While insignia were approved for use by Aero Squadrons during World War I, the approval came from the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), which controlled U.S. military organizations sent to Europe to fight in World War I.   It took several more years for the War Department to official approve insignia for the Air Service. On 19 September 1923, the Office of the Chief of the Air Service issued a 3-page letter providing general guidance on insignia design.  The letter also listed 19 of the Aero Squadrons and directed changes to their World War I insignia which had to be resubmitted for approval. Thus, this document is the first official regulation regarding Air Service insignia.

Here is a complete transcript of the Air Service letter:

Office of the Chief of the Air Service

September 19, 1923.

Subject:   Insignia

To:  Commanding Offices, All Air Service Activities.

1. Authority has been granted by the Chief of Staff, War Department, whereby insignia, to be the permanent marking of all aircraft, equipment and baggage of the respective organizations of the Air Service, may be submitted for approval, providing,

(a) The organization is equipped with aircraft by existing Tables of Equipment.
(b) That the organization is a permanent unit of the Air Service.

When designs are made up and submitted for approval, the following will govern,

(a) They should be of real value to the service, simple and possess some historical significance.
(b) They should be dignified and in good taste; fantastic designs are characteristic and “funny”, but have no permanent value.
(c) They should be designed so that a picture story significant to the organization is told.
(d) They should be distinguishable in the air.
(e) They will not contain,

1- Numerals
2- The letters ”U.S.”
3- The Air Service insignia
4- The United States Flag
5- The United States coat or arms or any part of it
6- The complete arms of any state or country, although devices may be taken from them when applicable
7- Outlines of geographical maps
8- Foreign decorations (e.g. croix de guerre, fourragere).
9- Campaign ribbons

PAGE 2 W-1103, A.S.

2. Insignia of organizations herein enumerated, adopted during the World War will be approved with the following changes to conform as far as possible with decisions of the War Department to ensure better visibility, these designs to be resubmitted in accordance with specifications included herein so that the War Department files will be complete,

25th Squadron – no change
11th Squadron – no change
90th Squadron – no change
28th Squadron – no change
17th Squadron – no change
95th Squadron – no change
27th Squadron – the bird in this design should be drawn as a falcon instead of an eagle.
5th Squadron  – no change
22nd Squadron – no change
50th Squadron – no change
13th Squadron – scythe and blade to be of yellow instead of brown scythe with blue handle and blade,
9th Squadron  – no change
89th Squadron – the rough rider should be made dark enough so that no black outline should be needed; should be placed on an orange background.
91st Squadron – to be simplified by omitting the “devil” and the number. Thus will permit the knight to be made larger and give better visibility.
99th Squadron – the blue line to be changed to yellow or orange so that insignia will be more distinguishable in the air.
96th Squadron – no change
12th Squadron – the hawk and projectile may be made darker on a lighter colored field for a background.
49th Squadron – the gray parts of this design to be reduced nearer to black and the red parts to orange to make the insignia more distinguishable.
94th Squadron – The colors “red, white and blue” not to be employed in the make-up of this design. It is suggested that the present Air Service colors, ultra marine blue and gold, or those used during the war (green and black) be used in this design of the “hat in the ring”.

PAGE 3 W-1103, A.S.

3. It is requested that designs for all Air Service organizations classified under subparagraph (a), paragraph l be submitted in three copies at the earliest possible date, painted or printed on good paper, size 8″ x 10″ in the desired colors. When it is impracticable to use colors, the following uniform color key Will be used in making an ink drawing:

4. A short and concise description with the historical development of the insignia will accompany each copy when submitted.

By order of the Chief of Air Service:

W.H. Frank,

And here is a copy of the actual document: