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#26 pfrost

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 12:23 PM

My second point is that many (but not all) of the British-made wings were made on a blue backing--as part of the manufacturing process.  Tons of this blue fabric was available because all the USAAF patches were made on a blue backing.  

 

This doesn't mean that just because a wing is backed in blue fabric that it was necessarily worn by a guy on combat status.  Frankly, any aircrewman stationed in England during the war would have access to these wings (be they 8th, 9th, or maybe the 15th).  

 

Thus, my only point is that just because you see a wing with a blue background, ESPECIALLY those that are trimmed down, doesn't mean that the guy was on a combat crew.  I have, in fact, seen groupings of guys who were flying non-combat roles (ie transport and cargo) missions out of England that had the trimmed wings on their uniforms. 

 

As posted, you see a fair number of machine-made, white silk thread on blue backing wings (pilot and aircrew were popular, but you see many other ratings).  In fact, I have seen a strip of uncut wings (about 5 or 6 of them) that were clearly all part of a run.  

 

Other English-made insignia put on blue cloth include the airborne pathfinder badge.

 

As well as a cloth jump wing (this image is borrowed from Mark Brando's site http://www.101airbor.../insignia2.html).  I hope that is ok?

 

BTW, the reason that RAF wings aren't on a blue background is that their regulations specifically said that the wings were to be made on a black melton cloth.  

 

P

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Edited by pfrost, 11 September 2013 - 12:24 PM.


#27 doinworkinvans

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 12:40 PM

THis is so very interesting.  I wish could add, but I am here to learn!  I have often wondered the answer to this question.  Thanks to whoever started this thread and hopefully we can all come up with a definitive answer B)



#28 pfrost

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 12:54 PM

I found my records.  This wing was worn by Harold "Dutch" Erbe, a waist gunner on B-24s.

 

His obit. 

http://iagenweb.org/...cgi?read=273928

 

 

He flew with the 93rd and 392nd BG.

 

John (B-17 guy) you may have known his daughter, Carol Erbe?  She founded the old B-24 forum and once flew on the Collings Foundation B-24.  Sadly she died as well.

Patrick

 

 

This is a variant air gunner patch from a B-24 gunner that was given to me.  He saw a fair amount of combat flying with the 2nd AD (8th AAF), but I don't recall in what squadron right now.  I believe that he never wore this wing, but bought it when he was rotating stateside and was getting a uniform made up--he wasn't sure either when he bought it either.  Best he could recall that when he was flying combat, they only wore metal wings on their uniforms.  Wearing bullion wings while flying combat was not appropriate or something they did.  He didn't think they wore a combat patch, but considering the stress they were under while flying combat, he didn't think it would have been all that important to him, one way or the other.

 

 

But the point is, that the blue rectangle was worn.

 

 

 

 



#29 patches

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 01:06 PM

Patches, please can we see a close up shot of the wings?.

 

Thanks,

 

Matt.

It was a forum find, not sure if it had close ups, I will check later if I can find the original topic.



#30 pfrost

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 01:21 PM

Posting about Ms. Erbe reminds me of a question I once posted to the B-24 forum back in the 90's (for a while there, they had a lot of old "salts" talking about their recollections).  One question I did ask was about the blue combat backing.

 

Most of the guys didn't recall any specific order or reguatlon, much less wearing a combat patch, but some did recall the British-made wings were nice because the blue background set them off against the uniform.  One guy sent me an email telling me that he spent most of his savings getting a tailored uniform with bullion patches and wings to go home in to show off. 

 

However, you have to remember that during most of 1943 and 1944, the bomber crews flying in to Europe were looking at close to 100% chance of getting KIA, WIA, MIA, or being made a POW before finishing their 25 missions.  I suspect that a lot of those guys who may have been wearing a combat patch in 1943 or 44 when the regulations came out, weren't the same guys getting uniforms and such made up in 1945.

