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Silver NAP Wings


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#1 drmessimer

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 04:08 PM

My question concerns a set of silver Naval Aviator wings that I have had for over twenty years. They are the old style without the berries in the wing shoulders. At the time they were given to me, I was told they were worn by enlisted pilots who in the Navy are designated Naval Aviation Pilot (NAP). I have written two books in which NAPs played a major role but I never came across any silver wings being worn. Over the years I have searched through Navy uniform specifications and regulations and have been unable to find anything describing silver Naval Aviator wings for enlisted pilots (NAP). Does anyone out there know what the truth is about these wings? If they were authorized for NAPs, can someone cite the specification and/or regulation governing the design and wear?
This is a photo of the wings in question. They are mounted under glass and it would be necessary to destroy the frame in order to polish them and see the reverse side. I have no information about any hallmark that might be present, but I don’t think that’s important since all I want to know id whether or not they were an authorized wing.
Thank you. drmessimer
nap_wing.JPG

#2 pfrost

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 05:07 PM

My question concerns a set of silver Naval Aviator wings that I have had for over twenty years. They are the old style without the berries in the wing shoulders. At the time they were given to me, I was told they were worn by enlisted pilots who in the Navy are designated Naval Aviation Pilot (NAP). I have written two books in which NAPs played a major role but I never came across any silver wings being worn. Over the years I have searched through Navy uniform specifications and regulations and have been unable to find anything describing silver Naval Aviator wings for enlisted pilots (NAP). Does anyone out there know what the truth is about these wings? If they were authorized for NAPs, can someone cite the specification and/or regulation governing the design and wear?
This is a photo of the wings in question. They are mounted under glass and it would be necessary to destroy the frame in order to polish them and see the reverse side. I have no information about any hallmark that might be present, but I don’t think that’s important since all I want to know id whether or not they were an authorized wing.
Thank you. drmessimer
nap_wing.JPG


Hello,

As far as I know, enlisted pilots wore gold pilot wings. Some people think that these silver colored USN wings are actually a second pattern USN observer rating that was supposedly authorized for only a few years in the 1920's. Sometimes you will see reference to a document that supposedly provides the Uniform regulations that describe the authorization of silver USN wings during the 1920's.

I can't say for sure about the veracity of these regulations, but IMHO, I think they are not true. A couple of reasons, albeit rather circumstantial, I agree. First, these wings are simply not all that uncommon. I have 2 or 3 in my collection and I really haven't been seeking them out. Most of my USN wing collecting buddies have found one or two pairs as well. One would think that such a rare thing as a early 1920's observer, wouldn't be so common. Second, I have yet to see an actual 1920's observer group with said wing. Third, the hardware on many of these wings seem more like 1940's vintage than 1920's vintage. Also, I have a wing identical to the one you show, and it is rather delicate and light, almost like a piece of sweetheart jewelry. Finally, up to the authorization of the combat aircrewman's badge, ALL USN related aviation insignia were gold in color (including observer wings prior to and after the 1920's). It seems rather against the tradition of the USN to make silver aviation badges = to observer badges.

While I would like to be wrong, and one day hope to actually find physical proof that these wings were actually for observers, I personally think that the silver wings are either sweetheart or patriotic jewelry or related to some of the civilian aviation companies of the time. Remember, flying boats were very popular during the 30's and a number of private individuals as well as airline and freight companies used them, suggesting to me that these may be civilian in nature.

Basically, I would agree that the silver USN wings are NOT enlisted pilot wings (it is clear that all USN pilots wore the gold wings).
I would disagree that they are rare 1920's second pattern observer wings because they simply are to common and don't have the feel of 1920's made wings.
I am more inclined to believe that they are either sweetheart or civilian airline related.

Here is another silver USN wing.

