Frenchman Charles Nungesser was a character straight out of a Hemingway novel. Before the war he was an amateur boxer, race car driver and pilot. During the war he managed to score 45 victories between drinking and banging everything he could get his hands on in Paris. He even found time to regularly nail the legendary spy Mata Hari (well aware of her activities, he cheerfully fed her bullshit stories that she dutifully reported back to her German controllers).
She was hypnotized by his glittering chest.
His list of war time injuries reads like a recitation of everything that could go wrong on a body, ever, including but not limited to a skull fracture, a brain concussion, fractures of the upper and lower jaw, dislocation of both knees, bullet wounds in the mouth and ear AND SO ON.
So one day a German plane came flying low over Nungesser's airfield and challenged him to single combat at a specific time and place the next day. Despite his friends' attempts to point out the whole Germans + War = Dicks equation to him, Nungesser was unable to resist the challenge and duly set off to meet the enemy.
Note the skull and crossbones wearing a steak-hat and twirling canes.
It turned out his friends were right. The moment Nungesser reached the designated rendezvous, six German fighter planes came swooping out of the clouds in a coordinated attack.
Nungesser responded to this shocking turn of events by blowing one of the German planes out of the sky. Then another.
Getting cocky works.
At this point, with the odds whittled down to a much more reasonable 4-1, he broke off the engagement, presumably to run home and pick up more bullets. The remaining four Germans, no doubt in a state of shock and feeling like right dicks, simply watched him go.
A badass to the very end, Nungesser survived the war only to disappear mysteriously, presumably lost at sea as he attempted to fly from France to America just two weeks before Charles Lindbergh accomplished the feat traveling in the opposite direction.
His co-pilot's lack of depth perception may have played a role.
Poor little Belgium, sandwiched in between France and Germany and with all the natural defenses of a cabbage. Belgium did, however, manage to produce at least one genuine ass-kicking hero in World War I. Willy Coppens, despite being fobbed off with obsolete aircraft and inadequate supplies of ammunition, became the undisputed champion balloon buster of the war, with 34 kills to his credit. This would probably be a good time to explain that "balloon busting" wasn't a bizarre party game played on the battlefields during WWI, but a serious endeavor for the only the bravest pilots.
"That's gonna take one hell of a needle."
In the days before satellites and unmanned reconnaissance planes, armies would station observers in moored hot air balloons with wireless radios to report back on enemy action. And even though you'd think that taking pot shots at a giant bag of explosive gas would be child's play, it totally wasn't. Balloons were guarded by anti-aircraft batteries pumping wads of hot lead into the air, and they often had their own squadrons of fighter planes swirling around the area to protect them.
Get past all that, and you run into the mid-air booby traps the Germans set, which included surrounding the balloons with silk-covered kites attached to steel cables that were all but invisible to pilots until they noticed their airplanes being torn in two.
"Tee hee hee."
In other words, balloon busting was as foolhardy as setting up a mosh pit in a minefield. And Coppens was really good at it. In fact, Coppens's electric blue Hanriot airplane became such a pain in the ass for the Germans that they hatched a cunning plan to dispose of him. Basically, they took an ordinary observation balloon and jammed it so full of explosives that a single bullet would be enough to atomize anything within 500 feet of it. With Coppens regularly swooping in to attack from as close as 50 feet, he didn't stand a chance.
The Germans were so proud of their little plot that word of the scheme eventually got back to Coppens himself, who decided that after they went to all that expense and effort, it would be rude not to go have a look at this balloon.
In fairness, balloons kick ass.
When he got there, he discovered that the Germans had really made a day of it, with dozens of soldiers and staff officers standing around to watch the fireworks. The balloon itself was still being winched up and was, crucially, only at half its intended height. It was then that Coppens, demonstrating that fine line between bravery and just plain bat-shit insanity, said "Fuck it" and dove in shooting.
The resulting explosion sent his plane rocking through the sky like a kangaroo on a pogo stick, yet it remained intact. If the low height had saved Coppens, it proved disastrous for those below, with the resulting fireball killing and maiming dozens of the watchers on the ground. See, that's what you get for standing around watching a war.