Fonck was the highest scoring ace for France and the Allies. As a boy growing up in the foothills of the Vosges, he was fascinated by stories of men and their flying machines. Yet when he was conscripted in August of 1914, he refused to serve in the French Air Service, choosing instead to go to the trenches. By early 1915, he had changed his mind and began his flight training in a Penguin at Saint-Cyr. Displaying an inherent talent for flying, he was soon serving with Escadrille C47, flying an unarmed Caudron on reconnaissance missions over the lines.
In April of 1917, after more than 500 hours of flight time, Fonck was assigned to Spa103. Flying the SPAD S.VII, he developed a reputation for studying the tactics of his opponents and conserving ammunition during a dogfight. On two separate occasions, he shot down six enemy aircraft in one day.
As his fame grew, so did his ego and Fonck never achieved the admiration and popularity of Georges Guynemer. Even French ace Claude Haegelen, one of Fonck's few friends, felt he boasted too much and too often; but no one could deny that Fonck was an excellent pilot and superb marksman.
"A pilot of remarkable bravery, skill and spirit, having already engaged in a great number of aerial combats. On August 6, 1916, he resolutely attacked two strongly armed enemy planes, took on one in pursuit, and by a series of bold and skilful maneuvers, forced it to land uninjured within our lines. He has been cited in orders twice." Médaille Militaire citation, 1916
"A fighting pilot of great value, combining outstanding bravery and exceptional qualities of skill and sang-froid. He came to pursuit aviation after 500 hours of flight on army corps aircraft and became, in a short time, one of the best French combat pilots. On August 19, 20 and 21, 1917, he shot down his 8th, 9th and 10th enemy aircraft. He has already been cited seven times in orders, and has received the Médaille Militaire for feats of war." Legion d'Honneur citation, 1917
Officier de la Légion d'Honneur
"Remarkable officer from every point of view; of admirable fighting ardor. Pilot of the highest order, for reconnaissance missions and artillery range intelligence, as well as for surveillance service that he completed many times despite very unfavorable atmospheric conditions. He demonstrated, during the course of an uninterrupted series of aerial combats, an exceptional strength and will to win, which sets an example for the French chasse pilots of today. Has shot down thirty six enemy planes. Seventeen citations, Médaille Militaire and Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur for feats of war." Officier de la Legion d'Honneur citation, May 12, 1918