THE EAGLE SQUADRONS
The Blitz was Bill Geigers introduction to London. He arrived in England early in 1941 to join one of the Eagle Squadrons, special Royal Air Force fighter units manned by U.S. pilots.
People were still sleeping in the subways, he remembers. Theyd get up in the middle of the night and go out and fight fires and dig people out of the rubble and then go to work during the day. And they were still under something of a threat, of an invasion. And there was not a word of quit, anywhere around. You got caught up in that kind of courage, and then pretty soon youd say, Now, I want to be a part of this. I want to be a part of these people. I want to be a part of what I see here. And what I feel here.
When the war began in Europe in 1939, several hundred Americans volunteered for service with the RAF, even though U.S. Neutrality Acts made them liable to prosecution. Usually they slipped into Canada for the voyage to England. Many served under false identities. A good number had washed out of U.S. air-cadet schools for physical reasons or because they were not judged good enough fliers.
By October 1940 there were enough U.S. fliers entering the RAF to form the first Eagle Squadron; two more were later formed. (Americans also served in the RAF Bomber Command and other units.)
In September 1942 the RAFs three Eagle Squadrons were incorporated into the U.S. Army Air Forces. The pilots changed uniforms from RAF to AAF, wearing their AAF silver wings pinned over the left breast and sewing the knitted wings of the RAF over the right breast.