One of the most important WWII US & Chinese Aviation uniforms in existence, and certainly the finest uniform we have ever had the privilege to offer:
The full dress uniform: Jacket, Pants, shirt, tie, and Overseas Cap of the Flying Tigers TOP-SCORING ACE, Robert H. “Bob” Neale.
The uniform was a prize centerpiece of a prominent American Volunteer Group collection on the west coast, where the uniform had been traded from a museum in the early ‘90’s (more information to be provided to buyer).
Robert Hawthorne Neale was born 3 May 1914 in Vancouver, Canada, and he came with his family to the US in 1916. There are not many details of Neale’s early life. He joined the United States Navy in 1938 and received his wings in 1939. Among the aircraft Neale piloted were the Curtiss SBC Helldiver and Douglas SBD Dauntless while operating as a dive-bomber pilot on the USS Saratoga (CV-3).
After the 1st Squadron, American Volunteer Group commander, Robert "Sandy" Sandell, was killed, Neale assumed control of the Flying Tigers’ 1st Squadron, also known as the “Adam & Eves” in 1941 and was later decorated by the British Government with the Distinguished Service Order for notable heroic acts in the defense of Burma.
Some AVG pilots stayed on in China, including Neale, for two weeks of additional voluntary service after the group was disbanded. While awaiting the arrival of designated commander Colonel Robert Scott, Neale commanded the United States Army Air Corps’ 23rd Fighter Group as a Civilian. The records of the American Volunteer Group credit Neale with thirteen air-to-air victories, making him the AVG’s top scoring ACE.
The uniform grouping consists of a completely tailor made uniform, most likely made in India, of light-weight fine knit woven khaki wool. The jacket, pants, and hat all having the same subtle greenish hue, the shirt and tie having more of a pinkish hue.
The jacket has 3 very important pieces of insignia, all, again, most likely Indian made. A huge, one-of-a-kind AVG shoulder patch is sewn directly to the left shoulder, a beautiful snap-back embroidered version of the AVG “badge” in silk and bullion (which could also have been made in China instead…more on this below), on a slightly more pinkish-hued and wider ribbed woven wool, and a stunning snap-back Chinese Air Force Pilot Wing in bullion and silk on the same material as the jacket. Interestingly, the slightly different material on which the AVG “Badge” was made points to the fact that the uniform was probably made for Neale early on, and the badge added in January of 1942 or later when the Whitehead & Hoag metal badges arrived for the members of the AVG Squadrons. The snaps are also different than those used to hold on the wing, again pointing to a possible later (but still pre-July 1942) addition, and therefore possibly Chinese manufacture. Of all the parts of this grouping, the jacket itself shows the most exquisite details of the tailor’s expertise: silk ticking lined sleeves, and all sorts of small, special reinforcements being just a few of the details, hopefully which will be apparent in the extensive images presented below.
The jacket also has Indian made AVG collar insignia and winged prop, both embroidered on khaki cotton, and directly sewn on Squadron Leader shoulder insignia in silk and tinseled silk. The jacket also has all of its gilt brass Chinese buttons, 4 large and 6 small.
The jacket is in exceptional condition with only a small wear spot at the back of the neck, and some very light and small stains/age foxing on the sleeve ends.
The Overseas Cap has the most “character” (read: wear) and probably saw the most use, possibly even riding along in the cockpit under a headset on a warmer day’s mission. The interior does not show much wear, but the material of the cap itself, especially on the side without the CAF Hat Insignia, has much wear, with much loss of the surface material, and there is even some slight separation at top. The nearly 3-dimensional bullion Indian Made Chinese Air Force Hat badge has considerable wear with even a few small pieces of the bullion wire having been lost. There is a small bit of tape residue on the leather sweat band at the center of one side, its purpose being unknown. Under the sweat band is inked in the tailor marking of 32-12-F, the same marking as is found inside the pants.
Which brings us to the pants. Which are in exceptional condition, with only light wear and no blemishes or holes. As mentioned above, on the waist band is the tailor marking: 32-12-F. And more importantly, on the inside of the right front pocket is marked “NEALE” with 32 and 32 below. The only other marking is on the very early TALON zipper of the fly.
The shirt and tie are in very nice condition with no real blemishes or issue to speak of.
This is a once in a lifetime offering of an extremely important WWII Aviation Uniform.
Jacket measures approximately 21” from armpit to armpit; 29 ˝” length from collar to hem (on reverse); 25 ˝” from shoulder seam to cuff; 15 ˝” between shoulders; Shirt measures approximately 20” from armpit to armpit; 33” length from collar to hem (on reverse); 25” from shoulder seam to cuff; 17 ˝” between shoulders; Pants measure approximately 15” across top waist, 31 ˝” inseam
Silk, khaki cotton, cotton/polyester/silk thread, bullion, tinsel, wool felt, gilt brass buttons, snaps
Gilt brass button closure for pockets, buttons on shirt, snaps for insignia and wing, metal zipper and button closure on pants
“32-12-F” on cap, pants, jacket buckle, and shirt hem. “TALON” on the zipper of the pants and “NEALE 32 32” on the inside pocket of the pants.
This is from a collection of Flying Tigers & Chinese Aviation artifacts that we here at Flying Tiger Antiques have been commissioned to sell. We will be listing more from the collection over the coming weeks. CON-AVG-18-15 LX4/15 SBEJJJX6/16
8+ (Overall - Excellent-): Please see full description above and pictures below.
As with all my items, this piece is guaranteed original.