US Navy Enlisted Rating Insignia of

World War II

The enlisted structure of the US Navy in World War II was similar to that of the present day, but there were a still number of differences specific to the various branches of personnel. A more detailed examination by branch can be found on the following pages:

Seaman Branch
Artificer Branch
Engine Room Force
Aviation Branch
Special Branch
Commissary Branch
Messman/Steward Branch
Specialists

Petty Officers

Petty officers were distinguished by a rating badge worn on the upper arm. It consisted of an eagle, a specialty mark, and chevrons indicating the grade of rank. Petty officers of the Seaman Branch wore the badge on the right sleeve, all other branches wore it on the left. In the Uniform Regulations of 1941 it was directed that the eagle's head always face forward, so on left-arm rating badges the eagle faces the viewer's left, and vice versa for right-arm rating badges.

right-arm rating badge

Right-arm rating badge

left-arm rating badge

Left-arm rating badge

The number of chevrons in the rating badge indicated the grade, with an arc on top for chief petty officers

Chief Petty Officer Petty Officer 1st Class Petty Officer 2nd Class Petty Officer 3rd Class

There were a number of different color schemes for rating badge, depending upon the uniform:

gold rating badge silver rating badge blue rating badge white rating badge
Gold Rating Badge Silver Rating Badge Blue Rating Badge White Rating Badge
Gold chevrons with silver embroidered eagle and specialty mark. Worn on blue uniforms by all petty officers with 12 years unbroken good conduct. Optional after May 1942 to conserve material. Red chevrons with silver embroidered eagle and specialty mark. Worn on blue uniforms by chief petty officers not entitled to the gold rating badge. Optional after May 1942 to conserve material. Red chevrons with white embroidered eagle and specialty mark. Worn on blue uniforms by 1st, 2nd and 3rd class petty officers not entitled to the gold rating badge. Permitted in place of the gold and silver rating badges after May 1942. Dark blue chevrons, eagle and specialty mark. Worn on white uniforms by all petty officers.

USMC green rating badge USMC green rating badge green rating badge green rating badge
USMC Green Rating Badge USMC Khaki Rating Badge Green Rating Badge Khaki Rating Badge
Red-bordered forestry green chevrons with green embroidered eagle. For hospital corpsmen and other naval personnel wearing US Marine Corps forestry green uniforms. Authorized by the Marine Corps but not regulated by the Navy. Officially replaced by dark blue-on-green rating badges in November 1943. Forestry green chevrons with green embroidered eagle. For hospital corpsmen and other naval personnel wearing US Marine Corps khaki uniforms. Authorized by the Marine Corps but not regulated by the Navy. Officially replaced by dark blue-on-khaki rating badges in November 1943. Dark blue chevrons, eagle and specialty mark. Worn by chief petty officers on the forestry green aviation winter working uniform. Became the regulation color scheme for wear on USMC green uniforms in November 1943. Dark blue chevrons, eagle and specialty mark. Worn by chief petty officers on the khaki working uniform. Became the regulation color scheme for wear on USMC khaki uniforms in November 1943.

gray rating badge gold on green rating badge silver on green rating badge
Gray Rating Badge "Gold" rating badge on forestry green "Silver" rating badge on forestry green
Dark blue stripes, eagle and specialty mark. Worn on chief petty officers' working gray uniform. Rating badge authorized August 1943. Similar gray rating badges for 1st, 2nd and 3rd class petty officers were used on gray jumper uniforms issued on a limited basis. The equivalent of the gold rating badge but on a forestry green background for wear on the winter aviation working uniform by chief petty officers designated as naval aviation pilots. Not described in Navy regulations but seen in photos and mentioned in the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts-approved publication The Naval Officers' Uniform Plan, 1943. The equivalent of the silver rating badge but on a forestry green background for wear on the winter aviation working uniform by chief petty officers designated as naval aviation pilots. Not described in Navy regulations but seen in photos and mentioned in the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts-approved publication The Naval Officers' Uniform Plan, 1943.

