An early challenge coin saves an airman’s life

During World War I, volunteers from all parts of the United States filled the newly-formed flying squadrons of the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps (a predecessor to today’s Air Force). One squadron lieutenant ordered a set of bronze medallions illustrated with the squadron’s insignia, presenting one to each member of his unit as a memento of their service together. One young pilot placed his medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore around his neck for safekeeping – and perhaps for luck, too.

Shortly after acquiring the medallions, the pilot’s aircraft was severely damaged by ground fire, forcing him to land behind enemy lines where he was immediately captured by a German patrol. To discourage his escape, the Germans confiscated his military identification, but did not take the medallion. A short time later, he was taken to a small town in France near the front battle line. Eventually the pilot escaped his captors and headed to France.

He avoided arrest by German patrols by changing from military to civilian attire. Eventually he reached the front lines and survived crossing “no man’s land”, when he stumbled into a French outpost.

German saboteurs had plagued the French by dressing as civilians, so the pilot was immediately suspected of being another saboteur. Not recognizing his American accent, and with no military or personal identification available, the French made arrangements for his execution by firing squad.

Searching for a way to survive, the pilot showed his bronze medallion to his captors. One recognized the squadron’s American insignia – and this recognition saved his life. And since American pilots had volunteered to fly in France’s own air force, Armée de l'Air, the medallion earned the pilot respect and gratitude as well.

The challenge behind the medallion

Eventually, it became a WWI tradition that all members of a military unit carry their medallion or coin at all times. This was supported by the challenge coin tradition. Any soldier could ask to see another’s coin. If the challenged soldier wasn’t carrying his, he was required to buy the challenger a drink – but if he presented his coin, the challenger had to foot the bar bill. This tradition continued throughout the war and for many years afterwards.

Caliber Challenge Coin, front and back

Introducing the Caliber Custom Challenge Coin

In keeping with military tradition, Caliber presents every VA Loan borrower with a custom Challenge Coin after their home loan is finalized. It represents more than our commitment to providing our military borrowers with the best possible service … each Challenge Coin is a reflection of our lasting appreciation for your service to our country.