login   |    register
Early Aviation
Discuss World War I and the early years of aviation thru 1934.
Hosted by Kevin Brant
AEF unit markings.
JackFlash
Visit this Community
Colorado, United States
Member Since: January 25, 2004
entire network: 11,637 Posts
KitMaker Network: 290 Posts
Posted: Friday, August 21, 2009 - 10:51 AM UTC
Greetings all,


I have had some inquiry about a document I wrote a couple of years back on the unit markings of the American Expeditionary Forces in 1918 - 1919. Remember that there are several instances of bad info out there and this is only a guideline. I will discuss problem areas as we progress.

The original article appeared in Cross & Cockade Vol.5 #2 Pp.145 -167. Written by the late Thomas G. Miller the first redrawn emblems of the AEF that we know today were presented there. The artists were S.H. Bradd and W.R. Titus in 1962.

"The first official document specifying the distinctive markings for the Air Service AEF squadrons was apparently a memorandum from the office of the Chief of the Air Service dated May 6, 1918. This read:

For long and distinguished services, the following authorizations to display distinctive insignia are cited:
1st Squadron (Observation): A miniature American Flag. For distinguished and arduous services in Mexico.
103rd Squadron (Pursuit) An American Indian head for distinguished and arduous services with the IVth and VIth French Armies in France.

This memorandum was the first US recognition of the practice which had grown in all of the combatant air forces of marking the aircraft of each squadron or equivalent unit so that they could be recognized in the air by other aircraft of the unit. In the air forces of the Latin countries, France, Belgium and Italy this had taken the form of colorful and artistic heraldic devices, cartoon figures painted on the fuselages of the aircraft. Royal Air Force squadrons were distinguished by simplistic by simple geometric shapes, stripes, squares, circles, etc. Usually in white on the olive drab (sic) fuselages of their aircraft. German units usually adopted more flamboyant schemes, brightly colored noses or fuselages, or two color stripes on the horizontal tail surfaces. The early American squadrons on the front, operating as they did with the French air service adopted their ideas of marking aircraft; indeed the Indian head "authorized" by the Chief of Air Service for the 103rd merely formalized the fact that this was the insignia of Spa. 124, the old Escadrille Lafayette transferred to the to the new unit along with its planes and pilots.

Shortly after this memorandum, a second, longer one was issued by the Chief of the Air Service, on June 28, 1918 This ordered;..."

1. All planes in a squadron shall be numbered serially commencing with 1, these numbers to be painted in yellow or red paint and large enough to be distinguished from a distance. The shall be painted on both sides of the fuselage, near the stabilizer, on the underside of the right lower wing and on the right top side of the upper wing.

2. Each squadron shall have an official insignia to be painted on the middle side of the fuselage. The squadrons will design their own insignia during the period of organizational training. The design must be submitted to the Chief of the Air Service of the army to which attached or assigned, or if not so attached or assigned to the CAS, AEF for approval. The design should be simple enough to be recognizable from distance. In addition to this insignia, each squadron shall carry on the upper side of the top left wing and on the under side of the bottom left wing a stripe or series of stripes of what ever color desired, in order that the pilots above and below may recognized planes of their own squadrons. These stripes must not be allowed to cloud the cocard (sic.) The individual insignia must not cover a space more than 6 inches by 6 inches and must not be placed (further) back of the cockpit.

3. No squadrons will place a distinctive insignia on its planes without a written authorization from the authority named in para.2. No applications for this authorization will be made until the following conditions have been met.

(a) OBSERVATION SQUADRONS: After one month of service at the front or immediately upon receiving citation in orders from higher authority for distinguished services.

(b) BOMBING SQUADRONS: After one month of service at the front or immediately upon receiving citation in orders from higher authority for distinguished services.

(c) PURSUIT SQUADRONS: After being officially accredited with three enemy planes brought down in aerial combat; or immediately upon receiving citation in orders from higher authority for distinguished services.

4. The insignia of service squadrons should be. If it is not already done, registered in the office of the CAS, AEF.

5. Distinguishing marks for the flight commanders and deputy commander:

(a) The plane of the flight commander shall have streamers attached to the tips of the lower wings and a streamer attached to the rudder.

(b) The machine of a deputy commander shall have a streamer from the rudder only. The streamers are to be made of a closely woven material that will not fray easily.

( c) The plane of each squadron commanding officer shall carry two bands of red, white and blue stripes running diagonally from the rear of the cockpit to the rear of the fuselage at the foot of the rudder post.

(d) Group and higher organization COs may mark their planes at their own discretion.

