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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Jules Vedrines

Link - Posted by David on November 15, 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 French Flyer Lieutenant Jules Vedrines’ most thrilling sky fight!

In the year before the great war broke out Jules Vcdrines was the most famous flyer of France. He had twice won the Gordon Bennett speed trophy, and held both distance and altitude records. It was through his efforts that France wrested supremacy of the air from the United States and Great Britain. Along with Garros, Pegoud, Marechal, Le Blanc, Audemars, and other famous French flyers of his day, he enlisted in the French Flying Corps the day after war was declared.

The war was in its last stages before the nature of Vedrine’s work was revealed to his admirers. He had been engaged in doing special missions, and had established his reputation as being the Ace of Aces in that specialty, which consisted in leaving and picking up French spies behind the enemy lines. He received every decoration possible . . . but had to wait until the war’s end before he could bask in the glory of his achievements, for only then were his many honors divulged. The account below is from an interview with Jacques Mortane, great French war correspondent and flyer extraordinary himself.



by Lieut. Jules Vedrines • Sky Fighters, December 1935

THESE special missions are sometimes exciting. There was that time when I flew behind the enemy lines to pick up Sous-Lieutenant Huard. Three times before I had landed in this same meadow and picked up agents of the intelligence in full daylight. I thought our secret field was safe from German eyes. But I was to be surprised! I crossed the lines at a great altitude, over 6,000 meters. Then high over the meadow I cut the motor and sneaked down silently. I circled the meadow once at low altitude. Everything looked all right, so I volplaned in.

It was only when I got down to ten feet above the grass that I saw what the Germans had done. They intended to trap me. They had stretched wires across the meadow just high enough above the ground to make my avion nose over when the wheels touched earth. But I saw the wires just in time. I fed all essence to the motor and jerked the stick, zooming upwards.

At the same instant machine-guns hidden in the woods surrounding the meadow opened up at me at point blank range. Bullets splattered into my avion like hail from two sides, and German soldiers came from the woods firing rifles!

In another meadow several hundred yards away, I saw a man garbed in peasant attire running and waving his arms over his head. I looked close, saw that it was Huard waving me in to land on the next meadow. It appeared like certain suicide for both of us, but what was I to do? I cut off and nosed down. Bullets still hailed all around me, and I could see them kicking up patches of turf at Huard’s feet.

My wheels touched the meadow. Huard stumbled and fell on his face. When he struggled up, his leg folded beneath him and he fell again. He had been wounded. I shouted to Huard to grab the outer wing strut as I passed over him. He struggled up on his knees, reached out his hands. I could see his face. It was white and contorted with pain.

But he succeeded in grabbing the wing edge with one hand, and the forward strut with the other. I shot on the motor then and coursed along the ground to get away from the German bullets. Huard was dragging by the heels. A barb wire fence loomed ahead. I had to cut the motor. Before the avion stopped rolling, I leaped out and grabbed the strut Huard was holding. Together we swung the avion around in the opposite direction.

We would run into the fire again, I knew. But Huard only smiled when I mentioned that to him as I helped him in the rear seat. “C’est la guerre!” he replied lightly.

We escaped through that gauntlet of German fire. Neither of us even got scratched. An exciting mission, yes, but I wouldn’t say my job was one half as hazardous as Huard’s.

A brave man, Huard. And isn’t it preposterous? For that flight I was awarded the Medal Militaire. And Sous-Lieutenant Huard, he was not even mentioned in the day’s orders.

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