The Caterpillar Pin  
       Most of the members of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society wear with pride the tiny gold Caterpillar Pin which is awarded by the Irvin Air Chute Company to anyone who saves his life by parachuting from a disabled or flaming aircraft. Each recipient of the Caterpillar Pin is living testimony to the life saving ability of the Irvin Type Air Chute.
     The Caterpillar is symbolic of the silk worm, which lets itself descend gently to earth from heights by spinning a silky thread upon which to hang. Parachutes in the early days were made from pure silk.
     About 1920, Leslie Irvin, a 24 years old stunt man from California, demonstrated the first "free drop" parachute. He had made the chute himself on a borrowed sewing machine. Flying safety experts were so impressed that the American Air Force and British R.A.F. promptly adopted the parachute as standard equipment. Irvin then opened factories in the USA and in England.
     The Irvin Company started the Caterpillar Club and the practice of awarding the gold Caterpillar Pin in 1922 because each life saved was the result of Leslie Irvin's invention, symbolizing Irwin's dedication to safety in the air.
     It is estimated that at least 100,000 persons have saved their lives by Irvin parachutes.
This came from the home page of the Royal Air Force Escaping Society,
now disappeared from the net. (4-22-04)

  Caterpillar Club, 1924  
Caterpillar Club, 1924
This from an old brochure of the Irvin Air Chute Company

     He was a member of the Caterpillar club having been shot down by Anti Aircraft fire on 13.6.1940 and there is a letter stating this signed by Leslie Irvin of the Irvin Airchute Company. He was involved in a variety of jobs including Parachute drops, evacuation of casualties.

     If you search for "Caterpillar Club +aviation", using the Google search engine, (4-22-04), you will find about 341 links. Perhaps the most helpful is the following.
What is the Caterpillar Club?
     This page on Mark Barbour's The Caterpillar Club's Aviation History of Central New York State website offers a very nice review of the origins of the club and includes a number of interesting images of artifacts and advertisements. You can access the page by clicking on the title above. If time permits, I suggest that you visit the homepage and sample some of its many features.

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