100 Years Ago Today

lafayette escadrille
The Escadrille Americaine was established 100 years ago today, March 20, 1916. The Lafayette Escadrille Memorial located just outside Paris (shown above) honors the 68 American pilots who died flying for the French during the First World War.

The top Escadrille pilot, Raoul Lufbery, shot down 17 enemy planes between July 1916 and December 1917, when he joined the U.S. Army Sir Service.

The Day The Music Died

The song American Pie was, in 1972, the de-facto anthem of pilots flying missions over Hanoi. After returning from every mission, we’d gather in the O’Club and someone would put a coin in the juke box to play that song. When we would hear the refrain “This will be the day that I die”, we’d all join in.

Don McLean wrote the song to commemorate the plane crash that killed Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, and J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper) and the loss of innocence for our generation. This weekend marks 57 years since The Day The Music Died.

If you were curious about the meaning of the lyrics, here’s a great explanation:

Great Flying Jacket!

It’s a pilot thing: you always want a great leather flying jacket, preferably an A-2 jacket like the pilots wore in World War II. I had a jacket like that, one I inherited from my father. I wore it on my night flights in Vietnam, since we had to keep the airplane window open to use the starlight scope in the O-2 when we conducted airstrikes over the Ho Chi Minh trail. And, even in Southeast Asia, it could get pretty cold at altitude at night. It was strictly non-regulation, of course, but I was a young Lieutenant and none of the brass were around at night anyway.

After I returned, my brother asked me for the jacket, and I gave it to him. I immediately regretted giving it, but it was already a done deal. And I’ve wanted a leather flying jacket ever since, for the past 40-plus years.

I just got an early Christmas present from my wife, and I love it. It’s a beautiful leather A-2 jacket, authentic to the original in every way.

A big Thank You to my wife, June. And thanks to U.S. Wings, the maker, for staying faithful to the Army Air Corps design. I feel like I have a reminder of Dad with me again.