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USAF Museum: RAF Eagle Squadrons

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It is 1941, at an airfield somewhere in England...

 

An American pilot, who has volunteered to serve in the Royal Air Force sits wearily next to his aircraft in full flight gear... enjoying a rare bit of sunshine.

ES 101.jpg


Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

 

"One is easily fooled by that which one loves."

 

Moliere: Tartuffe

 

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While he waits, his aircraft is being serviced and readied for its next flight...

ES 120.jpg


Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

 

"One is easily fooled by that which one loves."

 

Moliere: Tartuffe

 

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Suddenly, there is a call from the operations shack... Hostiles inbound... Squadron scramble!

 

In moments, the American piloted Hurricanes are in flight, on their way to battle once again.

 

(Period photo: By Royal Air Force official photographer - http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//60/media-60725/large.jpgThis is photograph CH 2401 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24465585)

 

(Overhead photo: USAF Museum.)

 

 

 

ES 100.jpg

ES 21.jpg

American_pilots_of_No_71_'Eagle'_Squadron_rush_to_their_Hawker_Hurricanes_at_Kirton-in-Lindsey,_17_March_1941._CH2401.jpg


Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

 

"One is easily fooled by that which one loves."

 

Moliere: Tartuffe

 

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Per the narrative at the National Museum of the United States Air Force:

 

"Americans flocked in droves to British and Canadian recruiting stations. Approximately 15,000 joined the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force where, as a rule, they were assimilated into various flying units.

The exception was the famed Eagle Squadrons which, contrary to popular belief, consisted of three individual squadrons, not one. Manned entirely by American pilots, these three RAF units, Numbers 71, 121 and 133 Squadrons, flew Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires in combat over Europe from Feb. 5, 1941, to Sept. 29, 1942, when they were transferred to the AAF. Formed into the 4th Fighter Group, they provided numerous experienced combat veterans who proved invaluable to the inexperienced AAF fighter pilots who began to arrive in England in large numbers in 1943."

 

(Exhibit photo from http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/MuseumExhibits/FactSheets/Display/tabid/509/Article/196915/eagle-squadrons.aspx)

 

 

 

050728-F-1234P-016.JPG

ES 20.jpg


Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

 

"One is easily fooled by that which one loves."

 

Moliere: Tartuffe

 

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A very well used RAF style flight helmet...

ES 1.jpg

ES 1b.jpg


Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

 

"One is easily fooled by that which one loves."

 

Moliere: Tartuffe

 

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While not a large exhibit, it did have a couple of surprises, including the rare and highly non-desired "Order of the Prang."

ES 5.jpg

ES 5b.jpg


Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

 

"One is easily fooled by that which one loves."

 

Moliere: Tartuffe

 

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The star of the exhibit is this uniform jacket. If you have ever wondered what a real Eagle Squadron shoulder insignia looked like, here is a prime example.

ES 30.jpg

ES 31.jpg

ES 31b.jpg


Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

 

"One is easily fooled by that which one loves."

 

Moliere: Tartuffe

 

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One of my favorite displays there. I went in 2003 with a RCAF vet (Hurricanes and Spitfires) who was a friend. He stood there and listened to the audio portion, turned to me with a big smile and said, "There's nothing that sounds as good as a Merlin."post-32676-0-15746200-1482103322_thumb.jpg


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Also in the exhibit is this very nicely preserved De Havilland DH 8 Tiger Moth similar to those which would have been used for training the American volunteers.

ES 200.jpg

ES 201.jpg


Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

 

"One is easily fooled by that which one loves."

 

Moliere: Tartuffe

 

donation2017.gif

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The center of the exhibit of course is the Hurricane, painted with the squadron code of one of the Eagle Squadrons.

 

(My only complaint was that it was located in one of the darkest corners of the Museum. Have patience and a steady hand if you go to photograph it.)

 

Additional photos can be found on the Museum website, including some excellent cockpit shots.

 

http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/MuseumExhibits/FactSheets/Display/tabid/509/Article/196916/hawker-hurricane-mkiia.aspx

 

ES 121.jpg

ES 122.jpg


Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

 

"One is easily fooled by that which one loves."

 

Moliere: Tartuffe

 

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Wikipedia offers a nice overview of the three Eagle Squadrons for those who would like more information.

 

Included are these bits of information:

 

"The American pilots assigned to the Eagle Squadron never renounced their US citizenship and, although they wore the uniforms and held the rank titles of RAF officers, their dress and duty uniform coats were modified with the Eagle Squadron patch, a white bald eagle flanked by the letters "ES" for Eagle Squadron."

 

"Negotiations regarding the transfer between the Eagle Squadrons, USAAF, and the RAF had to resolve a number of issues. The RAF wanted some compensation for losing three front-line squadrons in which they had heavily invested. Determining what rank each pilot would assume in the USAAF also had to be negotiated, with most being given a rank equivalent to their RAF rank. For example, a Flight Lieutenant became a USAAF Captain, while a Wing Commander became a Lieutenant Colonel.[1] None of the Eagle Squadron pilots had previously served in the USAAF and did not have US pilot wings. As such, it was decided that they be awarded USAAF pilot wings upon their transfer to the USAAF. By concession, the Eagle Squadron pilots who transferred to the USAAF Fourth Fighter Group were permitted to retain their RAF wings, reduced in size, on the opposite side of their uniform to their new USAAF pilots wings. They had insisted on being allowed to retain their RAF wings, which they had earned, when ordered to wear USAAF wings, which they had not directly earned in the normal way.[5]"

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eagle_Squadrons

 

I hope you have enjoyed this overview of one of the more unique exhibits in the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

ES 25.jpg


Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

 

"One is easily fooled by that which one loves."

