Published 11/08/13

Representatives of a grateful nation give thanks to WW2 flying daredevil

In August 1940, a young Bryant College alumnus from Connecticut climbed into the cockpit of his Royal Air Force plane and soared into history.

As a member of the 71st "Eagle" Squadron, pilot Andrew Mamedoff ’32 was still wet behind the ears. But the Luftwaffe had begun its aerial blitz against Britain, and Mamedoff and his comrades were first-line combat fliers.

"It is only through the courage of so many that we are able to be free today."

How did a kid from Putnam, Conn., who by all accounts was a bit of a daredevil, defy U.S. neutrality laws and wind up shooting at Germans in a British air battle that turned the tide of World War II?

It’s a story that may have been forgotten were it not for Professor of History Judy Barrett Litoff, Ph.D., and the Battle of Britain Historical Society.

Litoff was conducting research for her new book, Bryant College Goes to War,  and came across a brief story in the July 1941 Bryant Alumni Bulletin. The article noted that Mamedoff was “a colorful character even in his student days … a likeable fellow, called on the carpet now and then for some prank, but withal a general favorite.”

As the Alumni Bulletin described it, in 1940 Mamedoff headed to Finland and then to France seeking a way to “get into the scrap.” His arrival in France was too late, the story noted, so he “escaped to England” and, risking his U.S. citizenship, enlisted in the RAF.

The British historical society also had come across a mention of Mamedoff’s connection to Bryant and wanted to know more. Among its missions is to trace which schools former Battle of Britain pilots attended. The society contacted Bryant Library Director Mary Moroney, who connected its representatives with Litoff.

On Oct. 29, three members of British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee traveled to Bryant to present a plaque to the University. “In honour of Pilot Officer Andrew Mamedoff,” it reads. “His participation in the Battle of Britain in 1940 helped to prevent the spread of Fascism throughout the World.”

“It is only through the courage of so many that we are able to be free today in Britain,” Andrew Rosindell, M.P., told President Ronald K. Machtley, Litoff, Moroney and other guests attending the ceremony.

Rosindell compared Mamedoff, who was killed in action in October 1941, with those who fight extremism and religious terrorism today. “It is the brave who defeat these sort of things. The brave who, like pilot Mamedoff … choose to risk their own lives to ensure that the freedom to live in peace continues for the rest of us. And so we thank him and all of those who served.”

Bryant will celebrate the publication of Litoff’s book on Nov. 20 from noon until 2 p.m. in Stepan Grand Hall of the George E. Bellow Center for Information Technology. The book's publication coincides with the University's 150th anniversary celebration. Learn more here.