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World War One Weekly Wing #52


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World War One

Weekly Wing #52

American Made Embroidered Aeronaut







Aeronaut Badge


The Aeronaut badge has a complicated history.  The extremely scarce first iteration of the badge was prescribed to be embroidered in silk thread.  These silk badges were so universally reviled that only a few rare examples remain in the most comprehensive collections.  More commonly encountered are silver and gold embroidered badges similar in construction to most other WW1 era embroidered badges.


There were two classes of men authorized to wear the Aeronaut badge:


  1. Men who trained specifically to be Aeronauts and passed all tests and requirements
  2. Balloon Company Commanders, and Operations Officers who were both rated Balloon Observers and had six months service.


292670374_Col.Pagelow1(MVol.26inGorrells).jpg.8decaebf533e00e5240a884471560108.jpg    1207724978_7_Historiesofthe34th-36th42d-45th101stand102dBalloonCompanies.jpg.ff3f5982d0ca2d070e33ff918f32fcfa.jpg

Left, Lt Col John Pagelow (category 1).  Right, Officers of the 36th Balloon Company (category 2)

(Images from the internet fair use claimed for educational purposes under US title 17, S 107)


Requirements to be rated as Aeronauts included a certain amount of time and cross country flights in either free balloons or powered airships.  With no airships of its own, only the barest handful of US Army Air Service Officers could have learned, and flown, with French Airship escadrilles.  With respect to free balloons, the static nature of the trenches and problems of direction being left entirely to prevailing wind, the overwhelming majority of balloon observers worked in tethered balloons and would have worn either of the two prescribed observer half-wing badges.  Even with grandfathering of the late war rule change allowing Balloon Company Commanders and Operations officers to wear the Aeronaut badge, few officers actually met the time requirement. Estimates of men authorized to wear the Aeronaut badge are generally between 200-400.






Another iteration of the quintessential American-made style World War One wing.  Generally similar to other American-made two tier shoulder wings—the badge is significantly oversized.  Each wing is characterized by a first row of eleven feathers picked out individually in smooth silver bullion, surmounted by a two-tier shoulder of individual feathers constructed with rachis of faceted bullion and vanes contrasting smooth bullion.


The round balloon envelope and basket are constructed of smooth silver bullion.  The basket lines are faceted silver bullion.


The top half of each wing and envelope perimeter are bordered by fine coiled silver bullion wire.  The wings, envelope, and basket are moderately padded.


The US is constructed of faceted gold bullion coils configured in a two-strand twisted helix with no apparent serifs or periods.




The Aeronaut badge is mounted on an inverted triangularly shaped thin metal plate.  The reverse is lapped by backing cloth and hand stitched fast.




This is my last planned WWOWW post and as I noted last week, I hope you have enjoyed them or at least found them to be moderately educational.  For my part, I learned new things as I spent time researching each badge to present and other forum members contributed to the discussions. Don't worry, I am not going away.  I will continue to post here on the forum as I always have, and no doubt will add more Wings of World War One posts as time allows.


Now that this series has come to its end, I have to once again thank all the readers and forum members who contributed to the series and especially pfrost and 5thwingmarty for adding in their own WWOWW posts.


Very respectfully and happy collecting!



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Congratulations Chris on this research and writing effort. You have made a great contribution to the hobby!




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This has been one of the highlights of this dumpster fire of a year.  I know I learned a ton from these post and major props to you for making it through all 52 weeks of posts.  These could be complied into one heck of a great WW1 reference guide.  Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us and all the photos of these beautiful wings.  

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I will add my thanks and appreciation to Chris as well for this series, along with his occasional guest contributors.  My WWI collection would be pretty much non-existent without Chris' guidance and input.  I will also suggest that everyone join ASMIC for the coming year, I can't say why but will say you won't be disappointed.



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Tod, Bob,


I am glad y'all enjoyed them.  It has been a strange year.  


I've been attending ACSC at Maxwell AFB (during WW1 it was called Aviation Repair Depot Montgomery or ARDMONT) so on one hand I have access to an incredible amount of research material, but on the other I don't have access to my own books.


1281475450_ScreenShot2020-12-21at9_41_28AM.png.fac430703ac69e0c8c758e5bf88ca569.png    Lieutenant-William-C.-Maxwell-Alabama-Department-of-Archives-and-History-436x680.jpg.3c525ad8d75af32fc5520181db5b4c46.jpg

Left:  USAS RMAs at ARDMONT (Maxwell Field) 1918.  Right: William C. Maxwell (appears to be wearing an Eisenstadt RMA badge)


Along the way, I developed a new appreciation for cartoonists who produce weekly comic strips.  Some days it's hard to muster the creative juices under the pressures of a schedule (even if it was self imposed).


Also, the motivation for this series was (in part) my way of remembering Garth Thompson and Marvin Brenner.  Both had (gently) encouraged me to do more for the hobby.  And, I'll do more still.  I have a few real "good ones" coming up that I am going to send to ASMIC for the Trading Post.  


Thanks to all who have read and contributed to these!


Best wishes, and happy collecting!




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