Dugan, Hill, Johnson, Bigelow, And Masson
Some Lafayette Escadrille Pilots Relaxing: Dugan, Hill, Johnson, Bigelow, And Masson.

The Escadrille Lafayette had served on practically every battle front in France during World War One.

American Heroes Fighting for Freedom

Early in World War I, many brave Americans sympathetic to the Allied cause, offered their service in France as ambulance drivers, and as members of the French Foreign Legion. A handful of these American volunteers were successfully transferred into the French Aviation Service prior to the end of 1915. They were then joined by several other Americans who had enlisted directly from civilian status. A number of these men suggested that France should send to the Front a squadron composed entirely of American rather than French pilots. After several months of deliberation on this matter by the French Government, the Escadrille Americaine, designated N. 124, was formed and on April 20, 1916, it was placed on front-line duty at Luxeuil-les-Bains near Switzerland.

The Story of the Escadrille Americaine

The Escadrille Americaine was commanded by a Frenchman, Captain Georges Thenault, and initially had seven Americans assigned as pilots. They were, Norman Prince, Victor Chapman, Kiffin Rockwell, James McConnell, William Thaw, Elliot Cowdin, and Bert Hall. During the next twenty months the unit served on the Front, it had an additional thirty-one Americans pilots, including such legendary figures as Raoul Lufbery and Charles Dolan.

The Escadrille Americaine flew its first mission on May 13, 1916. The first victory was scored five days later by Kiffin Rockwell, when he shot down a German L.V.G. reconnaissance aircraft. On June 23, 1916, Victor Chapman was shot down about 10 miles north of Verdun, becoming the first Escadrille Americaine pilot to lose his life while engaging the enemy. The unit continued in combat , as its fame grew, the German Government protested to the U.S. Government, since the U.S.A. was still neutral at that time. As a result, France changed the name to Escadrille Lafayette in December 1916.