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“Night Bird” by Syl MacDowell

Link - Posted by David on September 21, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story by Syl MacDowell! MacDowell is probably best known for his westerns. Here, MacDowell gives us a aviation yarn with a western twist—the title character is an albino Navajo who is able to see clearly in the dark! From the December 1930 issue of War Aces, it’s “Night Bird.”

He was an Indian and proud of the red blood than ran in his veins. When other wings failed to smash the force of that attacking horde, he tried in his own way and showed them that the redman knew the meaning of courage.

“Downing the L-22″ by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on September 17, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present “Downing the L-22″—The story behind the cover of Paul Bissell’s June 1933 cover for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the June 1933 cover Bissell put us right in the action As Galpin and Leckie’s Phoenix Cork flying boat is caught in the searchlights of the mighty L-22 Zeppelin!

Downing the L-22

th_FA_3306 FROM the very outbreak of the World War it was apparent to the British that with an aggressive foe only a comparatively few miles across the water from them, England would be subjected to constant and continued air raids. With this in mind the Air Ministry attempted to build up an adequate defense, but with aviation in its infancy, and no past experience to help them, this task proved much more difficult than was at first apparent. The inadequacy of the defense first built up was quickly evident when the Germans began seriously to raid England in the early summer of 1915.

Almost every dark night one or more of the huge Zeppelins would slip through the blackness, drop its bombs, and disappear again—untouched. To be sure, the alarm would have been given, and plane after plane would be up searching for the enemy, while the night would be pierced by hundreds of bright beams trying vainly to find the giant ships. Often the huge shapes of the Zeps, silhouetted against the lighted sky above, would be clearly visible to those on the ground, but quite invisible to those high in the air, groping vainly for them.

And even if spotted, the Zep was by no means an easy prey. It had a flying speed almost equal to most of the planes of that time, while its ceiling was higher than could be obtained by the majority of them. And, even if caught at lower altitudes, merely by dropping its water ballast it could rise with a rapidity that made pursuit almost hopeless.

It was well-armed, too. Machine guns were mounted in each gondola, and in the main cabin, while on top; of the envelope at either end was a gun platform.

To be sure, not every raid was carried out successfully, or without serious losses. The difficulties offered to the defenders of the British coast only served to increase the determination of the British pilots, and more than one story of dare-devil bravery and achievement crowned with victory was written in flames against the night skies above England, as some huge Zeppelin hurtled down through space to destruction, the victim of one of Britain’s air heroes—Robinson, Warneford, Tempest, Brandon, Cadbury — just to mention a few of them.

There was probably not a pilot who, no matter what his individual mission might be, did not hope that some time, slipping out of a blinding fog bank, he might find himself face to face with a Zeppelin. They perhaps said little about it, and daily carried out whatever job was assigned to them. But they quietly longed and waited for that day when fate would be kind and give them their big chance.

AND so it was with the crew of the Phoenix Cork flying boat, H12-8666, of the Great Yarmouth station. They had gone out to drop a few eggs on the enemy hangars over in Belgium, but on the way high adventure overtook them.

With Flight Lieutenant Galpin as navigator, and Sub-Lieutenant Leckie as pilot, they left Great Yarmouth station at three o’clock on the morning of May 14, 1917. Four one-hundred-pound bombs were strapped beneath their wings, and they carried three Lewis machine guns—a double one mounted in the forward cockpit, and one aft in the side door.

They had proceeded about eighty miles toward their objective and gained about six thousand feet of altitude when they plunged suddenly into a dense fog bank. Until now the. trip had been uneventful, just a careful watch out as they sped along, searching the scarcely visible horizon for the first suggestion of daylight. Now, however, there was no horizon, no top, no bottom—above, below, to either side—just a dark mass of nothingness through which they winged their way, guiding themselves only by their instruments.

