Recently, Agence France-Presse reported that 100 years ago, a French war veteran carried out a secret operation that put himself in the annals of history and ventured through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Charles Godfrey was born in the town of La Fleche, Sarthe, France. At the age of 26, he broke out in World War I. In the battle of 1917, he was admitted to hospital for treatment. Later, he joined the French Air Force. At the end of World War I, he quickly became a flight instructor because of his outstanding ability. .
To commemorate the victory of World War I, France is scheduled to hold a military parade on the Champs Elysées on July 14, 1919. The military ordered the pilots to walk like infantry. This pair of pilots who regard themselves as “air heroes” come. Said to be a serious provocation. To this end, a group of pilots held a meeting at a bar on the Champs Elysées, where they decided to elect a pilot to drive through the Arc de Triomphe to maintain the honor of the Air Force.
Initially, they selected the ace pilot Jean Navarre to complete the mission. He won 12 air battles and he is considered a leader among fighter pilots. Unexpectedly, Navarre was killed in the practice flight on July 10. At this time, some pilots began to retreat. Subsequently, Godfrey, who had 500 flight hours, stood up. He was determined to let the military authorities and the country remember the achievements and sacrifices of the pilots during the war. He said that he had enough experience to take over the task. The young pilot was excited by the mission of crossing the Arc de Triomphe. Godfrey and his close friend Jacques Mortan repeatedly reviewed the Arc de Triomphe, checked the route and airflow, and then he selected a wingspan. Only the 9-meter “Newport” fighter began to practice driving through a bridge under the Mediterranean coast of Miramas. In order to paralyze the French military authorities, the pilots of Godfrey and the infantry walked together to participate in the military parade held on July 14.
Three weeks after the successful military parade, at 7:20 am on August 7, 1919, Godfrey was wearing a military uniform and secretly driving a “New Zealand” from Velizy-Villacoublay Airport in north central France. The Porter 11″ biplane took off and soon arrived at the Porte de Mayo in Paris. According to the prior agreement, when Godfrey flew to the Arc de Triomphe at around 8 o’clock, his friend Mortan had already waited there, ready to shoot his feat of driving through the Arc de Triomphe. He flew from the West to the Arc de Triomphe, first circled the Arc de Triomphe, and then began to fly along the Great Legion Street. Then he suddenly speeded up and lowered the flight height to cross the Arc de Triomphe. At this moment, he did not even know if he could succeed, because the Arc de Triomphe was only 14.5 meters wide, and his aircraft wingspan was 7.52 meters. He took the courage to walk through the Arc de Triomphe and fly over a tram. The tram passengers saw a fighter jet swaying a few meters above the head and fell to the ground. Many passers-by were scared to run away. Then he flew over the Place de la Concorde and finally returned to the airport smoothly.
Reporter Mortan filmed Godfrey’s feat of driving through the Arc de Triomphe, and many newspapers published the incident. In order to prevent the adverse effects on the military, the French police banned the passage of the documentary through the Arc de Triomphe. Godfrey was listed on the promotion “blacklist” by the military, but his name was not kept secret for a long time. Although Godfrey violated many military disciplines, the military did not push him to the military court, and his superiors only warned him not to be so daring in the future. After the promotion of the army was hopeless, Godfrey chose to leave the Air Force, and he also promised to give up the flight to his family. But in his hometown of Laflesh, he became a hero, the local named him a street and gave him a memorial stone. Since then, he has been engaged in wine trade in the northeastern suburbs of Paris. 39 years later, 70-year-old Godfrey died quietly in the north of Paris.
After Godfrey, two more people drove through the Arc de Triomphe, in 1981 and 1991, and others tried to fly under the wider arch of the Eiffel Tower. In any case, Godfrey is the “grandfather” of this stunt.