The pin was awarded between September 1939 and December 1946 and was made of gilt brass, except during metal shortages during which it was made of gilt plastic. Service members who received the plastic version were later allowed to trade it in for the brass version.
The pin, which depicted an eagle inside a wreath, served as proof to military police that its wearer was not going absent without leave. In response to the severe clothing shortage at the time, it also allowed its owner to wear his or her uniform for up to thirty days subsequent to their discharge. A cloth form of the insignia also existed: it was sewn onto the outer garmet of the discharged individual's uniform. Some veterans wore the pin on their civilian lapels for many years after the war's end.
The usage of the term later expanded to also refer to the individuals wearing it, as in "that ruptured duck is flying space-available." Presumably because these individuals were usually in a great hurry to return to their homes in the United States, the term later came into use when describing somebody or something which was moving quickly. One such usage is: "that heifer took out of the corral like a ruptured duck in a hailstorm" (heard on a cattle ranch near Alzada, MT, 1998).
The exact reason that the eagle on the pin was first described as a "ruptured duck" is unknown. The bird as depicted appears to have its chest thrust out to a great degree: perhaps the original coiner of the term was playing on the rural usage of the word "ruptured" to refer to a hernia.
An American B-25 bomber aircraft called the "Ruptured Duck" was flown by First Lieutenant Ted W. Lawson during the Doolittle Raid of 18 April 1942. Lt. Lawson crash-landed the Ruptured Duck in the East China Sea a quarter mile from the Chinese shore after a successful bombing run over Tokyo. Lt. Lawson and his copilot Second Lieutenant Dean Davenport were ejected through the front windshield of the aircraft during the landing, causing both to sustain serious injuries. While recovering from the amputation of his left leg the newly promoted Capt. Lawson wrote "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," which was made into a movie in 1944.
A mixed drink bearing the name "ruptured duck" exists, whose ingredients are:
* 2 oz. Creme de Noyeaux * 2 oz. Banana Liqueur * 2 oz. Light Cream