Members of the Lafayette Escadrille, Behoone, France, 1916
In the early days of World War I, a couple of Americans who had volunteered for France talked the French government into allowing American volunteers to fly alongside the French in a unit of fighter pilots called the Escadrille Américaine, which later became the Lafayette Escadrille. The goal was to generate publicity that would persuade the United States to enter the war. It worked better than expected.
The men of the famed Lafayette Escadrille were a varied bunch. Some were idealists, some were adventurers, and some were scoundrels. Whatever their motivation, all of them were American, and all volunteered to fly for France before the United States entered World War One. They risked everything to defend America’s oldest ally, and became legends in the process, helping to propel America out of neutrality. Paul Glenshaw, an aviation expert and filmmaker, draws on rare, unpublished sources to tell the story of the rash young men who took to the air and made history 100 years ago. Glenshaw also previews clips from a documentary film he is making about the Escadrille, who have been called the “founding fathers of American combat aviation.”
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