Tag Archives: Médaille Militaire

14 June 1919

Adjutant Jean Pie Hyacinthe Paul Jérôme Casale, Aéronautique Militaire, circa 1917

14 June 1919: Sous Lieutenant Jean Pie Hyacinthe Paul Jérôme Casale took off from Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude. Flying a Nieuport-Delage chasseur (an aircraft type we now know as a fighter), he reached an altitude of 9,520 meters (31,234 feet). ¹ At that altitude, he was subjected to air temperatures of -50 °C. (-58 °F.). Casale landed at Villacoublay after a flight of approximately two hours.

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29 C.1, s/n 12002, right front quarter view.

Casale’s chasseur was a Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29 C.1, a single-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane.  The airplane was 6,50 meters (21.3255 feet) long with a wing span of 9,70 meters (31.8241 feet). The total wing area was 26,85 square meters (289.01099 square feet). The fighter had an empty weight of 740 kilograms (1,631.4 pounds) and gross weight of 1,100 kilograms (2425.085 pounds).

The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, turbosupercharged, 18.473 liter (1,127.29-cubic-inch displacement) right-hand tractor Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single overhead cam (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine. The engine was modified with the installation of a Rateau turbosupercharger to increase its output to more than 300 chaval vapeur. 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).

Engine cooling was provided by Lamblin cylindrical radiators mounted under the lower wing.

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29 C.1, s/n 12002, right profile.

The standard airplane had a top speed of 230 kilometers per hour ( 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 29 C.1, s/n 12002, right rear three-quarter view.

FLIGHT reported:

Pushing up World’s Height Record

Not satisfied with his height record of last week Lieut. Casole [sic] on June 14 took his Nieuport up to 10,100 metres (33,330 feet) during a flight from Villacoublay which lasted 1 hr. 55 mins. As in his previous flights, he used a Nieuport, fitted with a 300 h.p. Hispano-Suiza motor. His previous highest was 9,500 metres (31,350 ft.) and not 51,350 ft., as a printer’s error made it appear in our last issue.

FLIGHT & The AIRCRAFT ENGINEER, No. 547, Vol. XI, No. 25, 12 June 1919, Page 799, Column 1

Jean Pie Hyacinthe Paul Jérôme Casale was born 24 September 1893 at Olmeta-di-Tuta, Corsica. His mother died when he was 9 years old, and his father, also, when he was 15.

Casale attended Bastia high school. On 1 Oct 1913, he enlisted in French Army, assigned to 8th Regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval. He was wounded in combat, 19 Aug 1914. After recuperating, he volunteered for aviation, December 1914. On completion of flight training, on 20 April 1915, he was awarded military pilot certificate # 837.

Casale was then assigned to the 1st Aviation Group, 20 May, and was promoted to corporal 5 June 1915. He was again promoted to Sergeant, 21 August 1915. On 19 May 1916, Sergeant Casale was awarded the Médaille Militaire and promoted to Adjutant. He scored his fifth shootdown of an enemy aircraft on 10 December 1916. He was next promoted to Sous Lieutenant, 24 June 1917

During World War I, Sous Lieutenant Casale was credited with 13 victories in air combat. For his service, Casale was awarded the Croix de Guerre with 9 palms, and was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur.

Sous Lieutenant Casale was killed 23 June 1923 when he crashed in the forest of Daméraucourt dans l’Oise.

¹ FAI Record File Number 15455

© 2022, Bryan R. Swopes

18 May 1916

Kiffin Yates Rockwell, Escadrille Américaine, 1916. (Kiffin Ayers)
Kiffin Yates Rockwell, Escadrille de La Fayette, 1916 (Kiffin Ayres)

18 May 1916: Corporel Kiffin Yates Rockwell, Escadrille de La Fayette (Escadrille Nº. 124), shot down an enemy airplane near Hartmannswillerkopf, a 956 meter (3,137 feet) peak in the Vosges Mountains, along the border between France and Germany.

Rockwell is credited as the first American pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft during World War I. ¹

Rockwell wrote to his brother, Paul Ayres Rockwell:

Thursday, May 18, 1916

Dear Paul:

     Well, at last I have a little something to tell you. This morning I went out over the lines to make a little tour. I was somewhat the other other side of our lines, when my motor began to miss a bit. I turned around to go to a camp near the lines.

     Just as I started to head for there I saw a boche machine about seven hundred meters under me and a little inside our lines. I immediately reduced my motor and dived for him. He saw me at the same time, and began to dive towards home. It was a machine with a pilot and a gunner, carrying two rapid fire guns, one facing front, and one in the rear that turned on a pivot so it could be fired in any direction.

     The gunner immediately opened fire on me, and my machine was hit; but I didn’t pay any attention to that, and kept going straight for him until I got within twenty-five or thirty meters of his machine. Then, just as I was afraid of running into him, I fired four or five shots, and swerved my machine to the right to keep from having a collision.

