(Based on the Eagle Squadrons article in the Air Force Magazine October 2007 issue) Just thought to share this with you folks. The 244 Americans who formed the three Eagle Squadrons found their way to the RAF by various routes, all of them chancy. One avenue for volunteers was to enlist first in the British or Canadian armed services and then try to transfer into the RAF. Several were assisted by Col. Charles Sweeny, a World War I Army veteran and admirer of the successful, legendary Lafayette Escadrille. In his post-Great War life, he was a daring, flamboyant promoter, who in the late 1930s and early 1940s publicized to Americans the French and British need for fighter pilots. His aim was to form an American squadron of fighter pilots, reprising the Escadrille. Sweeny carried out his recruitment efforts in the face of stringent US Neutrality Acts, which forbade Americans to travel on ships of combatant nations or travel in a combat zone. Violators were supposed to be subjected to stiff fines and other legal sanctions. Sweeny's recruitment activities in 1939 and 1940 thus earned him the ire of the US authorities. Still, he was successful in finding volunteers. After the calamitous fall of France in June 1940, the US halted prosecution of violators of the Neutrality Acts. Sweeny pared down his operation but still channeled recruits to Britain, via Canada and then by sea to English ports. In this he was aided by his nephew, Charles Sweeny, a successful businessman. Charles Sweeny got London's authorization to establish an American RAF fighter squadron. He organized the volunteers, sent by his uncle, who were to form the nucleus of the first Eagle Squadron. And he created the Eagle flash, inspired by the image on his US passport. The Sweeny operation was not the only recruitment effort. Another, even larger supplier of American volunteers was what was called he Clayton Knight Committee, which operated from April 1940 to October 1942. Knight was a World War I aviator, admirer of the Escadrille, and an aviation artist. At the behest of World War I ace William A. Bishop, Knight obtained British support for an organization that could tap into the large pool of American pilots. The Knight Committee had considerable reach as a result of a network of offices throughout the United States. Although Britain supported the Sweeny and Knight operations, the Knight Committee supplied more than 80 percent of the pilots for the RAF's Eagle Squadrons. Out of nearly 50,000 Americans who signed up, the committee took 6,700 to become RAF pilots. *** Sept. 26, 1942 was a disaster for Eagle Squadron 133. Squadron 133 was assigned to bomber escort duty for a mission to Morlaix, France. The mission planner anticipated a routine flight, with intermittent clouds and a southerly 35mph wind. Flying new Spitfires, the pilots were to meet up with a force of bombers in midchannel between Bolthead and Morlaix. Once airborne, however, the pilots flew in heavy overcast and were unknowingly blown far south of their rendezvous by 100 mph northern winds. They lost radio contact with their ground control in England. With fuel running low, the Eagles met up with a group of bombers returning to England and began to escort them back. One of the Spitfire pilots requested permission to go down through the cloud cover to determine their location, and the entire flight went with him. When the squadron broke out of the cloud cover, they were over Brest, France, flying into the teeth of a huge German anti-aircraft artillery trap. Four Eagle pilots were shot down and killed, six more were shot down and taken prisoners of war. One Eagle crash-landed in England and was critically injured. The final pilot bailed out and made his way back to England with the help of the French underground. Twelve Spitfires were destroyed. Three days later On Sept. 29, 1942, members of the three Eagle Squadrons were transferred directly into the 4th Fighter Group, US Army Air Forces. Members of No. 71 Squadron merged into the USAAF's 334th Fighter Squadron. Those of No. 121 Squadron moved over to the 335th Fighter Squadron. The Americans in No. 133 Squadron became part of the USAAF's 336th Fighter Squadron. These units live on today as three of the squadron's flying F-15E Strike Eagles for the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.