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AVG 1st Pursuit Squadron Leather Patch

Ed Rooney

New Member
This is all very foggy for me, but it seems to be coming back as I think about it more.

I went to the Oshkosh airshow in 1988, and in one of the big white tents that housed the booths and tables for people selling stuff, I met 3 American Volunteer Group pilots who were seated next to each other, selling their books and memorabilia. I got a picture signed by the trio, and I can say with certainty that it was Joe Rosbert and R.T. Smith, plus either Erik Shilling (more likely) OR Dick Rossi (less likely). Rosbert, Shilling and Smith really stick out in my mind. Not really being an “autograph” guy, I lost the picture within a year or so. I also bought 2 leather patches from either Rosbert or Rossi. The first one was a skull and crossbones from a Navy squadron, and the second was the 1st Pursuit patch shown below. I wore both patches on my G-1 for several years, then either lost or gave away the skull and crossbones, and stuck the 1st PS in my rapidly growing pile of patches from my own career.

The most striking thing is that this patch is different from most of the reproductions that I have seen, but it is a dead ringer for the squadron logo on the Rossi’s P-40, also shown below.

Any opinions or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

 

Stony

Well-Known Member
Very cool! I met Dick Rossi a few times when I worked with the American Fighter Aces Association.
 

B-Man2

Well-Known Member
That’s a cool story. Don’t you wish that you would have had a cell phone camera back in those days. It would have been great to have a picture with any one of those guys but all three of them would have been unreal!
 
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Ed Rooney

New Member
I was probably carrying an SLR, but only took airplane pics.

I remember briefly meeting Yeager and Boyington at Oshkosh ‘86, then was saddened to learn Boyington died before the ‘88 airshow. His wife was at the table, selling the remaining books that he had signed. Yeager could not walk around the pavilions at all. He gave some talks in the open air revival tents, which was about the only place to catch him. It was a great place and a great time to talk to that generation, and not just the aces. I would randomly chat with someone at a snack bar and find that they were a B-17 gunner or something.

My problem is that I am nowhere near an expert in these things. I’m not a memorabilia guy, so I don’t really know the hallmarks of genuine WWII patches vs old reproductions or new ones, but this one just feels ancient. If anyone has any expertise, I would love to hear from them.
 

Silver Surfer

Well-Known Member
one of my faves, that 1st pursuit patch, and everything about adam and eve. in fact, i use 1st pursuit as my eb handle. experts? here?, hell brother, we are all "experts" here, and modest about it too.
 

unclegrumpy

Well-Known Member
Painted leather squadron patches can be difficult to evaluate from pictures, especially from units that known original examples are scare. I have my doubts about this patch, because it looks like a style of reproduction that came out of Mexico in the 1980's and early 1990's. These patches were often sold aged, and looked very convincing when new....thirty plus years ago.

Maybe this patch is an original, but to drill down to that is going to take some study and research comparing it to originals with iron clad pedigrees.
 

Ed Rooney

New Member
Painted leather squadron patches can be difficult to evaluate from pictures, especially from units that known original examples are scare. I have my doubts about this patch, because it looks like a style of reproduction that came out of Mexico in the 1980's and early 1990's. These patches were often sold aged, and looked very convincing when new....thirty plus years ago.

Maybe this patch is an original, but to drill down to that is going to take some study and research comparing it to originals with iron clad pedigrees.
Ok, that is good info. I will start digging in that direction.

What was the catalyst for the faux patch industry? Was it the F-14 movie that shall remain nameless? What are some hallmarks of the Mexican patches? Did they try to achieve certain types of distress, such as color fade or creases? Was the leather usually steer hide, and either thick or thin?
 

Ed Rooney

New Member
Ok, I just googled “Mexican blood chit”, but the results weren’t what I expected.

Safe Search.....re-engaged.
 

unclegrumpy

Well-Known Member
What was the catalyst for the faux patch industry? Was it the F-14 movie that shall remain nameless? What are some hallmarks of the Mexican patches? Did they try to achieve certain types of distress, such as color fade or creases? Was the leather usually steer hide, and either thick or thin?
Original squadron patches...at least the vast majority of them...have always been rather scarce. There were reproductions long before Topgun...some made right after the war for veterans and reunions. In the 1970's and 1980's the Flying Tigers were hot, and there were many reproductions made of their unit patches.

The Mexican patches I referenced were all made the same, but covered a variety of different squadrons....including navy squadrons. Just like today, people wanted patches to go on their jackets, and these were a good choice for that.
 