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#3 pfrost

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 05:24 PM

This is the document that people will cite that the silver wings were intended to be worn by the USN observers.

http://www.history.n...story/app20.pdf

I quote from the document:

Type I USN Observer wing: "The Naval Aviation Observer (NAO) designation had its origin in an act of Congress on 12 July 1921, which created the Bureau of Aeronautics and provided that its chief qualify within one year of his appointment as an “aircraft pilot or observer.” The functions and qualifications for an observer were first defined on 27 March 1922; on 17 June of the same year, Rear Admiral William A. Moffett became the first to qualify for the designation as a Naval Aviation Observer. The 1922 Uniform Regulations, approved 20 September, provided that officers designated as Naval Aviation Observer wear the same insignia as that worn by Naval Aviators, except with the right wing and shield removed and an “O” superimposed on the foul anchor."

The "supposed Type II" observer wing: "A 26 January 1927 change to the 1922 Uniform Regulations (Change Number 3) modified the Naval Aviation Observer design and changed it to the same insignia worn by Naval Aviators except that it was to be in silver."


The Type III Observer wing: "Bureau of Navigation Circular Letter 71-29 of 19 October 1929 (Change Number 7 to the 1922 Uniform Regulations) directed another change to the Naval Aviation Observer wings. This letter described the new design as: “...an insignia the same as for naval aviators
as to gold wings, but that the central device shall be an ‘O’ circumscribing an erect plain anchor, both in silver. The ‘O’ and anchor to be in bold relief, the center of the ‘O’ being filled in gold.” The 1941 Uniform Regulations, of 31 May 1941, repeated the previous description and added dimensions as follows:“. . . outer diameter of ‘O’ shall be 3⁄4 inch, inner diameter 9⁄16 inch. Height of anchor shall be 1⁄2 inch.”"

I have seen historical examples of both the Type I and Type III USN observer wing and they seem to be about as rare as one would expect. The type II silver NAO wing, is, as I said, rather common.

Also, I have found that this particular document is not that accurate, especially in describing some of the very early USN pilot wings. Also note the detail provided about the specific regulations for the Type I and III NAO wings, but the rather non-specific detail given in for the Type II change. I have actually tried to find the 1/26/1927 changes in the Navy archives but was unsuccessful. So, I have always taken this particular document with a grain of salt. Still, it is possible that I am wrong, and that these were actual alterations.

Patrick

#4 Cobrahistorian

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 03:53 AM

I'm intrigued with this as well. I got an early pair of Vanguard-marked type 3 NAO wings with the Ellis Rinard grouping and it appears (not going to remove the patina) that the whole wing is, in fact, silver. He earned his NAO wings in the early 1930s, so could this have been a transitional piece?

Looking forward to learning more about this!

Jon

#5 drmessimer

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 05:48 AM

Patrick: Than you for that detailed reply and the source. When I was doing the research and work-up on No Margin for Error (Naval Institute Press, 1981) and In the Hands of Fate (Naval Institute Press, 1985) I had only B&W photos to work with. In those photos the pilots, both commissioned and NAP, were wearing full-size wings, but there was no way to tell if some were gold and others silver. I should have asked the NAPs at the time, but it didn't occur to me to do so, since it wasn't important to the stories. I was also interested in your information on the half-wing, which I had heard was for LTA pilots. After interviewing several WWII blimp pilots I came to the conclusion that it was a myth. Everyone of them wore a full gold wing. drmessimer

#6 drmessimer

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 06:13 AM

[quote name='pfrost' date='Oct 14 2009, 06:07 PM' post='411952']
Hello,

While I would like to be wrong, and one day hope to actually find physical proof that these wings were actually for observers, I personally think that the silver wings are either sweetheart or patriotic jewelry or related to some of the civilian aviation companies of the time.

pfrost: Than you for your input. I have never actually handled the wing because when it was given to me over twenty years ago it came mounted under glass in a well made display case. And to get it out, I'll have to destroy the case. But it does appear to be more lightly made than the gold wings I have seen Navy pilots wearing. Shortly after I received the wing a former Navy pilot looked at it and said that it looked to him like a wing that hadn't been gold plated yet. It was that comment that started me wondering about what the wing really is or isn't. Based on your reply and the one that Patrick posted, I am sure this isn't an NAP wing. Hopefully we will find out what it actually is. drmessimer

#7 pfrost

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 08:36 AM

Hello drmessimer

I have a grouping of a NAP who was the CO of VQ-2 when my dad was stationed with that squadron in Rota Spain. He gave me some of this wings (they are gold), squadron patches, and photos. At the time, I asked him about the silver vs gold wings. His reply was that pilots (regardless of rank) ALWAYS wore gold wings.

