Before Normandy it was common for American vehicles overseas to carry a simple white star as an identifier. But in the dust and confusion of battle the US star could occasionally be mistaken for a German Cross at ranges over 1000 yards. In fact, tankers and armored units began painting out the stars to avoid becoming a casualty of ‘friendly fire’, especially from allied air units. The problem got so bad that in this period the term “American Luftwaffe” was coined. Experienced units like the 2nd Armored actually started painting out their stars altogether.
After D-Day vehicles were refitted with a circle around the white star which largely solved the friendly fire issue until Berlin fell. Like this 8th Armored Division M24 Chaffee below as it rode into battle with heavily defended German forces in Rheinberg on March 3, 1945.
Today it’s a powerful symbol to remind us not to mistake each other for the enemy. In the dust and confusion of mass media and social media, where opinions fly, and passions fly even higher, it’s easy to forget who the real enemy is.
Let's keep the friendly fire down, boys. There's too much work to do.
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