Raoul Gervais Lufbery was born on March 12, 1885, at Chamalières.
His father was an American writer while his mother was of French nationality. After spending his entire childhood and teenage years in France, he decided, in 1904, to move over to the US despite the fact that he was virtually blank in English. Upon arrival, he immediately joined the US army and went to the front in the Philippines.
In 1911, while on his travels to the Middle East, he met Marc Pourpre, a French pilot whose actions and exploits came to be a source of inspiration for him. Thus, after accompanying the pilot for three years during his tours in Asia and Africa, Raoul Lufbery, an American citizen, joined the French Foreign Legion in August 1914 for the duration of the First World War.
Transferred to the aviation, he integrated Marc Pourpre’s squadron. When the latter was killed in December 1914, he made up his mind to become a pilot. He underwent training on the Farman, and then on the Nieuport, after which he first served as a bombardier, and later on as a fighter pilot. This enabled him to join the squadron of American volunteers engaged in the Battle of Verdun.
Lufbery joined the squadron on May 25, 1916, as an experienced pilot, and on July 31st, he shot down his first enemy plane. He downed two other planes on August 3rd and a fourth one the following day. From then on, he participated in all the battles. In autumn of 1916, while operating with his squadron at Luxeuil-les-Bains, he scored his fifth victory. He also fought in the Somme, where, on January 24, 1917, he obtained his sixth victory. He scored his seventh victory at Oise, on January 27, after which he returned to the Somme to continue operations.
On June 21, 1917, Raoul Lufbery was appointed second lieutenant. He fought in the Battle of Flandres, followed by that of Argonne, and then that of Aisne. On October 10, 1917, on the first day of the battle, Second Lieutenant Lufbery alone shot down 6 planes, and on December 2nd, he gunned down two new German aircrafts. The last battle in which Raoul Lufbery participated was the Battle of Champagne, early 1918. On March 18, while in the air, his plane caught fire. Since fighter pilots were not equipped with parachutes in those days, he tried saving himself by directing his burning plane towards a river. As he jumped out to escape from the fury of the flames, he unfortunately came crashing directly on the ground and was instantly killed.
Having volunteered to defend France, as all those who belonged to the Lafayette squadron, Major Raoul Lufbery became the first American "Ace", credited with 17 officially recognized air victories. He held several orders of the day and earned the highest military distinctions for his bravery. On August 16, 1916, he received the War Cross with bars and also the Military medal. On February 23, 1917, he was decorated Knight of the Legion of Honour and on June 21 the same year, he received the Military Cross.