First Responders

American World War I pilots joined up early by serving with Britain’s Royal Air Force.

American pilot Oliver Ralston received flight training in Canada before heading to England in 1918, where he learned to fly bombers. (Courtesy Gavin Mortimer)

Oliver LeBoutillier

Born in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1894, Oliver LeBoutillier traveled to England in 1917 to receive combat flight training with the Royal Naval Air Service. After completing flight instruction, he was assigned as a fighter pilot to the Service’s 9th Squadron, which had been tasked to protect southern England from attack by German bombers. At the end of his first month, LeBoutillier had downed four enemy aircraft.


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