Tag Archives: Croix de Guerre 1914–1918

1 November 1918

Sous-Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck. (Agence Meurisse)

1 November 1918: At 2:20 p.m., Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck, Escadrille 103,  Aéronautique Militaire, shot down a Luftstreitkräfte Halberstadt C, east of Vouziers, France. Its pilot, Gefreiter W. Schmidt of Flieger-Abteilung 297b, was killed.

This was the 75th confirmed enemy aircraft which Fonck had destroyed. (As many as 52 aircraft claimed by Fonck, including another Halberstadt C over Semuy, fifteen minutes later, were not confirmed.) Lieutenant Fonck was the highest-scoring Allied fighter pilot of World War I.¹

Lieutenant René Fonck with a SPAD S.XVII, 1918. (Photo SHD section Air de Vincennes transmise par Jon Guttman)

The chasseur flown by René Fonck on this date was a Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XVII, Nº. 682. The S.XVII was an improved S.XIII, with stronger wings and fuselage, additional bracing wires and a more powerful engine. Its more closely-spaced longerons gave the fuselage a more circular cross-section and a bulkier appearance.

The S.XVII had the same length, wing span and height as the S.XIII, but was heavier. Its empty weight was 687 kilograms (1,515 pounds) and the gross weight was 942 kilograms (2,077 pounds).

The S.XVII was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.265 cubic inch displacement) Société Française Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single-overhead camshaft (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine. This was a right-hand-tractor, direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5.3:1, and was rated at 300 cheval vapeur (296 horsepower) at 2,100 r.p.m. The Hispano-Suiza 8Fb was 1.32 meters (4.33 feet) long, 0.89 meters (2.92 feet) wide and 0.88 meters (2.89 feet) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (flyingmachines.ru)

The S.XVII had a maximum speed of 221 kilometers per hour (137 miles per hour) at 2,000 meters (6,562 feet). It could climb to 2,000 meters in 5 minutes, 24 seconds, and to 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 8 minutes, 20 seconds. Its ceiling was 7,175 meters (23,540 feet).

Armament consisted of two water-cooled, fixed Vickers 7.7 mm (.303 British) machine guns above the engine, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. The guns’ water jackets were left empty.

The SPAD S.XVIIs were delivered to Escadrille 103 in June 1918. It is believed that 20 were built.

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (aviafrance)

Paul-René Fonck was born 27 March 1894 at Salcy-de Meurthe, the first of three children of Victor Felicien Fonck, a carpenter, and Marie Julie Simon Fonck. His father was killed in an accident when he was four years old, leaving Mme. Fonck to raise Paul-René and his two sisters. He was sent to an uncle who placed him in a religious boarding school in Nancy. He was a good student. After six years, he returned to live with his mother and finished his education in a public school.

At the beginning of World War I, Fonck joined the French Army. He was assigned to an engineering regiment, building roads and bridges and digging trenches. In February 1915 Corporal Fonck was transferred to flight school at St. Cyr. He received his military pilot rating 15 May 1915 and was assigned to Escadrille C47, an observation squadron, where he flew the twin-engine Avion Caudron Type G. 4.

Caudron G.4 en vol, 1915. Les avions utilisés durant les premières années du conflit ne sont pas spécifiquement conçus pour l’observation. C’est le cas du Caudron G.4, mis au point pour le bombardement mais affecté à la reconnaissance quelques mes après sa mise en service en 1915. (© Droits réservés / Coll. musée de l’Air et de l’Espace–Le Bourget, noº MA 23532.)

In 1917, Fonck was transferred to Escadrille 103. He flew the SPAD S.VII, S.XII, S.XIII and the S.XVII.

For his military service during World War I, René Fonck was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec 28 Palmes, Croix de Guerre (Belgium); and Great Britain awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Cross and Military Medal.

René Paul Fonck died in Paris 23 June 1953. He was buried at the Saulcy-sur-Meurthe Cemetery, near the place of his birth.

