“Here’s Why” of the week


Taking our “Here’s Why” from the paper to the blog. An explanation for why something is the way it is in the Air Force/military.

Use a parachute? There’s a club for that. Burned during battle? There’s a club for that. Walk back from behind enemy lines? No worries, there’s a club for that too.

Wonder why?

With this first-ever jump from a disabled aircraft with a free-fall parachute, Lt. Harold R. Harris became the initial member of the “Caterpillar Club.” (Air Force photo)

Like secret societies, troops from Allied armies formed several, somewhat exclusive clubs to show one another “they made it.”

Author Cate Lineberry writes that although these clubs were unofficial, hundreds participated. And they had proof.

According to Lineberry, there was the Caterpillar Club, the Goldfish Club, the Guinea Pig Club and the Late Arrivals Club. Here’s what they represented:

The Caterpillar Club offered membership to tens of thousands during the war who used parachutes — made from caterpillar-produced silk — to bail out of disabled planes.
The proof:  Irvin Air Chute Company awarded unofficial badges in the form of gold caterpillars with red eyes along with membership certificates.
Bonus: The club first formed in 1922,  after Lieutenant Harold Harris made an emergency jump at McCook Field near Dayton, Ohio.
Bonus Bonus: Former president George H.W. Bush is a member.

The Goldfish Club mimicked the Caterpillars, except these guys honored those whose planes crashed in water and were then saved by life rafts.

The Guinea Pig Club was started as a drinking club by the aircrew who had been horribly burned and disfigured in the Battle of Britain.
Bonus: The members of this club were treated by surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe at Queen Victoria’s Hospital in East Grinstead, West Sussex.
Bonus Bonus: The club claimed to have 649 members by the end of the war.

And better late than never.

The Late Arrivals Club honored those who walked back from behind enemy lines.
The proof: Members were awarded certificates with the words, “It is never too late to come back,” along with badges designed as winged boots that could be worn on the left breast of flying suits.
Bonus: Also called the Winged Boot Club, thirty Americans were reportedly eligible for membership including thirteen nurses, who walked hundreds of miles while trapped behind Nazi lines in the winter of 1943-44.


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