As for lighter than air wings. You have two types of airships, tethered (like an observation balloon) and untethered (like an airship). Pilots (or perhaps more correctly balloon observers) of tethered balloons wore the 1/2 wings, while any pilot of any craft that flew under its own power (plane, helicopter, or airship) wore the full size gold wings. I think enlisted crew of airships wore the 1/2 wings as well.

I have a pair very similar to the ones you show, and they are rather delicate in hand. Not nearly as robust as the regular USN pilot wings. IMHO, these wings were in fact never gold plated, so it isn't just a case of the finish wearing off.

Patrick

#8 drmessimer

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 11:44 AM

Hello drmessimer

I have a grouping of a NAP who was the CO of VQ-2 when my dad was stationed with that squadron in Rota Spain. He gave me some of this wings (they are gold), squadron patches, and photos. At the time, I asked him about the silver vs gold wings. His reply was that pilots (regardless of rank) ALWAYS wore gold wings.

As for lighter than air wings. You have two types of airships, tethered (like an observation balloon) and untethered (like an airship). Pilots (or perhaps more correctly balloon observers) of tethered balloons wore the 1/2 wings, while any pilot of any craft that flew under its own power (plane, helicopter, or airship) wore the full size gold wings. I think enlisted crew of airships wore the 1/2 wings as well.

I have a pair very similar to the ones you show, and they are rather delicate in hand. Not nearly as robust as the regular USN pilot wings. IMHO, these wings were in fact never gold plated, so it isn't just a case of the finish wearing off.

Patrick


Patrick: That's an interesting post. I am certainly convinced that what I have is not an NAP wing, and based on your doubts about the so-called type II design, I am reasonably confident that this wing isn't one of those. The most probable answer is that it's simply a fake that was made to fill a market several years ago. But I do have another question. Were the gold Naval Aviator wings in the 1920's gold plated; and if so, of what material was the wing itself? The reason I ask is because many years ago a naval pilot suggested that what I have might be unplated stock. He thought it might have been part of an unfinished production run that was sold on the civilian market. That would be much the same as Meyer did with some of its wings after WWI. Does that sound like a realistic possibilty? Dwight (drmessimer)

#9 pfrost

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 12:47 PM

Patrick: That's an interesting post. I am certainly convinced that what I have is not an NAP wing, and based on your doubts about the so-called type II design, I am reasonably confident that this wing isn't one of those. The most probable answer is that it's simply a fake that was made to fill a market several years ago. But I do have another question. Were the gold Naval Aviator wings in the 1920's gold plated; and if so, of what material was the wing itself? The reason I ask is because many years ago a naval pilot suggested that what I have might be unplated stock. He thought it might have been part of an unfinished production run that was sold on the civilian market. That would be much the same as Meyer did with some of its wings after WWI. Does that sound like a realistic possibilty? Dwight (drmessimer)


Howdy Dwight,

Don't get me wrong, I don't think these wings are fake. I think they are 100% vintage, just not enlisted pilot wings or an observer wing. My feeling is that they are either patriotic jewelry, something related to a civilian flying boat company or airline. They could also be simply non-plated stock, as you said.

In my experience, USN pilot wings are more often than not gold plated over sterling silver. Still, you can find higher end wings of 10K-14K gold, to lesser quality wings which were likely a gold plated pot metal (perhaps a silver alloy less than what would be required for it to be called STERLING SILVER). I have even seen some USN wings made of lead (ie the "Econo-lead" type insignia that you sometimes see used during WWII). I have seen some spectacular WWI vintage 14K gold jeweler made wings.