René Fonck with a SPAD S.XII Canon fighter. The stork painted on the fuselage is the insignia of Escadrille 103, “Les Cignones.” (Historic Wings)

¹ Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, Luftstreitkräfte, had 80 confirmed victories and was the leading fighter ace of World War I. Captain (Acting Major) William George Barker, Royal Air Force, is credited with 50. Count Maggiore Francesco Baracca, of Italy’s Corpo Aeronautico Militare was officially credited with 34 before being killed 18 June 1918. Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker, Air Service, American Expeditionary Force, shot down 20 airplanes and 6 balloons. Alexander Alexandrovich Kazakov was the leading ace of Imperial Russia with 20 confirmed victories (another 12 were not officially credited).

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 October 1919

Le Marquis Bernard Henri Marie Léonard Barny de Romanet with a Spad-Herbemont, (S.20bis6) 9 October 1920. (Agence Meurisse 84138/BnF)

During a competition for the Coupe Deutsch de la Meurthe, Lieutenant Le Marquis Bernard Henri Marie Léonard Barny de Romanet of France’s  Aéronautique Militaire flew a Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V to set two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 268.63 kilometers per hour (166.92 miles per hour).¹

De Romanet’s Ni-D 29V was one of three racing variants of the highly successful single-engine, single-seat Ni-D 29C.1 biplane fighter, which was the fastest in the world at the time. The Ni-D 29V was 21 feet, 3.5 inches (6.489 meters) long, with a wing span of just 6.00 meters (19 feet, 8¼ inches), shortened from the 31 feet, 10 inch (9.703 meters) wingspan of the standard production chasseur.

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V (Unattributed)
A Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V. This airplane, #10, was flown by Joseph Sadi Lecointe. (Unattributed)

The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.29-cubic-inch displacement) right-hand tractor Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single overhead cam (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine, modified to increase its output to 320 horsepower. This was a direct-drive engine, and turned a two-bladed-fixed pitch propeller. The engine was 1.32 meters (4 feet, 4 inches) long, 0.89 meters (2 feet, 11 inches) wide, and 0.88 meters (2 feet, 10½ inches) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

The standard airplane had a top speed of 235 kilometers per hour (146 miles per hour), a range of 580 kilometers (360 miles) and a service ceiling of 8,500 meters (27,887 feet).

This right rear-quarter view of a Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V shows the shortned two-bay wing configuration. (United States Air Force)
This right rear-quarter view of one of the three Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V racers shows the shortened two-bay wing configuration. (United States Air Force)
Bernard Henri Barny de Romanet

Le Marquis Bernard Henri Marie Léonard Barny de Romanet was born at Saint-Maurice-de-Sathonay, Saône-et-Loire, Bourgogne, France, 28 January 1894. He was the son of Léonard Jean Michel Barny de Romanet and Marie Noémie Isabelle de Veyssière. He descended from a very old French family.

Bernard de Romanet joined the Cavalry at the age of 18 years. During World War I, he served with both cavalry and infantry regiments as a Maréchel de Logis (master sergeant) before transferring to the Aéronautique Militaire in July 1915, as a photographer and observer.

After completing flight training in 1916, de Romanet was assigned as a pilot. In early 1918, de Romanet trained as a fighter pilot. He shot down his first enemy airplane 23 May 1918, for which he was awarded the Médaille Militaire, and was promoted to Adjutant (warrant officer). De Romanet was commissioned as a Sous-Lieutenant (equivalent to a second lieutenant in the United States military) several months later. After a fourth confirmed victory he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (first lieutenant).

By August 1918, he was in command of Escadrille 167. He was officially credited with having shot down 18 enemy aircraft, sharing credit for 12 with other pilots. He claimed an additional 6 airplanes destroyed.

Lieutenant de Romanet was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with three  étoiles en vermeil (silver gilt) stars and 10 palmes.

Bernard Henri Marie Léonard Barny de Romanet was killed 23 September 1921, when the fabric covering of his Lumière-De Monge 5.1 airplane’s wings was torn away and the airplane crashed.

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 15642, 15670.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 October 1920

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe. (FAI)
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe. (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

20 October 1920: At Villacoublay, France, Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew his Nieuport-Delâge 29V to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record of 302.53 kilometers per hour (187.98 miles per hour) over a straight 1 kilometer course.¹

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe in the cockpit of his Nieuport-Delâge 29V racer, after winning the Gordon Bennett Trophy, at Orleans/Etampes, 28 September 1920. Under the terms of trophy, the nation whose team won the event three consecutive times took permanent possession. After Sadi-Lecointe’s victory, the Gordon Bennett Trophy was in the permanent possession of the Aéro-Club de France.

Sadi-Lecointe’s Ni-D 29V was one of three racing variants of the highly successful single-engine, single-seat Ni-D 29C.1 biplane fighter, which was the fastest in the world at the time. The Ni-D 29V was 21 feet, 3.5 inches (6.489 meters) long, with a wing span of just 6.00 meters (19 feet, 8¼ inches), shortened from the 31 feet, 10 inch (9.703 meters) wingspan of the standard production chasseur.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew this Nieuport-Delage NiD-29V to win The Gordon Bennet Cup, 20 October 1920. (les avions Nieuport-Delage)
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew this Nieuport-Delâge NiD-29V to win The Gordon Bennett Cup, 28 September 1920. (les avions Nieuport-Delâge)

The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.29-cubic-inch displacement) right-hand tractor Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single overhead cam (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine, modified to increase its output to 320 horsepower. This was a direct-drive engine, and turned a two-bladed-fixed pitch propeller. The engine was 1.32 meters (4 feet, 4 inches) long, 0.89 meters (2 feet, 11 inches) wide, and 0.88 meters (2 feet, 10½ inches) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

The standard airplane had a top speed of 235 kilometers per hour (146 miles per hour), a range of 580 kilometers (360 miles) and a service ceiling of 8,500 meters (27,887 feet).

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V (Unattributed)
Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V (Unattributed)

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe learned to fly in 1910. The Aero Club de France awarded him its license number 431 on 10 February 1910.

He joined the Service Aéronautique (the original form of the French Air Force) as a mechanic in October 1912, and was designated pilote militaire nº375, 20 September 1913. He served as a pilot during World War I, flying the Blériot XI-2, Morane LA and Nieuprt X, then in December 1915 became a flight instructor at l’Ecole de Pilotage d’Avord. Sadi-Lacointe was promoted from the enlisted ranks to sous-lieutenant, 17 September 1917, and was assigned as a test pilot at BlériotSociété Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, where he worked on the development of the famous SPAD S.XIII C.1 fighter.

After the War, he was a test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge, and participated in numerous races and set a series of speed and altitude records with the company’s airplanes.

Sadi-Lecointe returned to military service in 1925 and participated in the Second Moroccan War. Then in 1927, he returned to his position as chief test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge. From 1936 to 1940, he served as Inspecteur général de l’aviation civile (Inspector General of Aviation) for the French Air Ministry. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Lieutenant Colonel Sadi-Lecointe was again recalled to military service as Inspector of Flying Schools.

With the Fall of France, Sadi-Lacointe joined La Résistance française, and operated with the group, Rafale Andromède. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo at Paris, and died as a result, 15 July 1944.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, was awarded the Croix de Guerre in three wars. He was posthumously awarded the Médaille de la Résistance. The Aéro-Club de France awarded him its Grande Médaille d’Or de l’Aéro-Club de France. During his flying career, Sadi-Lecointe set seven World Records for Speed, and three World Records for Altitude.

MORT POUR LA FRANCE

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was a test pilot for the SPAD S.VII C.1 fighter
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was a test pilot for the Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.VII C.1 fighter (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

¹ FAI Record File Number 15499

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 September 1920: The Gordon-Bennett Air Race

Coupe Gordon Bennett
Coupe Gordon-Bennett d’ aviation, sculpted by André Auroc (airrace.com)

28 September 1920: The fifth Gordon Bennett Aviation Trophy Races was held. The Trophy was sponsored by an American businessman, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., publisher of the New York Herald newspaper. Gordon Bennett had previously sponsored the James Gordon Bennett Cup for yachting, the Gordon Bennett Cup for automobile racing, and the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett for ballooning.

The airplane races were held annually from 1909 until 1913. In those years, the race had been one twice by France, once by the United Kingdom and twice by the United States. Like the Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider (the Schneider Cup) for seaplanes, the nation which won the race three times consecutively would be permanently awarded the trophy. Because of the World War, no races were held 1914–1919.

Flight reported:

THE GORDON-BENNETT RACE

It had been anticipated that this year’s race for the Gordon-Bennett Aviation Trophy would have been a much better contest than any of the five previous competitions. Great Britain and the United States had challenged France, and the teams of each of the three countries comprised very fast machines. But disappointment followed on disappointment, and in the end only one competitor—Sadi Lacointe, on a French Nieuport—completed the full course of 300 kiloms. without trouble, and he thereby won the trophy for France for the third time.

     During the early morning of Tuesday a thick mist hung over the ground, and it was not until 1.36 p.m. that the first competitor got away, this being Kirsch on one of the French Nieuports. He was followed by de Romanet on a Spad, and the third member of the French team—the favourite—Sadi Lecointe. The American team—Rinehardt on the Dayton-Wright and Major Schroeder on the Army machine—followed a few minutes after, and then there was a long wait before Raynham, on the Martinsyde “Semiquaver,” the only British representative, got away. Kirsch did the first 100 kiloms in 21 mins. 29 secs., while de Romanet took 22 mins. 52-1/5 secs., but both had to come down soon after they completed the second lap, and Kirsch retired. The Americans did not survive long, Rinehardt having to come down after a quarter of an hour, having difficulty with his steering, while Schroeder was put out of the contest by engine trouble at the end of the first round.

     Raynham was unable to complete one lap, apparently being in trouble with the engine of his machine.

     This left Sadi Lecointe, whose time for the 100 kiloms. was 21 mins. 36 secs., for 200 kiloms. 43 mins. 42-3/5 secs., and for the full course of 300 kiloms. 1 hr. 6 mins. 17-1/5 secs., his average speed working out to 270 kiloms. (168 miles) per hour. De Romanet completed the course in 1 hr. 39 mins. 50-3/5 secs.

     The Trophy remains in France, and as she has won it three times it stays there permanently. Sadi Lecointe also won the cash prize of 10,000 francs offered by the Aero Club of France, and a similar prize offered by the Aero Club of America.

     The French team had been chosen in an eliminating trial on Sunday, when the three pilots mentioned above were selected. Barault, on a Borel-Hispano, would probably have secured the third place if he had only flown the course as it was arranged.

     The American team was reduced by one owing to the accident to Rholfs on the Curtiss. On landing at Villacoublay the chassis collapsed, and the pilot was injured, but not very seriously.

FLIGHT, The AIRCRAFT ENGINEER & AIRSHIPS, No. 614 (No. 40, Vol. XII.), 30 September 1930, at Page 1038

Course of 1920 Gordon-Bennett Race

The 1920 air race, held on Tuesday, 28 September, over a course of 300 kilometers (186.4 miles) at Villecoublay-La Marmogne, France. It was won by Nieuport-Delâge’s chief test pilot, Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, flying a Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V. As France had previously won the 1912 and 1913 races, the Gordon Bennett Aviation Trophy was permanently awarded to the Aero Club of France and retired.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew this Nieuport-Delage NiD-29V to win The Gordon Bennet Cup, 20 October 1920. (les avions Nieuport-Delage)
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew this Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D-29V to win The Gordon Bennet Cup, 20 October 1920. (les avions Nieuport-Delâge)

