By James R McConnell
|Insignia of American Escadrille|
On the 12th of October, twenty small airplanes flying in a "V" formation, at such height that they resembled a flock of geese, crossed the River Rhine, where it skirts the plains of Alsace, and, turning north, headed for the famous Mauser works at Oberndorf. Following in their wake was an equal number of larger machines, and above these darted and circled swift fighting planes. The first group of aircraft was flown by British pilots, the second by French, and three of the fighting planes by Americans in the French aviation. It was a cosmopolitan collection that effected that successful raid.
We American pilots, who are grouped into one escadrille, had been fighting above the battlefield of Verdun from the 10th of May until orders came in the middle of September for us to leave our airplanes for a unit that would replace us, and to report at Le Bourget, the great aviation center at Paris. The mechanics and the rest of the personnel left, as usual, in the escadrille's trucks with the material. For once the pilots did not take the aerial route and they boarded the Paris express at Bar-le-Duc with all the enthusiasm of school boys off for a vacation. They were to have a week in the Capital! Where they were to go after that they did not know, but presumed it would be to the Somme. As a matter of fact, the escadrille was to be sent to the town of Luxeuil, in the Vosges, to take part in the Mauser raid.
Besides Captain Thenault and Lieutenant de Laage de Mieux, our French officers, the following American pilots were in the escadrille at this time: Lieutenant Thaw, who had returned to the front, even though his wounded arm had not entirely healed; Adjutants Norman Prince, Hall, Lufbery, and Masson; and Sergeants Kiffin Rockwell, Hill, Pavelka, Johnson, and Rumsey. I had been sent to a hospital toward the end of August, because of a lame back resulting from a smash-up in landing, and couldn't follow the Escadrille until later.