Having graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1914, Charles John Biddle was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar and was employed by the law firm of Drinker, Biddle and Reath before crossing the Atlantic to enlist in the French Foreign Legion on April 13, 1917. He soon transferred to the French aviation service and after training at Avord, Pau and Le Plessis-Belleville, he was posted to Escadrille N73 on 28 July 1917. In January 1918 he transferred to the United States Signal Corps, Aviation Section, receiving a Captain’s commission on January 12 1918. Assigned to the 103rd Aero Squadron on 14 February, he was wounded in action on 15 May 1918 near Dunkerque. On June 22 1918 he transferred to the 13th Aero Squadron. On October 25 1918 he assumed command of the 4th Pursuit Group and was promoted to Major on November 1 1918. On 19 December he returned to the United States where he was assigned to the Air Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on January 1 1919. Biddle was discharged from the army on January 25 1919.
His memoir, The Way of the Eagle, was published shortly after his return to the United States and so provides an immediacy that is lacking in other books that were written later. It is important in that accounts of U.S. pilots from this period are relatively rare, even as he also paints a compelling picture of a group of Americans fighting as volunteers for the French. Biddle’s U.S. compatriots soon established their own capability and wrung free of French direction—and as this book reveals it was largely because of their combat prowess.
For his service Biddle was awarded the French Legion of Honour, the Croix de Guerre, the American Distinguished Service Cross and the Belgian Order of Leopold II. After the war, Biddle rejoined his family law firm in Philadelphia. He died in 1972 at “Andalusia,” the family estate on the Delaware River in lower Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania.