Lafayette Escadrille: Wikis


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Squadron Insignia of the Lafayette Escadrille

The Lafayette Escadrille (from the French Escadrille de Lafayette), was a squadron of the French Air Service, the Aéronautique militaire, during World War I composed largely of American volunteer pilots flying fighters.



The squadron was formed in April 1916 as the Escadrille américaine (number 124) in Luxeuil prior to U.S. entry into the war. Dr. Edmund L. Gros, director of the American Ambulance Service, and Norman Prince, an American expatriate already flying for France, led the efforts to persuade the French government of the value of a volunteer American air unit fighting for France. The aim was to have their efforts recognized by the American public and thus, it was hoped, the resulting publicity would rouse interest in abandoning neutrality and joining the fight. Not all American pilots were in this squadron; other American pilots fought for France as part of the Lafayette Flying Corps.

(In fact, higher numbers of American volunteers served with the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force during the conflict.)

The squadron was quickly moved to Bar-le-Duc, closer to the front. A German objection filed with the U.S. government, over the actions of a supposed neutral nation, led to the name change in December. The original name implied that the U.S. was allied to France when it was in fact neutral.

The planes, their mechanics, and the uniforms were French, as was the commander, Captain Georges Thenault. Five French pilots were also on the roster, serving at various times. Raoul Lufbery, a French-born American citizen, became the squadron's first, and ultimately their highest claiming, flying ace with 16 confirmed victories before his squadron was transferred to the US Air Services.


The first major action seen by the squadron was at the Battle of Verdun, being posted to the front in May 1916 until September 1916, when the unit moved to 7 Army area at Luxeuil. The squadron, flying the Nieuport scout, suffered heavy losses, but its core group of 38 was rapidly replenished by other Americans arriving from overseas. So many volunteered that the Lafayette Flying Corps was formed, many Americans thereafter serving with other French air units. Altogether, 265 American volunteers served in the Corps. Although not formally part of the Lafayette Escadrille, other Americans such as Michigan's Fred Zinn, who was a pioneer of aerial photography, fought as part of the French Foreign Legion and later the French Aéronautique militaire.

The Escadrille had a reputation for daring, recklessness, and a party atmosphere.[citation needed] Two lion cubs, named "Whiskey" and "Soda", were made squadron mascots.

Lufbery got into trouble for hitting an officer who was unwise enough to lay hands on him during an argument. He was rescued from jail by his squadron mates. He was a man after the heart of French ace Charles Nungesser who came calling on the escadrille during one of his convalescences. He borrowed a Spad and shot down another German plane even though he was officially grounded.

On 8 February 1918, the squadron was transferred to the US Army Air Service as the 103rd Aero Squadron. For a brief period it retained its French planes and mechanics. Most of its veteran members were set to work training newly-arrived American pilots.

The 103d PS claimed a further 49 kills up until November 1918.


James Norman Hall (1887–1951) of the Lafayette Escadrille, 1917

There is some confusion between pilots who were a part of the Lafayette Escadrille or the Lafayette Flying Corps, especially in the film Flyboys. These five French officers and 38 American pilots (Also Known as "The Valiant 38") were part of the Lafayette Escadrille[1].


French officers

American pilots

  • 1 Horace Clyde Balsley
  • 2 Stephen Sohier Bigelow
  • 3 Ray Claflin Bridgman
  • 4 Andrew Courtney Campbell, Jr., died in service
  • 5 Victor Emmanuel Chapman (1890–1916), the first American aviator to be killed in World War I
  • 6 Elliot Christoprer Cowdin
  • 7 Charles Heave Dolan
  • 8 James Ralph Doolittle, died in service
  • 9 John Armstrong Drexel
  • 10 William Edward Dugan, Jr.
  • 11 Christopher William Ford
  • 12 Edmond Charles Clinton Genet, the first American flier to die after the United States declared war against Germany
  • 13 James Norman Hall (1887–1951), co-author of Mutiny on the Bounty and Falcons of France about the Lafayette Escadrille
  • 14 Bert Hall (1885–1948) (Lt), film director, actor, author who wrote two books about being a "Flyboy" in the Lafayette Escadrille.
  • 15 Willis Bradley Haviland
  • 16 Thomas Moses Hewitt, Jr.
  • 17 Dudley Lawrence Hill
  • 18 Edward Foote Hinkle
  • 19 Ronald Wood Hoskier, died in service
  • 20 Charles Chouteau Johnson
  • 21 Henry Sweet Jones
  • 22 Walter Lovell
  • 23 Raoul Lufbery (1885–1918), an ace who died in combat after jumping from the tail of his burning fighter.
  • 24 James Rogers McConnell (1887-1917)
  • 25 MacManagle Dougles
  • 26 Marr Kenneth Archibald
  • 27 Masson pierre Diddier Didier Masson
  • 28 Edwin C. "Ted" Parsons
  • 29 Paul Pavelka, died in service
  • 30 David M. Peterson
  • 31 Frederick Henry Prince, Jr. (1885–1963)
  • 32 Norman Prince (1887–1916), founder and ace, died in service
  • 33 Kiffin Vates Rockwell, died in service
  • 34 Robert Lockerbie Rockwell
  • 35 Laurence Dana Rumsey, Jr.
  • 36 Robert Soubiran
  • 37 William Thaw William Thaw (aviator)
  • 38 Harold Buckley Willis (Sgt)


