THE ROCK PATCH
Artwork by T. M. McNeil "G" Co
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.
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.
met Tom in the hospitality room on the Saturday afternoon of the reunion. He
explained to me that he hadn't been to
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.
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.
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
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: