Lafayette Escadrille
Overview
 
The Lafayette Escadrille (from the French Escadrille de Lafayette), was an escadrille
Escadrille
Escadrille is a type of military unit in numerous armed forces, notably in air forces of continental Europe. While the term is sometimes translated to English as Squadron , escadrilles of nations other than the United Kingdom and United States were usually half the size.During World War II a...

 of the French Air Service, the Aéronautique militaire, during World War I composed largely of American volunteer pilots flying fighters
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

.
Dr. Edmund L. Gros, director of the American Ambulance Service, and Norman Prince
Norman Prince
Norman Prince was a leading founder of France's Lafayette Escadrille with Bill Thaw, Elliott C. Cowdin, Frazier Curtis, and Greeley S. Curtis, Jr....

, 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.
Encyclopedia
The Lafayette Escadrille (from the French Escadrille de Lafayette), was an escadrille
Escadrille
Escadrille is a type of military unit in numerous armed forces, notably in air forces of continental Europe. While the term is sometimes translated to English as Squadron , escadrilles of nations other than the United Kingdom and United States were usually half the size.During World War II a...

 of the French Air Service, the Aéronautique militaire, during World War I composed largely of American volunteer pilots flying fighters
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

.

History

Dr. Edmund L. Gros, director of the American Ambulance Service, and Norman Prince
Norman Prince
Norman Prince was a leading founder of France's Lafayette Escadrille with Bill Thaw, Elliott C. Cowdin, Frazier Curtis, and Greeley S. Curtis, Jr....

, 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. Authorized by the French Air Department on 21 March 1916, the Escadrille Américaine (number 124) was deployed on April 20 in Luxeuil-les-Bains
Luxeuil-les-Bains
Luxeuil-les-Bains is a commune in the Haute-Saône department in the region of Franche-Comté in eastern France.-History:Luxeuil was the Roman Luxovium and contained many fine buildings at the time of its destruction by the Huns under Attila in 451...

, France. Despite their slow progress with public popularity in America, the squadron proved the benefits of aerial combat to both sides. Before World War I, planes were not considered instruments of combat.

Not all American pilots were in Lafayette Escadrille; other American pilots fought for France as part of the Lafayette Flying Corps
Lafayette Flying Corps
The Lafayette Flying Corps is a name used to describe the American volunteer pilots who flew for the French during World War I. It includes the pilots who flew with the bona fide Lafayette Escadrille squadron. The estimations of number of pilots range from 180 to over 300. The generally accepted...

.

The squadron was then moved closer to the front to Bar-le-Duc
Bar-le-Duc
Bar-le-Duc, formerly known as Bar, is a commune in the Meuse département, of which it is the préfecture . The department is in Lorraine in north-eastern France-Geography:...

. A German objection filed with the U.S. government, over the actions of a supposed neutral nation, led to the name change to Lafayette Escadrille in December 1916, as the original name implied that the U.S. was allied to France rather than neutral.

The unit's aircraft, mechanics, and uniforms were French, as was the commander, Captain Georges Thenault
Georges Thenault
Lieutenant ColonelAir force officer ranks Georges Thenault was the commander of the Lafayette Escadrille - the famed branch of the French air force in World War I composed of American volunteer pilots. The Lafayette Escadrille was created before the United States gave up its neutrality, and joined...

. Five French pilots were also on the roster, serving at various times. Raoul Lufbery
Raoul Lufbery
Gervais Raoul Lufbery was aFrench-American fighter pilot and flying ace in World War I. Because he served in both French aviation, and later the United States Army Air Service in World War I, he is sometimes listed as a French ace and sometimes as an American ace, though all but one of his 17...

, a French-born American citizen, became the squadron's first, and ultimately their highest scoring flying ace
Flying ace
A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The actual number of aerial victories required to officially qualify as an "ace" has varied, but is usually considered to be five or more...

 with 16 confirmed victories before his squadron was transferred to the US Air Services
History of the United States Air Force
The United States Air Force became a separate military service on September 18, 1947, with the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947. The Act created the United States Department of Defense, which was composed of three branches, the Army, Navy and a newly created Air Force...

.

