The Big Red One – A Sears Property

Bigredone "From Cantigny, France, and the Argonne Forest to North Africa, Normandy, Vietnam’s Iron Triangle and Iraq —and now

Foreign battles aren’t new for the 1st Infantry Division, but this firefight is from another world, a clash between the New Army and Old over plans to commercialize the 1st Division’s historic “Big Red One” insignia in a sportswear line at Sears.

After days of questioning, the Army confirmed Monday the arrangement was first reached in June 2007 on the advice of an outside licensing agency, The Beanstalk Group in New York, but the full scope of the royalties to be earned has yet to be disclosed."


What collection of soulless swine did this?

Dday3 Please tell me it was not anyone who ever wore the US Army’s uniform.  Unfortunately, it may have been.  In recent years I have been depressed to hear senior officers babble about business science, systems analysis, weapons design and the social sciences to the exclusion of all else.

Dday4 Semiotics is a "science" that is concerned with symbols.  The thinly disguised Walmart managers in the military like to talk about semiotics.  The 1st Division’s shoulder patch is a symbol.  It has meaning for those who have worn it.  It may still have some meaning for the family survivors of those who wore it.

I used to listen to the voices of the First Division’s "grunts" as they passed in the red dust of Vietnam bearing their burden, their clothing soaked with sweat in the miserable heat.  "It don’t mean nothin’," they would often mutter.  "It don’t mean nothin’."

Dday5 There is a recruiting commercial on television now that depicts a young man who has recently joined the Army.  He is a farm boy.  He is a fine looking soldier.  His farmer parents are in the commercial.  His father wears a cap on the front of which is sewn the First Division’s shoulder patch.  It is dirty.  It is faded but it is there because this division was the Army’s premier unit for many years.

The organizational men and women in the Pentagon today care little for such sentiment.  They think that "divisions" are an outmoded form.  Why not sell the symbols of the past?  Indeed.  Why not?

"It don’t mean nothin’."


PS.  The pictures are of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division before, during and after the landing on Omaha Beach.  pl

PPS.  Someone writes that the person at Sears to discuss this with is:

Mr. Corwin Yulinsky
Exec. VP of Customer Strategy and Insight

Sears Holdings Corporation

3333 Beverly Road
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179
(847) 286-2500

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43 Responses to The Big Red One – A Sears Property

  1. Duncan Kinder says:

    This sort of thing is rather like the selling of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church in the decades before the Reformation.

  2. Actually, as PL and I know well, the phrase “Don’t Mean Nothing” usually applied to the death of a very close or the most close buddy in combat and really meant “Means Everything.”
    Accountablility has been lost now even in the military and the marketers that have helped destroy the country’s finances are now turning their big guns on the military. No shred of dignity and self-respect will be left when they are finished.

  3. lina says:

    This is a good segue from your previous discussion about marketing and branding. Without conscription, the U.S. military has become a professional war enterprise. Lately it has been having recruiting problems and cash flow difficulties, so something’s got to be done. Selling off a few insignia or a trademark here and there is simply the next indicated thing. Maybe basic training could be outsourced and sold as kind of fitness holiday. The possibilities are endless.

  4. Andy says:

    Wow, I’m sitting here in utter amazement. Even if the Army budget could be doubled through such a scheme, it would not be worth it. There can only be a pittance in such a licensing scheme. Maybe this is about recruiting? Whatever the reason, whoring the First Division’s history and honor is completely shameful.

  5. Nevadan says:

    This is a horrid example of the advertising belief that everything can be marketed and that nothing is sacred; money is the focus.
    While it may be a tool to get young people to enlist, it says much as to the moral depths we have fallen.

  6. jonst says:

    I wanted to make some would be funny, jaded quip about how ‘they’ just keep providing us with perfect metaphors for what we have become.
    But I don’t have anything really to offer other than this is despicable. And it is a very ominous sign of the depth we are sinking to.

  7. CP says:

    10 U.S.C. § 771
    “Except as otherwise provided by law, no person except a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps … may wear:
    (1) the uniform, or a distinctive part of the uniform, of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps; or
    (2) a uniform any part of which is similar to a distinctive part of the uniform of the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps”
    (NOTE: Violations may be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § § 702 and 704.)

