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A.E.F First Army Shoulder Sleeve Insignia 1918 to 1919


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Photo No. 76: Each of these enlisted Engineers are wearing “by the book” First Army Engineer SSI.

 

Left photo courtesy of the John Adams-Graf collection

Center photo courtesy of Bay State Militaria.com

Right photo courtesy of the Troy Morgan Collection

 

 

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Photo No. 77: Three more applique First Army Engineer shoulder patches, each of which features a different style “A”, as well as a different style of castle.

 

Left & center photos courtesy of the JBPC

Right photo courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

 

 

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Photo No. 78: These First Army Engineer emblems, two of which have non-regulation shaped “A’s” - one with a pitched roof (left) and the other (center) slope sided, all have both been hand embroidered with distinctly different castle styles.

 

Left & center photos courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

Right photo courtesy of the JBPC

 

 

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Photo No. 79: Machine embroidered First Army Engineer insignia, each of which features, once again, a red castle design that differs from the others.

 

Left photo courtesy of the George Morgan collection

Center & right photo courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

Right photo courtesy of the JBPC

 

 

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Photo No. 81: Despite First Army regulations, some of the independent Engineer Regiments opted to personalize their prescribed First Army insignia. This was accomplished by embellishing the “A” with their regimental number. One such regiment was the 21st Engineer Regiment (Railway) who used both the approved First Army with a red castle version along with all of the variations shown below. By the way, the initials “L&R” signify “Light Railway”, which indicated the regiment operated a “Narrow Gauge” railway.

 

Right photo courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

 

 

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Photo No. 82: Other permutations of First Army Engineer insignia include an example where the letter “A” was made from dark blue cloth instead of black (left). In addition, the First Army “A” was combined with the 40th (Camouflage) Engineer Regiment’s chameleon emblem (left & right).

 

Left & center photos courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

Right photo courtesy of Bill & Kurt Keller

 

 

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Photo No. 83: These First Army Engineer shoulder patches have been enhanced by the addition of the numeral “23” in red for the 23rd Engineer Regiment (Road Construction), and with the initials “S&L” for searchlight, which was the specialty of the 56th Engineer Regiment.

 

Left photo courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

 

 

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Photo No. 84: in addition to adorning their First Army Engineer shoulder patches with numerals and initials, many members of the 56th Engineer Regiment took to combining their unofficial unit emblem with that of their official SSI. Most certainly, double patched service coats such as the one worn by the Doughboy in this photograph were frowned upon by the AEF. This phenomenon of displaying unit pride occurred more than one would think. Whether it was done prior to, or after they mustered out of the Army is probably known only by the original owners of such coats.

 

Photos courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

 

 

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Photo No. 85: Three examples of a First Army insignia paired up with that of the 56th Engineer Regiment. Note that the positioning of the plane caught in the beam of the searchlight is slightly different in each patch.

 

All photos courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

 

 

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First Army Air Service Units

August 30 & September 16, 1918:

 

HQ Air Service First Army

1st Pursuit Wing: HQ: 1st Pursuit Group HQ – 27th, 94th, 95th, 147th, 218th, (4th Park Co.), Flight C 648th Squadrons

2nd Pursuit Group: HQ, 13th, 22nd, 49th, 139th, Flight A 255th (3rd Park Co.) Squadrons

3rd Pursuit Group: HQ, 28th, 93rd, 103rd, 213th, 306th (2nd Park Co.) Squadrons

1st Day Bombardment Group: 11th, 20th, 24th, 96th, Flight A, 648th Squadrons, Photo Section 12

Army Observation Group: HQ, 9th, 24t, 91st, Flight B, 255th (3rd Air Park) Squadrons, Photo Section No. 2 (formerly 101st Photo Section) and Photo Section No. 10

Army Artillery Observation Group: HQ, Balloon Companies 10, 11, 16

Army Air Service Troops: 474th, 484th, Squadrons and 183rd Squadron (Mobile Park No. 1)

 

September 26 & November 11, 1918:

 

HQ Air Service First Army

1st Pursuit Wing: HQ: 1st Pursuit Group HQ – 27th, 86th, 94th, 95th, 147th, 218th, (4th Park Co.) & Flight C 648th Squadrons, Photo Section No. 2 (formally 101st Photo Section) & Photo Section No. 10

2nd Pursuit Group: HQ, 13th, 22nd, 49th, 139th & 185th Squadrons, 3rd Air Park (formerly 255th Squadron), 5th Air Park (formally 279th Squadron)

3rd Pursuit Group: HQ, 28th, 93rd, 103rd, 213th Squadrons, 2nd Air Park (formally 260th Squadron)

1st Day Bombardment Group: 11th, 20th, 96th, 166th & 183rd Squadrons (1st Air Park), Flight A, 648th Squadron, Photo Section No. 12

