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Captain James Norman Hall

James Norman Hall epitomizes the American pilot of World War I. Hall was in England during the summer of 1914, writing and bicycling through the countryside in search of inspiration for his own writing career, when the War to end all Wars broke out in August. Hall enlisted in London as a private in the British Army with the 9th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He represented himself as a Canadian citizen in order to be accepted into the British Military Forces. The 9th Fusiliers would become one of the battalions of the First Hundred Thousand and would be sent to France in May of 1915. In September of 1915, Hall’s division took part in the battle of Loos. It was during this battle that Hall would narrowly escape death when he left his machine gun companies post in a half-destroyed German surface dugout to spell a soldier at the forward gun position, when a German shell made a direct hit on the dugout, killing his seven comrades inside.

In the late fall of 1915, Hall received a letter from his mother telling him that his father was critically ill with Parkinson’s disease. Hall requested and received an immediate discharge from the British Army based on the fact that he had illegally enlisted as a Canadian citizen, with the condition that he could re-enlist after seeing his father, as an American citizen. Hall accepted his Colonel’s proposal and was immediately discharged on 24 November, 1915. 

Capitaine Thenault, Hall’s LaFayette Escadrille commander, praised the American even further, in saying; “What a splendid soldier he was! After having distinguished himself in the British and French Armies, he was to become once more conspicuous for gallantry in the American army. Few men have fought as real combatants in three armies and he must hold a unique record”.

Hall was a member of the 103rd Pursuit Squadron until he was transferred as a flight commander to the 94th Pursuit Squadron on 29 March, 1918. Hall was looked up to by the newly trained American pilots of the 94th who were eager to be lead by the hero whose experiences they all knew. Hall scored his fourth victory with the 94th on April 29, 1918, when he took the then inexperienced pilot, 

Lt. Eddie Rickenbacker, up on a patrol and in which the two of them shared a victory over a Pfalz. This would be Rickenbacker’s first victory and Hall’s last. On the 7th of May, 1918, Hall became a prisoner of war when his Nieuport 28’s wing failed as he was about to shoot down his fifth plane. Hall managed to crash land his plane, but was immediately by German troops. Hall would spend the remainder of the war in a prison in Bavaria. While at home Hall began working on a series of articles that would later be complied to become his book, “Kitchener’s Mob”, which told of his service with the British Army. Hall suffered pangs of guilt for not being with his comrades in the trenches of France and planed to rejoin the army with the completion of his book, but the Atlantic Monthly requested he do a three article series on the newly-formed Escadrille American, which would later become the famed Escadrille LaFayette. Hall accepted the assignment and went to Paris to meet Paul Rockwell, who was then in charge of the Paris bureau of the Chicago Daily News. Paul and several of the LaFayette Escadrille introduced Hall to Dr. Edmund Gros, who ran the LaFayette Escadrille and suggested what better way for Hall to write a story on the Franco-American Flying Corps, than to join and tell the story firsthand. Hall agreed and joined the aviation sector of the French Foreign Legion on 11 October, 1916.Hall received his Brevet Militaire Pilot No. 6051 on 23 April, 1917, and with fellow American’s Douglas MacMonagle and David Peterson (Peterson’s memorabilia is housed with the LaFayette Foundation’s collection), joined the Escadrille LaFayette on 16 June, 1917 and almost immediately began flying combat patrols.  

Hall would once again narrowly escape death when after getting off the ground late due to mechanical problems with his plane; he hurried to catch up with his squadron mates at the front. He spotted a seven ship formation, thinking it was his squadron, he rushed to join them. One of the German pilots unloaded his guns into Hall’s SPAD VII. As Hall banked to avoid sure death, he was hit in his shoulder and his goggles where shot in two by another bullet. Hall passed out from the loss of blood and crashed landed his plane in allied trenches below. Hall was sent to the American Ambulance Hospital at Neuilly, near Paris, where he was decorated with France’s Medailie Militaire and Croix de Guerre. Hall used his convalescence time to start “High Adventures”, which dealt with his experiences in the LaFayette Flying Corps. When Hall returned to his squadron, he gained his first victory when, once again, thinking he had spotted a friendly aircraft, he realized, as he got closer, the plane was a German Albatross. This time Hall approached un-noticed and at five hundred meters Hall dove on the German and shot it down, gaining his first victory on New Years Day, 1918 (more than likely in a SPAD XIII).

Hall was the 37th of 38 original members of the LaFayette Escadrille and in February 1918, the LaFayette Escadrille would become part of the newly formed American Air Service in France as America’s 103rd Pursuit Squadron. Hall would be commissioned a Captain in the U.S. Air Service on 7 February, 1918. The 103rd Pursuit accepted Squadron, which would continue to use the American Sioux Warrior as its squadron insignia was equipped with SPAD VII’s and SPAD XIII’s. It is with the 103rd that Hall gained his second and third victories while flying a SPAD XIII on March 27, 1918. Hall led a patrol consisting of Major Thaw and Captain Ford, against a flight of enemy two-seaters and shot two down. For his heroic role in this action he was awarded the American Distinguished Service Cross and France’s Croix de Guerre with Palm. His French citation called him a “Pilot of great bravery who has engaged in numerous fights daily”.After the War, Hall was ordered by Dr. Gros, now a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Service, to assemble the histories of the pilots of the LaFayette Escadrille and German Corps. His associate on the project would be Lt. Charles Nordhoff, who had flown in the LaFayette Flying Corps with Spa. 99. Nordhoff and Hall would go onto create a life-long bond and collaborate on many books and 

articles over the remainder of their lifetimes, one of the most famous being “Mutiny on the Bounty”.

The LaFayette Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit historical and educational foundation established in 1984 to help preserve World War I aviation history.

We are named the LaFayette Foundation in honor of the Americans who served France prior to the U.S. involvement in World War I, and who were referred to as “The LaFayette Escadrille & Flying Corps”. In their honor, and in the of the men and women who served their countries in World War I & II we preserve this history for future generations.
One of the primary focuses of the foundation is the education of youth in aviation and aviation history through exposure to the foundation’s living history museum. Thousands of people a year visit the LaFayette Foundation’s museum to see a world class collection of World War I & World War II aviation artifacts, memorabilia and aircraft.
Currently the Foundation has five World War I replicas on display, which are associated with a pilot whose memorabilia we have in our collection. These consist of: Baron Manfred von Richthofen’s Fokker DrI Triplane, Captain William Lambert’s Se5a, Captain Elliot White Springs’ Sopwith Camel, Lt. David Lewis’ Se5a, Oberleutnant Ernst Udet’s Fokker DVII, and Oberleutnant zur See Gotthard Sachsenberg’s Fokker DVIII.
As with all the aircraft on display in the LaFayette Foundation’s museum, the SPAD XIII we are building will be a flying replica that represents the aircraft flown by one of the significant pilots in our collection. Our SPAD XIII is being built to represent the aircraft flown by one of America’s most important and historically significant pilots of World War I, Captain James Norman Hall. The Foundation is grateful for the relationship it has with Nancy Hall Rutgers and Her husband, Nicholas “Nick” Rutgers. Nancy and Nick have helped sponsor the building of Nancy’s dad’s SPAD XIII.

Visit us at and follow us on our facebook page to watch the building of the SPAD.

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