Lieutenant Leckie kept the plane climbing gradually until he had finally reached an elevation of ten thousand feet, and figured that he must be nearing the Belgian coast. He cursed the thick fog that made him as helpless as a blind man. The blackness around had faded to a dirty gray, heralding the approach of day. Then suddenly, like slipping from a dark room, they shot out into the clear air. Off in the east, dawn pushed its long fingers up into the heavens. Below were the waters of the channel, still black as seen between other fog banks and huge cloud formations which extended interminably, billow on billow, off into the distance.

But straight ahead, and some six thousand feet below them, was a shape that sent the hearts of the Britishers into their throats. Scarcely visible in the early light, but with each second making their hope more and more certain, was the silvery shape of a German Zeppelin.

Instantly all thought of their objective was forgotten. Their big chance was here. Without need of a command, the pilot altered his course, and headed directly for the big ship. Galpin manned the forward twin gun, while Whatling, the wireless operator, manned the aft gun. With throttle wide open and nosing over slightly to gain speed, the flying boat tore ahead. Had the Zep seen them? Would she turn and run for it? Or would she ascend rapidly and wireless for help? Quickly they crept up. Only a mile separated them—then only half a mile.

On the side of the Zep the numerals L-22 and the Black Cross now stood out boldly. Then the Zep seemed suddenly to come to life. She changed her direction, at the same time dropping volumes of water as she discharged her ballast, and her nose shot violently upward. But Leckie had anticipated just this maneuver, and though he had sacrificed some of his altitude, he was still some five hundred feet above the Zep. Without hesitation Galpin dropped three of his four bombs. Every pound counted. Now they must have every bit of speed that was possible.

Already the Germans from the top platform were raking them with machine-gun fire. Then Leckie turned her over in one last headlong dive, pulling her up just under the rear fin and not forty yards from the back gondola. Immediately they were met by a terrific fire from the two gondolas. Bullets whizzed by, tearing pieces of fabric from their wings.

But now Galpin’s guns were also in action. Burst after burst of incendiary bullets he saw bury themselves in the rear end of the big envelope. Leckie piloted the machine skilfully, swinging from one side to another under the big dirigible, offering as difficult a target as possible and at the same time tipping up on one wing so as to give Whatling a chance to bring the rear gun into action.

The Zep was climbing rapidly, and Leckie strove desperately to hold his position in spite of the backwash from the German’s five propellers. Another burst of fire from Galpin, and then his guns jammed. Now they were in a perilous position. Scarcely twenty yards separated them from the German gondolas from which a withering machine-gun fire was pouring.

Leckie turned away to starboard to give Galpin time to fix his guns, intending to sweep around and come up under her again when the jam was cleared. But this was not necessary. Already a faint red glow was discernible in the rear of the huge silver envelope, where Galpin’s bullets had buried themselves—a glow which quickly increased as tongues of flame leapt out and swept upward.

For a few seconds the great ship hung quivering, then, like a meteor, rushed flaming down to the sea. Her engines, burned out of their fittings, dropped ahead of her, sending up great columns of water as they crashed. Then, with a hissing scream, the great burning mass plunged out of sight into the dark waters below. All that remained of the L-22 and its crew of twenty-five men was a patch of oil and black ash upon the restless surface of the channel.

The Ships on The Cover
“Downing the L-22″
Flying Aces, June 1933 by Paul Bissell

Richard Knight faces “Hell Over China” by Donald E. Keyhoe

Link - Posted by David on September 14, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THE prolific 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. In their seventh outing from the pages of the November 1937 issue of Flying Aces, Knight and Doyle are sent to China and find themselves embroiled in a dramatic oriental sky mystery confronted by a death-ray that destroys all in it’s path! Can Agent “Q” avoid a mutated death within that eerie ray as he faces “Death Over China!”

On the twisted body of that ruthless killer they had gunned from the skies, Richard Knight found an ominous message. “I will call again,” those brush-written characters announced, and appended was the dread symbol of Mo-Gwei—the sign of “The Devil”! Then “muted death” whipped across those gloomy heavens to fulfill that satanic threat. And as the shattered bodies of wretched airmen plunged to the earth, there came an infernal laugh. The cone of silence had found new victims!

