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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Ernst Mathy

Link - Posted by David on May 31, 2017 @ 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 we have German Zeppelin Commander Captain Ernst Mathy’s most thrilling sky fight!

Very few stories of the Zeppelin raiders as told by the raiders themselves have come out of the Great War. Captain Ernst Mathy was one of the most famous of all wartime Zeppelin commanders, having made before he was killed in his final raid over London, six successful night raids over that well protected city, more than any other Zeppelin commander. It was Captain Mathy who developed and perfected most of the strategy of attack for the giant Zeppelins operated by the Imperial
 Flying Corps.

It is not generally known, but it was a fact that there were two divisions of Zeppelin raiders; those operated by the German navy and used for scouting of the British battle fleet on the North Sea, and those operated by the army and used for bombing raids on the capital cities of England and France. The last being, of course, the most spectacular and dangerous duty. Captain Mathy was the ace of aces of all Zeppelin commanders, and despite his army affiliation, his most thrilling fight in the air was with five submarines of the British navy. The story of this strange fight between the monsters of the sea and air as told in Captain Mathy’s own words, follow below.

 

SINKING A SUBMARINE

by Captain Ernst Mathy • Sky Fighters, January 1935

I HAD taken the L-31 over the North Sea, but was balked in my attempted raid on London by heavy rain and low-hanging storm clouds, so had to turn back. I did not want to return with a full load of bombs and without doing some damage, so I dropped down low and skirted the coast line in a northerly direction, looking for enemy surface craft as possible targets.

Upon coming out of a cloud I was surprised to spy a cluster of five enemy submarines floating on the surface. I circled back into the cloud and descended, coming out again at an altitude of about 2000 feet over the subs. They, of course, saw me then and went into immediate action with their deck guns. One shell put my forward starboard motor out of commission. I ruddered in against the window and dropped lower.

Shells were popping up now like spouting geysers and the subs were moving in ragged circles. I dropped a demolition bomb. It landed a hundred yards from the nearest sub. A shell exploded now in my port gas tanks, ripping the framework on that side to shreds, but happily causing no fire. I got still lower, then dropped another bomb. It missed, also, but only by a few yards.

The submarines began to submerge now and travel away from each other in tangential paths. I immediately loosed another bomb. There was a terrific explosion when it hit a huge fountain of water that hid the diving submarine from my vision temporarily. But when the cataract subsided, I saw the sub nosing slowly downward.

A few minutes later its stern lifted free from the water, a third of the hull exposed. In another minute it sank. Five minutes later it had disappeared completely, leaving nothing but an oily slick on the surface. The other subs by this time had managed to submerge and were rapidly running away. I could not pursue them because my gas balloonets were sieved full of holes and the L-31 was fast losing buoyancy.

I headed for home, just managed to make the German coast when I was forced to land with my badly crippled craft. There I discovered that one shell had missed severing my elevator and rudder controls by a single foot. If that one had been a foot closer, it would have been the submarine which would have been the victor. As it was, the L-31 had another successful mission to its credit.

“The Gloster Gauntlets” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on May 29, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. On Dare-Devil Aces’ April 1936 cover, Mr. Blakeslee has painted a flight of Gloster “Gauntlets” protecting a Handly-Page Heyford on a bombing mission!

th_DDA_3604THE STORY behind this month’s cover concerns the Gloster “Gauntlets”— and their particular job is the protection of a flight of “Heyfords” which has been sent to bomb an enemy drome. On the cover, the Heyfords have been shown at a very low altitude, so that we might also depict their target. But in reality, they would drop their eggs at no less than 10,000 feet. And at that height, would roar over their target at approximately 143 m.p.h., approaching their objective at a service ceiling of 21,000 feet.

For their protection, some ship had to be selected which would fly well over the Heyford’s maximum 21,000 feet, and be capable of a good scrap regardless of altitude. There simply couldn’t have been a better ship for this job than the Gauntlet, whose service ceiling is 35,500 feet! That is really going up!

At even 15,800 feet the Gauntlet’s speed is 230 m.p.h., and at this and higher altitudes, there is nothing with wings that can give it a decent scrap. At lower altitudes, however, the Gauntlet does not do so well, as its “Mercury” VI.S engine only delivers full power in the upper regions. But in power dives and fighting aerobatics, the Gauntlet is without a peer.

Note the sturdy arrangement of the wing structure, which places the question of wind rigidity beyond all doubt. In our cover, as may readily be seen, the Gauntlet has dropped down to the carpet to mop up the enemy ground crew with its Vickers, and to drop its four 20-lb. bombs, along with the larger shells being dropped by the Heyfords.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Gloster Gauntlets: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(April 1936, Dare-Devil Aces)

“One Hun, One Hit, Three Errors” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on May 26, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” You heard right! That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back. Yes it’s the marvel from Boonetown, Iowa himself—Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham—and he scores with bounders and grounders!

The English team finds the diamond rather wet, and Phineas sacrifices to France the first time at bat. But hang around, fans, the game isn’t over yet! Von Bountz is the next one to fly over the plate—and he gets hammered into left field.

“Flaming Skies” by Raoul Whitfield

Link - Posted by David on May 19, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another of Raoul Whitfield’s ‘Buck’ Kent stories from the pages of Air Trails magazine. Whitfield is primarily known for his hardboiled crime fiction published in the pages of Black Mask, but he was equally adept at lighter fair that might run in the pages of Breezy Stories. ‘Buck’ Kent, along with his pal Lou Parrish, is an adventurous pilot for hire. These stories, although more in the juvenile fiction vein, do feature some elements of his harder prose.

In the November 1928 issue of Air Trails, ‘Buck’ and his pal Lou have been called in to help rescue some errant Movie men lost in the woods as a raging wild fire bares down on them! Can Buck and Lou find them before the fire does? Find out in “Flaming Skies!”

A groundling’s life and an airman’s code—Fate held the whip and “Buck” Kent fought for both.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Corporal Edmond C. Genet

Link - Posted by David on May 17, 2017 @ 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 we have American Flyer Corporal Edmond C. Genet’s most thrilling sky fight!

The great-great-grandson of Citizen Genet, who served as the revolutionary ambassador from France during George Washington’s term as president, Edmond C. Genet had a distinguished heritage. Mild-mannered and handsome he was a typical soldier of fortune at heart, possessing an astonishing courage. At 10 he missed an appointment to Annapolis and immediately enlisted in the navy where he participated in the taking of Vera Cruz. A year later he was in battle in Haiti. Later on after the war in Europe broke out, he sailed for France to enlist in the Foreign Legion. He served for some years in the trenches as a simple poilu, then was transferred to aviation and assigned to Escadrille N-124, better known as the Lafayette, where he was the youngest American in a company of famous men. Genet’s flying time on the front was short. He was one of the few airplane pilots to be killed in the air by enemy shrapnel. He was the first American to die in action under the stars and stripes, his death occurring just ten days after America entered the war. The account below is from one of his letters home.

 

HOLDING THE HUNS AT BAY

by Corporal Edmond C. Genet • Sky Fighters, December 1934

I WAS flying along with McConnell at a very low altitude behind the German lines. Mac and I were making a survey of the enemy troop concentration. Intelligence had brought word that the Germans were preparing for a push in our area. We were to check on this, and as the country was hilly and wooded, we had to fly low to make the proper observations.

Being so engrossed with our ground work, both of us had neglected to watch the sky lanes. Suddenly we were jumped by a whole flight of Huns who took us completely by surprise! A burst of Spandau lead crackled through my plane from the rear! I glanced back, saw three Huns on me, throwing lead! At the same instant my right cheek began to sting and something scorched across my hip.

I swept up on one wing tip, whirled around. Two other Hun planes confronted me there. Their Spandaus were smoking. I looked over at McConnell, waved at him to go on with the mission while I attempted to hold off the Huns. I thought I could hold them off by making a bold, dashing frontal attack at first one, then the other. Mac banked off and swept down lower toward the ground.

I charged my first Hun with Vickers chattering. He turned aside and I plunged for the next. The second Hun clung to me and we began going round and round ineffectively. But a third Hun from above dived down, raked my turtleback with tracer. I was forced to pull out, but did not run away. I sneaked further inside the German lines drawing the Hun planes with me.

They had apparently forgotten Mac. Our strategy had been successful so far, but I wasn’t so sure that I was going to figure in the picture much longer. For the Huns had the speed on me and it was only a matter of minutes before I was entirely surrounded again. Bullets came from all directions at once. I was cornered. There was nothing to do but fight my way out boldly.

I dived for speed, then zoomed at my nearest antagonist. My tracer raked across his nose, puffed holes in his upper wing. He rolled off to one side to let me pass, for I was determined I would not turn out for him. That gave me an opening and I streaked through with the whole flight of Huns after me.

Presently I was rejoined by Mac, and what a relief! He was smiling, so I knew he had finished his mission successfully. We fought clear back to our lines where the Huns left us. I had just enough strength left to set down on the squadron drome safely, but my squadron mates had to lift me from my seat. It was a hot fight, but Mac and I got what we went out after—information that enabled our corps commander to forestall the German push!

