December 5, 2018 – The tradition of issuing coins in the military is believed to have started in Vietnam. When an Army infantry-run bar tried to keep non-infantrymen away, they allegedly forced “outsiders” to buy drinks for the whole bar if they could not prove they had been in combat.
Story iterations like this one have indicated that this proof started with enemy bullets and gradually became as extreme as grenades, rockets and unexploded ordnance. Eventually, a coin-sized item emblazoned with the unit’s insignia became the accepted form of proof, according to various historical reports.
Overwhelmingly, military leaders have used coins as a means of instilling unit pride, improving esprit de corps, rewarding hard work and excellence, and to commemorate special events. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Centennial Coin is an example.
When NSWCDD celebrated its 100-year birthday on Oct. 16, centennial coins were given out at the event. The aluminum coin features several elements of Dahlgren’s history. One side of the coin references 1918 when the first firing shot was conducted using the 7-inch Gun, shown in silhouette, on Oct. 16, 1918. The biplane on the coin represents the first radio controlled aircraft.
The 2018 side of the coin illustrates the work Dahlgren conducts on Surface Naval Ships, representing more than 350 components, systems and weapons that Dahlgren produces. NSWCDD’s work with LaWS –Laser Weapons System— is another feature of the coin, displayed with artwork of the USS Ponce. LaWS was tested on the USS Ponce which has now been decommissioned. NSWCDD’s cybersecurity footprint also has a clear presence at the base of the coin.
USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15), formerly LPD-15, is an Austinclass amphibious transport dock, formerly in service with the United States Navy. She has been the only ship of the Navy named for Ponce in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which in turn was named after the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, the first governor of Puerto Rico and the European discoverer of Florida.
NSWCDD also created a larger coin which was rendered in color with the logo on one side, and emblems representing the division’s key functional areas. Distinguished Visitors and employees recognized for exemplary performance have received the heavier official coin. The lighter version was presented to all attendees of both the Centennial kickoff and finale ceremonies.
“The story behind the coins is important for recipients to understand the full meaning behind these tokens,” said Joseph Fordham, NSWCDD Centennial Coordinator.