Charles Nungesser

Charles Nungesser

Charles Nungesser was born in France on 15th March 1892. He joined French Air Service and soon developed a reputation as an impulsive and dare-devil pilot. His flying career was handicapped by a series of dogfight wounds and serious crashes that resulted in a fractured skull, multiple internal injuries, five fractures of the upper jaw and bullet wounds in the mouth, ear and right arm.

At the end of the war Nungesser had achieved 43 victories, putting him in third place after René Fonck (75) and George Guynemer (53) in the list of top French Flying Aces.

Charles Nungesser was lost at sea while attempting a nonstop flight from Paris to New York with his co-pilot, Francois Coli, in May 1927.

Primary Sources

(1) Charles Nungesser, French Air Service, Medical Record (1918)

Skull fracture, brain concussion, internal injuries (multiple), five fractures of the upper jaw, two fractures of lower jaw, piece of anti-aircraft shrapnel imbedded 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

(2) Citation, Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (4 December 1915)

Pilot (Charles Nungesser) detached at his own request to an Escadrille in the rear, has never ceased since his arrival to seek any occasion to fly; flying up to four hours, thirty minutes each day in spite of the inclement weather. During the course of his last combat he gave proof of the highest moral qualities by approaching to within 10 meters the enemy machine he was pursuing firing in response up to the last moment. He succeeded in downing his adversary which caught fire and exploded in front of the French trenches.

(3) Citation, Officier de la Légion d'Honneur (19 May 1918)

Incomparable pursuit pilot (Charles Nungesser), with exceptional knowledge and magnificent bravery, which reflect the power and inflexible will of his ancestry. In the cavalry, where during his first engagements he earned the Médaille Militaire, and the Legion of Honor. For thirty months his exploits were prodigious, and he always presented himself as a superb example of tenacity and audacity, displaying an arrogant contempt for death. Absent from the front several times because of crashes and wounds, his ferocious energy was not dampened, and he returned each time to the fray, with his spirit undaunted gaining victory after victory, finally becoming famous as the most feared adversary for German aviation. 31 enemy aircraft downed, three balloons flamed, two wounds, fifteen citations."