The Legacy of Lafayette in World War I

On July 4, 1917, General John J. Pershing, commander of the newly-arrived American Expeditionary Force in Europe, made a special pilgrimage to a small cemetery on the outskirts of Paris.  There the General and his staff stopped beside a simple grave.  It was Pershing’s aide, Colonel Charles E. Stanton, who spoke: ” It is with loving pride we drape the colors in tribute of respect to this citizen of your great republic.  And here and now in the presence of the illustrious dead we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue.  Lafayette, we are here!”

Memories of Lafayette’s contributions to the American Revolution resonated with many Americans who sympathized with France and her allies during World War I.  Lafayette’s name was invoked for the Lafayette Fund, started by Americans in 1914 to supply comfort kits to French soliders; for the Lafayette Memorial, established by Americans who purchased Lafayette’s birthplace, the Chateau Chavaniac, in 1917; and for the Lafayette Escadrille, the squadron of American pilots who flew for France.