Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The U.S. Air Force Honors Its Great War Traditions

The date of 22 September is an evocative one for your editor—it is the anniversary of the start of his six-year Air Force career, begun many years (decades!) ago. I'm proud to say, however, that since I've begun my studies of the Great War, I have found a number of ways that my old service honors and remembers its role in that early struggle. For instance, two of the squadrons that flew SPAD fighters in World War I are still active, still wear their original insignia, but now fly the F-22 Raptor. The squadron members, I've discovered, also work diligently at keeping the traditions of their predecessors alive.

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At Langley AFB, Virginia, the 1st Fighter Wing of the U.S. Air Force includes two Raptor-flying squadrons that distinguished themselves in the Great War – the 27th Fighter Squadron (FS), now known as the "Fighting Eagles," and the 94th FS, now (and then) known as the "Hat-in-the-Ring Gang."

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The present-day signage at the squadrons' headquarters shows their original insignia, recognizable to any WWI buff. In the middle above is the insignia of the parent unit, the 1st Fighter Wing – also inherited from WWI. It was designed for the 1st Pursuit Group of the AEF. Its five crosses represent the group's five original squadrons, and the five stripes, the air campaigns they waged in the First World War. The motto, "Victory or Death," is the original as well. Each of the squadrons at Langley also has a heritage room, where the pilots congregate to share stories, lessons learned, and even make toasts and sing songs like those aviators who served way back then.
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27th Squadron: Tradition begins at the squadron operations desk, where Medal of Honor recipient Frank Luke is prominent; entrance sign at the Heritage Room, named after Luke; the squadron's traditional, "Balloon Buster" scarf; WWI section of the photo gallery with an original WWI reconnaissance report displayed.

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94th Squadron: Heritage Room entrance sign: listing of WWI 94th Squadron aces and their victories; test specifications on SPAD XIII; display kiosks with flying gear; biography of Eddie Rickenbacker; flying scarfs, and a SPAD instrument panel.

Photo Credits: Brian Laslie, Historian, 1st Fighter Wing; USAF National Museum

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