The Liaison Pilot during World War 2 can be recognized by the Specific L-marked wings on his uniform. Ironically these pilots were sometimes claimed to have been washed out pilots from the USAAF
pilot programs and although a few cases can be accounted for in that perspective, it was quite a different story for the majority of them. The required skill these pilots had to bring to qualify
can't be underestimated.
Although the Liaison Pilot is clearly defined as a pilot flying various types of USAAF Liaison Aircraft (“L -birds”) we have to differentiate between Air Force or Army pilots despite the fact
that both held the same rating and carried the same pilot wings.
The vast majority of the Liaison Pilots during World War 2 were trained Army Artillery Officers who became rated Liaison Pilots. They operated mostly from short improvised Airstrips that were often
referred to as a “Cub Strips“ and were close to the front lines. Typically each artillery Battalion had an Air Section with two Piper L-4’s attached and had two Liaison Pilots / Artillery Officers
and two Observers.
Although they were mostly flying Piper L-4’s and to a less extend Stinson L-5’s with the task of directing artillery fire in form of an Aerial Observation Post (AOP), they also performed the same
duties as their USAAF Liaison Pilot brothers. Assuming now that the Air Force Liaison pilots never got their boots dirty would be a big mistake. The Air Force Liaison Squadrons mostly operated on
behalf of the Army Ground Forces Headquarters and it wasn’t unusual that a ”flight” had a dedicated airstrip close to the front lines from where they operated their L-5’s. The L-5 was a better
plane than the Cub regarding speed, payload and endurance but it also was a worse performer on the short unpaved ”Cub Strips” increasing the risk of accidents.
No matter Air Force or Army, the Liaison Pilots operated in a harsh environment. The weather conditions were very often unfavorable, the airstrips barely long enough to sufficiently take off or
land and were mostly surrounded by obstacles, or sometimes even covered by snow. The Liaison pilot operated in a hostile environment near, over and sometimes behind the front line. He had to
evade small arms fire, FLAK, Enemy Fighter Aircraft and its own Artillery or Ground-fire. The Liaison pilot was flying low, slow and mostly with a respectively heavy aircraft that carried only a few
flight instruments. Navigation over unknown territory was purely performed visually with the help of a map. The endurance of their aircraft were quite limited. When we put all these ingredients
together, it should be clear that the skill required to safely perform and succeed with the mission deserves all respect.
I hope we can give these skilled men all the honor and respect they rightfully deserve by telling their stories on this website.