Here are a couple of wings that I think is likely from the WWI to 1920's era.
Patrick

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  • navy_early20s.jpg


#10 graham

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 01:19 PM

There is some evidence that some enlisted USMC Pilots wore silver wings during ww2. The following is on page 71 of A COMPANION TO WINGS OF WORLD WAR 2 by RUSSELL J HUFF.

Keith Dennis sent me the following comments "I want to disagree with the information on the top of page 219. there were still some enlisted men who were pilots (USMC) in squadrons until the end of the war. most of them were technical sargents. Since there were controls and instrumant panels in the rear seats of early models of the SBD Dauntless a few squadrens experimented. I was sent out of my squadron (marine scout bombing squadren 913, MAG 33, FNF, 1st MAW) to corpus Christi, Texas, for flight training and received S/SGT rank upon completion. I had to put in at least four hours of actual piloting I got caught and reported for flying under a bridge in Port Arthur, Texas, and was broken two ranks to corporal. was put back on TFO (tempory flight orders) after 30 days of grounding. I was not allowed to wear the gold pilot wings and instead I wore the silver pilot wing until the end of the war. In combat I was not allowed to fly except for occasional ferrying in rear areas. I flew as a rear seat gunner on combat missions as the wind up of the solomons and marianas campaigns and leyte in the Philipines in October 1944 with VMSB 244, 1st MAW. I was discharged in June 1946 as a S/SGT."

To quote Russ Huff: And so there it is, proof at last that some US Navy pilots were indeed enlistd men and wore silver wings in WW2.

Hope this is of interest GRAHAM.

#11 drmessimer

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 02:39 PM

Howdy Dwight,
Here are a couple of wings that I think is likely from the WWI to 1920's era.
Patrick


Patrick: Those are nice looking wings. I wonder why the design without the berries was dropped in favor of the berries. Dwight (drmessimer)

#12 drmessimer

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 03:02 PM

There is some evidence that some enlisted USMC Pilots wore silver wings during ww2. The following is on page 71 of A COMPANION TO WINGS OF WORLD WAR 2 by RUSSELL J HUFF.

Keith Dennis sent me the following comments "I want to disagree with the information on the top of page 219. there were still some enlisted men who were pilots (USMC) in squadrons until the end of the war. most of them were technical sargents. Since there were controls and instrumant panels in the rear seats of early models of the SBD Dauntless a few squadrens experimented. I was sent out of my squadron (marine scout bombing squadren 913, MAG 33, FNF, 1st MAW) to corpus Christi, Texas, for flight training and received S/SGT rank upon completion. I had to put in at least four hours of actual piloting I got caught and reported for flying under a bridge in Port Arthur, Texas, and was broken two ranks to corporal. was put back on TFO (tempory flight orders) after 30 days of grounding. I was not allowed to wear the gold pilot wings and instead I wore the silver pilot wing until the end of the war. In combat I was not allowed to fly except for occasional ferrying in rear areas. I flew as a rear seat gunner on combat missions as the wind up of the solomons and marianas campaigns and leyte in the Philipines in October 1944 with VMSB 244, 1st MAW. I was discharged in June 1946 as a S/SGT."
To quote Russ Huff: And so there it is, proof at last that some US Navy pilots were indeed enlistd men and wore silver wings in WW2.

Hope this is of interest GRAHAM.


Graham: That is indeed of interest. But I wonder if Keith Dennis's wearing of silver wings was a service-wide practice or some sort of disciplinary act, which it sounds like based on his statement, "I was not allowed to wear the gold pilot wings and instead I wore the silver pilot wing until the end of the war." Dwight (drmessimer)

#13 pfrost

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 03:16 PM

Graham: That is indeed of interest. But I wonder if Keith Dennis's wearing of silver wings was a service-wide practice or some sort of disciplinary act, which it sounds like based on his statement, "I was not allowed to wear the gold pilot wings and instead I wore the silver pilot wing until the end of the war." Dwight (drmessimer)

Dear Dwight (et al),

I had read that many years ago. No doubt, the USN used enlisted pilots, but I wonder if this was some confusion with the silver combat aircrewman's badge?

