This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.
James R. McConnell driving an SSU 2 AFS ambulance in 1915. Courtesy of the Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs (AFS Archives.) This image cannot be reproduced outside the guidelines of United States Fair Use (17 U.S.C., Section 107) without advance permission from the AFS Archives.

After a recent renovation, the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial was rededicated on April 20, 2016 in the presence of dignitaries from France and the United States. The famed Escadrille Américaine (Lafayette Escadrille) was formed exactly one hundred years earlier by a small group of American volunteers, who became part of France’s Aéronautique Militaire (the French Air Service.) One of the founders of the group, Dr. Edmond L. Gros, had already served as the chief physician in the American Field Service.  Eight pilots had also previously served as ambulance drivers with the American Field Service prior to joining the Lafayette Escadrille, including James Rogers McConnell.

A supporter of the Allies, McConnell wrote to A. Piatt Andrew about his decision to leave his position as an ambulance driver with the American Field Service to become a pilot with the Lafayette Escadrille on November 28, 1915:

“I feel as strongly about the war as the French themselves. I believe it is to be a war of freedom and civilization against despotic dictation and hideous ideals, and having this attitude I want to give up my capacity as a neutral…and go into the fighting end.”

McConnell’s plane was shot down on March 19, 1917, during aerial combat with two German planes. McConnell was killed just weeks before his own country joined the Allies as a combatant nation.

Learn more about the Lafayette Escadrille and the rededication here.

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