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American "Riff War" pilot uniform

Chris Liontas

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Hi all!

I posted this on the US Militaria forum for a friend. Scott Kraska turned this up at the MAX show this year. This is without a doubt, one of, if not the most RARE uniforms in existance. I'm copying my post there, as I am lazy. I wanted you all to see it though. It is an insane ensamble, to a mercenary's mercenary.

The Riff War is a little known subject and the story of the Second Escadrille American is something even fewer people know of. With only 17 members this all American squadron it is possibly the rarest US Aviators grouping one could imagine. It was purchased from the family in Detroit about 1980 and has never been publically shown until now.

This uniform, medal and insignia grouping belonged to Major Walter J. Sussan. He learned to fly at the Wright Brothers training school in 1915 and joined the Military in 1915 and was send to England where he became Royal Naval Air Service Pilot #1. He fought in Europe and in the Aegean being mentioned in dispatches and receiving the Croix de Guerre and the Greek Military Cross.

After the War he fought against the Bolsheviks in Russia, being awarded the Order of St. George.

In 1922 he left College and fought for the Greek Government against the Turks earning the Order of the Redeemer. In 1925 Sultan of Morocco was faced with the possibility of being overthrown and the French and Spanish Governments were trying to intercede. During the post War period, France had let her Air Force go fallow and there was a real shortage of Pilots. Charles Sweeney of Lafayette Flying Corps fame wanted to create a second Lafayette Escadrille, calling Pilots from the Lafayette Flying Corps and Escadrille to join. In the end, 17 Pilots volunteered, including many who were not original members of the Corps, for the Escadrille Amercain, later called the Escadrille Cherifienne. These Pilots flew Breguet Bombers against ground forces and targets, bombing and strafing the Enemy.

The group consists of his Moroccan made tunic and cap, which bear the 5 pointed star of the Sultan of Morocco. His French wings adorn his right pocket and his French Legion of Honor his right side. In addition you can see the miniatures and full size medals, some with boxes, His Canadian RNAS badges and engraved breast wing, Escradrille Cherifienne photo ID card, 2 photo albums documenting his service as well as portrait photos, Squadron photo and shots of his Legion of Honor Presentation. His silk scarf, Sam Brown belt and goggles are also present as are many other interesting items.

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Close ups -- the MAJ became an RNAF pilot, and flew carrier based missions with the Royal Navy in the Med during the war. At one point he was invalided out for "nervous exhaustion" The brown uniform is Morrocan made, and corresponds to his Riff War service.

Edited by Chris Liontas
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Medal bar. Major Sussan won awards for participation in:

1- WWI

2 - Flying against the Bolsheviks in 1919 helping "white" Russian forces

3 - Flying against the Turks for the Greeks in the early 20's

4 - Flying for the French against the Riffs

He claimed 19 Kills during all this time, although I am not sure that holds water.

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Incroyable! Fantastique! There's got to be a great novel and movie in that story!

I was mildly puzzled, though, by your reference to "His Canadian RNAS badges". A slip of the keyboard for "British RNAS"?


Whoops! You got me on that one :) I was thinking he was a Canadian, and typed that rather than British. Thanks for the correction!

This grouping is amazing. I am trying to get scans of the photos for everyone to see. So far I have not had any luck. I am also trying to find an article where Maj Sussan is quoted about his wartime experiences. If I can get a copy, I will try to post it.

I still cant belive this guy survived so many landings, let alone getting shot at :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Jay!

I did either. And I could possibly be wrong (was taking the word of a fellow collector who loves Russian Orders). However, according to the Major's accounts, the Duma would have been the only White goverment still functioning when he flew, the Tsar being captured. Possibly it was awarded by the royals in Abstentia?

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