Against the Lafayette Escadrille



A man who constructed a nearly-authentic Fokker triplane has a vision while flying of a hot-air balloon from the past.


  • The Lafayette Escadrille was a volunteer group of American flying aces who helped the French against the Germans in WWI before America entered the war.
  • The Fokker triplane is famous as the last plane used by Baron von Richthofen ("The Red Baron").
  • The multi-colored "Silk Dress Balloon" of the Civil War was constructed from dress silk, but no actual dresses were used.
  • Crinolines were wide skirts. At first the effect was achieved with many layers of petticoats, but in Civil War times it was more common to use a cage crinoline, where the skirt was supported by hoops made of metal or whalebone. The skirts were awkward and would not be convenient for a woman to use in a military balloon, if a woman were to ride one in the first place.
  • The woman also had bare shoulders, which would be unthinkably immodest for the period.
  • The narrator's impression, "She was so authentic," was probably biased by his appreciation of her beauty and not based on accurate historical knowledge.
  • The narrator seems to feel guilty that he didn't use real flammable dope (lacquer painted on the fabric parts of aircraft to stiffen them). He debated this with another hobbyist by mail. In the end, he blames his failure to see the woman again on his failure to use authentic dope. This seems rather crazy.

Unresolved Questions

  • Was the woman real or a figment of his imagination? The narrator seems to become detached from reality while flying, and one would think he would imagine something from WWI instead of the Civil War. The fact that the bottle she drank from had a "yellow, crumbling label" perhaps suggests she was a real person of modern times.

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