Nearly 200 American men served in the French Foreign Legion during World War One. Some were expatriates already living in Europe while others joined up to fight the Germans, Austro-Hungarians and Ottoman Muslim Turks. They had to join the French Foreign Legion because – though the war started in August of 1914 – the United States did not enter the conflict until April of 1917.
Most of the attention goes to flying squadrons like the legendary Lafayette Escadrille and the American pilots who served in Britain’s Royal Air Force during World War One. Balladeer’s Blog will instead feature Americans who don’t get the same degree of exposure.
FRED ZINN – Called “the Battler from Battle Creek” this man was visiting France in August of 1914 when the war broke out. He enlisted in the French Foreign Legion and by October was stationed at the Western Front. Zinn was wounded twice in action by February 1st, 1916, and ended that second convalescence period by transferring to the Aeronautique Militaire unit.
Fred was not a pilot but served as a gunner and bombardier until October 21st, 1917. He also volunteered for missions in the pioneering warfare activities of air reconnaissance and aerial photography. Zinn never officially served with the Lafayette Escadrille but did fly some observation missions on behalf of that unit.
Fred Zinn died on October 4th 1960 at age 68.
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