Thursday, May 3, 2018

Likes to See Foes Drop From Skies -- May 3, 2018

Washington Evening Star, 14-April-1918
French ace René Fonck was the highest-scoring Allied ace, with 72 confirmed victories. Georges Guynemer was France's most popular ace.  On 11-September-1917, Guynemer went missing in action.

French "Ace," Fonck, Avenger of Guynemer, Tells of His Battles In Air.

Cablegram to The Sunday Star and Chicago Daily News. Copyright, 1918.

WITH THE FRENCH ARMY, April 12. -- "A battle between two aeroplanes is a duel." Lieut. Rane Fonck. the avenger and successor of Capt. Georges Guynemer. France's fallen king of the air. said to me today. We were having after-dinner coffee and pilots from other squadrons, with soldiers from other branches of the army, had stopped at our table to shake hands and chat with one among France's greatest living fighting aviators. Therefore. Lieut. Fonck. as a rule so reticent, talked a bit more freely, than he usually does.

Aviator Must Keep Trained.

"In this duel the chances of victory are overwhelmingly in favor of the pilot who is the best trained and the coolest," the "ace" continued. "Flying a chasing aeroplane is extremely hard and fatiguing work. A pilot to be successful must keep himself in the best condition by undergoing a regime as rigorous as that of a foot ball player training for a championship match. He must keep regular hours. with no drinking and no excesses of any kind, otherwise the aviator is a failure and worse than useless. In the air a pilot must be absolutely self-confident and feel that he is better than his adversary and must never lose. Quickness of decision is the most important quality.

"Individuality counts for more in aviation than in any other branch of the war service. The Germans have a very good and well equipped aviation corps, but there, as everywhere else in their army, individualism is snuffed out. German pilots hardly approach our lines otherwise than as patrols. consisting of from eight to twelve aeroplanes. They work under many rules made by men who have never flown. We often make sorties alone, but I consider that small patrols get the best results. Put a good man in command of a patrol, and the other pilots, even the young and inexperienced, will imitate their leader and win victory."

Tells of Himself.

It was with more difficulty that I induced Lieut. Fonck to talk about himself and his exploits.

"I planned and studied since I was twelve years old to be a mechanical engineer," he said. "Becoming interested in aviation, I entered a training school and was instructed by Pegoud, who moreH than deserved his reputation as a wonderful flier. I was brevetted as a pilot In 1913, and the war began before I was drafted for military service (Fonck belongs to the class of 1914), but as soon as the boches started hostilities I entered the aviation corps and was soon at the front.

For almost three years I flew reconnaissance. photographing and artillery , fire regulation aeroplanes. While doing reconnaissance work I shot down my first and second German machines. I attacked the first victim well within our lines, putting several bullets in his motor, forcing the pilot to land. I made him and his passenger prisoners. The only time in my entire career when I Was brought down was on a regulation flight. I crossed the line at fifty meters (164 feet) altitude. By mistake I was fired upon by the French. The aeroplane was vitally hit and fell to the earth between the lines. I was uninjured. but forced to run for our trenches, happily escaping the boche ballets.

Takes Up Chasing: Duties.

"In May, 1917, I was transferred to the chasing aviation, in which I had long wished to be. To date I have destroyed fifty- German aeroplanes, of which thirty-three have been placed tb my official credit. The others fell too far within the enemy lines for confirmation. In Flanders last fall, and also in the present battle, conditions have been such that verification of most of our victories has been impossible. Since I entered chasing work I have not had what I consider a narrow escape. I have never felt frightened or excited, though sometimes I find that I have perspired freely during a long, drawn-out combat.

"I have no special method of attack. Immediately my opponent makes a move I know just how able a pilot he is and determine my tactics accordingly. I never hesitate to take chances. Usually I open fire when I am 150 meters (492 feet) from my adversary and continue until he begins falling or until I am five meters (sixteen feet) away from him and then swerve to avoid a collision. It is really amusing to attack a pilot who is afraid. During my first victories I always felt the thrill of pleasure when my adversary started falling. Now it is an old story, and I merely think, 'Well, it's another boche less. I like most to see the vanquished machines turn over in the air and the occupants break loose from the straps and fall through space.

"My most difficult fight was at Verdun last January, when I attacked seven boche machines alone, shooting down two."

Aeroplane Never Hit.

"Last week near Montdidier I attacked two Tango pilots, who were pro (text missing - JT) The two Tango aeroplanes crashed, flaming earthward within twenty seconds of each other, but their protégé had gotten away in the meantime. As yet my aeroplane has never once been hit by an enemy bullet. I attribute my success more to mastery of the machine than marksmanship, although the latter counts for much, also. Ninety per cent of the pilots know nothing about motor or aeroplane construction, and are therefore at the mercy of their mechanics. If the latter are incompetent, accidents often happen. I know every part of my machine, and often overhaul the same. Give me the worst machine in the squadron and let me work on it one week and It will be the best In the group. But it is my opinion, after all, that good aviators are born rand not made."

Barely Twenty-Three Years Old.

Lieut. Fonck is barely twenty-three years old. He was born in the Vosges mountains, the son of an Alsatian, who fought the Germans in 1870. After his homeland was annexed by Bismarck he emigrated to France. Like all sons of the lost provinces, young Fonck loved France with ardent patriotism and hates Germany bitterly. He is of medium height, fair haired and has gray blue eyes. He realizes that he has accomplished things worth while, but at the same time he has a most attractive air of real modesty. He blushed and protested today when he was introduced by a comrade, an artillery officer. as "our greatest ace."

Lieut. Fonck is one of the youngest living officers of the Order of the Legion of Honor. In addition to the officer's cross of that order, he has been decorated with the French military medal, the war cross with eighteen palms -- one for eaofc citation in army orders -- two English and two Belgian war medals. He has an interesting and rapidly growing collection of souvenirs coming from the boche machines he has destroyed. He values most a shoulder badge from the coat worn on his last flight by Wissemann, the German, who by a chance bullet killed Guynemer. Wissemann had but recently arrived at the front when he encountered Guynemer. After the victory he wrote a letter, which was published In German newspapers, in which he said that he considered himself invulnerable, as he had killed France's best pilot. A few days later the conceited Teuton encountered Fonck and death. Lieut. Fonck's comrades are virtually ail aces. With such an inspiring example constantly before one it is impossible for a man not to do his duty well.

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