Americans and aviators being what they are, this order was partially accepted, modified or totally ignored depending upon the whims of the individual squadrons. Having seen many photographs of the AEF aircraft since I started collecting WWI material, but never having seen any compilation of information on their markings, I set out to put one together myself (author.) The Gorrell History of the Air Service, AEF includes water colour paintings of the insignia of each squadrons. These were copied painstakingly and painted by Sid Bradd in 1962. Where they differed in colour or detail from those actually painted on the aircraft, they were corrected. We planned to publish them in a special AEF issue of the (Cross & Cockade USA) journal in the spring of 1962, but could not meet the photographers quoted price. Now new developments in color photography, plus a complete remounting finally permit their inclusion in this issue (Vol. 5 #2, Pp. 145 -167, summer 1964.) I believe that they never before have been published.

However; information on the other distinctive markings of the AEF squadrons was not easy to come by. With the kind assistance of J. J. Smith, I was able to get the names and addresses of a number of surviving pilots, observers and ground personnel from each of the 45 operational squadrons in the AEF. Over 200 questionnaires were sent out these gentlemen, and around 40% of them responded in varying detail. Almost 50 years is a long time to remember such minutiae. Their replies and reference to numerous photographs, many contributed by the correspondents themselves, have enabled us to prepare the drawings presented on eight pages in this article. Although as accurate as our information permitted. We expect that we may have incomplete or erroneous data in some cases. Where guesses were made on colors, that fact is so stated.

Descriptions of Unit Insignias 1918 - that evolved.1919.
1st Aero Sqdn For the Salmsons flown after the Spad XI types were turned in were Wing stripes of white-red-white. Numerals were white with out any borders. Unit insignia was the American flag.
8th Aero Sqdn Wing stripes were green-yellow-green. Numerals are believed to have been black with no borders. Unit insignia was a black silhouette of an eagle carrying the liberty bell. They flew DH-4 types.
9th Aero Sqdn Breguets were painted a very dark grey almost black (as a night observation unit.) No numerals or stripes during the war. After the war the 3rd flight were marked with a red-white checker pattern on the vertical stabilizer. The 2nd flight had a hakenkreuz / swastika in the same location.
11th Aero Sqdn No stripes. White numerals without any border. Unit insignia the cartoon character Mr. Jiggs carrying a bomb under his arm. They flew DH-4 types.
12th Aero Sqdn It is not certain that this unit displayed any markings during the war. After the Armistice, their Salmsons are known to have red-white-red wing stripes. Red numerals with a white border. The unit insignia was a grey eagle with a bomb in its talons flying in an orange sky over a grey sea.
13th Aero Sqdn No wing stripes. Numerals were in red with a white border. (Though one example has these colours reversed.) The CO's aircraft had blue and white commanders diagonal stripes on the fuselage and blue and white stripes on the cowling ring. The unit insignia was a running grim reaper with a cycle. It was nicknamed "Oscar." This unit flew Spad XIII types.
17th Aero Sqdn With the BEF (their British issued Sopwith "Camel" F.1 types) displayed a white dumbbell as a unit marking and white letters for aircraft identification. Sister squadron to the 148th Aero.
20th Aero Sqdn No wing stripes. Black numerals without borders. DH-4 Radiator shutters were alternately painted red-white. The unit insignia was "The Mad Bomber" stepping out of a red disk.
22nd Aero Sqdn Wing stripes were white-red-white. Numerals were red with white borders. Flights were distinguished by red, white or blue cowling rings. The unit insignia was a large white five pointed star with a red and yellow comet's tail surrounded by twenty one smaller stars on a blue disk. This unit flew Spad VII and XIII types.
24th Aero Sqdn Wings stripes were black-grey-black. Numerals were black with white border. One flight marked with alternating horizontal red -black stripes on the nose cowling. Unit insignia was an eagle swooping down talons out stretched to catch a German dachshund.
25th Aero Sqdn Wing stripes, fins, radiator shells and numerals were red, white or blue for the flight designations. This was for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd flight respectively. The unit insignia was a cartoon character executioner on a white oval disk. Only AEF unit to fly SE 5a types.
27th Aero Sqdn Black and white checkered wing stripe. Numerals black with white border. Unit insignia was a black and grey eagle swooping down talons out stretched from a red sun. Commander's aircraft had black and white checkered cowling ring. This unit flew Nieuport 28 and Spad XIII types.


