All Aboard for Mars!

I am an avid collector of memorabilia connected with the planet Mars and the following pages of correspondence are probably the strangest Mars-related items in my possession. The following handwritten letter typed lyrics and music manuscript was sent sixty years ago to Professor Charles E. Waring in 1958 by a Mrs. Beatrice O’Malley of Dublin Ireland while he was head of the chemistry department at the University of Connecticut.

Mrs. O’Malley seems to have been enamored with the budding U.S. space program and sent her song and accompanying music to Professor Waring after reading about what must have been a hypothetical mission to Mars. The song originally titled The Satellite Song and then updated to All Aboard for Mars by Mrs. O’Malley when she read about the proposed trip to Mars. Mrs. O’Malley states that the lyrics were her original work and noted on the back of the sheet music that the tune was the work of a Mrs. Madge Carroll. Mrs. O’Malley dedicated the song to the U.S. Army.

Mars Song Letter

Above: Beatrice O’Malley’s 1958 handwritten letter to Professor Charles Waring of the University of Connecticut. She appears to have originally written the enclosed song and music to commemorate the successful launch of America’s first satellite Explorer I in January 1958. Mrs. O’Malley apparently updated her song and music after reading an erroneous news article about an impending U.S. manned mission to Mars. Why she chose Professor Waring as the recipient of her musical endeavor is unknown. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

Mars Song Lyrics

Above: Beatrice O’Malley’s annotated typed lyrics for the Satellite Song, retitled by her as All Aboard for Mars. She dedicated the lyrics to the U.S. Army which oversaw the Explorer I program. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia

Mars Song Music

Above: Beatrice’s music manuscript for All Aboard for Mars. I have made no attempt to have the music played. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

Professor Waring wrote back a kind letter to Mrs. O’Malley and seemed to be rather impressed with the music (I have never asked anyone to play it so am unable to offer my opinion on the matter) and suggests that she copyright her work.  He also mentions his time in Ireland during World War II and his affection for the country and the Irish people.

Mars Song Response

Above: Charles Waring’s file copy of his thoughtful response to Beatrice O’Malley’s letter of 12 June 1958. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

The following biography of Charles Waring by John Tanaka, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, at the University of Connecticut where Waring’s papers are held:

Charles E. Waring was born in Philadelphia, PA, in 1909 and attended Muskingum College for his undergraduate work (B.Sc., 1931). He then went to Ohio State University where he earned the Ph.D. in 1936. While at Ohio State, he met Geraldine Howald. On December 19th, 1936, Waring with a bright new Ph.D. also acquired a wife, Geraldine. In 1936, Waring was hired as an instructor of chemistry at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. In 1939, he was one of five to be awarded the Lalor Foundation award for proficiency in chemical research. He chose to carry on his research at Oxford University, England, in collaboration with the internationally famous authority on chemical kinetics, Dr. C. N. Hinshelwood.

In the period 1936 to 1946, he rose from instructor to assistant professor at Brooklyn Poly. It was during this period that he initiated his research in the fields of kinetics and mechanism of gas and liquid phase reactions and free radical reactions; kinetics of fast reactions at ultra-high pressures; kinetics and thermodynamics of solid and liquid propellant systems; and combustion mechanisms of high energy fuels.

In 1946, Waring joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut as Head of the Chemistry Department. There were eight on the teaching staff in the department at the time. When he relinquished his administrative duties in 1966 to return to full-time teaching, the department had grown to 22 members. Waring was able to carry on a full research program in addition to his administrative duties. During his tenure at the University, he served as an adviser for 24 Ph.D. students and nine M.S. students. It was under Waring’s leadership that the department was one of the leaders in the University to institute the Ph.D. program.

In addition to the academic research carried on in his research laboratories, Waring was very much involved in the application end of the science. From 1942 to 1946, he was a member of London Mission, OSRD (Office of Strategic Reseach Development). From 1946-1966, he was a Technical Aide, Division 16, NDRC. He spent the summers of 1951 to 1953 in Europe and England on a scientific and technical assignment for the U.S. Government. In 1961, while on leave from the University, he served as technical director and head of the Research Department, Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake. For his wartime service, he was awarded the Presidential Citation for Merit (WWII) for contributions in the field of physics, optics, and technical intelligence.

Charles Waring died on February 16, 1981.

