James Jules Bach (aka: “Jimmie”). James Jules Bach of St. Louis,
Missouri, was one of the “charter members” of the “American Volunteer
Corps.” On August 5th, 1914 he and his fellow Americans, James
Stewart Carstairs, René Phélizot and William Thaw, published an
appeal to all able-bodied American men in Paris to volunteer
immediately to fight for France.
In October 1914, following basic training, the Americans were sent
to the Camp de Mailly (near the front lines). There, the first
promotions were handed out and Bach was promoted to private
~~ Rich McErlean
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James J. Bach, an engineer by profession, who spoke French fluently,
went from the Foreign Legion to the Aviation in the early part of
1915. It was announced in La France, Bordeaux, September 2,
1917, that he was taken prisoner by the Boche. When his machine
broke, he fell inside the German lines. He was taken before a court
martial, charged twice with being a Franc-tireur American,
which called for the death penalty; but was twice acquitted. He
still languishes in prison.
~~ Legionnaire (John) Bowe, Soldiers of the Legion. (Chicago: Press of
Peterson Linotyping Co., 1918).
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Bach was a mechanical engineer, and had spent a good part of his
life in Europe.
During the battle of Champagne, Rockwell writes:
"... French aviators flew far behind the German lines, to observe
and report what was going on there. Among them were two of the
American Legionnaires of 1914, William Thaw and James Bach. The
latter had the misfortune to become the first American to fall
into the hands of the Germans, on September 23. Bach was sent
on a special mission with a French pilot Sergeant Mangeot.
Their task was to land two French soldiers, dressed as civilians,
behind the enemy lines near Mézières, where an important railway
bridge was to be blown up.
The two aviators succeeded in landing their passengers, who hastened
away with charges of high explosives. Bach then started off in his
aeroplane, but, looking back saw that is comrade had smashed his
aeroplane in attempting to take off over the rough ground. Without
hesitating, although well aware of the risk he was running, Bach
turned his machine, landed again, and picked up Mangeot. Trying to
take off the second time, he ran into a tree, and wrecked his
The men hid in the wood for a time, then tried to make their way
back to the French lines. They were captured, however, and were
court-martialed three times by the Germans on the charge of being
spies. With the help of an able Berlin lawyer, they were acquitted
and sent to a prison-camp, where Bach spent the remaining three
years of the war.
In 1918, James Bach returned from captivity in Germany a few weeks
after the Armistice. Bach was decorated with the Médaille
Militaire and the Croix de Guerre, his citation
Of American nationality, he enlisted in the Foreign Legion and
accomplished valiantly his duty as an infantryman. Passed into the
Aviation, he became in very little time an excellent military
pilot, giving proof of intelligence, of courage, of sang-froid,
and of skill. September 23, 1915, he solicited the honor of being
designated for a perilous mission. He fulfilled it, and was made
prisoner for having wished to save his comrade.
(After the war)… Bach remained in Paris, where he was for a time an
American Vice-Consul. Later, he became representative in France of
an important American firm of automobile manufacturers.
Paul Rockwell, American Fighters in the Foreign Legion, 1914-1918
(NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1925).
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