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The legendary Lafayette Escadrille was the first American fighter squadron—now recognized as the “founding fathers” of American combat aviation. The 38 volunteers came from across the spectrum of American life: some were Ivy-League gentlemen; some grew up on the streets. Three were architects, two were mercenaries, two journalists, one doctor, one lawyer, and one former human cannonball. All volunteered to fight for France before the United States entered World War One.
This new feature documentary—already in production—will take the viewer through the experience of these extraordinary individuals from their harrowing experiences in the trenches and ambulance corps to their seat-of-the-pants training to their flying over the front lines into combat. Along the way, we’ll come to understand why these men put themselves in intimate contact with friend and foe alike in shell-blasted skies—at once both exhilarating and terrifying.
The story is character-driven—direct accounts from the pilots’ letters and diaries (many unpublished), as well as interviews with surviving family members. We’ll climb with them into the cockpit and head out over the front. We’ll attend the rededication of unit’s grand memorial outside Paris, reaffirming the bond between France and the United States 100 years later. The story’s relevance comes clear as the centennial of the Great War unfolds.
The Millionaires’ Unit co-director Darroch Greer is joined by aviation writer and filmmaker Paul Glenshaw and aviation writer and photographer Dan Patterson. Filming has already begun with interviews of WWI historians, surviving Escadrille family members, and location filming in France and the US.