S u m m a r y
||Osprey Aviation Elite
Units 17 - SPA124 Lafayette Escadrille: American Volunteer
Airmen in World War 1
by Jon Guttman
||Soft cover, 128 pages
GB£13.99 online from Osprey Publishing
superb colour profiles, excellent selection of photos.
"SPA124 Lafayette Escadrille” will be available online from Squadron.com
When war broke out in Europe,
there were many Americans who wanted to make a contribution. At this
time America had not yet entered the fray so many of its citizens had to
volunteer themselves to the services of other countries.
The French Escadrilles were the
recipients of those with panache for flying and it wasn’t long before
the French government realized the propaganda value of a “squadron of
American volunteers”. Thus on 16th April 1916, Escadrille
N124 was officially formed.
The French referred to the
squadron as l’Escadrille Americaine, which was the source of
German Diplomatic protests to the US Secretary of State. On 16th
November, the French consented to a name change and the unit was called
l’Escadrille des Volontaires. This lasted less than a month as
the Americans thought the name was too dull. A new one was thought up
and on the 6th December, l’Escadrille Lafayette became
the official name of N124 (Lafayette being the name of a French
volunteer who helped America’s cause in the 1770s).
Jon Guttman has put together a
very enjoyable read about the squadron and the men that flew in it. His
style of writing keeps clear of the repetitious “who shot down whom”
with a generous sampling of “other” events that keep the reader
For example we find out how the
two lion cubs, Whiskey and Soda, came to be the mascots of the unit and
the uniform chewing habits of the former. Also, how many readers would
know that Whiskey was also the recipient of a glass eye?
We are informed about the
origins of the Seminole Indian head that was used for the squadron
insignia and the reasons for its change to that of a Sioux.
The usual first hand accounts
from the pilots are found throughout the book and this adds much colour
to the already informative text.
before in this series, Harry Dempsey contributes the artwork. Here we
find 39 side profiles with an additional 4 pages of clarifying plan
views. Types covered are the Nieuport 11, 16, 17, 24, 24bis, Spad VII,
XIII and even a Morane Saulnier P.
These are done to a very high
standard with hardly any repetition of artwork found in other Osprey
There are over 120 black and
white photos contained within the 128 pages. These images are well
chosen and provide a good cross section of subject matter. One photo in
particular stands out and this is of Ernst Udet’s Fokker D III from
Jasta 15. It shows a sheet metal dummy of a tail gunner mounted behind
the cockpit. Jon Guttman relates a combat report where Gailland
describes an encounter with “a small two-seater biplane of a type
absolutely new”. It is suggested that this mystery aircraft could have
been the one in question!
The book finishes with the
appendices that cover Escadrille 124 personnel, their victories and
their length of stay in the unit. Further tables list the serial numbers
of known aircraft that flew in the squadron, the markings they carried
and the pilots that flew them.
This addition to the Osprey
series captures the unit from its scattered beginnings to its evolution
into the 103rd Aero Squadron.
It makes a fascinating read and
although its number of victories was modest, the contribution it made to
the “folks at home” cannot be over emphasized.
Osprey Publishing for the
SPA124 Lafayette Escadrille
American Volunteer Airmen in World War 1
Elite Units 17)
Illustrator: Harry Dempsey
US Price: $21.95
UK Price: £13.99
Publish Date: June 25, 2004
Details: 96 pages; ISBN:
Review Copyright © 2004 by
Page Created 2 August, 2004
Last updated 25 May, 2004
HyperScale Main Page