There’s little doubt that challenge coins are military in origin. While
all branches of the armed forces-Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the
Coast Guard-have some history when it comes to military challenge coins,
the legend that is predominantly accepted as the beginning of these
coins is based on a lieutenant deployed during World War I.
According to legend, challenge coins of solid bronze were created by a
rich lieutenant for every member of his squadron as a token of their
service together. One pilot placed his coin in a pouch worn around his
neck. Later on, the man was captured by the Germans when he was forced
to land behind enemy lines due to a damaged aircraft. During transport
to a permanent POW camp, the pilot was able to escape.
When a French patrol passed by, the pilot who had most of his belongings
confiscated, offered his military challenge coin as proof that he was an
American. It saved his life! Once the pilot returned to his squadron,
they each agreed to carry the challenge coins at all times.
Today, the challenge coin tradition has spread to the Army, Navy,
Marines, and Coast Guard. Challenge coins now enforce solidarity and
hold unit members to a certain standard. Those challenged to produce
their coins must do so immediately. If they are unable to, they must buy
a round of drinks or perform some other service for everyone who
displays his or her military challenge coin.
The honor even reaches to our highest office. Bill Clinton had several
military challenge coins on display during his term as President and
George W. Bush received a Marines challenge coin from a patrol in Iraq
while he was in the Oval Office.
Does your Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard unit have
challenge coins? They are an impressive way to display honor, loyalty,