     As I did that I saw the gunner fall back dead on the pilot, his machine-gun fall from its position and point straight up in the air, and the pilot fall to one side of the machine as if he too were done for. The machine itself fell to one side, then dived vertically towards the ground with a lot of smoke coming out of the rear. I circled around, and three or four minutes later saw smoke coming up from the ground just beyond the German trenches.

     The captain said he would propose me for the Medaille Militaire, but I don’t know whether I will get it or not.

     Yesterday Thaw had a fight that ended by the boche diving towards the ground. He was signaled as leaving the air on being seriously hit, but being able to get in his own lines.

     Am very busy just now, as the order has just come for us to go to Verdun. Jim sent you a telegram about my fight.

     Much Love.


Kiffin Rockwell, in a Nieuport fighter, Verdun, July 1916. (Virginia Military Institute)

The Asheville Times reported:

Kiffin Rockwell Brings Down German Aeroplane

     Paris, May 19.—Corporal Kiffen [sic] Rockwell of Asheville and Atlanta, a member of the American flying squadron, yesterday attacked a German aeroplane operating near Hartmanns Weiler-Kopf. The German machine was brought down in flames.

     Corporal Kiffen Rockwell, of this city who with his brother Paul Rockwell, sailed for England at the very outbreak of the war and joined the Foreign Legion, is now an aviator in the French-American flying corps and on Wednesday took part in the first action of the corps since its organization as a separate unit. Although the flyers were subjected to heavy fire as they recrossed the front, it is stated, Corporal Rockwell escaped unharmed.

     After the two brothers joined the Foreign Legion they served in the trenches in the first Teutonic drive on Paris during which Paul was wounded. He soon recovered, however, and is doing newspaper work in Paris.

The Asheville Times, Volume XXI, No. 83, 19 May 1916, Page 1, Columns 2–3

In May 1916, Escadrille N°. 124 was equipped with both the Nieuport XI C.1 and Nieuport XVI C.1 fighters. It is not known which type Rockwell flew on 18 May. Neither is the type of aircraft which Rockwell shot down. (one unverified source describes it as a Luft-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft G.m.b.H. reconnaissance airplane.)

Photograph shows members of the Lafayette Escadrille composed of American aviators who flew with the French air force during World War I. Shown are Kiffin Yates Rockwell (1892-1916), Lieutenant Colonel Georges Thenault (commander), Norman Price (1887-1916), Lieutenant Alfred de Laage de Meux, Sgt. Elliot Cowdin, Sgt. Weston Birch “Bert” Hall, James Rogers McConnell (1887-1917) and Victor Chapman. (George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, LC-B2-3884-11)

Kiffin Yates Rockwell was born 20 September 1892 at Newport, Tennessee, United States of America. He was the third child of James Chester Rockwell, a Baptist minister, and Loula Ayres Rockwell. His father died of typhoid fever a week before Kiffin’s first birthday. Mrs. Rockwell would become a school teacher to support her family. She was soon placed in charge of the public schools in Newport. In 1902, she enrolled at the American College of Osteopathy, Kirksville, Missouri, and became a doctor of osteopathic medicine. After she graduated, the Rockwell family relocated to Asheville, North Carolina.

Rockwell family home at 142 Hillside Street, Asheville, North Carolina. (Buncombe County Special Collections)

Kiffin Rockwell attended Orange Street School and Asheville High School, both in Asheville, North Carolina. On 1 February 1909, he entered the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia. Rockwell was appointed to the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, but enrolled at Washington and Lee University, also located in Lexington, where his older brother, Paul, was studying. Kiffin was a member of the Class of 1913, and of the Sigma Phi Epsilon (ΣΦΕ) Fraternity, Epsilon Chapter. He was also a member of the university’s North Carolina Club. Rockwell left Washington and Lee in 1911 to pursue a career in journalism.

Rockwell worked for an advertising agency in San Francisco, California, then joined his brother at a newspaper in Atlanta, Georgia.

Kiffin Yates Rockwell’s U.S. passport application.

On 7 August 1914, Kiffin Rockwell and his brother sailed to France aboard the American Line steamship, S.S. St. Paul. On 21 August, they enlisted in the Légion étrangère (the French Foreign Legion) and served with Battalion C, Second Marching Regiment, Second Foreign Battalion.

American Line steamship S.S. St. Paul. (John S. Johnston, Detroit Publishing Company/Library of Congress)

In March 1915, Rockwell transferred to 1re Division Marocaine (1st Regiment, Moroccan Division). He was wounded by machine gun fire 9 May 1915 at La Targette, north of Arras. After recuperating, he requested a transfer to the Service Aeronautique, which was accepted. He began flight training in September 1915. Rockwell was a founding member of the Escadrille Americaine (Lafayette Escadrille) of the Aéronautique Militaire (the French Air Service).

