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Name: William "Bill" Thaw, II
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) with Oak Leaf Cluster
Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur
Croix de Guerre with 4 Palms & 2 Stars
William Thaw
Country: United States
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Service: French Air Service
United States Air Service
Units: C42; D6; N65, N124 (FAS)
103rd Aero; 3rd Pursuit Group (USAS)
Victories: 5
Born: 12 August 1893
Place of Birth: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: 22 April 1934
Place of Death: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Cemetery: Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Abandoning his studies at Yale in 1913, William Thaw, the son of Benjamin Thaw, obtained a pilot's certificate from the Curtiss school and became a flight instructor. When war broke out in Europe, he volunteered for the French Air Service but was rejected. Instead, on 4 September 1914, he joined the French Foreign Legion and served in the trenches. Despite poor vision, defective hearing and a bad knee, Thaw was permitted to join the French Air Service in December 1914. After serving as an observer/gunner, he received flight training and was reassigned to the Escadrille Americaine on 28 April 1916. By the time this squadron was disbanded in February 1918, Thaw had achieved two confirmed victories. While serving with the 103rd Aero Squadron, he scored three more victories to become an ace. The first American to be cited for gallantry and promoted by the French, Thaw may well have been the first American to participate in aerial combat during World War I. When the war ended, he returned to the United States and became an insurance agent. He died from pneumonia, age 40, at his home in Pittsburgh.
The Boston Herald, Boston, Massachusetts, Monday, 23 April 1934, page 11
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to William Thaw, Major (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Reims, France, March 26, 1918. Major Thaw was the leader of a patrol of three planes which attacked five enemy monoplanes and three battle planes. He and another member of the patrol brought down one enemy plane and the three drove down, out of control, two others, and dispersed the remainder.
General Orders No. 121, W.D., 1918
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) Oak Leaf Cluster
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to William Thaw, Major (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Montaigne, France, April 20, 1918. In the region of Montaigne Major Thaw attacked and brought down, burning, an enemy balloon. While returning to his own lines the same day he attacked two enemy monoplanes, one of which he shot down in flames.
General Orders No. 121, W.D., 1918
French Légion d'Honneur
THAW, WILLIAM, Lieutenant in Escadrille 124. American, enlisted voluntarily for the duration of the war. He is a pilot remarkable for his address, his devotion to duty and his contempt for danger. He has recently taken the offensive in eighteen combats in the air, all within a short period. On the morning of May 24th, 1916, he attacked and brought down an enemy airplane. The same day he again attacked a group of three enemy machines and pursued them from an altitude of 4500 meters down to 2000 meters. Severely wounded during the course of the fight, he succeeded, by his energy and audacity, in directing his airplane within his own lines where he landed safely, although the machine was badly crippled.
Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur citation, 18 June 1916
Date Time Unit Aircraft Opponent Location
1 24 May 1916 a.m. N124 Nieuport Fokker E.III Douaumont, Verdun
2 26 Apr 1917 1830 N124 Nieuport Albatros C 1 Neuville
u/c 27 Oct 1917 N124 Nieuport Albatros D.V  
u/c 03 Dec 1917 N124 Nieuport Rumpler C  
3 27 Mar 1918 103rd   Scout 2 Somme-Py
4 20 Apr 1918 1812 103rd   Balloon 3 Montaigne
5 20 Apr 1918 1827 103rd   Scout Nogent l'Abblesse

1 Shared
2 Shared with Capt James Norman Hall, Lt C W Ford
3 Shared with Lt G E Turnure
American Aces of World War 1
by Norman Franks, Harry Dempsey (Illustrator) / Paperback / Osprey Publishing (September 25, 2001)
Over the Front
by Norman L. R. Franks, Frank W. Bailey / Hardcover / Grub Street the Basement (May 1992)
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