Military History/169th Aero Squadron


QUESTION: We have received a WWI uniform as a donation to the Denton County Museums.  The uniform belonged to a man whose military service was with the 169th Aero Squadron, Pershing's First Army, AEF, 1917-1919.  Can you please provide me with any information you have regarding the 169th? Thanks.

ANSWER: Hello Kate,

Unfortunately, the 169th Aero Squadron did not go Overseas and therefore did not see any combat/front line action in WWI.  As a result, there is very little to no information on Stateside Aero Squadrons or any WWI Squadron that did not see combat, or served on the front lines.

Here is what I can tell you about the 169th Aero Squadron.

The 169th Aero Squadron trained at Hazelhurst Field #2, which was located at Nassau County, Hempstead Plains, NY.  Hazelhurst Field was used as a training base for Military Pilots.

Here is wartime aerial view of Hazelhurst Field.

Hazelhurst Field was originally called Camp Black which operated from 1898, to 1917, and in 1917, it was renamed Hazelhurst Field in 1917, in honor of Leighton Hazelhurst the first U.S. Army NCO killed in an aviation accident.  Here is the history of Camp Black, and Leighton Hazelhurst.

Leighton Hazelhurst

Here is the information of Hazelhurst Field…Hazelhurst Field was renamed Curtis Field in 1920.

Here is what the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia of the 169th Aero Squadron look liked, there are two known variations.

Almost all of the official squadron histories were written immediately after the armistice (11/11/1918) and a majority of them were based on wartime (in theater) daily reports, and reviews.  All the squadrons who served overseas are catalogued in “Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919.”

The 169th Aero Squadron is not mentioned in Gorrell’s’ History.  However the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center has records of Hazelhurst Field, you can contact the N.Y.S.M.M. & V. R.C and ask them for what information they have on Hazelhurst Field, and if they have any documents, or paperwork on Units/Squadrons who trained there.  

They no longer do public research inquiries, but since you are a museum yourself, I am sure they will be more than willing to assist you.  

Here is their contact information.

New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center
61 Lake Avenue
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Telephone Number (main): (518) 581-5100
Fax Number: (518) 581-5111
Telephone Number (research) (518) 581-5109

You can also call, or e-mail the Research Services at the New York State Archives to see if they have any information regarding the 169th Aero Squadron.  Here is the Research Services at the New York State Archives, contact information.

Research Services At the New York State Archives
Phone: (518) 474-8955

Military units, especially squadrons (the 169th Aero Squadron was a training squadron) left here in the US were usually relegated tor training, and only the Officers of the Squadron, usually only the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, and on occasion another 2nd LT were listed.  

The unfortunate norm for training units is anyone who went through training, or was only temporarily assigned to the unit are usually never listed in any of the books.

Here is the history of the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps.,_U.S._Signal_Corps

Here is the history of the United States Army Air Service.

If the links do not allow you to click on them directly, cut and paste them into a new browser.  

I hope that I have been able to answer your question.  If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact me and I would me more than happy to answer them.  



[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: OK, thanks for the info.  Some of it I had already found, such as the arm patches.  But, the patch on our uniform is quite different.  It is on the left sleave, appears to be a black square A with a group of circles inset in the bottom half of the A...light brown with navy blue inside that with a filled white dot inside that.  The uniform has signal corps button on the top left of the collar.  We have a plaque that provides the info that the man belonged to the 169th but it looks like we may have two different things going on here.  Any information you could provide in addition would be very helpful.

Hello Kate,

The patch you are talking about is the 1st Army (A.E.F.) Aero Patch.

It should look something similar to this patch.

Can you send me photos of the uniform, as well as the mans name?  I will try to research it from that aspect, and find out where he was if at all possible.



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John Vargas


I can answer general as well as specific questions about U.S. Army – Naval Aviation from 1913 to 1946 and WWII U.S. Airborne, to include key personalities, units, commands – doctrines. My specialty is U.S. Aviation Badges (all Branches of the Service, from WWI to the Present), U.S. Airborne Badges and Insignia (from WWII to the Present) as well as Issued Flight Gear (flight uniforms, helmets, sunglasses, etc.). I also specialize in Airborne, as well as Infantry Badges and Insignia (from WWI to the Present), both authorized as well as unauthorized of the period. I have all the actual original badges, insignia and most of the flight gear that are specific to this period of history as they are part of my personal collection. I also have access to a vast personal library of publications – text, which includes original orders, manuals, books, die card, die envelopes, guides and many other publications that are period, as well as publications – text from others...such as museums.


I have over 20 years’ experience in collecting and cataloging WWI to WWI U.S. Army Aviation – U.S. Naval Aviation, WWI to WWII U.S. Issue Aviation Flight Gear, U.S. Airborne Badges, Insignia and Airborne Equipment. I was the former assistant curator at the Gen. Wm. C. Lee Airborne Museum in NC. I have written histories of Wing Badges – Aviation Insignia for several manufacturing companies to include The Robbins Company, Bailey Banks & Biddle, and I am working on the histories for several other companies at the moment such as Bausch & Lomb Tiffany, Herff Jones as well as several others. I am a consultant on regular basis to many museums, including the U.S.A.F., U.S. Army, Private and Public Museums, the Institute of Heraldry, as well as the Department of National Defence (Canada), for the Canadian Armed Forces. I am regularly called upon to authenticate U.S. Aviation Badges, Insignia and Flight Gear (all Branches of the Service) for Fine Auctions Houses such as Bonham’s, as well as sunglass manufactures such as Including Bausch & Lomb (vintage verification) and many others.

Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA-FL) Historian – I am not a Vietnam Veteran nor a Vietnam Era Helicopter Pilot, I was not old enough to serve in Vietnam, unless the U.S. needed a one-year-old and then I would have Proudly Served.

I am perusing an advanced degree in history (Ph.D.), with a concentration in WWI and WWII U.S. Aviation. I am a U.S. Army Paratrooper and I am a Qualified and Rated Aviator.

Awards and Honors
Kentucky Colonel, National Honor Society, President’s List, Campbell University, Distinguished Honor Graduate, Various “Who's Who”, from 1988 to Present, Numerous Special Recognition Awards both Military and Civilian.

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