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World War II: 1939 ~ 1945
United States of America (All Branches)
Named Lots & Groupings

Selling Price: $4385 - Postage in the U.S.A. is: $25
A hyper-rare and 100% untouched WOMAN's A-2 AERO LEATHER FLIGHT JACKET that belonged to Flight Nurse Martha J. Taranta, Captain AAF (AFNC). The lot also contains twelve era taken and developed photographs, one of her where she is wearing this exact leather flight jacket (minus the patch on the right breast of her MAES squadron - flying medical bees carrying a stretcher through the clouds).

There are also facsimile copies of Martha's Honorable Discharge, Aeronautical Ratings and Flying Status, Memorandum to Commanding Officer, Army Air Forces School of Air Evacuation, and a 1988 Transmittal of and/or Entitlement to Awards request that shows martha qualified for an Air Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, American Defense Service medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with one battlestar), European Theatre Medal (with one battlestar) & WWII Victory Medal. Most importantly is her Flight Nurse Diploma from the 2nd of July in 1943 that is numbered 176.

As near as I can estimate, that would have been Class 43B - the second regularly organized course of instruction. It could have remotely been Class 43A, but then that would have dictated that at least 176 Flight Nurses graduated in just that first class and we know from latter classes such as 44E that just close to 100 Flight Nurses were in a course.

All of these papers are named to Martha J. Taranta, who spent time in the several Medical Air Evacuation Squadrons - MAES in the Far East CBI theatre and during her post-war service until 1949. It is of interest that she joined the AAF pre-Pearl Harbor by just three days, having enlisted on the 4th of December in 1941.

Martha Jane Taranta was born on November the 14th of 1916 in Longview, Texas. Records show her with another last name of Servatius. I assume that is a married name, since these Nurses were typically not married upon enlistment. Martha had the distinction to have served as a Flight Nurse in both the European Theatre of Operations ETO and the China Burma India CBI Theatre (part of the pacific Theatre of Operations - PTO).

The jacket is extremely rare. Think about it. Besides WASPS, how many females were assigned as part of a Flying Crew during WWII?

Answer: Flight Nurses and there were less of them than WASPS.

I own a considerable number of Flight Nurse groupings and items, and this jacket is also rare for many other reasons:

The silk woven nomenclature tag inside the neck shows the manufacturer as: Aero Leather Clo. Co. Inc., Beacon, N.Y. However, the tag is unusual. There is a W embedded within the AAF contract number which may indicate this as a Women's specifically sized and cut jacket. There is definitely a bit more material in the front breast area than upon a man's jacket.

The small white cloth size tag is present, but is not legible. I would estimate a size 36. But the exact measurements are: armpit seam to armpit seam at 20 inches across the front, making it a 40 inch total outside chest circumference. It is exactly 15 inches across the back shoulder seam to shoulder seam. The sleeves are 21.5 inches from the epaulet shoulder seam to the knit cuff tip edge and the rear neck seam then straight down to the knit hem is 24 inches.

The horse leather is solid with no dry rot or stiffness. It is soft and supple and can be worn. The original spring loaded Crown zipper works great and shows no separation on the lower area as many do over time and extreme use. The only negative issue is how the cuffs and waistband have a good amount of moth nips and snags, but otherwise the jacket is in excellent condition.

The value of the jacket is without a doubt due to the presence of a private manufacture and hyper-rare MAES squadron patch, which takes its motif directly from the logo insignia of the 26th AAF Base Unit AAF School of Air Evacuation at Bowman Field in Kentucky where the Flight Nurses were at that time, all graduates of. The school did NOT produce patches and I have NEVER seen one of these patches before. They were either theatre made, or not made at all and most nurses I can state as a fact, did not take the effort to make them.

On the left chest is an issue style embossed namestrip that identifies the jacket as belonging to M. J. Taranta Below that identifying namestrip is a period made/sewn CBI style Air Transportation Commsnd - ATC patch.

I believe that Martha was first in the CBI and had the jacket partially patches as it is in the photo, then when she was transferred to Italy she had the MAES patch put on it, because on the wearer's upper left sleeve is a period made and sewn in CBI style, a multi-piece leather Air Corps patch. No other patches have ever been sewn to the jacket and then removed.

On the right chest is the gem of them all, a period made and sewn on, Italian style on incised leather. Medical Air Evacuation Squadron patch of the Bowman motif. The patch is still soft and flexible and has expected age wear to it's face that gives it that way classic look. It is not dried out so it is a rweal winner. The patch motif shows two bees carrying a strecther between them through a cloud. Note that on each of the bees wings, there is a medical armband below the set of AAF star rondels.

When I looked for information on Martha, I found that this jacket was first sold off Ebay on February the 18th of 2007, and then again on December the 5th of 2011 when I purchased it. I discovered that on July the 27th of 2005, that Martha was part of an awards ceremony at Hamilton AFB where she received an Air Medal at the hands of Lieutenant General Harold L. George, the Commanding General of the Air Transport Command. Information listed one of the recipients as: Lt. Martha Taranta of 571 White Street, Highland, New York.

