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Lafayette Escadrille Articles

Ceremony honors volunteer airmen who repaid a 140 year-old debt

Mike Williams
Staff Writer

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
- Attributed to Mark Twain

Historians make their living trying to decode the rhyme scheme of history, drawing threads of continuity between often disparate actions. Planted seeds, whether actions or ideas, can take decades or centuries to bear fruit, and it is the job of the historian to trace the heritage of events in order to make sense of the world. Often, this job is extremely difficult, but sometimes, events in history make clear their lineage.

French and American officials lay wreaths at the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial 500French and American officials lay wreaths at the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial.Last Wednesday, this lineage was evident to all guests present at the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial outside of Paris, honoring the 100th anniversary of the formation of the famous American volunteer flying unit from World War One. These brave men took to the skies of France to fight in her time of need, defying their country’s official position of neutrality. Many were inexperienced, but all were qualified to carry on the legacy of the Marquis de Lafayette, their gracious gesture completing a rhyme a century and half in the making.

In 1916, France was fighting for it’s survival; in 1776, the United States of America was fighting for its very identity. Overwhelmed by the strongest military force the world had ever seen, America sent out a call for any and all help in gaining its independence from Britain. In France, this call was seen as a politically pragmatic way to stymie its longtime rival, but when Britain threatened war if France intervened in North America, King Louis XVI issued a decree banning all French officers from serving in America. One man, however, understood that the principles of the American revolution were stronger than the words of any king. “True republicanism,” said the Marquis de Lafayette, “is the sovereignty of the people.” With these words, Lafayette set sail in defense of America on April 20th, 1777, 139 years to the day before an American squadron took to the skies in defense of France.

Read more: Lafayette Escadrille Memorial wrap-up

Ceremony honors American airmen who flew for France in WWI

Salutes at LEMBy The Associated Press
April 20, 2016

MARNES-LA-COQUETTE, France (AP) — A parade of jets and vintage aircraft roared across the sky outside Paris on Wednesday, honoring the American fighter pilots who flew for France during World War I.

The commemoration marked the centenary of the formation of the Lafayette Escadrille on April 20, 1916, by a group of American airmen who — almost a full year before the U.S. entered the war — decided to join the fight against the Germans.

“We are gathered here today to remind ourselves that, 100 years ago, France and the United States stood together against the enemies of the free world,” French lawmaker Jean-Marc Todeschini told a crowd of airmen and dignitaries gathered at Marnes-la-Coquette, where the group was first formed.

Read more: Ceremony honors American airmen who flew for France in WWI

Take a look at these jaw-dropping photos of a U.S. B-52, F-22s and French jets over Paris western suburbs

B 52 over ParisBy David Cenciotti
The Aviationist

On Apr. 20, one B-52, four F-22 Raptor fighters (from their deployment base at RAF Lakenheath), three FAF Mirage 2000Ns and one FAF Rafale performed flyovers during the ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Lafayette Escadrille’s formation.

The aircraft flew over the memorial in Marnes-la-Coquette, in the western suburbs of Paris, France, that celebrates all 269 American pilots who flew with the French Air Force as part of the larger Lafayette Flying Corps before and during WWI.

Here are some more interesting photographs released by the French Air Force.

Read more: Jaw-dropping photos of a U.S. B-52, F-22s and French jets over the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial

French Rafale aircraft intercept the U.S. B-52 bomber that performed Lafayette Escadrille Memorial flyover

Rafale B 52By David Cenciotti
The Aviationist

The celebrations for the centenary of Lafayette squadron provided an interesting intercept opportunity.

The Lafayette Escadrille is one of the most famous U.S. squadron to operate in France before and during WWI.

It was formed on April 20, 1916 by 38 U.S. volunteer pilots who flew under French command a year before the U.S. entered into the conflict.

A memorial celebrates not only the 38 original pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille, but all 269 American pilots who flew with the French Air Force as part of the larger Lafayette Flying Corps, 68 of whom were killed during the war and are interred at the memorial crypt.