WAVE blue rating badge WAVE White Rating Badge WAVE Blue Working Rating Badge WAVE Gray Working Rating Badge
WAVE Blue Rating Badge WAVE White Rating Badge WAVE Blue Working Rating Badge WAVE Gray Working Rating Badge
Women's Reserve equivalent of the blue rating badge, approximately two-thirds the size of men's rating badges. Authorized in March 1943. Women's Reserve equivalent of the white rating badge. Authorized in March 1943. Women's Reserve rating badge for wear on the "reserve blue" working smock. Authorized in March 1943. Women's Reserve rating badge for wear on the gray seersucker working uniform. Authorized in October 1943.

Non-Rated

Personnel below the rate of petty officer were termed "non-rated." In most enlisted branches, the non-rated personnel filled the lowest three pay grades, but the path of Engine Room Force and music personnel moved them into higher pay grades before becoming petty officers. In a revision to the enlisted structure effective January 1, 1944, the non-rated pay grades were standardized across all branches.

Most non-rated personnel were distinguished by a branch mark around the shoulder seam of the jumper. For seamen the mark was white on blue jumpers, blue on white jumpers and worn on the right side. For firemen of the Enginer Room Force, the mark was worn on the left and was red on blue and white jumpers. A few ratings did not have a branch mark, and instead wore distinguishing marks on the sleeve.

The grade of non-rated personnel was indicated by white cuff stripes on the dress blue jumper. These were not worn on the undress blue or white jumpers. During the war dress blue jumpers began to be issued to recruits without the single stripe for apprentice seaman and steward's mate third class.

Before January, 1944

Pay Grade 3
    no branch mark    
      dintinguishing mark
lower left sleeve
   
      cuff mark, dress blue    
      Musician 1st Class    
Pay Grade 4
  branch mark        
           
  cuff mark, dress blue        
  Fireman 1st Class        
Pay Grade 5
branch mark branch mark no branch mark no branch mark no branch mark no branch mark
    distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
distinguishing mark
lower left sleeve
distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue
Seaman 1st Class Fireman 2nd Class Hospital Apprentice 1st Class Musician 2nd Class Bugler 1st Class Mess Attendant 1st Class
(Steward's Mate 1st Class after Feb. 1943)
Pay Grade 6
branch mark branch mark no branch mark   no branch mark no branch mark
    distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
  distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue   cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue
Seaman 2nd Class Fireman 3rd Class Hospital Apprentice 2nd Class   Bugler 2nd Class Mess Attendant 2nd Class
(Steward's Mate 2nd Class after Feb. 1943)
Pay Grade 7
branch mark         no branch mark
          distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
cuff mark, dress blue         cuff mark, dress blue
Apprentice Seaman         Mess Attendant 3rd Class
(Steward's Mate 3rd Class after Feb. 1943)

After January 1, 1944

Pay Grade 5
branch mark branch mark no branch mark no branch mark no branch mark
    distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue
Seaman 1st Class Fireman 1st Class Hospital Apprentice 1st Class Bugler 1st Class Steward's Mate 1st Class
Pay Grade 6
branch mark branch mark no branch mark   no branch mark no branch mark
    distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
  distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue   cuff mark, dress blue cuff mark, dress blue
Seaman 2nd Class Fireman 2nd Class Hospital Apprentice 2nd Class   Bugler 2nd Class Steward's Mate 2nd Class
Pay Grade 7
branch mark         no branch mark
          distinguishing mark
upper left sleeve
cuff mark, dress blue         cuff mark, dress blue
Apprentice Seaman         Steward's Mate 3rd Class

Enlisted women wore coat-style uniforms rather than jumpers, and thus could not display cuff stripes as men did. In Spetember 1944 new insignia were authorized for non-rated WAVEs, which consisted of diagonal stripes on the upper left sleeve. Distinguishing marks, as in the case of hospital apprentices, were worn directly above the stripes. The backgrounds were the same as for women's rating badges. This would be the basis of the "group rate" insignia for all personnel in 1948.

WAVE non-rated insignia WAVE non-rated insignia WAVE non-rated insignia WAVE non-rated insignia
Hospital Apprentice 1st Class Seaman 1st Class Hospital Apprentice 2nd Class Seaman 2nd Class

Sources

The pages on US Navy World War II enlisted ratings and insignia are based primarily on the following:


All text and images © Justin T. Broderick, 2013 unless otherwise indicated.