Yankee Squadron

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Yankee Squadron
I-15 Polikarpov Tinker.jpg
The No. 56 Chato flown by F. G. Tinker
Active 1936–1937
Country United States United States
Allegiance Spain Spain
Branch Spanish Republican Air Force
Type Air Force Squadron
Size 6
Spanish Civil War Medal awarded to the International Brigades

The Yankee Squadron was a group of mercenary American military aviators who flew for the Spanish Republican Air Force, during the Spanish Civil War.[1][2][3]


In November 1936, representatives of the Second Spanish Republic (Spanish Republicans, or Loyalists) began a campaign to hire American pilots to fight in the Spanish Civil War.[4] They used a New York lawyer to find American pilots.[5][6] Time magazine reported on December 21, 1936 that six U.S. fliers were on the ocean liner SS Normandie, headed for Spain, to join their leader, Bert Acosta. They were to be paid $1,500 a month, plus $1,000 for each Aviación Nacional plane destroyed.[1][7][8]

Time reported that the six men were: "[h]ilariously celebrating in the ship's bar of the Normandie with their first advance pay checks from Spain's Radical Government ... en route last week for Madrid to join Bert Acosta, pilot of Admiral Byrd's transatlantic flight, in doing battle against Generalissimo Francisco Franco's White planes."[7]

British and French pilots were given two weeks of training, but the Americans were expected to fly as soon as they arrived.[1] Another American flyer, Hilaire du Berrier, was already in Spain by time they arrived. Frederic Ives Lord became their squadron commander, and he tried to convince the Loyalist authorities that the planes they were given were too dilapidated to fly. When the commandant insisted that the planes were safe, Lord took him up for a test flight, and at two thousand feet up one of the four wings broke off. The commandant motioned Lord to climb higher so they could escape by using their parachutes. Lord wanted to try to land with the remaining lower wings intact. He landed the plane safely but was arrested at the airfield. An airplane mechanic intervened and explained that his loss of the wing was accidental, and was not intentional. The pilots went to Valencia, Spain to complain to the Second Spanish Republic air ministry, but nothing changed. Acosta, Schneider and Lord planned to escape from Bilbao to Biarritz, France by motorboat after they had been refused a promised Christmas leave. Their plan was discovered and the pilot of their boat was arrested and executed. The pilots were then jailed for 18 hours. They then returned to the United States.[9]

Return to United States

Four of them resigned and returned to the United States in January.[1][10] The Associated Press reported that "the flyers protested they were given nothing but unarmed sports planes with which to fight, while Russian pilots were assigned "regular American army planes."[3] The Spanish Air Force had no US-built planes; the main fighters used by the Republicans during the war were the Soviet-built Polikarpov I-15 and I-16. The latter was often mistaken for the Boeing P-26, but was not related to it.[11][12] The flyers said both the socialist and fascist air forces in Spain were staffed almost entirely by foreigners.[3]

The fliers later told the Washington Post that they had quit because "'it would be suicide to continue' and because their actions 'might not be in tune with the spirit of neutrality'... While other airmen – British and French – were afforded a two-week courtesy for training, American fliers were just shown to loyalist hangars, given a plane and ordered to do their stuff. 'We were flying old crates,' Acosta said, 'while other nationalists [sic] were given modern ships. But for the protection afforded us by Soviet pursuit planes we would not be alive now to tell you this tale.'"[1]

Eddie August Schneider explained his motives in flying for the Republic: "I was broke, hungry, jobless ... yet despite the fact that all three of us are old-time aviators who did our part for the development of the industry, we were left out in the cold in the Administration's program of job making. Can you blame us for accepting the lucrative Spanish offer?"[1] The flyers had their passports confiscated, and they were to be returned when they attested that they had never withdrawn their allegiance to the United States.[13]