“H.P.47″ by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on May 15, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. This time Mr. Blakeslee brings another of his “scrambled time” covers pitting planes of the great war against modern day planes (those from the 1930’s), from the March 1936 issue of Dare-Devil Aces it’s a plane so new it doesn’t have a name yet—The Handly-Page 47!

th_DDA_3603THE HANDLY-PAGE has steadily progressed in design, since before the war to the present day. The pre-war Handly-Page would be a joke today, but in those early days, it was looked upon as the last word in aircraft. It was a two place biplane, but so queer in construction that it would be impossible to describe it. But still, if you want a laugh, look up the pre-war Handly-Page and you’ll get the idea.

Then came the war, and with it, the big twin engined Handly-Page 0/400, which was so far superior to the earlier ship that comparisons would be ridiculous.

It was considered the wonder ship of its day, and with its span of one hundred feet, it would still be considered large, even today. However, with its top speed of only 97 m.p.h. it would hardly be in the same class as the same sized ships of today.

The next step in the design of the Handly-Page was the V/1500, which was still larger. It had a span of one hundred and twenty-six feet, while its four engines gave it a speed of 103 m.p.h. This ship was originally built to bomb Berlin, but the signing of the Armistice, of course, removed the opportunity.

Not much was heard from Handly-Page after the war until 1933, when type 38, more generally known as the “Heyford,” made its appearance : We have already shown this ship on the January cover, so we shall not discuss it here.

This month we have painted the very last word in the Handly-Page series. So far this ship is known as H.P.47, as it has not as yet been officially christened by its designers. It is so new at the time of this writing, that no performance figures are as yet available.

However, it is known to have a very high top speed and a low landing speed. There is a tendency for the monoplane to supplant the biplane in military flying in England and several monoplane types are coming into favor. Midway between the huge Fairey night-bombers and the small high-speed fighters, is the H.P.47.

It is a general purpose ship, and has to perform a variety of duties, such as bombing, photography, long distance reconnaissance, and so on. It can even carry torpedoes, to operate with the fleet. But it must also be able to fight, and towards that end, presents a unique feature, notably the slim fuselage, which gives the gunner an unobstructed field of fire.

On our cover we have scrambled time a bit in order that you may compare the H.P.47 with a war-time ship.

We have shown them in combat with the Pfalz DIII and we will say at the outset that it was a mean trick to play on the Germans. In this instance, the Pfalz wouldn’t stand the ghost of a chance against these big ships, because as big as they are, they could have flown circles around the Pfalz, with its mere 125 m.p.h.

The Story Behind The Cover
“H.P.47: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(March 1936, Dare-Devil Aces)

“Hell Flies High” by Donald E. Keyhoe

Link - Posted by David on May 5, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

THE unstoppable Donald E. Keyhoe had a story in a majority of the issue of Flying Aces from his first in January 1930 until he returned to the Navy in 1942. Starting in August 1931, they were stories featuring the weird World War I stories of Philip Strange. But in November 1936, he began alternating these with sometime equally weird present day tales of espionage Ace Richard Knight—code name Agent Q. After an accident in the Great War, Knight developed the uncanny ability to see in the dark. Aided by his skirt-chasing partner Larry Doyle, Knights adventures ranged from your basic between the wars espionage to lost valley civilizations and dinosaurs. This, his second tale from January 1937, is more espionage than lost civilizations (like his first).

“Washington to Gray, Flight Eight . . . Washington to Gray . . . Report your position . . .” No sooner had that message rung across those leaden skies when just ahead of his speeding Northrop Richard Knight glimpsed a huge Douglas transport roaring through the snowy blur. And as he saw that ship he cringed. Gray had reported for the last time. For out of that craft’s windows there stared dilated, terrified eyes—the unseeing eyes of the dead. And the faces from which they peered were—a hideous green!

Editor’s Note: His first story, Vultures of the Lost Valley (November 1936, Flying Aces) can be found here.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Willy Coppens

Link - Posted by David on May 3, 2017 @ 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 we have Belgian Ace, Lt. Willy Coppens’ most thrilling sky fight!

Willy Coppens was the Belgian Ace of Aces. He got his initial training as a soldier and officer in the cavalry division of the army. He transferred later on to the Flying Corps and began immediately to compile the record of victories that gained him top ranking among sky fighters.