During the race, Sadi-Lecointe set a a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over 200 Kilometers 274.60 kilometers per hour (170.63 miles per hour). The FAI official time for the distance was 43 minutes, 42-3/5 seconds. (FAI Record File Number 15494)

Sadi-Lecointe’s Ni-D 29V was one of three racing variants of the highly successful single-engine, single-seat Ni-D 29C.1 biplane fighter, which was the fastest in the world at the time. The Ni-D 29V was 21 feet, 3.5 inches (6.489 meters) long, with a wing span of just 6.00 meters (19 feet, 8¼ inches), shortened from the 31 feet, 10 inch (9.703 meters) wingspan of the standard production chasseur.

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V
Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V (Unattributed)

The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.29-cubic-inch displacement) right-hand tractor Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single overhead cam (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine, modified to increase its output to 320 horsepower. This was a direct-drive engine, and turned a two-bladed-fixed pitch propeller. The engine was 1.32 meters (4 feet, 4 inches) long, 0.89 meters (2 feet, 11 inches) wide, and 0.88 meters (2 feet, 10½ inches) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

The standard airplane had a top speed of 235 kilometers per hour (146 miles per hour), a range of 580 kilometers (360 miles) and a service ceiling of 8,500 meters (27,887 feet).

SPAD S.20 bis-5 flown by Barny de Romanet, Etampes, 25 September 1920. (Agence Rol 14625, Bibliothèque nationale de France)

Flight commented on de Romanet’s airplane:

The Spad

As regards the French Spad flown by Bernard de Romanet, this had the standard Spad fuselage of monocoque construction, but an alteration in the wing arrangement was noticeable. Instead of carrying the top plane on centre section struts from the body, the G.B. Spad had its top plane attached direct to the fuselage. Judging by its performance, this innovation did not improve the speed, and the machine was obviously slower than Lecointe’s Nieuport. In the first place, the maximum cross section of the body is much greater than the Nieuport, and the large nose radiator probably does not make matters better, although one would imagine that the two Lamlin radiators fitted to the Nieuport offer quite a lot of resistance. However, these radiators are now very extensively fitted on French machines, so perhaps their resistance is less than one would be inclined to expect.

FLIGHT The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, No. 615 (Vol. XII, No. 41, 7 October 1920, Page 1058, Column 1

Lieutenant Barny de Romanet withe the Spad S.20bis6, 9 octobre 1920. (Agence Rol 14726/BnF)

The SPAD Type 20 bis (Spad-Herbemont) was a single-seat, single-engine, single-bay biplane racer based on the two-seat S.XX fighter, designed by André Herbemont. The racer was 7.50 meters (24 feet, 7.3 inches) long with a wingspan of 6.48 meters (21 feet, 3.1 inches) and height of 2.50 meters (8 feet, 2.4 inches). The wings had a surface area of 14 square meters (151 square feet). The airplane had an empty weight of 890 kilograms (1,962 pounds), and gross weight of 1,050 kilograms (2,315 pounds). The racer carried 80 kilograms (176 pounds) of fuel.

Le Marquis Bernard Henri Marie Léonard Barny de Romanet with a Spad-Herbemont, (S.XX bis 6), 1920. (Agence Meurisse 83238/BnF)

The S.20s were powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated La Société Hispano-Suiza single-overhead cam 90° V-8 engine rated at 300 horsepower. (Specific variant unknown.)

Bernard Henri Marie Léonard Barny de Romanet covered with oil, 28 September 1920. (Agence de Presse Meurisse 83837, Bibliothèque nationale de France)
The Verville-Packard R-1, A.S. 40126, flown by Major Rudolf W. Schroeder in the the Gordon Bennett Cup race, at Etampes, France, September 1920. (Tennessee State Library and Archives)
R.W. Schroeder

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe learned to fly in 1910. The Aero Club de France awarded him its license number 431 on 10 February 1910.

