Escadrille Américaine/Lafayette Escadrille in the U.S. Press

Foreign News

[Aerial Age Weekly; August 7, 1916]


The following official communication was issued on July 28th:

"This morning our aeroplanes pursued a German air squadron in the region of Verdun. Several fights occurred, in the course of which one enemy machine was forced to come down within our lines and two officers were made prisoners."

"In a hot aerial fight over the Verdun battlefields on Saturday July 22nd, Corporal Dudley Hill, of Peeksill, N.Y., a volunteer pilot in the French aviation service, forced a German aeroplane to land precipitately on the shell-torn ground directly behind the German lines at Fort Thiaumont. For this feat he has been nominated for the grade of sergeant.

Lieutenant de Laage, Sergeant Kiffen Rockwell, and Corporal Hill were on patrol duty over the battle ground, flying at a great height, when they saw three German machines in the distance. They flew at once toward the hostile machines. Two of the German aeroplanes fled while Hill, who was in the lead, gave battle to the third. The German was evidently hit hard by the American's first volley, for he immediately dived for the ground, unable to make his regular landing place.

"Corporal Hill, who is a former Cornell University student, came to France early in 1915 as a volunteer driver. After a few weeks, wishing to see some real action, he resigned and went to a training school for war pilots. He went to the front two weeks ago to replace Sergeant Clyde Balsley, of San Antonio, Texas, who was lamed for life by a German bullet, which entered his thigh and exploded. Since going to the front, Hill has had several combats with enemy planes, and has proved himself a courageous fighter.

"Adjutant Bert Hall and Sergeant Rockwell had a thrilling battle with five German aeroplanes last Friday. They departed together for a special sortie over the german lines in the Verdun region. They flew far above the enemy's territory at an altitude of about 3,500 yards, when Rockwell sighted an Aviatik immediately below. He immediately swooped down on the German plane, facing a hot fire from its machine gun. Rockwell held his fire until he was within ten yards of the foe.

After a few shots from the French machine gun the German aeroplane fell straight to the earth, disappearing in the clods of smoke and dust that arose from the battlefield.

Meanwhile two Fokkers had dived after Rockwell, shooting at him from above as he battled with the Aviatik, Hall arrived at this time and gave battle. Two additional Fokker flew up and joined in the fray. In the line of battle the two French aeroplanes and four Germans went down through the air some 2,000 yards, exchanging volley after volley from their machine guns. The American pilots having discharged their disks of cartridges and being outnumbered by the Germans dodged into the clouds, eluded their foes and flew safely home with many bullet holes in their machines.

Didies Masson, of Los Angeles, who also is in the American escadrille, has been promoted to adjutant. He was the only aviator in the Mexican army, and for some time flew for Villa when the latter was fighting Huerta. Masson held the rank of captain in Villa's forces.

Norman Prince, Kiffen Rockwell and Lieut. De Laage fought a thrill battle in the air with three German aviators behind the German lines on Tuesday, July 25th, according to a dispatch received from the front on July 27th.

While Prince and De Laage fought two of the Germans, Rockwell dived under the third machine and attempted to cut off its tail. The fire from the mitrailleuse raked the German machine from tail to motor. Rockwell, however, had two scares, one when he missed by inches striking the German with his propeller and the second when, in the course of the manoeuvring, he found himself facing the enemy's mitrailleuse. It was an uncomfortable second, he relates, until he discovered the operator was sitting dead at his post.

…. Two pilots of the American escadrille—Sergeant Kiffen Rockwell and Adjutant Bert Hall—finding themselves trapped by five German machines over hostile territory July 21st, perpetrated a Yankee trick on the enemy and slipped back to the safety of their own lines.

Rockwell and Hall during the afternoon spied an Aviatik flying alone and immediately rose in their Nieuports, eager for battle with this latest type of German aeroplane. It was a new model of an old Aviatik, capable of high speed and carrying two men and two machine guns.

Rockwell arrived near the enemy first and, circling, riddled him with machine gun fire. Although it did not kill the pilot, it pierced the Aviatik in a vulnerable spot and forced the German to descend. Rockwell, watching the machine fall, did not realize that two Fokkers were behind him until the wings of his Nieuport were riddled with bullets.

Hall immediately joined battle, but a few minutes later a third, then a fourth and fifth Fokker closed in on the pair of Americans, who found the battle growing too hot for them, with no chance of reinforcements and far from the home lines.

The came the Yankee trick. The Americans were fighting about 8,000 feet in the air and a heavy cloud bank was near them. Manoeuvring into this bank, they dove out of sight, leaving the enemy machines on the other side of the thick veil, unable to reach their prey.

Eventually the pair arrived home, their machines wet with mist and scarred with bullets, but safe.

Another American, Paul Pavelka, has just been ordered to join the escadrille and leaves for the front to-morrow.

Foreign News

[Aerial Age Weekly; August 21, 1916]


August 8th—"A German aeroplane over Luneville has been forced to come to earth in front of our lines. French artillery destroyed the machine on the ground.

"On the Somme front French aviators have delivered numerous aerial attacks. Six German machines, seriously damaged, descended precipitately within their lines. A captive balloon of the enemy was destroyed on the night of August 8-9

Bert Hall, the American aviator, has just felled his third enemy aeroplane over Fort Douaumont after a thrilling battle 12,000 feet in the air. Sergeant Lufberry has felled his second. Norman Prince, who left on a regular flight, is reported missing.

On August 8th Sergeant Lufberry, the American aviator, brought down another German machine. When Lufberry gets one more his name will be mentioned in the communique.

Norman Prince who was reported missing after a flight over German lines, returned on August 8th. His motor stopped and, being compelled to land, he came home on foot.

Foreign News

[Aerial Age Weekly; September 4, 1916]


August 26th—"Norman Prince, of the American squadron, brought down a German aeroplane August 25th. It fell so far behind the German lines that no French observation officer could see it clearly and it could not be recorded officially.

"Choteau C. Johnson, a New Yorker, son of D. D. Johnson of St. Louis, who only recently joined the American aviation squadron at the front, attacked another German machine. He got into an excellent position without the German aviator or observer seeing him when the release spring of his machine gun broke, and he was unable to attack.

"Some fifty neutral military attachés, including four American Army officers dined at the squadron's mess and said the members would be of great service in the United States in helping to build up and instruct the inadequate flying corps of the American Army."

On August 8th Sergeant Lufberry, the American aviator, brought down another German machine. When Lufberry gets one more his name will be mentioned in the communique.

Norman Prince who was reported missing after a flight over German lines, returned on August 8th. His motor stopped and, being compelled to land, he came home on foot.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

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A Novel of World War One
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The Headlong Fury