The Lafayette Escadrille

(L'Escadrille Lafayette)

In the early days of World War I, before the United States had entered the war, volunteers from the United States appeared in France. Many of these men occupied themselves with helpful duties as "Friends of France" such as driving ambulances in the American Field Service until the first American fighting squardon, "N.124," was formed on April 18, 1916.

Less than a month later the first pilots were flying sorties. The first enemy plane was downed by Kiffin Rockwell exactly one month after the squadron was formed. The unit was first called the Escadrille Americaine, or "AEF." After the German Ambassidor complained about the name citing that America was not involved in the war, the name was changed to Escadrille Lafayette (or Lafayette Escadrille) in honor of the great French naval officer who brefrended George Washington in the American War of Independence. (Both Lafayette and Washington appear on the official La fayette Flying Corps certificates that were issued to corps' members.

Willis B. Haviland joined the "American Ambulance Corps" in 1915 and served on the Alsace Front for 17 continuous months. He left the ambulance corps, obtained his pilot's license on September 7, 1916, and was officially enrolled as the Lafayette Escadrille's 16th American member on October 22, 1916, at which point the scrapbooks begin.

Although he was a qualified fighter pilot and one of the most decorated pilots of World War I, Pilot Haviland's flying missions often involved scouting past the enemy lines, photographing vital enemy positions and equipment, and returning safely with "film in the can." He also accepted escort and bombing assignments. On these missions his responsibility was not to seek enemy aircraft but rather engage only if engaged, which put him at a disadvantage in the race for numbers of confirmed "kills." (Haviland was only credited with two.) Pilot Haviland, however, was adept in keeping out of the enemy's "firing angle," could give German and Austrian pilots a good scrap if it came to that, and he could put bullets into the enemy when necessary, most often sending them diving back for their own lines.

Although never an ace, Haviland was one of the most decorated pilots of WW-1. (Haviland's medals are displayed later in this site.)

A note about the scrapbook images.

The images on this site were taken directly from the original scrapbooks in the order in which they appear and with original captions. They have been scanned at 1200 dpi and reduced for viewing over the internet. Uncompressed high resolution copies (ranging from 3 to 48 MB) are available to legitimate researchers on request.

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Off Ships
The Roma
All materials on this site © 2005, 2006, Willis Lamm. All rights reserved. Materials may be copied and used for non-commercial purposes. Please credit the W.B. Haviland Scrapbooks. Please Email with questions, corrections, missing names or other comments.