The Army is launching an investigation after a Special Forces unit posted a photo showing a soldier with a patch depicting a particular image of skull and crossbones used by the Nazis in World War II. 

The patch featuring an SS Totenkopf — also referred to as “Death’s Head” — on a palm tree similar to a patch used by Nazi Germany’s AfrikaKorps, was posted to the Alabama-based 20th Special Forces Group’s Instagram on Sunday. The caption read, “That weekend feeling. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Don’t stop training. Don’t get complacent.”

The post was deleted shortly after other social media posts calling out the photo gained hundreds of likes and comments.

Nazi Germany uniform totenkopf
Photo of a Nazi peaked visor cap taken at the Lofoten War Memorial Museum, Norway’s largest exhibition of uniforms and items from World War II, located in Svolvær. The cap features the distinctive ‘Totenkopf’ skull and crossbones insignia used by Nazi SS soldiers. (Wikimedia Commons).

“The use of symbols and patches depicting historic images of hate are not tolerated and a clear violation of our values. We are aware of the situation and looking into the matter further,” said Col. Mike Burns, a spokesperson for U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC).

Before USASOC said they were looking into the patch, the 20th Special Force’s Instagram page responded to a comment asking if the group is allowing troops to wear swastikas.

“There was not one. It’s a 3rd group team patch taken out of context,” the response from  20th Special Force’s Instagram account said. 

Subscribe to Task & Purpose today. Get the latest military news and culture in your inbox daily.

What context? We’re not sure. There appear to be no swastikas on the patch, but the patch features other prominent Nazi symbology. This is not the first time troops have come under fire for accidentally displaying extremist symbols while in uniform. 

In 2012, a Marine scout sniper unit in Afghanistan posed for a photo in front of a flag that resembled the Nazi SS logo. A Marine Corps investigation found the symbol was meant to identify them as scout snipers.

Then, in 2021, a special operations combat medic course had to change its unofficial logo – a Roman numeral III surrounded by thirteen stars – after realizing it looked too similar to the symbol used by the Three Percenters, a far-right extremist group.

The latest on Task & Purpose