100th Anniversary of the Lafayette Escadrille

French and American officials gathered today at the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial outside of Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Lafayette Escadrille aeronautical unit of World War I. 

Prior to the United States’ entrance into the Great War, these American pilots, known as the Lafayette Escadrille, fought under French command. Wanting to join the fight while the United States officially remained neutral, these men, consciously or not,  reproduced the famed gesture of the Marquis of La Fayette who offered his assistance to the Americans in 1777 during their war for independence, leading to the name of Lafayette Escadrille.

Erected in 1928, the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial com­memorates the courage and sacrifice of all American pilots that flew for France before April 1917. Having fallen into disrepair in recent years due to financial strain, the ceremony today also marked a rededication of the newly renovated memorial, which the American Battle Monuments Commission helped to finance.

The ceremony which included remarks, a wreath laying, a moment of silence and a fly over, served as reminder of the long-standing friendship between the United States and France.

 “We not only honor the 68 men of the Lafayette Escadrille entombed in this memorial, but we also honor all French and American citizens who have devoted their lives to protecting our shared ideals,” said U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James during the ceremony today.