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An interesting engraved Army Aviation Wing on eBay


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#1 Patchcollector

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 04:35 PM

Hi all,

Well since there have been discussions on Army Aviation Wings here lately,I thought I would post this interesting one I just found on eBay:

 

http://www.ebay.com/...sd=261697090114

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#2 firefighter

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 05:05 PM

Look like something an instructor might wear.Those number on the back sound like class numbers.Maybe the two classes presented these to him or these were the two classes he taught?



#3 Patchcollector

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 05:38 PM

Look like something an instructor might wear.Those number on the back sound like class numbers.Maybe the two classes presented these to him or these were the two classes he taught?

 

Could be.Here is the sellers' description,for what it's worth:

 

Measures about 1-7/16 inches wide. Clutch back, needs clutches. Engraved original as follows W.S.M. 59E 15 Jan 58 J.L.H.59F. Real nice quality. First set that I have owned. First time offered. No reserve.



#4 rustywings

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 06:04 PM

Patchcollector,

 

Please use caution with this piece my friend if you're interested in pursuing it.  About fifteen to twenty years ago or so, in an effort to lure unsuspecting buyers, some yahoo took the time to cut-down and alter old US Army Officer's cap pieces which effectively eliminated the eagle and left only the unusually shaped wings. I don't have an identical Officer's cap piece, but here's a couple of similar pieces to compare with... 

 

Russ    

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Edited by rustywings, 07 March 2015 - 06:20 PM.


#5 Patchcollector

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 06:29 PM

Interesting!Thanks Russ for the heads up.I'm not bidding on it,just saw it while browsing eBay and thought I'd post it here.Hard to believe that some people will go through so much effort to "make" stuff like this!

 

I did notice that the "engraving" looked pretty cheaply done.


Edited by Patchcollector, 07 March 2015 - 06:30 PM.


#6 rustywings

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 07:43 PM

Since it's silver and has recent style clutch posts, it may have originally been a USAF Officers cap piece.  Cheap castings of this design are also out there...



#7 CliffP

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Posted 08 March 2015 - 07:19 AM

Back in the July 1935 issue of U. S. Air Services Journal, Colonel Edgar S. Gorrell (USAAC) wrote:

 

If your childhood memories are clear you undoubtedly know how the elephant got his trunk, the zebra his stripes and the leopard his spots, but do you know how the wings of the American flyer got balanced?  The story is history, and has to do with Yankee ingenuity and the fact that necessity is the mother of invention ---- a story of how two wings grew on an officer's chest where just one wing had grown before.

 

It went something like this:

 

The United States entered World War I on 6 April 1917 unprepared and the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps and Navy was pitifully weak.  In June 1917, the War Department sent a group of three Army and two Naval aviator officers to Europe to find out how we could close this aeronautical gap and best cooperate with our allies.  More specifically, the War Department wanted to know what United States industry should produce and what European aircraft were available to be purchased from our allies.  This group of officers headed by Major Raynal C. Bolling became known as the Bolling Mission.

 

Although printed regulations weren't published until 15 August 1917, the Army aviators put on their soon-to-be-announced Junior Military Aviator style wing badges.  At that time, the Regular Army had only two ratings;  Military Aviator, which required three years flight experience; and Junior Military Aviators with less than three years.  The Military Aviator wore a pair of wings on either side of a center shield bearing the letters 'US' on it; but the Junior Military Aviator had only one wing attached to the right side of the shield.  The Naval Aviators did not have a wing badge in June 1917, it came later.

 

When the Bolling Mission arrived in England it soon learned that in all European armies a badge with one single wing was for observers, while all pilots regardless of rank wore a double wing.  This caused a slight disadvantage but was not a serious handicap in England; however, in June when the Mission went to France, Colonel Gorrell recalled:  "The single wing became a serious obstacle.  We ended up talking either to flyers of inferior ability or were made to feel inferior when they obtained interviews with French pilots of equal rating."  Well, in the middle of July, before leaving France for Italy the three Army and two Naval officers solved the problem by devising a new pilot insignia.