Kiffin Rockwell, French Foreign Legion, December 1914. (Virginia Military Institute)

Sergeant Kiffin Yates Rockwell, while flying a Nieuport XVII C.1 over Thann, a town at the foot of the Vosges Mountains, was killed in action 23 September 1916. He was hit in the chest by the gunner of a two-place Aviatik.

In a letter to his mother, Rockwell had written,

If I die you will know that I died as every man should—in fighting for the right. I do not consider that I am fighting for France alone, but for the cause of humanity, the greatest of all causes.

Rockwell was officially credited with four aerial victories. He was awarded the Médaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre. He was appointed a Chevalier de la légion d’honneur.

His remains were buried at the Luxeuil-les-Bains Communal Cemetery, Luxeuil-les-Bains, Departement de la Haute-Saône, Franche-Comté, France. His commanding officer, Captain Georges Thenault, said of him, “His courage was sublime. . . The best and bravest of us is no longer here.”

Rockwell is commemorated at the Mémorial Escadrille La Fayette, Marnes-la-Coquette, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France, France.

(Find A Grave)

¹ American ace Sergent Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery, also a member of the Lafayette Escadrille, shot down his first enemy aircraft 30 July 1916.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

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

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, , 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

14–15 October 1927

Costes and Le Brix flew this Breguet XIX GR, No. 1685, named Nungesser-Coli, across the South Atlantic Ocean 14–15 October 1927.
Dieudonné Costes

14–15 October 1927: Dieudonné Costes and Joseph Le Brix flew a Breguet XIX GR, serial number 1685, across the South Atlantic Ocean from Saint-Louis, Senegal, to Port Natal, Brazil.

This was the first non-stop South Atlantic crossing by an airplane. The 2,100-mile (3,380 kilometer) flight took just over 18 hours.

The two aviators were on an around-the-world flight that began 10 October 1927 at Paris, France, and would be completed 14 April 1928, after traveling 34,418 miles (57,000 kilometers).

Costes had been a test pilot for Breguet since 1925. He served as a fighter pilot during World War I and was credited with six aerial victories. He had been appointed Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur and awarded the Croix de Guerre with seven palms, and the Médaille militaire.

Following the around-the-world flight, the Congress of the United States, by special act, awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In 1929, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale awarded him its Gold Air Medal, and the International League of Aviators awarded him the Harmon Trophy “for the most outstanding international achievement in the arts and/or science of aeronautics for the preceding year, with the art of flying receiving first consideration.”

Joseph Le Brix (1899–1931)
Joseph Le Brix

Capitain de Corvette Joseph Le Brix was a French naval officer. He had trained as a navigator, aerial observer and pilot. For his service in the Second Moroccan War, he was appointed to the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur and awarded the Croix de Guerre. Like Costes, Le Brix was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the U.S. Congress.

The Breguet XIX GR (“GR” stands for Grand Raid) had been named Nungesser-Coli in honor of the two pilots who disappeared while attempting a crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the White Bird, 8 May 1927. It was developed from the Type XIX light bomber and reconnaissance airplane, which entered production in 1924. A single-engine, two-place biplane with tandem controls, it was primarily constructed of aluminum tubing, covered with sheet aluminum and fabric. The biplane was a “sesquiplane,” meaning that the lower of the two wings was significantly smaller than the upper. Approximately 2,400 Breguet XIXs were built.

Dieudonné Costes and Joseph Le Brix in their Breguet XIX, photographed in Panama, 1 january 1928, by Lt. C. Tuma, U.S. Army Air Corps. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
Dieudonné Costes and Joseph Le Brix in their Breguet XIX, photographed in Panama, 1 January 1928, by Lt. C. Tuma, U.S. Army Air Corps. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

No. 1685 was a special long-distance variant, with a 2,900–3,000 liter fuel capacity (766–792 gallons). It was further modified to add 1 meter to the standard 14.83 meter (48 feet, 7.9 inches) wingspan, and the maximum fuel load was increased to 3,500 liters (925 gallons).

The original 590 horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Hb engine was replaced with a more powerful Hispano-Suiza 12Lb. This was a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 31.403-liter (1,916.33-cubic-inch-displacement) overhead valve 60° V-12 engine, with 2 valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 6.2:1. The 12Lb produced 630 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m., burning 85 octane gasoline. The engine was 1.850 meters (6 feet, 0.8 inches) long, 0.750 meters (2 feet, 5.5 inches) wide and 1.020 meters (3 feet, 4.2 inches) high. It weighed 440 kilograms (970 pounds).

The Breguet XIX had a speed of 214 kilometers per hour (133 miles per hour). Its service ceiling was 7,200 meters (23,620 feet).

The Breguet XIX GR No. 1685, Nungesser-Coli, at le musée de l'air et de l'espace (MAE) du Bourget.
The Breguet XIX GR No. 1685, Nungesser-Coli, at le musée de l’air et de l’espace (MAE) du Bourget.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes