Weston Birch "Bert" Hall (November 7, 1885 – 1948) was a military aviator and writer. Hall was one of America's first combat aviators, flying with the famed Lafayette Escadrille in France before the U.S. entered World War I.
He was one of the seven original members of the Lafayette Escadrille. However, he was greatly disliked by his comrades. Besides having an abrasive personality, he was known to be a liar. Upon joining the French Air Service, he claimed to have flying experience, but when he was asked to prove it, he rolled a training aircraft down the runway and crashed into a barn, wrecking the airplane. He then confessed he had never flown before. Nonetheless, the French were greatly impressed by his audacity and kept him. He learned to fly, but after a while began making excuses to avoid flying. It finally reached the point where he was asked to resign.
Dennis Gordon wrote a book called Autobiographies of the Lafayette Escadrille published by the Doughboy Historical Society - POB 3912 Missoula, MT 59806. According to this book, Bert Hall was a four-flusher, a liar, and a deserter. He did get four confirmed kills in the LS and several medals and was the squadron adjutant. But he was a liar and a good poker player who could read his opponents. and usually cleaned the table.
Hall wrote two books about his exploits in the Lafayette Escadrille, En L'air (1918) and One Man's War: The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille (1929). The former was the basis of the 1918 film A Romance of the Air, in which he starred as himself.
In civilian life, he was a con man. He once obtained $20,000 or so from the Chinese government to buy surplus planes from the U.S. government and return to China to set up an air service for them. He spent the money on other things and was charged and sent to prison. Bert Hall was released from McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary in May 1936.
He lived in Seattle for a few months before heading to Hollywood to work for Twentieth Century Fox studios. Weary of Hollywood, in 1940 he moved to Dayton, Ohio and in 1944 settled in Castalia, Ohio, where he started the Sturdy Toy Factory.
A character in the 2006 film Flyboys is supposedly a composite of Hall and another person.
Hall wrote books about being a "Flyboy" in the Lafayette Escadrille:
- Hall, Bert. (1918) En L'air, New York: The New Library, Inc. ASIN: B000M1DSJM
- Hall, Bert. (1929) One Man's War: The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille, London: J. Hamilton. ASIN: B00087AA7I
- "General Chan of China Calls Missouri Home". Southeast Missourian. February 2, 1932.
- Guttman, Jon (2004). SPA124 Lafayette Escadrille: American Volunteer Airmen in World War 1. Osprey Publishing. p. 8. ISBN 1841767522.
- Lieutenant Colonel Philippe D. Rogers USMC. "L’Escadrille Lafayette : Unité Volontaire de Combat Oubliée de l’Amérique (text in English)". Institut de Stratégie Comparée, Commission Française d'Histoire Militaire, Institut d'Histoire des Conflits Contemporains (stratisc.org). Retrieved August 23, 2012.
- A Romance of the Air at the Internet Movie Database
- THE GREAT WAR IN THE AIR BIBLIOGRAPHY PROJECT
- Several photos of Bert Hall and the other real "Flyboys"
- Bert Hall (I) at the Internet Movie Database
- Article "War Takes the Air" by "Lieut. Bert Hall as told to Lieut. John J. Niles" in Collier's magazine, April 20, 1929
- Full text of En L'air at the Internet Archive
- Cartoon strip Hall of Fame of the Air featuring Hall, by Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker