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Clark Special Collections

Williams, Walter S.-27th Aero Squadron (MS 13)


The 27th Aero Squadron, known as the “Balloon Busters,” was a United States Army Air Service unit that fought on the Western Front during World War I. The squadron was assigned as a Day Pursuit (Fighter) Squadron as part of the 1st Pursuit Group, First United States Army. Its missions were to escort reconnaissance and bombardment squadrons over enemy territory, perform close air support, destroy enemy observation balloons, and engage in tactical bombing attacks of enemy forces along the front lines. After the war, the squadron returned to the United States in June 1919 and became part of the permanent United States Army Air Service in 1921, being re-designated as the 27th Squadron (Pursuit). The current United States Air Force unit that maintains its lineage and history is the 27th Fighter Squadron, assigned to the 1st Operations Group at Langley -Eustis AFB in Virginia.

Walter S. Williams was a charter member of the 27th Aero Squadron from its first day of operations through its participation in World War I and became an amateur historian for the group. Williams donated his collection to the Academy in 1972. The collection contains materials gathered by Williams through his service with the 27th Aero Squadron and his subsequent interest in the evolution of the squadron following World War I. More biographical information regarding Williams can be found within the collection. 

The Walter S. Williams Collection consists primarily of photo albums and diaries related to the 27th Aero Squadron. These albums contain photographs of the 27th Aero Squadron during their training in Texas and later Canada, and of their participation in World War I. They also include images from the Lafayette Escadrille and of squadron reunions in the 1960s and 1970s. The included diaries describe the formation of the 27th Aero Squadron, its participation in World War I, the quality of the aircraft at the time, and military life among other topics. All photographs have been removed from their original albums and placed in plastic sleeves for preservation purposes. Page numbers affixed to the plastic sleeves correspond to the page numbers of the corresponding scrapbooks, which have been retained for their inclusion of captions and context. This collection consists of five boxes arranged into three series, outlined in the Arrangement and Description section of the collection finding aid (link above).