The Eagle Squadrons Memorial in Grosvenor Square

elizabeth frink eagle sculpture

Before decamping to Nine Elms, Grosvenor Square was the home of the US Embassy for the best part of a century, first at No. 1, then moving to Eero Saarinen’s modernist construction in 1960 at No. 24. Saarinen’s old chancery building – demolished apart from its facade, and rebuilt – is about to become another luxury hotel.

However, the association of this bit of the Duke of Westminster’s real estate empire with the USA goes all the way back to the 18th century, because John Adams the first US ‘ambassador’ to the Court of St James (and later the second President), lived at No. 9 from 1785 to 1788. During WW2 Eisenhower’s headquarters were in the square, and in 1948 a statue of FDR was unveiled. There were also statues of Eisenhower and Reagan in front of the old embassy building, but they have been removed while the hotel construction takes place. Whether they will be reinstated, moved to Nine Elms, or kept in storage (whisper it, but neither were very good statues to be honest). So ‘Little America’, as it was known, was the perfect place for a memorial to the Eagle Squadrons of WW2.

Unveiled in 1986, the memorial is a large bronze sculpture by Dame Elizabeth Frink of an American Bald Eagle, which stands (perches?) on top of a 4.6m portland stone column, and it commemorates those US citizens who volunteered to fly for the RAF before the official entry of the US into the war.

Between September 1940 and July 1941 three fighter squadrons were formed, and the memorial has the crest and motto of each of these, along with a listing of the 289 individuals who served*.

In September 1942 the Eagle Squadrons were absorbed into the USAAF, but during the time they were part of the Royal Air Force they destroyed 73 1/2 German planes, for the loss of 77 American and 5 British pilots. 12 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 1 Distinguished Service Order had been awarded to squadron members.

(*Billy Fiske, the first US pilot to be killed in combat in WW2 was not a member of an Eagle Squadron, the units being founded after his death in August 1940.)

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