He joined the Service Aéronautique (the original form of the French Air Force) as a mechanic in October 1912, and was designated pilote militaire nº375, 20 September 1913. He served as a pilot during World War I, flying the Blériot XI-2, Morane LA and Nieuprt X, then in December 1915 became a flight instructor at l’Ecole de Pilotage d’Avord. Sadi-Lacointe was promoted from the enlisted ranks to sous-lieutenant, 17 September 1917, and was assigned as a test pilot at BlériotSociété Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, where he worked on the development of the famous SPAD S.XIII C.1 fighter.

After the War, he was a test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge, and participated in numerous races and set a series of speed and altitude records with the company’s airplanes.

Sadi-Lecointe returned to military service in 1925 and participated in the Second Moroccan War. Then in 1927, he returned to his position as chief test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge. From 1936 to 1940, he served as Inspector General of Aviation for the French Air Ministry. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Lieutenant Colonel Sadi-Lecointe was again recalled to military service as Inspector of Flying Schools.

With the Fall of France, Sadi-Lacointe joined La Résistance française, and operated with the group, Rafale Andromède. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo at Paris, and died as a result, 15 July 1944.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, was awarded the Croix de Guerre in three wars. He was posthumously awarded the Médaille de la Résistance. The Aéro-Club de France awarded him its Grande Médaille d’Or de l’Aéro-Club de France. During his flying career, Sadi-Lecointe set seven World Records for Speed, and three World Records for Altitude.

© 2019 Bryan R. Swopes

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19 May 1918

Sous-lieutenant Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery, Aéronautique Militaire, circa 1917.  Lufbery is wearing the pilot’s badge of the Aéronautique Militaire on his tunic. He also is wearing the Chevalier de la légion d’honneur, Médaille Militaire, and Croix de Guere with one silver and three bronze palms. The airplane is a Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.VII C.1 of Escadrille SPA 124, “La Fayette.” (Captain Robert Soubiran/Library of Congress LC-USZ62-101970)

19 May 1918: Major Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery, 94th Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Force, a leading Allied fighter pilot of World War I, was killed in action at Maron, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France.

Flying a Nieuport 28 C.1, he engaged by a Rumpler two-place observation plane of Reihenbildzug Nr. 3, a photographic reconniassance unit, flown by Gefreiter Kirschbaum and Leutnant Schieibe. Lufbery’s fighter was hit by gunfire from the Rumpler. The Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte airplane was later shot down and its crew captured.

Lufbery’s Nieuport rolled inverted, and he fell from the airplane. He was killed on impact.

Raoul Lufbery is considered to have been the first American “ace,” although all sixteen of his officially-credited aerial victories took place while in the service of France.

Major Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery, 94th Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Force, with a Nieuport 28 C.1 fighter, 1918.

Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery was a dual American and French citizen, born 14 March 1885 at Chamalières, Puy-de-Dôme, France. He was the fourth child of Edward Lufbery, an American chemist, and Anne Joséphine Vessière Lufbery. Mme Lufbery died when he was about one year old. His father left Gervais in the care of his maternal grandmother, Madeline Vessière Greniere, and returned to the United States. Gervais grew up in France.

In 1907, at the age of 22, Lufbery traveled to America to visit family members in Connecticut. After traveling around the country and working in various occupations, Lufbery enlisted in the United States Army. He was assigned from the recruit depot Fort McDowell, Angel Island, San Francisco, to Company F, 20th Infantry Regiment, at the newly establish Fort Shafter, Territory of Hawaii, 13 December 1908. From 1 April 1909, Lufbery was stationed with Co. M, at the Presidio of Monterey in California. In 1910, he was sent to the Quartel de Espana, Manila, Philippine Islands.

