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Moments in Time

details the combat that resulted in the first American ‘ace’ of World War Two

The Royal Air Force readily accepted volunteer American pilots when they began arriving in Britain during the early days of World War Two. Initially serving with RAF units, many posed as Canadians due to the USA’s then neutrality from the hostilities.As more volunteers arrived from across the Atlantic, though, it was decided to establish an ‘American’ squadron – similar to the French Air Service’s renowned Lafayette Escadrille of World War One.

“He [the pilot] probably baled out, but I didn’t see him do so”

As a result, 71 Squadron was formed at Yorkshire’s RAF Church Fenton on September 19, 1940 with Brewster Buffalos. Almost immediately, the unit was dubbed the ‘Eagle’ Squadron in a nod to the USA’s national emblem.

One such volunteer was 25-yearold, Minneapolis-born Plt Off William Robert ‘Bill’ Dunn, who joined the squadron in April 1941. At the time it was flying Hurricane Mk.IIb variants on cross-Channel sweeps into France from Martlesham Heath in Suffolk; two months later the Eagles moved southwest to North Weald in Essex.

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