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World War One Weekly Wing #18

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World War One

Weekly Wing #18

Maker: Unknown, American made.

Background

The original badge for Junior and Reserve Military Aviator or Observer, was not officially authorized very long. 76 days elapsed between 15 August 1917 when the Army first officially authorized wing badges, and 27 October 1917 when the first major changes were published. After Colonel Bolling made his report to the War Department noting European practice of using half-wings exclusively for Observers the Army changed wing badges by adding a star for Military Aviator, re-designating the full-wing without star for Junior and Reserve Military Aviators.  The same change also re-designating the existing half-wing with shield for Observers.  This change too was short-lived as on 29 December 1917, just over two months later, the Army replaced the shield on Observer half-wing badges with the gothic “O.”

Junior and Reserve Military Aviators.  During the brief 15 August 1917 to 27 October 1917 period, as wartime training was just getting ramped up, at most a few hundred  Junior or Reserve Military Aviators could have earned the half-wing with shield badge.  To avoid confusion with Observers most Junior and Reserve Military Aviators would have switched to the new full-wing badge as soon as they became available.

Observers.  Initially, the Air Service did not designate a special badge for Observers.  The 27 October 1917 changes rectified this oversight and provided them their first badge—the half-wing with shield.  Most likely to align US observers with their Royal Flying Corps counterparts, and possibly to eliminate persistent confusion over Junior and Reserve Military Aviators original wear of the half-wing badge, the Air Service Signal Corps again quickly revised regulations 29 December 1917; replacing the shield half-wing with the Gothic O half-wing.  Despite the change in regulations, there is ample photographic evidence the half-wing with shield observer badge 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.

Associated Airfields:  Any

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Description

Manufacture. American made. The type is normally characterized by a first row of feathers picked out individually in silver bullion, surmounted by a two-tier shoulder with feathers constructed with rachis of one type of bullion and vane a second, contrasting type. Sometimes as in this example, the lower feathers are separated by a line of fine black thread.

The shield chief usually contains 13 small "stars," executed in an x-configuration, affixed atop a field of horizontal rows of bullion.  This particular badge has eight stars. The lower portion normally consists of vertical stripes made from two contrasting types of bullion. The chief and the lower portion are frequently separated by a bullion wire coil. Sometimes, as in this example, there is black thread separating the two sections.

The tops of the wings and the perimeter of the shield are bordered by coiled bullion wire and both wing and shield are fairly well padded. 

Finally, the US of this type of badge normally consists of gold bullion coils configured in a two-strand twisted helix. There are normally no serifs or periods.

Mountings.  This badge is mounted on a brass back plate with one bat-shaped wing and affixed pin back.  The catch is a diaper or safety pin type.  The pin is bronze with no cam-stop.  Pin backs were a popular option to reduce wear and tear on the wing when uniforms were laundered.

 


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I love these wings.  They don't seem to be as popular with collectors as the double wing badges but I find them fascinating and the fact that they were authorized for such a short period of time makes them even more special.  I was lucky enough to purchase an example from Duncan's collection during the auction after his passing and it's one of the highlights of my collection.  Thanks for posting these.  

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I had discussed with Chris the portraits in the book for the Second Provisional Wing called "Overseas Dreams".  There is a wide variety of wings depicted, both for Junior Military Aviators and Observers.  Among those for the Observers it is split about 50/50 between those with the shield and those with the Gothic O.  To me the book is interesting in that the JMA's are just identified as Pilots and there are no MA's depicted in the book.

I wish I had more WWI wings to add to Chris' posts, but for now I just get to sit back and enjoy his collection and those of our other collectors.


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Gents,

Thanks for the very kind words!

Real "Doozy" coming up this week.

Chris


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