The Ambassador in France (Herrick) to the Secretary of State

No. 5701

Sir: I have the honor to report that, on November 6th, the Paris press announced that the American aviators, who volunteered their services to the French and Moroccan governments in the middle of July of this year, will be disbanded November 15th in Morocco and will return to France.

The membership of this squadron was reported to consist of:—

  • Col. Charles Sweeney, head of the volunteer American air squadron (who had served in the French Foreign Legion)
  • Maj. Granville Pollock, aviator
  • Lieut.-Col. Charles Kerwood, aviator
  • Capt. R. H. Weller
  • Capt. Graham Bullen
  • Capt. Lansing Holden
  • Paul Rockwell, of Atlanta, Ga., (veteran of the Lafayette Escadrille)
  • James Mustain
  • Capt. Donald McGibeny
  • Capt. James V. Sparks (surgeon)
  • Major Baer (veteran of the Lafayette Squadron)
  • Maj. William Rogers, of Pittsburgh, Pa., (a Lafayette pilot)
  • Col. Austin Parker (veteran of the Lafayette Escadrille)
  • Joseph Stehlin, of Brooklyn, N. Y. (veteran of the Lafayette Escadrille)
  • 2 newspapermen

When the French authorities were informed of the intention of these men to offer their services to the War Department, the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs immediately took up the problem of deciding whether the enlistment of foreigners was likely to provoke international difficulties owing to the political status of Morocco, technically governed by its Sultan but under the protection of France. It early became apparent that, if entering the Sultan’s army, even for a limited period, required a formal recognition of the Sultan as a potentate, any American volunteer accepting such a pledge would forfeit [Page 610] his American citizenship; however, on the 19th of July, the press announced that the aeroplane contingent would be permitted to leave Paris within 48 hours to offer its services to the Sultan of Morocco at Rabat, stating that the French military authorities had been assured from Morocco that the Americans would not be required to take any oath of fidelity which would endanger their American citizenship, and that as a special favor the oath of fidelity to Moslemism, which would require certain traditional rites to be observed were Christians to be converted to the faith of the Sultan, would also be waived. It was further stated that the entry of the aviators into the Riffian forces would be facilitated by the French authorities, uniforms would be provided, messing arrangements concluded and a small, but satisfactory daily stipend allowed, the unit to remain intact for aviation purposes.

Several receptions, banquets and luncheons were tendered the American fliers during the period from their announced intention to volunteer their services to their departure from Paris. At the reception given at the Cercle Volney on July 29th Mr. Jusserand, former French Ambassador at Washington, made an address, and the following day a luncheon was given the volunteers at the Union Interalliée at which addresses were made by M. Briand, Minister of Foreign Affairs; M. Laurent-Eynac, Commissioner-General for Aeronautics; M. Franklin-Bouillon; General Jacquemot; Col. Féquent, Chief of the French Aviation Service; and Marcel Knecht, editor of Le Matin.

The first contingent of the aviators above mentioned left Paris on August 5th for Rabat via Marseilles, Barcelona, Malaga, making the journey in planes driven by French pilots. At Rabat they were welcomed on August 11th by a group of French aviators who had come expressly from Fez, and General Hoesch, former Marshal Lyautey’s Chief of Staff. At a luncheon given in the officers’ mess of the 37th Aviation Corps to which the American squadron was attached, the Presidential decree on the uniform to be worn was read; khaki, stripes on sleeves and dark-blue cap. As a distinctive mark the American aviators were given a five-pointed star between two wings on the lapels of their tunic and their cap, this being the emblem of the Sultan of Morocco.

On August 17th, Colonel Sweeney submitted to General Naulin, the French Commander-in-Chief, his program—the departure by the end of the week of nine aviators, in groups of three, flying to the army zones of Wezzan, Fez and Taza, working alternately, and reassembling at Fez on Sept. 2nd. The entire contingent of American volunteers (including some French volunteers) was received in special audience, accompanied by former Marshal Lyautey and his General Staff, by the Sultan of Morocco at the Palace at Rabat on August 21st, at which his Majesty was presented an emblem of the American squadron—a [Page 611] gold medal—similar to one already accepted by former Marshal Lyautey. Immediately after the presentation at the Palace, the American fliers returned to Fez to be definitively incorporated to [in] the Sultan’s army (August 21st).

No news of any sort as to particular actions of the French air forces, participated in by the Americans, has been published in any of the Paris papers nor have any casualties been reported, with the exception of Lieut-Col. Charles W. Kerwood, who sustained slight injuries at Casablanca in making a bad landing during a trial flight late in August.

French papers did not comment as extensively on the formation and actions of the squadron as might have been expected, but their attitude was uniformly laudatory, although several papers later published news of the receipt by the American Legation in Cairo of a long petition, protesting against the Americans taking this step, and stated that the Egyptian Nationalist Press was extremely bitter in its comment. On September 22nd L’Humanite (the Communist organ) commented on Secretary of State Kellogg’s reported advice relative to American aviators in Morocco, as follows: “It would not be unsafe to say that this is only America’s first step against the imperialist French plans of a conquest of the Riff

The reported plans for the disbanding of the aviators have received little or no comment in the press of Paris.

I have [etc.]

Myron T. Herrick