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  Go to the 503d PRCT "Heritage Bn. " Website

Go to "Corregidor: Then & Now" Website  

 

THE ROCK PATCH

Artwork by T. M. McNeil "G" Co

by 

ROBERT FLYNN, 
503d PRCT Historian

The Rock Patch is the insignia of the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team which served in the Pacific Theater of operations during World War II.  The Combat Team was formed from the 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment,  to which was added an the 462d Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, and the 161st Parachute Engineer Company. 

Over the years since the war, a significant amount of time has been spent by many of us, including John A. Reynolds via his column the THREE WINDS OF DEATH,   tracking down the source of various documents and insignia which have a bearing on the history of the 503d. None of these pursuits have been as elusive as the Origin of the Rock Patch. For more than a decade I had been given all kinds of scenarios as to where the shoulder patch was designed, whose idea it was, who made the first drawing and on, and on ad infinitum. Well,  more by good fortune than by dogged research, I  nailed it down whilst attending our 1996 Reunion in Orlando. The person who designed the patch is Thomas M. McNeil, a former Pfc in Company "G" and a retired thoracic surgeon of Orlando, Florida. 

I met Tom in the hospitality room on the Saturday afternoon of the reunion. He explained to me that he hadn't been to many of the reunions because of the nature of his business,  but as he lived in Orlando and the Orlando reunion was one he could barely find an excuse not to attend, he was pleased to be there.  During the course of our conversation while viewing some of the pictures taken on Negros Island, Tom, responding to a picture of the Rock Patch stated that he had designed the patch.  He explained that he had been recuperating from malaria while on Mindoro Island following Corregidor,  and requested brushes and paint from an attendant nurse and put his design to paper - well, actually to his barracks bag. The design caught everyone's interest almost immediately and soon appeared outside "G" Company HQ.  I was flabbergasted and in a state of wonderment. I had been down this road many times before only to come up dusty and empty-handed. Tom McNeil diagnosed my state of disbelief and said merely, “I'll be back.

 

The Duffel Bag

When Tom returned to the hospitality room about hour later he had brought with him some examples of his art work which included a decorative scroll with the names of the men of Company "G" who had been killed on Corregidor. This was truly a magnificent color drawing with precise hand lettering. Tom seemed to fancy my enthusiasm  as he slowly withdrew from a large manila folder a large piece of canvas cut from a duffel bag. On the canvas was painted a picture, 8" by 5", of the ROCK PATCH. But the artist wasn't finished. From his back pocket he pulled a large leather wallet and carefully unfolded a yellowed document for me to read. It was a memorandum from Regimental Headquarters as follows: 

 

HEADQUARTERS
503D REGIMENTAL COMBAT TEAM
Office of the Regimental Commander
APO 715 

 

24 August 1945

 

 

 

SUBJECT:    Proposed Insignia.

To: PFC. T. M McNeil, (sic) Co. "G" 503d Parachute Infantry

(Thru: Commanding Officer, Third Battalion)

 

1. The Regimental Combat Team Commander, Lt. Col. LAWRIE, has received and commented most favorably on you (sic) excellent suggestion for a 503d R.C.T. insignia.

 

2. In as much as the Corregidor operation is considered the outstanding contribution of the 503d to the conduct of the War, it is requested that your proposed insignia include reference to that operation in some manner; possibly by the addition of a map within the canopy or clutched in the talons of the eagle.

 

3. The interest shown by you in originating and submitting so excellent a suggestion reflects most admirably upon your esprit de corps and pride in your unit. In the name of the Commanding Officer, thank you most sincerely.

 

ERNEST C. CLARK

Lt. Col. 503d Prcht Inf., 

Executive Officer

 

 

There was no mistaking the document's authenticity. In my position as 503d Historian I have researched literally thousands of source documents, and I was completely satisfied that this was the genuine article.

The patch was approved by Combat team Commander, Lt. Colonel Joe Lawrie, Jr. Copies of the patch were first made by Filipino seamstresses. When the Team were transferred to the Army of Occupation in Japan, they were again produced by Japanese seamstresses. Only later would they be produced by American Insignia Companies. 

In the design, the Eagle represents the American Paratroopers of the 503d Regimental Combat Team descending on the Philippine island fortress Corregidor, known as "The Rock."

The facsimile reproduced above was presented to me by the Tom in September 1997 at the national reunion of the Combat Team in Sacramento, California. 

We hope that this page can gather together some "Rock Patch" examples, of which there are many, and stories of the wearing of the Patch, which should be legion. It is not often in the history of the US Armed Forces that a unit has created its own battle patch identity, official or otherwise, and as long as the patch is worn, it will recall the deeds of ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances  and their experiences on a forlorn piece of foreign estate torn from the hands of its occupiers. 

 

../ROCK PATCH GALLERY

 

THE 462D PFAB DEVIL PATCHGO TO TOP OF PAGEREGIMENTAL H.Q.GENERAL H.Q. THE 503D PRCT ROCK PATCH GALLERY

 

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