In 1944 Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall initiated the development of an Award to honor the U.S. Army Infantryman. The Office of Heraldic Activity of the Quartermaster General began work on designing a badge that would represent the U.S. Infantry’s tough, hard hitting role in combat and symbolize proficiency in the Infantry arts.
Just as the Combat Infantryman Badge was intended to be an award for those U.S. fighting men whose primary mission was to close with and destroy the enemy, both German and Japanese, and later Communist and North Vietnamese; the Expert Infantryman Badge was instituted to build and maintain esprit de corps within U.S. Infantry units. It is more desirable for a Soldier to enter a branch that is cleaner, safer and less physically demanding, or provides more career opportunities after military service. The intent of the EIB was to provide a drawing card for a tough and thankless job on the battlefield. To add prestige to an otherwise undesirable yet necessary task.
The EIB was not intended to detract from the importance of other branches of the Army, other branches of service or the military of our allied countries. The EIB was the symbol of tradition for the U.S. Infantrymen that played a vital role in the defense of our nation past, present, future.
In 1944, 100 NCOs of the 100th Infantry Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina were selected to undergo three days of concentrated testing to determine the Army’s first Expert Infantryman. Testing consisted of:
Upon completion of testing, 10 NCOs remained. These ten were then interviewed to determine the first Expert Infantryman. On 29 March 1944, Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair, Commander of Army Ground Forces, presented the first Expert Infantry Badge to Technical Sergeant Walter Bull.
When awarding Sergeant Bull the EIB, Lieutenant General McNair stated, “The Expert Infantry Badge being awarded here today has been set up by the War Department for U.S. Infantrymen who are trained and fit for battle. After the Infantryman has been in battle, the Expert Infantry Badge may be replaced by the Combat Infantry Badge.” He went on to say, “Two-thirds of the troops of a division are Infantry. The other third Artillery, Engineers and the smaller units are to help and protect the Infantry. These helpers must find pride and satisfaction in the achievements of their Infantry, cheer it to victory… Infantrymen are killed and wounded in battle in far greater numbers than other branches. I am honored to be with you here. Be proud of your badges and become more expert every day. May they change to combat badges before long. Good luck.”
According to the original EIB/CIB standards, set forth in War Department Circular #269, 27 October 1943, an Infantryman could be awarded the EIB by; “a. Attaining the standards of proficiency established by the War Department, or b. By satisfactory performance of duty in action against the enemy.” The Combat Infantryman Badge could only be earned by and Infantryman by; “a. Exemplary conduct in action against the enemy, b. By satisfactory performance of duty in action against the enemy in a major operation as determined and announced by the theater commander. Testing of Soldiers undergoing instruction as schools, replacement centers, training centers, or replacement depots was prohibited.
War Department Circular #408, 17 October 1944, established the criteria for withdrawal of the EIB, “(1) The right to wear the expert Infantryman badge may be withdrawn by any regimental or similar unit commander only if an individual, by his own misconduct, incapacitates himself for the performance of duty or fails to perform satisfactorily in ground combat against the enemy, (2) Having been withdrawn, the right to wear the expert Infantryman badge may be restored only after the individual again established eligibility and re-qualifies therefor.” Additionally, the EIB or CIB was temporarily withdrawn from enlisted Soldiers assigned to the Medical Department or flying-pay status.
War Department Circular #92, 24 March 1945, established the use of a board of officers and NCOs. The EIB board questioned each candidate on a wide range of military subjects. This board was comprised of personnel outside the testing unit and appointed by the Division Commander.
War Department Circular # 146 , 17 May 1945, authorized the awarding of the EIB to Infantrymen in training regiments and battalions of replacement training centers, school training centers, school training detachments and replacement depots.
