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Joel J

BB&B Airborne Wings from the Test Platoon

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I need some help determining a value for insurance.  These are the wings and first issue 501 oval plus certificate from 1LT James Bassett, the assistant platoon leader from the test platoon.  He was killed in 1954 and his insignia has been in a locker since.  I helped my uncle go though all the items, so they have been in daylight now for 5 days. I’d like to donate them to the National WW2 museum, but that has to be negotiated.  I believe this is the most significant set of wings in existence.  These were presented with the 501 Parachute Battalion on 9 Mar 1941.   See pic.  Thoughts?  

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First allow me to thank you for sharing this Parachute Badge and Trimming.  It is a wonderful and Historic set that is obviously attributed to an Officer who served in the U.S. Army.

IMHO, the value of this set of insignia, citation and photo would be $900.   

 

For the particulars: The Certificate $400.  The BB&B Parachute Badge $450.  The Trimming $50.

 

Please note that the Trimming is of a post-WW2 design as indicated by the wider Lt. blue border so its value is a lesser amount.

 

Perhaps some others in this Forum will either concur or set other values that you can use for your final determination.

 

 


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I think the oval is a WW2 specimen, hope other chime in

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Lieutenant Bassett was a rather significant player in the early days of the fledgling paratroops. As you mentioned, he met an untimely demise that ended the career of an officer who would have most sure made flag rank had he survived.

 

There are a couple of things that we need to clarify here. First, The Parachute Test Platoon, commanded by LT William Ryder with Lt Bassett as his assistant, had a total of 50 members, with 48 of them being enlisted volunteers. While these were the first soldiers to jump out of a perfectly good airplane since the original test platoon some 15 years prior, they did not immediately receive the parachute badge, as CPT William Yarborough hadn't designed it yet. It would be months later that CPT Yarborough picked up the first order of parachute badges from the Philadelphia jewelers Bailey, Banks and Biddle. The first run was 200 badges. When I spoke to General Yarborough about the first award of the parachute badge, he laughed and said that HE got the first one. He simply pulled it out of the packaging at the jewelers. When Yarborough got back to FT Benning, the senior officers and staff all got their wings. The remainder were handed out in award ceremonies to the 1st and 2nd parachute battalions which had been renumbered to 501st and 502nd. The certificates were issued out with the badges. You will note that Bassett's certificate, dated December 1940 is typed in on a 1941 dated form, but it is from the first production run.

 

It is very possible, and probable that the wing in question came from the first order of parachute badges. The first background trimming worn by the 501st was made out of two pieces of felt and was made by the wives of the 501st BN officers who cranked them out by hand. The trimmings were handed out sometime AFTER the wings were awarded. The oval that is shown with the BB&B jump wing IS a WWII background trimming (we collectors call them ovals), but it is NOT the first type. It is an early one though.

 

I do believe that you have some rather significant airborne artifacts from a noted member of the Test Platoon. I believe the valuation above is seriously low. I believe that if you feel that the best place for the wing and other pieces is the National World War II Museum, that you should contact them. If you decide that you are going to donate them to the museum, I would do so with strings attached. First, I would insist that the items be on a permanent LOAN to the museum and that they only be on loan so long as the museum is in existence AND so long as they are appropriately displayed. If you do not do this, the items could end up in an envelope in the stacks, never again to see the light of day.

 

THANK YOU for sharing these wonderful items. I am sure that your mailbox will be blowing up by now. Good luck, and if you need more help, please do not hesitate to reach out.

 

Allan

 

 


Never under-estimate the power of prayer.

 

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38 minutes ago, Persian Gulf Command said:

First allow me to thank you for sharing this Parachute Badge and Trimming.  It is a wonderful and Historic set that is obviously attributed to an Officer who served in the U.S. Army.

IMHO, the value of this set of insignia, citation and photo would be $900.   

 

For the particulars: The Certificate $400.  The BB&B Parachute Badge $450.  The Trimming $50.

 

Please note that the Trimming is of a post-WW2 design as indicated by the wider Lt. blue border so its value is a lesser amount.

