Robert Soubiran



The last of the trio to join the N-124 on 22 October was Robert Soubiran, who gave his residence as New York City. Like Masson and Lufbery, Soubiran had been born in France. His father had immigrated to America when Robert was still a child, but the family always retained strong ties with the mother country.

Life was hard for the Soubiran family in America, and Robert was one of the few members of the famous Lafayette Escadrille who had the childhood experience of selling newspapers on the street corner. He leaned toward mechanics, however, and by the time he entered his twenties, he was an expert, and had serviced and driven racing automobiles. the outbreak of the war brought young Soubiran back to France. He enlisted in the Foreign Legion in August 1914, but his mechanical ability stood in the way of his desire to serve at the Front. He spent the fall of 1914 driving a combine, harvesting the wheat that had been abandoned in the war zone.

Soubiran entered the trenches early the following year and saw considerable action, including the Champagne offensive, where he was wounded in the left knee. After four months in the hospital, his transfer to aviation was effected by Kiffin Rockwell and William Thaw. Robert Soubiran proved an excellent pilot and a welcome addition to the squadron. Speaking French like a native, he not only flew and fought well but did much to create good will and understanding between the Americans and the neighboring French people.

~~ Philip M. Flammer, The Vivid Air: The Lafayette Escadrille. (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1981), p 100.

Robert Soubiran of New York City had seen service in the Foreign Legion before he transferred to the French Aviation Serivce on February 27, 1916. Following his training, he was assigned to the Lafayette Escadrille from October 22, 1916, until February 18, 1918. He became part of the 103d Pursuit Squadron, US Air Service, as a captain. He was commanding officer of the 103d at the time of the Armistice. He was awarded the Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre with two palms.

~~ Walt Brown, Jr., An American for Lafayette: The Diaries of E.C.C. Genet, Lafayette Escadrille. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981), p 91.