 

First, they removed the fairly large American eagle insignia from their officers' caps and with tin snips cut off everything except the center shield and both eagle wings, thus fashioning, "a rather unlovely pair of wings," according to Colonel Gorrell.  The three Army aviators removed their 'official' half-wings from their uniforms and replaced them with the new 'unoffical' but ingenious creations.  Colonel Gorrell said:  "Our newly made unauthorized balanced wings were not things of beauty, but what they lacked in artistry they more than made up for it by the magical manner in which they immediately settled the delicate matter of rank," and when the five officers arrived in Italy the new badges proved that they were full-fledged pilots, and not observers.

 

By the time the Mission returned home, Army Uniform Regulations had been published and Junior Military Aviators were assigned halfwings, but the members of the Bolling Mission also realized it would be a humiliating error to send any of our aviators back to Europe wearing halfwings.  Therefore, through their efforts a regulation changed was published on 27 October 1917.  Henceforth, Junior Military Aviators would wear a pair of silver wings on each side of the US shield with the letters US on it, and Military Aviators would add a silver star above the shield.

 

And what became of the discarded halfwing?  It was reassigned to observers, endorsing the European interpretation that no man could fly with only one wing.

 

Cliff

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Edited by CliffP, 08 March 2015 - 07:31 AM.


#8 CliffP

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Posted 08 March 2015 - 09:22 AM

One addition and one correction:  It should be noted that the other two Army flying officers who participated in the Bolling Mission were Captains Edgar S. Gorrell and Virginius E. Clark.  Also, the two Navy officers who accompanied the mission did not converted the eagle insignia from their U. S. Navy officer caps and then wear them.  Only the three Army officers did so.

 

Cliff Presley

 

 



#9 B-17Guy

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Posted 08 March 2015 - 09:47 AM

Thanks very much for taking the time to post the summary of these events Cliff.

It is one of those priceless pieces of information and history that can get lost in time.

Best, John

 



#10 Patchcollector

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Posted 08 March 2015 - 06:36 PM

Fascinating story.Thanks for posting it Cliff.A classic example of good 'ol US Military "making do with what you have" ingenuity ^_^



#11 MikeK

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Posted 09 March 2015 - 12:10 AM

Fyi, here are a couple of other "clipped" badges.

 

The Ludlow mush have been a sweetheart piece. The removal of the "excess" is obvious and the obverse was painted red and silver/white (no indications of blue!).

 

The other is more professional. It's much harder to make out where the "excess" was removed and the silver plated finish is OVER the areas from which material was removed - ie it was plated after the excess was removed. That one has a drop catch and 90deg opening pin.

 

Regards

Mike

 

 

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#12 MikeK

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Posted 09 March 2015 - 12:10 AM

reverses

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#13 CliffP

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Posted 09 March 2015 - 12:29 PM

Thanks very much for taking the time to post the summary of these events Cliff.

It is one of those priceless pieces of information and history that can get lost in time.

Best, John

 

 

Thank you both John & Patchcollector.  It's nice to know a couple of people actually appreciate information like that.

 

Cliff



#14 cthomas

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Posted 09 March 2015 - 05:54 PM

Cliff -
I certainly appreciate it as well.
Would it surprise anyone if I said I had a picture of an Air Service staffer wearing similar wings on his collar? Granted the dimensions are slightly smaller so as to fit on the collar, but I have never seen a similar set of insignia, anywhere, until now. I do need to reference my file again before I really put my foot in it. Just give me a bit and I will try to dig up that scan again.
- Chuck

#15 pfrost

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 08:50 AM

Cliff,

 

I had read that story about the cut down wings before.  Although my gut tells me that if the American Officers were getting treated rudely by the French pilots, it had less to do with only having one wing on their badge and more to do with the fact that (at that time) non-combat pilots were talking with veteran combat pilots who had already been at war for 3 or 4 years.  Since the whole point of the Bolling Mission was to get some ideas of the best way for the American air service to enter into the war, one has to wonder if the French felt a bit put out by the Americans questioning their procedures--especially those that had been learned the hard way by blood and fire?