Above: Not all past visions of Mars were kindly. In this apocalyptic telling of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds titled The Great Martian War the Martians launch their invasion of Earth while we humans are in the midsts of World War One. Source: www.history.ca

Calling All Earthlings…

This remarkable piece of sheet music comes from back in the day when we all knew that life existed on Mars and there was no need for multi-billion dollar rover projects to prove the point. Published in 1901 by the E. T. Paull Music Company of New York, A Signal From Mars colorfully illustrates that which was hoped to be.

A Signal From Mars

Above: E.T. Paull’s (the “E.T.” portion of his name was purely coincidental) fantastical cover art for the 1901 sheet music edition of A Signal From Mars. Approximately 10 1/2 inches by 14 inches (27cm x 35cm). c. 1901. Source: The collection of Edward T. Garcia.

The turn of the 20th Century saw a huge upsurge in the public interest in the Red Planet. Much of this fascination stemmed from H. G. Wells’ 1898 publication of War of the Worlds. While it would still be some 70 years before humans would actually take that “giant leap” to another celestial body, the incredible strides in technology that had occurred during the latter part of the 1800s gave the public the sense that space travel was a real possibility and not simply the dream of certain writers of popular fiction. It was in their minds only a matter of time.

The idea that Mars was in the possession of a mighty network of canals had been postulated by Giovanni Schiaparelli as early as 1877 and about 20 years later Percival Lowell proposed that these canali were, in fact, the product of an advanced civilization. Lowell presented his theory in a series of books: Mars (1895), Mars and Its Canals (1906), and Mars As the Abode of Life (1908). This colorful and melodramatic sheet music edition came in the middle of this Martian craze.

The E. T. Paull Music Company was noted for stunning chromolithographic artwork that graced the covers of the sheet music that they published. There were two editions of A Signal from Mars. In the first, the Martian mage is shown looking at Earth through a backward telescope as in this example (hardly a convincing sign of an advanced civilization) a mistake that was corrected in the second edition of this march and two-step by Raymond Taylor.

Life on Mars

Above: As is almost in answer to the signal from Mars comes this cover illustration from the March 30, 1911 issue of LIFE magazine. As envisioned by American illustrator/futurist Harry Grant Dart, ships from Earth illuminate the red planet in turn with a humorous play on words. 9 inches by 11 inches (23cm x 28cm). Source: The collection of Edward T, Garcia.

While popular scientific consensus now believes there are no Martians to be found certain wiser people still hold a torch for our long hoped for celestial neighbors. After all, if the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs, C.S. Lewis, Robert H. Heinlein and Ray Bradbury kept an open mind on the subject, why not the rest of us?

From Caesar’s Last Battle

This small 2.6 once (73.7 g) football-shaped lead object was picked up in southern Spain at the probable site of the Battle of Munda which was fought on 17 March, 45 BC. It is, in fact, a Roman sling bullet used in that the final battle of Julius Caesar’s Spanish War which fought between Caesar and the forces of the sons of his late rival Pompey the Great.

Sling Bullet

Above: Two views of the same Roman sling bullet found at the suspected site of the Battle of Munda. The 45 BC battle was Julius Caesar’s last victory prior to his assassination less than a year later on the Ides of March, 44 BC. The heavy lead bullet measures about 2 inches (5cm) from end to end. c. 45 BC. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

Pompey was already dead by this time having been murdered in Egypt after fleeing his defeat by Caesar at Pharsalus in 48 BC. The Pompeian forces of about 70,000 at Munda were commanded by Pompey two sons Sextus and Gnaeus and one of Caesar’s former officers Titus Labienus. Caesar was in personal command of his 40,000 men aided his young nephew Gaius Octavius (the future emperor Augustus) and Marcus Agrippa. Caesar won a lopsided victory losing about 7000 men to his adversaries 30,000. In spite of the vast differences in casualties, the battle was actually a close fought thing, with Caesar having to join the ranks of his legionnaires at a critical moment in the fighting. Most of the Pompeian casualties were the result of the slaughter following the rout on the field.  Caesar describes the battle in his Commentary on the Spanish War. Munda would be Caesar’s final battle and he would fall to assassin’s daggers in Rome less than a year later on 15 March 44 BC.

