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AERONAUTICAL RATINGS
USAAF Flight Badges worn by Members of the Eighth Air Force During WWII
[researched and compiled by Harry D. Gobrecht, 303rd BGA Historian]































PILOT (Badge established on 25 January 1919)
Was typically awarded upon completion of about 40 Weeks of AAF Pre-flight and primary, basic and advanced pilot schools. (This method is the one from which the bulk of World War II Pilots were obtained.) Upon the recommendation of a Board of Officers the Pilot rating was awarded on the basis of meeting one of the following requirements:
  • Previous aeronautical ratings held or previous aeronautical instruction passed within a specified past period; certain requirements of flying time; completion of a flight test.
  • A rating of Service Pilot currently held: Certain requirements of flying time; determination by the Board of qualifications and readiness for assignment to the combat duties appropriate for a Pilot who has graduated from an AAF Advanced Flying School
  • Graduation from a course of instruction for heavier-than-air Pilots in the armed forces of friendly foreign nations or the accumulation of certain required flying time with the Armed forces of friendly foreign nations.
SENIOR PILOT (Rating established on 23 December 1937)
Required not less than 5 years service as a rated Pilot with aviation components of the military or naval services and not less than 1,500 hours logged flight time according to War Department records. Only seen on fairly senior (some Majors and higher ranks) fliers during WWII.

COMMAND PILOT (Rating established 23 March 1940)
Awarded to Pilots with various combinations of 10, 15 or 20 years service and 2,000 to 3,000 hours of logged flying time according to War Department records. Credited at 100% was time flown in heavier-than-air military aircraft as Pilot or CoPilot, or when not at the controls but acting in the capacity of a Command Pilot in unit operations of two or more aircraft. All other flying time in military heavier-than-air aircraft was credited at 50%; Lighter-than-air pilot time was credited at 25%; Flying time in non-military aircraft of 400 or more horsepower was credited at 100%. Rarely seen on any officer below the rank of Colonel during WWII.

OTHER PILOT RATINGS
Aeronautical ratings of Service Pilot, Liaison Pilot, Glider Pilot, Balloon Pilot and Senior Balloon Pilot were seldom seen worn by members of the Eighth Air Force.

NAVIGATOR (Rating established 4 September 1942 revised in early 1950s)
Awarded to graduates of the 20 week course in aerial navigation. The strange center devise on the wings is a depiction of an armilary sphere, an ancient astronomical instrument.

BOMBARDIER (Rating established 4 September 1942 - Discontinued 26 July 1949)
Awarded to graduates of the 20 week Bombardier school.

AIRCRAFT OBSERVER (Rating established 14 October 1921- Discontinued 26 July 1949)
Briefly re-named "Combat Observer" in 1940 -1942. Originally used to denote both non-pilot aircrew and those Pilots who remustered as Observers due to medical or other condition that precluded their remaining as active Pilots. By 1942, this badge carried a different distinction. It could be earned by a Pilot (any of the three classes) who also had qualifications as an aerial gunner (expert or sharpshooter) plus Navigator or Bombardier and had served in an observation / reconnaissance unit; or was a graduate of the AAF Tactical School and had six years service as a Pilot (Notwithstanding the special qualifications for this wing, it wasn't worn much since persons so entitled would generally be Senior or Command Pilots who preferred to wear these better known wings.)

TECHNICAL OBSERVER (Rating established in late 1942 - Discontinued in 1956)
Went to Army Pilots who also had special qualifications or competence to make such technical flight observations as the evaluation of air tactics, combat crew performance, function of aircraft equipment, weapons, etc. Seldom worn.

AIRCREW MEMBER AND AERIAL GUNNER
The Aircrew Member badge was originally the only badge available for Gunners, Flight Engineers, Radio Operators, Photographers and miscellaneous other aircrewmen.

  • Aircrew Member (Established 4 September 1942- Now used for all non-officer flying positions) - Upon authorization by his Commanding Officer, a regularly assigned member of an aircrew, who had demonstrated his proficiency as such, can wear the badge during such time as he was assigned to such duties-
  • Aerial Gunner (Established 29 April 1943. Discontinued 26 July 1949) - Upon authorization by his Commanding Officer, a regularly assigned aerial gunner member of an aircrew, who had demonstrated his proficiency as such, could wear the badge during such time that he was assigned to such duties. Graduates of an AAF flexible gunnery school, or of an AAF instructor's school (flexible gunnery) could wear the badge during such time as they were assigned as a regular gunner member of an aircrew, or were awaiting assignment to such duties, or were performing duties as an instructor in flexible gunnery.
Individuals authorized to wear the Aerial Gunner or Aircrew Member badges could continue to wear such badges, when no longer so assigned, if they met one of the following three requirements:
  1. 150 hours flying duty as regularly assigned aerial gunners or aircrew members
  2. Participation as regularly assigned aerial gunner or aircrew member in 10 combat missions during which time exposure to enemy fire was probable and expected.
  3. Physically incapacitated through enemy action or while discharging duties as a member of an aircrew.
FLIGHT SURGEON (Gold Plated wings established 11 February 1943. Changed to Silver on 12 September 1944)
Aviation medical examiners (The ex-civilian physicians who entered the AAF) could become Flight Surgeons after one year's military experience and at least 50 hours of flying time. A Flight Surgeon was normally assigned to each Squadron, and some who were with Bomber Units actually voluntarily flew some combat missions.

FLIGHT NURSE (Authorized on 15 December 1943)
Women in the Army Nurse Corps who were assigned to the Army Air Force could, after six months duty at a AAF hospital, volunteer to serve aboard casualty evacuation aircraft. Following an eight-week specialized training course they were awarded the Flight Nurse Wings.

ARMY AIR FORCES TECHNICIAN BADGE
AAF enlisted technicians and mechanics were authorized to wear a distinctive silver badge indicating the skills in which they were qualified. Qualification: At least 6 months service with the AAF and either graduation from an authorized course in technical training or evidence of capability in one or more of the following specialities for which the badge had been designated:

Airplane Armorer; Airplane Electrical, Hydraulic and Instrument Specialists; Airplane Mechanic; Machinist, Metal Worker and Welder; Airplane Power Plant Specialist; Airplane Propeller Specialist; ACS Radio Specialist; Bombsight Mechanic; Link Trainer Instructor; Parachute Rigger; Photographer; Photographic Laboratory Technician; Power Turret and Gunsight Specialist; Radio V-1 Mechanic, Radio V- 1 Observer; Radio Mechanic; Radio Operator; Teletype Writer Mechanic; Weather Forecaster: Observer
COMBAT CREW PATCH
Combat Crews - Blue cloth patches sewed on uniform on which aeronautical badges were worn. Authorized to prevent non-aircrew members from pinning on wings when off base to "impress the girls."

Lead Crews - An 1/8" Gold braid border around the blue patch, indicating lead crews, was authorized by the Eighth Air Force on 18 June 1944. This order was rescinded on 15 November 1944 by General Doolittle. The order that rescinded the Lead Crew designation stated: "Experience has proven that the lead crew patch has not accomplished the purpose nor attained the results intended."