During WWII, more than 59,000 American Nurses served in the Army Nurse Corps "ANC", with just slightly over 900 active on 7 December 1941. When assigned to the US Army Air Forces "AAF", Nurses entered one of 11 AAF Training Centers for 4 weeks of military training and physical conditioning. By 1944 over 6,500 were in the AAF.

After 6 months in an AAF Hospital, nurses could apply for Flight Nurse training. If they met the requirements, they were sent to the "School of Air Evacuation" at Bowman Field in Kentucky for 8 weeks training that emphasized crash procedures, field survival in ocean, jungle, desert, and arctic environments, and the effects of high altitude on various types of patients. Flight Nurses were in peak physical condition and were awarded 2 inch gold wings with a large medical Caducei and letter "N" superimposed.

Between June the 1st of 1943 and October the 15th of 1944 the 26th AAF Base Unit AAF School of Air Evacuation at Bowman Field in Kentucky graduated a total of one thousand and forty-nine (1,049) Flight Nurses. Class 44D graduated on May the 24th of 1944 (Obit of "Connie" W. Oestrike 830TH MAES - on Dec 30, 2006 at John Dempsey Hospital) and the last class to graduate at Bowman was class 44F in October of 1944. Although Class 44G had already begun its training at Bowman, members of that class were each transferred to a new training facility at Randolph Field in Texas where the 27th AAF School of Aviation Medicine had assumed the mission of conducting Air Evacuation training. The members of class 44G completed and graduated as the first class from the Randolph Field location. 44G was not only the first class at Randolph to graduate, but the last regularly organized class at Bowman to have conducted training there as well.

Unfortunately, there are no additional statistics to calculate exactly how many Flight Nurses graduated from Randolph Field between October the 16th of 1944 when Class 44G resumed training at Randolph Field and the 15th of August in 1945 when all WWII hostilities officially ceased. I do have a class photo of Class 45N at Randolph that is dated as:18 SEPT 45 Class 45N. The only statistic available is poorly constructed, where Randolph Field records 638 Flight Nursed graduating between October the 16th of 1944 and sometime in October of 1950. That statistic does not help to isolate purely WWII graduates.

Another strong hint of actual numbers is from an article that appeared on Saturday, October the 6th of 2001 in the Daytona Daily News when it stated that: 'Between 1942 and the end of 1944, 1,514 Nurses and 907 enlisted men trained and 18 air medical evacuation squadrons were formed.'

Bear in mind that initially, the course of instruction at Bowman was four trivial ad-hoc weeks in duration. Then, in February of 1943 the instructions were expanded to a six week course. Later, in November of 1943 an eight weeks curriculum became the norm. There were some latter classes that occupied a nine week cycle. If the tempo of graduations at Randolph Field was as consistent as previously held instructions at Bowman, then a class of Flight Nurses graduated every eight weeks (56 days) or perhaps nine weeks (63 days) on average. The way class numbers were organized at all training facilities during WWII was by the year they began and then a letter was affixed as a suffix in strict alphabetic order. That is why 44G graduated in 1945, because they “began” during the year 1944 as the 7th class (the letter "G" being the 7th letter in the alphabet).

At Randolph field, it is known that Class 45C graduated on the 14th of April in 1945. That reflects exactly 181 days of operation from between October the 16th of 1944 and the graduation of Class 45C on the 14th of April in 1945. Even if we include a half cycle (.5) for the remainder of class 44G to have finished their training, you then have a total of three point five (3.5) classes graduating in those first 181 days of operation at Randolph Field, or 51.7 days per class. That lines up very nicely with an eight week training cycle of 56 days in duration.

If we keep the same operational tempo to figure out the remaining days that Randolph Field operated between the day after Class 45C graduated, which would be the 15th of April in 1945 until the 15th of August in 1945 when all WWII hostilities officially ceased. That is 122 days. By applying the same math, we find that two additional classes and a fractional remainder (.17) could have graduated in that time span. I therefore calculate a pretty solid estimate of six classes of Flight Nurses graduating from Randolph Field in Texas between October the 16th of 1944 and August the 15th of 1945.

Those would be Class 44G, Class 45A, Class 45B, Class 45C on the 14th of April in 1945, Class 45D and Class 45E. I also estimate that Class 45F (our .17 remainder) was in progress when the war ended, but graduated sometime after August the 15th of 1945. In addition, one source from the Flight Nurse association quotes an average class size as 30 nurses. Even if we calculate that seventh remaining Class 45F into our statistics, that would be 30 persons per class them multiplied by those estimated seven classes, resulting in 210 Flight Nurses graduating during WWII from Randolph Field in Texas.

The true answer may lie in some obscure file at Maxwell Air Force base awaiting inspection. For now, I've scoured sources for years and have consistently come up with nil evidence to support anything concrete. It is my personal opinion that some number like 210 Flight Nurses graduated from Randolph Field between October the 16th of 1944 and VJ day on the 15th of August in 1945. This is to include the transitional Class 44G who resumed training at Randolph Field. That would make approximately 1,250 WWII graduated Flight Nurses in service during WWII.