This lead sling bullet seems to have been crudely inscribed twice with the Roman numeral “V” which would indicate it having come from a slinger attached to Caesar’s V Legion – Legio quinta alaudae. The V Legion was the first Roman legion raised from non-citizens. Made up primarily of Gauls, the legion was first raised by Caesar in 52 BC during his Gallic Wars. It soldiered on long after Caesar’s death until it was destroyed at the Battle of Tapae, in the Dacian War of 86 AD.

Sling Bullet Incised

Above: The same sling bullet with the apparent Roman numeral “V” incised twice in opposite directions (so it could be read regardless of which end was flying towards the enemy?) Marking sling bullets in some manner was a very common military practice in the Classical World. c. 45 BC. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia.

That the bullet may have been inscribed by the legion is not all that surprising. There was a long tradition of doing so in the Classical World. Sometimes the bullets were made with insults or curses cast into them. One Greek bullet was found bearing the terse statement “Take that”. Another later bullet from one of Caesar’s earlier battles against Pompey boasted that is was intended “For Pompey’s Arse”.

The slingers used by Caesar at Munda, probably from the Balearic Islands, were lightly armed and unarmored auxiliary troops attached to his legions. They were generally deployed as skirmishers on the wings of a legion or in front of it and were often the first element of an army to engage the enemy. Sling bullets such as these could out range arrows of the time and created wounds very much like that of musket balls of later eras.

Balearic_slinger_Sarmiz

Above: A modern-day reenactor in Romania depicting a Balearic Islander slinger of the type often employed by the Romans. Although this reenactment depicts the Dacian Wars fought by the emperor Trajan in the early 2nd Century AD, this slinger would much resemble those who fought at Munda some 150 years earlier. He wears no armor and his only protection is a light round shield. His only defensive weapon is a short sword or dagger. He wears an extra sling wrapped around his head. Photo: Kamy Photography.

Slingers Trajan

Above: A Roman slinger as depicted on Trajan’s Column in Roman. The column’s spiral frieze records Trajan’s campaign in Dacia (101-106 AD). Wearing only a short tunic and cloak, he carries his sling stones in a fold of the cloak. No pockets in those days. His only other weapon is a dagger.

The ovoid football shape of the bullet was probably intended to give the projectile better ballistic qualities. With a proper spin imparted on it – like that on a modern American football – the bullet’s range and accuracy would have been greatly increased. Modern studies have estimated that lead sling bullets had the hitting power of a modern .44 Magnum revolver round.

The precise location of the Munda battle site is not known but it is believed to have taken place near La Lantejuela, Seville, about halfway between Osuna and Écija. It is at this location that a large number of lead sling bullets – this example included – have been found.

Signing Bonus – 1864

Private Tigle Milburn, “D” Company, 30th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry

During the American Civil War cash bounties were offered as an incentive for volunteer enlistment into the army in much the same way signing bonuses are offered to modern sports figures. The volunteer boom which followed the beginning of the war had long since passed and the ongoing and increasing carnage made finding willing recruits a questionable proposition.

The draft was introduced in 1863 by federal authorities and proved so unpopular that massive and very deadly riots resulted in a place like New York City. Bonuses had been offered since the beginning of the war and had initially been awarded at the time of enlistment. This led to a problem. Men would enlist, collect their bonus, promptly desert, then proceed to the next enlistment office and repeat the process. Some became a going concern.

It should be noted that when the draft was implemented, African Americans were specifically exempted from its provisions. Of the approximately 180,000 who served in the Union Army (another 20,000 served in the navy) all were volunteers.

Tigle Milburn

Above: Private Tigle Milburn’s $50.00 bounty application issued by the State of Maryland. Although not filled out completely, the document contains enough information to form the basis for further research into his wartime service and life after the war. 10 1/4 inches by 19 inches (25.5cm x 40.5cm) November 5, 1866. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia/soldiersifthequeen.com

To remedy the problem it was decided to award the bonuses after the completion of the agreed-upon term of service. It was under this type of agreement that 38-year-old Tigle Milburn enlisted in “D” Company, 30th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry on March 31, 1864, at Baltimore, Maryland for a term of three years. The bounty offered by the state on Maryland was $50.00.

Dated November 5, 1866, Milburn’s post-war bounty claim list some particulars of his service and makes his formal claim to the $50.00 bounty promised him at the time of his enlistment by the state of Maryland. It also appoints George W. Fish to act as his attorney in the matter. Unfortunately, Minburn’s bounty application fails to note as to whether his request was honored or not.