 

Moliere: Tartuffe

 

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Thank you. Great post. The ES have always been one of my favorites. Here's a couple of pics from my archives of a genuine RAF/Eagle Squadron tunic which used to be in my collection.

 

USB ARCHIVE PICS 044.jpg

USB ARCHIVE PICS 045.jpg


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"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." (Message sent by 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates. USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918 - later 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 1948-1952)

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What is/was the provenance of the patch and uniform shown in the last image? The patch looks very similar to the many fakes that circulate, and a night and day difference from the patch shown from the museum and a few other originals I had seen that came from the vets family on a few occasion which I was lucky to observe. Incidentally, the other unquestionable patches I had observed in hand (2 to be specific) were identical to he one posted here from the museum, and the one which the Smithsonian Air& Space had on exhibit. In the early 90's I had spoken to the President of the ES Veterans Association, most of these gallant men are now deceased, I had asked him about the "Patch" since I was interested in finding a REAL one to acquire, he no longer had any of his, but recalled them being distributed on 2 separate occasions. he had mentioned that the his squadron received them in two batches. I never did find one with rock solid provenance that I has a chance to acquire for myself.

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What is/was the provenance of the patch and uniform shown in the last image? The patch looks very similar to the many fakes that circulate, and a night and day difference from the patch shown from the museum and a few other originals I had seen that came from the vets family on a few occasion which I was lucky to observe. Incidentally, the other unquestionable patches I had observed in hand (2 to be specific) were identical to he one posted here from the museum, and the one which the Smithsonian Air& Space had on exhibit. In the early 90's I had spoken to the President of the ES Veterans Association, most of these gallant men are now deceased, I had asked him about the "Patch" since I was interested in finding a REAL one to acquire, he no longer had any of his, but recalled them being distributed on 2 separate occasions. he had mentioned that the his squadron received them in two batches. I never did find one with rock solid provenance that I has a chance to acquire for myself.

FYI - This uniform came to me directly from the family of a 71 Squadron pilot who was later KIA flying a P-47 with the 4th F.G. He was a late comer to the Eagles joining in August 1942. The uniform, and patch, is absolutely 1942 vintage. The group also included another RAF tunic & RAF battle jacket, each with USA shoulder tabs, his RAF visor hat, OS cap and his London-tailored U.S. tunic, trousers and visor hat. Bobgee

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"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." (Message sent by 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates. USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918 - later 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 1948-1952)

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VR.......Volunteer Reserve

 

JD


AAF Collector...........
**Always Buying WW2 Aviation Related Items: Especially Operation Tidal Wave items (1st Ploesti Raid) ..... WW2 Fighter Ace Related Items.....Higher End A-2 Flight Jacket Groups....AAF Related Valor Medal Groups**

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VR.......Volunteer Reserve

 

JD

 

 

JD thank you.Were those only used for E.S. personnel or both E.S. and other GB military personnel?


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ASMIC #1098

 





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FYI - This uniform came to me directly from the family of a 71 Squadron pilot who was later KIA flying a P-47 with the 4th F.G. He was a late comer to the Eagles joining in August 1942. The uniform, and patch, is absolutely 1942 vintage. The group also included another RAF tunic & RAF battle jacket, each with USA shoulder tabs, his RAF visor hat, OS cap and his London-tailored U.S. tunic, trousers and visor hat. Bobgee

 

FYI - Good to know! Still looks like all the fakes floating around, but if that is the provenance, who can argue.....Congrats!

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JD thank you.Were those only used for E.S. personnel or both E.S. and other GB military personnel?

No, they were used by other than the Eagle Squadrons. A lot of foreigners served in the RAF during the war years and the VR collars were not restricted to just foreigners either.


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"VR" referred to the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, which was a manpower pool of trained aircrew to augment the regulars in time of need. It functioned much like the reserve forces in the US. In 1943, the "VR" insignia were done away with as being "devisive". The Eagle Squadron aircrew were RAFVR, but most transferred over to the USAAF before the insignia were dropped.


Jeff Floyd

The universe is made up of neutrons, protons, electrons and morons

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Notice that the patch in post # 7 is NOT the same as in post #13. The image in post #13 is the more familiar version.


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The wings in post 7 are RCAF also. RAF Eagle Squadron uniform with Canadian wings, how does that happen?


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The wings in post 7 are RCAF also. RAF Eagle Squadron uniform with Canadian wings, how does that happen?

Simple. This pilot ( and many other Americans) qualified for their wings in Canada prior to their assignment to RAF squadrons, Bobgee


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"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." (Message sent by 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates. USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918 - later 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 1948-1952)

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The wings in post 7 are RCAF also. RAF Eagle Squadron uniform with Canadian wings, how does that happen?

Matt,

 

As bobgee pointed out some pilots enlisted in the RCAF not the RAF so they naturally would be wearing their RCAF brevets. Another interesting thing to note. And this relates to the award of the RAF 1942 badge. Many think this badge was awarded to all the Eagle Squadron members (and others that served in other RAF units). It was an RAF award, so if you had enlisted in the RCAF you were not entitled or awarded the RAF 1942 badge. Many well known Eagle Squadron members were not awarded the badge. Don Blakslee and Jim Goodson among them, as they were RCAF not RAF. Hope this helps.


Always looking for 4th Fighter Group and 490th Bomb Group items.

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