American WW2 volunteers belatedly receive some U.S. Government recognition

WW2 Remembrance Day take-off from Gilbert Field on 5 September 2020. Photo by Troy Heidel.

Remembrance Day | Veterans Day | 11th November 2020 | Winter Haven, Florida, USA. Just after sunrise on Saturday the 5th of September 2020, a day on which many Americans noted the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and paid tribute to that great generation, an unpublicized salute took place. As the sun began peeking above the eastern horizon an ERCO Ercoupe took wing from Dr. Robert E. Gilbert Field/Winter Haven Regional Airport.[1] Appropriately, inside the terminal stands a colourful related display that honours those from the State of Florida who joined either the Royal Canadian Air Force or Royal Air Force.

KGIF employee posing with ‘RCAF and RAF- Floridians’ display on 17 May 2016. Photo: Military Aviation Chronicles.

The ‘sortie’ referenced above was in part a salute to the overlooked thousands of American men and women who volunteered for service with the British and Canadian armed forces or their associated entities during the Second World War. An aviator who is affiliated with Bomber Command Museum of Canada, the Royal British Legion, and Royal Canadian Legion was at the controls of the small airplane. He and a patriotic female passenger were aloft to recognize the mostly forgotten volunteers who risked losing their citizenship and lives in the war effort to defend England, the United States’ ‘Mother Country[2], Canada, and America.

‘Salute Flight’ passenger and Ercoupe postflight. Photo: Military Aviation Chronicles.

In the latter months of 1939 England and the British Commonwealth of Nations, Canada being one member country, began to fight the aggression of their non-democratic European foes. Europe was largely being overrun, and Great Britain was soon standing alone in opposition to the wave of subjugation engendered by the armies, air forces, and navies of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The U.S.A. feigned neutrality until 11 December 1941, and the patriots who sojourned to Canada and the United Kingdom were more than willing to prevent, through their labours and sacrifices, the negative consequences they knew would ensue following a Nazi subjugation of the United Kingdom. With encouragement provided by Hollywood in the form of feature films and the words and actions of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Americans began flocking to recruiting centres within Canada and the United Kingdom and enlisting with Canadian and British military forces and paramilitary organisations.

Pipers beside Canada’s Bomber Command Memorial. Photo: Bomber Command Museum of Canada.

More than 700 ‘Yanks’ died while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force alone. Bomber Command Museum of Canada constructed and maintains Canada’s Bomber Command Memorial. This monolith contains the Americans’ name inscriptions. Karl Kjasgaard is the facility’s lead historian and researcher  on RCAF-Americans.

Congressman Tim Ryan. Photo: U.S. House of Representatives Office of Representative Tim Ryan. 1 January 2010.

On Tuesday, the 29th of September 2020, at the urging of Ohioan Timothy Tracey, the Honourable Tim Ryan of Ohio submitted a statement to the Speaker of the House of the House of Representatives. The text, which was drafted by historian and writer John Stemple for Congressman Ryan’s staff, resulted in the submission being published within the Congressional Record under the following heading: ‘Saluting American Patriots of WWII for Service with the Canadian and British Armed Forces[3]. This signal event marked an initial, albeit very belated and nominal, recognition of the intrepid individuals who risked their lives and citizenships to defend Western democracy before the U.S. officially became a belligerent. Notably, with the assistance of the same individuals and the congressman’s support staff, Congressman Ryan previously, on 27 November 2017, wrote to the White House and requested the issuance of a presidential proclamation; unfortunately to date no such document has been issued by the Trump Administration.

The only known acknowledgement of the Americans who had been in Canadian service during WWII by anyone connected to the U.S. Government was by General of the Army, Army of the United States, and future President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He referenced the American volunteerism at the Canadian Club, in Ottawa, Canada, on 10 January 1946. Eisenhower’s remarks were, of course, personal and lacked any endorsement or sanctioning by the U.S. Government.

The bravery and foresight displayed by the volunteers represent a largely unrecognized story of valour. The veterans most certainly deserve more acclaim from the governments of Canada and the United States. It is for this reason that a small group of likeminded individuals residing within both the United States and Canada are proposing Congressional Gold Medals for the volunteers through legislation (H.R. 980 – American Patriots of WWII through Service with the Canadian and British Armed Forces Gold Medal Act of 2019[4]), which is sadly currently languishing in a House of Representatives committee.



The ERCO Ercoupe is an iconic make and model of aeroplane that was utilised during the conflict by the American Civil Air Patrol for liaison and antisubmarine patrol operations and by the national Civilian Pilot Training Programme and evaluated for training use by the Royal Air Force postwar (1947) by the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down. The take-off location is noteworthy because Gilbert Field was an auxiliary landing aerodrome, beginning in 1941 for the 2169th Army Air Forces Base Unit/60th Army Air Force Flying Training Detachment at Lodwick Field near Lakeland. At Lodwick British students and American cadets learned to fly.


‘Mother Country’ was terminology famously used within the American colonists 1775 ‘Olive Branch Petition’ to King George III.


Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 169, Page E893


H.R.980 – American Patriots of WWII through Service with the Canadian and British Armed Forces Gold Medal Act of 2019

Sources and Suggested Readings

Background of VX-147 RAF service.

Bartow Air Base History Museum

Bomber Command Museum of Canada

Bartow Executive Airport

Bartow Executive Airport

Canada’s Bomber Command Memorial

Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 169, Page E893

Dr. Robert E. Gilbert Field

Dr. Robert E. Gilbert Field – History

Dwight Eisenhower speech at Canadian Club, Ottawa, Canada, January 10, 1946. Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home

ERCO 415-D Ercoupe N99711 (c/n  2334)

ERCO Ercoupe

H.R.980 – American Patriots of WWII through Service with the Canadian and British Armed Forces Gold Medal Act of 2019

HR 980 (116th Congress): Supporting and Documenting the Text

Karl Kjarsgaard, Halifax bomber expert, receives honours

Lodwick Field

Olive Branch Petition

Photo of VX 147 and replicas.

The ERCO Ercoupe’s military legacies

The “Olive Branch Petition”

Click to access olivebranchpetition.pdf


What Was the Olive Branch Petition?

What Was the Olive Branch Petition?

Winter Haven’s Gilbert Airport