What is the origin of the blue helmets worn by UN peacekeepers?
Last Updated: Nov 09, 2017
During the early years of the United Nations, many practices had to be established as the organization encountered new situations and found ways of meeting challenges.
In 1947, General Assembly resolution 167 (II) approved light blue for the United Nations flag. This distinctive color came to represent the UN.
When the UN began to send personnel to mediate in the Middle East, "every effort was made to distinguish them as UN personnel with whatever material was available-- armbands, flags, helmets, and so on" (Henry, p.143).
In describing the establishment of the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) in 1948 in Ralph Bunche: An American Life, Brian Urquhart writes,
"What was needed was distinctive headgear easy for a distant sniper to recognize. A UN-blue beret seemed to be the answer, but it was impossible to procure enough berets in time. American plastic helmet-liners, however, were available in quantity in Europe, and were ready, spray-painted UN blue, in time for the first UNEF detachments to wear on their entry into Egypt" (Urquhart, p. 269).
During the establishment of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in 1947, Urquhart notes,
"The observers wore UN armbands and carried UN flags .... the observers' vehicles were painted white with 'UN' in huge black letters on the sides and top. This also became the standard practice for all UN observer missions" (Urquhart, p.161).
Henry, Charles P. Ralph Bunche: Model Negro or American Other? New York: New York University, 1999.
Urquhart, Brian. Ralph Bunche: An American Life. New York : Norton, 1993.
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