Tigle Milburn Detail 1

Above: A detail of the upper portion of Private Milburn’s bounty application.

With the information on this document and copies of Milburn’s compiled service records found in the National Archives, Washington D.C. a brief outline of his life and service history is possible.

Tigle Milburn was born about 1826 in Dorchester County, Maryland. At the time of his enlistment, he stated that he was “born free” and although his parent’s names have not been found one might assume that they must have been free also for at least some portion of their lives.

Tigle Milburn Detail 2

Above: The signature block of Milburn’s bounty application. The fact that Milburn was not able to read or write is indicated by him have made his mark, an “X” between the first and last name of the signature. 

Milburn would have seen action with his regiment around Petersburg and at the infamous Battle of the Crater as well as other mostly forgotten actions such as Weldon Railroad, Poplar Grove Church, Boydton Plank Road, and Hatcher’s Run. His last battle was probably at Fort Fisher, North Carolina from December 7 to December 27, 1864.

The Crater

Above: A sketch of the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg by Alfred Waud. c. 1864. Source: Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Division.

In January 1865 Tigle Milburn was taken sick and confined to Wilmington Hospital until July 1865 by which time the war had come to an end. No mention is given in his service records as to the nature of Milburn’s illness.

After returning to duty Milburn took part in various occupation duties with his regiment in North Carolina until the unit was mustered out of service on December 10, 1865, at Roanoke Island, North Carolina.

African American Soldier

Above: Although no known photographic representations of Tigle Milburn exist, this 1/6th plate tintype of an unidentified African American Union Army private gives an excellent impression of how he would have been uniformed and equipped. c. 1864 Source: Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress.

With the war’s end Milburn settled at Deal Island, Maryland and in the U.S. Census for 1880 he was listed as married with his wife’s name being Elizabeth. The couple had been married since before the war and had five children: John (born about 1858), Francis (born about 1860), Julia (born about 1862), Oscar (born about 1864) and Alice (born about 1866). By 1870 Milburn and his three sons had taken to the sea and were all listed in the census as sailors by trade. The 1890 census shows them to have been specifically employed as oystermen. Milburn died sometime around 1901 with his widow, Elizabeth filing for his pension on May 25 of that year. In these later documents, his name is given as Teagle Milbourne or Milbourn.

Come Fly With Me…

…or Stories of Adventure of the land, Sea and in the Air. I have always been fascinated by early examples of “Science Fiction”, especially examples from before the genres we know it today actually existed. Although classic works by the likes of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells were quite well known and highly considered as literature I have always been attracted to the more obscure and mostly forgotten examples that cropped up in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The weekly pulp adventures of Frank Reade Jr. and his amazing airships are a case in point.

Frank Reade 1903

Above: The August 21, 1903 issue of Frank Reade Weekly Magazine. This still sealed example never found its way into the youthful hands of an eager reader more than a century ago. Issues of the magazine measured 8 inches by ll inches (approximately 20.3cm x 28cm). Source: From the collection of Edward T. Garcia.

The Frank Reade Jr. magazines were in some ways a bridge between the so-called dime novels that glamorized such things as America’s Wild West in the late 1800s and the comic book which burst into the popular consciousness in the 1930s. In these stories – inevitably penned by the anonymous author “Noname” who in name was actually Cuban born Luis Philip Senarens (1863–1939) – followed the exploits of Frank Reade Jr. in a series of remarkable airships in journeys that took them around the world and into and out of all the exotic perils that the publication’s adolescent readers could hope for. Frank Reade did not limit himself and his friends to adventures in just airships but found himself on board submarines, steam-powered landships or becoming involved with similarly powered robots. The 16 page Frank Reade, Jr. adventures were published in New York by Frank Tousey between the 1890s and first decade of the 20th Century.

The well-preserved example shown above dates from August 21, 1903, just a few months before the Wright Brothers first powered flight. Naturally, Frank Reade’s airship was far more advanced than that which would soon fly at Kittyhawk and certainly much more elegant and stylish than the flying cars we had all been promised would be gracing our own 21st Century skies. The cover illustration brings the action of the inside text to life and shows Reade and several of his friends fighting off a group of mounted Tartars while the good airship Orbit comes to a timely rescue. This particular example is still sealed – each issue had to have its covers cut open in order to read the inside content. This was done to prevent people from reading the magazine at the newsstand to avoid paying for it.

