These words of Abbe Chesnais explain the true vocation of Guynemer: “The chances of war brought out marvelously the qualities contained in such a frail body. In the beginning did he think of becoming a pilot? Perhaps. But what he wanted above everything was to fulfil his duty as a Frenchman. He wanted to be a soldier; he was ashamed of himself, he said, in the first days of September, 1914: ’If I have to sleep in the bottom of an automobile truck, I want to go to the front. I will go.’”
He was to go; but neither love of aviation nor love of fame had anything to do with his departure, as they were to have nothing to do with his final fate.
III. THE DEPARTURE
In the month of July, 1914, Georges Guynemer was with his family at the Villa Delphine, Biarritz, in the northern part of the Anglet beach. This beach is blond with sunshine, but is refreshed by the ocean breezes. One can be deliciously idle there. This beach is besides an excellent landing-place for airplanes, because of the welcome of its soft sand. Georges Guynemer never left the Anglet beach, and every time an airplane descended he was there to receive it. He was the aviation sentry. But at this period airplanes were rare. Guynemer had his own thoughts, and tenacity was one of his dominant traits; he was already one of those who never renounce. The bathers who passed this everlasting idler never suspected that he was obstinately developing one single plan, and hanging his whole future upon it.
Meanwhile the horizon of Europe darkened. Ever since the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, at Sarajevo, electricity had accumulated in the air, and the storm was ready to burst. To this young man, the Archduke and the European horizon were things of nothing. The sea-air was healthful, and he searched the heavens for invisible airplanes. The conversations in progress all around him were full of anxiety; he had no time to listen to them. The eyes of the women began to be full of pain; he did not notice the eyes of women. On the second of August the order for mobilization was posted. It was war!
Then Guynemer rid himself of his dream, as if it were something unreal, and broke off brusquely all his plans for the future. He was entirely possessed by another idea, which made his eyes snap fire, and wrinkled his forehead. He rushed to his father and without taking breath announced:
“I am going to enlist.”
“You are lucky.”
“Well, then, you authorize me....”
“I envy you.”