Georges Guynemer - FU Hero
Georges Guynemer is one of the special young men who formulated the very early years of the fighter pilot profession. He was born to a wealthy French family in December 1894 but grew up a frail sickly boy. Because he was always thin and somewhat delicate in appearance Guynemer was initially refused military service as France was drawn into World War I. However, his determination and tenacity eventually earned him a position to train as a mechanic. That same fortitude finally paid off when he was approved for flight training in June 1915. Guynemer was assigned to Escadrille MS.3, (later designated Escadrille N.3, the famous Storks) which would be his only squadron throughout his flying career.
Flying the Nieuport 10 Guynemer had achieved ace status with his fifth victory in February 1916. By the end of that year his total was 25 and he was described by his squadron commander as “my most brilliant stork.” In February 1917, now flying the SPAD VII, he became the first Allied fighter pilot to down a heavy German bomber. In May he downed seven enemy aircraft. By July he had fifty victories and had now reached national hero status.
The French public couldn’t get enough information about Georges Guynemer and the French press glorified him in print. His natural shyness and unwillingness to exploit his new found fame made him even more appealing to his countrymen. Having survived seven shoot downs, all without a parachute, Guynemer appeared invincible to the French common man.
On 11 September 1917 while on combat patrol Georges Guynemer disappeared. Guynemer was last seen by his wingman diving to engage a German observation plane. After the wingman was able to shake off attacking German Fokkers he was unable to regain sight of his flight lead. Neither Guynemer nor his plane was ever found. The Germans claimed one of their pilots had shot down the famous French ace but even that could not be confirmed. The French public was stunned. French school children were taught the Guynemer had flown too high and could not return to earth. At the time of his death Guynemer had 53 victories. He was just 22 years old.
Young men like Gerorges Guynemer truly warrant our acknowledgement as FU heroes. Their ingenuity and courage in this new airborne way of waging war established an attitude and mindset that would be emulated by generations of fighter pilots to come.
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