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“Night Eagle” by Harold F. Cruickshank

Link - Posted by David on April 22, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

WE’RE back with another exciting air adventure from the pages of the pulp magazines of the 1930’s. This week we have a tale from the pen of that Canadian stalwart—Harold F. Cruickshank. Cruickshank was a prolific writer. He wrote all manner os stories for the pulps—war, aviation, westerns, even animal stories!

Here we have a story from the December 1933 issue of Sky Fighters. In Night Eagle Cruickshank tells a tale of Squadron Twenty tasked with taking out a German ammo dump and meeting with little success.

Johnny Blair was all set to smash the german ammo dump to smithereens—but his bombs proved to he duds!

For more great tales by Harold F. Cruickshank, check out Sky Devil: Hell’s Skipper—All along the Western front, everyone was out to get The Sky Devil’s Brood! There was no better flight in France. Led by Captain Bill Dawe, the famous Yank ace known to all of France as the Sky Devil, the brood consisted of Chuck Verne, Mart Bevin, Slim Skitch and Slug Walton. The crimson devil insignia on their silver Spads brought fear to any German pilot unlucky enough to meet them in the air. But the Sky Devil’s greatest enemy might just be his own C.O., Major Petrie, who had been railroaded into command of 120 Squadron over Dawe’s head. Jealous of Dawe’s popularity, Petrie will do anything to bring down “The Sky Devil’s Brood!”

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Raoul Lufbery

Link - Posted by David on April 20, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s the inimitable Major Raoul Lufbery’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Raoul Lufbery was already famous when America entered the War. For some time he was the mechanic of Marc Pourpe, famous French flyer. Pourpe was killed in aerial combat. Lufbery who was with the Foreign Legion, asked to take his place in order to avenge his death. The French army, defying usual procedure sent him to join Escadrille de Bombardmente V. 102, where he made a distinguished record.

When the La Fayette Escadrille was formed, he became one of the seven original members of that famous air squadron—and, as it proved ultimately, became the most distinguished, winning his commission as a sous-lieutenant.

When America entered the War he was transferred to the American Air Service and made a major, refusing, however, to take command of a squadron. When he was killed at Toul. Lufbery was officially credited with 17 victories. The story below was told to a Chicago newspaper correspondent a few days before his death at Toul airdrome

 

THREE AVIATIKS (?) WITH ONE SHOT

by Major Raoul Lufbery • Sky Fighters, December 1933

YOU ASK me my most memorable flight? Let me think a minute. Ah, I have it! It was the day at Luxeuil soon after we got our new Nieuports, the day the great air armada bombed Karlsruhe on the Rhine.

With Prince, De Laage, Masson, I took off from the drome at Luxeuil. We climbed all the time. Below us was the formation of French and British bombers we were to escort. Above were great masses of clouds. We went up through them, looking for Boche on top. But, there were none. That is, I saw none, but I felt that I was being watched.

I glanced up suddenly. Just in time! A three-seater Aviatik was diving on me. My companions had gone ahead. I turned back quickly, making believe I had not seen the Aviatik. I wanted the pilot to come closer before I started shooting.

The Boche tracer screamed over my head. I moved the stick, sent my Nieuport into a screeching chandelle. The black Aviatik whirled past me, tracer streams spouting like fountains. I straightened out, my fingers going tight on the gun trips. I dived, got the Aviatik in range, let go with a long burst while I feathered the controls, making my tracer stream weave. But the Boche pilot was no amateur. He slipped away.

His bullets shattered my compass. The alcohol in the bowl spurted, clouding my goggle glasses. I shoved them up on my forehead. The alcohol sprayed in my eyes, burned. I blinked. All I could see was red. I was blind! But I heard the Boche tracer ripping through my wings. I dived, then maneuvered crazily. I shook my head, threw off one mitten, wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. All the time I was weaving my stick, diving and zooming alternately, to give an erratic target. My eyes began to clear and I looked out overside.

I saw three Aviatiks then. All black, all shooting at me. I maneuvered some more, managed to get my guns lined on one of them. I pressed the gun trips quickly. My tracer streamed out in a blue haze. All three Aviatiks tumbled over in the sky and fell down at once. I banked, went circling after them to see that they crashed. It was only when I was almost to the ground, that I saw it was only one Aviatik that had crashed.

My eyes, blurred by compass alcohol, had tricked me. There was only one Aviatik where I had seen three. I got only one when I thought I had three. But I was happy enough,
anyway.

That one Aviatik might have got me if—I had not been so lucky.

“Sky Fighters, September 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 18, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the September 1934 cover, It’s the Pfalz Triplane vs the indomitable S.E.5!

