Gary G. Lattin, an aircraft commander in the squadron, designed the Firebird emblem of the 17th Troop Carrier Squadron. In the early 1960s, the 64th Troop Carrier Wing selected Gary's work of art as being the best entered in a contest to select an appropriate emblem for the newly reactivated 17th TCS. The concept appears to be based on the mythical Egyptian Phoenix. If so, it is very appropriate since the Phoenix was reputed to be a blood red, beautiful, lone bird, which lived in the Arabian desert for 500 or 600 years and then consumed itself in fire, rising renewed from the ashes to begin another lifetime. Gary Lattin provided this original drawing for posting. (Nolan Bailey)

The Firebird Myth


The Firebird Legend is based in Russian folklore. Besides being told to children as a fairytale, the Firebird legend is the subject of Stravinsky's 1910 score, The Firebird Suite.

During a hunting expedition, Prince Ivan, the Tsarevich, wanders into an enchanted garden. There, he spies a beautiful bird with dazzling plumage that is trying to pluck golden fruit from a silver tree. Ivan captures the bird but yeilds to its entreaties to be set free. In gratitude, the Firebird gives Ivan a magic feather.

As the sun rises, thirteen enchanted princesses come from the castle to dance and play with golden apples. Ivan discloses himself and is told the castle is the property of the evil magician Kastchei, who turns captive travelers into stone. Ivan, now in love with one of the princesses, vows to enter the castle. As he opens the gates, Kastchei and his crew of grotesques march onto the scene. Kastchei tries to bewitch Ivan, but the Prince is protected by the Firebird's feather.

The Firebird then appears and casts a spell by dancing wildly among the demons of Kastchei. The bird then reveals to Ivan an egg which contains Kastchei's soul. Ivan smashes the egg, and Kastchei dies. With his death, the princesses are liberated, and the story ends happily.

The legendary Firebird is said to resemble a gigantic and magnificent hawk whose wings seem to be made of flame.

Note: According to Jim Alexander, former Firebird pilot, the Firebird emblem was inspired by Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. Gary Lattin and Jim were listening to music at his home and happened to select the Firebird Suite. On the cover of the album was a drawing which was drastically modified to became the squadron emblem of the 17th Troop Carrier Squadron.


Wearing the Firebird Patch

The Firebird patch as designed by Gary Lattin and worn by 17th TCS/TAS members always faced to heraldic right. However, when the 17th was transferred from AAC to MAC, the gaining command required all assigned members to wear the MAJCOM patch on the chest and the squadron patch on the right shoulder.

Since this would have had the bird flying towards the wearer's rear (flying backwards), the 17th requested that the USAF heraldry board permit the insignia to be redesigned with the bird facing to the left for those occasions when display would have the bird flying backwards. The heraldry board concurred.

The bird continued to be displayed in the more familiar manner, with the bird facing to heraldic right except when worn on the right shoulder.


Best Regards,

Jim Waldman

Editor's Note: Jim Waldman is a former commander of the 17th TAS. And, as such, he is the person responsible for having had the patch approved by the USAF Heraldry Board to face either direction.

Designer of Firebird Emblem Lost to Cancer


August 13, 1998


Dear Nolan,

My name is Randall Lattin, and I am writing to you concerning my father. I do not know if you are aware that Dad was very sick with lung cancer. I sincerely regret to tell you that Dad passed away August 11, 1998, due to complications from the cancer.

He always spoke very highly of you, and Mom and I are certain that you would want to know.

As I am sure you realize, he will be dearly missed. You should know that he suffered greatly the last few weeks. Although we are saddened beyond words, we are greatly relieved that he is no longer in pain and enjoying his new life with his Father.

I would appreciate it greatly if you could share this with the organization. He will be interned at the Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, CA, with full military honors. In lieu of flowers, we, the family, and Gary wish that donations be sent to The American Cancer Society.

Thank you,

Randall Lattin

Message received from Randall Lattin, son of Gary Lattin, in August of 1998.

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