The first Americans to fight the Nazis revealed: How misfits including taxi driver, Mormon and make-up artist risked arrest by the US to join Britain’s air force in 1940 – and ended 150 years of frosty relations. But this group of unlikely airmen effectively founded the ‘Special Relationship’ between Britain and America when they volunteered to fight for the UK against the Germans in 1940 during WWII. Their unit, 71 ‘Eagle’ Squadron began the thawing of relations between the two countries that had lingered since the War of Independence by signing up for the Royal Air Force even though the American government had forbidden it. Scores of Americans signed up for the Royal Air Force in 1939 and 1940 to take on the Nazis – breaching US law by doing so
“This is the story of American volunteer pilots who risked their lives in defence of Britain during the earliest days of World War II—more than a year before Pearl Harbor, when the United States first became embroiled in the global conflict. Based on interviews, diaries, personal documents, and research in British, American, and German archives, the author has created a colorful portrait of this small group who were our nation’s first combatants in World War II.
As the author’s research shows, their motives were various: some were idealistic; others were simply restless and looking for adventure. And though the British air force needed pilots, cultural conflicts between the raw American recruits and their reserved British commanders soon became evident. Prejudices on both sides and lack of communication had to be overcome.
Eventually, the American pilots were assembled into three squadrons known as the Eagle squadrons. They saw action and suffered casualties in both England and France, notably in the attack on Dieppe. By September 1942, after America had entered the war, these now experienced pilots were transferred to the US air force, bringing their expertise and their British spitfire’s with them. As much social as military history, Yanks in the RAF sheds new light on a little-known chapter of World War II and the earliest days of the sometimes fractious British-American alliance.”
Whilst on my Para course at RAF Brize Norton, I chanced upon a hard back copy of “The Eagle Squadrons” Yanks in the RAF, 1940-1942, by Vern Haugland. A bloody good read.
The British public greatly appreciated the courage of the volunteer American ‘Eagle’ Pilots who had to travel in a group, because they never knew when they might have to scramble and get airborne. When the pilots entered a local Cinema the projectionist would stop the film, and everyone would stand until they were seated, a mark of respect from a grateful British public. Gawd bless yer Yanks! Yours Aye.