 

Also, IIRC the Italians didn't use a single wing for their observers badge nor did the Germans and Austrians (but they probably don't count).  I suspect a bit of Gaulic arrogance and British elitism was rubbing a couple of our American citizen souldiers the wrong way--something that would show up again some 25 years later (e.g. "the problem with the Americans is that they are over sexed, over paid, and over here").  :)

 

Ironically, Bollings was KIA when his car drove into a German ambush.  I believe he was the hightest ranking American officer to be killed at the time.


Edited by pfrost, 10 March 2015 - 08:52 AM.


#16 pfrost

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 09:03 AM

When I first started collecting wings, I had a guy try to sell me one of those cut down WWI officer cap badges.  He also told a similar story, but suggested that it was much more common an occurance for WWI pilots to wear this type of badge (and for $50, this super rare item could be mine!).  Lucky for me, Mrs. Frost only raised ugly children, not stupid ones... so I passed. 

 

Also, while I don't doubt the story, it is hard for me to imagine how an obviously crude and homemade "wing" from a cut down cap badge (its not like anyone looking wouldn't have seen that is what it was immediatly--"hey, your wing is just your cap badge cut dow!") would have magically given a US Colonel more respect from French pilots than he was getting when wearing his nice bullion RMA wings.  Especially since Bollings and his colleagues were already on a fairly important diplomatic/military mission. Still, it is a good story.


Edited by pfrost, 10 March 2015 - 09:03 AM.


#17 pfrost

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 09:53 AM

Final thought.  If he was rated for wearing an RMA badge (proscribed as the "1/2 wing") then putting on a badge that more closely resembes the higher rated Military Aviator badge in order to give him a "higher status" would have been serious breach of military conduct, no?  By that reasoning, why not wear general's star since that would have gotten him more respect from the French pilots than just wearing his colonel's birds?  Since the Bolling Mission was a pretty significant diplomatic and military operation (according to Wikipedia, it included the 2 Army pilots, 2 Naval pilots, a couple of automobile executives, and about 100 civilian avaition mechanics), I suspect that there was some pretty high level conversations within the military and aviation civilian organizations going on across the board (not just meeting with pilots, but liaisons with manufacturers, supply and procurement procedures, training, repair and maintenance, strategic planning, etc) and that jepordizing that by giving himself a "promotion" from RMA to MA wouldn't have been terribly prudent.



#18 pfrost

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 10:14 AM

Actually, Bolling was a Colonel, Gorell was only a Captain during the mission.  Apparently Gorrell had been with Pershing in Mexico, so he wasn't totally without combat experience (such as it was).



#19 pfrost

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 12:50 PM

Yet another question, wouldn't Bolling, as a Colonel, been rated as a MA?  From what I read, he didn't have the 3 years pilot experience, but he certainly had the distinquished flying record from 1916 or so on.



#20 CliffP

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 01:03 PM

;)

 

Its good to know that Patrick had read the story before. . .  but I wish to clarify and make pointed clear that the purpose of the story was not to speculate about what may or may not have gone on between the five American Officers while they were in discussions with the French. The purpose was to quote the writings of Colonel Edward S. Gorrell who was an actual participated at the time in those discussions. . . and who had recalled that the JMA single wing did become a serious obstacle during the discussions.

 

While the French may have been a bit put out by the Americans questioning their procedures - I seriously doubt it because Raynal S. Bolling held a law degree from Harvard and was general counselor to United States Steel prior to his accepting a direct commission in the U. S. Army in the spring of 1917. Lets not forget that when America entered the war our aircraft industry was pitifully poor and the training of American military pilots was practically nonexistent; however, Bolling was a skilled negotiator and was hand picked to head the Mission because in addition to his two years of flying experience with the National Guard he was considered to have the best business and legal skills needed to discuss prices and royalties with European suppliers who were far more advanced in aviation technology than American manufactures.  In addition to that, the French had already been training military pilots for three years and our military urgently needed their experience and were in no position to question their procedures.  

