Ovals are actually referred to as "Background trimmings" in the army.
The first background trimmings were made of a small red felt oval stiched to the center of
a slightly larger piece of light blue felt. The wing, which was designed by William P. Yarborough, was issued with a background
trimming "to set the badge off" as it was much smaller than that of their air force counterparts. Yarborough's wife did much
of the sewing and cutting to get the trimmings ready for the first "wing" ceremony.
As the wives were not in
any position to mass produce the background trimmings, Yarborough recommended that the AH Dondero Company be approached manufacture
these background trimmings.
The first trimmings were, like the orignal backgrounds, made with a red
and a light blue border. The 2nd generation of ovals was made with
an embroidered border rather than as a two piece felt
allowed for symmetry and made the manufacturing process much faster.
As men from other branches
became parachute qualified, the need of an
oval with other border colors was determined to exist. Artillerymen and Engineers
wanted to wear the red color of their respective branches.
Thus, the proliferation of ovals began.
The 502nd battalion chose a background oval that had a light blue center and a medium
blue border. The 503rd Battalion went with a medium blue
center with a light blue border. These colors were to remain with
the regiments as the Battalions were expanded.
Anyway, The first ovals were manufactured on felt. Later ovals were produced on
ribbed cotton twill and on plain cotton material. Almost all ovals from WWII were much smaller than their modern cousins.
Some of these early ovals are barely large enough to be seen outside the border of the wing itself. Most wings were backed
with gauze to keep the embroidery from puckering the material. Usually the gauze is white, but there are a few examples of
the embroidery being black. There are a few of the earlier ovals on felt, that are much larger than their counterparts. They
are about as large as the later pieces, but always have a mild slope to the tops and bottoms.
WWII ovals almost always have a shape like a football or like a rugby
ball. They are not
shaped like the more modern ovals that look like a
racetrack with parallel edges at the top and bottom of the oval.
Here is a quick rundown of the color combinations:
501st- red with light blue border.
502nd- three distinctively different ovals- light blue with dark blue
dark blue with medium blue border, and tan with a dark blue border.
503- red with light blue border- though the blue faded quickly and looks
this is how the colors were officially changed to red and silver.
504- WWII examples are fully embroidered medium blue with a golden yellow
border. Also a blue felt with gilt tinsel bullion border.
505- medium blue with a red border.
506- fully embroidered w/ three secitoned center red, white, blue with a
thin white border.
507- black with an orange border.
508- black with a white border.
509- Dark blue with a light blue border.
511- Light blue with an narrow white inner border and a green outerborder.
513- red with a black border.
515- grey with a golden yellow border.
517- blue with a grey border- includes a fully embroidered example.
541- black with a gold border.
542- blue with a white or grey border.
550- blue with a white or grey border.
555- dark blue with a red inner border and a white outer border- as worn
by the Airborne Command.
88th GIR- red with a gold border.
325- blue with a white or grey border.
326- dark blue with dark blue border.
327- black with gold border.
401st- Light blue with light blue border.
307th Engineers- red w/ white border.
Most of the artilleries are red on red, but the 467th Arty is black and yellow
checkerboard w/ red border- fully embroidered.
464th FA - red with yellow border.