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WW1 European Made USAS Insignia

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I am interested in seeing what WW1 era European-made Air Service insignia (collar wings) Enlisted or Officer are out there in USMF land. Here are some to start off:

 

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French-made "Air Service Overseas" disk authorized between 27 Apr 1918 and 17 July 1918

 

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French-Made "US Air Service" disk authorized July 1918

 

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Backs of both. Both disks exhibit "chocolate brown" paint common to many french made insignia. The Air Service Overseas disk is made two pieces. The wing and globe is a separate piece affixed by two bronze posts which are peened down to hold the device fast.


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Here is a German-made insignia from the Army of Occupation era:

 

post-594-0-46731200-1418504194.jpg

This disk is manufactured like a German overcoat button. It made out of a thin piece of bronze crimped over a button back that is marked "EXTRA FEIN" This one happens to be a screw back but these are also seen with a button shank.

 

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Back. Note: "EXRA FEIN"

 

German-made Occupation era disks are also occasionally seen made of zinc. Unfortunately many of these zinc disks are severely deteriorated.

 

Chris


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French-made Officer insignia:

 

post-594-0-34127900-1418509418.jpg

Made of two pieces. The silver propellor is riveted onto the wings

 


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Reverse of the above insignia:

post-594-0-11221600-1418509683.jpg

The propeller is riveted onto the wings and the rivet is peened down.

The pin is a classic French "wrapped wire" and the catch is a simple "C" shaped piece of wire


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Here is another French-made collar wing:

 

post-594-0-33295200-1418509960.jpg

This one is a single piece of thin stamped bronze.


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The back of the device above:

post-594-0-08367700-1418510056.jpg

Like the device above, this one also has a classic French wrapped wire pin and "C" shaped wire catch.


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Very nice pieces! I sold a bunch of these in a collection to a Forum Member several years ago. Hold on to them!


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Forum Member #1691 since September 2007

Served in the US Army from 1960-80

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Chris -

I'm surprised no other USMF member has chimed in yet. I know there are countless other European-made WWI Air Service insignia out there.

Here's a unique variation for you, apparently put together with spare European parts... and being worn as seen in the studio portrait by Sgt. Frank Rubenking.

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WANTED!

WWI Aero Squadron items such as insignia, uniforms & my favorite- PHOTOS! Will purchase or work out a possible trade

HIGHLY SOUGHT- Anything related to the AEF Photo Sections or 85th,258th & 278th Aero Squadrons.

To be alone, to have your life in your own hands, to use your own skill, single-handed, against the enemy. It was like the lists of the Middle Ages, the only sphere in modern warfare where a man saw his adversary and faced him in mortal combat, the only sphere where there was still chivalry and honour. If you won, it was your own bravery and skill; if you lost, it was because you had met a better man
-Cecil Lewis


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Here is another French-made collar wing:

 

attachicon.gifCollar Wings 3.jpg

This one is a single piece of thin stamped bronze.

 

When researching insignia worn by US aviators during WW1 I was fortunate to receive a foot locker containing a mass of material and uniforms from Lt. Byron Bilderback. In his memorabilia were several of this style collar insignia. I had not seen this design before and asked the family if they knew its origin. They said that he purchased these in England . I contacted Duncan and he stated that he had also heard that this design was made and sold to American airman in England during the war. The ones that Lt. Bilderback had were both struck in thin metal painted a dull black and others that were solid and extremely thick which were not painted but dark bronze, unlike the French that are all struck on a thin metal. Do you have any other info that would place this design back to France?

Terry

 

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Chris -

I'm surprised no other USMF member has chimed in yet. I know there are countless other European-made WWI Air Service insignia out there.

Here's a unique variation for you, apparently put together with spare European parts... and being worn as seen in the studio portrait by Sgt. Frank Rubenking.

Chuck,

 

That is one very cool piece!

 

Thanks for sharing. I too thought this thread would get more... I'd love to see more variations.

 

Chris


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These are French mfg insignia worn by Lt. Benno Cohn while serving in France with the Air Service, AEF

 

The second set are collar insignia worn by Lt. Byron Bilderback who flew with the 27th Aero Squadron in France. The top insignia is thick bronze pin back while the second is a thin struck pin back in which the wings had been painted black at one time. The top bronze did not have any paint applied. These were reported to be made in England by Bilderback's family.

 

Sorry about the poor quality of the pic, my camera is old like me and doesn't like to cooperate.

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Here is a German-made insignia from the Army of Occupation era:

 

attachicon.gifCollar Disk 4.jpg

This disk is manufactured like a German overcoat button. It made out of a thin piece of bronze crimped over a button back that is marked "EXTRA FEIN" This one happens to be a screw back but these are also seen with a button shank.

 

attachicon.gifCollar Disk 5.jpg

Back. Note: "EXRA FEIN"

 

German-made Occupation era disks are also occasionally seen made of zinc. Unfortunately many of these zinc disks are severely deteriorated.

 

Chris

 

Chris,

Very nice enlisted collar insignia. That winged globe version is the first original I have seen in some time. There are a number of fakes on e-bay,, now this will give other collectors a good one to compare. Thanks for posting.

Terry

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The ones that Lt. Bilderback had were both struck in thin metal painted a dull black and others that were solid and extremely thick which were not painted but dark bronze, unlike the French that are all struck on a thin metal. Do you have any other info that would place this design back to France

Terry,

 

Terrific question!

