US Fighter Pilots in the Battle of Britain

As the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain was celebrated this month, Nellis AFB’s Public Affairs published a synopsis of the American involvement in history’s most important air war — which occurred even before the United States entered the war:

As the storm clouds of World War II gathered in 1939, the Royal Air Force had expanded quickly… Among these pilots numbered three Americans, all long time dual citizens and UK residents; James W.E. Davies, Carl R. Davis and Cyril D. Palmer…

Soon Canada started training volunteer Americans and shipping them to Britain: 

Behind them were the first pilots to come through what would become the Royal Canadian Air Force “pipline.” Otto J. Peterson and Arthur G. Donahue both arrived in England in June 1940, the first of over 9,000 Americans who served in the RCAF with the RAF in World War II…

Also joining up were Eugene Q. “Red” Tobin, Vernon C. “Shorty” Keogh and Andrew “Andy” Mamedoff, all civilian pilots who had traveled to London after escaping France and wanting to get in the war as soon as possible. Their audacity was rewarded and they joined the RAF in time for the Battle of Britain…

[The three were eventually] pulled from combat and sent to RAF Church Fenton on Sept. 19, 1940, to be the first pilots for the No. 71 (Eagle) Squadron.

The formation of the Eagle squadrons — units of Americans flying and fighting for Britain — is a fascinating chapter of American history, and of US Air Force history: Most pilots of the Eagle squadrons would eventually transfer to the US Army Air Forces nearly two years later in 1942, after the US had entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor the previous winter.

Read more from the official story here.