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On Oct. 18, 1781, American, French and British officers gathered around a table at the Moore House in Yorktown to hash out the Articles of Capitulation, terms of surrender for the British that brought an end to the Revolutionary War.
On Saturday, American, French and British air force officers gathered in the same room, not to bring an end to war, but to remember their shared history and celebrate their alliance today.
“Sitting at that table, it’s an absolute honor to be able to do that,” said Matt Peterson, a wing commander for the United Kingdom’s air force. “The fact that we’re still allies now is a testament that we’re working toward the same goals and peace in the world.”
Air force officers from the three countries have been conducting trilateral exercises at Langley Air Force Base to enhance their collaboration during air combat.
Pete Fesler, commander of the U.S. 1st Fighter Wing, said while their French and British counterparts were in town, he wanted to plan a social activity and found Yorktown Battlefield to be the ideal venue.
“In the places we are we don’t often get to join in a social setting,” Fesler said. “It was obvious this was a perfect place to do this.”
The officers visited the Moore House and the battlefield, the site of the final battle of the Revolutionary War, during the hourlong tour.
Fesler said he was familiar with the stories the park ranger told during the tour but not the one about the surrender of the sword – after Charles Cornwallis claimed he was sick and could not offer his sword to George Washington in person, he sent his subordinate Charles O’Hara in his place, who first offered the sword to the French, then American officers and finally Washington himself before it was ultimately accepted by Washington’s subordinate Benjamin Lincoln.
Philippe Lavigne, commander of the French Fighters, said it is important officers reflect on their history as they look toward their future. He noted the air force may not have to deal with hills or ranges like the ground troops of the Revolutionary War, but members of both armed forces have devised deceptions to accomplish their missions.
“Sometimes the tactics used on the ground can be used in the air,” Lavigne said.
He said the officers are more than just allies in the air – whether they’re American, French or British, they share the same perspective.
“We feel like a family. We feel like a community,” Lavigne said. “We are fighters and we have the same way of thinking, the same way of life.”