Monday, January 7, 2019

When Men were Men


CW, over at Daily Timewaster (I think it's poorly named.  Based on my visitations, it should be Daylight Timewaster.  Yeah, he's pretty good,  anyhoo....) had a few pictures over the weekend from WWI.  Yesterday there was a picture of Charles Nungesser.  I recognized the name as a French Ace, but didn't really know much about him.


So.......Google is your friend, juvat! (as is this place, if you want to know how to pronounce his name. No...it's not Nun Guesser, Beans, more like nuh-jus-say')


Well, turns out he was the 3rd highest scoring French Pilot* in the war with a total of 43 aircraft claimed. While 7 were balloons, the rest were actual aircraft capable of maneuvering at a minimum.  In my eyes, a legitimate ace. 


C'mon, you guys!.... there's no lead required in shooting a balloon.  Granted there's AAA, but there's ALWAYS AAA. Shooting down a maneuvering aircraft takes some skill.  So, "Balloon Aces" aren't all that impressive to me.  Yeah....I know, they've got more kills than I, so who am I to argue?


In any case...stay on target!


What I read about LT Nungesser made me smile.  I think he was the prototype fighter pilot that established the notorious reputation fighter pilots throughout the world are still trying to live up to and live down.


I mean...just look at his expression.



Source

The smile says "I'm enjoying life!"  The eyes say "I don't care who you are....I can beat you."


Which pretty much sums up both his life and my whole fighter pilot reputation hypothesis.


Originally in the French Cavalry, he had captured a German vehicle which impressed the brass who approved his transfer to the Service Aéronautique where he scored his first victory, 31 July 1915.

Source

His next victory was another indicator of the fighter pilot mystique.  He and his mechanic took off without permission and shot down another German Aircraft.  He was placed under house arrest at that point.  In fact, the Wikipedia source describes his reputation thusly:

"He was a leading fighter pilot whose combat exploits against the Germans were widely publicized in France. Nungesser's rugged good looks, flamboyant personality, and appetite for danger, beautiful women, wine, and fast cars made him the embodiment of the stereotypical flying ace. He would sometimes arrive for morning patrol still dressed in the tuxedo he'd worn the night before and even occasionally with a female companion. "
I did that a lot also.  Showed up to fly in a Tux with a beautiful woman on my arm.  Ok, not really.  A crumpled flight suit and dropped off at the squadron by a beautiful woman....Mrs J.

Close enough.

However, the war was not all triumphs and medals for  Lt Nungesser.  He was wounded many times during his 3 years of combat.  Several wounds were quite serious.  Again from the Wikipedia source:


By the end of the war, a succinct summary of Nungesser's wounds and injuries read: "Skull fracture, brain concussion, internal injuries (multiple), five fractures of the upper jaw, two fractures of lower jaw, piece of anti-aircraft shrapnel imbedded [sic] in right arm, dislocation of knees (left and right), re-dislocation of left knee, bullet wound in mouth, bullet wound in ear, atrophy of tendons in left leg, atrophy of muscles in calf, dislocated clavicle, dislocated wrist, dislocated right ankle, loss of teeth, contusions too numerous to mention."

Still, he returned to combat, finishing the war with 43 victories. 

Never give up, never surrender! 

Post war, he was no less flamboyant.  He had a brief career in the movies appearing as himself in an air combat film.  Tried to sell some SPADs to the Cuban Government and finally met his end when he was lost in the North Atlantic trying to fly non-stop from Paris to New York...two weeks prior to Charles Lindbergh's flight.  His aircraft has never been found although there are theories that it made it to Maine.

So...Sarge, we should go look for him, next time I'm up in your neck of the woods...Neh?

