Original U.S. WWII USAAF Officer Crush Cap of Major-General Ramsay Potts

Item Description

Original Item: Recently acquired from a highly respected private collection, this visor cap, in ETO green issue is in very good condition and of very high quality in size 7 1/8. It is marked in the crown GIMBEL BROTHERS (Gimbels) was an famous American department store corporation from 1887 until 1987. The cap retains the iconic pilot's crush shape. However, the most interesting aspect is that the interior leather sweat band is embossed on gold print: COL. R. POTTS.

Major-General Ramsay (sometimes spelled Ramsey) Potts was one of America's most decorated and successful bomber pilots during the Second World War.

During his time as a USAAF Bomb Group commander, the actor James Stewart was his operations officer. After the war Potts became a corporate lawyer and one of Washington DC's most prominent attorneys.

Potts was a senior pilot in the 93rd Bomb Group, and commanded one of the group's long-range B-24 Liberator squadrons, which he led on the daring low-level attack against the oil refineries in Romania on August 1 1943.He was awarded a Distinguished Service cross for this mission which can be verified at this link.

Germany obtained much of its oil supplies from the oil wells and refineries at Ploesti, making the complex a priority target. Only the USAAF's B-24s could reach it, and the 93rd deployed from their airfield in East Anglia to mount the operation from Benghazi, in Libya.

Taking off from the desert airfield at dawn, the 26-year-old Major Potts, flying his B-24 ("The Duchess"), was at the head of his squadron assigned to the second formation of the 178 bombers on the raid.

To achieve maximum surprise the aircraft flew at very low level, and were timed to arrive over the target within a very short period in order to saturate the very heavy ground and air defenses.

Over the mountains of Albani, bad weather disrupted the B-24 formations, splitting the force in two and leaving Potts and his squadron unexpectedly in the leading element.

Just short of the target, the raid leader made a navigational error and turned too early, resulting in an approach through the most heavily defended area, which they had meant to avoid.

Potts broke radio silence and shouted a warning, but the intricate plan had been compromised.

The delay caused by the error resulted in the two formations approaching the target at the same time, but from different directions.

Within minutes of the raid beginning, Ploesti was covered in flames and dense smoke; aircraft fell to the anti-aircraft fire, and the bombers, flying at chimney height, had to avoid others coming at them head-on.

Potts led his 12 bombers to drop their bombs into what a military publication called "merciless fire from almost every conceivable ground defense weapon".

During the attack Potts's aircraft was badly damaged, and some of his crew were wounded.

Escaping from the target, the bombers were harassed by enemy fighters all the way to the Ionian Sea; they became widely scattered, destroying the mutual defense they provided for one another.

Potts managed to keep his bomber flying despite severe damage to the controls, and he was one of a small number to return to Benghazi after almost 14 hours in the air.

On landing, the Duchess had more than 50 fist-sized holes in the wings and fuselage. The raid was a success, but at a very high cost.

The B-24 squadrons lost 532 men and 54 aircraft, and the damage sustained by the surviving aircraft was such that only 30 of the original force of 178 were serviceable for combat the following day.

The loss rate on the Ploesti raid was so high that the USAAF abandoned the tactic of flying daylight bombing raids without a fighter escort.

The son of a cotton merchant, Ramsey Douglas Potts Jr was born on October 24 1916 at Memphis, Tennessee.

He was educated at the local grammar school and at Darlington School before earning a degree in commerce at the University of North Carolina, where he also excelled at tennis and basketball.

Potts trained as a bomber pilot and arrived at Alconbury, near Huntingdon, in September 1942. His squadron was blooded in attacks against targets in northern France, but in November it was briefly assigned to convoy protection in the build-up to Operation Torch.

On November 21 Potts was patrolling in the Bay of Biscay when five German fighters attacked his B-24.

During a fierce encounter his gunners shot down two and damaged a third before Potts was able to escape and land at an airfield in southern England.

After the Ploesti raid Potts continued to fly on the daylight bombing operations over Germany.

At 27 he was promoted to full colonel and assumed command of the 453rd Bomb Group based in Norfolk.

He completed 38 bombing missions, many as the leader of the mass formation of bombers against targets such as Hamburg, Brunswick and Bremen.

On seven occasions he led the 2nd Air Division after being appointed its chief of staff. Potts's operations officer with the 453rd, James Stewart, was a veteran of 20 bombing operations as the commander of a B-24 squadron. Potts recalled: "We hit it off very well, he was a wonderful addition to the group and had the same languid style as in his movies." They remained friends for many years.

Potts became the director of bombing operations of the 8th Air Force and, after the war, was a military adviser to the US Strategic Bombing Survey, which analysed the effectiveness of bombing missions against the Axis powers. For that work he interviewed NSDAP leaders, including Goering, Albert Kesselring and Alfred Jodl.

Potts was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, three DFCs, the Bronze Star and five Air Medals.

He was also awarded the British DFC for "his outstanding courage and heroism" and the French Croix de Guerre.

He retired from the Air Force Reserve as a major-general in 1972, when he became a fundraiser for the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum at Savannah, Georgia.

After the war Potts graduated from Harvard University law school.

He was a special assistant to the then Air Force Secretary, W Stuart Symington, and president of the Military Air Transport Association, a trade organisation of charter and cargo carriers.

In 1958 he and three other lawyers founded a Washington law firm whose portfolio included corporate law, securities regulation, environmental law and nuclear energy issues. He retired as managing director in 1986.

In May 2005 Potts was the guest of honor at a gala dinner in Washington hosted by the Duke of Kent.

It was organized by the American Air Museum in Britain - located at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford - to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the victory in the Second World War and the unique bond between the people of Great Britain and the USAAF.

Potts was deeply involved for many years in tennis tournaments in the Washington area both as a player and organizer.

Ramsey Potts met his English wife, Veronica, whom he married in 1945, when she was serving with the WAAF; she died in 1993, and he is survived by two sons and two daughters.

This is the classic "bomber pilot" headgear, worn by USAAF pilots in Europe and the Pacific. Actually, this was the standard Army/AAF officer's 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 such as the case with this example that was worn by a doctor in the USAAF.
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