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 OBSOLETE USAF INSIGNIA

 

As I find more information and photos of obsolete insignia

I will add them to the list.

 

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Figure 1: First design flight surgeon wings.

Photo at top was taken from the 1 January 1956

Ninth Edition of the Air Officer’s Guide produced

By the Military Service Publishing Company

 

Following the Korean War, the US Air Force adopted a Flight Surgeon wing design or pattern that was similar to the pilot wings. The star for Senior Flight Surgeon and star and wreath for Command Flight Surgeon were added to the new pattern that had the medical caduceus within a shield. The first design was regulation up to April 1958. They were phased out by June 1959. The first design was replaced with the second design that is pictured below and is still in use today with some variation. When the second design was adopted, the Command Flight Surgeon rating was dropped and Chief Flight Surgeon became the new rating. Pictured above are the three-inch full size Command Flight Surgeon and Flight Surgeon Wings. They were made of sterling silver and other metal alloys. The ones pictured above are made of sterling. Some of the companies that were contracted to make the first design wings were Aug C. Frank of Philadelphia, NS Meyer of New York, Gemsco, and Officers of Madison, New Jersey. These wings are considered to be very rare and hard to find especially in sterling silver.

 

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Figure 2: Early sterling second design

Chief Flight Surgeon wings

with locking pin-back.

The design is still in used today

but with some variation.

 

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Figure 3: First design flight nurse wings.

 

Within the same period of the first design Flight Surgeon wings, the USAF produced its first set of Flight Nurse wings. Two inches was the full size measurement of Flight Nurse Wings. The full size measurement of two inches transferred to the USAF first design from the design used during World War II. However, size was the only similarity. The USAF Flight Nurse wings displayed the nursing caduceus with the Florence Nightingale lamp within the shield. At first, there was no Senior Flight Nurse or Chief Flight Nurse rating, only Flight Nurse. The other two ratings were added at a later date. A dead giveaway for the first design Flight Nurse wings is the lined background within the shield and the maker of the wings. Some of the makers of the first design were no longer in business for the later design. The first design Flight Nurse wings was produced in sterling silver and metal alloys. The set pictured above is sterling and produced by Officers of Madison, New Jersey. These wings are considered rare, especially in sterling, because of their short life span and use.

 

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Figure 4: Second design obsolete two inch full

size flight nurse wings.

Top right illustration is from the

Air Officer’s Guide. The only

rating was Flight Nurse and the

only size two inches as

illustrated in the picture compared

to Flight Surgeon wings.

 

During World War II the full size Flight Nurse wings were two inches in length. After the war they remained the same length. When the USAF separated from the US Army the design of the wings changed, however, the length of the wings stayed the same at two inches and the only rating was Flight Nurse.

 

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Figure 5: From AFM 35-5 When the Senior

 and Chief flight ratings

were adopted the size of the wings

remained the same at two inches.

Note the size difference in the illustration

as compared to the

Flight Surgeon rating.

 

Following the Vietnam War, the two extra ratings of Senior Flight Nurse and Chief Flight Nurse were added. However, the size of all three rating remained the same at two inches full size. By the beginning of the 1980s, an equality of wings was adopted and the full size Flight Nurse ratings were changed to three inches and the two-inch wings became the mess dress size. However, by the end of the 1970s, sterling silver was no longer used in making wings and they were produced in 1/20 silver filled and non-silver metal alloys. This means that the Flight Nurse wings found today in sterling silver and properly marked with company name are the full size two-inch wings. I have never seen a full size three inch Flight Nurse rating. They are always found 1/20 silver filled or with no silver, that is, unless the person had a sterling set specially produced. The wings in figure 4 are all full size Flight Nurse wings at two inches in sterling silver.

 

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Figure 6: Obsolete aide insignia.

 

The aide insignia for Secretary of the Air Force and USAF Chief of Staff were adopted in 1951. However, they are not the design used today. The first design aide insignia are pictured above. They were produced in sterling silver and medal alloys. Sterling specimens are much harder to find than medal alloy. The ones pictured above are sterling and produced by NS Meyer with their 9M-shield logo. The 9M-shield logo is associated with the Korean War period. The above-pictured design with measurement was taken from the Air Officers Guide, fifth edition, March 1951 when they were first introduced. The design remained the same to 1962 at which time a new design was adopted which is still used today with some variation. The new design is in the lower part of the picture above.

