A Head Start on War

Tyler Vaudreuil, Guest Writer

Beyond the roar of the spitfire’s vigorous engine, the clear, early morning sky blended seamlessly with the ocean below. Our formation of 12 fighters streaked away from Great Britain, toward a group of German Bombers detected on fighter command radar not long ago. I flew behind and to the right of our flight leader as his wingman. Will flew behind him and to the left. Our squadron of 12 was arranged into 4 of these three-planed flights. We patrolled the English Coastline in silence, watching each other’s blind spots for German aircraft. The words Winston Churchill said seemed like an eternity ago as they echoed through my mind.

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“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island. . . we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. . .then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old,” Churchill’s voice boomed through the radio.

“He’s calling us out, Dad,” I said as we huddled around the box in the living room of our home in upstate New York. “Great Britain has always been our ally; they’ve helped us and we’ve helped them”

“That doesn’t matter, son. What goes on in Europe doesn’t concern us. As for business in America, we’ve been struggling to get out of the depression, do you think a war is what our country needs right now?

“I think we should do something. It doesn’t feel right to stay in our shell. How can the leaders of our country not realize that if Hitler controls Europe, we’re his next target? Besides, the economy is doing much better since we’ve started supplying the Allies. War benefits business. The Allies need more than our ammunition; they need our men.” While we were sitting there making up our minds, people were dying to protect what is morally and ethically right on the other side of the world. We are no better than them.

“George, we have elected officials to make these tough decisions for us. They have more knowledge then us about the situation.”

“Well they’re making the wrong ones, Dad!” I was almost shouting at this point. “And I’m going over there to do something about it!”.

“What are you talking about?”

“Will and I have gotten a contact with the Royal Air Force. They’ll train us in Canada and get us over to the fight.”

“That means revoking your American citizenship.”
“Well, right now I’m not proud of the America that I’m a citizen of!”

My dad and I went back and forth about the issue for an hour. It went from him excommunicating me from the family to begging me to stay. He explaining the horrors the world faced only 25 years ago during the Great War, and I didn’t deserve similar fate.

Later that night, I met will at our usual hangout sport by the airport.

“Do you think American will ever enter the war?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I think it would take something massive for us to enter. Like if Great Britain fell to the Germans.”

“If Great Britain falls to the Germans, we might as well ally with Germany. With the economy that they could gain from that, combined with the rest of Europe, we won’t be able to stop them.”

“Did you hear Churchill’s speech today? The British are too proud to surrender their country.”

“That is true, but he still called on our aid. Men are dying in Europe, and we just lost France. There’s nothing stopping Hitler now from crossing the channel save the Royal Navy and RAF.”

*          *          *

“Bogey at 10 o’clock!” Our squadron leader’s voice crackled through the radio breaking my train of thought. Germans. This is why we were up here. A flight of German Bombers cruised across the channel about 600 meters below us and 3 kilometers east.

Just like during our countless hours of training, our squadron seamlessly broke formation to intercept the squadron of Jerries. Flights of three stayed together to concentrate firepower on the bombers. Will, Jeff, and I broke right to target the lead planes. Keeping an eye on my gauges, I pushed the yoke forward to lower the nose of the spitfire, quickly approaching the enemy aircraft. This isn’t the British you’re dealing with today, I thought to the Germans.

Thud Thud Thud. The pounding of the bomber’s machine guns broke the silent whining of our spitfires. We’d been spotted. My flight let loose a volley of fire at the lead bomber. It’s two port engines started smoking out the back. It wouldn’t be long before the enemy bomber started to roll and plummet into the channel below. By this time, German fighters broke formation and started tailing us.. Our flight broke formation to tackle the fighters on each other’s backs. I wove back and forth to avoid getting hit, then I pulled the yoke back to go into a sharp climb. Everything started to go dark as I put on the Gs. I banked right and dove, releasing another volley into the fuselage of another Jerry fighter. He didn’t go down. As I pulled up from my dive, the fighter trailing me let loose. Bullets ripped through my cockpit and shattered some gauges.

There was blood. Oh God, there was blood. I was bleeding. I looked down at the eagle worn on my shoulder given to us by the RAF, proud to be a part of the small group of Americans doing something about the war. Another volley tore through the plane, and I went into a steep left bank. Fighting the controls to bring my plane upright, I caught the reflection off of a bomber plane wing. It was the first one we hit. It hadn’t gone down yet. I righted myself enough to get it in the line of sight. My vision was starting to go dark. I was blacking out. The words of the great patriot echoed through my head. “We shall fight with growing confidence in the air. . . We shall never surrender. . .”. He wasn’t American but I was honored to be fighting for him. I unleashed my twin machine guns at the bomber, just as one of their aft gunners returned fire. My plane jerked left again as I lost control completely, spiraling towards the water below, the world went dark.




Bungay, Stephen. The Most Dangerous Enemy: a History of the Battle of Britain. Aurum Press, 2015.

Clayton, Tim, and Phil Craig. Finest Hour. Hodder, 2011.

“Eagle Squadrons.” Eagle Squadrons, 2018, www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/online-exhibitions/americans-in-the-royal-air-force/eagle-squadrons.aspx.

Fiedler, Arkady. 303 Squadron: the Legendary Battle of Britain Fighter Squadron. Aquila Polonica, 2010.

Holland, James. The Battle of Britain: Five Months That Changed History, May-October 1940. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012.