The squadron of millionaires: the young offspring of Yale who wanted to leave for the 'Great War'

(To David Bartoccini)

Frosted and neatly combed hair, dark blazers and a winged brooch pinned to the chest - specially designed for them by the well-known jewelry Tiffany & Co. - they seem like the young ideal-typical models of the upper class painted by Leyendecker, the spoiled offspring told by Fitzgerald in his novels: they are among the first American volunteers to leave for the 'Great War' being fought in Europe.

One hundred years later, a team of historians is slowly unearthing the businesses of a group of friends, students of Yale, who during the summer of 1916 decided to finance a 'seaplane base' to train and prepare to contribute to war efforts that their country would have decided to officially support with the declaration of war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917.

While the first daredevils of the Yankee fought in an aerial duel on the Nieuport 23 of the Squadron Lafayette - the N.124 escadrille where the American volunteers converged with a flight license and the desire to fight their hands - they learned to fly seaplanes for the Navy that would protect the convoys destined for the 'Old Continent' as soon as they had the possibility.

The press baptized this weird group of flying gentlemen gathered in Volunteer Coastal Patrol Unit 1, 'The Millionaire Unit'; among them surnames like Rockefeller, Taft, Morgan stood out, but they all responded to orders from Frederick Trubee Davison, captain of the Yale rowing team and son of the Wall Street magnate, who financed the purchase of some Curtiss F-Boat seaplanes and he made his own Long Island mansion available to set up the training base.

When US President Wilson decreed the end of isolationism and intervention in the war, then-young Navy minister Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided to immediately recruit the 'First Yale Unit' framed in the US Navy Air Reserve and send it to what would become the first US air base in Europe, at Le Moutchic in France.

On board their seaplanes the young offspring of Yale, including at least eleven members of the extremely exclusive confraternity Skulls & Bones, they did their utmost to protect naval convoys from German u-boats and Austro-Hungarian destroyers.

In the Yale Alumni War Memorial the effigy that since then keeps their memory alive bears in golden words this epitaph: "In memory of the men of Yale, who in the name of his tradition, gave their lives for Freedom so that this do not die on Earth. Year of the Lord 1914-1918 ".