At the risk of hijacking your thread, I thought this grouping my be of interest. Capt Jack Taylor was the CO of VQ-2 in the late 1970's in Rota Spain. My dad was stationed in that squadron. As kids, we used to play football on sunday mornings behind the Taylor's house and his wife would turn on the sprinklers to run us off. Also, since I was always short of cash, I had started a weekend car washing business with a couple of buddies. We put up a sign on the front lawn and about 1/2 an hour later, Capt Taylor drove by with his nice caddie. He made us wash the car, detail the tires, vacuum the inside, do all the windows, hand dry and then wax his car...and for that he gave us each $1. Sure, this was 1979, but :crying: My buddies ran off and left me with the work, but since he was such a nice guy (and my dad's CO), I finished off the car. Many years later, when I was a collector of wings, I sent him a letter and he kindly sent me a bunch of his old stuff that he had sitting around. I also asked him to write down some of his early aviation history for me.

He was in the USN V5 program. He flew float planes off a cruiser during the war.
Here is his photo as a NAP.

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#14 pfrost

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 03:20 PM

Here he is at his retirement and the CofC of VQ-2.

As a teen-age boy, it was hard to focus on anything other than girls, so I kind of wish I had spent more time picking the brains of the guys who were still around then.

Also, he sent me an old pair of his wings. They are GEMSCO marked, and likely WWII vintage (or KW for that matter). They are pin back, but the catch broke off some time in their past.

I like to believe that these are the same wings that he is wearing in his WWII photo.

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  • usnwing2.jpg


#15 pfrost

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 03:28 PM

He also sent me a number of pictures and copies of pictures from his WWII and post WWII aviation career.

Here are a couple of his scout planes with him flying them. I have the ship that he flew off of somewhere.

He told me that as an Enlisted pilot, he went through the same flight training program (best as he could recall) that the other USN pilots went through. The award of the wings was for becoming a PILOT and had almost nothing to do with rank. Basically, when I asked him if he thought NAP would have worn silver wings, he basically sneered...."NO way!" You earned those wings as a pilot, and the fact that you were an enlisted man did not result in you wearing something less, as he saw it.

Sorry for hijacking the thread from you, but it does kind of follow the question of WWII NAP wings.

Patrick

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  • floatplane1.jpg


#16 pfrost

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 03:30 PM

Last thing, he also gave me a couple of his squadron patches.

Here is the squadron patch from WWII. It has slipped my mind for which squadron this is, right now.

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#17 drmessimer

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 05:57 PM

Last thing, he also gave me a couple of his squadron patches.

Here is the squadron patch from WWII. It has slipped my mind for which squadron this is, right now.


Patrick: Wow! You haven't hijacked anybody's thread. That's good stuff. At this point, I think that I have either a fake wing or one that was intended to be gold plated, which never happened. So, I'll telll you the whole story. After I wrote, No Margin for Error, a family member of the PN9 No. 1 aircrew sent me a cased wing that was purportedly an NAP wing. It was mounted together with a gold Naval Aviator's wing with the Ficklin art of the PN9 No. 1 that was used for the book's dust jacket. All of you have been very helpful, but all I know for sure--at least in my mind--is that the silver wing they gave me is not an NAP wing. Hopefully, this thread will continue and we will learn wheather or not the wing I have is in fact an NAP wing or a fake, or as an uncompleted over-run. I suspect the latter. Hopefully the thread will continue and we will learn the truth. The Best to you all. Dwight (drmessimer)

#18 vicjoy1945

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 05:05 AM

Hey Guys,

Interesting thread !!

I've always wondered about the accuracy of the "silver wings" designated for NAP pilots. I believe the pre-war NAP SSI rank has an embroidered gold wing so why wouldn't they wear an actual gold wing !?! Also, I have a tendencacy to think that enlisted pilots were...well...pilots...so they should wear a pilot's wings.

I have a nice grouping to a WWII NAP Naval pilot who flew PBYs most notably during the Battle of Midway. He ended up as a career Naval aviator and was eventually commissioned an officer. The grouping has his officer's uniform which naturally has a gold wing, medals, photos, documents, logbooks, etc, etc.

