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Blue Knights TX XXI
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History of the Custom Challenge Coin  
History of the Custom Challenge Coin

During World War 1, American volunteers from all parts of the country filled the newly formed flying squadrons. Some were children of wealthy families attending colleges such as Yale and Harvard who quit mid-term to join the war. In one squadron a wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions struck in solid bronze carrying the squadron emblem for every member of his squadron. He himself carried his medallion in a small leather pouch around his neck.

Shortly after acquiring the medallions, the pilot’s aircraft was severely damaged by ground fire. He was forced to land behind enemy lines and was immediately captured by a German patrol. In order to discourage his escape, the Germans took all of his personal identification except for the small leather pouch around his neck. In the meantime, he was taken to a small French town near the front. Taking advantage of a bombardment that night, he escaped. However, he was without personal identification. He succeeded in avoiding German patrols and reached the front lines. With great difficulty, he crossed no-man’s land. Eventually, he stumbled onto a French post.

Unfortunately, the French in this sector had been plagued by saboteurs, who sometimes masqueraded as civilians and wore civilian clothes. Not recognizing the young pilot’s American accent, the French thought him an enemy and made ready to execute him. Just in time, he remembered his leather pouch containing the medallion. He showed the medallion to his would-be executioners. His French captors recognized the squadron insignia on the medallion and delayed long enough for him to confirm his identity. Instead of shooting him, they gave him a bottle of wine.

Back at his squadron, it became a tradition that all members carry their medallion or coin at all times. This tradition continued throughout the war and for many years after while surviving members of the squadron were still alive. The fighting men and women of the 48th Intelligence Squadron proudly continue this tradition still today, as do many other departments and agencies.

To ensure that all members carry their medallion or coin at all times, it is done through a challenge in the following manner: a challenger asks to see the coin. If the challenged can not produce his coin, he is required to buy a drink of choice for the member who challenged him. If the challenged member produces his coin, the challenging member is required to pay for the drink. If you are challenged and are unable to properly respond, you must buy a round of drinks for the challenger and the group being challenged. If everyone being challenged responds in the correct manner, the challenger must buy a round of drinks for all those people he challenged. Failure to buy a round is a despicable crime and will require that you turn in your coin to the issuing agency.

Coin checks are permitted, any time, any place. There are no exceptions to the rules. They apply to those clothed or unclothed. At the time of the challenge you are permitted one step and an arms reach to locate your coin. If you still cannot reach it—Sorry About That!


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