R17-00018-000-001-cover

Above: An earlier issue of the Frank Reade Library magazine from September 24, 1892, featured the adventures of Frank Reade, Jr. and “his new steam man. These earlier issues lacked the full-color covers of the later issues: Source: University of South Florida Libraries.

The Roof of the World

I acquired this small watercolor a number of years ago. At first, it may not appear an outstanding work of art, but in its own very special context it is a rather remarkable historical document.

Briggs Watercolor

Above: Its paper yellowed with age but with unfaded colors, Captain David Briggs’ study captures a view of what is probably the Arun Valley in Nepal. The painting measures approximately 12 1/2 inches wide by 9 3/8 inches high (31.9cm x 23.7cm). c. 1860 Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia/soldiersofthequeen.com

The painting depicts an idyllic if dramatic mountain landscape replete with two travelers in the foreground and a hilltop village in the middle distance. Unsigned, the painting bears a period pencil inscription on the reverse which reads: “China, drawn from
memory by Captain Briggs on board the Oriental for me.
”  Also inscribed in another hand are the words “Tibet?” and “Arun Valley”. At some point, someone seems to have been trying to determine the precise location that Captain Briggs had chosen to paint.

Briggs Inscription

Above: Although faint, the pencil inscription on the watercolor’s back is legible enough to read. It provided key information in researching the origins of the work. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia/soldiersofthequeen.com.

This inscription is what led me to purchase the painting since it seemed to indicate that it may have been drawn by a British officer of the Indian Army during his passage home. Exactly when was an initial mystery although the style of a work seemed to indicate the 1850s to the 1860s time period.

At this time my research seems to identify the artist as then Captain David Briggs of the 17th Native (Bengal) Infantry which was part of the British East India Company’s army. Briggs served while a Lieutenant and later Captain as the Superintendent of Hill and Mountain Roads in Bengal during the 1850s. Although nothing of Briggs educational background has come to light he must have studied more than a modest amount of engineering since positions such as the one he was appointed to would at a later date been held by officers of the Royal Engineers.

David Briggs was born around 1825 to Colonel Briggs possibly at Fifeshire, Scotland. Hewas appointed Ensign on 11 June 1841 and was promoted as follows: Lieutenant, 8 September 1843; Captain, 27 July 1855; Major, 11 June 1861; Lieutenant-Colonel, 11 June 1867. He was promoted Brevet Colonel at an as yet undetermined date and promoted Major-General on 23 January 1875. Briggs saw active service in the field during the Indian Mutiny during 1857 as Superintendent of the Army Transport Train and was present at the siege and capture of Delhi. He also served during the Bhutan Campaign of 1865. He was married to Miss Elizabeth Sleeman at Jabbalpore, India on 29 September 1849. Briggs died in 1908 at Fifeshire, Scotland.

After examining the painting at some length I thought it possible that Briggs was depicting from memory the mountain that in 1857 would become known as Mount Everest. Briggs held the rank of Captain from 1855 to 1861 so the painting must date from that time period. Given that Briggs did the watercolor from memory it could very well be a view of the mountain from the Arun Valley in Nepal. If this is the case then this painting is one of the earliest European artistic representations of the worlds highest peak I have personally seen.

I posted this image on my original but now defunct solidersofthequeen blog some time ago and received the following information from Peter G:

“I walked up the Arun Valley in 1986 following the original Everest expedition route used by Tilman in 1950. On this trek, I learned that Everest was not visible from the Arun Valley due to it being blocked from view by the extensive Chamling Ridge. If the painting depicts a view from the Arun Valley in Nepal as you suggest, then the mountain in the painting is very likely to be Makalu – 5th highest mountain in the world. Makalu dominates the Arun and appears like a beacon to the north as you progress up the valley, very much as is represented in the painting. I recall such a view from the village of Tumlingtar.

However, if the painting is from the Tibetan reaches of the Arun, then it is possible it is Everest, although I feel the foreground depicts a very Nepali scene rather than a more barren Tibetan landscape.”

arun-valley

Above: A present-day view looking up the Arun Valley towards Mt Makalu. Captain Brigg’s painting was apparently rendered from memory and there is no way to know his precise vantage point from which he originally viewed the scene. Given that, this view does bear more than a passing resemblance to that shown in his watercolor. Photo courtesy of gorkhaadventure.com.