Combat

The first major action seen by the squadron was 13 May 1916 at the Battle of Verdun
Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February – 18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France...

 and five days later, Kiffin Rockwell
Kiffin Rockwell
Kiffin Yates Rockwell was an early aviator whose major claim to fame is as the first American to shoot down an enemy aircraft in World War I....

 would record the unit's first aerial victory. On June 23, the Escadrille would suffer its first fatality when Victor Chapman
Victor Chapman
Victor S. Chapman was a French-American pilot remembered for his exploits during World War I.-Growing up:...

 was shot down over Douaumont
Douaumont
Douaumont is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France.The village was destroyed during World War I. Today the Douaumont ossuary, which contains the remains of more than 100,000 unknown soldiers of both French and German nationalities found on the battlefield, stands...

. The unit was posted to the front until September 1916, when the unit was moved back to Luxeuil-les-Bains in 7 Army area. On September 23, Rockwell was killed when his Nieuport was downed by the gunner in a German Albatross observation plane and in October Norman Prince
Norman Prince
Norman Prince was a leading founder of France's Lafayette Escadrille with Bill Thaw, Elliott C. Cowdin, Frazier Curtis, and Greeley S. Curtis, Jr....

 was shot down during battle. The squadron, flying the Nieuport 11
Nieuport 11
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Angelucci, Enzio, ed. The Rand McNally Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft. New York: The Military Press, 1983. ISBN 0-517-41021-4....

 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
Lafayette Flying Corps
The Lafayette Flying Corps is a name used to describe the American volunteer pilots who flew for the French during World War I. It includes the pilots who flew with the bona fide Lafayette Escadrille squadron. The estimations of number of pilots range from 180 to over 300. The generally accepted...

 was formed and many Americans thereafter serving with other French air units such as Michigan's Fred Zinn
Fred Zinn
Friedrich Wilhelm "Fred" Zinn was a volunteer American aviator who flew with French Armée de l'Air forces in World War I and an early pioneer of aerial photography for wartime reconnaissance and Military intelligence....

, who was a pioneer of aerial photography
Aerial photography
Aerial photography is the taking of photographs of the ground from an elevated position. The term usually refers to images in which the camera is not supported by a ground-based structure. Cameras may be hand held or mounted, and photographs may be taken by a photographer, triggered remotely or...

, fought as part of the French Foreign Legion
French Foreign Legion
The French Foreign Legion is a unique military service wing of the French Army established in 1831. The foreign legion was exclusively created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French Armed Forces...

 and later the French Aéronautique militaire. Altogether, 265 American volunteers served in the Corps.

On 8 February 1918, the squadron was transferred to the US Army Air Service as the 103rd Aero Squadron
103rd Aero Squadron
The 103rd Aero Squadron was an Aero pursuit squadron which included officers from the disbanded Lafayette Escadrille, and the Lafayette Flying Corps.-History:...

. For a brief period it retained its French aircraft and mechanics. Most of its veteran members were set to work training newly-arrived American pilots. The 103rd claimed a further 49 kills before the Armistice was signed on November 11.

Members

There is some confusion between pilots who were a part of the Lafayette Escadrille or the Lafayette Flying Corps
Lafayette Flying Corps
The Lafayette Flying Corps is a name used to describe the American volunteer pilots who flew for the French during World War I. It includes the pilots who flew with the bona fide Lafayette Escadrille squadron. The estimations of number of pilots range from 180 to over 300. The generally accepted...

, 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.

French officers

  • Capt. Georges Thenault
    Georges Thenault
    Lieutenant ColonelAir force officer ranks Georges Thenault was the commander of the Lafayette Escadrille - the famed branch of the French air force in World War I composed of American volunteer pilots. The Lafayette Escadrille was created before the United States gave up its neutrality, and joined...

  • Lt. Alfred de Laage de Meux
  • Lt. Charles Nungesser
    Charles Nungesser
    Charles Eugène Jules Marie Nungesser, MC was a French ace pilot and adventurer, best remembered as a rival of Charles Lindbergh...

  • Lt. Antoine Arnoux de Maison-Rouge
  • Lt. Louis Verdier-Fauvety

American pilots

A † symbol indicates that the individual was killed in action
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

 or subsequently died of wounds received

Tributes

  • Lafayette Escadrille Memorial, Villeneuve-l'Étang Imperial Estate, in Marnes-la-Coquette
    Marnes-la-Coquette
    Marnes-la-Coquette is a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, France. Located from the center of Paris, the town is situated between the Parc de Saint-Cloud and the Forest of Fausses-Reposes...