On the flip side, he was a member of an organization called the "Silver Eagles" which was a NAP veteran's organization. So this may lend some creedence to the "silver wings" theory...although perhaps this was an "unofficial" practice among NAP pilots !?!

I just haven't seen any formal regulation that designates a "silver wing" for NAP pilots.


Thanks,

Vic

Edited by vicjoy1945, 16 October 2009 - 05:12 AM.


#19 drmessimer

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 07:01 AM

Hey Guys,

Interesting thread !!

I've always wondered about the accuracy of the "silver wings" designated for NAP pilots. I believe the pre-war NAP SSI rank has an embroidered gold wing so why wouldn't they wear an actual gold wing !?! Also, I have a tendencacy to think that enlisted pilots were...well...pilots...so they should wear a pilot's wings.

I have a nice grouping to a WWII NAP Naval pilot who flew PBYs most notably during the Battle of Midway. He ended up as a career Naval aviator and was eventually commissioned an officer. The grouping has his officer's uniform which naturally has a gold wing, medals, photos, documents, logbooks, etc, etc.

On the flip side, he was a member of an organization called the "Silver Eagles" which was a NAP veteran's organization. So this may lend some creedence to the "silver wings" theory...although perhaps this was an "unofficial" practice among NAP pilots !?!

I just haven't seen any formal regulation that designates a "silver wing" for NAP pilots.
Thanks,

Vic


Vic: I agree with you completely; a pilot is a pilot. I think that the Navy, in the interest of maintaining morale, would not differentiate between a commissioned pilot and an enlisted pilot when it came to the wings they wore. I can see the difference with reregard to pilots and observers, but not between pilots. Your reference to the Silver Eagle Association triggered my memory and I have sent them an email asking about the silver wing question. I think the title of the orgaization has more to do with aging and graying hair than wings. Dwight (drmessimer)

#20 Owen

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 09:17 AM

I've been collecting long enough now to never say never.
I've researched this a bit, remember Huff's comments, etc.

I am fortunate enough to live near Pensacola and the
National Naval Aviation. NNAM is "MEcca" for everybody
who wore Wings of Gold. They all come back there at
some point. Over the years I have been fortunate enough
to have attended some Silver Eagles reunions and spoken
with many of them individually. The Silver Eagles is the vet
organization for USN/USMC enlisted aviators. One of the
questions I ask every one of them is if they ever heard
or saw any aviator with a silver wing? NOT A SINGLE man
has told me that he ever heard of such a thing. A few had
been asked before. Some said it was an old wives tale,
others were more colorful.

Personally, I've always believed in the Observer wing theory,
but I could be wrong. However, I do feel pretty comfortable
says Nava Aviators wore gold wings.

...........and one more thing...........

In the USN a "pilot" drives a boat or ship. An AVIATOR flies
aircraft.

Edited by Owen, 16 October 2009 - 09:18 AM.


#21 vicjoy1945

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 10:28 AM

...........and one more thing...........

In the USN a "pilot" drives a boat or ship. An AVIATOR flies
aircraft.




Hey Owen !

Thanks for the clarification !!

LA huh...I've been known to throw back a few at the FloraBama...and LuLu's too !! :thumbsup:

Thanks again !

Vic

#22 drmessimer

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 04:23 PM

I spent the day working with the leads you all gave me on the question of whether or not a silver Naval Aviator wing badge was authorized for NAPs, hoping to answer my original question; do I have a silver NAP wing badge? The answer is, No
.
I back-tracked the source that Patrick provided in post No. 3, and on its face, the source is authoritative and Patrick’s quotes from the source are verbatim. The complete source citation is Roy A. Grossnick, United States Naval Aviation, 1910-1995, Washington: GPO, 1997. Appendix 10, “Evolution of Naval Wings (Breast Insignia).” The book was written under the auspices of the Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy. I have used other Navy-produced sources and I have found them to be accurate and reliable, so I feel that this one is a solid reference.