The Ships on the Cover

THE Pfalz Triplane was th_SF_3409 one of the neatest looking jobs among the number of multi-wing planes which all European countries experimented with during the late fracas Over There. The fuselage was exceptionally slick in proportion and line. If you can imagine the two top wings removed and the bottom wing having a much greater chord you will see a strong resemblance between this tripe of bygone war days and the Lockheed Sirius of modern times.

Those designers of a sixth of a century ago did some sweet visualizing far in advance of their time. If they’d have had engines as efficient as those of today to yank their stick and wire jobs through the clouds there’s no telling what the outcome of the air campaigns might have been.

Three Winged Crates

But we’re not as interested in the fuselage as in those three wings which make our Pfalz a Triplane or Dreideckcr. In building this type of ship the hope was for greater efficiency in all ways. They got it in some and lost it in others. In using three instead of one or two wings the chord and span could be reduced. Then the tail assembly could be pushed up closer to the wings, giving compactness and maneuverability. A single interplane strut could be used on each side, instead of the conventional double struts. The Pfalz used a combination of V strut and straight single strut. The top wing did most of the lifting work as the lower wings had a very narrow chord.

The Nieuport, Sopwith, Albatross and Fokker firms experimented with the triplane idea. Fokker undoubtedly was influenced by the Sopwith “tripe.” Some other manufacturers even went in for quadraplanes, and not to be outdone, one stuck on five planes which made the crate look like a flying stepladder.

On the cover the Pfalz tripe in the foreground with the red belly has been tearing in and out of the ring-sights of the S.E.5. That fight started down low and gained altitude as the two ships circled and sparred with left and right guns.

Even Steven

The famous S.E.5 of British origin, one of their outstanding successes, has the edge on the tripe in many of their in and out maneuvers, but a triplane has a much reduced period of inertia in the horizontal plane; so therefore is able to slip from one dodging tactic to another quicker than the S.E.5. So it was about “even Steven” in this climbing fight.

Suddenly another Pfalz tripe hove into the scrap with spitting Spandaus. Just about the time it looked like curtains for the S.E.5 her pilot flopped his ship into a trick skidding turn and sprayed a drizzle of slugs into the second ship. Down it went smoking, out of control. Not contented with his one victory he repeated his maneuver on the surprised Boche in the foreground Pfalz. One quick burst from the Vickers sent bullets thudding into the German pilot. He died instantly with his nerveless hands and feet still holding his plane in a climbing circle.

The S.E.5 pilot followed for a moment then eased his plane aside and headed for home. Once he turned, raised his right hand in salute as he watched the triplane, now a tiny speck far above, still gracefully climbing into the blue dome of heaven.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, September 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Halberstadt C.L.2 and the Avro Spider!

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 12: Major Hawker” by Eugene Frandzen

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Starting in the May 1932 issue of Flying Aces and running almost 4 years, Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Frandzen would feature a different Ace that rose to fame during the Great War. This time around we have English Ace—Major Lanoe G. Hawker!

Lanoe George Hawker joined the Royal Flying Corps and quickly developed a reputation as an aggressive pilot. In April 1915, armed with just a few bombs and some hand gernades, he successfully attacked a Zeppelin plant at Gontrobe while flying a BE-2. This earned him the Distinguished Service Order.

A few months later, on 25th July 1915 Hawker became the first fighter pilot to win the Victoria Cross for air combat. Flying a single-seater Bristol Scout and armed with a single-shot cavalry carbine mounted on the starboard side of the fuselage, Hawker attacked an enemy two-seater over Ypres. He managed to not only bring that plane down, but two others as well—and all three had been armed with machine guns!

Promoted to the rank of major, Hawker died after taking part in one of the longest dogfights of the war. Flying an Airco DH-2 over Bapaume on 23rd November, 1916, Hawker was eventually shot down and killed by Manfred von Richthofen.

(Editor’s Note: These early installments of Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” that were published in the pulp-sized issues have been reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)

“Bat Trap” by Lester Dent

Link - Posted by David on April 8, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Lester Dent is best remembered as the man behind Doc Savage. But he wrote all number of other stories before he started chronicling the adventures of everyone’s favorite bronze giant. Here we have an action-packed tale of the air whose hero—Major Hercules Gade—bares a striking resemblance everyone’s favorite chemist, Monk Mayfair: “He was pint size, this Yank buzzard. His ears were tufts of gristle. Somebody had once broken his nose. There was long hair on his wrists and the tendons on the backs of his knotty hands stood out like twisted ropes. His face was something to scare babies with. But just now an infectious grin cracked it from ear to ear.”

