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Silver NAP Wings


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#26 pfrost

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 04:42 PM

Well, there you go! Clearly, I am mistaken in my theory that the silver USN wings were not used by the USN aviation observers.

This weekend, I was able to visit with a premier collection of wings and saw a number of beautiful silver (non-gilt) USN wings. Including those made by BB&B, Robbins, and at least 2 other unique patterns.

They still seem to be much more common than one would expect for a wing badge that was only worn for about a year and a half. But clearly I am wrong.

Patrick



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



#27 teufelhunde.ret

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 03:22 AM

This has been a great topic to follow, hope someone will pin it for future reference. s/f Darrell

#28 drmessimer

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 01:51 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


Rich: Thanks for that information. Finally we have the answer to the original question and it's one that can go into the book. I agree with Paul that the presence of so many of these silver wings on the market would lead one to think that the design never actually existed and/or was never used. I'm glad to see that the design was authorized and used. I am now even more inclined to think that the high number of this wing on the market is due to either a manufacturer's over-run, a manufacturer's restamp, or a very prolific counterfeiter. Nevertheless, the wing did exist. Thanks again.

If we can find out what the exact qualification requirements were for this wing, we might be able to come up with a rough idea of how many were issued. We might also be able to find out who the manufacturer(s) was/were of this wing. drmessimer

#29 drmessimer

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 02:15 PM

Now that we have established that silver naval aviator wings for NAO's were authorized from October 1927 to October 1929, I wonder if mine are genuine or simply representative; better described as fake. Here is another photo of my wings. The color balance is off because they are under glass and the lighting is artificial, but they are tarnished silver. Note that the area between the shield and the flukes is open (open fluke)
wing.JPG

Now look at this drawing that the Naval Aviation Library at Pensacola sent to me. According to this drawing WWI to WWII wings had a closed fluke, whereas WWII to present wings have an open fluke. Since the wings I have are supposedly representative, if not genuine, of a naval aviator wing produced from 1927 to 1929, shouldn't they have a closed fluke? Those of you out there who have examples of these wings, what do yours have; open or closed flukes? And what's your opinion of those with open flukes? drmessimer
wing_drawing.JPG

#30 pfrost

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 03:05 PM

Dwight,

First, I have to say I do not think your wings are fakes at all. From what I can see, they are perfectly legit pre-WWII vintage wings. The only question you should have is what reason the original owner bought them? Was it as an observer wing, a sweetheart or patriotic jewelry, a keepsake, something to wear on the lapel of a civilian jacket, etc. The point is, where you may have questions about why it was owned, the fact that it is more than likely an early and vintage wing should not be a concern.

Second, a bit ago, I made this composit of USN wings illustrating the "general" evolution of USN wings over time that I put together from wings in my collection. I have found that all sort of variations and exceptions exist to the rules (for example using up of old stock at a later date, and/or reissuing or reusing old dies to make new stocks of wings) but I think this represents a general time line for USN wings.

Wing 1 front and back is what I think is a nice WW1 vintage wing. The area between the shield and anchor is not pierced. The wing has fine feathering and the back has the "typical" C-catch of early wings. This may actually be a late WWI, early 1920's pattern as many of the WWI wing seem to be oversize and have had stars in the shield.

Wing 2A is not gilt, but shows later characteristics of the 1920's vintage wing. It is also not pierced, but the back pin and catch assembly (not shown) is of the later style. My feeling is that this is a late WWI to mid-1920's pattern wing.

Wing 2B is clearly of the 1930's pattern, although I have wings from pilots trained during the war that wore this pattern. If this was due to old stock being issued or just variants in the general manufacture of USN wings, I don't know.

Wing 2C is an early Robbins marked wing. It shows a nice series of transitions between the pre and war time USN wings. It has berries (2C-berries insert), but it has the more delicate shield and anchor of the 30's vintage wing. It also has the pin and catch assembly more commonly seen on the earlier wings.

Wing 3 is the typical war-time and post-war to current USN style. You can see that the berries are now more abstract compared to the earlier wing (which seems to be more similar to feathers in the Robbins wing).

Hopefully Russ will jump in here, because he has a very nice and clear photo of a WWI aviator wearing wings that have a pierced anchor (the photo likely dates from late 1918 to early 1919). So even WWI pilot wings had the pierced anchor. Again, these are just general rules.

Patrick

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#31 drmessimer

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 04:04 PM

Patrick: Thanks for that information and the very helpful illustrations. As you can see, my wing has no berries and is similar to the wing you have labeled 2B, which would indicate that it's from the early 1930's. I wonder if mine was left over after the October 1929 change or is simply one that didn't get gold-plated. The people who gave it to me in the early 1980's thought it was an NAP wing and until now I didn't know any better.

