By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (May 04, 2004) -- The Air Force's vice chief of staff participated in the dedication of an exhibit here May 1 that honored some of the first Americans to fly aerial-combat missions.
The exhibit, at the New England Air Museum at Bradley International Airport, commemorates the heroism of American aviators who flew for France during World War I as part of the Lafayette Escadrille and the Lafayette Flying Corps.
The participation of those Americans in military cooperation with France is a tradition that continues into modern times, said Gen. T. Michael Moseley.
"Every one of the Allies shared in the pain of (World War I)," General Moseley said. "For the band of brothers that were the French and American aviators, the pain would form a bond that for us here today we can still be proud of. Whether we are talking about (World War II operations), Desert Storm, Allied Force, Deliberate Force, or [in] the sky over Afghanistan today, the bonds of integration between American and French aviators are no different today."
The Lafayette Escadrille formed nearly 88 years ago. The unit was made up of about 38 American aviators who volunteered their service to France. At the time, Europe was embroiled in World War I and the United States had not yet decided to offer assistance to its Allies there. The aviators of that unit were the first Americans to fly aerial combat missions.
The Lafayette Flying Corps refers in general to American aviators who volunteered to fly for France in several French flying units from 1916 to 1918.
French officials dedicated a memorial in 1928 in Marnes-la-Coquette, France, to honor the members of the Lafayette Escadrille and Flying Corps. Until now, however, there was no place in the United States dedicated to the squadron or other American aviators who flew for France in the war.
General Moseley said the exhibit here was a fitting testament to the memory that first served America's Allies in Europe.
"This (is) a fitting tribute to the heroes who volunteered to serve a greater calling and epitomize the American fighting spirit," General Moseley said. "Just as the unit's namesake, Lafayette, stood with Washington from Valley Forge to Yorktown, the men of the Lafayette Escadrille stood by the French. This display mirrors the Lafayette Escadrille memorial established after the war, just outside Paris."
At the dedication, General Moseley posthumously awarded the Purple Heart to Lafayette Escadrille Ace, Maj. G. Raoul Lufbery. Major Lufbery died in aerial combat over France in May 1918. Descendants of Major Lufbery were at the ceremony to receive the award.