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Coat, Service, French Air Service, Edwin Parsons

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This object is on display in the Pre-1920 Aviation exhibition station at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.


This is an example of the standard horizon blue French service coat adopted in 1914 and modified in May 1915 with the open drop fall collar.

This coat was worn by Edwin C. "Ted" Parsons (1892-1968). Parsons learned to fly in 1912. He was recruited by agents of the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa to purchase and ship a plane to Mexico and then train pilots to fly it. He was steered clear of continuing in this line of work by a German intelligence agent.

In December, 1915, he made his way to France having pretended to be a horse veterinarian in order to be taken on board a ship transporting horses to France for the war. In France, Parsons joined the American Ambulance Service in January of 1916 and served five months in the field. On June 1, 1916, he joined the French Foreign Legion as a conduit into the aviation service which he joined by month’s end.

Although an experienced pilot, Parsons was required to undertake seven months of flight training. By the end of January, 1917, he joined the Lafayette Escadrille as their 21st member.

Unlike many of his squadron mates, Parsons did not transfer into the U.S. Air Service once America joined the war. He decided, instead , to stay with the French and was assigned to Spa 3, the famous Les Cigognes, The Storks. Eventually his score of confirmed victories would total 8 aircraft destroyed.

After the war, Parsons returned to the United States and joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Using what he learned at the FBI, Parsons would opened his own detective agency. Later he was an actor, writer and technical director on several Hollywood war films. He even had his own radio show.

At the outbreak of World War II, Parsons joined the Navy and took command of LST Group 41 and directed their assaults on Okinawa and the Philippines. By war’s end, he had become a Rear Admiral.

Donated by Mrs. Edwin C. Parsons

Owner: Rear Admiral Edwin C. Parsons

Country of Origin: France

Dimensions: Clothing: 78.7 x 45.7cm (31 x 18 in.)

Materials: Wool, cotton

Physical Description:Horizon blue French Air Service service coat worn by Edwin Parsons; single breasted with seven brass buttons down front (button embossed with winged propeller); two upper patch pockets with flap with brass button closure; two lower patch pockets with flap with brass button closure

Inventory number: A19772563000

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