Important: Be aware that cancellation requests for bullion shoulder straps must be made within 24 hours of placing an order because of the substantial time investment required for the custom hand embroidery process.

Many scholars point to the creation of the Union Army Balloon Corps as the seminal point in the eventual establishment of the United States Army Aviation branch. The concept of the Balloon Corps was simple: Send observers aloft who could then relay intelligence reports to commanders on the ground regarding enemy troop compositions and movements, draw maps to familiarize commanders with the terrain, and help direct artillery fire.

In unvarnished hindsight, however, the short-lived Corps (1861-1863) rarely if ever lived up to the claims of its proponents, and in point of fact never performed a mission that was not already capable of being handled by other units such as Cavalry or Scouts.

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A timeline found on the Army Aviation Web site begins with the date of August 2, 1909, the day that the Army took possession of the Wright Brothers-built “Army Aeroplane 1.” Just under three months later, two Lieutenants—Frederic E. Humphreys and Frank P. Lahm—each flew a solo flight that made them the Army’s first pilots. With the onset of World War II, the Army’s “Air Force”—officially designated Aviation Section, Signal Corps when the U.S. entered the fray—grew almost exponentially. By the end of the war, what was now called the Air Service, United States Army had over 11,000 aircraft—but no hard-and-fast ideas of how best to incorporate them into Army doctrine, tactics, and strategy.

By 1941, the Air Service had been transformed into the United States Army Air Forces and was on equal footing with the Army Ground Forces—and in some instances was quite jealous of its airspace. When the concept of introducing light aircraft organic to Field Artillery battalions to serve as observers and spotters was first raised, the USAAF was at first opposed to the idea because they feared it would lead to Ground Forces demanding more and larger aircraft. But following successful tests of the concept in the spring of 1942 using single-engine Piper monoplanes, the War Department officially established organic aviation in the Field Artillery.

When the USAAF was split off into an entirely separate branch of the United States Armed Services five years later, the concepts of organic aviation units would be the seeds that would germinate in 1983 as today’s Army Aviation branch.

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