Lafayette Escadrille - Post WWI
The history of the Lafayette Escadrille
did not end when the squadron was incorporated into the American
Air Service. Recognizing the contribution of the American volunteers
who flew for the French cause, the Service Aeronautique designated
one of its own squadrons to carry on the tradition.
In 1920, the title Lafayette Escadrille was assigned
to 7th Squadron of the 35th Aero Regiment, and its planes carried
the Sioux head insignia.
In 1933, the Sioux Squadron was joined with the
other elite group, Cigognes (the Storks) to form the Groupe de Chasse
2/5, the Escadron Lafayette. This unit served at various bases throughout
France during the 1930s and was stationed at Toul-Croix-de-Metz
when the Second World War broke out in September 1939.
A Dewoitine 501 of the Sioux Squadron at
Remis in 1937.
A Curtiss 75 Hawk at Toul-Croix-de-Metz
in 1939. Note the Sioux insignia.
On 20 September, Sergent Pilote Legrand flying
his Curtiss Hawk downed a Messerschmitt BF 109 for Escadron
Lafayettes first victory.
With the outbreak of the War, an effort was mounted
by some Americans along with Colonel Thenault, the Escadrilles
first commander, and Dr. E. Gros to create another American volunteer
unit. However, the fall of France cut short their efforts.
The Lafayette unit was re-formed in North Africa
where it flew with the Free French Air Force. The Curtiss Hawks
were replaced with far superior P-40F Warhawks. Over
the course of the War, the Groupe 2/5 flew in the North African,
Italian, French and German sectors. In April 1944, the P-47D became
the units aircraft which it flew until 1949.
In January 1945, the Group 2/5 completed a cycle
when it returned to the Luxeuil Air Base, the field from which the
first Lafayette Escadrille had flown in 1916.
A Republic P-47D Thunderbolt
returning from its base in Ambérigeu in late 1944.
A Spitfire MKIX prepared for takeoff. The
Spitfire was flown by the 2/4 in Indochina (Vietnam) in 1947 and
During the War, Escadron Lafayette flew 8,531 sorties, 1,452 missions
and were credited with 103 victories. On bombing missions, they
dropped nearly sixteen thousand tons of bombs.
In July 1947, the Groupe 2/5 was reconstituted as the Groupe de
Chasse 2/4 Lafayette. In the following years, the unit saw combat
action in Indochina flying Spitfires, and later in Algeria, flying
North Amer-ican T-6Gs, a variant of the venerable Texan.
|In 1949, the Escadron Lafayette entered
the jet age with the adoption of the DeHavilland DH100 Vampire.
Five years later, the Sioux Squadron began flying the republic F-84F
Thunderjet which it flew until 1966 when it was replaced
by the Dassault-Breguet Mirage IIIE.
A DeHavilland DH 100 Vampire
was the Escadrons first jet fighter. It entered the service
in November 1949.
A Mirage 2000N refueling in flight
from a C-135.
In July 1989, the Mirage 2000N began service with the
Groupe 2/4. Since September 1991, the unit has been a part of the
French Strategic Air Command and was designated a Tactical Nuclear
In September 1991, a third Escadrille was added to the Lafayette
Group, the SPA 160, les Diables Rouge, the Red Devils.
Since then, the three squadrons of the Escadron Lafayette, the
Sioux, the Storks, and the Red Devils have served on various missions
with United Nations and North American Treaty Organizations
Nieuport - Delage ND 29 - The standard
French fighter following the World War through to 1928. Powered by
an 8-cylinder Hispano - Suiza engine, the ND 29 had a top speed of
132 mph. It was armed with two machine guns.
Dewoitine D-501 - An elegant low wing,
all-metal design, the D-501 served as a front line fighter in the
Armee de lAir from 1935 through to the Second World War.
Powered by a 12-cylinder Hispano - Suiza V-engine, the D-501 has a
top speed of 223 mph. It carried four wing mounted machine guns.
Dewoitine 520 - Originally designed
in 1938, the D. 520 did not reach combat groups until 1940. A superior
aircraft, it had the potential to be as great as the Spitfire or Messerschmitt
109. After the defeat of France, it was flown by the Free French squadrons.
It was powered by a Hispano - Suiza V-12 engine and had a top speed
of 329 mph.
Curtiss P-40F - Powered by a Rolls-Royce
Merlin engine built by Packard, the P-40F was a major improvement
over earlier P-40s. It had a top speed of 364 mph and was armed
with six 50 caliber machine guns. It was flown by Lafayette Escadrille
from various bases in North Africa.
Republic F-84F - The F-84F Thunderjet served with the Squadron
from May 1954 to 1966. During that time, it flew out of bases in Germany
and from Luxeuil, the Escadrilles first base.
Dassault-Breguet Mirage 2000N - The French entry into the state-of-the-art
realm of military jets. Assigned to the Lafayette unit in July 1989,
it serves as a nuclear strike aircraft.