  8. BillD says:

    My gosh. This is truly mind boggling. My father-in-law must be spinning in his grave. He joined the 1stID, 26th Infantry, at Plattsburg Barracks in 1930. He was with the Division, and was a “Blue Spader”, until 1948 when he accepted a warrant.
    11B40 may be right about what else might be in our future.

  9. abraham says:

    Col. Lang, this is totally off the topic but I wanted to get your opinion of this. You may have already addressed this in the past.
    What do you make of the recent threats by Israel to neutralize Russia’s S-300 defense system if it goes ahead and sells one to Iran?
    Also, can you tell us what you know about S-300 capabilities and how it stacks up against Israel’s (i.e. US) offensive weapons?
    Perhaps you can handle this in a blog posting, or feel free to ignore me.

  10. Dick says:

    After giving it a long thought, I don’t see a problem with it. If I see young people (they will no doubt mostly be young) wearing street clothes with my old insignias on them – the red diamond (5th Mech) or the AA (82nd) – I’ll just wonder in passing if they know the significance of them. Their possible ignorance isn’t their fault. Just so long as the Army gets a nice cut from the program and perhaps puts the money towards VA or other programs that directly benefit those who served, or are serving. We’ve seen military surplus clothing (and hand-me-downs from old soldiers) being worn for years now, and much with various patches left on. Hopefully the licensed insignias will all be applied in good taste. Just my opinion.

  11. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    There ain’t no more glue in the system. Everything is for sale. Trumpeting the importance of values only to sell them off to the highest bidder now sounds a little bit like a marketing strategy, doesn’t it?
    Put a fork in us. We’re done.

  12. VietnamVet says:

    Once again, you hit the nail with a two-by-four.
    There have been many changes in the Army I was in for 2 years and 9 months almost 4 decades ago. All because rather than facing the fact the Vietnam was a war that could never be won, the conservatives ideologues were convinced they were stabbed in the back by liberals, Jane Fonda and Walter Cronkite. To conservatives, the collapse of the Army in the 70’s was due to hippie draftees rather than facing the fact that it was a soldier’s revolt against dying in an unwinnable war.
    Military traditions are a way a society and people pass on the lessons from the past and build unit cohesion. But, with the ending of the draft, the Army has only two tools left to draw in bodies; marketing and religious ideology. Fighting two wars without the draft or raising taxes to pay for them has forced America into many varied weird contortions from a 500 billion dollar 2008 federal deficit, to selecting a evangelistic Christian woman vice-president candidate, to the most strange, changing the name of my old Airborne Company from Charlie to Chosen.

  13. Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA says:

    Thank you for this, my Army friends. It’s only a matter of time before my Air Force will follow.
    I understand we’re currently referred to as the “Raptor Nation”, so merchandising seems a natural progession in the quest to fund programs.
    This is effin’ obscene, sorry.

  14. anna missed says:

    This is following the Harley Davidson business model of selling the logo to keep the business alive. Can ubiquitous made in China Big Red One underwear and cheap beer be far behind?

  15. Jose says:

    My old division has become a marketing “brand”, sad indictment of every xsshxle wearing one or more stars.
    What’s left after this?

  16. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Maybe we should have the USAF sponsor a new Redskins stadium – welcome to the “Death From Above” sports complex!
    The past few years are burning me out. The presidential campaign is an accelerant. This optimist by nature feels like calling it quits.
    Maybe I should latch onto some fat DoD contract and head back to the UK where the scariest thing they had when I lived there last time was Mr. Blobby.
    Maybe it’s changed back there too, but I doubt it has sunk as low as it has here. When I left in 1996 there was still a sense that some things aren’t for sale. That some rights don’t have to be written down in a constitution to be respected.

  17. fasteddiez says:

    Would Gen. Casey, as CSA, have had to sign off on this?

  18. Dan M says:

    What’s next? The selling of division naming rights like baseball stadiums? Very sad.

  19. Does the DOD have the right to license out the First Division logo? When did they copyright or patent the Big Red One?
    While I think that it is bad taste/abhorrent/crappy that the All American Apparel Inc. company uses this symbol in such a crude way, I wonder why they had to license it in the first place. (And why not use the All American Division symbol unless it was not “sexy” enough?)
    It is interesting to note that the comments on Politico seem to transcend party affiliation. Actual veterans seem to be against the move while others are for it unless they have a relative who fought in a war. I am strongly on the side of not commercializing the Armed Forces in this bald a manner. This is not a tee shirt sold to the young brother of a paratrooper, it is a nationally advertised sales campaign that spends millions to make millions. Pure profit only and the money that DOD gets doesn’t even seem to be used for anything other than more advertising.

