Charles Nungesser was a French ace pilot of the Lafayette Escadrille and was the squadron's reckless, flamboyant and charismatic hero with fancy flying and gold teeth. His plane bore an insignia with skull and crossbones.
Due to his daring exploits, he was prone to injuries and was regularly seen in plaster and bandages, but he was also richly decorated.
In February 1917, Charles Nungesser was as a pilot of the Lafayette Escadrille, shot down Lothar von Richthofen. On his return to the field he was introduced to Indiana Jones, a captain in the Belgian military temporarily attached to the squadron as photographer.
Jones made an aside to Len Hall that Nungesser looked like a walking accident due to his bandages, and Nungesser welcomed the newcomer, insisting he be included in the souvenir photo-shoot that was taking place while he was landing his plane.
When Baron Manfred von Richthofen captured Harold Green and Indy, and learned that his prisoner was from Lafayette Escadrille, he invited Jones to be a luncheon guest, and asked about Nungesser, who he knew as "Monsieur Skull and Crossbones". Von Richthofen decided that, as Lothar's older brother, he should avenge his Lothar's humiliation, and challenged Nungesser by letter to meet with him at dawn over St. Quentin's castle. The message was dropped over the Lafayette Escadrille field by Lothar.
That evening, the pilots drove to Paris and met Nungesser while he was partying. Nungesser accepted the challenge and decided that he should fly over there alone, as the Baron would be. He also suggested that Indy should be there, photographing his victory. During the duel, Nungesser managed to shoot von Richthofen, but a full German squadron suddenly attacked and Nungesser was shot down and fell in the No Man's Land. He was rescued soon after and returned to the field, now with a broken leg, when Indy had developed the photograph of the falling Baron and suspected that he would going to be furious as soon as he saw the photograph in the press.
Nungesser had to drive back to Paris before they found out he had been flying and said goodbye to the worried Jones. Nungesser had faith that Indy would be fine during his two-week assignment, and promised that he would return when it was over with a champagne, and drive him back to Paris. Indeed, when the days were over, he showed up to take Indy back. During the trip he informed Indy that he was in a hurry, because he had a new piloting assignment: "very hush-hush".
His mission was to wait in an old farmhouse outside the Moulin Roulette with Maurice. He had to drop an agent into Hannover and await his return among the Kruppstein ruins. In the farmhouse, he saw that agent "Captain D" was none other than Indy himself, who was very reluctant to be flying again. They set off at sunset and during the flight on a German plane, he told Indy that he considered making a record feat after the war: a transatlantic flight. At dawn, he forced Indy to make his jump with a parachute, by pulling the plane into a barrel roll.
During the day, he stayed near the Kruppstein ruins, and was joined by Max, a French agent working as a hall porter in the Hotel Franz Josef waiting for Indy. Max told him that the schedule had changed and Indy would travel to Ahlhorn. At dusk, Nungesser decided that they had been waiting too long, and should not take off after nightfall. Then, he heard a motorcycle in the distance: it was Indy, who had just returned from Ahlhorn. Nungesser congratulated him and took him back to France.
Behind the scenes
Charles Nungesser was played by Patrick Toomey in Young Indiana Jones and the Attack of the Hawkmen.
In the film, Charles Nungesser is comically portrayed always injured. This is based on the fact that by the end of the war, a succinct summary of Nungesser's wounds and injuries read: "Skull fracture, brain concussion, internal injuries (multiple), five fractures of the upper jaw, two fractures of lower jaw, piece of anti-aircraft shrapnel imbedded [sic] in right arm, dislocation of knees (left and right), re-dislocation of left knee, bullet wound in mouth, bullet wound in ear, atrophy of tendons in left leg, atrophy of muscles in calf, dislocated clavicle, dislocated wrist, dislocated right ankle, loss of teeth, contusions too numerous to mention."
In 1927, Nungesser made his attempt at flying to the United States of America alluded to in the episode, but disappeared over the Atlantic, creating one of the greatest mysteries in the history of aviation. Unlike his claim in the episode, that he would fly alone so that the fuel holds, in reality he flew with a navigator, Francois Coli. Eventually it would be Charles Lindbergh who did this feat.
- The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles – "Young Indiana Jones and the Attack of the Hawkmen" → Attack of the Hawkmen