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Military traditions found in 8th Flying Training Squadron patch

Vance Air Force Base, Okla. -- Certainly it is our duty to keep these traditions alive and in our memory, and to pass them on untarnished to those who come after us.
-- Navy Rear Adm. Albert Gleaves

March 18 marked the "official" arrival of the T-6 Texan II. While this is a milestone for Vance Air Force Base, it also opens a new chapter in the long, proud history of the 8th Flying Training Squadron.
This history started in 1942 with the activation of the 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron and continued throughout World War II and into the Korean Conflict until the squadron was deactivated in 1951. It wasn't until 1972 that the "8th" returned to operation as the 8th Flying Training Squadron. While the squadron mission has certainly changed, the patch worn by the 8th FTS is firmly grounded in the history of its original namesake.
The emblem, circa 1942, was worn by the 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron. On a blue background, a Native American stands behind an 8-ball with two palm trees in the background. He has a tomahawk in his right hand, a lightning bolt near his left arm and a camera around his neck. The Native American Indian was said to symbolize the squadron's warrior spirit and the fact the 8th was the first reconnaissance squadron to leave the United States after the outbreak of World War II and see combat action. The camera around his neck clearly marked the squadron's mission.
As the only unit in the Southwest Pacific that could supply the 5th Army Air Corps with maps, photos or photo imagery, they played a critical intelligence role, particularly in the early stages of the war. In fact, Lt. Col. Karl Polifka, the squadron's first commander, was the first to spot the Japanese invasion force bound for Port Moresby in May 1942, which led to the Battle of Coral Sea. Palm trees signified the unit's employment in the southern Pacific Islands. The squadron number was obviously represented by the 8-ball, but it is said the Indian is standing "behind the 8-ball" for a reason.
Commissioned in January 1942, the squadron of nine officers and 40 enlisted was launched on short notice to Australia. By April 1942, with an average of about two flight hours per pilot, they were flying their first combat reconnaissance sorties. Beginning operations with a shoestring flight of four "unarmed" Lockheed F-4 Lightnings (hence the lightning bolt), the squadron was always short on personnel, equipment and supplies. In spite of feeling they were "behind the 8-ball," the 8th PRS participated with valor in campaigns from the Philippines to the invasion of Okinawa, as well as playing key roles at Coral Sea and Bismarck Sea.
Finally, the tomahawk signified the squadron's desire to take the fight to the enemy. First Lt. Arthur Post is a perfect example. Lieutenant Post was a "plank holder" in the squadron. Beginning as the squadron armament officer, he progressed through the ranks to become the squadron's third commander.
Less than three weeks after assuming command, then Captain Post was shot down over the Japanese-controlled islands of the Pacific in June 1943. After five months of survival and evasion, he was rescued by a submarine on Sept. 28 and transported to Hawaii. Since he had no orders, he simply returned to New Guinea where the squadron was stationed and was flying again by the end of October. Major Post continued serving in the Pacific theater until a fatal crash on Aug. 25, 1944.
On Nov. 1, 1972, the 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron was redesignated as the 8th Flying Training Squadron and activated at Vance. The Air Training Command's desire was to give its units a meaningful heritage on which to build. Part of that heritage included the squadron patch the 8th FTS proudly wears today.