“Famous Sky Fighters, September 1934″ by Terry Gilkison

Link - Posted by David on September 12, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

STARTING in the October 1933 issue of Sky Fighters and running almost 5 years, Terry Gilkison’s “Famous Sky Fighters” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Gilkison would illustrate in a two page spread different Aces that rose to fame during the Great War.

Although Gilkison was probably better known for his syndicated newspaper work, he also provided black and white story interior illustrations for pulp magazines. His work appeared in Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Gilkison provided similar features in a few other Thrilling Publications—there was “Famous Soldiers of Fortune” and later “Adventure Thrills” in Thrilling Adventures, Famous Crimes” in Thrilling Detective, and the fully illustrated air adventure stories of Buck Barton “The Flying Devil” in The Lone Eagle! He signed most of this work with only his initials “T.G.” to maintain a low profile and preserve his reputation as a syndicated newspaper cartoon artist.

The September 1934 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, Features Lt. Frank Baylies, Lieut.Charles Nungesser, and Capt. Bruno Loezer—”The Swordsman Ace”!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters,” Terry Gilkison features Capt. Hamilton Coolidge, Lieut. Constant Soulier, and the evil genius who thought up the Zeppelin air raid—Baron von Buttlar Brandenfels! Don’t miss it!

“Grapes Grabber” by Lester Dent

Link - Posted by David on September 7, 2018 @ 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—Nobody likes a glory hog, and Pilot Shack March sets out to teach the company Grapes Grabber a thing or two and stop a Boche spy ring in the process! From the pages of the June 1934 The Lone Eagle it’s—”Grapes Grabber!”

The Boche have developed an even faster and better plane and Major Sam Flack has been called in to double bluff a captured Boche agent into taking him behind enemy lines to the prototype!

Pilot Shack March Shows a Glory Glutton a Thing or Two in this Zooming Yarn of Exciting Action in Hunland!

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, this time with heads-up on Lester passing through town on his way to Mexico and California!

 

Lester Dent Is Now In The Big League

Visits Parents Here Enroute To Mexico and California
The LaPlata Home Press, LaPlata, MO • 4 August 1932

Lester Dent, writer of adventure fiction, arrived from New York City Monday, accompanied by his wife. They will spend the remainder of the week visiting Lester’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bern Dent, who live northeast of LaPlata. Lester will then depart on a two-month auto trip through old Mexico, visiting regions now being troubled by border bandits, leaving Mexico, he will take a gold prospecting jaunt into Death Valley, in California.

Mrs. Dent will remain in the meantime at Carrollton, Mo., her former home.

Lester Dent

Louis Madison, formerly of LaPlata, will go with Lester. Mr. Madison, who with his mother, now lives near Flint, Mich., joined Lester as he was enroute from New York to LaPlata via Canada. Lester and Mr. Madison graduated from LaPlata High School together.

During the western trip, Lester will gather color for use in the adventure stories he writes. He will return to LaPlata for a later visit, and spend the winter in New York City.

Mr. Dent is becoming widely known as a writer of western, detective and war-air fiction. He will have nine stories in magazines on the news stands during the month of August, six under his own name and three under pen names. A New York editor recently said of Lester Dent: “He is the most promising writer of bang-up action fiction who has loomed over the horizon in many a year.”

“Collishaw’s Black Hawks” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on September 3, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present “Collishaw’s Black Hawks”—The story behind the cover of Paul Bissell’s March 1933 cover for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the March 1933 cover Bissell put us right in the action on that June day in 1917 as Canadian Ace Raymond Collishaw and his Black Flight tangle in a deadly dogfight with Richthofen’s Flying Circus—now lead by his deputy, German Ace Karl Allmenroeder who already had 30 victories to his name!

