World War I Lafayette Flying Corps Group, ca. 1917

Value (2009) | $4,000 Retail$5,000 Retail

This is from my great-uncle, handed down to me from my mother. And this is about my uncle, Charlie Trinkard, who was killed as a pilot in 1917 as part of the Lafayette Escadrille.

What do you know about his service?

He started, I believe, in 1915. He was with a bunch of friends in New York City, and they decided that they would go over and enlist in the French Air Corps to help the French against the Germans.

He went over in 1915, I believe, and decided that he wanted to become a pilot, and he was accepted to become a pilot, but didn't last too long, maybe for about six months. And this is something that happened with a lot of young guys here in the United States who were very enthusiastic about what was going on in Europe, wanted to help do their part. Of course, the United States is neutral at the time. Some of them went to Canada to enlist, some of them went to England to enlist. And the history of his service goes a little bit beyond the Lafayette Escadrille. Mr. Trinkard joined the French Foreign Legion, which is a very exciting thing. Not too many people serve in the French Foreign Legion.

I didn't know that.

Mr. Trinkard was over there in the trenches in the winter of 1914-1915. He was very sick in the winter of 1915, so he was out of service for a little while. Came back in in 1916, was wounded at Champagne, and then in 1917 applied for flight training, was accepted as a sergeant, and ended up being posted to the Lafayette Escadrille. One of the most interesting pieces that you brought in is this trench art shell. Trench art, of course, is an art form in the time where people are making decorations on military shells, canteens, little bullets, all those other kind of things as souvenirs. This particular piece here is interesting because you can see on the front he has the French Foreign Legion affiliation with it. If you turn it, it shows the man in uniform. And if you turn it again, we have Champagne, where he was wounded; 1914, '15 and '16, when he was in the service with the Foreign Legion; and then his Croix de Guerre medal with a star on it, which indicates that he was cited in regimental orders. You have a photograph of him prior to the war, you have a French flight helmet. This is his French identification bracelet. This was given to the family after his death. Did you find out how he passed?

Yes, he was apparently coming back with two other pilots, all flying their own aircraft, and I don't know how to put this, but apparently when they flew back to the town where the base was, they were playing around and showing off, and somehow his plane broke up and he went in.

That's the same as the account that I found. He was doing stunts over the aerodrome at Tulle and he perished in a crash there.


The items have an intrinsic value on their own, without any connection to the Lafayette Escadrille. You have a French flight helmet-- that's about a $500 item. You have a trench art shell which, because of its French Foreign Legion connection, takes an $85 trench art shell and turns it into a $600 or $700 trench art shell. You have the Lafayette Escadrille medal that was presented to people if they passed in service to the Escadrille, and that's about a $700 item. So, with the other bits and pieces and the photographs and the paperwork that you showed me, you have somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,800 to $2,100 worth of stuff if the items were to be sold separately. But because you have done such a good job keeping this material together, it gives it context, it gives it provenance, and as a group, a collector would expect to see a retail price on this somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000 to $5,000.

Oh. Very interesting.

Appraisal Details

Advance Guard Militaria
Burfordville, MO
Appraised value (2009)
$4,000 Retail$5,000 Retail
Atlantic City, NJ (June 06, 2009)
May 10, 2010: Shortly after this segment broadcast in January 2010, a viewer who was working on a thesis about the Lafayette Escadrille, a World War I-era French air squadron, wrote to ROADSHOW. The viewer pointed out that Charles Trinkard was not a member of the squadron made up mostly of Americans, escadrille N124, commonly referred to as the Lafayette Escadrille. When the Lafayette Escadrille had filled its ranks, later American volunteers were assigned to other French units, but the larger group of American pilots was called the Lafayette Flying Corps. Trinkard was a member of the Lafayette Flying Corps, having been assigned to escadrille N68.

Appraiser Jeffrey Shrader confirmed the viewer's clarification, but noted: "For most collectors the Lafayette Flying Corps and Escadrille are of equal excitement and the terms are interchangeable in common usage (though the one was indeed a subordinate unit of the other)." Shrader’s $4,000 to $5,000 appraised value remains the same.

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