I have written to the Naval History and Heritage Command, asking for a copy of the 1921 functions and qualifications for a NAO. I think that with that information and a list of operating squadrons during the 1921-29 period we might be able to estimate how many NAOs there were during the period this wing was in use. I'll have limited online access for the next couple of weeks, but I'll check in whenever I have the opportunity, and as soon as I hear from the Navy I'll pass it on. Thanks again for the very clear and well illustrated explanation. Dwight (drmessimer)

#32 RAL

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Posted 21 October 2009 - 07:14 PM

Patrick -

My pre-war wings conform to your 2B. These were awarded to my father in November 1940.

Rich

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#33 pfrost

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 07:47 AM

Hi Rich,

I have found similar "old style" wings in WWII vintage aviator effects. I suspect that it is a question of when the wings were awarded or bought (ie old stock being issued or sold), or old dies from the 20's being used again to make up new lots of wings in the 40's, rather than a strong indication of when a wing was made. I suspect stock made up in the 1920's could have sat around in a storeroom for years, until they got around to giving them out to the new aviators.

For example, lots of old surplus WWI equipment was issued to WWII troops, especially in the early months of the war.

Still, in general, you do find that photographic evidence from the times do kind of support the general progression of wings over time.

As an aside, some wings like NANCO and PANCRAFT seem to use the older wing styles but I frequently find to be associated with aviators from the 1940's. I don't know if this is because they were actually making wings using older dies, had made newer dies in the old style, or were simply selling off old stock, or what--who knokws?

An example is this pair of NANCO wings came from the estate of a man who was in one of the last flight schools to graduate before WWII ended, and as such never even made it overseas.

Patrick

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  • navy_nanco.jpg

Edited by pfrost, 22 October 2009 - 07:48 AM.


#34 rustywings

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 10:58 AM

It is my understanding that a majority of WWI era Naval Aviator wings were of the solid anchor type, but not all. Here's a 1918-1919 studio image of Walker Philbrook, USNRF, Aviator #1851, wearing a pair of Robbins-made wings with pierced anchor.

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  • WINGS_2009_180.jpg


#35 rustywings

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 10:59 AM

Closer image.

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#36 rustywings

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 11:27 AM

I've always considered these matching silver and gilt Robbin's made wings, with small feathers instead of berries in the shoulders, to have been produced in the mid 1930's. However, with this discussion, I'm now thinking they may have been made in the late 1920's which would coincide with your 1927-1929 Naval Observer theory.

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#37 rustywings

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 11:32 AM

Here's a full size silver BB&B (top) with the silver Robbin's example underneath.

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#38 rustywings

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 11:34 AM

Back image of the silver BB&B and Robbin's wings.

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#39 rustywings

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 01:22 PM

From what I've seen, the vast majority of full size WWII era Naval Aviator wings have pierced anchor designs. However there are a few exceptions to that rule as well. Here's a full size gilt Aviator wing which has a solid anchor design. It was made in Australia by Sheridan Perth.

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#40 rustywings

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 01:23 PM

Back image.

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#41 rustywings

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 01:25 PM

Close up image.

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#42 pfrost

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 01:25 PM

Back image.

Hey Buddy,
Now you are just showing off! :w00t:

P

#43 rustywings

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 01:42 PM

This thread lapsed into two different paths of thought. First, the silver NAP wing question...then the evolution of Naval Aviator wings in general. Both very interesting topics to me. Steer me back on course if I'm out-of-bounds.

#44 pfrost

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 02:35 PM

Howdy Russ,

I was just kidding about you showing off. Sorry if it came out wrong or critical.

As always, great wings!

Patrick

#45 rustywings

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 03:37 PM

No offense taken my friend.

This thread opens the door to posting a wide variety of USN Aviator wings. I hope fellow collectors jump in and post their Navy wings as well. I know you and I and dozens of others would love to see them.

#46 pfrost

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 07:14 PM

Here is another interesting wing. I believe this fellow is from the late 1920's, early 1930's. Just something about it and its construction gives me that feel.

It is finely feathered and rather than gold plated, it seems to be painted.

It is pierced, but lacks the kind of vaulting that other wings, such as BB&B or Robbins, have.

Patrick

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  • navy_early30s.jpg


#47 teufelhunde.ret

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 05:57 AM

It is pierced, but lacks the kind of vaulting that other wings, such as BB&B or Robbins, have.

Patrick


Patrick - what is meant by the term "vaulting" in regards to the wings appearence? Thx, s/f Darrell

#48 graham

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 08:05 AM

Some USN "silver wings" by Vanguard, marked sterling. Note anker only partialy voided. The pin hinge has broken at some point and been repaired with some locking wire.

100_1596.jpg

#49 graham

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 08:06 AM

And the back.100_1597.jpg

#50 pfrost

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 08:43 AM

Patrick - what is meant by the term "vaulting" in regards to the wings appearence? Thx, s/f Darrell

It means the wing is kind of "cupped" with the center being kind of higher in than the sides. From the side, the wings almost look like a bow. I'll try to get a picture of what I mean later.


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