Maj Gervais Raoul Lufbery
“Hat in the Ring”
94th Aero Squadron
19 May 1918
Raul Lufbery was a chocolatier by trade, born in 1885, Lufbery’s French mother passed away while he was an infant. His American father couldn’t care for the children, and left them in the care of French relatives.
He immigrated to the United States at age 19, just a few years before the Great War broke out. Not knowing he was already a U.S. citizen, based on his father’s citizenship, Lufbery applied for U.S. citizenship and enlisted in the U.S. Army to show he was serious about the matter.
Lufbery’s citizenship came through while he was still active duty serving in the Philippine Islands as an infantryman. American citizenship was his dream, and Private Lufbery took the responsibility to heart.
In 1914 War came to France, and Lufbery was chomping at the bit to get into the fight. United States neutrality was a problem. Luff decided not to wait for his adopted nation to jump in and help the country of his birth.
Luff joined the French Foreign Legion serving in combat as an infantryman. Given permission to learn to fly, Luff proved to be a great pilot. He was transferred to the Legion’s aviation branch then secured a discharge to enlisted with Escadrille V.B. 106 in October 1915.
His first enemy kill came 9-months later on 30 July 1916 over Verdun, France. He brought down an enemy two-seater aircraft. His second kill came later that day. Luff rapidly achieved the status of Ace – five kills and is the first U.S. citizen to reach Ace Status. As the war progressed, Luff’s kill count grew with every engagement. The French Govt. honored Luff with the Medaille Militaire, Croix de Guerre and Légion d’Honneur, and an official tally of 17 kills.
When the U.S. entered the war, Luff secured a discharge from the Escadrille V.B. 106 and rejoined the U.S. Air Service as a combat flight instructor with the U.S. 94th Aero Pursuit Squadron. When the 94th deployed to France, Luff went with them. He was eventually promoted to Major and given command the famed 94th Aero Squadron
On 19 May 1918, Luff engaged an enemy Rumpler aircraft in a fierce Dog-Fight. His guns jammed, a common problem that the pilot could usually clear with little effort. This time jam was such that Luff couldn’t clear it, leaving him defenseless. The Rumpler rolled in on Luff’s bird and opened fire, hitting the fuel tank. Luff’s wood and fabric aircraft burst into flames.
To escape the fire, Lufbery rolled his aircraft upside down and jumped the 200 feet to the ground.
Luff was found impaled on a picket fence in Maron, France. He is buried with his fellow American Soldiers in France. He was 33 years old.
In an almost humorous caveat, as I researched this Warrior, I discovered that, if you check French sources, they will all describe Lufbery as the “A Legendary French Ace.” Bur, if you look at American sources, Luff is described as an “American WW1 Ace,” and if you check the French Foreign Legion archives… Luff is the first and only “French Foreign Legion Ace.”
I guess this Warrior had enough Badass to go around.