Lafayette Escadrille honored on 100th Anniversary of formation - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Lafayette Escadrille honored on 100th Anniversary of formation

Members of the Lafayette Escadrille pose in front of their Nieuport fighters at the airfield in Verdun, France.

It might come as a shock to some to learn that America’s oldest ally is France. This is due in no small part to the unfaltering efforts a bold young Frenchman known simply today as Lafayette.

In the early years of our Revolution, Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette defied explicit orders from Louis XVI and crossed the Atlantic to fight against the hated King of England. His bravery in the Battle of Brandywine earned him a musket ball wound and a division command in George Washington’s army, making the daring nobleman a hero in both Philadelphia and Paris. Lafayette would go home to help forge an alliance between the Confederation of Colonies and France; returning to America on the Hermione after bringing France and Spain into the deciding battles for American independence.

One hundred and thirty-seven years after Lafayette’s epic decision to cast his lot with the cause for Liberty, Americans from all walks of life crossed the Atlantic to join France’s fight in the Great War.  In time Lieutenant Colonel Charles E. Stanton would famously proclaim, “Lafayette, We Are Here!”

Lafayette monument in Baltimore. (Anthony C. Hayes)

Lafayette monument in Baltimore. (Anthony C. Hayes)

On Wednesday, April 20th, dignitaries from around the world will gather in Paris to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the formation of the all volunteer air squadron know as the Lafayette Escadrille.

Mike Williams of the United States World War One Centennial Commission said in a press release, “The ceremony will be attended by leading figures of American and French diplomacy and air forces, a symbol of the political and military bonds wrought by the men of the Escadrille. As a part of the ceremony, there will be a flyby consisting of several WWI-era aircraft through to modern day F-22 Raptors and a US B-52 bomber.”

The Lafayette Escadrille was the inspiration of three Americans who hoped to aide the exhausted Allied forces. The French approved of the idea and a squadron – designated N.124 because it flew nimble Nieuport biplanes – was put under the command of French Air Service Captain George Thenault.

While some of the American airmen had previously flown in the French Air Service, many were fledgling fliers who would learn the perils of piloting fragile aircraft against German guns. Their exploits encouraged other American airmen to join in the fight. By the time the United States officially entered the war in 1917, the Yankee volunteers were credited with downing 199 enemy planes.

Thirty-eight American aviators are recognized as members of the Escadrille. Eleven of these pilots paid the ultimate price for their service to France.

Captain Thenault would say of these men:

“They were the precursors of the mighty awakening of the west — of that gigantic effort of America — unparalleled in history — the greatest of all crusades, where every qualified man was enrolled under the Stars and Stripes, for no selfish aim, for no world-conquest, but for the great ideals upon which civilization depends and for which the entire resources of the nation were unsparingly contributed to assure victory.”

UPDATE: Here are a few pictures from today’s event.  We will add more as they become available.

Lafayette Escadrille 100 logo

The Lafayette Escadrille Memorial, located just outside Paris in Marnes-la-Coquette.

The Lafayette Escadrille Memorial, located just outside Paris in Marnes-la-Coquette.

 French veterans bear the colors during the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial 100th anniversary ceremony in Marnes-la-Coquette, France, April 20, 2016. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua DeMotts/Released)

French veterans bear the colors during the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial 100th anniversary ceremony in Marnes-la-Coquette, France, April 20, 2016. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua DeMotts/Released)

Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, speaks to the crowd about the shared sacrifice and long standing relationship of the U.S.and France at the Lafayette Escadrille centennial event.

Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, speaks to the crowd about the shared sacrifice and long standing relationship of the U.S.and France at the Lafayette Escadrille centennial event.

