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Wwi:French Flying Service. About Americans Struggling To Be Pilots In Wwi

518 words - 3 pages

A total of twenty-nine Americans enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in the first month of WWI. Jimmy Bach was the first of them to transfer to the French Flying Service, but was followed by William Thaw, of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Bill Thaw helped form the Lafayette Flying Corps, and was the only one of its seven original members still on active duty when the war ended.Thaw was a large man with black hair, black eyes, and a walrus mustache. He learned to fly in a Curtiss hydroplane in the United States and was flying through Europe when WWI started. He often visited France and became very fond of the country so he went ...view middle of the document...

The French had good reason to be suspicious because of an incident that occurred early in the war. A man with forged American papers succeeded in enlisting in the French Flying Service. Nobody knows how he was ever allowed to enlist but he was accepted and sent to flying school at Pau. There he finished his flight training but when he was about to be breveted and sent to a squadron at the front he disappeared. About two months later he was found in the United States posing as a French pilot on leave. He spread stories that were most damaging to France through newspaper interviews and magazine articles that he wrote. Later it was found that he sold valuable French military information to the German embassy in Washington, D.C.As a result of this the French tightened up their screening of everyone trying to enlist in the French Flying service. Even after the law was abolished in 1918, French authorities kept a close surveillance over all aviation enlistees of foreign birth. There were many known cases of French secret service agents, posing as flying service enlistees, bunked beside a foreign-born flight student at flying school. He was the suspect's constant companion until his loyalty to France was proved beyond all doubt.These men trying to help France had a very hard tine getting into the regular service. Foreigners had to enlist in a foreign legion under terrible conditions. France also put convicts there to fight. Most men could only hope to be transferred to the normal armed forces.

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