ORIGINAL WWII A.V.G. GROUPING

'FLYING TIGERS' 2ND PURSUIT 'PANDA BEAR' SQUADRON
MAJOR ROY G. HOFFMAN, 1906-43


This remarkable and unique grouping came in two consecutive framed lots at a country auction estate sale of a large military collection consisting mainly of US, Nazi and foreign wings, badges, ephemera, etc. I obtained an ultra-rare chain-stitched 86th Bombardment Squadron patch from the same collection.

Major Roy G. Hoffman was an armorer in the A.V.G. and is well-documented in A.V.G. books, rosters, etc. He died in China in 1943 as described in graves.com obituary:

A.V.G. 'FLYING TIGERS' MAJOR ROY G. HOFFMAN GROUPING

"Major Hoffman gave his life for his Country while serving in the 14th Air Force of the U.S. Army Air Force in the China-Burma-India theater of WWII.


Burial:
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Honolulu
Honolulu County
Hawaii, USA
Plot: A 453"

The following was obtained from a WWII website:


"15 May 1942

During the night between 15 and 16 May a most unusual 'bomber' headed towards Hanoi; it was in fact a US Transport Command C-47, in the hands of Lieutenant William Grube. Aided and abetted by his co-pilot, Lieutenant Jack Krofoed, and accompanied by Lieutenant Dick Peret, AVG engineering officer, and Sergeant Roy Hoffman, the transport aircraft set out on its unauthorised bombing sortie against Hanoi, arriving over the city at about 04:00. On board were clusters of Chinese incendiary bombs, a few French 50 and 100 pounders and some Russian 250 lb bombs - all 'stolen' from the Chinese armoury at Kunming! The bombs had to be armed individually prior to being thrown or rolled out of the cabin door, as the aircraft circled over Hanoi at 11,000 feet! Running low on fuel as he struggled to find Kunming on the return flight, Grube was forced to feather one engine to save fuel before the airfield was sighted at 08:30."


FRAME (1)


- 5.75" EMBROIDERY ON WOOL FELT 'PANDA BEAR' SQUADRON PATCH.

- BRASS ENGRAVED PLATE READING 'AVG 'PANDA BEARS' PATCH OF THE 2ND PURSUIT SQUADRON.'



FRAME (2)


- IDENTIFICATION BRACELET ENGRAVED 'ROY G. HOFFMAN A.V.G.'

REVERSE ENGRAVED 'SILVER' AND 'CHINA.'

- (2 PC.) UNMARKED BRASS 'AVG' COLLAR INSIGNIA
.


NOTE: PICTURES BELOW SHOW REDISPLAYED MATERIALS. ORIG. CONFIGURATIONS AS ABOVE. 




ORIGINAL WWII A.V.G. FLYING TIGERS 2ND PURSUIT SQUADRON GROUPING


A.V.G. FLYING TIGERS ORIGINAL GROUPING


ORIGINAL A.V.G. 2ND PURSUIT SQUADRON PANDA BEAR PATCH


'PANDA BEAR' 2ND PURSUIT SQUADRON A.V.G. FLYING TIGERS



DESCRIPTION OF DISPLAY MATERIALS

The Group came in two unusually complex framings from which it was necessary to cut glued paper backings for access; following which careful disassembly was required to reveal the contents. The manner of framing these artifacts suggests certain hypotheses as to the grouping origin.

(1)

Both frames were identical in artifact mounting. One had a partial Oklahoma City frame shop label (since lost) on the brown backing paper. The shop address contained a zip code so the framing was in or after 1963 when zip codes were assigned.

    (2)

All  original framing materials have been retained except cut paper backing. Interestingly, all artifacts were sewn with fishing line to their respective backings. The fishing line was completely taped over on the reverse mounting to prevent any movement of the contents. I removed the tape and cut the line. Artifacts and backings were packed tightly and reinforced so that removal was painstaking and reassembly impossible to replicate. The metalware was sewn to thick velvet, the Panda patch to muslin. Without provision for opening, inspection and repacking, framing was intended as permanent. Thus eventual sale was not a consideration -- an important factor in establishing originality/provenance. The logical speculation is that family undertook this homage as neither a collector nor dealer would sew the patch, fabricate the brass plate and/or divide the grouping. The intention was display.


AUTHENTICITY

With an historic grouping of such potential uniqueness, value and collectability, the primary consideration is of course originality. The scarcity of genuine A.V.G. artifacts renders legitimacy difficult to establish but easier to disestablish. Consequently as a knowledgeable collector I try to combine experience gleaned from my own collection partially exhibited on this web site with the circumstances of acquisition and presentation of this grouping.

My goal was to legitimate these artifacts as period-original. That Major Hoffman died in 1943 as a member of the 14th AF in China rules out any A.V.G. Reunion origin. I researched on-line materials available relating to the A.V.G. for identical items. I have found none.

 I am competent in separating real from fake and always pore over eBay, internet offerings and written materials to widen my knowledge, having collected for over 25 years. An axiom I follow is that a suspected reproduction patch should be able to be corroborated because if fake, multiple examples must exist and appear on eBay or from a dealer over time. The A.V.G. legend encourages this activity. Most importantly, the difficulty of reproducing a non-leather WWII squadron patch exactly will raise red flags, given that materials -- thread, wool felt, pigments -- embroidery, artwork and changes over time, etc. are not readily obtainable and/or reproducible.

At the auction the framings prevented my handling the patch, bracelet and collar insignia. But the former's appearance, stitching and thread quality were compelling. Also interesting was that the patch was separately framed and in a separate albeit consecutive lot. After purchase I examined the patch's underside -- fully period correct as the obverse. It shows soiling and use (these in themselves are not significant unless supported by accompanying correctness of materials and construction). Thread, stitching, construction in no way diverge from common WWII period practice. Additionally, this patch isn't hand-made as other A.V.G. original insignia, which are easier to fake in friendly terrorist Pakistan. It is wholly different.

That said, I have not been able to locate a single similar A.V.G. 'Panda Bear' patch. I have not located an embroidered variant. Pending any definitive future information disproving my conclusion I call this an important one-of-kind find.

The Bracelet and Collar Insignia show identical age. Patina can be simulated but the integrity of the patch and identity corroboration make a strong case for authenticity.

One final thought. Skeptics might automatically scoff when I state this came my way at the ubiquitous "country auction." Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. I have both itemized receipt and preview postcard illustrating among many other items Maj. Hoffman's ID Bracelet and Collar Insignia from said country auction.The patch is not displayed as the auction postcard only shows selected items, which further corroborates authenticity, otherwise the patch would definitely be illustrated.




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