US ARMY DISTINCTIVE INSIGNIA (DI) DIE SET –
PRE-WORLD WAR TWO 25TH INFANTRY REGIMENT –
RARE COMPLETE SET FOR A HISTORIC UNIT: One of
the most unique US Army Insignia related items I’ve seen
in some time, this Distinctive Insignia (DI) die
stamping set was recently found in an old San Antonio,
Texas estate. How it came to be in this elderly man’s
possession is unfortunately lost to history, but that it
survived intact is amazing in and of itself.
This die set most likely dates from before World War
Two, determined by the history of the unit and the
circumstances of the war.
During World War Two the manufacture and wearing of the
DI’s was suspended due to the shortage of metals deemed
necessary for the war effort and the lack of
manufacturing resources as the work shops turned to more
war critical requirements.
This set was for producing the DI’s for the 25Th
Infantry Regiment, one of the famous “Buffalo Soldier”
Black regiments created in 1866 after the Civil War.
After a long and illustrious history, to include service
during WWII, the regiment was deactivated
at Camp Stoneman, California on February
3, 1946 and their colors were officially retired
in 1949. With the unit no longer on the active list, it
is doubtful the manufacturer would have invested in
producing more insignia for the unit after 1946.
With the suspension of manufacturing of the DI’s during
the war, and the deactivation of the regiment
immediately after the war, it reasons that this die set
was produced and in use prior to the onset of World War
Two, making it an early set.
The die set includes a maker’s stamp that reads “A. H.
DONDERO, WASHINGTON, D.C.”. A.H. Dondero, Inc. was
started in 1922 by Colonel A.H. Dondero, a retired
Quartermaster Corps officer. Recognizing the need for
quality uniforms and insignia, he manufactured and
distributed officer uniforms, uniform accessories,
distinctive unit insignia and all most any uniform item
that an officer would need during his tour of duty. Col.
Dondero’s original show room and tailor shop was located
on Pennsylvania Avenue, one block away from the White
House. Some of his more notable military clients
included General John J. Pershing, General Douglas
McArthur, General George C. Marshal, Admiral Hap Arnold,
officers of all ranks and even some foreign governments
personnel from 1922 until the mid-1970's. In 1960 A.H.
Dondero, Inc. moved its operations to Glebe Road in
Arlington, Virginia and in 1976 the company refocused
its efforts to the production of recognition and awards
for the general public.
This set is in excellent condition and consists of one
large anvil bearing the reverse, or “female” detailed
image of the DI for the 25TH Infantry
Regiment; two die stamps cut to the profile of the DI;
two matching die cutting plates with corresponding
cutouts that match the die stamps; and one maker’s
stamp. The anvil and the two cutting plates all bear
the same production number, “3082”. The side of the
large anvil is stamped with the name of the die making
company that produced the dies - "W.H. MILLER & SONS,
MILCO," of Providence, Rhode Island. All six
pieces are in excellent condition with no corrosion,
fine polished surfaces and some of the case colors from
the hardening process survive. From the holes in the
center of the die stamps, it appears that this set was
used to produce the “screw back”, early pattern DI’s and
further argues that this set pre-dates WWII.
This is truly an exceptional set and one that would
serve as the center piece for any US Army insignia
collection. (0420) $275