 

Perhaps some others in this Forum will either concur or set other values that you can use for your final determination.


I appreciate your response and agree with your values on the wings and certificate if they were simply originals and didn’t have specific historical significance.  Since they are both from one of the two officers of the Airborne Test Platoon, that premium is debatable.  Only 1LT Ryders wings with provenance would be more desirable.   As far as the oval, again I agree the that the accepted WWII ovals have the thin border    However, this was a ground zero paratrooper; he was only in the 501st while it was a battalion vs PIR.  It also may be a early prototype or it may be later as you say.  It’s made of red wool and the border is not Infantry blue; it’s more royal. I’ll add pics of it by itself and see if there are any other reinforcing opinions.  Again, I appreciate your help.  I just joined and this is my first post. 

 

 

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9 minutes ago, Allan H. said:

Lieutenant Bassett was a rather significant player in the early days of the fledgling paratroops. As you mentioned, he met an untimely demise that ended the career of an officer who would have most sure made flag rank had he survived.

 

There are a couple of things that we need to clarify here. First, The Parachute Test Platoon, commanded by LT William Ryder with Lt Bassett as his assistant, had a total of 50 members, with 48 of them being enlisted volunteers. While these were the first soldiers to jump out of a perfectly good airplane since the original test platoon some 15 years prior, they did not immediately receive the parachute badge, as CPT William Yarborough hadn't designed it yet. It would be months later that CPT Yarborough picked up the first order of parachute badges from the Philadelphia jewelers Bailey, Banks and Biddle. The first run was 200 badges. When I spoke to General Yarborough about the first award of the parachute badge, he laughed and said that HE got the first one. He simply pulled it out of the packaging at the jewelers. When Yarborough got back to FT Benning, the senior officers and staff all got their wings. The remainder were handed out in award ceremonies to the 1st and 2nd parachute battalions which had been renumbered to 501st and 502nd. The certificates were issued out with the badges. You will note that Bassett's certificate, dated December 1940 is typed in on a 1941 dated form, but it is from the first production run.

 

It is very possible, and probable that the wing in question came from the first order of parachute badges. The first background trimming worn by the 501st was made out of two pieces of felt and was made by the wives of the 501st BN officers who cranked them out by hand. The trimmings were handed out sometime AFTER the wings were awarded. The oval that is shown with the BB&B jump wing IS a WWII background trimming (we collectors call them ovals), but it is NOT the first type. It is an early one though.

 

I do believe that you have some rather significant airborne artifacts from a noted member of the Test Platoon. I believe the valuation above is seriously low. I believe that if you feel that the best place for the wing and other pieces is the National World War II Museum, that you should contact them. If you decide that you are going to donate them to the museum, I would do so with strings attached. First, I would insist that the items be on a permanent LOAN to the museum and that they only be on loan so long as the museum is in existence AND so long as they are appropriately displayed. If you do not do this, the items could end up in an envelope in the stacks, never again to see the light of day.

 

THANK YOU for sharing these wonderful items. I am sure that your mailbox will be blowing up by now. Good luck, and if you need more help, please do not hesitate to reach out.

 

Allan

 

I agree with everything you said.  When I was describing the oval, I said first issue meaning to imply machine made vs the capable hands of the Army wives.   These wings are absolutely the first issue from 9 MAR 41   See pic of after the ceremony   My great uncle is to the right of General Bradley.   Also, great advice on the donation.   My uncle David, son of Jimmy Bassett want to make the right decision.  

 

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I stand corrected if the Trimming is of WW2 issue.  Given this is a significant historical grouping and the possibility that the set is as issued to a member of the original Airborne Unit my estimate of value may or may not be valid.  I will defer to others regarding the total value of the grouping as the statement Allan H. made  "I believe the valuation above is seriously low" will possibly apply here.

 

Once again thank you for reaching out to members of this Forum.  You have found the best place to stimulate a sincere discussion and gather information from a knowledgeable community.


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Absolutely awesome!