Herk is sent to the Groupe de Chasse 71 to get an unruly flight in line by any means necessary—which in this case means his fists—and take care of the Baron von Gruppe’s jagdstaffel and a German backed Sinn Fein plot!

They were fighting hounds from Devil’s Island and no man could tame them, but that was before a half-pint major named Hercules blasted them through the sky-trail that had no return.

If you enjoyed this story, Black Dog Books has put out an excellent volume collecting 11 of Lester Dent’s early air stories set against the backdrop of World War !. The book includes this story as well as others from the pages of War Birds, War Aces, Flying Aces, Sky Birds and The Lone Eagle. It’s The Skull Squadron! Check it out!

 

And as a bonus, here’s another article from Lester’s home town paper, The LaPlata Home Press, about his early success selling stories to the pulps while working as a telegraph opperator in Tulsa, Oklahoma!

 

At 25, Lester Dent Makes Hit As Writer

Will Visit Parents Here Enronte To New York Position
The LaPlata Home Press, LaPlata, MO • 25 December 1930

Lester Dent will leave Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first of January to spend the remainder of the winter in New York City, writing magazine adventure fiction. Mr. Dent is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Bern Dent, of north of LaPlata. and graduated from LaPlata high school in 1923. In going to New York, he is accepting flattering offers made by an eastern publishing house. Mr. Dent expects to visit his parents here enroute east.

Newspaper work usually leads to nothing but more newspaper work but once in a while there are exceptions to that rule. As in the case of Lester Dent, who is now the recipient of flattering offers from New York because of his yarn-spinning in magazine columns as well as daily news sheets.

Lester Dent

For more than four years Mr. Dent has been an Associated Press operator and Maintenance man, allied with The Tulsa Tribune. Less than two years ago he commenced to try his hand at fiction writing. He turned out, 13 stories, all of which were rejected, wrote, the fourteenth and found a market. That encouraged him to go on and he has been going better and faster ever since. His marker has included “Popular Stories,” “Air Stories,” ”Top-Notcoh,” “Action Stories” and “Sky Riders.”

Some of the earlier titles were ”Pirate Cay,” “Death Zone,” “Bucaneers of the Midnight Sun” and “The Thirteenth Million Dollar Robbery.”

Later Mr. Dent’s name appeared over stories called “Vulture Coast,” “The Devil’s Derelict,” “The Skeleton From Moon Cay” and, most recently, “Hell Hop.” The last-named tale attracted the attention of one of the editors of “Sky Riders” in which it is
to appear. Soon after the author received a night letter suggesting that the New York publishing field had a place for writers of his imagination.

Mr. Dent is 25 years old and has been in Tulsa nearly five years, most of that time employed by the Associated Press. He once enrolled in the law school at the University of Tulsa but gave it up, because, he says some what laconically, “it was too much work.” Planning thirteen million-dollar robberies and tales of buccaneers for the delight of the American public that likes its action swift and daring seems easier work, evidently. Now he has the choice of continuing to write the news as it does happen or as it might but probably would not happen.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Donald McClaren

Link - Posted by David on April 6, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s Canada’s Major Donald McLaren’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Donald McLaren was born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1893, but at an early age his parents moved to the Canadian Northwest, where he grew up with a gun in his hands. He got his first rifle at the age of six, and was an expert marksman by the time he was twelve. When the war broke out he was engaged in the fur business with his father, far up in the Peace River country. He came down from the north in the early spring of 1917 and enlisted in the Canadian army, in the aviation section. He went into training at Camp Borden, won his wings easily and quickly, and was immediately sent overseas. In February, 1918, he downed his first enemy aircraft. In the next 9 months he shot down 48 enemy planes and 6 balloons, ranking fourth among the Canadian Aces and sixth among the British. No ranking ace in any army shot down as many enemy aircraft as he did in the same length of time. For his feats he was decorated with the D.S.O., M.C., D.F.C. medals of the British forces, and the French conferred upon him both the Legion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre. Oddly, just before the war ended, he was injured in a wrestling match with one of his comrades and spent armistice day in a hospital nursing a broken leg. He had gone through over a hundred air engagements without receiving a scratch. The air battle he describes below is unusual because almost 100 planes took part in it.

 

A REAL DOG-FIGHT

by Major Donald McLaren • Sky Fighters, April 1934

I was cruising along with twelve of my Camels when we met 17 enemy aircraft 15,000 feet high, slightly east of Nieppe Forest. When the Germans spotted us above them, they started circling. We began diving at them, and had succeeded in shooting down two, when another German formation appeared, coming up from La Bassee. I signalled and we drew out to watch developments, climbing together. At that moment our archies opened fire. The white bursts were thick like cotton tufts, with the enemy planes diving in and out. As we drew away to reform and attack again, we were joined by some additional S.E.5’s and Camels. Then another formation of Bristol Fighters and S.E.S’s drifted along from the south.