On 29 October 1946, the standards for the Expert Infantry Badge were set forth in Army Regulation 600-73. In addition to the existing eligibility requirements, this regulation required the Infantryman’s company commander to certify that the Soldier had completed his combat training and had the ability to apply the military lessons learned. The commander was also required to certify that the individual was of excellent character before competing for the award. Army Regulation 600-73, 20 June 1958, increased the requirement for the board officers from one to three per event of the test. Candidates were required to; qualify as sharpshooter with their primary weapon, as first class gunner with a crew served weapon, qualify in field stripping and assembling of his primary individually assigned weapon and on crew served weapon, qualify as expert with a bayonet and qualify as expert Infantryman in test conducted by the board on military subjects.
Army Regulation 600-73, 14 August 1961, stipulated that individuals must possess the following eligibility requirements:
The following commanders were authorized to administer the Expert Infantryman Badge in accordance with the 1961 regulation.
Infantry division and separate brigade commanders.
Additionally, EIB testing was required to be conducted at least once each training year by authorized headquarters.
Army Regulation 672-12, 30 September 1971, allowed Soldiers to be retested on events in which they had received an unsatisfactory rating during primary testing.
In July 1978, Brigadier General David Buckner, Assistant Deputy Commander, Second Infantry Division, requested permission to allow KATUSA personnel be afforded the opportunity to compete for the EIB. Their rationale was that KATUSA personnel were serving in Infantry and mortar crew positions and were fully integrated into our rifle squads and mortar crews. Brigadier General John E. Rogers, Assistant Commandant, U.S. Army Infantry School commented, “This could open the door for granting exceptions for other groups which could lead to a lessening of the meaning of the EIB.” In August 1978, the Commander USAEIGHT, awarded 284 KATUSAs the EIB with the stipulation that they only wear the award while assigned to 2nd Infantry Division.
Effective 1 April 1978, qualification on the current Skills Qualification Test was added as a prerequisite for Expert Infantry Badge.
Army Regulation 627-12, 1 April 1983, states that candidates must be active members of the U.S. Army, USAR, or ARNG.
Department of the Army Circular 350-85-3, 15 July 1985, removed the authority to test Soldiers attending schools and training centers.
In August 1986, the Third Infantry Division proposed awarding the EIB to German Soldiers. The Infantry school staffed this proposal to the field. Responses indicated that overseas units were in favor, CONUS units were opposed. Commander, FORSCOM, commented, “We tightly control the award within our own Army, strictly limiting the number of MOS eligible for the award. It would be inconsistent with this policy to permit foreign military to be eligible.” Awards Branch, MILPERCEN, strongly opposed stating, “allowing eligibility to other than U.S. Infantry would start a policy of reciprocity with allied Soldiers.” Brigadier General Barry McCaffery, Assistant Commandant of U.S. Army Infantry School, commented, “The award must remain with the U.S. Infantryman. The Award of the EIB and its wartime counterpart, the CIB, unlike specialty badges, has always been restrictive.
Department of the Army Circular 350-87-XX, 1 August 1987, removed the Skill Qualification Test as a prerequisite for the EIB.
In 1987, the Second Infantry Division again requested permission to test and award KATUSA Soldiers for the EIB. Major General Edwin Burba, Commandant of the U.S. Army Infantry School, replied, “Your request to award the EIB to KATUSA Soldiers in the 2ID puts us in a delicate situation. In the past several years we have turned down personnel from Special Forces, USAF Ground Security Units, Marines, Foreign partnership units, Combat Engineers and forward observers assigned to and living with U.S. Units. We have also turned down El Salvadoran Cadets, Ranger Qualified West Point Cadets, ROTC Cadets in Cadet Troop Leader Training with Infantry Units, and Foreign Infantry Students and Liaison Officers assigned to Fort Benning.” General Burba went on to say, that an exception for allied Soldiers “will bring an emotional response from many Senior Commanders whose requests for exceptions have already been turned down and establish a precedent that will compromise us with the flood of other exceptions that are sure to follow.”
In June 1988, the Third Armored Division followed the spirit of the EIB eligibility requirements. German Infantrymen who successfully completed EIB testing were awarded a 3d Armored Division Certificate of Achievement.