achievements. Men considered the medallion as the highest form of honor during the reign of the ancient society.
The other side of the history of military coins apparently happened during World War II. These were used by personnel of the Office of Strategic Services who were situated in Nazi-occupied France. The coins were used as “Bona Fides” when going to personal meetings to verify a person’s identity. Details such as the type of the coin or the date of the manufacturing of the coin were inspected by each group. This prevented spies from infiltrating the meeting and acquiring advanced strategies from the opponents. Personnel would have several coins in different types and only legitimate members would know what type to bring in a specific meeting.
Another story from the Second World War was about an American soldier who was on his way to a rendezvous with Filipino guerrillas. The soldier carried a Philippine coin of solid silver and a one-sided design with his unit’s insignia. The coin was used to verify the soldier’s identity as their contact for a mission against the Japanese army.
Other stories claim that the military coins were introduced in the post-Korean Conflict era, while others date back to the height of the Vietnam War. In 1950, Colonel William “Buffalo Bill” Quinn had custom coins produced for the men who served under him in the 17th Infantry Regiment. At the height of the Vietnam War, the first coins were created by the US Army’s 10th and 11th Special Forces Groups. They were treated a little more than common currency, with the unit’s insignia stamped on one side. However, the members of the unit carried the coins with pride.
Eventually, military coins spread throughout the course of history. They were very popular among military and non-military units and to other organizations of service. The United States Congress produced original designed medallions. These coins were to be given to constituents.
The popular history of the military coins depicted them as proofs of identification. Soldiers were to carry their coins with them at all times. The tradition also served as a drinking game for armies on breaks. Other versions of the coins’ back story show them as medallions for recognition of a feat or achievement. Awarded men considered this as the highest possible form of honor. As time progresses, the coin was shifted as a symbol of membership to organizations. This serves as proof of affiliation, as well as an honor emblem because only worthy applicants were granted the coin. In a way, the universal coin can be dated back from several back stories. The important thing is to know what it truly represents.