  • A statue by the sculptor Gutzon Borglum titled The Aviator (1919) was erected on the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia United States in the memory of James R. McConnell, a member of the squadron who was killed during the War. McConnell wrote a first-hand account of the war, Flying in France,[1] that gives the reader invaluable insight into the war in France from 1915 until his death in 1917. Letters added to the end of the book include an account of McConnell's demise.
  • Lafayette Escadrille Memorial, Villeneuve-l'Étang Imperial Estate, in Marnes-la-Coquette, Hauts-de-Seine, outside of Paris, France, 1928
  • Norman Prince tomb, Washington National Cathedral,United States.
  • James R. McConnell. Two memorials are located in Carthage, North Carolina, United States. The first is a granite column flanked by two cannon, the other is a granite stone inscribed in the French language at the community house.
Community House Monument to James R. McConnell
  • Memorial to the American Volunteers. On 4 July 1923, the President of the French Council of State, Raymond Poincaré, dedicated a monument in the Place des États-Unis, Paris, to the Americans who had volunteered to fight in World War I in the service of France.

Fictional accounts

The story of the Lafayette Escadrille has been adapted into three films: The Legion of the Condemned (1928) a William A. Wellman film; Lafayette Escadrille (1958), a Wellman film starring Tab Hunter, and Flyboys (2006), directed by Tony Bill and starring James Franco. The Lafayette Escadrille also appears in "Attack of the Hawkmen", an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in which Indy is temporarily assigned to the group as an aerial reconnaissance photographer.

The exploits of the Lafayette Escadrille are also captured in several works of historical fiction including: Falcons of France by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall (1929), To the Last Man by Jeffrey Shaara, Valiant Volunteers by Terry L. Johnson (2005), An Ace Minus One by Timothy Morrisroe (2006), and Kickapoo by Thomas Wilson (2006).

See also

Films based on the Escadrille américaine


  • Bowen, Ezra. Knights of the Air. New York: Time Life Books Aviation Series, 1980. ISBN 0-80943-252-8.
  • Brown, Walt, Jr. An American for Lafayette: The Diaries of E.C.C. Genet, Lafayette Escadrille. Charlottesville Virginia: University Press of Virginia, 1981. ISBN 0-81390-893-0.
  • McConnell, James. "Flying For France: With The American Escadrille At Verdun". The World's Work: A History of Our Time XXXIII: 41-53, November 1916. Retrieved: 4 August 2009.
  • McConnell, James R. "Flying For France: Further Experiences Of An Aviator In The American Escadrille In France". The World's Work: A History of Our Time XXXIII: 497-509, March 1917. Retrieved: 4 August 2009.
  • Morse, Edwin W. America in the War: The Vanguard of American Volunteers in the Fighting Lines and in Humanitarian Service, August, 1914–April, 1917. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1919.
  • Nordhoff, Charles and James Norman Hall. The Lafayette Flying Corps. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920.
  • Parsons, Edwin C. I flew wth the Lafayette Escadrille. Indianapolis. E. C. Seale and Company, Inc., 1930 first edition, reprint 1953.
  • Shaara, Jeff. To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War. New York: The Random House Publishing Group, 2004. ISBN 0-345-46134-7.
  • Thenault, Georges. The Story of the LaFayette Escadrille- Told By its Commander Captain Georges Thenault (Translated by Walter Duranty, with An Introduction By Andre Tardieu (High Commissioner of Franco-American Affairs). Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1921.
  • Wilson, Thomas. Kickapoo. Thomaston, Maine: Dan River Press, 2006. ISBN 0-89754-216-9 and 0-89754-215-0.

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