of what is univerally known as 'Escadrille La Fayette' began at
Luxeuil when was created, with Bébé Nieuport fighters, the N
124 on 18 April 1916. It was a great symbol because under command
of a French, the unit integrated US pilots to be immediatly known
as 'American Volunteers' Escadrille' and a few time later 'American
Volunteers' Section'. First operation was made on 13 May 1916 and
the unit entered in the Fighter Legend with its first kill on 18.
First SPAD VIIs arrived in November 1917 and flew alongside Nieuport 17s, the famous Seminole head being introduced as unit emblem around moments where N 124 was not becoming a SPA but definitively 'Escadrille La Fayette' on 1st December 1917. It was a mechanic, Suchet, who evolved the Seminole head but Willis, then new at the Escadrille, draw the definitive version under form of a Sioux head. The unit fought ferocely and fiercely during all the 1917 year and gave place to 103rd Aero Squadron on 1st January 1918, passing under American Aviation and continuing to fly SPADs of various types.
For France, N 124 or 'Escadrille La Fayette' had no more existence and the number was kept to form with French elements of the unit, on 4 April 1918, a radically new Escadrille, the SPA 124, wearing on its SPADs a white stripe. Later its emblem became 'Jeanne d'Arc' after the Escadrille had fought to the so symbolic city of Reims in the pre-Republican History of France.
N 124 'Escadrille La Fayette' and SPA 167 officially reappeared in 1921 when 3rd Group of 3rd Fighter Aviation based at Chateauroux with a single Escadrille got three more, the 9th having insigna and traditions of 'La Fayette'. These Escadrilles moved to Lyon-Bron in october 1922 to join 35th Mixt Aviation Regiment probably having already Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 29 fighters, the Seminole head being applied at mid-fuselage in a white horizontal ovoid box. In 1924 N 124 became 7th Escadrille of the newly created 35th Observation Aviation Regiment and SPA 67 was the 8th. After Ni-D 29 fighters they successively flew (Loire) Gourdou-Leseurre LGL-32s and Ni-D 62s.
When the 5th Fighter Wing was created in 1933, N 124 et SPA 167 formed the 3rd and 4th Escadrilles of the GC II/5 Squadron which changed its Ni-D 622s against low wing Dewoitine 501s after the GC established on its new Reims airfield during May 1937. With the evidence that Third Reich was building something more than a defensive Army, it urged that France reequip with other things than fighters having fixed undercarriages. Beside plans to evolve national modern machines which gave Morane 406, Bloch 152 and Dewoitine 52O beside more heavy twin-engined types France ordered foreign aircraft and GC II/5 received, from Mars 1939, a dotation of Curtiss H-75A-1 corresponding to Curtiss H-75 C1 (single-seat fighter) in the AdlA nomenclature system. Based at Toul (under Command of Marcel Hughes who already was one of the C/O of 'Escadrille La Fayette' during WWI) late in August 1939 in the East Operations Zone, the 'La Fayette' got its first kill during its first combat session on 20 September. After first heavy fights, Marcel Hughes the old Sioux Chief, exhausted, had to be replaced). Until Armistice combats were intense and the squadron left France for a base in the south of Oran in Algeria, North Africa. Participated to cover French Fleet of Mers-el-Kebir and was affected to coast patrols in Morocco and bombed English at Gibraltar on 23 September 1940 without the unit had engage RAF fighters. For two months GC II/5 was sent to Dakar and came back to Casablanca late in january 1941.
Between 8 and 10 November 1942 the 'La Fayette' fought with determination against Americans during their Landings in North Africa. Thanks to Paul Rockwell, a WWI pilot of the original N 124, the 'La Fayette' was the first French Group to be r-earmed with US material. Receiving P-40 Tomahawks the Squadron became again operational before the end of 1942 operating from Algerian and Moroccan bases under 33rd Figter Group of USAAF. Reinforced by SPA 160 'Diable Rouge' (Red Devil) Escadrille which had only a 6 monthsexistence , the II/5 Squadron fought in the Tunisian, Sicilian and Mediterranean Theaters of Operations through 1943 until 6 April 1944 when began transformation on P-47 fighters in prevision of the Allied landings on South France Coast and of its integration to the very near re-formation of a 4th Fighter Wing.