Read more: French Rafale aircraft intercept the U.S. B-52 bomber that performed Lafayette Escadrille Memorial...

100th Anniversary of the Lafayette Escadrille

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Paris, France
(article and images courtesy of the ABMC)

French and American officials gathered today at the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial outside of Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Lafayette Escadrille aeronautical unit of World War I. Prior to the United States’ entrance into the Great War, these American pilots, known as the Lafayette Escadrille, fought under French command. Wanting to join the fight while the United States officially remained neutral, these men, consciously or not, reproduced the famed gesture of the Marquis of La Fayette who offered his assistance to the Americans in 1777 during their war for independence, leading to the name of Lafayette Escadrille.

Erected in 1928, the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial com­memorates the courage and sacrifice of all American pilots that flew for France before April 1917. Having fallen into disrepair in recent years due to financial strain, the ceremony today also marked a rededication of the newly renovated memorial, which the American Battle Monuments Commission helped to finance.

The ceremony which included remarks, a wreath laying, a moment of silence and a fly over, served as reminder of the long-standing friendship between the United States and France. “We not only honor the 68 men of the Lafayette Escadrille entombed in this memorial, but we also honor all French and American citizens who have devoted their lives to protecting our shared ideals,” said U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James during the ceremony today.

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Lafayette Escadrille Honored at Centennial Event

by Capt. Lauren Ott
USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs
Appearing in Warbirds News
April 20, 2016

lem ceremony flyover Flyover during the 100th anniversarry LE CeremonyU.S. and French military and civic leaders attended the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial event in Marnes-la-Couquette, France, yesterday, to commemorate the centennial of the flying squadron’s formation. The Lafayette Escadrille was formed on April 20, 1916 by 38 U.S. volunteer pilots who flew under French command a year before the U.S. entered into WWI. The memorial celebrates not only the 38 original pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille, but all 269 American pilots who flew with the French Air Force as part of the larger Lafayette Flying Corps, 68 of whom were killed during the war and are interred at the memorial crypt.

Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, remarked that, “We also honor all French and American citizens who have devoted their life to protecting our shared ideals. These valiant Airmen laid the foundation for an American Air Force that will forever stand with France.” 

Read more: Lafayette Escadrille Honored at Centennial Event

Effort taking off to restore crumbling Lafayette Escadrille Memorial

Lafayette Escadrille

By Paul Glenshaw and Dan Patterson
Air and Space Magazine (Smithsonian Institution)
December 2014

Former Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael “Buzz” Moseley calls them “the founding fathers of American combat aviation,” yet few Americans know their names. The 38 pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille, who flew for France beginning in 1916, before the United States entered World War I, created a culture that influences combat pilots today, Moseley says. They helped shape the U.S. Army Air Service when it was formed in 1918. “All the way up to the Army Air Forces and the U.S. Air Force,” says Moseley. “Having thought about this a lot and having lived inside that world for 40 years, I would say [Air Force culture] goes right back to those guys who decided in the spring of ’16 that this would be a good idea.”

Moseley is helping to lead a fundraising effort to restore the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial outside Paris. Built in 1928 with private donations, the monument commemorates not only the original 38 but the 200 or so who succeeded them as volunteers in various French squadrons, together known as the Lafayette Flying Corps. Forty-nine who died in the war are buried in the memorial crypt.

Today the monument is crumbling from water seeping in. Despite annual Memorial Day ceremonies jointly conducted at the site by the U.S. and French air forces, little has been done to renovate the structure. When Moseley was the Air Force legislative liaison in 2001, he managed to secure a $2 million appropriation for repairs. Since then, he has made the restoration of the memorial a priority. Last spring, the American Battle Monuments Commission, chaired by another former Air Force chief of staff, General Merrill “Tony” McPeak, signed an agreement with the French Ministry of Defense committing each side to raise $4 million to restore the memorial.

Read more: Effort taking off to restore crumbling Lafayette Escadrille Memorial