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American Fighter Aces awarded Congressional Gold Medal

American Fighter Aces were the best of the best, the bravest of the brave.

Obverse design number 1

Obverse design number 1

Through four wars they led attacking aircraft into enemy territory engaging in dogfights and racking up at least five aerial kills to earn the title Ace.

There were 60,000 fighter pilots in World Wars I and II, Korean War and Vietnam War, but less than 1,500 qualified as Aces.

Those men will be honored with a Congressional Gold Medal, the designs for which were reviewed Oct. 14 by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

Dr. Gregg Wagner, American Fighter Aces Association board member, told the CCAC that the Aces were comprised of men from all walks of life. They were aggressive, took the enemy head on in aerial dog fights and fought until the very last bullet.

“Some who had no bullets used their wing to slice their enemy in half,” he said.

The medal must convey that sense of courage and duty, he said.

Obverse design number 2, preferred by the Aces association.

Obverse design number 2

The Aces Association prefer obverse designs No. 1, which depicts four Ace pilots representing each branch of the military and a hostile aircraft in the crosshairs, and No. 2, which features four pilots, the spade symbol, a globe and military wings.

CCAC member Erik Jansen liked obverse No. 4, which depicts a World War II Ace pilot surrounded by three fighter aircrafts, each representing a different war.

The design elicits excitement and aggression, he said.

“He’s going to be the only one flying when this is over,” he said.

The Aces Association preferred reverse design No. 1, which features an aircraft from each of the four wars and the inscriptions “Courage, Tenacity and Duty Above All,” “2014” and “Act of Congress.”

Wagner suggested the aircraft be redesigned in different proportion. The current design features aircraft from the Vietnam War as dominant. The World War II aircraft should be larger, he said, because  there were only two Aces in the Vietnam War compared to 1,200 in World War II.

Reverse design number 1

Reverse design number 1

The symbolism of reverse design No. 7 spoke to many of the CCAC members. It features an eagle clutching four thunderbolts with wings in the shape of a spade. Four stars represent the four conflicts. It is inscribed “Courage,” “Tenacity,” Duty” and “Act of Congress 2014.”

Reverse design number 4

Reverse design number 4

Marks was taken with reverse No. 4, which showed an eagle with outstretched wings among four aircrafts and clutching lightning bolts in his talons.

The CCAC recommended obverse No. 2 and reverse No. 7. It also recommended that the spade on the obverse be removed since it’s on the reverse and the words “Courage, Tenacity and Duty Above All” be removed from the obverse since they are represented on the reverse. And it asked that the four stars on the reverse be removed.

There was discussion about the choice of the word “tenacity,” so the committee asked the Mint to consider replacing it with another word.

The recommendation will be sent to the Secretary of the Treasury. The Commission of Fine Arts will also review the designs and make a recommendation.

Reverse design number 7

Reverse design number 7

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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