From 1916 until 1918, the Escadrille Lafayette and La Fayette Flying Corps had served on practically every battlefront in France, downing 57 enemy aircraft and losing nine of its pilots in action. Despite its historic importance, the monument to America’s first combat aviators built in 1928 near Paris, France, has deteriorated in recent years. The Foundation for the La Fayette Memorial is soliciting donations for remedial works on the crypt of the young heroes and for the upkeep of the monument.
Artist Jean Pierre Got has created a commemorative poster for the “Save the Memorial Appeal.” Created in the style of the patriotic billboards of World War I, “Nouvel envol” (A New Taking Off) shows the famed Nieupot 11 plane taking off near the memorial. The horizon blue color was that of the French uniforms worn by the La Fayette pilots. The Indian Chief head, reproducing the one painted on the side of one of the planes, was the squadron’s popular symbol.
The squadron’s story: In 1916, a small group of young and courageous American enthusiasts became pilots in the French Air Force. They wanted to fight in return for the nation which had helped their country in the past. More than 200 Americans were trained by French instructors as flyers.
Gathered in an “American Squadron” belonging to the French Army, commanded by Capitaine Georges Thenault, they were equipped with the famous French aircraft of the World War I, Nieuport 11 “Bébé.” The squadron was baptized “Escadrille Lafayette” in honor of the young Frenchman who fought beside General Washington in the American Independence War.
In February 1918, escadrille airplanes and most of its pilots were taken over by the United States military. The greatest contribution of Escadrille Lafayette pilots was in 1918 after most had transferred to the AEF’s Air Service (USAS).