Army Observation Group: HQ, 9th, 24th & 91st Squadrons, 3rd Air park (formally Flight B 255th Squadron), Photo Sections No. 2 & No. 10

Army Artillery Observation Group: HQ, Balloon Companies 10, 11, 11, 12, 15 & 43

Army Air Service Troops: 462nd, 463rd, 474th, 477th, 484th, 495th & 496th Construction Squadrons, Misc. Squadrons 50 & 283 & Photo Section No. 14

 

The Air Service at the time America became involved in the Great War was a relatively new organization within the U.S. Army. In fact, when the United States declared war on April 6, 1917, the Aeronautical Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps was comprised of just fifty-five obsolete planes and it had only twenty-six qualified officer pilots, some of whom, were trained by the Wright brothers. Fast forward twenty months later to November of 1918, the month in which all hostilities ceased, America’s fledgling Air Service had swelled to 7, 726 officers commanding some 70,769 enlisted men. Collectively, those officers and men looked after and flew 740 mostly British and French made aircraft dispersed among forty-five squadrons, thirty-eight of which saw combat.

 

The universal insignia of America’s Air Service during the Great War was a “roundel” made up of concentric red, blue and white circles. The roundel logo was emblazoned on Air Service vehicles, painted onto the wings and fuselages of the aircraft flown by AEF pilots and it was incorporated into almost every Air Service organization’s shoulder patch, including those assigned to the First Army.

 

Photo No. 87: Examples of the red, blue and white Air Service roundel emblem as used on: 3rd Air Service Mechanic Regiment, 16th Balloon Company and 248th Aero Squadron insignia.

 

Center & left photos courtesy of Bay State Militaria.com

 

 

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Photo No. 88: Since the red, blue and white Air Service roundel was already universally accepted within the AEF, it was selected to be the symbol that represented that branch of service on the First Army “A” shoulder patch. Here, a machine embroidered First Army Air Service SSI is displayed in both the inset and in the background photo. The diversity of Air Service patch designs in use throughout the AEF was likely another reason why the First Army’s attempted to standardize the insignia used by the various branches within its command.

 

Background courtesy of the Chuck Thomas collection

Inset courtesy of the JBPC

 

 

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Photo No. 89: The prescribed red, white and not blue First Army Air Service insignia followed by two traditional examples bearing the blue center ring - one made up of an applied felt “A” with a chain stitch roundel, and the other entirely crocheted.

 

Center & right photos courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

 

 

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Photo No. 90: Slope sided First Army “A’s”, one with an oversized applied felt roundels and two with medium sized chain stitched rondels.

 

Left & center photos courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

Right photo courtesy of the JBPC

 

 

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Photo No. 92: These images depicting a First Army: observer (left), enlisted man (center) and officer/aviator (right) show them to be wearing “A’s” with sloped sides with differing size roundels.

 

Center & right photos courtesy of Bay State Militaria.com

 

 

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Photo No. 94: Members of this Air Service band wear almost, but not quite, official First Army SSI. They differ from the prescribed design by having a blue circle between the red and white circles, and by having the roundel situated in the upper section of the “A” rather than its lower section.

 

Photo courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

 

 

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Photo No. 96: As previously mentioned, in the AEF and in the First Army, the Air Service was one of three branches who occasionally employed a red “A”. All three specimens shown here are roughly similar in design and feature a red, blue and white applied felt roundel.

 

Left photo courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com

Center photo courtesy of Bay State Militaria.com

 

 

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Photo No. 97: Despite the fact that they were perfect designs to be made into AEF shoulder patches most Aero Squadron logos were never transformed into a cloth insignia. This “Mercury” symbol of the 139th Aero Squadron was brought home as a souvenir by Lieutenant Russell Maughan. It was removed from the side of his Spad 13 shortly before the aircraft was destroyed after the Armistice.

 

Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

 

 

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Photo No. 98: Fortunately, a few Aero Squadron motifs were combined, along with the Air Service roundel, with the First Army’s letter “A” to create a unique SSI. The 139th Aero Squadron’s (a day pursuit fighter squadron) “Mercury” emblem is one of a handful of legitimate WW I era AEF squadron shoulder patches. It was unofficially superimposed over the upper half of the First Army “A”, just above the Air Service roundel. The background photograph depicts a 139th Aero Squadron shoulder patch worn by Lieutenant John C. Bennett Jr. that is identical to the example displayed in the inset to the left.

 

Background & right inset courtesy of the Hawk3370 collection

Left inset courtesy of the JBPC

 

 

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Photo No. 99: The 13th Aero Squadron’s (a day pursuit fighter squadron) “Death”, a skeleton carrying a bloody scythe with both hands while running at full speed, has been painted onto the fuselage of this airplane. This ghoulish squadron insignia was also incorporated into a First Army, Air Service SSI.

 

Photo courtesy of the Gregvan collection

 

 

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