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The Lafayette Escadrille Memorial

Laf Esc1.jpg America’s first combat aviators, those magnificent boys in their flying machines of the Lafayette Escadrille, are memorialized at two sites in the Paris area. The young men, many of them students, left America to fight for France against Germany before the U.S. entered WWI in 1917; among them were Dartmouth alumni William T. Ponder, Florimonde Duke ‘17, Warren T. Hobbs ‘19, and Ernest A. Giroux ‘19. Hobbs and Giroux did not make it back home.

A small memorial to the flyboys’ effort and sacrifice stands in the Place des Etats-Unis in the 16th arrondissement, not far from our apartment, but a more substantial one lies in the Paris suburb of Marnes-la-Coquette, near Versailles. The Marnes-la-Coquette monument was privately funded, having been constructed with monies from the pilots’ families and other private donors. In 1930, William Nelson Cromwell endowed the monument, and today the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Foundation supports it.

Laf Esc2.jpg

The Escadrille’s (the French word for squadron) American Indian symbol (above) is testament to the evolution of varied types of iconography and symbols through the years.

LafEsc Plaque.jpg

Money can be donated to the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Foundation for the monument’s upkeep. An effort is currently underway to have the U.S. government’s American Battle Monuments Commission maintain it. In addition to being a memorial, a crypt below the arch is the final resting place for 49 United States fighting men, who lie in a corner of a foreign field that is forever America.

Lafayette Monument.jpg

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