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During World War 1, American volunteers from all parts of the country filled the newly
formed flying squadrons. Some were wealthy scions attending colleges such as Yale and
Harvard who quit in mid-term to join the war. In one squadron, a wealthy lieutenant ordered
medallions struck in solid bronze and presented them to his unit. One young pilot placed the
medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore about his neck.
Shortly after acquiring the medallions, the pilot’s aircraft was severely damaged by ground
fire. He was forced to land behind enemy lines and was immediately captured by a German
patrol. In order to discourage his escape, the Germans took all of his personal
identification except for the small leather pouch around his neck. In the meantime, he was
taken to a small French town near the front. Taking advantage of a bombardment that night,
he escaped. However, he was without personal identification.

He succeeded in avoiding German patrols by donning civilian attire and reached the front
lines. With great difficulty, he crossed no-man's land. Eventually, he stumbled onto a French
outpost. Unfortunately, saboteurs had plagued the French in the sector. They sometimes
masqueraded as civilians and wore civilian clothes. Not recognizing the young pilot's
American accent, the French thought him to be a saboteur and made ready to execute him. He
had no identification to prove his allegiance, but he did have his leather pouch containing the
medallion. He showed the medallion to his would-be executioners and one of his French
captors recognized the squadron insignia on the medallion. They delayed his execution long
enough for him to confirm his identity. Instead of shooting him, they gave the pilot a gift
before sending him on his way.

Once he returned to his squadron and relayed the story of how the medallion contributed
to his safe return, it became a tradition for members to carry their medallion at all times. The
particulars of which resulted in  the medallion becoming known as a  “
Challenge Coin”.  
The legacy continued on throughout the war and for many years after the war while
surviving members of the squadron were still alive.

fortifying tradition...one member at a time
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