Lt Nungesser's Victories
Date Time Unit Aircraft Opponent Location
1 31 Jul 1915 0530 V106 Albatros Nancy
2 05 Dec 1915 N65 EA Nomeny
3 02 Apr 1916 N65 Balloon Septsarges
4 03 Apr 1916 N65 LVG Hauts-Fourneaux
5 04 Apr 1916 N65 EA Hauts-Fourneaux
6 25 Apr 1916 N65 LVG C Verdun
7 26 Apr 1916 N65 LVG C Foret de Spincourt
8 19 May 1916 N65 LVG C Bois de Forges
9 22 May 1916 N65 Balloon Verdun
10 22 Jun 1916 N65 Two-seater Lamorville
11 21 Jul 1916 N65 Aviatik Seuzey
12 22 Aug 1916 N65 EA
13 25 Aug 1916 N65 LVG C Roye
14 14 Sep 1916 0706 N65 Albatros Falvy
15 26 Sep 1916 0745 N65 EA Le Transloy
16 26 Sep 1916 0805 N65 Balloon Neuville
17 26 Sep 1916 1045 N65 Albatros C Rocquigny
18 23 Nov 1916 1330 N65 LVG C S of Falvy
19 04 Dec 1916 1200 N65 Halberstadt W of Nurlu
20 04 Dec 1916 1305 N65 LVG C E of Lechelle
21 20 Dec 1916 1120 N65 EA Touy-le-Grand
22 01 May 1917 V116 Albatros D.III Poperinghe
23 01 May 1917 V116 Albatros D.III
24 03 May 1917 V116 Rumpler C Maraux
25 09 May 1917 V116 DFW C
26 12 May 1917 V116 EA Savy
27 12 May 1917 V116 EA
28 26 Jun 1917 V116 EA Drocourt
29 26 Jun 1917 V116 Gotha
30 16 Aug 1917 V116 Gotha Foret d'Houthulst
31 12 Mar 1918 Spa65 EA Craonne
32 31 Mar 1918 Spa65 Scout 1 Lagny
33 04 May 1918 Spa65 Two-seater Marquivillers
34 04 May 1918 Spa65 Two-seater Bouisancourt
35 15 May 1918 Spa65 Two-seater 2 Erchu
36 05 Jun 1918 Spa65 EA Château-Thierry
37 30 Jun 1918 1845 Spa65 EA Moreuil-le-Mothe
38 15 Jul 1918 1325 Spa65 Scout Grand Pre-Mericourt
39 14 Aug 1918 Spa65 Balloon
40 14 Aug 1918 Spa65 Balloon
41 14 Aug 1918 Spa65 Balloon
42 14 Aug 1918 Spa65 Balloon
43 15 Aug 1918 Spa65 EA 3

*So, juvat who were the two highest scoring French Fighter Pilots?

#1 Rene Fonck--75 confirmed, 142 claimed

Source



#2 George Guynemer 54 confirmed  MIA 11 Sep 1917


Source

51 comments:

  1. Fighter pilots, people without peer. Thank you for making known to me these fine men.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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  2. My goodness, is it Monday already? Where DOES the time go? I was just sitting at my desk, playing a game on my other computer, when I noticed that a new ' Chant du Depart ' post should be up. And, Lo and Behold, there was a new juvat post. The world is truly a wonderful place.

    Paul

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    1. Yep, I even slept in a bit prior to posting. It is my first "official" day of retirement. Thought I'd rest in the harness for a while.

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    2. "It is my first "official" day of retirement." Well then, happy first " official " day of retirement. May your days be filled with joy and contentment. To go along, of course, with your ' honey does '.

      Paul

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    3. Yes, the Honey-Do's... Just completed the First official honey do in retirement. Refill the ditch the plumber dug to repair the valve the former plumber installed to control water to the guest houses. Seems the former plumber forgot to use this substance called "glue" on the joint. Since the line from the well runs just off our road, the new plumber thinks someone might have cut the corner a little early and put just enough pressure on the joint to start it leaking. I had noticed standing water and a very small stream coming from the top of the wash to the bottom, earlier in the week. Initially wrote it off to the couple of inches of rain, but when it didn't dry up.....The only available back hoe didn't have a blade, so I got today's allotted exercise done. Now a couple of aspirin and probably a nap are in the forecast. After a trip to Lowes for T-Posts and reflectors.

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    4. You need to put those two lazy nags to work. Go all Amish-ly and spend 3 times the sweat and tears trying to harness and control them using a grader than actually shoveling would do. You've got nothing but time on your hands, right?

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    5. You're right about that. It would take at least twice as long, and involve a considerable amount of cussing at them. And probably still couldn't be done.

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  3. Don't sniff at a balloon kill. That triple A is in a ring around a stationary target. The balloon had to be shot with incendiary shells (about as much chance to kill you as the balloon). Multiple passes. I even remember a story about a pilot unable to avoid the balloon, killing his engine and "landing" on it. I don't remember if he was able to restart as he dropped off the other side. Balloons were valuable but deadly targets (think early battle space management system).

    Yeah, Nunguesser Fonck and Guynemer were heroes of mine. Guynemer memorized the eye chart to get the chance to fly, bad eyes. That kind of drive really encouraged me. He flew off on his last solo hunt, and disappeared. Those guys were the last of the knights (chivalry, eh what)....

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    1. Guynemer wouldn't have been the last person to do that. DAMHIK.

      As for Balloons, I'm not hard over on it. But to me, it's more of an Air to Ground kill rather than an Air to Air. No denying that they were not difficult, yet valuable and valid, targets to destroy. Just that an Air to Air kil requires quite a bit more, and different, skills.

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    2. Attacking balloons are the aerial equivalent of shooting at a ship with a rifle caliber machine gun. You can do it, sink a ship that is, just takes lots of shots along the waterline. All the time the repeated passes make you a big fat target (oh, like our planes in Viet Nam, LBJ you feckless bastige (hwack-ptoooie.)

