In the early days of the 31st Infantry Regiment there were no “crests” of the kind worn today. All infantry regiments wore a similar design until January 1923, when the War Department began approving distinctive unit insignia. At the time, there was strong sentiment favoring use of a polar bear as the 31st Infantry’s insignia to commemorate the regiment’s service in Siberia from 1918 to 1920. In late 1923, the regimental adjutant sent a drawing of a proposed insignia to A.H. Dondero, Inc. of Washington, DC for a sample to be made for the War Department’s approval. Dondero’s sample was approved by the War Department by letter (AG 421.7) on 29 February 1924. It reads, in proper heraldic language: “On a wreath or and azure (gold and blue) a polar bear affronte se jant (sitting, facing front) head to sinister proper (to the left) with a ribbon bearing the regimental motto, Pro Patria (For Our Country).”
Dondero sent samples to the regiment on 27 February. About 6 or 7 weeks later, the Adjutant asked Dondero for a modification. He wanted the eyes, claws, and mouth to be red. On 29 May 1924, Dondero sent the regiment two samples of the requested insignia with a quote of 39 cents apiece for 4000 insignia. On 23 October 1924, the Adjutant responded to Dondero’s letter, saying “designs submitted by a firm in Manila were more satisfactory to the personnel of the regiment than the designs submitted by you. An order was placed and delivery has already been made.” Dondero was furious at losing the regiment’s business and sent back a strong letter of protest, but to no avail.
The insignia purchased by the regiment in 1924 were made by Crispulo Zamora of Manila. Instead of the red eyes, mouth, and claws the Adjutant asked Dondero for, the Zamora polar bear was entirely metal and both front paws faced upward, unlike the design approved by the War Department. The regiment wore the unofficial Zamora insignia until 1936 when N.S. Meyer of New York City became the supplier. Meyer copied Zamora’s design as the regiment requested. That insignia was worn until the surrender of Bataan in April 1942. When the 31st Infantry Regiment was reactivated in Korea in 1946, Meyer manufactured a new insignia, using the original Dondero dies approved by the War Department in 1924. That insignia has been worn by the regiment and its successor battle groups and battalions ever since.
The insignia on the regiment’s colors, known as the coat of arms, was approved by the Office of the Quartermaster General on 15 August 1929. All regimental colors (flags) issued from that day forward included the approved coat of arms.