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In Support of Games: Canadian Army Identification and the Pan-Am Games 1967

January 1, 2016

© Bill Alexander 2016

The Canadian Forces have frequently been required to assist in emergencies, natural disasters or special events. Most short term call outs in response to emergencies and disasters are not marked by any special insignia. Other situations, such as peace-keeping, aid to the civil power or aid in support of special events have necessitated unique identification for the duration of the deployment. Distinct insignia may range from special head dress and cap badges through shoulder titles, patches, armlets or brassards. These insignia worn for short durations of the tasking serve the purpose of identifying the personnel and their role in each particular deployment.


The official logo for the Pan-American Games. (Wikipedia)

In 1967, Canada’s Centennial was marked by a whole range of celebrations and special events across the nation. In the west, Winnipeg hosted the Pan-American Games, the athletic competition for nations of the Western Hemisphere. With large numbers of athletes and spectators attending this international event, the Canadian Forces was tasked with specific support, security and administrative duties. Preparations for the tasking were initiated in late fall of 1966.The main component of the armed forces contribution was to come from 3 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (3 RCHA), stationed at Shilo. Concerns were immediately raised about distinguishing the Pan-am military personnel from other military personnel in the area of the games.

After consultations with Lt.-Col. Harber, the Canadian army observer at the Innsbruck Olympic Games, the commanding officer of 3 RCHA, Lt.-Col. J.E.G. de Domenico offered suggestions to address the problem. He concluded that the civilian organizers would need some method of clearly recognizing the military personnel assigned to support the games. Additionally, experience with civilians during flood emergencies revealed that the public was not aware of the rank structure of the military and often were confused about which personnel were in positions of authority. Some method of identifying those in positions of authority was needed. Domenico proposed some alternatives:

The most practical and economical solution to this problem is for all members of the Pan Am Force to wear a beret, and for officers/Sr NCOs in charge of specific tasks to wear an armband when it is necessary for their authoritative position to be easily recognizable. The Pan Am Society seems to have adopted red as its official colour. Hence the berets should be red and the armbands be of white cloth with the Society symbol stamped or embroidered on it. Allowing for sizing approximately 2000 berets and about 200 armbands would be required.[1]

It was quickly pointed out that infantry regiments (except rifles and light infantry) and their affiliated cadet corps wore the scarlet beret. As a method of identification, the red beret was not suitable. Instead, it was suggested that an armband could be designed for the entire contingent, with some appropriate markings added to denote positions of authority.

Referred to Canadian Forces Headquarters, it was agreed that the beret would not be appropriate. The question of the armband was received favourably, with requests for the design to be submitted to the Directorate of Ceremonial. A design was prepared and forwarded through channels, but the purpose was significantly altered. Instead of being the Pan Am Force identifier, the proposed armband would be used to specifically identify officers or NCOs in command of groups or on certain official duties.


Brassard design as approved for the Pan Am Force. LAC RG 24 Box 8 File 5250-4 Vol. 1 Service Personnel Dress Instructions: Wearing of Uniforms at Ceremonies and Celebrations.

The Pan-Am Force armband was officially described as:

A white armband enfaced with the Pan-Am crest in red, dimensions to be 3 ½” x 17” fastened by the means of Vilok. The symbol of the Society to be stamped or embroidered on the armband in red.[2]

The authorization also noted that 200 brassards were to be provided, only to be worn by personnel in positions of authority. It was cautioned that the brassards should not be worn in a manner that obscured senior NCO rank badges.

In late April a contract for the armbands was let; on May 31st the order of 200 armbands was forwarded to 3 RCHA. The armbands were worn to distinguish the personnel in positions of authority for the duration of the tasking. The unique distinguishing brassard established a precedent for similar insignia to be employed in future taskings.


[1] de Domenico J.E.G. Lt.-Col. 3 RCHA, Letter, Pan Am Force, Distinguishing Marks, November 3, 1966. LAC RG 24 Box 8, File 5250-4 Vol. 1 Service Personnel Dress Instructions: Wearing of Uniforms at Ceremonies and Celebrations. Marking of vehicles was also addressed. It was noted that all the vehicles involved were marked with Mobile Command signs. It was felt this would suffice, but if necessary an additional markings could be added.

[2] Watson R.C. Air Commodore DGA, Memorandum DND Support – PAN AM GAMES 1967 DISTINGUISHING ARM BANDS April 20, 1967. And, N.A. Buckingham Lt.-Col. Director of Ceremonial, Letter, DND Support – PAN AM GAMES 1967, DISTINGUISHING ARMBAND. LAC RG 24 Box 8, File 5250-4 Vol. 1 Service Personnel Dress Instructions: Wearing of Uniforms at Ceremonies and Celebrations. Vilok fastenings were not explained and may have been an early type of velcro.

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One Comment
  1. Michael Walker permalink

    Please note – At the time of the Pan American Games 3 RCHA was resident in Winnipeg (NOT Shilo) – in fact the single members of the unit were displaced to older lodgings in the area for the duration of the games in order to provide a large portion of the athlete’s accommodation. 3 RCHA did not move to CFB Shilo until 1970 when their lines at Fort Osborne Barracks were taken over by 2 PPCLI.

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