Guide to Rank, Insignia and Wings

Guide to Rank, Insignia and Wings

Understanding wartime ranks and their insignia can be helpful when identifying individuals in photographs. Field promotions were were not unusual during the course of one’s tour of duty, and rank can also be used to establish the approximate date of some photographs (or at the least a chronological order within a collection).

The Air Force became a separate branch of the armed forces in 1948, and during the 1950s adopted its own rank and grade structure for enlisted men. Prior to that time, the Army Air Force used the same ranks and insignia as the U.S. Army (which have also changed slightly in the intervening years).


Insignia of Rank

Private First Class    
Corporal  Technician 5th Class
Sergeant  Technician 4th Class
Staff Sergeant   Technician 3rd Class
Technical Sergeant    
Master Sergeant    
First Sergeant    
2nd Lieutenant    
1st Lieutenant    
Lieutenant Colonel    



Command Pilot
Senior Pilot
Flight Engineer
Aerial Gunner


Ribbons, Awards and Citations


Distinguished Flying Cross


Presidential Unit Citation


Air Medal

Army Good Conduct Medal

Middle Eastern
Campaign Medal


Some other awards issued to members of the 447th

World War II Victory Medal
Purple Heart
Prisoner of War Medal
Silver Star
Medal of Honor