The awarding of a wings emblem to newly trained pilots dates back to the World War I era. Pilot Billy Mitchell tried numerous times to be sent overseas to join the fight. He worked on some sketches for a new aviator insignia
that sought to break away from the Army’s badge heritage. In August 1917, his design was incorporated into an embroidered patch — pilot wings were born. Mitchell finally managed to get assigned to a unit in Europe. Unfortunately, he
arrived in theater on Nov. 11, 1918— the same day as the signing of the armistice agreement that signaled the end of the war. He oversaw the demobilization of aviation units with the help of his new executive officer, Captain Carl A. Spaatz.
In World War II, the shoulder sleeve insignia worn by all personnel of the Army Air Forces (AAF) wherever stationed was approved on 23 February 1942. The patch was designed by Mr. James T. Rawls, an artist and a member of General Arnold’s staff. He made many designs, most incorporating pilot wings, but Arnold rejected them all. Rawls, dejected by his lack of success, was shown a picture of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill giving his well-known “V for Victory” sign. Rawls made a quick sketch bending the wings up, and Arnold said, “That’s just what I wanted.” Arnold, incidentally, is said to have designed the first Air Force pilot wings in 1917 when he was a major.
In March 1943, shoulder sleeve insignia were authorized for each overseas air force, and the winged star was limited to those AAF personnel not in overseas commands.
On June 25, 1943, personnel in all air forces, including those in the United States, were authorized distinctive insignia, and only Headquarters AAF and a few other independent commands continued to wear the winged star. It is sometimes known as the Hap Arnold emblem, named for General Henry H. Arnold who commanded the AAF in World War II.
The ultramarine disk represents the medium in which the Air Forces operated, and the white star with red disk was the identifying symbol of U.S. Army and Navy airplanes since 1921. (The red disk was removed from aircraft markings in 1942 to prevent confusion with Japanese insignia.) The golden wings symbolize victorious operation.
Although the patch is no longer worn on Air Force uniforms, the design appears on U.S. Air Force uniform buttons.
Founded in 1890, The Chicago Chicago Embroidery Company made millions of insignia for the military during World War II. Today, we continue to do custom embroidery work for the government, veterans groups, associations, youth sports and more. Check out our website, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 312/644-4232.