The flyers claimed that they were not paid what was promised them by the Spanish government. Acosta and Berry started legal proceedings against the Spanish steamship Mar Cantabrico to try to collect the back pay that was due each of them.[11] The consul general for the Spanish government, Luis Careaga, arrived in the US and paid some of the money, and declared that they were now paid in full.[14] Their lawyer, Lewis Landes, claimed Acosta and Berry were still owed $1,500 and Schneider $1,200.[11]


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "3 U.S. Airmen Here to Explain Aid to Loyalists; Acosta, Berry, Schneider Fly to Capital With Their Attorney". Washington Post. January 20, 1937.
  2. ^ a b "Flier Says Lawyer Sent Him to Spain". New York Times. January 16, 1937.
  3. ^ a b c "American Aviators Through with Spain". Associated Press in Oshkosh Northwestern. January 6, 1937.
  4. ^ "4 Americans in Spain to Fly for Madrid. Acosta and Three Mates Reach Valencia to Take Course in Military Aviation". New York Times. November 21, 1936. Retrieved September 25, 2007. Bert Acosta, one of this country's leading racing pilots, and four other fliers from fields in the Newark district have arrived at Valencia, Spain, where they will go through a hurried course in military flying before taking the air against the Rebels, it was revealed here yesterday. ...
  5. ^ "U.S. Socialists Sift Volunteers To Fight Rebels. Federal Inquiry Gaining Impetus. Ambulance Unit Sails". Associated Press in Washington Post. January 17, 1937.
  6. ^ "Aviator Says New York Attorney Is Leftist Agent. Several Indictments Are Planned in Enlistment of Fliers for Spain". Associated Press in Washington Post. January 16, 1937.
  7. ^ a b "Pilots, Death, Plebiscite". Time. December 21, 1936. Retrieved August 21, 2007.
  8. ^ "Fliers Fully Paid, Spain's Agent Says". New York Times. January 17, 1937. Retrieved September 25, 2007.
  9. ^ "Yankee Air Squadron Quits Loyalists in Spanish Fight". United Press in The Charleston Daily Mail. January 5, 1937.
  10. ^ "Yankee Fliers Quit". Washington Post. January 7, 1937.
  11. ^ a b c d Taylor, Foster Jay (1971). The United States and the Spanish Civil War. Octagon Books. ISBN 0-374-97849-2. American fighting in Spain dramatically ... Two American flyers, Bert Acosta and Gordon Berry, instituted legal proceedings against the Spanish steamship Mar Cantabrico in an effort to collect $1,200 in back pay due them by the Spanish Government. ... It was stated in an official American quarter that no American planes of any kind were being used in the Spanish Civil War.
  12. ^ Gordon, Yefim (2002). Polikarpov's I-16 Fighter: Its Forerunners and Progeny. ISBN 1-85780-131-8.
  13. ^ "The Post's New Yorker". Washington Post. September 22, 1937.
  14. ^ "Fliers Fully Paid, Spain's Agent Says. Declares Terms Of Contracts Were Met And No Money Is Now Due Them. Denial By Their Lawyer. He Asserts Acosta, Schneider And Berry Got Some Funds On Friday, But Not Enough". New York Times. January 17, 1937. Retrieved September 25, 2007.
  15. ^ a b c d Knoblaugh, H. Edward (1937). Correspondent in Spain. Sheed and Ward.
  16. ^ a b "Lincoln Brigade archives at the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives". New York University. Retrieved June 14, 2007. Bert Blanchard Acosta; George F. Berry; Frank I. Frederick Lord; Eddie August Schneider; Eddie Semons
  17. ^ a b Bridgeman, Brian (1989). The Flyers: The Untold Story of British and Commonwealth Airmen in the Spanish Civil War. ISBN 1-85421-054-8.
  18. ^ "4 Americans in Spain to Fly for Madrid. Acosta and Three Mates Reach Valencia to Take Course in Military Aviation". New York Times. November 21, 1936. Retrieved September 25, 2007.

External links

  • Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives
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