Silver Surfer

Well-Known Member
start by taking a uv [black light] and in a dark room look at the patch front and back, under the light. if it glows its ng. glow means modern paint. if possible get a lead paint testing kit [not expensive for the one time use kits], and swab a little of the liquid on fleck of one of the white areas. just a little, and ya dont have to rub it in. the indicator will let ya know if there is lead in the paint. lead was used in many white paints up until the mid-later 1950s. paint companies discontinued usage soon after. got lead? if yes, then its made prior to 1960.
 

Ed Rooney

New Member
start by taking a uv [black light] and in a dark room look at the patch front and back, under the light. if it glows its ng. glow means modern paint. if possible get a lead paint testing kit [not expensive for the one time use kits], and swab a little of the liquid on fleck of one of the white areas. just a little, and ya dont have to rub it in. the indicator will let ya know if there is lead in the paint. lead was used in many white paints up until the mid-later 1950s. paint companies discontinued usage soon after. got lead? if yes, then its made prior to 1960.
Cool. I have a uv light and glasses from when raccoons had a party in my attic.

This pic is the same one they signed for me, but it was just the three signatures - Rosbert, RT Smith and probably Shilling.



I may have stashed the pic in a Time-Life “Epic of Flight” book about the AVG. I gave all of my aviation books to my sister. They might still have it. Her husband was an A-10 pilot, their son was young then, and he liked that series of books.
 

Ed Rooney

New Member
start by taking a uv [black light] and in a dark room look at the patch front and back, under the light. if it glows its ng. glow means modern paint. if possible get a lead paint testing kit [not expensive for the one time use kits], and swab a little of the liquid on fleck of one of the white areas. just a little, and ya dont have to rub it in. the indicator will let ya know if there is lead in the paint. lead was used in many white paints up until the mid-later 1950s. paint companies discontinued usage soon after. got lead? if yes, then its made prior to 1960.
I did the black light test, and this thing is like examine the Shroud of Turin. Good news - it definitely did not glow, except for some remnants of thread from the last sewing job on my G-1, and some adhesive I never noticed on the back. I wondered about the adhesive, then remembered my old Boy Scout trick of gluing the patches down before sewing them to keep them in the right spot. Sure enough, there were glue spots on my G-1. Pics attached.

 

Grant

Well-Known Member
For what it's worth, a couple years ago I had a squadron patch painted directly on an A-2 using lead enamel paint, so even if does test for lead, it doesn't make it a wartime original.
 

Ed Rooney

New Member
I just found this on Google. It is exactly like the other patch I bought with the AVG patch, then lost or gave away a few years later.

I will have to compare the needle holes with the ones on my G-1.

 
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unclegrumpy

Well-Known Member
V-17 is a difficult unit to use a benchmark, because their patches...both original and reproduction...have been made in just about every way possible. Not making a judgement, but it is not a good coincidence that both a Navy and AVG patch purchased at the same place and time were both made the same way.
 

Ed Rooney

New Member
I usually operate in the world of wristwatches, where reps/fakes are scorned, but we learn to ignore the circumstantial evidence and logical fallacies. Yes, China produces more fakes in a year than the real manufacturers have ever made, but we have to examine each watch on its own merits.

The recap, the patch was literally handed to me by an AVG pilot, and I think we established that the paint is quite old. Anything else is circumstantial.
 

unclegrumpy

Well-Known Member
The recap, the patch was literally handed to me by an AVG pilot, and I think we established that the paint is quite old. Anything else is circumstantial.
Not to be argumentative...I have no doubt that you got the patch from an AVG pilot at an Airshow thirty years ago...but was it the patch he wore in WW II or one he had in a stack under the table and was selling for $10 or $20? Back in the day, Tex Hill probably sold "his" patch hundreds of times.

One aspect of this is the value of the patch if you could attribute it to someone or at least confirm it's originality. That would be a lot of money. However, to get to that point will require more research.
 

Ed Rooney

New Member
No, I totally get what you are saying, and your knowledge is much appreciated. The monetary value of this patch doesn't really matter to me since it is not going anywhere, except maybe back on my G-1. A few hundred bucks or whatever it might be worth with rock solid provenance is nothing compared to the intrinsic value it holds for me because I got it from an AVG pilot.

As a researcher, these sorts of theories have some merit, because they can provide some direction for the research. In the case of this patch, saying that Rosbert or Rossi could have had a stack of patches under the table, or Tex Hill probably sold "his" patch hundreds of times should do nothing more than merit some investigation. Even then, we are attributing actions and intent to people that we don't know, which is a problem for me. I like to debunk things as much as anyone, if not more. Unfortunately, the theories can go wrong when they are taken as factual, or even likely. This is how a conspiracy theory takes hold, which ends up in millions of people believing that Paul McCartney is dead, the moon landing was filmed in a Hollywood basement, or that fruity pizzagate thing, all with literally zero evidence.
 
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