Americans in the British Flying Services, 1914 – 1945

Not all Americans in the RAF fought with the Eagle Squadrons, nor where they only involved in the Second World War. During both the First and Second World Wars thousands of Americans joined, usually by pretending to be Canadian. Many of these personnel were not even recognised as Americans, and were liable for service with any RAF units.

First World War

Some 300 American citizens served with the British flying services during the First World War, more than with the celebrated Lafayette Escadrille of American pilots in the French Air Service. Most joined before the United States entered the war in April, 1917, either through a desire to help Britain or simply for adventure. Others joined even after America entered the war, believing that the British flying services had better aircraft and greater experience than the new US Air Services.

Of the roughly 300 who volunteered, 28 would become ‘Aces’. In all, 59 Americans were killed in service with the British, 37 more wounded or injured, and 32 made prisoners of war. Below are the stories of just a few of these men:

Hundreds of members of the US Air Services also served with the British on attachment to gain experience of air fighting.

Second World War

The Americans who joined the RAF via Charles Sweeney or through the Clayton Knight Committee were the minority. Many more joined alone, usually by travelling to Canada and pretending to be Canadian. Below are the stories of a few of the non-Eagles.