He joined the French army as a pilot at the outbreak of World War I. After several missions he decided that shooting and flying at the same time was too difficult, so he fitted a machine gun to the front of his plane so the tasks became one and the same. In order to protect the propeller from the bullets, he fitted metal wedges to the prop. He soon shot down several German planes and quickly garnered an excellent reputation.
On April 18th, 1915, he was shot down and glided to a landing on the German side of the lines. After examining his plane Anthony Fokker designed an improved system known as the interrupter gear. Soon the tables were reversed with Fokker's planes shooting down every plane they met, leading to what became known as the Fokker Scourge.
In the 1920s, a tennis centre was named after the pilot, Stade de Roland Garros. The stadium accommodates the French Open, one of tennis' Grand Slam tournaments. Subsequently, the tournament is popularly called Roland Garros.