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Weekly World War One Wing #3

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Our esteemed colleague and fellow forum member Dr Frost and I have often commiserated our shared "hole in the head" when it comes to WW1 half wings. As half wings go, this one is a dandy! A probably French-made Junior Military Aviator or Observer that still retains much of its luster:



Probable French-Made 1st Type Observer.


As Junior Military Aviator or Observer, this badge was not officially authorized very long. Only 76 days passed between 15 August 1917 when the Army first officially authorized wing badges, and 27 October 1917 when the Army made its first major changes (adding a star for Military Aviator, redesignating the full wing for Junior/Reserve Military Aviators and designating the half wing with shield for observers). During this brief period, likely only a few hundred Reserve or Junior Military Aviators would have earned this badge and most would likely switch to the full wing as soon as possible. Similarly, on 29 December 1917, just over two months later, the Army standardized Observer badges with the gothic “O”--seemingly consigning the half wing with shield to the dustbin of history...

Fortunately for those of us with an affinity for WW1 half wings, Airmen seem to have a mind of their own! There is ample photographic evidence that the half wing with shield version of the observer badge, despite no longer being authorized, continued to be worn throughout the remainder of the war and well into the post war period--even by Observers who trained too late to have earned the badge prior to 29 December 1917.


This particular badge shows characteristics normally associated with French-made badges such as moderate padding and a squarish shield. Perhaps the most classic feature identifying it as French-made are the three rows of "horizontal" feathers.


Please feel free to add your own similar or contrasting wings!




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Here is a uniform of a Lt E D Fullerton. I suspect his full name is Edward Darcy Fullerton, but I haven't found much on him yet.


He is wearing the 1/2 shield style wing of the earlier Junior/RMA wing but I suspect that he is an observer, not a pilot. The uniform has (best I can recall) one overseas stripe and the 2nd Army with the aviation section roundel. He also seems to have French-made insignia on the collar. IIRC, the wing and prop insignia are sewn on using small loops on the tips of the wings.


The uniform is dated May of 1918 and I suspect he was a later arrival to France (but that still needs to be worked out). Since he is wearing the Victory medal, I can only assume that this uniform was the way he had it when he returned from France and left the military.


As for the wing, I have no idea if it is French made or not, though the uniform was from Snellenburg's Clothes, a large department/clothing store that was active in Philadelphia during the war.




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What is interesting, here is a photo of a pair of pilots and their observers in France who are also wearing the 2nd Army patch. One of the observer is wearing the British-style observer wing pattern in bullion and the other is wearing the more "standard" bullion observer wing proscribed by the US regulations.


I have other photos of this Aerosquadron group from the 278th observation squadron.


The two pilots are Samuel Sloan and Alexander Olgivie, the observers are Elwood Kresge, and Bill Williams. Sloan's observer was Kresge and Alexander Olgivie and Bill Williams were KIC on 11/29/1918. From what I have researched (but my memory fades)


Here is a neat thread about Lt Sloan and some of the photos that he took during the WWI and postWWi era.




So it is likely that Fullerton overlapped in service with Kresge and Williams in France. This would suggest that both observer type wings were still being worn late into 1918, concurrently. Clearly, the RFC also had some influence on the style of observer wings.




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Then there is this one..... Looks like it is printed on a folded piece of cloth and pinned to his uniform. It could be bright bullion, but it doesn't look like it to me. I have no idea if he is a JRMA pilot or an observer. He is wearing the US Signal Corps insignia, but that doesn't give us much to work with. If I had to guess, I would say this is graduation photo from flight school, but that is just a guess and I suspect I am probably wrong.


I can imagine finding a wing like this at a gun show and saying... FAKE! --Until someone pulls out a period photo of a guy wearing it on his uniform!


I have no idea about the story of this picture.



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Finally, here is an observer wing that also has some similarity to the OP wing. I suspect that this is a French-made wing as well.

It seems that there was some squadron/personal preferences in what the observers were wearing overseas. I never like to "accept" the old argument that "things were done differently the closer to the front you were", but the photographic evidence does seem to support that both style of observer wings were used and likely made concurrently to each other.


You also see this with the Dallas wings, with some patterns using the shield, and some using the gothic O


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