Acme Depot Showcase #4

(Filed: 29 December 1999)

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8AF Shoulder Sleeve Insignia

Shoulder sleeve insignia were commonly worn on shirts, tunics, and jackets to designate the unit to which a service person belonged. In the U.S. Army Air Forces of WWII this meant wearing either the AAF wing and star or the insignia of the numerical Air Force or both (on separate sleeves). During WWII, two different designs of numerical insignia were worn by Eighth Air Force personnel.

The wearing of the original 8AF insignia began in England in 1942. This first and unofficial design consisted of a large '8' with short wings and horizontal feathering extending from the lower half. Consistent with the AAF wing and star, the 8AF insignia was a golden design over a dark blue background and included a white star with a circular red center.

By 1944 the Heraldic Office of the U.S. Army Air Forces had issued its official Eighth Air Force insignia with the modification of long upswept wings. The original short wing pattern, however, continued to be worn during the war and was likely favored by the many personnel who had become accustomed to it.

To this day the short or stubby wing 8, as it is often called, remains in favor and continues to be used in logos by the Eighth Air Force Historical Society and the Mighty Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum. Because of the brief tenure of the short wing insignia solely during WWII and because of the continued use of the long wing insignia beyond WWII, shoulder sleeve patches of the original short wing design are relatively rare and highly desirable to collectors.

The photo examples below illustrate some of the variations which exist among 8AF patches in such things as materials, size, subtle and not so subtle design choices, and whether the patch was hand made or machine made.

Often, 8AF patches are described as being English made. While there are no markings on the patches, this judgment would seem to come from the assumption that any early short wing patch would have to have been made in England since there was no official design to be mass produced in the States. Some official long wing design patches are also described as being English made and these are often clearly constructed by hand, and so again there is an implicit assumption that such patches were not mass produced in the States. Long wing patches which are fully embroidered, though, are characteristically machine made and would have been mass produced in the U.S.

Patch panel Display of several 8AF insignia patches.

Short wing patch Short wing patch of bullion on felt.

8AF short wing patch Short wing patch of heavy thread on felt.

Short wing print Short wing patch silk-screened on cotton twill.

Long wing felt Long wing patch of heavy thread on felt.

Long wing embroidered Long wing patch fully embroidered.


  • Freeman, Roger A., The Mighty Eighth Warpaint & Heraldry, Arms & Armour Press, London 1997. ISBN: 1-85409-373-8.
  • Maguire, Jon A., Silver Wings, Pinks & Greens, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., Atglen, PA 1994. ISBN: 0-88740-578-9.
  • Maguire, Jon A., More Silver Wings, Pinks & Greens, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., Atglen, PA 1996. ISBN: 0-7643-0091-1.

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Copyright © 1999 Marc D. Weinshenker. All rights reserved.