Remember, many Flight Nurses graduated, but not all went to serve in Medical Air Evacuation Squadrons (MAES). Nor did all fly in theatres of war. There was attrition, end of tours of duty, normal rotations, other assignments, foreign trained nurses that attended the courses then left for their home countries and other factors that consumed this total number of 1,250 Flight Nurses. Flight Nurses continued operating within MAES units after the war ended as casualties still needed transportation inter-continent and within the USA.

The inception of Flight Nurse operations preceded the official School of Air Evacuation, which only began a didactic course of study on June the 1st of 1943. Before then, MAES units were operating ad-hoc. The 802nd MAES was the first Air Evacuation Squadron to serve in any theater of war in North African Combat Zone. The 801st followed suit in the Pacific area and by June of 1942, the 804th MAES also arrived in New Guinea.

The School of Aviation Medicine at Bowman was therefore officially created on the 1st of June in 1943 to "standardize" the training of personnel under authority of Commanding General, First Troop Carrier Command. Some members of those first two MAES units received no training. Others passed briefly through Bowman and received what was considered a haphazard "Crash Course" consisting of basic training, squadron administration, the use of the litter and loading of air evac aircraft.

One such class is known to have been conducted between the 21st of December in 1942 and the 10th of January in 1943. All personnel, with the exception of the 801st and 802nd MAES (who were deemed trained by the 349th Air Evacuation Group) were graduated from the School of Air Evacuation. The personnel of the 80lst and 802nd MAES were not so graduated because the training of these units was meager and totally inadequate compared with the training of other squadrons after January of 1943. The early 801st and 802nd MAES were stated to have been "rush jobs" since personnel were desperately needed overseas and training was cut short. They learned more by experience while in a combat zone and were early pioneers who later returned to the school of Air Evacuation once a regular course of instruction was established.

The entire 1942 time period was purely one of experimentation with Air Evacuation. Because of the proximity of Bowman Field in Kentucky to First Troop Carrier Command Headquarters in Indianapolis, lndiana, it was decided to establish a training program there using the 38th Air Ambulance Battalion organization as the nucleus for the first unit. On September the 28th of 1942, the Squadron consisting of 138 enlisted men and 2 officers reported to Bowman Field in Kentucky and was assigned to the First Troop Carrier Command. On Oct. 1, 1942 the squadron was re-designated as the 507th Air Evacuation Squadron, still under the direction of the Troop Carrier Command.

That unit was hurriedly trained, and from it, 6 nurses and 15 enlisted men were assigned with 2 Flight Surgeons for the huge Texas Maneuvers. The 349th Air Evacuation Group, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron was activated Oct. 6, 1942. The group consisted of 9 medical officers; 2 nurses in addition to the enlisted men. On November 11th of 1942, the 620th 621st and 622nd Air Evacuation Squadrons were activated and assigned to the 349th Air Evac Group.

Then, in late November of 1942, the War Department directed the 349th to train Flight Surgeons, Flight Nurses, and enlisted men for air evacuation duty aboard cargo carriers, and authorized new tables of organization for the basic unit, the Medical Squadron Air Evacuation Transport. Although scant information exists as to exact class graduation dates during this ad-hoc training period, the first regularly organized Bowman class 43A graduated on February the 18th of 1943.

That first formal graduation of Flight Nurses of the 349th Air Evac Group was held at the base chapel at Bowman Field. The 30 members of this group had completed a mere four week program of instruction that was definitely in the experimental stage. 2nd Lt. Geraldine Dishroon was the honor graduate and received the first pair of Flight Nurses wings from General David Grant, Air Surgeon. They really weren't Flight Nurse wings as we know that insignia to be today.

What occurred was that General Grant unpinned his own miniature Flight Surgeon wings and pinned them on Geraldine. At the time, there were no official Flight Nurse wings in either the design planning stages. General Grant remarked that the insignia of the Flight Nurse would be similar to that of the Flight Surgeon, with the addition of a small "N" superimposed over the caduceus (the winged Staff with two Snakes entwined as carried by the Greek god Hermes). Having thus created this insignia without proper authority, General Grant found resistance in having it manufactured. At an undisclosed time, woman began to receive the insignia. Nobody knows exactly when the War Department allowed that new wing to be approval, then produced, then issued.

Some interesting facts:

Reba Z. Whittle was the first flight nurse to be imprisoned by the Germans and the first repatriated. She died in 1981 of cancer.

First slacks worn by Flight Nurses aboard aircraft were designed by Major Mary Leontine (I own Major Mary Leontine's Gold Flight Nurse wings and dress uniform) and Captain Ed McBride at Dayton, Ohio.

The first uniforms for Flight Nurses were designed at Wright Patterson Field with the assistance of Major William Jordan, Captain Grace Mundell, Lieutenant Geraldine Dishroon (the same honor graduate of class 43A) and a Lieutenant Westmoreland. The uniform was gray blue in color and consisted of an Eisenhower style short jacket, a blue skirt, trousers and overseas cap. The cap was bound in maroon braid. A maroon tie were worn with it the uniform.

Ethel Guffey received the first sequentially numbered diploma (all diplomas were numbered) as part of the first graduating class 43A and afterwards.

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