 

I also asked some of the fellows about what it was like to go out on leave.  Most said that it wasn't all that glamerous.  Everything was rationed or in short supply, London and other areas were still getting bombed, and they were very busy most of the time.  New, replacement crews had to undergo training and weren't likely to be let out on leave.  Guys flying combat were looking at a mission every few days, depending on weather.  The idea that they could all be-bop down to London, get some tailored uniforms and then hit the bars to pick up on girls was not really something they were interested in doing (even if they could).  One guy told me that up until D-Day, their were a fair amount of GIs around, but after that, the numbers went down as the war shifted deeper into France.  He also said that the girls didn't really care what you had pinned on your uniform.  Many of them had seen and heard it all already (and he said the best way to pick up a girl was with chocolate, cigarets, or silk stockings, not wings), so he kind of felt that they only ones who would get upset about a "poser" wearing unearned wings would the guys who actually earned them.

 

Basically, towards the end of the war, as the German defenses really began to crumble (but it never became a cake walk), the typical life of a B-24 crewman was either boring or horrific.  Apparently, after the armastice, THEN, they had more time and money to get their fancy uniforms and patches.  That is when I expect most of those fancy uniforms with the bullion and ribbons were actually made.

 

Patrick



#31 Dave

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 01:31 PM

This is a variant air gunner patch from a B-24 gunner that was given to me.  He saw a fair amount of combat flying with the 2nd AD (8th AAF), but I don't recall in what squadron right now.  I believe that he never wore this wing, but bought it when he was rotating stateside and was getting a uniform made up--he wasn't sure either when he bought it either.  Best he could recall that when he was flying combat, they only wore metal wings on their uniforms.  Wearing bullion wings while flying combat was not appropriate or something they did.  He didn't think they wore a combat patch, but considering the stress they were under while flying combat, he didn't think it would have been all that important to him, one way or the other.

 

 

But the point is, that the blue rectangle was worn.

 

 

 

 

Hang on...just a minor point here...I've seen plenty of combat aircrew with bullion wings, both directly embroidered onto the blue backing as well as sewn onto the blue backing as a two-piece unit. Are you specifically referring to wearing the wings while in the aircraft flying missions? That, of course, is very different, as I'm concentrating on the wearing of wings in a walking out or dress uniform. The wing pictured in your post is most definitely English made, not just from construction but also from the "G" for gunner on it as well...classic British and not something done by a US manufacturer who was attempting to make an actual pair of aerial gunner wings during the war, especially late war.



#32 Dave

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 01:40 PM

My second point is that many (but not all) of the British-made wings were made on a blue backing--as part of the manufacturing process.  Tons of this blue fabric was available because all the USAAF patches were made on a blue backing.  

 

This doesn't mean that just because a wing is backed in blue fabric that it was necessarily worn by a guy on combat status.  Frankly, any aircrewman stationed in England during the war would have access to these wings (be they 8th, 9th, or maybe the 15th).  

 

Thus, my only point is that just because you see a wing with a blue background, ESPECIALLY those that are trimmed down, doesn't mean that the guy was on a combat crew.  I have, in fact, seen groupings of guys who were flying non-combat roles (ie transport and cargo) missions out of England that had the trimmed wings on their uniforms. 

 

As posted, you see a fair number of machine-made, white silk thread on blue backing wings (pilot and aircrew were popular, but you see many other ratings).  In fact, I have seen a strip of uncut wings (about 5 or 6 of them) that were clearly all part of a run.  

 

Other English-made insignia put on blue cloth include the airborne pathfinder badge.

 

As well as a cloth jump wing (this image is borrowed from Mark Brando's site http://www.101airbor.../insignia2.html).  I hope that is ok?

 

BTW, the reason that RAF wings aren't on a blue background is that their regulations specifically said that the wings were to be made on a black melton cloth.  

 

P

 

A couple points here...and no, I'm not trying to be argumentative, but allow food for an educational debate for everyone...First, the pathfinder wings were made on a darker, purple-ish colored wool, and this is what's typically seen on airborne uniforms. There was another version that had blue backing, but it was made exclusively for AAF transport crew...undoubtedly to match the blue combat aircrew backing used by the 8th and 9th. The blue-backed jumpwings could well have been the wearer's attempt at imitating the blue-and-blue (varied shades) of the 502nd oval, especially as Bando notes on his site that that particular patch came from a 502nd veteran. Granted, white-on-blue jump wings like this do exist that belonged to other soldiers from other PIRs, but it could it be that they were carrying out a similar local-level "combat" wing idea? There's no evidence to suggest that, yet there isn't evidence to suggest anything to the contrary.

