Candidate designs for the Congressional Gold Medal honoring American Fighter Aces have been crafted and reviewed in preparation for the United States Mint to strike it and create bronze duplicates for sale to the public.
Public Law 113-105 awarded the gold medal to collectively honor American Fighter Ace in recognition of their heroic military service and defense of our country’s freedom throughout the history of aviation warfare.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s highest award for distinguished achievements. An American Fighter Ace is a fighter pilot who has served in the U.S. military and who has shot down five or more enemy aircraft in combat. Fighter aces have served in the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines and U.S. Army. More than 60,000 fighter pilots have flown for the United States since World War I, according to Dr. Gregg Wagner of the American Fighter Aces Association, but fewer than 1,500 of them have been recognized as a fighter ace. Wagner is a Fighter Aces liaison for the medal design process.
Six obverse (heads side) and 8 reverse (tails side) American Fighter Aces medal design candidates were revealed the United States Mint and then examined by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. The United States Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) will review them on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. With CFA and CCAC recommendations in hand, the U.S. Treasury Secretary is tasked by law to select the final obverse and reverse design.
Images of American Fighter Aces Medal Designs
Below are images of the candidate designs as well as the CCAC recommendations. (Return to this article later for an updated accounting of CFA recommendations.) Also included below are narratives of each design as provided by the U.S. Mint.
For the obverse, the liaison preferred design #1 or #2 with some minor modifications. The CCAC selected design #2 but with changes as passed in two motions. The first was to remove the ace of spades since the chosen reverse features the concept. The second was to remove "Courage, Tenacity and Duty Above All" since the selected reverse also conveys that message.
AFA-CGM-O-01 – represents Ace pilots and their aerial combat skills. It features a generic Ace, representing each branch of the military and a hostile aircraft in the crosshairs. Included are the inscriptions "American Fighter Aces," and, superimposed over the crosshairs, "Army," "Navy," "Air Force," and "Marines."
AFA-CGM-O-02 and AFA-CGM-O-03 – represent the global accomplishments of the Aces. The designs feature pilots, representing each branch of the military; five stars, representing the aerial combat victories needed for Ace qualification; a globe, symbolizing the combat theatres; and a spade and military wings, representing the American Fighter Aces themselves. Design 03 includes a four-blade propeller to represent each conflict. Inscriptions are "Courage, Tenacity and Duty Above All," "American Fighter Aces," and "Courage, Leadership and Duty Above All."
AFA-CGM-O-04 – depicts a World War II Ace pilot surrounded by three fighter aircrafts from three different conflicts. A spade and five stars, seen at the base of the design, are emblematic of the Aces and the aerial combat victories required for Ace certification. Inscriptions are "American Fighter Aces" and "Act of Congress 2014."
AFA-CGM-O-05 – depicts crosshairs and five stars, symbolizing the aerial combat victories required for Ace certification; a globe, representing the various combat theatres; and a spade and two aerial combat aircrafts. It is inscribed "American Fighter Aces" and "Courage, Valor and Duty Above All."
AFA-CGM-O-06 – depicts five stars, representing the aerial victories needed for Ace certification; a globe, representing the various combat theatres; a spade; and four aerial combat aircrafts flown during each conflict. It is inscribed "American Fighter Aces."
For the reverse, the liaison preferred design #1. Design #7 received the most CCAC member votes. A motion passed to remove its four stars.
AFA-CGM-R-01 – features aircraft flown during each conflict in which the Aces served and five stars representing the aerial combat victories required for Ace certification. Inscriptions are "Courage, Tenacity and Duty Above All," "2014," and "Act of Congress."
AFA-CGM-R-02 – depicts a hostile aircraft in the eye of crosshairs and includes five stars, at the bottom border, representing the aerial combat victories required for Ace certification. It is inscribed "World War I," "World War II," "Korea," "Vietnam," and "Courage, Leadership and Duty Above All."
AFA-CGM-R-03– depicts a propeller superimposed over a map. Inscriptions are "WWI," "WWII," "Korea," "Vietnam," and "Courage, Leadership and Duty Above All."
AFA-CGM-R-04, AFA-CGM-R-05, AFA-CGM-R-06 –depict an eagle with outstretched wings among four aircrafts representing each conflict in which the Aces served. The designs are inscribed "Navy," "Air Force," "Marines," "Army," "Act of Congress 2014," and "Courage, Leadership and Duty Above All."
AFA-CGM-R-07 and AFA-R-08 – feature an eagle clutching four thunderbolts with its wings formed in the shape of a spade. Five stars are featured at the top of design 08, symbolizing the aerial combat victories required for Ace certification. Design 07 has four stars, symbolizing the four conflicts. It is inscribed "Courage," "Tenacity," "Duty," and "Act of Congress 2014."