A real air battle promised now—the kind you read about but seldom witness. My Camels attacked the first formation of Huns, diving, firing a few rounds at close range, then climbing away, only to resume the tactic again as soon as we reformed. I swooped down on a white painted Albatross with a red nose. At my first burst, he exploded in flames. But I felt somebody shooting at me for all his worth.

From the sound of the bullets I knew he was very close, so I pulled back in a quick climbing turn to get a look. I saw two of my Camels chasing a Pfalz who tried to avoid them by turning from side to side. They got it, however. It went spinning down but I had no time to watch. Bullets were flying everywhere, coming from almost a hundred fighters at once. Just then two Albatrosses under me picked on a little Camel. I went for them, managing to get the first with a single burst. But the other got away by diving under his formation.

The Bristols and S.E.5’s were having the time of their lives. One S.E.5 that had shot down a Hun was being given a ride by three of the fallen Hun’s mates.

But by a fast climbing turn and wing-over, he managed to get the advantage over one. The Hun in trying to avoid his charge turned too slowly and rammed one of his fellows. Both smashed and went down, leaving bits of fabric floating behind them. By agile maneuvering the Bristols had managed to split up the German formation, so the enemy thinking they had enough, drew off and made for home as fast as they could. Our ammunition had been pretty well used up, so we called it a day.

Nearly a hundred planes took part in the scrap. I had never been in such a dog-fight before.

“Sky Fighters, August 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

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Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the August 1934 cover, It’s the Roland D-2 vs a Renault “Chars d’Assaut” baby tank!

The Ships on the Cover

THIS month’s cover th_SF_3408_CN brings us right down to earth. In fact we are dug into a trench with our hob-nailed shoes clawing at the slippery duck boards.

Tin helmets were not much protection for our hard-working doughboys when a raiding German plane came screeching down from the clouds with a couple of synchronized Spandaus tossing hot lead up and down the length of their private trench.

The Roland D-2 with the dazzle painted upper wings was one of Germany’s trickiest looking ships. The peculiarly shaped forward part of the fuselage sweeping up to form a sturdy center brace for the top wings gives the job a certain streamlined effect that is pleasing to the eye. But consider the poor forward visibility of the pilot. He had about as much visibility as a taxi driver with a tin windshield. The two machine-guns are housed in this built-up part of the fuselage, their muzzles barely protruding over the partly hidden Mercedes engine.

A Mere Seven Tons!

The tank in the picture is the famous Renault “Chars d’Assaut.” It was a “Baby tank” weighing a mere seven tons and could crawl along the shell torn fields at from four to six miles an hour (we have baby tanks now which click off ten times this speed).

The first tank was a British invention and first went into action near Cambrai during 1916, smashing the German lines.

From the first the tanks were a success and were made in all conceivable shapes. The outstanding all around success was the baby Renault tank.

The lone Roland D-2 with the swept-back wings has shot down an Allied plane, the only one visible in the sector. Two lines of trenches are just below. Pot-helmeted German troops filled one line of trencher. Flat tin derbies of Americans filled the other. The Roland pilot giggled his head back and forth, tipped his plane down and roared down on the American trenches. His guns blazed and Spandau bullets kicked up mud. Rifles barked back, a ground machine-gun swung up to fire at the attacker, smashed out a spray of lead. Several Yanks went down under the fire, others sought cover. It was a helpless situation.

A ground straffing plane is a dangerous opponent but not as effective as might at first glance be supposed. When it is within range of the trench it is attacking, it lets loose a hail of bullets but it must immediately pull up and dive again to get the correct angle of fire and to keep from crashing.

The Boche Blasts Away

The German pilot leap-frogged his plane up and down the trench, blasting away with both guns. Each time he zoomed, he swept his eyes across all sections of the sky. Still safe from Allied planes he returned to his slaughter.

A small dark shape, so much the color of the ground that it nearly reached the back of the Yank trenches before the German pilot spotted it, crawled slowly forward.

“Verdammte tank!” growled the German and swooped down to show his disdain for this slow-crawling iron beetle. A tattoo of lead spattered the “Baby Renault.” The tank driver stopped his machine. His gunner squinted along the barrel of his 37 millimeter gun. The Roland raced across his sights.

Blam! A 37 millimeter shell smashed through the belly of the plane, tore its way through the German’s body. One well-aimed shell from the lowly mud-spattered iron beetle has clipped the wings of the dazzle-colored Roland.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters (Canadian Edition), August 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Pfalz Triplane and the indomitable S.E.5!