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William Bradley Umstead, 1895-1954
Overseas Cap.
From the William B. Umstead World War I Collection
North Carolina Collection Gallery, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

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Source Description
Overseas Cap.
Call Number:
North Carolina Collection Gallery, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Physical Description:

OVERSEAS CAP, United States Army, 1918, dark olive-drab wool with red and silver-blue piping [denoting a machine-gun battalion], silver-tone first lieutenant bar at left-front with circular, hollow-cut, felt-on-felt 81st Division "Wildcat" patch at middle-left; inner leather sweatband has "WBU" [William B. Umstead] printed in black ink; cap flat is 11.25" (28.6 cm) in length, 5.25" ( 13.3 cm) high; overall in good condition but small moth holes in several locations.


The 81st Division adopted the wildcat as its symbol because of the animal's reputation for cunning and aggressiveness. Before departing for Europe in 1918, each soldier in the 81st added a "homemade" wildcat patch to his uniform, thereby breaking regulations and the army's dress codes. Officials in Washington, D.C., ordered the removal of the symbol, but the troops resisted, contending that the patch made it easier to recognize comrades in the field. This argument, combined with a desire to foster esprit de corps, convinced officials to accept the patch. In fact, the United States military soon amended its regulations and required that all divisions display such identifying patches.With regard to the AEF’s overseas cap, it should be noted that the cap was modeled after the French Bonnet de Police to serve as a practical replacement for the cumbersome, wide-brimmed campaign hat. The placement of the "Wildcat" sleeve patch on Umstead’s cap is not regulation and may have been applied after the war.

Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.