28th Aero Sqdn Wings stripes were red-green-red-green-red. Wing numerals were blue. Fuselage numerals were blue on a white field. The unit insignia was a screaming Indian head with red, white and blue feather. This unit flew Spad XIII types.
41st Aero Sqdn Never saw action Post war markings were white-red-white wing stripes. Numerals were red or blue with white border (or maybe just white.) The unit flew Sopwith "Camel" F.1 types and as such chose the profile of the one illustrated on the popular brand of cigarettes. The Roman numeral "V" of the insignia was common to all thee squadrons of the Fifth Pursuit Group. Cowlings were red, white or blue for the respective flights.
49th Aero Sqdn No wing stripe. Numerals in black with white border. Red diamonds on a white nose. Unit insignia was a wolf's head in a red disk. This unit flew Spad XIII types.
50th Aero Sqdn No wing stripe. Numerals are thought to be black (or red) The unit insignia is the "Lil Dutch girl" from a household cleanser. The stick was for beating her misbehaving German cousins. This unit flew American Liberty DH 4 types manufactured in Dayton Ohio.
JackFlash
Visit this Community
Colorado, United States
Member Since: January 25, 2004
entire network: 11,637 Posts
KitMaker Network: 290 Posts
Posted: Friday, August 21, 2009 - 10:52 AM UTC
Descriptions of Unit Insignias 1918 - that evolved.1919. Continued.
". . .85th Aero Sqdn No information. Unit insignia was an angelic (with undersized wings) "Doughboy" sitting on top of the world globe.
88th Aero Sqdn No wing stripe. During much of the war did not carry fuselage or wing numbers. On the fuselage stripes were carried. On the CO's it had narrow and wide alternating red-white-red-white red stripes. On the Flight Cmdr's they had Narrow and wide alternating red-white-red stripes. The unit insignia was a dark blue silhouette of a bronco-busting cowboy on an orange disk. This unit flew Salmson types
90th Aero Sqdn No wing stripe. Numerals were yellow with a black border. The unit insignia was a pair of red dice with the combined numbers 7-7-2 on the exposed faces. This unit flew Salmson types.
91st Aero Sqdn Wing stripes were equal width, red-white-red-white-red. Either chord-wise or diagonally angled. Flights were distinguished by "dull-orange" , white, or alternating black and white horizontal stripes. But which colour designated which flight is not known. The unit insignia was a mounted medieval knight jousting down a running devil. This unit flew Salmson type aircraft and the commander had a Spad XIII as his personal mount with these markings.
93rd Aero Sqdn Wings stripes were alternating narrow and wide, red-green-red-green-red. Numerals were white with red borders. Cowling rings were red, white and blue to distinguish flights. Unit insignia was a screaming Indian head with two feathers. This unit flew Spad XIII types.
94th Aero Sqdn On Spad XIII types the wing stripe was red, white and blue or red and white divided length wise. Numerals were either white or yellow with a red border. Also in some cases a white five pointed star on blue background for wheel covers. Cowling rings red, white and blue to distinguish flights. On the Nieuport 28 types no wing stripe. Numerals varied mostly white with red border just plain red or black. Location of the wing numerals varied, either on right or left panels. Many different styles of numerals. The unit insignia was "Uncle Sam's" tri-colour top hat being thrown into a red or yellow ring.
95th Aero Sqdn On the Spad XIII types there were at least two patterns of wing stripes. Leading to the assumption that there was a different pattern for each flight. One was red-white-red. The other was red-white-red-white-red. Numerals were white with either red or black border. On Nieuport 28 types there were no wing stripes. Numerals were plain black. There were three distinct cowling decoration patterns. These appear to be red and white diamonds, red and white striped and blue and white spiraled. The unit insignia was a "kicking mule" on a light blue oval.
96th Aero Sqdn Wing stripes were red-white-red. Numerals were red with a white border. The unit insignia was a red devil thumbing his nose with one hand holding a bomb in the other on a red triangle background.
99th Aero Sqdn No wing stripe. Numerals were plain black. Unit insignia was a red American buffalo with dark blue or black details.
100th Aero Sqdn No information available This unit never flew any combat missions in the AEF. The unit insignia was a red devil riding a diving black bomb.
103rd Aero Sqdn Wing stripes were green-red-green-red. Numerals were plain yellow. The unit insignia was the screaming Souix Chief, Indian head from the unit's previous service with the French air service as N.124 also called the Lafayette Escadrille. The unit flew Spad VII and XIII types.
104th Aero Sqdn No information is available. Unit insignia was a yellow Egyptian flying Sphinx on a dark blue oval.
135th Aero Sqdn No stripe or numerals used during the war. The unit insignia was "Miss Liberty" at sunset. The unit flew DH-4 types.
138th Aero Sqdn Wing stripes were white-red-white. Numerals were plain black. It never flew any combat missions. The unit insignia was a charging yellow ram. The Roman numeral "V" of the insignia was common to all thee squadrons of the Fifth Pursuit Group. See Cross & Cockade Intl. 25 #4 1994 "Charge of the Yellow Ram -138 th Aero Sqdn by S. T. Lawson.
