Monday, January 14

We Were There with the Lafayette Escadrille

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Aircraft in World War I
The airplane was invented by the Wright Brothers a mere eleven years before the start of World War I, but it quickly came to be an important part of the fighting.  The first use of airplanes in the war was for reconnaissance.  They would fly above the battlefield and enemy territory, take photos, and report on enemy movements and weaknesses.  

However, as the war progressed, airplanes were being used for dropping small bombs and dogfighting.  Early dogfighting consisted of pilots shooting at each other with small arms.  Then they tried mounting a machine gun at the front of the plane, but the propeller got in the way of the bullets.  Eventually, the 'interrupter' was invented, which allowed machine guns to be used without interference.  Pilots became soldiers in the skies, and the best of the best were dubbed "Aces."

The Lafayette Escadrille
While America did not officially join World War I until rather late, many Americans served overseas with Allied countries.  Some Americans volunteered to fly alongside the French in a unit of fighter pilots, originally titled the Escadrille Americaine.  This squadron - officially formed in 1916 and renamed the Lafayette Escadrille - consisted of American pilots who were members of a flying corps based out of France.  

More than 200 Americans were trained as pilots, and they served on nearly every battle front in France.  Only nine pilots were lost in action.  Because of the experience they gained in battle, they helped to teach combat pilots that came later, including those who fought in World War 2.  The Lafayette Escadrille has been called "the founding fathers of American combat aviation."

We've enjoyed learning about several eras of aviation, including the Wright Brothers and modern military aircraft!  See all of our elementary-aged aviation resources here.

Define / Identify
    • Allied Powers
    • Central Powers
    • U-Boat
    • Escadrille
    • Machine gun
    • Stalemate
    • Appropriate
    • Strategic
    • Zeppelin
    • Dogfight
    • Nationalism
    • Alliances
    Identify these Types of WWI Aircraft
    • Bristol Type 22
    • Fokker Eindecker
    • Siemens-Schuckert
    • Sopwith Camel
    • Handley Page 0/400
    • Gotha G V
    Identify these Famous Pilots
    • Manfred von Richthofen
    • Ernst Udet
    • Werner Voss
    • Edward Mannock
    • William A. Bishop
    • Rene Fonck
    • Georges Guynemer
    • Eddie Rickenbacker
    • Captain Georges Thenault
    • Victor Chapman
  • One goal of the flying corps was to bring America into the war.  Do you think that the Lafayette Escadrille was successful in its mission to be that impetus?  Why or why not? 
  • Using information from this article, tell how the history of the Lafayette Escadrille illustrates the idealism of American youths choosing to engage in World War I.


  1. I love Young Indiana Jones! What a great series. I have the series of books, too.

    1. Hubby grew up watching it, but I just discovered it a few years ago...they are fantastic!

  2. Some interesting things here. I have not heard of the Young Indiana Jones. Those sound fascinating and fun.