 

Other than the points you made above, I don't have anything specific to definitively say they were made in France. Also I have never come across one of this style in thick bronze like you found in the Bilderback group. So far, all of this style I have seen have been constructed in thin metal, with the C-wire style catch, and wrapped steel pin; nearly always classic indicators of French manufacture. That said, some things for discussion:

 

- This style is fairly common, indicating it must have been manufactured at some scale. Even if they were manufactured in France, that would probably not preclude their sale in England. I'm sure English tailors could have bought them wholesale in Paris for resale (also vise versa). Of course, unless heard from Lt Bilderback himself, family oral histories can be notorious for getting details muddled. I had one family swear to me (in great depth) that their father was one of Eddie Rickenbacker's "co-pilots." Tough duty for an enlisted guy--he was a cook. But he was indeed a member the 94th Aero Squadron. So he certainly baked Capt Eddie' some bread.

 

- I have also occasionally seen this style manufactured as a souvenir, often with a bronze ribband saying a French place name such as "Verdun" or "Lorraine". I have not yet seen one with a place name in England. Again, not definitive, but it "points" toward France.

 

This is exactly the direction I hoped this thread would take! There is a lot of muddled information out there with respect to French v/s English v/s Italian made insignia. Barring a manufacturer's hallmark it can be a matter of detective work and outright guessing.

 

Terry, would you be so kind as to post photos of the thick bronze version of this device? I would really like to see what sort of hardware it has.

[Edit]

 

Terry, you posted while I was writhing this thanks for sharing!

 

Cheers!

 

Chris


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The second set are collar insignia worn by Lt. Byron Bilderback who flew with the 27th Aero Squadron in France. The top insignia is thick bronze pin back while the second is a thin struck pin back in which the wings had been painted black at one time. The top bronze did not have any paint applied. These were reported to be made in England by Bilderback's family.

 

Terry,

 

Thanks for posting this! I note that the thick bronze version has distinctly different hardware from the thin version. The plot thickens!

 

Who else has some to share?

 

Cheers!

Chris


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These are French mfg insignia worn by Lt. Benno Cohn while serving in France with the Air Service, AEF

 

The second set are collar insignia worn by Lt. Byron Bilderback who flew with the 27th Aero Squadron in France. The top insignia is thick bronze pin back while the second is a thin struck pin back in which the wings had been painted black at one time. The top bronze did not have any paint applied. These were reported to be made in England by Bilderback's family.

Terry,

 

I love how different these all are. In a sense, the artistic interpretations combined with the exigencies of wartime manufacture, in the European made insignia make them very interesting! I note:

 

- Lt Cohen's collar wings do not have the rivet holding the propellor. Are they one piece or two pieces?

 

- The thick bronze version of Lt Bilderback's insignia has a somewhat different propellor from the thin versions (Yours, Chuck's and Mine)--even though the wings themselves look very nearly (or as near as I can tell) identical. Can you tell if the bronze ones are cast or die struck? The hardware of the bronze ones is quite different from the rest. It makes me wonder if Lt Builderback might have had them custom made? Has anyone ever seen another thick bronze one? The thin ones are almost common compared to these thick bronze ones (well as common as WW1 era, European-made air service insignia can be).

 

Chris


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Let's get this party started!!

 

Chris -

Your thread has rekindled an old passion for WWI aviation insignia. Thank you...

 

Terry -

So glad to hear from you! I was hoping we'd hear more about that wonderful collection of yours.

 

 

All -

 

As you can tell, I'm very pleased to see this thread taking off. I've got another contribution that may/may not be of European origin. Here are two collar discs with the chocolate brown finish. Gotta ask... is this finish exclusive to overseas manufacturers?

 

Much, much more to come...

 

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WANTED!

WWI Aero Squadron items such as insignia, uniforms & my favorite- PHOTOS! Will purchase or work out a possible trade

HIGHLY SOUGHT- Anything related to the AEF Photo Sections or 85th,258th & 278th Aero Squadrons.

To be alone, to have your life in your own hands, to use your own skill, single-handed, against the enemy. It was like the lists of the Middle Ages, the only sphere in modern warfare where a man saw his adversary and faced him in mortal combat, the only sphere where there was still chivalry and honour. If you won, it was your own bravery and skill; if you lost, it was because you had met a better man
-Cecil Lewis


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I'd like to echo Chuck's sentiments! This subject matter has my interest as well. And now that the skies have cleared, I can share a few images using outdoor sunlight.

 

Here's two matching pairs of Officer's insignia by J.R. Gaunt of London. Essentially the identical design in front, but different findings on the back.

 

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A closer look at the back also reveals the Gaunt hallmarks are reversed when comparing the two pair:

 

IMG_6350.JPG


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A couple of matched pairs of French-made insignia similar in design to the set Chris posted above.

IMG_6355.JPG


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Some modest differences in findings when you compare the two sets. Note the bottom set has mirrored pins applied which may have made it easier to attach to the collar.

 

IMG_6358.JPG


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I believe this pair of insignia is French-made, but I'm not certain? I didn't find any matching illustrations in Terry's fine book. It's a little larger and much thicker than the French examples posted above. Any thoughts?

IMG_6351.JPG


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