American Airmen WWI

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Before the United States entered WWI many Americans volunteered to serve in the armed forces of Great Britain and France. However, they could not join another nation’s military forces and pledge allegiance to a foreign country without losing their own citizenship. So, many signed up with organisations such as the Red Cross, Volunteer Ambulance Service and French Foreign Legion (whose members pledged allegiance to the Legion not France).

From these organisations many Americans then moved into the British flying services including the Royal Flying Corps and the French Air Service, Lafayette Flying Corps. Also, in April 1916 the French government activated an air unit out of the French Foreign Legion manned largely by Americans. This became known as the Lafayette Escadrille.

When the United States entered the war in April 1917 it had no combat aircraft and only a fledgling training programme. The Air Service of the American Expeditionary Force was formed and by early 1918 American air units and balloon squadrons began deploying into combat overseas.

Period covered: This collection lists names and dates of service of those Americans who served in the many different air units from the beginning of WWI until November 11th, 1918.

Records in this collection are likely to include the following:

  • surname
  • first name(s)
  • number
  • unit
  • dates of service
  • subsequent service
  • fate

Please be aware that due to the way we collate, and cross reference our databases, some records will contain more information than that listed above.

Original Source: Various sources including original US National Archives (NARA) records

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