This Cigarette Lighter has a Tragic Origin Story
French-born Gervais Raoul Lufbery (who makes an appearance in Aviation History 's feature about the Nieuport 28 ) lived a peripatetic life before World War I. At 19 he relocated to the United States, where his father had moved when Raoul was young. He joined the U.S. Army (and earned his U.S. citizenship) and was posted to the Philippines. As an aviation mechanic he barnstormed around Asia, Africa and Europe. After World War I began, Lufbery flew for the French and later joined the American volunteers of the Lafayette Escadrille, where he continued racking up victories (his final official tally was 16). “He had broad shoulders, a perpetual scowl, crude speech, and apparently no emotions of any kind,” wrote historian Arch Whitehouse. Once America entered the war, Lufbery joined the 94th Aero Squadron.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force has several items related to Lufbery on display, including this cigarette lighter made out of a spark plug from the Nieuport 28 in which he made his final flight. Ironically, contemporaries said that one thing that obsessed the flier was a fear of fire in the air. On May 19, 1918, Lufbery was pursuing a German observation plane when an incendiary bullet set his Nieuport ablaze. Rather than burn to death, Lufbery jumped from his cockpit from a height of about 200 feet and was impaled on a fence. He was 33 years old.