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    3. Your analogy makes my point. One might sink a ship with an airplane, it happened all the time in the second war. One might also even paint a ship's silhouette on the side of the aircraft. Doesn't make one an ace.

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    4. Many balloons were armed, at least with personal weapons. A rifle will kill you pretty easily.

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    5. Well, if you were sitting in a hydrogen gas filled bag a couple of hundred feet in the air, without any way to get down (and away from the debris) easily, I'd think you'd want something to shoot back with, no matter how ineffective. Somewhat like Stumpy with the scattergun in "Rio Bravo".

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  4. Lt Nungesser was certainly in the thick of things, talk about your bullet magnet, between wounds and injuries he was lucky to survive aerial combat. As for pronouncing French last names give me these, Johnson, Bong and McCampbell. Of course there is also...... Vraciu, Vejtasa, and Nooy........ guess I need to brush up on how to pronounce names.....sigh. A tip of my hat to men who were talented in battle in the skies. A timely posting Juvat to remember World War I, already a hundred years since it ended. A grandfather of mine served in that war......... good to remember.

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    1. Thanks, Nylon.

      Time is somewhat elastic, isn't it. WWI was always "long ago" to me. It had only ended 37 years before I was born. Still it seems like for ever. Yet 37 years ago from today, I was an operational fighter pilot in Korea, and Sarge was fixing my jet. That seems like yesterday to me (at times). Interesting...

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  5. Just looking at his picture ya knew he was a "ladies man", with those eyes, smile and dashing scar! That total kill number is even more impressive when you look at his listing of wounds, and think about how much time he must have spent in hospital. After all, they kept folks way longer than they do now back then...of course, I am guessing he didn't spend much time in any rehab facility, he just jumped back into the plane...unless those were not wounds obtained in the airplane, but rather from fending off the husbands/boyfriends of his lovely ladies??? I mean, how do you land a plane with a bullet wound in your mouth or ear??!! Not like there was someone else in the cockpit to do the driving for him when he was dripping blood all over...

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    1. Yep, the bullet wounds in mouth and ear, caught my eye also. I'm not a medical professional, but I believe both those spots are with in, say, 6 inches of a couple of areas that would cause the injuries to be fatal. Again, supporting my prototype fighter pilot image, he is probably the originator of the "Rather be lucky than good" school of piloting fighters.

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    2. He looks like a French version of Danny Kaye, who was also a lady's man.

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    3. Oh, and rehab facilities later in the war? You really wanted out of them, fast. No antibiotics, dontchaknow.

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    4. Danny Kay....You're right. I thought he looked familiar having just watched "White Christmas" in the last month or so, but just thought I'd seen a picture of Lt Nungesser.

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    5. Hospitals have never been a sought after place for fighter pilots. In those days, being injured and in one was only slightly better than being injured and not in one.

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    6. No one had antibiotics either in or out of the hospital in the first world war...they didn't come along until 1928 or so...long after WWI was over. During WWI all sorts of herbal preparations were used, garlic poultices were about as good as it got. Lots of folks died of infection, as well as the mustard gas. The fact that Lt Nungesser survived as much damage as he did says a lot about how stubborn he really was.

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  6. Nice. Three of my favorite pilots.

    Nungesser's picture should be in the dictionary next to the definition for "fighter pilot."

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    1. Undoubtedly.

      Up for a trek through the Maine wilderness, O viejo sargento de la fuerza aérea?

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    2. Sure. I've already searched the coast from the Bush compound south to York.

      ;)

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    3. Well, that's good enough for me. They must have crashed in the Atlantic, probably in the Bermuda Triangle.

      Or something.

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  7. An excellent movie that deals with World War I aviation is called Flyboys. I didn’t realize how little training they really had.

    A few weeks?

    if you were good enough to survive the first two weeks of combat you had a chance.

    In one of the climactic closing scenes they’re going after a German zeppelin. I guess they had a lot of fighter escort so it wouldn’t surprise me if he had to fight his way to that balloon.

    World war one fascinates me and I was really surprised it got no more attention last November with the hundredth anniversary

    A wonderful movie that I reviewed was called they shall not grow old. All of this old jerky black-and-white movie reels was modernized to the point you think you were right there with them.

    Anyway one of the narrating veterans was saying that in the first world war, every subsequent year was completely different from the previous year. Meaning equipment and tactics had changed.

    Just look at how aviation evolved from 1914 to 1918. I believe what we know is fighters evolved trying to shoot down reconnaissance aircraft.

    And the father of modern fighter tactics was a German ace in the same squadron as von Richthofen.

    Well back to trying to get some sleep.

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    1. I have watched that movie several times.

