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  The most sougth after paratrooper insignia is the parachutist badge, or "Wings." It is a proud moment for any soldier   
  when they are first pinned on him. There are three types of wings: Parachutist, Senior Parachutist and Master   
  Parachutist. The requirements to win them are among the strictest and most rigorous in the Army. A bronze star,   
  may be worn on the wings, for each combat jump in which the paratrooper has participated in.  
  To earn the Parachutist Badge, a soldier must undergo and successfully complete the intensive and physically-  
  taxing course of training at an authorized parachute school, or must take part in at least one combat jump into   
  enemy-held territory as a part of an Airborne Assault landing.  
  To earn the Senior Parachute Badge, a trooper must make at least 30 jumps, at least five of which must be   
  made with combat equipment, including a weapon, ammunition, food and water. At least two of his jumps   
  must be at night, one of which must be as a jumpmaster. In addition he must graduate from a jumpmaster   
  school, or have been a jumpmaster in combat, or have performed at least half of his total jumps as a jumpmaster.   
  The Master Parachutist Badge is the most difficult to earn. To receive it he must have made 65 jumps or more.   
  Fifteen jumps must be with equipment, weapon, ammunition, food and water; four must be night jumps, one of   
  which must have been as a jumpmaster. He must also be a graduate of jumpmaster school, or have been a jump-   
  master in combat, or have at least half of his jumps as a jumpmaster. This is the most coveted badge.   
     By Lt. Gen. William P. Yarborough   
  The parachutist qualification badge was not developed in order to "identify the members of this unique organ-   
  ization," it was to signify qualification in the art of military parachuting. The device which identified the 501st   
  Parachute Battalion was an Ojibway Thunderbird on a silver shield with the motto GERONIMO."   
  I designed the distinctive insigne. Its history is filed with the heraldry element of DCSPers in the Pentagon, I   
  had hoped that every parachute unit of the American Army might have an American Indian Thunderbird of   
  different design as the basis for its distinctive insigne and toward the end, I had done considerable research   
  which had brought to light dozens of colorful thunderbird designs – all appropriate, I thought, to American   
  Heraldry and Traditions.   
  As to the parachute wings it is incorrect to state that "The Chief of Infantry suggested a design on a light blue   
  background, similar in appearance to the badge of the Air Corps pilots." The one most firm requirement, placed   
  by the Army, on any design of a parachute qualification badge was that it IN NO WAY resemble the pilot’s wings   
  of the Air Corps.   
  The parachute qualification badge as we know it came into being as a result of Lt. Col. WILLIAM M. MILEY’S   
  initiative. As Commander of the 101st Parachute Battalion, he ordered me to Washington in early 1941, telling   
  me not to come back to Ft. Benning until I had an approved qualification badge in my hands. He had (quite   
  properly) rejected several badge concepts supplied by the Heraldry Branch of G-1. They were both unimaginative   
  and in our view, even "recessive" instead of "aggressive." One consisted of a deployed parachute around which   
  wings were folded in an almost funeral attitude.   
  Arriving at the War Department, I set to work to produce a design which fitted the parameters supplied by the   
  bureaucrats. After at least 50 tries, I came up with the design we now have. It seemed to me that the suggestion   
  supplied that the wing tips were supporting the chute canopy was symbolic of the powered flight which always   
  preceded the paradrop. Furthermore, the prohibition against extended wings of any kind (imposed by the   
  Heraldry branch) had to be accepted.   
  I walked the approved design in and out of every office which had a piece of the action in the War Department.   
  I would wait doggedly until each action type got to it in his "In" basket, and then take it to the next one. When   
  a contract was finally let with Bailey Banks and Biddle of Philadelphia, I camped on their doorstep until I was   
  able to walk away with 350 sterling wings. These I carried triumphantly back to Col. Miley at Benning. All of   
  these first wings bear BB&B on the back and they are a rare collector’s item.   
  Feeling that the wings needed a little color and that perhaps they were on the small side, I designed the first felt   
  backgrounds. For the 501st the background was Infantry Blue with Artillery Red superimposed so as to leave a   
  narrow blue border.   
  I am enclosing a copy of my Patent on the "Wings." I took the Patent out in order to protect the design from   
  wrongful exploitation, and to keep the quality high. I never obtained a single penny from the sale of the wings   
  nor from any commercial use – this was not my objective.   
  Lt. Gen. William P. Yarborough U.S.A. (Ret.)   
  160 Hillside Rd.   
  Southern Pines, NC 28387   
  LTG Yarborough's letter, courtesy of the "Static Line" - a monthly Publication by Don Lasson.  
  Copyright © Leo F. Kocher  
  11th/511th Airborne