    , Hauts-de-Seine
    Hauts-de-Seine
    Hauts-de-Seine is designated number 92 of the 101 départements in France. It is part of the Île-de-France region, and covers the western inner suburbs of Paris...

    , outside of Paris, France, the final work of French architect Alexandre Marcel
    Alexandre Marcel
    Alexandre Marcel was a French architect, best known for his Belle Époque interpretations of "exotic" international architectural styles.Marcel studied at the Parisian École des Beaux-Arts in the atelier of Louis-Jules André...

    , 1928
  • Memorial to the American Volunteers. On 4 July 1923, the President of the French Council of State, Raymond Poincaré
    Raymond Poincaré
    Raymond Poincaré was a French statesman who served as Prime Minister of France on five separate occasions and as President of France from 1913 to 1920. Poincaré was a conservative leader primarily committed to political and social stability...

    , dedicated a monument in the Place des États-Unis
    Place des États-Unis
    The Place des États-Unis is a public space in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, France, about 500 m south of the Place de l'Etoile and the Arc de Triomphe....

    , Paris, to the Americans who had volunteered to fight in World War I
    World War I
    World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

     in the service of France.
  • A statue by the sculptor Gutzon Borglum
    Gutzon Borglum
    Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum was an American artist and sculptor famous for creating the monumental presidents' heads at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, the famous carving on Stone Mountain near Atlanta, as well as other public works of art.- Background :The son of Mormon Danish immigrants, Gutzon...

     titled The Aviator (1919) was erected on the grounds of the University of Virginia
    University of Virginia
    The University of Virginia is a public research university located in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, founded by Thomas Jefferson...

     in Charlottesville, Virginia
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Charlottesville is an independent city geographically surrounded by but separate from Albemarle County in the Commonwealth of Virginia, United States, and named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the queen consort of King George III of the United Kingdom.The official population estimate for...

     in the memory of James R. McConnell, who was killed during the War.
  • Two other memorials are dedicated to McConnell and located in Carthage, North Carolina
    Carthage, North Carolina
    Carthage is a town in Moore County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 1,871 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Moore County.-Geography:Carthage is located at ....

    . The first is a granite column flanked by two cannon, the other is a granite stone inscribed in French at the community house.

  • Norman Prince tomb, Washington National Cathedral
    Washington National Cathedral
    The Washington National Cathedral, officially named the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, is a cathedral of the Episcopal Church located in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. Of neogothic design, it is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world, the second-largest in...

    , Washington, D.C.
  • There is a plaque in the memory of Kiffen Yates Rockwell in Lee Chapel at Washington & Lee University in Lexigton, Virginia, the college Rockwell attended before the war.

Fictional accounts

The story of the Lafayette Escadrille has been adapted into three films: The Legion of the Condemned
The Legion of the Condemned
The Legion of the Condemned was a silent film directed by William A. Wellman, produced by Jesse Lasky and Adolph Zukor with E. Lloyd Sheldon as associate producer. The film was distributed by Paramount Pictures....

(1928) a William A. Wellman
William A. Wellman
William Augustus Wellman was an American film director. Although Wellman began his film career as an actor, he worked on over 80 films, as director, producer and consultant but most often as a director, notable for his work in crime, adventure and action genre films, often focusing on aviation...

 film; Lafayette Escadrille
Lafayette Escadrille (film)
Lafayette Escadrille American war film released in March of 1958 by Warner Brothers Pictures, starring Tab Hunter, David Janssen, and Will Hutchins, and featuring Clint Eastwood in an early supporting role. It was the final film in the career of director William A...

(1958), a Wellman film starring Tab Hunter
Tab Hunter
Tab Hunter is an American actor, singer, former teen idol and author who has starred in over forty major films.-Background:...

, and Flyboys (2006), directed by Tony Bill
Tony Bill
Gerard Anthony "Tony" Bill is an American actor, producer, and director. He produced the 1973 movie The Sting, for which he shared the Academy Award for Best Picture with Michael Phillips and Julia Phillips...

 and starring James Franco
James Franco
James Edward Franco is an American actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, author, painter, performance artist and instructor at New York University. He left college in order to pursue acting and started off his career by making guest appearances on television series in the 1990s...

