“The compelling story of the squadron of adventurous young American pilots who were among the first to engage in air combat.” —Tampa Bay Times
In First to Fly, lauded historian Charles Bracelen Flood draws on rarely seen primary sources to tell the story of the daredevil Americans of the Lafayette Escadrille, who flew in French planes, wore French uniforms, and showed the world an American brand of heroism before the United States entered the Great War.
As citizens of a neutral nation from 1914 to early 1917, Americans were prohibited from serving in a foreign army, but many brave young souls soon made their way into European battle zones. It was partly from the ranks of the French Foreign Legion, and with the sponsorship of an expat American surgeon and a Vanderbilt, that the Lafayette Escadrille was formed in 1916 as the first and only all-American squadron in the French Air Service. Flying rudimentary planes, against one-in-three odds of being killed, these fearless young men gathered reconnaissance and shot down enemy aircraft, participated in the Battle of Verdun and faced off with the Red Baron, dueling across the war-torn skies like modern knights on horseback.
“First to Fly shows us that there was something noble and honorable about the Escadrille, men who did not turn against their own country but put their lives up to fight for a cause, not because they had to but because it was the right thing to do.” —The Wall Street Journal