 

Question for Allan: I have not seen the big round base for the catch on a BB&B wing before. Early? Variation?  


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My comments:

Very nice and historic group! The photo to me is most interesting with key figures like BG Omar Bradley, who at the time , I believe, was the Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School and Fort Benning. It appears that all the other officers present have been awarded and are wearing their Jump Wings except Major George Howell (on far right) whose name is on the certificate as Commander of the 501st Parachute Bn. Had he not yet become airborne qualified?  All appear to be wearing the round parachute patch on their overseas cap. Could the patch actually help date the photo? The certificate itself is a bit unusual in that the first approved and issued Jump Wings were not even available until March 1941. So the date on the certificate has been adjusted back to December 1940. I wonder if it is possible to date the photo? I agree with Allan that the value previously offered is lower than what a willing buyer would offer. Even though that bidding is not accepted policy, that would be the best way to determine the true value. What would you pay to own this grouping ?


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WANTED- Sterling hallmarked US Army Parachutist Jump wings:       WANTED -Combat Infantryman Badges (CIB):

Bell Trading Post Master (with star in wreath)                                        F.W. Assmann Germany full size CIB marked 191

12C Coro Senior clutchback (with star).                                                   CREST CRAFT Sterling EIB & CIB

CrestCraft 14C Master w/bubble canopy CB.                                          Denmark’s Sterling 2nd Award D22

Emblem Supply 1E Senior pinback                                                            Wilbur Kiff Co Attleboro Ma. Sterling

GP General Products Master CB                                                                D&H Manufacturing, provenance RI

Military Post Supply M21/MPS-21 Senior CB                                          C.P. Company NYC 1P C. Polk New York Sterling

Robbins Senior pinback                                                                               Gemsco Sterling 3rd award

Robbins Attleboro Mass. Basic pinback                                                   Simon Sterling 3rd Award

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Does anyone else notice something that is unique about this paratrooper wing that differs from any of the other BB&B hallmarked paratrooper wings that I have come across over the years?  Under the clasp there is what looks like a circular beveled base.  I wonder if this was a repair or could this be a key feature when searching for one of the original batch of paratrooper wings made by BB&B for Capt. William Yarborough?  

 

 


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As a retired paratrooper myself, I was expecting to find 4-5 wings in his effects and hopefully there would be one BB&B.  Instead, there was only this one pair with absolutely minimal wear and a very straight pin.   He also had a master jump wing and a pic of the 18th Airborne Commander, MG Cleland pinning it on him about a month before he was killed in 1954.  I suspect Jimmy Basset saved these special wings and did not wear them after 1941.   All through his career, he wore wings and the wear on these would indicate they are not the ones worn. 

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52 minutes ago, triplecanopy said:

My comments:

Very nice and historic group! The photo to me is most interesting with key figures like BG Omar Bradley, who at the time , I believe, was the Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School and Fort Benning. It appears that all the other officers present have been awarded and are wearing their Jump Wings except Major George Howell (on far right) whose name is on the certificate as Commander of the 501st Parachute Bn. Had he not yet become airborne qualified?  All appear to be wearing the round parachute patch on their overseas cap. Could the patch actually help date the photo? The certificate itself is a bit unusual in that the first approved and issued Jump Wings were not even available until March 1941. So the date on the certificate has been adjusted back to December 1940. I wonder if it is possible to date the photo? I agree with Allan that the value previously offered is lower than what a willing buyer would offer. Even though that bidding is not accepted policy, that would be the best way to determine the true value. What would you pay to own this grouping ?

There are hundreds of photos in this grouping.  I believe the one I posted was 21 MAR 41.  Many test platoon photos as well that are thus far unpublished. 

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3 hours ago, Joel J said:

I need some help determining a value for insurance.  These are the wings and first issue 501 oval plus certificate from 1LT James Bassett, the assistant platoon leader from the test platoon.  He was killed in 1954 and his insignia has been in a locker since.  I helped my uncle go though all the items, so they have been in daylight now for 5 days. I’d like to donate them to the National WW2 museum, but that has to be negotiated.  I believe this is the most significant set of wings in existence.  These were presented with the 501 Parachute Battalion on 9 Mar 1941.   See pic.  Thoughts?  

