The Caterpillar Club is one of the most exclusive societies in the world. Yet no one is particularly anxious to join this organization because initiation is strenuous. The honor is not sought; fate thrusts it at times on those who travel by air.
Any person whose life is saved by the use of a parachute in an emergency jump from an airplane is eligible for membership in the Caterpillar Club.
Lieutenant Harold R. Harris is recognized as the first official member of the Caterpillar Club, for being the first airmen, on October 22. 1922, to be saved by a parachute during an emergency jump at McCook Field.
After Harris’ remarkable escape, two members of the Parachute Branch of the Engineering Division of the Air Corps at McCook Field, J. Mumma and M.H. St. Clair, started a display featuring the wreck of the airplane and parachute which began attracting media attention. After much discussion, it was surmised that Harris’ jump was just one of the first and that a club should be formed to embrace the intrepid airmen.
Since then, both SWITLIK Parachute Company and Irvin Parachute Company began collecting jump stories and issued certificates and Caterpillar pins to the newly inducted members. Membership quickly swelled during WWII and Stanley Switlik made steps to formalize its intent.
In 1943, on the eve of its twenty-first birthday, the Caterpillar Club, was organized and incorporated by SWITLIK Parachute Company to foster greater safety in air travel, as well as to give aviators who qualify some definite attachment to the post-war period.
Today, the SWITLIK Caterpillar Club counts thousands of airmen including former President George H.W. Bush, General Doolittle, and Col. Lindbergh among its rank. Here at SWITLIK, we still maintain Caterpillar Club records and continue to enroll eligible members.
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