Hunter: The Great War
French flying ace
French flying ace and playboy attached to Lafayette Escadrille with Alex Paulson. He is seemingly constantly wounded.
Charles Eugène Jules Marie Nungesser, MC (15 March 1892 – presumably on or after 8 May 1927) was a French ace pilot and adventurer, best remembered as a rival of Charles Lindbergh. Nungesser was a renowned ace in France, rating third highest in the country for air combat victories during World War I.
Charles Nungesser was born on 15 March 1892 in Paris, and as a child was very interested in competitive sports. After attending the École des Arts et Métiers, where he was a mediocre student who nonetheless excelled in sports such as boxing, he went to South America; first to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to search for an uncle who could not be located and then onto Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he worked as an auto mechanic before becoming a professional racer. His interest in racing soon led him to flying airplanes; Nungesser learned to fly by using a Bleriot plane owned by a friend.3 After he eventually found his missing uncle, he worked on his sugar plantation in the Buenos Aires province.
When World War I broke out, Nungesser returned to France where he enlisted with the 2e Régiment de Hussards. During one patrol, he and several soldiers commandeered a German Mors patrol car after killing its occupants. This impressed his superiors, and he was subsequently awarded the Medaille Militaire and granted his request to be transferred to the Service Aéronautique.
As a military pilot, he was transferred to Escadrille VB106. While there, in July 1915 he shot down his first plane, a German Albatros and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. This action initiated the Nungesser legend. On 31 July 1915, Nungesser and his mechanic Roger Pochon were on standby duty. The two took off in a Voisin 3LAS despite Nungesser’s assignment to non-flying duties. In an encounter with five Albatros two-seaters, the French duo shot one down near Nancy, France. Returning to their airfield, Nungesser was placed under house arrest for eight days for his insubordination. He was then decorated and forwarded to training in Nieuport fighters.5
By the time Nungesser left VB106, he had flown 53 bombing missions. He had also emblazoned at least one of the escadrille’s planes with his elaborate gruesome personal insignia: the freebooter’s skull and crossbones and a coffin with two candles.5
After retraining, in November 1915 he was transferred to Escadrille N.65 (the 65th Squadron) and was later attached to the famous Lafayette Escadrille, composed of American volunteers. While visiting the Escadrille on one of his convalescent periods recuperating from his wounds, he borrowed a plane and shot down another German while he was there. By the end of 1916, he had claimed 21 air kills.
Despite being a decorated pilot, Nungesser was placed under house arrest on more than one occasion for flying without permission. He disliked strict military discipline and went to Paris to enjoy its many pleasures (such as alcohol and women) as often as possible. 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. In contrast to the unsociable but nonetheless top French ace René Fonck, Nungesser was well liked by his comrades. Yet Nungesser suffered a very bad crash on 6 February 1916 that broke both his legs, and he would be injured again many times.1 He was often so hobbled by wounds and injuries that he had to be helped into his cockpit.