B2E8D37F-901A-4E2B-9A5E-F938531A369B.jpeg

FD25D33E-405D-4EC7-B9FD-620A41BF7B53.jpeg

70B973F6-A379-4A05-8D5B-087FCDD15258.jpeg

08ED9100-F2FE-4D02-B459-A436DB8A265E.jpeg

I got my dates wrong.  The presentation to the test platoon and the 501 Battalion was 21 Mar 41, not 9 Mar.   

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  I would assume the BB&B wings and Trimming were attached at one time.  I realize I'm "getting into the weeds" here but when you were going through his effects, was the Badge and the Trimming together?  Or if not pinned together, located in the same place of storage?  Or, were the Wings and Trimming located in different locations?


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Allan H's opinion is the gold standard. I wouldn't deviate a bit from what he says.


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Leif,

 

SO great to see you here on the forum. Isn't this an amazing group of artifacts? In reference to the circle behind that catch on the BB&B jump wing- I believe that we are looking at a drop of clear glue that was used to repair the catch. I'll bet the catch "popped off" and the glue was an expedient. It is possible that once the catch broke, that LT Bassett no longer wore the wing. Who would want to lose their first wing?

 

One thing to remember about these earliest wings- there weren't very many of them. CPT Yarborough patented the design in the hopes of protecting it from being reproduced. We all know how well that worked.

 

Airborne Hunter- thank you for the vote of confidence. It is very much appreciated.

 

Allan


Never under-estimate the power of prayer.

 

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The oval was separate.   As far as the catch, it is a metal baseplate like you see on some German awards.  My uncle now has these locked up in his safe and I am enroute to Fort Campbell to see my son who flies Blackhawks.  Sorry, but it will be awhile before I can get a closer pic of that feature.  

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2 hours ago, Joel J said:

...As far as the catch, it is a metal baseplate...

That is a common "repair catch" from the jewelry trade.  Likely indicative of the value Lt Bassett placed in the badge.  Although there is no reason it couldn't have been put on by BB&B -- especially if this first run badge was part of a special order and done in BB&B's custom jewelry shop.    Lt Bassett likely felt it worth repairing as opposed to simply getting a new badge at the PX.

 

Chris


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Agreed, typical period repair.

John


...and on the eighth day, God created the radial engine...

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2 hours ago, cwnorma said:

That is a common "repair catch" from the jewelry trade.  Likely indicative of the value Lt Bassett placed in the badge.  Although there is no reason it couldn't have been put on by BB&B -- especially if this first run badge was part of a special order and done in BB&B's custom jewelry shop.    Lt Bassett likely felt it worth repairing as opposed to simply getting a new badge at the PX.

 

Chris

Fair enough, either is plausible.   From the CPT Yarborough Memorandum For Record on the subject, BB&B only found out they received the contract on 6 March and within 6 days, lead strikes from the dies were submitted to the Army QuartermasterGeneral  for approval and they were supposedly shipped and received by the 15th of March.  Point being, they were concentrating on the face of the badge and may well have not designed the integrated clasp for the first batch.  I just doubt it is a repair due to the lack of wear.  I’ve shined enough brass in 24 years of the Army and 4 years of military school to know the wear and tear of soft metals.  At any rate, thanks for the comments; it’s a fascinating and rapid procurement for the Army. 

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Apologies all- I sure thought it looked like a drop of glue! I still believe that the catch has been repaired, but it would be impossible to know when and by whom. Could it have been done at BB&B? Sure! I am sure that they made minor repairs to their wares as they were going through quality checks before delivering the order.

 

I have a twin to Bassett's wing in my collection that came from a 501st Battalion vet and would have been awarded at the same time that LT Bassett received his wing. My wing does not have the small pedestal under the catch.

 

I'm still smiling over getting to see these pieces and want to thank Joel C for sharing them with us.

 

Allan


Never under-estimate the power of prayer.

 

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