On page 656 of that source it clearly says that the wing badge to be worn by “qualified naval aviators, and by warrant officers, and enlisted men holding certificates of qualification as naval aviation pilots is a winged foul anchor.” The regulation describes the badge as being “a gold embroidered or bronze gold-plated metal pin….” As Patrick pointed out in his post, the same source says that the full-size silver badge was an observer’s badge from January 1927 to October 1929.

Then we have Graham’s post which includes a quotation from Russell J Huff, A Companion to Wings of World War Two.” In the quotation a man identified as Keith Dennis says that he was an enlisted Marine Corps pilot who wore silver Naval Aviator wings during WWII. For several reasons, I have doubts about this source, one being that if NAPs wore a silver wing badge in WWII, or at any earlier time, there would be ample evidence of that. There are other reasons for my doubts, but they are not important here.

Next we have what to me is an unquestionable source. Vic said that he has attended meetings of the Silver Eagle Association and has asked the members “if they ever heard of or saw any aviator with silver wings. Not a single man has ever told me he saw such a thing.” If I had no other source, this one would still be a strong argument that the NAPs wore only the standard gold wing.

I tried to contact the Silver Eagles Association through their website but both emails were returned do to an overload error, whatever that is. I did contact the Naval Aviation Library at Pensacola and asked them about silver NAP wings. Roger Mott sent me a reply in which he said that he had looked in U.S. Navy Wings of Gold, 1917 to Present, without finding an “image or reference to silver NAP wings.”

In conclusion, I believe that there has never been a silver NAP wing badge, and the badge I have is probably an observer’s badge from the period January 1927 to October 1929. Thanks to all of you for providing me with the leads I needed to arrive at this conclusion. Maybe someone will add something to upset my conclusion, but for the moment I feel good about it.

Dwight (drmessimer)

#23 pfrost

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 04:52 PM

BTW you may want to buy or check out this book.

Enlisted Naval Aviation Pilots, 2nd edition
ISBN: 1-56311-110-1

A search on google ought to find this book at Amazon.com I suspect.

FYI, I have found at least one item that I believe may be in error in the “Evolution of Naval Wings (Breast Insignia)” that I linked too earlier. The specific error pertains to the very earliest USN badge, so an error or two may be expected. Here is an interesting thread where one of the very earliest USN wings can be seen in person. http://www.usmilitar...showtopic=34827 (see especially post #8). Not that I am saying this document is actually incorrect, just that I would urge some critical thought before accepting it as dogma.

Also, note posts 12 and 13 where the original documents are shown. It does say "A naval aviator's device...will be issued by the Bureau of Navigation to officers and men of the Navy and Marine Corps who qualify as naval aviators and will be worn on the left breast" (from 1913 and the 1917 revision).

Patrick

I spent the day working with the leads you all gave me on the question of whether or not a silver Naval Aviator wing badge was authorized for NAPs, hoping to answer my original question; do I have a silver NAP wing badge? The answer is, No
.
I back-tracked the source that Patrick provided in post No. 3, and on its face, the source is authoritative and Patrick’s quotes from the source are verbatim. The complete source citation is Roy A. Grossnick, United States Naval Aviation, 1910-1995, Washington: GPO, 1997. Appendix 10, “Evolution of Naval Wings (Breast Insignia).” The book was written under the auspices of the Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy. I have used other Navy-produced sources and I have found them to be accurate and reliable, so I feel that this one is a solid reference.

On page 656 of that source it clearly says that the wing badge to be worn by “qualified naval aviators, and by warrant officers, and enlisted men holding certificates of qualification as naval aviation pilots is a winged foul anchor.” The regulation describes the badge as being “a gold embroidered or bronze gold-plated metal pin….” As Patrick pointed out in his post, the same source says that the full-size silver badge was an observer’s badge from January 1927 to October 1929.

Then we have Graham’s post which includes a quotation from Russell J Huff, A Companion to Wings of World War Two.” In the quotation a man identified as Keith Dennis says that he was an enlisted Marine Corps pilot who wore silver Naval Aviator wings during WWII. For several reasons, I have doubts about this source, one being that if NAPs wore a silver wing badge in WWII, or at any earlier time, there would be ample evidence of that. There are other reasons for my doubts, but they are not important here.