  20. TomB says:

    As someone who has never served I’d fully agree that the sentiments of those who have ought to control, absolutely. But given that same haven’t been solicited and that we thus don’t know that answer, aren’t there at least a few non-ignoble things to be said for the idea?
    I.e., what’s wrong with civilians being so admiring of our armed forces that they want to wear its insignia? Is this really something we’d like our armed forces to *discourage*?
    After all we had a time when kids were wearing the North Vietnamese flag colors, and Che stuff is still hot, thankfully albeit in a campy sort of way now. And isn’t stuff like this likely to make young kids at least a little more aware of our armed forces, and maybe a little more aware of the history and meaning of such insignia and all of what’s behind them?
    Is that bad?
    And after all licensing it is one way to make sure the image is kept correctly portrayed, and I’ve little doubt but that the licensing agreement probably gives the Army the right to ixnay any disrespectful use of it, or that there are some other such similar such provisions in the agreement and etc.
    It’s no news of course that the services have a hard time attracting the really top-flight kids these days; maybe some of that or maybe even a good deal of that is due to the lack of understanding that it’s a helluva proud place to be. So why should the services need to hide that pride under a lampshade? At some point such hiding is going to be taken for a lack of pride even.
    Think about some serviceman or woman home on leave or after serving, walking through a mall seeing a shirt with that insignia on it. Seems to me he or she might get a kick out of just thinking that “hey, I wore that for real,” or saying that, or if they are in their uniform, feeling that.
    Again, never having served I don’t know, and maybe it is a dishonorable thing. But that someone thinks the public would like it doesn’t strike me as a terrible thing. And keeping the image of the services as places where people go only when they’ve got no other options, and otherwise as humour-less, colorless, fuddy-duddy, undifferentiated blob-like institutions that don’t recognize individual or group merit (which of course is exactly what such an insignia does) doesn’t seem to me to do much for the people who have served either.

  21. Walrus says:

    I haven’t read all the posts here. I’m shocked and horrified for two reasons.
    Firstly, do you know what happens to the used apparel that you recycle?
    A large part of it is sorted, baled, and exported to Third World Countries where individual items are sold for a few cents. That’s why you see those “cute” photos of little kids wearing old designer Tee shirts.
    Not so cute is the thought of a Somali Jihadist wearing The Big Red One.
    Secondly, this total and complete lack of empathy is conclusive proof that the narcissists have polluted the Military, just like they have big business. “Character” is obviously of no importance when selecting senior officers any more.
    The thought of people being able to purchase the right to wear any military insignia is anathema to anyone who has had to earn it the hard way.

  22. Paul says:

    Licensing of sacred military symbols results when whores are running the government and the military. Where the hell are the joint chiefs?
    Eventually, the Big Red One patch will be featured on Victoria Secrets’ crotchless panties.

  23. Grumpy says:

    Col., Have they changed the rules in math recently? It is my understanding, the same rule applies to grammar. Double negatives equals positives.
    As I read this post, I kept thinking about the fact, this Nation is trying to build a new Military. I did not serve with the “Big Red One”, but there was a well deserved respect for it, AT ONE TIME. They worked and fought hard for the distinction of that patch. It was special. I wonder, does this come under “The Stolen Valor Act?” How should we deal with the “genius” (sic) of ALL of those people involved in the making of this decision?
    “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their Nation.” -George Washington 1789

  24. Larry Mitchell says:

    “Ok, I’ve got you down for a Big Red One, a Tropic Lightning, 1st Cav and 2 Screaming Eagles. Would you like CIBs with those?”
    I can’t help but think this is yet another angle for letting the citizens be patriots without serving in exchange for their support at the polls. The heavy lifting is for another class of people, but there’s no reason why everyone else can’t have a taste.

