An English aerial ace of World War I, James Thomas Byford "Mac" McCudden was one of the nation's -- and war's -- most established pilots. When the war began, McCudden saw combat as an observer and gunner for the Royal Flying Corps before returning to England for flight training in 1916. He claimed fifty-seven victories in dogfights over enemy pilots (including German ace Werner Voss), a substantial number cut short only by his death at age 22 after his aircraft stalled on takeoff and crashed to the ground. By the time the war was over, McCudden was the second-leading ace of the war for England, in line behind Edward C. Mannock's sixty-one victories, and for his efforts he had been decorated with numerous awards and medals: The Croix de Guerre, the Military Medal, the Military Cross and Bar, the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, and the Victoria Cross.
"As a patrol leader he has at all times shown the utmost gallantry and skill, not only in the manner in which he has attacked and destroyed the enemy, but in the way he has, during several aerial fights, protected the newer members of his flight, thus keeping down their casualties to a minimum. This officer is considered, by the record he has made, by his fearlessness, and by the great service which he has rendered to his country, deserving of the very highest honor." - London Gazette, 2 April 1918, in regards to McCudden's Victoria Cross award