French and American military and civilian representatives attend the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial 100th anniversary ceremony in Marnes-la-Coquette, France, April 20, 2016 during a ceremony honoring the 268 Americans who joined the French air force before the U.S. officially engaged in World War I. During the ceremony, the men and women attending paid tribute to the Americans who served with died fighting for the French in World War I. The memorial highlights the 238 year alliance between the U.S. and France with their long history of shared values and sacrifice. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua DeMotts)

French and American military and civilian representatives attend the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial 100th anniversary ceremony in Marnes-la-Coquette, France. The memorial highlights the 238 year alliance between the U.S. and France with their long history of shared values and sacrifice. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua DeMotts)

Four U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fifth generation fighters fly over the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial in Marnes-la-Coquette, France, April 20, 2016, during a ceremony honoring the 268 Americans who joined the French air force before the U.S. officially engaged in World War I. In addition to the F-22s, a U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber, four French air force Mirage 2000Ns and a World War I-era Steerman PT-17 biplane performed flyovers during the ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Layfette EscadrilleÕs formation. Men of the Lafayette Escadrille and Lafayette Flying Crops were critical to the formation of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua DeMotts)

Four U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fifth generation fighters fly over the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial in Marnes-la-Coquette, France, April 20, 2016, during a ceremony honoring the 268 Americans who joined the French air force before the U.S. officially engaged in World War I. In addition to the F-22s, a U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber, four French air force Mirage 2000Ns and a World War I-era Steerman PT-17 biplane performed flyovers during the ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Layfette Escadrille’s formation. Men of the Lafayette Escadrille and Lafayette Flying Crops were critical to the formation of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua DeMotts)

A B-52 flys overhead at the Lafayette Escadrille centennial event in honor of the first American pilots of WW1 that gave their lives fighting for the shared values of the U.S and France.

A B-52 flys overhead at the Lafayette Escadrille centennial event in honor of the first American pilots of WW1 that gave their lives fighting for the shared values of the U.S and France.

PARIS Ð John Yellow Bird Steel, representing the Souix nation, offers a traditional native American incantation during the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial 100th anniversary ceremony in Marnes-la-Coquette, France, April 20, 2016. More than 200 Americans flew with France in the Lafayette Flying Corps prior to U.S. entry into World War I. Airmen from the U.S. Air Force and their French counterparts, along with civilians from both countries, during the ceremony to honor the men who served and the sacrifices of the 68 American airmen who died fighting for the French in World War I. The memorial highlights the 238 year alliance between the U.S. and France with their long history of shared values and sacrifice. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua DeMotts)

John Yellow Bird Steel, representing the Souix nation, offers a traditional native American incantation during the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial 100th anniversary ceremony in Marnes-la-Coquette, France. The memorial highlights the 238 year alliance between the U.S. and France with their long history of shared values and sacrifice. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua DeMotts)

PARIS Ð A World War I-era Stearman PT-17 biplane flies over the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial in Marnes-la-Coquette, France, April 20, 2016, during a ceremony honoring the 268 Americans who joined the French air force before the U.S. officially engaged in World War I. In addition to the Stearman, four U.S. Air Force fifth generation F-22 Raptor fighters, a B-52 Stratofortress bomber, and four French air force Mirage 2000Ns performed flyovers during the ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Layfette EscadrilleÕs formation. Men of the Lafayette Escadrille and Lafayette Flying Crops were critical to the formation of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua DeMotts)

A post-World War I-era Stearman PT-17 biplane flies over the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial in Marnes-la-Coquette, France, April 20, 2016, during a ceremony honoring the 268 Americans who joined the French air force before the U.S. officially engaged in World War I. In addition to the Stearman, four U.S. Air Force fifth generation F-22 Raptor fighters, a B-52 Stratofortress bomber, and four French air force Mirage 2000Ns performed flyovers during the ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Layfette EscadrilleÕs formation. Men of the Lafayette Escadrille and Lafayette Flying Crops were critical to the formation of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua DeMotts)

Lafayette Escadrille group shot


About the author

Anthony C. Hayes

Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A former reporter at The Washington Herald and an occasional contributor to the Voice of Baltimore, Tony's poetry, humor and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!; Magic Octopus Magazine; Destination Maryland; Alvarez Fiction and Tales of Blood and Roses. Contact the author.
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