      You're very correct in your analysis. There are multiple reports of reconnaissance aircraft from both sides waving hello to each other as they carried out their missions over the trenches. Then someone pulled out a pistol....which escalated to rifles, then top mounted machine guns (as in Lt Nungesser's Nieuport above), then to machineguns that shot through the propeller which was outfitted with wedges to deflect the bullets that hit it, then to synchronized machinegun and engine. All in the space of a few years. Similar examples apply to WWII, Korea, even Vietnam (Wild Weasels for instance.) War is excellent at developing new technology....for killing.

      Hope you were successful in getting back to sleep.

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    2. I was a bit despondent that I had missed the December screenings of They Shall Not Grow Old - a friend who's a serious history buff (esp. Civil War, WWI and WWII) had told me not to miss it and that it was worth every penny to see it in the theater - and to make sure to stay through the credits since there was about another half hour of film on how they did the restoration, colorisation, adding sound, etc. They even looked at the unit insignia in the film and recruited people from those areas to provide the dialog in an authentic accent. So I am happy to see that they will have another set of showings on Jan 21 - I plan not to miss it this time!

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  8. I recall watching a NOVA episode about shooting down Zeppelins. This link mentions the episode, but I don't know how to make it play, or indeed if playing it is possible.

    https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/video/zeppelin-terror-attack/

    If I remember correctly, the problem is that the pure hydrogen in the balloon cell won't burn without oxygen.

    Brave and bold men indeed, and a great post.

    On a lesser note, I looked up when the wristwatch came into widespread use and found it was during the First World War.
    (Reference. https://gallantry.com/blogs/journal/the-history-of-watches)
    I do wonder though if the WWI fighter pilot's pocket watch was the size of a saucer and included multiple dials and controls.


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    1. Oh, that last line was humorous, if a bit subtle. Well played, John, well played.

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    2. "Oh, that last line was humorous, if a bit subtle." Yes, subtle like a baseball bat to the back of the head.

      Paul

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    3. Yes, but you have a military background, Paul, besides it was more like a Gibbs slap to the back of the head.

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    4. True, I do have a military background and I also carry a pocket watch, but as I am not, nor have I ever been, a fighter pilot, mine is of a size to fit in the watch pocket of my 501 Levis. Rather plain it is too; having only three hands and a window to show the date of the month.

      Paul

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    5. Mine is a Timex Expedition. The face tells me the Day, Date and Time. I also use the Alarm function. That's about all I need.

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  9. I would have thought his name was pronounced "nun-gooeys-seyr" where the 'y' is kinda silentish modifying the slide between the vowel and following consonant with a slurish slide.

    Nice try, though.

    The French planes of WWI are usually such pretty aircraft.

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    1. Tout dépend d'où vous venez en France.

      Capisci?


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    2. I even got that translation correct without Google's help.

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    3. A couple of those pronunciations of his name in the French List, were unrecognizable to me. I picked the one I could get closest to phonecticaly arrange it in English

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    4. Good enough for yours truly!

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  10. Spent years growing up with him and Lufbery and Rickenbacker. In Carlisle the books on the shelves at my mother's parent's home came in waves. There were the adventure and WWI books including E. R Burroughs and Mars, Venus, Tarzan, plus everything about WWI flying. Then there were the Fighting Five and a solid nod to the submarines of WWI and WWII and even the first submarinea like Turtle. It's kind of sad that nobody younger than me has any idea when and where WWI was fought and probably couldn't tell you anything about WWII that they didn't see in Saving Private Ryan.
    Thanks for the post. It took me back to the early days of reading about the Lafayette Escadrille. I used to enjoy going to the 94th Aero Squadron at Montgomery Field in San Diego. It spoke volumes about the war to end all wars and also had some amazingly good food, all you can eat, Sunday Brunch.

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    1. The 94th Aero Squadron is still in existence, albeit as the 94th Fighter Squadron and flies the F-22. I know they've done Heritage flybys with P-51s and F-22s, I wonder if they could do one with Spads. Probably not, top speed of the Spad was 135. The AOA of an F-22 maintaining level flight at that speed would be off the charts. Would be nice to see them both side by side on the ground though.

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  11. Amazing what one can do when you aren't shackled with GMT requirements, bureaucracy, diversity training, and the like!

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    1. Well, apparently there was a bit of bureaucracy back in the day also. He had been disciplined several times for breaking flying rules. Still, 43 kills speaks for themselves.

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  12. Yep, prototype fighter pilot... I wonder how many times he shot his watch off? :-)

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    1. Given the number and variety of his injuries, he may very well have HAD it shot off.

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  13. I remember the 'instrumentation'in the SPAD consisted of a ball hanging from a bit of string attached to the upper wing. It was the turn and bank indicator.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)