. The Lafayette Escadrille also appears in "Attack of the Hawkmen", an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles is an American television series that aired on ABC from March 4, 1992, to July 24, 1993. The series explores the childhood and youth of the fictional character Indiana Jones and primarily stars Sean Patrick Flanery and Corey Carrier as the title character, with...

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
Charles Nordhoff
Charles Bernard Nordhoff was an English-born American novelist and traveler.-Early life:Charles Nordhoff was born in London, England, on February 1, 1887, to American parents. His father was Walter Nordhoff, a wealthy businessman and author of The Journey of the Flame penned under the name...

 and James Norman Hall
James Norman Hall
James Norman Hall was an American author best known for the novel Mutiny on the Bounty with co-author Charles Nordhoff.-Biography:Hall was born in Colfax, Iowa, where he attended the local schools...

 (1929), To the Last Man
To the Last Man
To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War is a historical novel written by Jeff Shaara about the experience of a number of combatants in World War I. The book became a national best seller and received praise from people such as General Tommy Franks.The novel is based on the arrival of...

by Jeffrey Shaara
Jeffrey Shaara
Jeffrey M. "Jeff" Shaara is an American novelist, the son of Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Shaara.Jeffrey Shaara was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey and grew up in Tallahassee, Florida...

, Valiant Volunteers by Terry L. Johnson (2005), An Ace Minus One by Timothy Morrisroe (2006), and Kickapoo by Thomas Wilson (2006).

Rif War

In the mid-1920s, France recruited some 10 former pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille for service in the French Army of Africa
Army of Africa (France)
The Army of Africa was an unofficial but commonly used term for those portions of the French Army recruited from or normally stationed in French North Africa from 1830 until the end of the Algerian War in 1962.-Composition:...

, aiming to forestall American public and diplomatic support for the Rif
Rif
The Rif or Riff is a mainly mountainous region of northern Morocco, with some fertile plains, stretching from Cape Spartel and Tangier in the west to Ras Kebdana and the Melwiyya River in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the river of Wergha in the south.It is part of the...

 tribes rebelling
Rif War (1920)
The Rif War, also called the Second Moroccan War, was fought between Spain and the Moroccan Rif Berbers.-Rifian forces:...

 against French and Spanish
Spanish Morocco
The Spanish protectorate of Morocco was the area of Morocco under colonial rule by the Spanish Empire, established by the Treaty of Fez in 1912 and ending in 1956, when both France and Spain recognized Moroccan independence.-Territorial borders:...

 colonial rule. The pilots were inducted into the French Foreign Legion
French Foreign Legion
The French Foreign Legion is a unique military service wing of the French Army established in 1831. The foreign legion was exclusively created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French Armed Forces...

 in July 1925, where they formed the Chérif Squadron. Public protests in the United States led to the squadron's dissolution in 1925.

See also

  • List of World War I flying aces
  • Eagle Squadron
    Eagle squadron
    The Eagle Squadrons were 3 fighter squadrons of the Royal Air Force formed during World War II with volunteer pilots from the United States...

    —American volunteers in the RAF during World War II
  • Flying Tigers
    Flying Tigers
    The 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force in 1941–1942, famously nicknamed the Flying Tigers, was composed of pilots from the United States Army , Navy , and Marine Corps , recruited under presidential sanction and commanded by Claire Lee Chennault. The ground crew and headquarters...

    —American volunteers who fought for the ROC in the Sino-Japanese War
    Second Sino-Japanese War
    The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

  • Kościuszko Squadron
    Polish 7th Air Escadrille
    Polish 7th Air Escadrille , better known as the Kościuszko Squadron, was one of the units of the Polish Air Force during the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921. Formed in late 1918, it was re-formed in late 1919 from US volunteers...

    —American volunteers fighting for Poland in the Polish-Soviet War
    Polish-Soviet War
    The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...

     (1919–1921)
  • Vintage Aero Flying Museum
    Vintage Aero Flying Museum
    Vintage Aero Flying Museum , formally LaFayette1 Escadrille Flying Museum, is Colorado's international aviation museum at Platte Valley Airpark, 4 miles north-west of Hudson, Colorado and 40 miles north-east of Denver, Colorado....

     artifact collection
  • French colonial flags
    French colonial flags
    Some of the colonies, protectorates and mandates of the French Colonial Empire used distinctive colonial flags. These most commonly had a French Tricolour in the canton....

  • French Colonial Empire
    French colonial empire
    The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

  • List of French possessions and colonies

External links

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