Air Force Challenge Coin
By: Cadet Gager


You may or may not be aware that Detachment 685 has its very own challenge coin. You also may or may not be aware that challenge coins aren’t just decorative souvenirs. Challenge coins have been around for a long time, so long that their origins aren’t clearly defined. Some argue that the significance of this memento goes all the way back to World War I. As the story goes, during WWI a wealthy Lieutenant ordered medallions for his whole squadron. The coins, made out of solid bronze, represented the squadron and its accomplishments. One pilot decided to keep his medallion close to him at all times and stored it inside of a small leather pouch that he wore around his neck.

Well, shortly after this pilot received his coin, his plane was shot down behind enemy lines in Germany. When he crash landed, he was quickly captured by German soldiers and made a Prisoner of War. In order to discourage the pilot from leaving, they confiscated all of his personal items.

The German soldiers then attempted to transport the pilot to a small French town near the front line. However, while in transit there was a bombing that separated the pilot from his enemies. He managed to escape successfully and blend in with his surroundings by acquiring clothing. He went a step further by somehow crossing No Man’s Land and finding his way into a small French outpost. What the pilot didn’t know, was that France was being plagued by saboteurs. When he arrived at the French outpost, he wasn’t greeted, but was instead held hostage by the French.

Since he didn’t have any identification on him, they considered him an enemy and decided to execute him. The pilot realized that he still had his necklace on him and he submitted his medallion to his captors. They eventually delayed his execution long enough for his identity and his allegiance to become known. In the end, instead of executing him, they gave the pilot a bottle of wine.

This is just one of many stories that some people like to attribute to the legend of the challenge coin. Some people trace it back to World War II, and others to the Korean War. Regardless of which story you choose to believe, it is easy to see that the challenge coin is more than just a decorative piece of metal.