Flyboys - LAFAYETTE FLYING CORPS
The "Fly Boys" of World War I sometimes encountered scenes like this. To see the battlefield, observers would use kites. If an accident happened, the kite observer used a parachute to descend from his aerial perch. The Illustrated War News, 7 November 1917 issue. PD
As more Americans heard about the Lafayette Escadrille, more would-be aviators joined the group. Ultimately, the squadron included thirty-eight pilots:
- Twenty-eight had volunteered for French service before joining the squadron.
- Seven of those twenty-eight had served in the French Air Service.
- Twenty-three were from Eastern states, nine were from New York and two were from the West.
- Ranging in age from twenty to forty, their average age was twenty-six.
- Eleven were sons of millionaires.
- Thirty had college degrees or had previously enrolled in college;
- Nine were Harvard graduates, and
- Nine had flown airplanes before they joined the war.
Beyond "The Valiant 38," a name sometimes used for the Lafayette Escadrille, additional Americans flew for other French squadrons. Collectively, the 231 American volunteers were known as "The Lafayette Flying Corps."
Eugene Bullard (from Columbus, Georgia) was the first African-American combat pilot. A decorated member of the Lafayette Flying Corps (but never a member of the Lafayette Escadrille), he could do for France what American-military discrimination would not permit him to do for the United States.
Returning to Luxeuil (their original duty station) from the front (near Verdun), some of the Lafayette Escadrille pilots spent time in Paris. While there, they thought it might be interesting to have a squadron mascot, so they spent 500 francs on a lion cub which they named "Whiskey."
Thinking that Whiskey needed a companion, the men later bought another lion cub, naming her "Soda." Whiskey and Soda stayed with the pilots until the animals grew too big.
It fell to Raoul Lufbery, Whiskey’s favorite human companion, to deliver the mascot to a Paris zoo. It was just one of many difficult jobs "Luf" did for the squadron.
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