Lafayette Escadrille Home


Within Days of Germany’s attack on Belgium, 43 Americans began training with the famed French Foreign Legion. These early volunteers were members of the 2nd Foreign Regiment and were sent to the Marne area in early October 1914. A second contingent arrived at the front later that month as part of the 1st Foreign Regiment. A third detachment arrived in December of that year.

Americans serving in the Legion participated in some of the bloodiest conflicts of the war. In May of 1915, the Legion regiment lost two-thirds of its 2900 members at the Battle of Artois. Losses were so high that by November of 1915, the regiments were combined to form a single unit. The unit became an elite force, completing the most difficult assignments and became the most decorated unit in the entire French Army.
Many Americans served valiantly among the ranks of the Legion, including 8 future pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille.


American Legionaires, 1914 – These men were among the first to volunteer. Back Row, left to right: Casmeze, Charles Sweeney, Jack Casey, Bert Hall. Seated left to right: Carstairs, William Thaw, and James Bach. In December of 1914, William Thaw obtained transfers for Bach, Hall and himself to French aviation. While the other went to flight training, Thaw, who was already an experienced airman, joined a front line unit immediately becoming a gunner/observer with Escadrille D.6 (Depperdussin).

Left: Kiffin and Paul Rockwell as Legionaires in 1914. With a strong French-Huguenot heritage and a deep desire to serve France, Kiffin Rockwell sent a letter in August of 1914 to the French Consul-General offering his services to “the cause of Humanity”. Without waiting for an answer, he and Paul sailed for France on August 7. Upon their arrival in Paris, they were 2 of the first 43 Americans accepted into the Foreign Legion.

Left: William Dugan (far left) with fellow American Legionnaires shortly after their transfer to the 170th Line infantry, October 1915. Paul Pavelka is seated top row, 2nd left. Another future Lafayette Flying Corpsman is Marius Rocle, front row, center. Note Dugan’s swollen and blackened left eye, the result of a shrapnel wound while fighting in the “Bois de Sabots.”

Left: Edmond Charles Clinton Genet, the 20th volunteer to the Escadrille Lafayette, was born on November 9, 1896 in Ossining New York. Photographed here in April of 1916.