Raoul Lufbery and the Escadrille Lafayette

In early 1916, although the United States had not yet entered World War I, there were a number of Americans eager to support the Allies however they could. One response to that eagerness was the establishment of the Escadrille Americaine by the French government on March 21, 1916. The Escadrille Americaine was a a French flying squadron largely composed of American volunteer fighter pilots. The unit was first sent into service on the front lines at Luxeuil-les-Bains (near Switzerland) on April 20, 1916.

The Escadrille Americaine was later renamed the Escadrille Lafayette (sometimes inverted to “Lafayette Escadrille” in English) in December 1916, after the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American and French revolutions.

Members of the Escadrille Lafayette, along with their mascots, lions named Whiskey and Soda (from MS-502 Raoul Lufbery Collection)

Members of the Escadrille Lafayette, along with their mascots, lions named Whiskey and Soda (from MS-502 Raoul Lufbery Collection)

One of the more well-known members of this Escadrille was Raoul Lufbery, a French-born American citizen and World War I flying ace.

Portrait of Raoul Lufbery, June 1917 (from MS-502 Raoul Lufbery Collection)

Portrait of Raoul Lufbery, June 1917 (from MS-502 Raoul Lufbery Collection)

Born Gervais Raoul Lufbery on March 14, 1885, in Chamalières, Puy-de-Dôme, France, Lufbery immigrated to the United States about 1904. He became an American citizen and served briefly in the U.S. Army. Lufbery would joined the Foreign Legion as a mechanic at the beginning of World War I, later receiving his pilot wings in 1914.

In May 1916, Lufbery was assigned to the recently-formed Escadrille Americaine. He was later reassigned to the United States Air Service, after American entry into WWI in 1917.

Lufbery was a very successful ace pilot, shooting down at least 17 German planes. Unfortunately, this success and glory was short-lived.

On May 19, 1918, with enemy planes coming closer to the airfield for the 94th Pursuit Squadron, Lufbery rushed into the air without performing his usual pre-flight check. Soon his plane took a direct hit from the enemy. In order to escape the burning plane, Lufbery jumped out and was impaled on a fence post, dying instantly. Lufbery received full military honors at his funeral and is interred at the Lafayette Memorial du Parc de Garches, the shrine honoring the Escadrille Lafayette, just outside Paris, France.

Newspaper headline announcing Lufbery's death, May 1918 (from MS-502 Raoul Lufbery Collection)

Newspaper headline announcing Lufbery’s death, May 1918 (from MS-502 Raoul Lufbery Collection)

Special Collections & Archives recently acquired the Raoul Lufbery Collection (MS-502), donated by Raoul’s sister Germaine Fox Lufbery. The collection has now been processed and is available for research. It contains primarily documents pertaining to the World War I flying missions and the untimely death of Raoul Lufbery, including newspaper clippings, magazine articles, photographs, and other prints.

A selection of materials from the Raoul Lufbery Collection can be seen below:

Variety of materials from the Raoul Lufbery Collection (MS-502)

Variety of materials from the Raoul Lufbery Collection (MS-502)

Additional resources:

(Portions the above biographical sketch were adapted from the original collection finding aid, written by Nina Herzog.)

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National Volunteer Month

April is National Volunteer Month and we have a lot of volunteers we’re grateful for. Special Collections and Archives could not do what we do without the amazing volunteers who assist the staff on numerous important projects throughout the year.

Last year, our volunteers donated 1168 hours of their time – their work makes a huge difference! Currently, our seven volunteers are working on some exciting projects to help preserve historic records and prepare them for access.

John Armstrong, Karen Pittman, and Ed O’Shaugnessy, 2016.

John Armstrong, Karen Pittman, and Ed O’Shaugnessy, 2016.

Long-time SC&A volunteers Karen Pittman and Ed O’Shaugnessy, as well as Chip Boyer, are each working on different organization and preservation projects for the Dayton Daily News Archive, one of our most utilized collections.

MS-360, Victoria Theatre Collection. The New Victoria Theatre, Bill of the Play

MS-360, Victoria Theatre Collection. The New Victoria Theatre, Bill of the Play

Former SC&A Archivist and Reference Manager, John Armstrong, retired from his position in 2015. Lucky for us, John returned this spring to volunteer his time processing collections.  He’s currently updating the finding aid for MS-251, Duriron Corporation Historical Collection.

WSU Public History student Shelby Dixon is processing an additional 11 boxes of Show Files to be added to MS-360, Victoria Theatre Collection.

J.B. Schroeder is identifying images and creating a detailed inventory of over 1,000 engine part drawings in MS-356, Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Engine Drawing Collection.

Jahn Luke is creating a detailed inventory of the photographs in MS-364, Bernard Lindenbaum Vertical Flight Research Collection. Lindenbaum was an aeronautical engineer with the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory (AFFDL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio from the mid-1940s until the mid-1970s.

MS-364 Bernard Lindenbaum Vertical Flight Research Collection Left to Right: Ed Walsh, Adolph Plenefisch, Igor I. Sikorsky, Orville Wright, Ralph Alex, Leslie Morris, and Boris Labensky, May 1942

MS-364, Bernard Lindenbaum Vertical Flight Research Collection
Left to Right: Ed Walsh, Adolph Plenefisch, Igor I. Sikorsky, Orville Wright, Ralph Alex, Leslie Morris, and Boris Labensky, May 1942

MS-458, Dayton Daily News Archive. Mr. and Mrs. Edward Andrew Deeds. 10/14/41

MS-458, Dayton Daily News Archive. Mr. and Mrs. Edward Andrew Deeds. 10/14/41

Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers!

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Katharine Wright on Books

Katharine Wright, Wilbur and Orville’s younger sister, loved to read.

In honor of National Library Week, here is a quotation from Katharine about books:

It does my heart good to get hold of a book that doesn’t “hit you between the eyes” or “grip you” or do anything but let you drift along with it, in company with pleasant thoughts and a new idea or two.

Katharine wrote these lines in a letter to her future husband Harry Haskell, about 1924.

Katharine Wright reading on porch of Hawthorn Hill home in Oakwood, 1920 (photo ms1_26-5-4)

Katharine Wright reading on porch of Hawthorn Hill home in Oakwood, 1920 (photo ms1_26-5-4)

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