Original U.S. WWII Combat Ace Johnny Alison Khaki Crush Cap - Army Air Force

Item Description

Original Item: One-of-a-kind. Recently acquired from a highly respected private collection, this visor cap, in summer Khaki issue color, was made by KATTEN & SONS of Hartford Connecticut as indicated by the original maker label found under the original liner celluloid lining. It is in well-worn but still in very good condition with the iconic crush shape. The sweatband is embossed in gold letting with the name JOHNNY ALISON. There is also a U.S. Army Air Forces card in the name tag slot with they typed name JOHN R. ALISON.

This peaked cap features a gold tone WWII Army insignia over a leather visor. The cap is in good shape, but is worn. It features wicker construction, leather sweatband and double layer construction. The sweatband and wicker have separated at the back of the hat, this almost looks intentional as wear is not consistent to such separation and could have been done to increase comfort. Overall the a cap in very good condition and was constructed with the highest quality standards. However, the most interesting aspect of this hat, is the owner.

John Richardson "Johnny" Alison (November 21, 1912 – June 6, 2011) was a highly decorated American combat ace of World War II and is often cited as the father of Air Force Special Operations.

Early years
Born in Micanopy, Florida, near Gainesville in 1912, Alison graduated from the University of Florida School of Engineering and joined the United States Army Air Corps in 1936. He earned his wings and was commissioned at Kelly Field in 1937. Prior to America's entry into World War II, he served as Assistant Military Attache in England and helped British pilots transition into the P-40.[2] In October 1941, Alison traveled to Moscow to administer the sensitive U.S.-Soviet P-40 Lend-Lease program. He trained Russian pilots in the P-40, A-20, and B-25 Mitchell aircraft. In his autobiography, Jimmy Doolittle wrote:

I might have gone to Russia, but Lieutenants Hubert Zemke and Johnny Alison, who had also been sent to England as observers, went instead. Good men, they both became aces later in the war. Johnny became a major general.

After ten months and repeated requests for reassignment to combat, Alison got his wish. In June 1942, he reported to the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI) to serve as Deputy Squadron Commander under major David Lee "Tex" Hill in the 75th Fighter Squadron, part of Colonel Robert Lee Scott Jr.'s 23rd Fighter Group, the USAAF successor of the AVG's famed Flying Tigers in the China-Burma-India Theater.

Alison was called into theater by the previous commander of the AVG, Brigadier General Claire Lee Chennault, who was serving as Commander of the Fourteenth Air Force. On 30 July 1942, Alison was credited with the first night kills in the theater. For his experimental night interception, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Alison again demonstrated his aggressiveness in early 1943, when he took off during an attack on his own airfield, engaged three Mitsubishi A6M Zeros, and scored one probable kill. He then vectored arriving reinforcements to the battle, after which he made a stern attack on another enemy fighter at close range, shooting it down. His gallantry and fighting spirit earned him the Silver Star. Ending his tour as commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Alison left as an ace with seven confirmed victories and several probable kills. His former commanding officer, David Lee "Tex" Hill, had high praise for Alison:

John Alison had the greatest pure flying skill of any pilot in the theater — a touch on the controls that knew no equal. His talents were matched only by his eagerness for combat.

Air Commando
After returning home in May 1943, Alison was recalled to the CBI theater by Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold to co-command (along with Lt. Col. Philip G. Cochran) the newly formed 1st Air Commando Group, also known as Project 9. As leader of this secret and highly innovative flying unit, Alison led a composite wing of fighters, bombers, transports and gliders in the dramatic "aerial invasion of Burma," dubbed Operation THURSDAY. The 1st Air Commandos supported the British "Chindit" Special Forces' infiltration of Japanese rear supply areas. In March 1944, Alison's men flew more than 200 miles behind enemy lines, transporting, re-supplying, and providing fire support for over 9,000 Allied forces. Alison's innovative leadership and combat daring as co-commander of the 1st Air Commandos helped to turn the tide of the Allied war effort in the CBI theater.

Alison later commanded the 3rd Air Commando group in the Pacific serving in the Philippines and Okinawa.

Later years
After the war, he served as an Assistant Secretary of Commerce, President of the Air Force Association, and as a major general in the Air Force Reserve. He retired as vice president of the Northrop Corporation in 1984 and is a 1994 inductee into the Air Commando Hall of Fame. In 2005 Alison was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Alison died on June 6, 2011 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on October 3, 2011. Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz provided the eulogy at the Old Post Chapel at Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall. Following the chapel service, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley presented the American flag to Alison's wife, Penni, at the graveside service. Alison was survived by Penni, and their two sons, John and David. Shortly before his passing, he authorized the Washington DC Chapter of the Air Commando Association to use his name and they are known as the John R. Alison Chapter of the Air Commando Association.


This is the classic "bomber pilot" headgear, worn by USAAF pilots in Europe and the Pacific. Actually, this was the standard Army/AAF officer dress cap, worn by pilots and non-pilots alike, but pilots gave this cap their own unique twist. Normally, this cap had stiffeners -- a support piece behind the cap device and a wire around the inside top perimeter to maintain the cap's round shape. These kept the cap in its proper, regulation military shape and angle. However, since bomber pilots wore headsets over their caps during flights, they would remove the wire stiffener to make headset wear more comfortable, causing the sides of the caps to become crushed. Eventually, the caps retained their floppy "crushed" look, giving the pilot who wore it the look of a seasoned veteran.

The crush cap identified its wearer as an experienced pro, and was as much a part of his identity as his leather flight jacket. The crush cap look quickly became popular with ground army officers and general officers.

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