 

The point that I'm trying to make is that it's not a coincidence that most of this insignia is on blue backing, and almost all of it on the exact same shade of blue wool backing. To say that the British were churning out the insignia on blue backing because that's all they had doesn't make much sense to me...they had access to plenty of other colors (they needed it for their own troops, in fact) and could have turned out AAF insignia on any color wool they wanted to...green, purple, pink, black, yellow...you name it. But they went with a specific shade of blue, and went with it for a reason...not just because it was all they had on hand at the time.

 

Dave



#33 Dave

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 01:42 PM

 

What then would the story be with these Wings on Blue? It's on a 11th AF coat as we see.

 

 

post-34986-0-57797200-1378670081.jpg

 

 

 

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say these were probably sewn on when the guy was discharged. Given the sewing of his other insignia, he liked to have a bit of flair and chances are, might have traded for these on the train ride home. I know of no regulations for combat aircrew wings outside the ETO...
 



#34 pfrost

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 01:44 PM

Hi Dave,

Mind you, this was a coversation I was having over email many years ago.  There was some disconect from what a vet was thinking and what a collector was asking.

 

But, best I can recall, he said that when he got to England with his squadron, they were very busy getting ready to go into combat.  So all their gear was pretty much what they had been issued or could get from the quartermaster.  He remembered thinking that he wanted a pair of the "new" gunner wings because all he had were the aircrewman wings (he didn't care for them because they looked like they came "with a button in the middle"). 

 

I believe that he told me that while he was flying combat, they only wore metal wings. 

 

When they were given a few hours to go on leave, the last thing he was thinking about was spending money to get stuff for his uniform and they would never had worn anything fancy, like bullion, anyway.

 

Best I can recall, he seemed to think he got these towards the end of his combat tour as he was getting ready to go back to the States.  He seemed to think that he ordered a up a special uniform made up by a local tailor and the bullion wings shown were part of that.  

 

At some point, he did get some gunner wings, but they came via the quartermaster (ie. he didn't recall every buying British-made gunner wings).  He really didn't recall the details.



#35 Dave

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 01:51 PM

THis is so very interesting.  I wish could add, but I am here to learn!  I have often wondered the answer to this question.  Thanks to whoever started this thread and hopefully we can all come up with a definitive answer B)

 

A link to the regs was posted up earlier. That's about as definitive as anyone can get. :)

 

However, this was all done at a local level in a theater of war...plenty of regulations were modified at the unit level as well as sometimes by individual soldiers/airmen (if they could get away with it!) For every "this was exactly the way it was supposed to be", you'll find a handful of others that aren't per regulation...but were legitimately worn that way. One of my favorite uniforms (I still kick myself for selling it!) was an English tailored jacket to a former RCAF navigator who used a piece of his "old" RCAF uniform as the blue combat aircrew backing behind his wings!



#36 pfrost

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 02:03 PM

 Dave, you aren't being argmentative.

 

I don't think that I ever said that the British used blue cloth because that is all they had.  In fact,  I think they must have had a  lot of it (as they were making AAF patchs on that backing). 

 

The British had a very strong textile manufacturing base that used large, automated machines that they used to produce insignia.  Bascially, a bolt of cloth was rolled though the machine and things were directly embroidered on that--the color of the backing cloth was up to the manufacturer.  That is the way they made the large number of USAAF patches and wings you see.  Sure, they could have used any color cloth, but I suspect they used the blue because that was what they were already using. 

 

Frankly, one of the most common British-made insignia you will find for the USAAF are white silk embroidered wings on blue fabric (either padded or unpadded).  Most likely because they made tons of them.

 

The US textile manufacturers used the same type of techiques and one of the most common (so common you cant give them away) embroidered US-made wings are white (sometimes yellow) silk embroidered wing on gaberdine or twill fabric.

 

My point is that just beause a wing is on blue backing doesn't mean it was made that way to denote combat aircrew status.  As they say, sometimes a wing on blue backing is just a blue backed wing.

 

But I like your thinking...

