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USAAF Pilot Grouping - Graduate of #5 BFTS


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#1 Scarecrow

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Posted 06 December 2014 - 02:50 PM

A few years ago Dave started a thread about a USAAF officer's jacket he had with an RAF wing. It was a bit of a mystery and there were several opinions. I hope the following may clear up some of the misconceptions. I recently acquired a USAAF officers jacket, id'd to a Joseph W. Harpham, with the same large RAF wing/brevet. My research indicates that this man graduated from the # 5 BFTS school in Clewiston FL. What is not well known is that the RAF set up 7 of these flight training schools in the USA. #5 being in Cleweston FL, Riddle Field. These schools graduated approximately 18,000 RAF pilots. In the spirit of Allied cooperation some USAAF cadets were allowed to train with their British counterparts at these BFTS (British Flight Training School). Approximately 1,000 USAAF pilots graduated from the BFTS system. Since these were British flight traing schools the USAAF cadets were awarded by the Royal Air Force, at graduation ("Wings Parade" to the British), the RAF wing and were authorized to wear them on their USAAF uniforms.The USAAF cadets only participated in 7 of these "mixed" classes.  Course numbers 12 through 18, none before and none after.  I have attached two Course class photos. Harpham is pictured in the Course 16 photo, 3rd row, 2nd from the right. A little difficult to determine at first glance, since they are all wearing khaki, but you can pick out the USAAF fellas by their khaki overseas caps and khaki ties. The 2nd photo is of Course 18 and its much easier to pick out the USAAF grads as they are wearing khaki and the RAF fellas are wearing their blues.  It would appear that these US pilots were all awarded the large brevet wing.  With the exception of a few pilots that went through OTU schools in the UK, these 1,000 or so pilots may be the only ones who earned and were AWARDED their RAF wings at a graduation.  I believe that other US personnell that flew with the RAF (i.e. Eagle Squadrons) prior to US entry were AUTHORIZED to wear an RAF wing, due to their service and many of these acquired the RAF "Mini" wings to wear.  May be a very subtle difference between awarded and authorized but may still make these USAAF BFTS jackets a bit scarcer.  I need to do more research on Harpham's post graduation USAAF career, his NPRC report is a bit slim but it does appear he flew with the Air Transport Command in the CBI.

Here is a link to Dave's original thread.  Thanks for looking.

http://www.usmilitar...-flight-school/

 

phpgF07y8AM.jpg  Course%2016%20A-LC.jpg php7AvsJHAM.jpg

 

 



#2 sgtdorango

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Posted 06 December 2014 - 07:16 PM

Great research and amazing find Paul!....i wish i knew how cool this uniform was when i saw you holding it (more like lovingly cradling it like a newborn!)....i would have looked at it more closely but i do remember how impressive that RAF wing was, i was a bit distracted by that totally cool SP armband you showed me with bullion!....thats a very historically significant uniform group you scored there!...did those class photos come with the uniform or did you find them while researching Harpham? ...mike



#3 doinworkinvans

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Posted 06 December 2014 - 07:28 PM

Absolutely beautiful jacket and great research! Ans even better he was with the ATC!!!

Daniel

#4 Scarecrow

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Posted 07 December 2014 - 04:40 AM

Great research and amazing find Paul!....i wish i knew how cool this uniform was when i saw you holding it (more like lovingly cradling it like a newborn!)....i would have looked at it more closely but i do remember how impressive that RAF wing was, i was a bit distracted by that totally cool SP armband you showed me with bullion!....thats a very historically significant uniform group you scored there!...did those class photos come with the uniform or did you find them while researching Harpham? ...mike

Thanks Mike!  The photos did not come with the uniform, I found them while doing some online research.  I also discovered that there is a book on the BFTS subject titled, "RAF Wings Over Florida" by Will Largent.  BTW I think you did Ok yourself at the Boxboro Show. You hit the helmet mother lode there.  I know you caught me glancing lovingly at the USN Lieutenant one.



#5 JDK

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Posted 07 December 2014 - 08:46 AM

Great uniform and research. Congrats.

JD

#6 Dave

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Posted 07 December 2014 - 09:17 AM

Really a fantastic uniform and great research to boot! This clears up many of the misconceptions out there about RAF wings, particularly on pilots who had no known British or UK connection during the war (e.g. pilots who remained in the US or were in the PTO for the duration...)

 

Thank you so much for posting this up!

 

Dave



#7 Ricardo

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 03:37 AM

Very nice information!

 

My example:

 

ric_coll_134.jpg

 

Some images That I found on the internet:

 

PDRM7568c.jpg

 

 

col-beaver-2.jpg

 

Ricardo



#8 jguy1986

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 10:52 AM

Paul, that jacket was impressive enough at the show, and it looks even better now. I can't think of a better home for it, too. Congrats on digging a little deeper into the amazing history behind this one.

 -- Jon



#9 Scarecrow

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 06:17 PM

Thanks you all for your kind words.  Ricardo, do you have any information or history with your uniform?



#10 8thairforce

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Posted 09 January 2015 - 01:21 AM

Well done indeed on your research !! what a remarkable item. Thankyou so much for sharing . Jim



#11 peterpilot68

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Posted 23 September 2018 - 08:08 PM

Hi Guys, I'm an "FNG" on the Forum, but I am also the President of #1 BFTS Museum in Terrell, Texas.  We are the only school that the cadets were found in great enough numbers and interest, to form associations in England, and many came back to the US, and formed an association.  Many married their girlfriends. The American contingent would travel to England for some of their British contingent reunions, and then a few years later, go to America.  I currently know of only one student from #1 that is still alive, and one from #4.  But the students and their families have contributed many personal artifacts that are now on display at the Museum.  We are on the Terrell airport in a newer hanger, but part of the original property.  Two of the large maintenance hangers are still intact, and used by a local manufacturing company for storage.  We have a jacket with the RAF and US wings, as well as the named officer and his decorations.

One of the members on the forum mentioned about the instructor flight wings.  They are based on the RAF wings and the Texas Star, 5 points, with #1 in it. Then somebody else pointed out that he showed a second set of wings, smaller, worn on the hat, with 6 points in the star.  After I read that I went and looked at our display of artifacts we have from an instructor at the school, and sure enough, the larger shirt wings have 5 point star, and hat wings 6 point star.  So I then looked at our wall that has all of the class photos of the instructors, and there is a mix of the 5 point and 6 point starts in the hat.  Just when I think I've got a handle on this, someone reminds me that I'm just getting started.

Anyone on the forum with an interest in the BFTS system, and has any questions, I'll be glad to find an answer.

Personally, I'm going to want an officer Ike jacket.  I wear a size 42S jacket, and don't expect to find one from WW2 that fits, so other suggestions would be appreciated.  Other than loosing a ton of weight.

P.S.  There are several books on the BFTS.  Mr. Killebrew did one on #1, and RAF in America on all 6 schools.  Mrs. Denson in Oklahoma did a book on #3 and #6.  There are two books on #5, that I forgot the author, and one on #4, By the Seat of their Pants.

BFTS #2 only lasted about a year, and closed, and field returned to USAAC.  A group of 50 students were sent to Sweetwater, Texas, but were there only just over two months, and were moved, some to Terrell, and some to Florida.

Cheers, Mate.

Peter Pilot




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