Given the evidence such as it is, my guess is that Captain Briggs’ painting does indeed offer us a view of Mt. Makalu from the Arun Valley in Nepal. The original owner’s guess that the locality was in China was in error since the widely traveled Captain Briggs never visited China. The “Tibet?” guess is also out of the question since that remote kingdom was closed to Europeans until it was forcibly opened by the 1903-04 expedition led by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Edward Younghusband.

 

The Mystery of Peg Leg Pete

There are many mysteries great and small from World War Two that remain unanswered to this day. This patch is one of the admittedly smaller ones that have perplexed historians and collectors for quite a few years.

This hand-painted canvas squadron patch bears the emblem of the 603rd Squadron, 398th Bomb Group of the mighty 8th Air Force that was officially approved on October 25, 1943. As was popular at the time, the 603rd choose a popular cartoon character – in this case, Disney’s Peg Leg Pete – to grace their unit patch. As a concession to his wartime duties, Peg Leg was rendered wearing appropriate flight gear and had his trademark cigar replaced with a bomb. Walt Disney actually encouraged the use of his famous cartoon characters in this manner by the U.S. Army Air Forces during the war. He even set up a special art department at his studio to fill requests for such designs by units serving both in the U.S. and overseas.

603rd Patch

Above: Walt Disney’s character Pistol Pete as interpreted by an unknown staff artist at Max Berman & Sons Costumes and Props for RKO Radio Pictures. The hand-painted canvas squadron patch measures about 5 1/4 inches in diameter. Patches such as this would have been sewn to the flight gear of members of 603rd Squadron, 398th Bomb Group during World War Two. c.1940s Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia

The mystery surrounding this patch and others like it begins with its place of manufacture – RKO Radio Pictures.  The first question that is often asked is why RKO would be producing patches with Disney characters on them. Actually, this is not that big a stretch since RKO was the original film distributor for Walt Disney so there was a history between them.

The second question that arises is exactly when and why were these patches made. There is apparently no surviving record in the RKO archives that mention the patches being made. Some people theorize that they were made as film props after the war but this seems hardly likely since there were patches for hundreds of units made by RKO many of which were extremely obscure. Also, patches for many of the now famous Tuskegee Airmen units were included by RKO in their effort and it is a sad sign of those times but one can hardly picture any studio producing a film about or featuring these all-black units in the 1940s or 50s.

603rd Patch Back

Above: The reverse side of the Peg Leg Pete patch showing the stamps of RKO Radio Picture Studios (in brown) and Max Berman & Sons (in blue) both of Hollywood California. c. 1940s Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia

It should be noted that all of these patches bear two stamps on their reverse side. One is that of RKO Radio Pictures Studio Costume and Props Department and the other is of Max Berman & Sons Costumes and Props – a costume/prop house closely associated with RKO for many years. At first, these stamps may lead one to believe that they are simply old movie props but it has been proposed that RKO produced the patches as part of their contribution to the national war effort. There is no evidence that these patches were ever distributed to the military.

Actually, the RKO stamp offers a clue to the date of manufacture. RKO Radio Pictures dropped the “Radio” part of their name in 1950 after being bought by Howard Hughes which means that these patches were all made prior to that date. So they could not have been made for film use before that date as many propose. If they were mere props one would assume that they would have been used in films but to the best of my knowledge examples of these RKO patches have never appeared on the silver screen.

It has also been proposed that these patches were intended as a wartime collectible/premiums that were to have been distributed to the public by the studio in some manner.

616th Patch

Above: Another example of the squadron patches produced by RKO/Berman. This example was for the 616th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 477th Bombardment Group, 3rd and 1st Army Air Forces. The 616th was a training unit staffed by African American pilots and aircrew. c. 1940s Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia

Personally, I believe that these canvas patches were produced by RKO and Max Berman as part of their contribution to the war effort – probably as a premium – but for one reason or another the patches were never distributed and remained in storage for many years. Then sometime during the 1970s or 80s these old stocks were sold off and entered the resale market.  At the time many of the major studios while undergoing restructuring and reorganization sold off their vast costume and prop collections as did some of the major costume shops such as Western Costume.