This question comes from one of our long time customers in Europe who’s responsible for a lot of the red sold labels in our collection. We’re always happy to answer questions and give any insights that we can provide based on our experience as lifelong collectors of militaria and our time served in the Army Rangers and USMC Force Recon. The topic in question is Fedayeen Saddam.
If you’re not familiar with Fedayeen Saddam, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
The Fedayeen Saddam was not part of Iraq’s regular armed forces but rather operated as a paramilitary unit of irregular forces. As a result of this, the Fedayeen reported directly to the Presidential Palace, rather than through the military chain of command. Whilst paramilitary, the Fedayeen were not an elite military force, often receiving just basic training and operating without heavy weapons. In this they were somewhat similar to the Basij of Iran or Shabbiha militia of Syria.
Much like other paramilitaries, the Fedayeen was volunteer based and the units were never given an official salary. As a result, most of the members resorted to extortion and theft of property from the general population, even though the members had access to sanction-evading trade and high quality services (i.e. new cars, hospitals reserved for officials, expensive electronics) and a general standard of living considerably higher than that of the average Iraqi of the time. However, they were ordered not to threaten or harm any government officials. As the group had no overt religious affiliations, it had a mix of Sunni and Shia members.
The Fedayeen were among the most loyal organizations to the government of Saddam Hussein and were a politically reliable force against domestic opponents. The Fedayeen played a role in the 2003 war, resisting the American-led invasion.
To be able to benefit of your knowledge and expertise is essential for me, because it helps to acquire an authentic and objective understanding of what I buy you. Thank you for your constant availability and patience.
Please take your time to answer me : I really need your deep analyse.
I’ve searched during two months on the Internet (Forums, newspapers…) images of Fedayeen Saddam original period. I’ve searched in US, French and Arab languages. I wanted to avoid the phantasmagoric interpretation of the collectors in their own mannequins pictures.
What I’ve noticed:
- In the pictures showing Fedayeen Saddam troops in “parade” situation, context where they should present themselves sophisticated and standardized uniforms, we can notice that they do not often wear the patches.
- It seems that Officers, in 2 pieces uniform, wear more regularly the patches.
What I deduce and my interrogations that need to benefit of your expertise:
- The fact of wearing patches (Saddam’s profile, shape of Iraq, jump wings) seems not to be generalized, even in “parade” configuration and also “in the field”.
- It seems to exist a lot a variants of patches manufacturing : color of sewing thread (nearly gold or yellow), shapes/design of the Iraq territory & jump wings, woven or printed. Quality varies also in the restitution of the shapes.
So there was not a centralized process of manufacturing these patches? In all the areas of big towns of Iraq, some sewing workshops were doing their adaptative production?
What are the reasons that from 1995 to 2003 (eight years of existence), so many patches manufacturing and variants exist?
And also black jumpsuits : there are several variants. Even for the 2 pieces uniforms : there are different cotton material used (some thick and some thinner cotton material), variants in the shape of breast pouches, buttons shapes also… So there was not a centralized process of manufacturing uniforms? In all the areas of big towns of Iraq, some sewing workshops were doing their adaptative production?
- These productions variants of Fedayeen Saddam patches and uniforms come from :
– no centralized production?
-Natural evolution during 8 years of the Fedayeen Saddam existence?
- About the wearing of badges. Iraqi Officers were fond of wearing these patches. But I read testimonials from GIs who said that themselves asked sewing workshops to sew a lot of these patches as souvenirs.
The positioning of the patch is also absolutely not rigorous: the profile of saddam should be stitched on the left arm so that it looks ahead, it is finally found also sewn on the right arm and thus inversion of the shape of Iraq).
- My worry : because there are so few pictures from original period, because US troops were obliged to destroy and burn a lot of Fedayeen Saddam uniforms : how and when will we be able to precisely know about this topic ?
I think until some former Iraqi Fedayeen soldier writes about the Fedayeen we will not see much about them. I do not know if any former Fedayeen live outside of Iraq. I understand some became insurgents doing what they thought was right to protect their homeland, settle old debts or gain personal power. It seems unlikely we will hear from one soon.
The other possibility to gain precise knowledge might come in 2023. What I mean by this is, the US Military and CIA will hopefully downgrade the detailed intelligence documents they generated about the Fedayeen before the invasion. Typically documents about enemy forces are classified when the are generated but are downgraded after 20 years and become declassified. Historians can request unclassified documents from our National Archives. Any person can do it. Maybe we will send in the request. I doubt it will say much more than they wear black uniforms and various unique patches, however.
I have heard about Iraqi merchants selling all kinds of patches after the invasion. This has always gone on in countries where patches are made. The French made beautiful US Patches in WW1 and WW2.
There are many variations of Fedayeen patches and uniforms but this is not a concern to me. When I was in the Army, 1982 to 1986, I saw four types of field uniforms being worn. The OG-107 utility uniform and the BDU were the most common. I was issued the BDU in basic training. The drill sergeants wore the OG107s as a sign of the status as “old timers or lifers.” In the Rangers, I wore only Jungle fatigues in OD and ERDL camouflage. We called the BDU the “Battalion Departure Uniform.” Soldiers who were being kicked out of the Battalion had to leave their jungle fatigues behind. I only wore the BDU when I attended the Basic Training, Airborne School and the NCO Academies. They phased out the OG-107s as well as the Khaki dress uniform with short sleeves while I was in. I wore all of these uniform.
As for patches, when the 3rd Ranger Battalion was formed in 1984, we had three different scrolls in the first year before it became standardized. No one tells a soldier why this happens, they just hand you a patch and say sew it on. We did not sew, so we went to the sewing shop, there are many around bases outside in the towns, and the women sewed them on for a small price like 50 cents each.
We definitely had regulations on how patches were sewn on but the sewing shop workers knew them so we did not have to. Similarly, the Fedayeen were a small unit that existed for 8 years so I am not surprised to see variations in uniforms and patches given the changes I personally experienced in my four years in the patch wearing Army.
I tell people all the time, militaria is not made for collectors. It was made to issue to a soldier to use. The side effect is also so a sergeant can yell at the soldier for not wearing it properly, not taking care of it etc.
Hope this helps.
Deeply interesting and very clear description for me Matthew.
And also that is so right “militaria is not made for collectors”, I have to keep in mind that the “understanding grid” of a collector is deeply far from the “understanding grid” of the user : the soldier.
Thank you for your time, saved in my base.
I know that most collectors, or a large percentage, never served so they have to guess at, or read about, how things really are when you serve.
Also, even among veterans, the experience is different for every soldier. I was telling my wife that the experience that Rangers had in the 1st and 2nd Battalions was very different than mine in the 3rd, even though we were all “Battalion Boys” serving simultaneously. The experience of a 3rd Ranger Bn serving now, or at any point since I left, is similarly different.