Monday, January 23, 2017

Georges Jules Guynemer

Guynemer was France's most beloved ace. He entered the French Air Service in November 1914 and served as a mechanic before receiving a Pilot's Brevet in April 1915. Despite his frail physical appearance, he took part in more than 600 aerial combats and was shot down seven times and survived. An excellent marksman and highly skilled pilot, with 53 victory's, he was hailed as the French Ace of Aces. 

Guynemer received letters from women proposing marriage, requests from school children for his autograph and was often followed through the streets. 
One of the first pilots to receive a SPAD VII, he called his plane Vieux Charles (Old Charles). On 25 May 1917, he engaged and shot down four enemy aircraft with Old Charles in one day. 
Looking for ways to improve the performance of his aircraft, Guynemer armed a SPAD VII with a single-shot 37 mm canon that fired through a hollowed out propeller shaft. He called this impractical aircraft his Magic Machine. Despite the fumes that filled the cockpit and the recoil of the canon, during the summer of 1917 he shot down at least two enemy aircraft with his Magic Machine. 

On 11 September 1917, Guynemer was last seen attacking a two-seater Aviatik near Poelcapelle, northwest of Ypres. Almost a week later, it was publicly announced in a London paper that he was missing in action. Shortly thereafter, a German newspaper reported Guynemer had been shot down by Kurt Wissemann of Jasta 3. For many months, the French population refused to believe he was dead. Guynemer's body was never found. (From “Knight of the Air”. New York: New Haven Yale University Press, 1918)

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