  25. Fred says:

    What headquarters’ hero dreamed this up? Some frat boy who used to work at the “Coalition Provisional Authority”? Now all the couch commando’s can dress in the latest War on Terror ™ chic designer line. Great.
    Just one question, when do these RE**’s plan on selling the naming rights to Arlington National Cemetery?

  26. Green Zone Cafe says:

    Oh, I think it’s worse, or more absurd, than you think, Colonel.
    Sears wants it because of the lewd double-entendre in “Big Red One.”

  27. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “Swine” is too kind a term for the Pentagon sewage who allowed this. Maybe they got a little something on the side tucked into a bank account somewhere for their decision?
    Here is the Board of Directors of the company which owns Beanstalk:

  28. R Whitman says:

    As my foreign friends and former employers always say: “In America it is always about the money.” I am sure Walmart would like to buy the rights to the Presidential Seal.

  29. zanzibar says:

    When the governing philosophy is – greed is good, and the spoils are “where its happening.” – then outcomes include the “selling” of the Big Red One insignia as a branded item and you get the perfect sex & drugs taxpayer ripoffs.

  30. tomas del sol says:

    Look at the status of the military, the economy, the climate, the quality of the insuing campaign, our government–why is anyone surprised by a decision about money!

  31. TomB says:

    11B40 wrote:
    “TomB, some of us remember a time when there were some few things that couldn’t be bought but had to be *earned*.”
    Hey, like I said, I think it ultimately should have been left up to the guys who did earn it. And from the comments here from guys who earned either it or something similar sounds like it’s pretty universally condemned and so I got no problem with that.

  32. Walrus says:

    I guess the next thing will be selling Commissions like the British did.
    For $1,000,000 you can style yourself “General”.
    Of Course “Colonel” comes a little bit cheaper, but I’ve already reeled in Col. Lang once today;)

  33. ChrisH says:

    As Smedley Butler wrote “War is a Racket” and of course what Ike meant to say was “beware the Military/Industrial/Retail Marketing Complex”. What’s next you ask . . . Campaign Ribbons and Personal Awards as trinkets and oak leaf clusters used for body piercings.

  34. different clue says:

    People who buy these insignia replicas are probably uninformed as to what this all means. They may not be as blameworthy as
    the commercial arrangers who
    pitched and permitted this concept.
    With that in mind, what if genuine veterans started an informal mass movement to
    politely shame and reprimand
    any person they see wearing purchased or rented insignia? And educate them on the concept of “earned, not sold”? And convince them to boycott any more such things in the future, and even try to take back what they are wearing and get a refund? Could enough of that sort of activism make these insignia-licensing arrangements so unprofitable as to back Sears out of it and deter anyone else from going into it? Perhaps an attempt to raise a general boycott of all Sears stores until that licensing arrangement is cancelled?

  35. Tyler says:

    More fetishism of the military by non serving types.
    All in all disgusting.

  36. Nancy K says:

    I plan on calling and writing Sears Corp and Omnicomgroup and not only voicing my disapproval of the merchandizing of the Big Red One but also letting them know that I refuse to buy anything they sell. A boycott of their products may just work, they really don’t want bad publicity or to look unpatriotic.

  37. Tim G says:

    Boycott Sears.

  38. dlb says:

    Pathetic, of course. But it will certainly pass into marketing oblivion. Five years max. All the fine and brave things we do pass into oblivion soon enough as well.

  39. Leigh says:

    So, Colonel, rather than simply talk about it, why don’t we do something? How about contacting Sears and tell them we’ll not buy into this ploy…especially since the garments, like the rest of Sears clothing, will probably be made in China.

  40. WDD says:

    My father never referred to The Big Red One as anything other than ‘the First United States Infantry Division.’ He served in the division from Tunisia to Czechoslovakia, winning a silver star in Tunisia as a forward artillery observer. He discovered his only brother was killed near Eindhoven the second day of Market-Garden when a letter he wrote was returned ‘deceased.’ Words fail me in describing the disgust I feel at this moment. This country has sold its soul.

  41. Arun says:

    Soon Army Divisions will have corporate sponsorship with tastefully placed corporate insignia on uniforms. It is the logical culmination of the currently prevalent theories of economics and government.
    Want to change it? Have to get away from this lipstick on pigs politics.

  42. Frank_T says:

    When you see someone wearing this Sears “brand,” thank them for serving, then ask them which unit they were in.

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