Capt. Horace Clyde Balsley (July 27, 1893 – July 23, 1942) was a member of the Lafayette Escadrille and the first American whose plane was shot down during World War I, in effect, the first American pilot to be shot down in aerial combat. Lafayette Escadrille was a French fighter squadron mostly comprised of American volunteers to aid France. The group hoped to encourage America to abandon neutrality.
Balsley was born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. In 1915, he chose to go to France and participate in the European conflict seeing it as a chance to see the war and to learn aviation. He was first a part of the American Ambulance Hospital. In early 1916, he was accepted to the Air Guard of Paris, and he trained on the Nieuport 23. He became the ninth American pilot of Lafayette Escadrille. Balsley’s combat career was short: his plane was shot down June 18, 1916. Association of American Volunteers in the Foreign Legion 1914–1918.
Upon his return to the US, Balsley served as a flight instructor at GerstnerField, near Lake Charles, Louisiana. Later, he was assigned to participate in recruiting and war bond drives. He married silent film actress Miriam MacDonald in 1919. Never quite recovering from his combat injuries, Balsley became a general manager for the Merle Norman cosmetics firm in Los Angeles until his death in 1942.
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