Because the German armies had overrun all but a narrow strip of his own country, he did all of his flying from foreign bases, usually being stationed in the sectors in Flanders occupied by the British forces. Flying foreign machines from foreign bases, he nevertheless built up a remarkable record of successful combats. When his time on the front was ended, unhappily but gloriously, he was officially credited with 32 victories. The account below is from his diary.

 

TRUSTING TO FATE

by Lieutenant Willy Coppens • Sky Fighters, November 1934

FIGHTING great odds is not an uncommon thing. But today I felt for a time that, at last, I had run into a situation where the odds were too great for me.

I was cruising alone over La Chapelle on solo patrol at a very low altitude because of the low hanging clouds.

A full flight of Fokkers, six in all, came down at me like a lightning bolt. I was bottled up before I fully recovered from my first surprise.

I decided to open the attack myself and fight it out if I could. I dived for speed with throttle wide open, then banked swiftly, aiming for the Fokker below. I pressed both trigger trips, sent out a vicious double burst the instant I lined him. But he had pulled back and swept into a swirling vertical bank at the same instant. My burst passed harmlessly beneath the Fokker’s trucks. And instantly bullets began to clatter and zing through my instrument board. I glanced back up, saw one Fokker bearing down on me not more than 10 meters off my tail.

I jerked into a desperate loop, whined out with my attacker just ahead of me. Again I pressed my triggers. This time my bursts literally tore the Fokker to pieces. The vertical rudder shattered, sheared away. Only a quick maneuver on my part saved me from being hit by it. Next the whole tail seemed to disintegrate, and the following moment the Fokker nosed abruptly earthward. First blood was mine. It gave me confidence. But too soon!

When I looked up again, another Fokker was charging at me head on, both Spandaus yammering. The smoke streams parted my wings. Then a second stream of tracer rattled in from the rear. I was getting it fore and aft. I decided to plunge straight ahead.

I did so, gripping both trigger trips and sending out twin streams of tracer as I roared in toward the first Hun. Bullets from the following Hun still rattled around me. But I knew that if I held my ground, the oncoming Hun would have to swerve to escape being rammed in midair. But my senses would not stand the sight. I could not look at the Fokker charging at me, so I closed my eyes and decided to keep them closed until I counted off ten seconds. I kept my guns firing all the time, for the Fokker was centered directly in my sights.

I expected in be killed, and trusted only to fate. The seconds passed interminably in the darkness I had willed. Still I lived! At the count of ten I opened my eyes. The Hun who had been flying at me from in front was spiralling down toward the ground, his plane a mass of red flame and black smoke trails.

God had been with me I knew then. I had got that Hun with my eyes closed. My bullets had exploded his gas tank. Charged now with a renewed vigor and desire to live, I wheeled and attacked my pursuer. But the three remaining Fokker pilots did not stay to fight any longer. They ran for home. I would have chased them, but when I looked at my ammo supply, I saw that I had none, so I went home myself.

“The Vickers Vampire” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on May 1, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. On the February 1936 cover of Dare-Devil Aces, Mr. Blakeslee brings to our attention a plane that sounds like it’s straight out of the pages of G-8 and his Battle Aces or Captain Philip Strange—The Vickers Vampire!

th_DDA_3602NEARLY every reader has heard the merits of the Spad, Camel, S.E.5 and Fokker DVII drummed into their ears by fiction writers. Authors, of course, write about the ships with which they are most familiar. The authors of the stories in this magazine were war fliers, and as the United States did not have combat ships in France, the Americans used the French ships, mostly Spads. That is why, in the majority of stories, the Spad figures so prominently and since the Germans had practically washed out the Phalz and Albatross in favor of the Fokker DVII by the time the American aviators became effective at the Front, naturally the DVII figures largely in these stories, since they were the ships the authors fought against.

However, we have painted on this month’s cover a little ship that happens to be a pet of ours, and I think you will agree that she’s a beauty. We recommend to authors the Vickers “Vampire”, which is, by the way, rather a sinister name. This ship is rarely heard of in fiction. It was a trench strafer and the first ship to make a name for itself in France.

Its low altitude speed was 121 m.p.h., which made it a pretty speedy target for the dreaded ground machine guns. Machine guns on the ground, however, were more dreaded than those of enemy planes. It also took a high order of courage to attempt it.

The “Vampire” was a pusher, driven by a four-bladed propeller. It was an attempt to solve the forward field of fire. The pilot was out in front of the top wing with the motor behind and machine guns in front, a nasty bus to crash, but then, aren’t they all?

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Vickers Vampire: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(February 1936, Dare-Devil Aces)