Next we have what to me is an unquestionable source. Vic said that he has attended meetings of the Silver Eagle Association and has asked the members “if they ever heard of or saw any aviator with silver wings. Not a single man has ever told me he saw such a thing.” If I had no other source, this one would still be a strong argument that the NAPs wore only the standard gold wing.

I tried to contact the Silver Eagles Association through their website but both emails were returned do to an overload error, whatever that is. I did contact the Naval Aviation Library at Pensacola and asked them about silver NAP wings. Roger Mott sent me a reply in which he said that he had looked in U.S. Navy Wings of Gold, 1917 to Present, without finding an “image or reference to silver NAP wings.”

In conclusion, I believe that there has never been a silver NAP wing badge, and the badge I have is probably an observer’s badge from the period January 1927 to October 1929. Thanks to all of you for providing me with the leads I needed to arrive at this conclusion. Maybe someone will add something to upset my conclusion, but for the moment I feel good about it.

Dwight (drmessimer)


Edited by pfrost, 16 October 2009 - 05:00 PM.


#24 drmessimer

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 09:03 PM

Also, note posts 12 and 13 where the original documents are shown. It does say "A naval aviator's device...will be issued by the Bureau of Navigation to officers and men of the Navy and Marine Corps who qualify as naval aviators and will be worn on the left breast" (from 1913 and the 1917 revision).

Patrick: Thanks for the link to an earlier thread. I will definitely look at that. The quotation you provided above is also found in United States Naval Aviation 1910-1995 on page 656. I was going to include it in my last post, but I felt that the lquoteI used "warrant officers and enlisted men...holding certificates of qualifications as naval aviation pilots..." was more specific to the topic, in that it specifically addresses the NAP rating.
My experience with special studies, monographs, and histories that are prepared by the Naval Historical Center is that while they sometimes do contain errors, such as the one you suspect and mentioned, when it comes to citing regulations, general orders, and policy, they are very reliable. They are however secondary sources.
I feel that we have established beyond doubt that commissioned and enlisted aviators have always worn the same gold wings. But the status of the silver full wings as being observer wings is still subject to question. Though not 100% sure, I am sure enough to think that they probably are. Dwight (drmessimer)

#25 RAL

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 04:22 PM

Jumping in a little late. You might want to take a look at this gent. Then RAdm Joseph Reeves was JCL came to aviation as a senior officer so he could move to an aviation command. He was the first USN flag officer to wear wings and the first 4-star. Note I say wings, not wings of gold. Reeves was an observer, not an aviator. Entering Pensacola in June 1925 as a 53 year old Captain, Reeves completed the Naval Aviation Observer Course in September of that year. Oddly enough, he commanded the collier USS Jupitier when she was first commissioned (1913) and, years later, after she had been converted and renamed USS Langley, his first assignment after receiving his wings was as captain of Langley.

This portrait photo (official USN) was taken after his promotion to Rear Admiral in June 1927. Let me quote his biographer, noted naval historian Tom Wildenberg: "Note the silver wings on Reeve's breast. The design for these Naval Aviation Observer wings - the second style authorized by the Bureau of Navigation on 26 January 1927 - was identical to those worn by Naval Aviators except that it was in silver instead of gold. A third style, also in silver but with an 'O' circumscribing a plain anchor, was promulgated by the Bureau's circular letter 71-19 issued in October 1929."

My take is (a) I don't believe Reeves would have worn gold wings to which he was not entitled. Moffett at BuAer would have had his head. And (b) if there were no aviator style wings, but in silver, in use, then the circular 71-19, whatever its wording, would not have drawn attention to their replacement.

I have added an enlargement of Reeves wings in this photo, obviously the same style as the aviators, pin on type.

Rich

Attached Images

  • Reeves.jpg
  • Reeves_Wings.jpg

Edited by RAL, 19 October 2009 - 04:25 PM.



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