 

 

A couple points here...and no, I'm not trying to be argumentative, but allow food for an educational debate for everyone...First, the pathfinder wings were made on a darker, purple-ish colored wool, and this is what's typically seen on airborne uniforms. There was another version that had blue backing, but it was made exclusively for AAF transport crew...undoubtedly to match the blue combat aircrew backing used by the 8th and 9th. The blue-backed jumpwings could well have been the wearer's attempt at imitating the blue-and-blue (varied shades) of the 502nd oval, especially as Bando notes on his site that that particular patch came from a 502nd veteran. Granted, white-on-blue jump wings like this do exist that belonged to other soldiers from other PIRs, but it could it be that they were carrying out a similar local-level "combat" wing idea? There's no evidence to suggest that, yet there isn't evidence to suggest anything to the contrary.

 

The point that I'm trying to make is that it's not a coincidence that most of this insignia is on blue backing, and almost all of it on the exact same shade of blue wool backing. To say that the British were churning out the insignia on blue backing because that's all they had doesn't make much sense to me...they had access to plenty of other colors (they needed it for their own troops, in fact) and could have turned out AAF insignia on any color wool they wanted to...green, purple, pink, black, yellow...you name it. But they went with a specific shade of blue, and went with it for a reason...not just because it was all they had on hand at the time.

 

Dave


Edited by pfrost, 11 September 2013 - 02:05 PM.


#37 Dave

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 02:13 PM

It's all a mystery wrapped in an enigma! :D



#38 pfrost

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 02:38 PM

Not to flail a dead horse, but this is what I am talking about as to how these things were made.  I found these images on the internet.  But this is the way the embroidered wings would have also come off the textile machine.  Or course, the CBI patches were probably made in India, but they were still part of the British empire and were using the same sort of textile manufacturing. Not sure where the bullion wings were made, but I would expect the US.

 

Apparently, these machines could make both thread and bullion embroidery.  

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#39 pfrost

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 03:54 PM

Back to the topic, here are some more nice photos of guys wearing the blue combat patch.  I suspect that this photo was taken sometime towards the end of the war, maybe late 1944 or early 1945.  You have 4 well decorated combat pilots (including a senior pilot) that I believe were just awarded the Cross De Guerre (one with a palm the others with stars).  I suspect that these are the command staff of one of the squadrons.

 

You can see the two middle pilots both have the combat patch.

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#40 pfrost

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 03:56 PM

A close up of the second guy from the right.  He is wearing what looks like an LGB or AMICO wing on his combat patch.  Also, not 100% clear, but he is wearing an 8th AAF patch.

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#41 patches

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 08:56 PM

It was a forum find, not sure if it had close ups, I will check later if I can find the original topic.

AH HA, good think I linked it when I first posted this in the Patch Type Crest Topic, that's the reason I saved and posted it, but as we now see it serves another purpose, the Aerial Gunners Wings, Bullion, embroidered on Blue Wool. Nice close up of the wings are to be seen in topic.

 

http://www.usmilitar...efense-command/



#42 AAF_Collection

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 01:06 AM

AH HA, good think I linked it when I first posted this in the Patch Type Crest Topic, that's the reason I saved and posted it, but as we now see it serves another purpose, the Aerial Gunners Wings, Bullion, embroidered on Blue Wool. Nice close up of the wings are to be seen in topic.

 

http://www.usmilitar...efense-command/

Thanks Patches. My guess would be, as Ricardo said in the original thread on the coat, that the guy was an ETO vet who retained his British made wings. It should be possible to verify if that's the case through further research.

 

The domed collar brass could be British made on that coat, as indeed could the buttons.

 

Matt.


Edited by M.Rimmer, 12 September 2013 - 01:14 AM.


#43 Dave

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 06:33 AM

Not to flail a dead horse, but this is what I am talking about as to how these things were made.  I found these images on the internet.  But this is the way the embroidered wings would have also come off the textile machine.  Or course, the CBI patches were probably made in India, but they were still part of the British empire and were using the same sort of textile manufacturing. Not sure where the bullion wings were made, but I would expect the US.

 

Apparently, these machines could make both thread and bullion embroidery.  