 

And just to get a couple of facts straight.  At the time when Bolling went overseas (June 17, 1917) he was a Major in the United States Army not a Colonel as Patrick may have implied in his last posting.  After he submitted his Mission report to the War Department on August 15, 1917, he stayed in Europe and General Pershing promoted him to the rank of Colonel and made him head of air power supply for the American AEF.  Also note it was mentioned in the original posting that Gorrell and Clark were Captains at the time of the Mission.

 

Cliff



#21 CliffP

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 01:32 PM

Yet another question, wouldn't Bolling, as a Colonel, been rated as a MA?  From what I read, he didn't have the 3 years pilot experience, but he certainly had the distinquished flying record from 1916 or so on.

 

As a Colonel should Bolling have been rated a Military Aviator (MA)?  No.  Rank may have had its privileges but a MA rating was not one of them.  Bolling did not start flying with the National Guard until sometime in 1915 and the regulations were quite clear.  A Military Aviator rating could only be given to a pilot who had a minimum of three years military flying experience - but with one exception, which was made after 11 November 1918 when Congress passed a bill to permit certain aviators who had distinguished themselves while overseas to be rated as Military Aviators.
 

Cliff


Edited by CliffP, 10 March 2015 - 01:40 PM.


#22 pfrost

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 01:40 PM

Fair enough Cliff, but even YOU pointed out that Col. Gorrell's recollection in 1935 of what happened in 1917 isn't exactly accurate (quote: "It should be noted that the other two Army flying officers who participated in the Bolling Mission were Captains Edgar S. Gorrell and Virginius E. Clark.  Also, the two Navy officers who accompanied the mission did not converted the eagle insignia from their U. S. Navy officer caps and then wear them.  Only the three Army officers did so." not all 5 as Gorrell says).

 

I wonder if (other than Gorrell's statement) that there is proof that Bollings did, in fact, modify his wings?  Frankly, I have to remain skeptical that a man of that calibre, who was discussing pricing and royalties to aid the US's entry into the war on the Allied side would get out some tin snips and give himself a "promotion" by butchering his cap badge because "Lt Claude the Frog" was rude to him in the ready room of the SPA69 aerodrome.

 

Also, since none of the American pilots had any real aerial combat experience, its not clear to me why "The single wing became a serious obstacle.  We ended up talking either to flyers of inferior ability or were made to feel inferior when they obtained interviews with French pilots of equal rating." would be true.  The French didn't have JMA/RMA and MA divisions like the US and frankly, any Frecn pilot who was flying combat mission would have been "superior" to the Americans when it came to discussions of military aviation in Europe.

 

I don't  know, maybe they were only talking to Junior officers, and that was what Gorrrell was upset about. It is a good story, and I have nothing to say it isn't true as told by Gorrell, and even if true, it was only 3 guys (at the most) who did this thing.  I suspect that your point is that it explains why the US Air Service went from the half to the full wings.

BTW Thanks for clearing up Bolling's MA status--that is always kind of murky for me. Still, if they were that strict, do you think he would risk everything with a bush league stunt by snipping up his cap badge and wearing it on an important diplomatic mission?

 

Also, I'm sorry if I seem argumentative.  But this is one of the few threads that have been posted recently that I find interesting.

Best


Edited by pfrost, 10 March 2015 - 01:43 PM.


#23 cthomas

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 01:45 PM

And I'd like to add that customized WWI aviation insignia was worn by men of all ranks while in the field. Maybe not breast wings, but certainly collar insignia.
I still think the original set of wings that started off the topic is a legit customized piece. Whether or not he wore them seem a moot point.
- Chuck

#24 pfrost

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 01:57 PM

The wings that started out the topic is probably a USAF capbadge that was modified for some sort of sweetheart thingie from 1959 or so and is probably related to flying classes (59E and 59F).

 

The Ludlow modified cap badge in post #11 is probably a WWII vintage sweetheart thing.

 

None of the badges in this thread appear to be from WWI.


Edited by pfrost, 10 March 2015 - 01:58 PM.


#25 cthomas

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 02:12 PM

Paul -
I'll agree with you there...nothing WWI related.
I just wanted to add my two cents on the topic of customized insignia being worn in the field.

Great discussion guys. It's been a while since I've seen a hearty debate on the topic.

- Chuck


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