 

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Figure 7: Old style parachute/jump insignia.

 

These old style parachutist badges were regulation in the USAF for approximately seven years. In 1956, the US Air Force decided their parachute badge should be distinctive to the service. Up to 1956 they were using the old style US Army Air Corps parachutist badges. The qualifications for the new badges were the same as for the old parachute badges. However, the design was extremely unpopular. They were modeled after the US Air Force medical badges and were always mistaken as such. Due to popular demand, the USAF decided to revert back to the Army Air Corps style badges in 1963. These badges pictured above were regulation from 1956 to 1963. They were made in both sterling silver and other alloys with enamel. The ones pictured above are all sterling. The sterling types are considered to be quite rare while the alloy types are much more abundant.

 

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Figure 8: Guided Missile Insignia

or Missileman Badge set.

The latter style insignia was

accepted in 1988 and is known

as the Missile Operators Badge

 

The Guided Missile Insignia or Missileman/Missile Badge, according to AFR 35-5, dates back to its institution date of 23 May 1958. The first three badges pictured above are the original design for the Guided Missile Insignia and its three rating, Basic Missileman, Senior Missileman (star) and Master Missileman (star and wreath). They were given to all personnel who possessed a guided missile AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) as an occupation or those with an occupational AFSC in support thereof. There was no distinction for those who were assigned to missile work with supportive equipment, those who maintained the missiles or for those who pushed the buttons to operate.

 

The original name was the Guided Missile Insignia and there was only one level. In 1963 the name was changed to Missileman Badge and the three levels of Basic, Senior and Master were added. In 1979 the name was once again changed to Missile Badge. By 1988 the Missile Operator Badge was introduced with the three levels of Basic, Senior and Master. After 1988, only missile operators wore the specified badge and the original design was used for people who were not missile operators.

 

The badges were made of sterling silver and metal alloy with a silver oxide or satin finish. The three badges pictured above are made of sterling and were produced by NS Meyer of New York, City. Since they are sterling and produced by NS Meyer they fate to the Vietnam War Period. The missile badge and missile operator badge design are still used today but are only made of metal alloy with a mirror finish. The Master Missile Operator Badge (far right) pictured above is the silver oxide satin finish type badge and is also obsolete because all USAF badges today are mirror finish.

 

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Figure 9: Old Training Instructor insignia.

 

The original insignia used for US Air Force Training Instructors and other Air Force instructors associated with the Air Training Command. There were two levels, Instructor and Master Instructor. The insignia could either be worn on caps or as a breast device on the uniform. See picture below.

 

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Figure 10: Wearing the

Training Instructor (TI) Badge

 

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Figure 11: Metal versus
 Bullion insignia

 

From the very beginning, aluminum bullion thread insignia on US Air Force uniforms was very popular. However, there were many early cases where officers and enlisted personnel mixed metal and embroidered insignia on their uniforms. By 1961, AFM 35-10 will state that if aluminum threat is used, all insignia should be aluminum thread. If medal insignia was used then all insignia should be medal. Mixing of aluminum thread and medal insignia was discouraged. In time, aluminum thread insignia would no longer be regulation and became obsolete.

 

Direct embroidered uniforms are quit rare. In most cases when uniforms are tailored or purchased by the officer, the insignia and ribbons have been separately produced and then sewn to the uniform. With direct embroidered uniforms, insignia and ribbons are directly embroidered into the uniform by the tailor as the uniform is being produced. Usually, such uniforms were produced overseas in Europe or Asia to be cost effective for the officer.

 

Direct embroidered uniforms, in many cases, had a short life span. Many officers found it too costly to continue to have direct embroidered uniforms produced. Once produced, the uniform could not be changed. Since the ribbons were directly embroidered into the uniform they could not be changed or upgraded if another ribbon was added unless the entire uniform was tailored with the update. The same was true for the rank or grade insignia. If the officer was promoted an entire uniform may have to be produced. Fully embroidered uniforms became rare as the officers found it more cost effective using separately embroidered ribbons and rank that could be added to the uniform after tailoring. In this manner, ribbons and rank could be changed without having an entire uniform tailored.

 

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