139th Aero Sqdn No wing stripes. Numerals plain dark blue. Unit insignia was the "Flying Mercury" and flew Spad XIII types.
141st Aero Sqdn Wing stripes were alternating thin-wide-thin, black orange and black This was also used on a band around the fuselage near the tail unit. The unit insignia was a "Princeton Tiger" playing with an abandoned German Picklehaub and Iron Cross medal on a white oval.
147th Aero Sqdn Spad XIII carried no wing stripes. Numerals were black or red with white border or white with black or red border. Nieuport 28 types carried no wing stripes. Numerals were black with a white border. Cowlings were decorated to the pilot's individual tastes. Flight designation A, B or C was carried on the top left wing panel. The unit insignia was commonly termed a "rat terrier" but it was more correctly a Scott Terrier and was modeled after the Commander's pet. Who by all accounts was deadly to the rodents infesting the unit huts and mess.
148th Aero Sqdn No wing stripes. With the BEF (their British issued Sopwith "Camel" F.1 types) displayed a white triangle as a unit marking and white letters for aircraft identification. Sister squadron to the 17th Aero squadron.
155th Aero Sqdn No information available. Unit insignia was bust profile of Greek Hero and the flew DH-4 types.
163rd Aero Sqdn No information available. Unit insignia was a black cat riding a diving bomb and they flew DH-4 types.
166th Aero Sqdn No wing stripes. Numerals on fuselage were black on a white field. On the wing, numerals were black. Any border colour is unknown. The unit insignia was "Miss Liberty" holding a bomb and reaching around a globe threatening the black country of Germany. They flew DH-4 types.
168th Aero Sqdn No wing stripes. Numerals were plain white. The unit insignia was a profile of a white, winged skull on a black disk. The unit flew DH-4 types.
185th Aero Sqdn Flying Sopwith Camel F.1 types they carried no wing stripes. Numerals were plain black. Unit insignia was a black bat entirely on a yellow oval. In some cases the oval was divided horizontally with yellow above and gray below. The second version employed after the Armistice, was on the Spad XIII types and one Camel. It had the redrawn bat's wings slightly overhanging the yellow oval background. There is one reference to the unit's captured Fokker D.VII but markings are unknown. Cowlings were either gray, PC 10 or black.
186th Aero Sqdn No stripes known. Numerals red with a white border. Unit insignia was a winged red devil with pitchfork, looking through a telescope. They flew Salmson types.
213th Aero Sqdn Wing stripes were alternating narrow and wide, red-green-red-green-red. Numerals were black with white border. Although a Third Pursuit Group order specified green with red border. See. The 28th, 93rd and103rd Aero Sqdns for reference. The 213th flew Spad XIII as well.
258th Aero Sqdn No wing stripe. Numerals in plain white. Individual markings on forward nose areas. The unit insignia was a prone male lion on a light blue oval.
278th Aero Sqdn No wing stripe. Numerals yellow with black border. Unit insignia was a owl in-flight holding a telescope in its talons on a yellow disk. They flew DH-4 types.
354th Aero Sqdn No wing stripe. Numerals in plain white. Unit insignia was a witch on a winged broomstick and a black cat observer with an orange disk background. They flew DH-4 types.
638th Aero Sqdn Wing strips equal width white-red-white. Numerals plain black. The unit insignia was a scruffy black cat standing in a Roman numeral "V". The Roman numeral "V" of the insignia was common to all thee squadrons of the Fifth Pursuit Group. The unit flew Spad XIII types."
JackFlash
Visit this Community
Colorado, United States
Member Since: January 25, 2004
entire network: 11,637 Posts
KitMaker Network: 290 Posts
Posted: Friday, August 21, 2009 - 11:40 AM UTC
These 1/72 Krasel Industries Microscale decals came out in the mid 1960's after the research was piublished in Cross & Cockade USA in 1962.



MikeTaylor
Visit this Community
United States
Member Since: April 29, 2010
entire network: 2 Posts
KitMaker Network: 0 Posts
Posted: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 09:54 PM UTC
Thank you SO much for sharing this information. I'm just getting back into semi-serious armor modeling after a number of years hiatus, so I'm really interested in hearing of everybody's experiences, recommendations, and techniques.


Thanks
_____________________
Military gifts specialists offer a select range of custom designed Airforce Rings for all branches of the armed services.
gajouette
Visit this Community
Texas, United States
Member Since: February 01, 2007
entire network: 365 Posts
KitMaker Network: 0 Posts
Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 03:11 AM UTC
Stephen,
Thanks for the very interesting article on AEF Unit Markings.
I remember those old Microscale AEF sheets well.Always the best available at the time for those of us wanting different markings for our projects rather than the kit decals.Maybe someday they'll be reissued in all the current popular scales.

I hope that you'll post more of your excellent articles on the AEF in the near future.Something I think too little is written about.Again thanks for all you do for your fellow modelers.
Highest Regards,
Gregory Jouette