American Pilots and the Battle of Britain

American Pilots and the Battle of Britain



For the duration of the Battle of Britain, America was officially neutral, only coming into the war after the attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941. Many in America supported what Great Britain and her allies were fighting for but memories of World War One were still raw and isolationism was a widely accepted practice within America. However, a few young men – for whatever personal reasons – wanted to offer more than just moral support. A few Americans arrived in Britain and offered to fight for Fighter Command. A ‘special arrangement’ with the RAF meant that they did not have to give up American citizenship. In total, nine American citizens fought during the Battle of Britain.

 

The best known of the US pilots who fought was Pilot Officer William ‘Billy’ Fiske, a Cambridge graduate and a member of the US Winter Olympic bobsleigh teams of 1928 and 1932. Fiske joined 601 Squadron based at Tangmere in July 1940. On August 16th 1940 Fiske was involved in a dog-fight over Bognor and his Hurricane was damaged. He managed to crash-land at Tangmere. However, the fighter base was being attacked at that moment and his aircraft was strafed. Fiske died of his wounds the following day. A memorial was unveiled to Fiske at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1941 with the words “An American citizen who died that England might live.”

 

The other Americans who served in Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain were:

 

Vernon Keogh (609 Squadron)

Andrew Mamedoff (609 Squadron)

Eugene Tobin (609 Squadron)

Philip Leckrone (616 Squadron)

Arthur Donahue (64 Squadron)

John Haviland (151 Squadron)

De Peysters Brown (1 RCAF Squadron)

Carl Davis (601 Squadron)

 

Their combined score by the end of the battle was two definite destroyed German aircraft, five probable destroyed with two damaged. They made “an invaluable contribution to morale and set a fine example.” (Jon Lake)






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