Army Air Forces World War II Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
Published February 04, 2011
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.
On 2 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 25 June 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 insignia was described in regulations as follows: On an ultramarine disk (2-5/8" dia.) is imposed in the lower segment a White Star (1-1/8" point to point) with a red disk superimposed and covering the the entire center of the Star. Surmounting the Star are two stylized wings extending upward and outward at a 45 degree-angle.
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.