After completing his term of service with the United States Army, in 1914 Lufbery enlisted in the Légion Étrangère (the French Foreign Legion). He was initially assigned as an aircraft mechanic, but was soon trained as a pilot. In 1916, Sergent Lufbery was assigned to a newly-formed unit, N-124,¹ Escadrille Lafayette of the Aéronautique Militaire (the French Air Service) which was made up primarily of volunteers from America. (The United States did not enter the War until 6 April 1917.)

Lufbery shot down his first enemy airplane 30 July 1916, and his fifth, 12 October 1916.

Sergent Lufbery was awarded the Médaille Militaire 11 September 1916. He was promoted to Adjutant, a non-commissioned officer rank. Adjutant Lufbery was awarded his first Croix de Guerre avec palme 26 September 1916, and his second, 28 October 1916. He was appointed a Chevalier de la légion d’honneur 10 March 1917. Lufbery was promoted to the commissioned rank of Sous lieutenant des Troupes Aeronautiques. Additional awards of the Croix de Guerre followed on 15 May, 15 June, 13 October, 29 October, 9 November 1917, and 11 January 1918.

Between 30 July 1916 and 2 December 1917, while serving with the Aéronautique Militaire, Lufbery shot down sixteen enemy airplanes (officially credited).

Sous-lieutenant Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery, Aéronautique Militaire.

Sous lieutenant Lufbery was transferred to the 94th Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Force, and was commissioned a major in the Aviation Section, Signal Officers’ Reserve Corps, United States Army.

Following his death, Major Lufbery was awarded the Purple Heart, and Britain’s Military Medal. His remains are interred at the Lafayette Memorial du Parc de Garches, Paris, France.

Nieuport 28 C.1 serial number 6215.

The Nieuport 28 C.1 ² was a single-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane fighter built by Société Anonyme des Éstablissements Nieuport for the French military. It was rejected, however, in favor of the SPAD S.XIII C.1. The new United States’ Air Service was in great need of fighters. There were none available of American manufacture, and because the new SPAD was in great demand, 297 Nieuport 28s were acquired by the American Expeditionary Force and assigned to the 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons.

The Nieuport 28 C.1 was 6.30 meters (20 feet, 8 inches) long with an upper wingspan of 8.160 meters (26 feet, 9¼ inches), lower wingspan of 7.79 meters ( 25 feet, 6-2/3 inches)  and height of 2.30 meters (7 feet, 6½ inches). The upper wing had a chord of 1.30 meters (4 feet, 3.2 inches), and the lower, which was staggered behind the upper, had a chord of 1.00 meters (3 feet, 3.4). The upper wing had very slight dihedral, while the lower wing had none. Its empty weight was 399 kilograms (880 pounds) and loaded weight was 626 kilograms (1,380 pounds).

The Nieuport 28 C.1 was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 15.892 liter (969.786-cubic-inch-displacement) Gnome Monosoupape 9 Type N nine-cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5.45:1. The Monosoupape had a single overhead exhaust valve actuated by a pushrod and rocker arm. As the pistons reached the bottom of their exhaust strokes, a series of intake ports near the bottom of the cylinder were uncovered. The intake charge was drawn from the engine crankcase. The Type N produced 160 horsepower at 1,300 r.p.m. and turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller with a diameter of 2.50 meters (8 feet, 2.4 inches). The engine weighed 330 pounds (150 kilograms).

The Nieuport 28 had a top speed of 198 kilometers per hour (123 miles per hour) at 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) and 1,380 r.p.m., a range of 290 kilometers (180 miles) and a service ceiling of 5,300 meters (17,388 feet). Duration at full power was 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Two .303-caliber Vickers machine guns were mounted on the cowling, firing forward through the propeller arc.

Nieuport 28 C.1, serial number 6215.

¹ The “N” indicates that Escadrille 124 was equipped with Nieuport fighters. When the squadron transitioned to SPADs, the designation changed to SPA 124.

² “C.1” was the French designation for a single-place chasseur, their World War I term for what we now consider to be a fighter.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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