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Weston Birch Hall

pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille

Weston Birch (Bert) Hall was born and raised in Page City north of Higginsville Kentucky. He was a decorated and notorious World War I aviator with the Lafayette Escadrille whose exploits and controversies lasted well into the next decade after the war was over.

Almost a legendary soldier of fortune, he left home in his teens and worked variously as a deckhand, mechanic and auto racing driver before going to France in 1909. There he met the Farmans and learned to fly their early pushers, and he met Bleriot, who taught him to fly a tractor plane.

Before the war he became chief and sole member of the Bulgarian air force, then switched allegiance and headed up the opposing air force of the Sultan of Turkey. Hall was enjoying Parisian life following a aerial demonstration tour of Europe when World War I was declared. The next day he joined the French Foreign Legion - the only French armed service that would accept non-citizens. Hall served in the trenches prior to transferring to aviation, where he became one of the original members of the Escadrille Americaine (Lafayette Escadrille).

The Escadrille Americaine was commanded by a Frenchman, Captain Georges Thenault, and initially had seven Americans assigned as pilots -- Norman Prince, Victor Chapman, Kiffin Rockwell, James McConnell, William Thaw, Elliot Cowdin, and Bert Hall. During the succeeding twenty months the unit served on the Front, it had an additional thirty-one Americans assigned as pilots, including such legendary figures as Raoul Lufbery and Charles Dolan. Bert Hall, considered a boorish braggart and soldier of fortune, by members of the French Air Service was reassigned to N.103 because of his attatude toward his fellow pilots. However before leaving N.124, he did shoot down four German planes.

In 1917 he was sent as leaison to Russia and Rumania, where he flew on the Eastern Front. Among many exploits, attempted to bomb the Kaiser at Sofia. He then returned to Petrograd and because of the Revolution was forced to depart via Siberia to the United States, barely escaping with his life. The French Air Service offically has him listed as a deserter. By war's end he had scored 20 kills.

In the late 20's he became known as General Chang Hui-Chang - and he served both the Nanking and Canton governments over a 10-year period. Again Hall's exploits were of shaded character and he ended up in American Federal Court in Shanghai, charged with defrauding the Chinese Government of $10,000 in silver. He was sentenced by Judge Milton D. Purdy to two and one half years in the federal prison at McNeal Island.

Hall had a short writing career in which he wrote En L’Air!: Three Years on and Above Three Fronts. The book was published in the mid 1930's.

High Adventure was his story, half hero-half heel and true soldier of fortune, the end came for Bert Hall in 1948. The man who had fought so valiantly and vulgarly abroad died in an automobile accident after suffering a heart attack while on a business trip in the Midwest. He was 68 years old and the last of the founding members of the Lafayette Escadrille.