 

I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I think those are made by hand. They just happen to be on the same sheet of material. I have seen photos of patches like these being made by hand, but never by machine before....especially with labor as cheap as it was there, it wouldn't make any sense to get a complicated machine to do that embroidery. If we can find a photo of a machine making these, I'll go with it...but I think they're hand embroidered as it was much easier to hand embroider these patches on a single, large sheet, than individually on small pieces.

 

Just my thoughts...



#44 Dave

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 06:34 AM

A close up of the second guy from the right.  He is wearing what looks like an LGB or AMICO wing on his combat patch.  Also, not 100% clear, but he is wearing an 8th AAF patch.

 

That's a GREAT photo! Also note the lack of overseas service bars on the uniform cuffs. I'm guessing that since most of these guys appear to have already done their allotted 25 missions with the 8th, chances are they would have been there for more than six months. But...only one guy has o/s bars on. Pretty cool!



#45 AAF_Collection

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 08:42 AM

 

That's a GREAT photo! Also note the lack of overseas service bars on the uniform cuffs. I'm guessing that since most of these guys appear to have already done their allotted 25 missions with the 8th, chances are they would have been there for more than six months. But...only one guy has o/s bars on. Pretty cool!

Dave, It's probably a discussion best kept for it's own topic, but the same file at the AFHRA which contains the regs relating to the blue wing backing also has quite a lot of info on the supply of Overseas bars, it mentions both the British made and U.S. made types and discusses supply to the units.

 

I'm still of the opinion that the blue wing backing(both rectangular and trimmed down) was only worn by those who had flown combat, I just don't see anyone who hadn't flown combat getting away with wearing the backing, any more than they would with wearing wings to which they were not entitled.

 

It seems pretty obvious that the requirement to remove the blue backing once an individual was no longer flying combat was not generally enforced, who would want to tell a guy who had survived a tour that he now had to remove his wings or wing backing, one of the signs of being a combat vet?.

 

It would be interesting through surviving uniforms and period photos to see if we can get some idea of which groups in the 8th and 9th did wear the backing.

 

Matt.



#46 B-17Guy

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 09:05 AM

This is the only uniform that I have with blue backing, of all the USAAF uniforms I have,

a number of which are 8th AF.

I'll ask a few B17 vet's that I know what they remember about blue backing.

Although they will probably say they didn't care too much, no more than they cared about

what maker their wings were.

 

John

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  • 8th AF pilots coat 002.jpg


#47 patches

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 12:23 PM

Thanks Patches. My guess would be, as Ricardo said in the original thread on the coat, that the guy was an ETO vet who retained his British made wings. It should be possible to verify if that's the case through further research.

 

The domed collar brass could be British made on that coat, as indeed could the buttons.

 

Matt.

This is a curiosity for sure, like why the old or first type Alaska Defense Command, if he was in fact a veteran ETO Aircrewman who went on to further duty with the 11th Air Force, why not a 8th or 9th Air Force patch. Since this coat, by virtue of it have the Honorable Discharge patch sewn on it, would be the coat he wore home, one would think a Veteran Bomber Crewman or either the 8th or 9th AF would want to be acknowleged as such and wear one of those patches to indicate his previous service.



#48 ghost

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 02:40 PM

Here is an example from my collection. This bullion wing is manufactured directly on od wool then sewn onto a nicely trimmed blue background

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#49 claymore

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Posted 16 September 2013 - 09:31 AM

Thanks to all of you and your efforts and info! A lot is being clarified for me as well as others. I had always wondered about the blue backing and the story behind it.

 

claymore



#50 notinfringed

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Posted 23 September 2013 - 06:16 PM

Hello all. I'm sorry I found this topic so late, I can try to clear up any questions about the 11th AF uniform that I can. I suspect that the owner used the blue backed wings simply because they looked good. This uniform has all of the patches cross-stitched, the collar insignia are screw-back with a slight dome to them. The US disc still shows the marks where they were hit with a hammer to "dome" them. This was all done by hand and not produced this way. The buttons are Meyers Metal from NY, not British made. In general, I think the owner of this jacket just wanted to look good. After all Alaska was not known for being a shining star when it came to following regulations during WWII. If anyone has any more questions about this jacket, please feel free to ask.
Levi


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