Captain James Hall in a German staff car after he was shot down over German lines in May 1918. Hall suffered badly injured ankles and a broken nose and spent the rest of the War as a prisoner. Highly decorated, Hall received the Croix de Guerre with five Palms, the Medaille Militaire, the Legion d’Honneur, and the American Distinguished Service Cross.

Major Carl Spaatz (left) with Colonel W. Thaw. Major Spaatz would become the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force forty years later.

Major Christopher Ford after the War. Major Ford was the last volunteer to join the Lafayette Escadrille in November 1917. After over 300 hours in combat, he was shot down while flying with the 213th Pursuit Squadron and finished the War as a prisoner.

Captain Robert Rockwell in front of SPAD XIII as commander of the 93rd Pursuit Squadron. The 93rd continued to carry on the Indian head insignia.

Lafayette members after their transfer into the American Air Service (L-R) Major W. Thaw, Captain R. Soubiran, Captain R. Bridgeman, Lieutenant C. Ford, and Lieutenant G. Larner.

In mid-January 1918, William Thaw who had been commissioned a Major assumed command of the 103rd Pursuit Squadron. Escadrille veterans served as the nucleus of the squadrons, and they were joined by airmen who had served in other French air units as part of the Lafayette Flying Corps and by the newly arrived pilots from America.

In March, the Germans began the offensive that would be known as the Second Battle of Somme and would threaten Paris.

The 103rd, its SPADs still bearing the Indian head insignia, saw heavy action that would continue until the War’s end.

On 7 May, James Hall was shot down by anti aircraft fire but survived the War as a prisoner.

Less than two weeks later on 19 May, Raoul Lufbery was hit while attacking an Albatros observation plane. He was seen falling out of his flaming Nieuport. It is assumed he jumped to escape death by fire, although some speculate that he was thrown out of the plane when it went out of control. Lufbery’s body was found in a backyard in the village of Maron, and he was buried the next day with his comrades flying overhead and dropping flowers.

In July, Major Thaw took command of the Third Pursuit Group which included the 28th, 93rd, 103rd and 213th Pursuit Squadrons. This group flew together through to end the War and accounted for 87 downed airplanes and two balloons. The group lost 29 pilots.

Other Lafayette Escadrille veterans besides Thaw assumed command positions. Robert Rockwell followed Thaw in the 103rd post and in turn was followed by Robert Soubiran. Dudley Hill had command of the 138th Pursuit Squadron; Raymond Bridgeman had command of the 22nd Pursuit Squadron, and David Peterson command of the 195th Pursuit Squadron.

When it was released from the French Air Service at the end of 1917 and taken into the American Air Service, the Lafayette Escadrille had made three significant contributions to the Allies’ War effort.

First, it served the French as a valiant and valuable air combat unit. Second, the exploits of the Escadrille captured the imagination of the American public and intensified sentiments for the Allies. Third, when the Lafayette combat veterans joined the American Air Service, they provided the leadership and experience needed in the newly formed American squadrons.

Captain Kenneth Marr joined the Escadrille in March 1917 and was commander of the famed 94th “Hat-in-the-Ring” Squadron from June to September 1918 when he was followed by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s top ace. Marr is in front of his Nieuport 28.

SPAD S.VII’s of the 103rd Pursuit Squadron after the Escadrille was taken into the American Air Service. The 103rd was the first American squadron on the front and still used the Indian head insignia.