is indeed correct, and yes, rated Flight Surgeons wore Medical Corps
branch-of-service insignia, not
Although the Flight Surgeon (FS) specialty had been formally defined and authorized back in 1922 with the initial establishment of the School of Aviation Medicine, the first officially authorized Flight Surgeon aeronautical badge only made its initial appearance in the early part of WW2. This one was unique in that it was the only AAF aeronautical badge which was gold-plated instead of oxidized silver. This difference changed very late in 1943, though some flight docs doubtlessly continued to wear their gold-plated wings. The original design was the caduceus of the Medical Corps superimposed on the Aircraft Observer badge, and -- unlike the various Pilot rating badges -- were authorized in one basic grade only, quite unlike
the three grades of FS badges used in today's USAF (these didn't come along until the 1950s, and are of a very different design).
USAAF Flight Surgeon badge (original design)
Another distinction with the regulation concerning the wear of wings is that while quite a number of AAF aircrew could be entitled to wear more than one badge, only one such badge could be worn at a time. The only exception was (and still remains) in the case of that minority of Flight Surgeons who also held one or more other AAF aeronautical ratings, in which case the appropriate badge would be worn above the Flight Surgeon wings.
For instance, the wartime Service Pilot* rating was awarded on the basis of prior civilian
flying experience (in order to alleviate certain shortages of military-trained pilot personnel) and allowed both a higher maximum age limit (not older than 45 upon application, versus the age 27 cutoff for Aviation Cadet hopefuls) and a relaxed medical standard on initial entry (AAF Class III instead of the Class I demanded of Aviation Cadets). N.B.:
This rating was specifically awarded to male
personnel of the US Army, commissioned, warrant and flight officer, and noncommissioned personnel alike, and should not
be confused with the WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots) program. The latter, despite enjoying far greater publicity today, were outnumbered by male Service Pilots by almost 11-to-1, were recruited and trained under vastly differing standards (e.g.: Service Pilot applicants could get in with a Class III medical, the WASPs for the most part had to meet Class I standards, with a quota not to exceed 10% who were allowed in with a Class II, and none with a Class III; male Service Pilots went straight to their flying duties upon passing their initial acceptance checkride an a short 4-week AAF instrument standardization course, while WASPs were compelled to go through a full curriculum mirroring the syllabus of the Aviation Cadet Program), and did not
wear the same style of wing. Most significantly, while the male Service Pilots were AAF personnel, the WASPs were not; they were civil servants working for
the AAF but not in
it. I mention this because every time I bring up the history of the AAF Service Pilot rating, there is invariably someone in the audience who mistakenly assumes I'm talking about the WASPs -- I'm not.
The most significant difference between the AAF's Class III and Class I flying medicals lay in the visual acuity requirements: while the Class I (required only
of Aviation Cadet applicants from the time of their initial medical exam until receiving their Pilot, Navigator or Bombardier wings) inflexibly demanded a near and distant visual acuity of 20/20 or better uncorrected
, the Class III (already the standard for Flight Surgeons, rated Senior and Command Pilots, and certain non-pilot aircrew) prior to the summer of '42 permitted a distant acuity of 20/100 correctable with glasses to 20/20 or better in each eye separately, with near vision simply "correctable to 20/20". In June 1942, the Class III distant vision minimum was reduced to 20/200, correctable with glasses to at least 20/20 in one eye and 20/25 in the other eye. In all cases, those requiring glasses were required to wear them at all times while flying and were required to carry at least one spare pair of spectacles with them.
Thus, it is entirely conceivable that some Flight Surgeon somewhere in the AAF -- who had acquired the prescribed civil flying hours during his off-duty time -- would have been able to acquire the Service Pilot rating as an alternate (secondary) MOSC. In fact, I'd be very
surprised if this didn't
happen somewhere along the way. In similar fashion, a number of Flight Surgeons did in fact acquire other aeronautical ratings. Some had served as Pilots previously, having gone to medical school later and returned to service in the Flight Surgeon's role. Another -- Dr. Thomas White, 1st. Lt., MC
, who had been the flight doc for the Doolittle Raiders -- took the trouble to become a fully qualified Aerial Gunner so that he could accompany his patients over Japan and into China during that famous raid; he was authorized the Aerial Gunner badge in addition to his Flight Surgeon wings and would have been permitted to wear both at once.*N.B.:
The Service Pilot
aeronautical rating was created in February 1942, and was of a "limited-duty" nature vs. being universally assignable. While they could "re-rate" (upgrade) to the unrestricted Pilot rating after a year on the job and some additional experience requirements, they essentially carried out flying tasks the mainstream of the AAF pilot force didn't want. I'd like to include more information on the Service Pilot rating of that time (which was discontinued permanently in 1949, though last awarded in '44), however that would result in drifting too far off topic. I plan to do a write-up on this one for the Off-Topic Forum at a later date. General William H. Tunner
's autobiography Over the Hump
(1964) -- available at http://archive.org
-- is excellent reading and sheds a lot of light on this all-but-forgotten "back-door" rating; it was actually his idea!
MOSCs for this rating were 773 (Service Pilot) for enlisted personnel, and three different MOSCs for officers, depending on qualifications: 0915 (Service Pilot, single-engine), 0916 (Service Pilot, two-engine) and 0917 (Service Pilot, four-engine).