Military Tattoos and Tattoo Designs


A History of Pride, Power and Perseverance

Currently, there are millions of Americans who are now, or at some time have been, members of the United States Armed Forces. Active duty military members, reservists, war veterans and retirees – they all share a camaraderie; each has belonged to a unit, platoon, battalion or brigade that has its own brave and illustrious past.

Many of these men and women have chosen to commemorate their military service and pride by getting their own unique military tattoo designs.

According to Samuel M. Steward, author and Ph.D., “The popularity of tattoos among the armed forces was greatest in the Navy, with the Army second, and the Marines third. Far down the scale was the Air Force…”

For service members, their relatives and survivors who are in search of the perfect military style tattoo design, check out the information we have for these four major branches of service below.

star, eagle, military, american

star, military, american, reaper

star, skull, military, patriotic


The Army was awarded its first battle streamer on May the 10th, 1775. It was in the Battle of Ticonderoga in the Revolutionary War, and it was truly only the beginning. Later that year, on July the 3rd, George Washington took over as President and Commander in Chief; the next day, we declared our independence to the rest of the world.

Since the Revolutionary War, the Army has fought in several wars, including the War of 1812, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War and in Vietnam. We’ve been to Iraq and Kuwait twice, and have skirmished with Cuba, South America and in Bosnia. Through every war, battle or skirmish, the Army has been holding strong to serve our country and protect it.

The men and women who have served in the Army have been left with images and wounds that will haunt them forever. Of those, many have chosen to “go under the needle” and permanently inscribe themselves with a testimony to their service, suffering and pride.

It’s common to find Army tattoos that are: replicas of unit patches, awards, and medals; that symbolize tours of duty; and memorialize those who were prisoners of war or missing in action (POW/MIA).

Also prevalent in Army tattoos are eagles, the US flag (or other variations of the stars and stripes), and stars. A military tattoo that is growing in popularity is known as “meat tags”. These are a permanent dog tag type tattoo often inked prior to deployment to wars and overseas duty stations. And never overlook the appropriateness of camouflage.

star, lower back, heart, military

patriotic, dogs, usa, america

catholic, ocean, patriotic, religious


The United States Air Force has existed in spirit long before it was officially named, recognized and spelled out in the Air Force Organization Act of 1951. Actually, avionics has played a part in the United States military since 1907, when it was first represented as the Aeronautical Division of the United States Army Signal Corps.

The jets and planes flown by the United States Air Force have served many purposes – aerial photography, spying, delivering supplies, dropping bombs, deploying missiles and moving troops to and from war zones and bases.

Though not as likely to have military tattoos as their fellow counterparts in the other branches of the armed services, there are still several tattoo designs popular in the Air Force:

  • Pilots’ wings
  • Eagles
  • Planes and jets
  • Unit patch tattoo designs
  • War veteran tattoos
star, military, patriotic, usa




The Marine Corp - often considered the meanest and toughest of all branches of service – were first established on November the 10th, 1775. From then on, the Corp has had a long and illustrious history as serving as the military’s first, deadly blow to our enemies.

Marines have fought against pirates on the shores of Tripoli; alongside men like Andrew Jackson in New Orleans; in the Mexican and Spanish Wars; they served in both WWI and WWII; have handled missile crises and have now spent their own fair share of time in Iraq.

Now, especially with so many deployed or deploying, it’s pretty hard to find a “jarhead” without a military tattoo!

Ranging from small single ink images covered by DCUs, BDUs, or suit and tie to larger, more intricate tattoos peeking out from sleeves, collars and cuffs, Marine military tattoos run the gamut. With bulldogs, camouflage, unit designs and more, probably the most impressive Marine tattoo design was a larger than life replica of the Marine Corp seal beautifully etched across the bag of a young sergeant.

in memory, respect, honor, banner

wildlife, nature, animal, wing

patriotic, star, flag, usa


The Navy was born on October the 13th, in the year 1775. However, once the Revolutionary War was over, America sold her ships, disbanded her Marines and Naval troops and curtailed the Army to a mere 700 men. But it wouldn’t be very long before the Navy was back in action. Their successes were so great and the demand for them so high that in 1845, the United States Naval Academy opened in Annapolis, Maryland. And today, they’re still going strong!

The Navy, sailors and tattoos have all been very tied in with one another. It was our country’s sailors that, back in the early 1900’s, first truly introduced our culture to this lasting form of artistic expression. It was because of their long voyages to lands distant, mysterious and quite seductive that led them to discover tattoo. And when they returned home, a new fad began. Present times not included, the first part of the last century saw tattoo hits its peak in international popularity!

Navy tattoos often feature anchors, designed to just about any variation you can imagine. And, just like Popeye, these modern sailor men still often choose their upper arm for placement.

Sailors caps are also frequent features in Naval tattoo designs. It’s also not unusual to see submarines, periscopes or other Navy-related equipment commemorated in permanent ink.

These aren’t by any means the only possibilities for military tattoos. There are also members of the Coast Guard, the Air National Guard, the Army National Guard, Reservists and other Department of Defense branches who all share their own history and unique military tattoo designs. So whether you’re a patriotic active duty member, a reservist, or a retired war veteran, you’ll be sure to find the perfect military design for your tattoo!


frog, military, bombs, usa

star, military, american, patriotic

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