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World War One Weekly Wing #24

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World War One

Weekly Wing #24

Unknown Maker (Sewn to Brooks Brothers tailored uniform)




As we noted in WWOWW #3, the half wing with shield for Junior Military Aviator 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, re-designating the full wing for Junior/Reserve Military Aviators and re-designating the half wing with shield for Observers). Shortly thereafter on 29 December 1917, just over two months had elapsed when, apparently influenced by the Royal Flying Corps, the Army Air Service standardized Observer badges this time with the gothic “O.”  Despite the change in regulations the half wing with shield continued to be worn by Observers until after the end of the War.




This weeks WWOWW is one such badge.  The Balloon Observer who wore this badge did not receive Observer training before 29 December 1917.  However his photograph and surviving uniform both exhibit the half wing with shield.  Moreover, the uniform was purchased at the Brooks Brothers store in Boston Massachusetts upon his return from France shortly after the war.   Clearly the half wing with shield was a choice.






Manufacture. American made.  Generally similar to other American-made two tier shoulder wings.  The wing is characterized by a first row of feathers picked out individually in silver bullion, surmounted by a two-tier shoulder of individual feathers constructed with rachis of faceted bullion and vane contrasting smooth bullion. The lower feathers are separarated by a line of fine black thread.


The shield is moderately flared.  The chief contains 12 neatly spaced "stars," each executed in an x-configuration, superimposed upon horizontal rows of bullion.  The field  portion consists of vertical stripes made from two contrasting types of bullion. The chief and field portion are separated by bullion wire coil.


The top three quarters of each wing and shield perimeter are bordered by coiled bullion wire.  Both wings and shield are very highly padded.


Gold bullion coils are configured in a double-strand twisted helix with no apparent serifs or periods to fashion the US.


Mounting.  This badge, as most WW1 era badges, is sewn fast to the uniform jacket.


There is no way to tell if the badge was manufactured by Brooks Brothers or if the famous men’s store purchased it from a supplier.  For the most part the badge is very similar and not distinctive from other typical American made badges.  Still a lovely WW1 badge and it and the uniform stand in mute testimony of how some Airmen, despite regulations to the contrary, continued to chose to wear the first-type observer badge.











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