Air Transport Auxiliary

Joining the Royal Air Force was against American law. Anyone who did so risked punishment and lost their citizenship, although a blanket pardon was passed by Congress in 1944.

One way to circumvent American law was to join the Air Transport Auxiliary, a civilian organisation established in December 1939. Their task was to ferry aircraft between factories, depots and RAF stations, freeing up RAF pilots for front-line service. Many members of the ATA were personnel who were unable to fly with the RAF due to age, sex, nationality or health.

From August 1940 the ATA began to advertise for American pilots. Between then and the end of 1941, some 200 American men volunteered, despite the abundance of well-paid flying jobs available in the United States. Many of these did not stay long, though. The entry requirements and training standards for the ATA were very strict, something which would cause problems when a contingent of American women arrived in 1942, and many of the pilots proved to be more enthusiastic than experienced.

In December, 1941, America entered the war, and the number of American men joining the ATA slowed to a trickle. Many who were already in the ATA left to return home and join their own fighting forces. Others remained though, and around 20 were still members when the war ended in May, 1945. This number included Captain Ed Heering, who rose to command No.10 Ferry Pool at Lossiemouth.

The Americans formed by far the largest foreign contingent in the ATA, an organisation which contained around 30 different nationalities. Twenty-five American men would be killed in accidents while serving with the ATA.

American pilots of No. 2 Ferry Pool, ATA, RAF Whitchurch, June 1941
American pilots of No.2 Ferry Pool, ATA, RAF Whitchurch, June 1941

Air Transport Auxiliary office board
Air Transport Auxiliary office board

The coveted ATA pilot's wings
The coveted ATA pilot's wings

3 Pilots 1 War

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 Bernard Rice

Bernard Rice

First World War Pilot
3 Pilots 1 War