LT Norman Prince (1887-1916) was the 55th American to earn a pilot’s license (1911). Prince is best known as one of the founders of the famed Lafayette Escadrille, the group of American volunteer pilots who flew for France before the US entered World War I. (In the movie “Flyboys”, the character of Briggs Lowry [played by Tyler Labine] is a composite of Norman Prince and several other Escadrille pilots who came from privileged backgrounds.) Prince flew a total of 122 missions in French service, engaging in aerial combat with Germany’s best fliers, and he downed several planes before losing his own life.
On October 12, 1916, returning from a raid, the landing gear of Prince’s airplane struck a cable stretched just above the tree tops. He died three days later. While in the hospital Prince was promoted to lieutenant and decorated with the Legion of Honor. He already held the Médaille Militaire and Croix de Guerre. Prince’s altimeter and a number of other personal items from his Lafayette Escadrille days are currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum.
His mother was Abigail Norman (Mrs. Frederick Prince) of Newport. The 450 acre Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown was created through a bequest from his aunt in 1949.
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