Collishaw’s Black Hawks

th_FA_3303 DOWN from the blue sky like four black hawks they dropped, diving recklessly into the rant midst of the famous red squadron of Richthofen himself. Sopwith tripes they were, all black, and one red ship went down before the fury of their first attack. Then, an instant later, all eleven planes were in a mad dogfight.

To the watching Tommies below this was now almost a daily occurrence for, though this British flight had for the first time appeared over the Ypres sector less than ten days before, it was already famous. Those ten days had been crowded with battles. With the other flights in Squadron 10, this one had been ordered to clear the sky of German planes so that the British troops might be concentrated for the final drive on Messines Ridge. In seven days twenty-four German planes had been accounted for.

The Black Flight had done its full share, and in weeks to come was to hang up a record unchallenged by any other flight in the squadrons of any air force. In two months this all-Canadian flight brought down 87 enemy aircraft, and lost but one of its own members.

The leader, Lieutenant Collishaw, was a naval flyer who had found time to become an ace outside of his routine duty of protecting warships. When help was needed over Ypres, he was selected by the high command and formed his own squadron, choosing four other Canadians as pilots, and Sopwith tripes as their ships. These they painted all black. Collishaw flew “Black Maria”—Reid, sub flight commander, flew “Black Roger”—Shaman, “Black Death”—Nash, “Black Sheep”—and Alexander, “Black Prince.”

These five ships were soon known to the Tommies of this whole sector, and it was with a feeling of consternation that the watching lads in the trenches saw that on this day only four flew to the attack. One must have gone West. Perhaps that was why the attack seemed fiercer than usual, and a cheer rose from the trenches as another German, caught at the top of a loop by the deadly fire of Reid, slipped off on a wing and crashed in flames.

But from the main dogfight two planes had pulled off to one side, and were fighting each other with that relentlessness that would end only in death for one or both. One was an Albatross scout, red with green stripes and black crosses—the other, a Sop tripe, all black with British circles.

In the former was a German ace, Allmenroeder, striving to add o»e more name to his already long list of victims—a list which had only the day before been increased by the name of the missing member of the Black Flight. In the other was Collishaw, whose face, usually ready with a bright winning smile, was today grim, his jaw set. Today he was an ace who sought not just a victory, but a victory which might help to erase the memory of yesterday, when he had seen this same green-striped Albatross send Nash in “Black Sheep” crashing to earth.

Furiously, yet with caution, they fought for an advantage, a caution not apparent to the watching Tommies because of the dexterity, sureness and ease with which these two masters of air fighting executed breath-taking maneuvers. Banking, looping, and sideslipping, they doubled and twisted high up in the sky. One instant the red plane seemed to be chasing the black one, and the next the black would seem to have the advantage. Burst after burst came from their guns as for a brief instant a near chance offered itself, but not until they were over Lille did the break come.

HERE the powerfully engined Albatross, coming out of a steep climbing vrille, found itself in that one deadly position above and over the black tripe’s tail. With motor on, Allmenroeder dived for the kill. His guns spat, and for an instant death was less than half a hand’s breadth from the young Canadian.

But Collishaw had one more trick in his bag. A push of his stick sent his little tripe square up on her wing tips where, with nose down and slipping violently off to the side, he offered small target for the German’s fire.

For a brief eternity they hung thus. Bullets spattered around Collishaw, and then the terrific power-dive of the German took his Albatross beyond and below the British plane. In a split second the little tripe had righted itself, and now it was the black plane that rode like death behind and above the red Albatross. Tracers shot out from the twin Vickers. They were to the left. Another burst was nearer in, and then came the steady rat-a-tat as the two guns pulsed to the grip of the young Canuck.

A strut splintered as a bullet cut through. Then the windshield shattered. The red ship staggered; its tail shot straight up, then kicked around violently, and the “green-striper” started on its last spin.

And so Nash was avenged, though months later it was learned that he had not been killed, but was a prisoner in Germany.

The Black Flight went on to pile up its astounding score, while Collishaw was made a squadron commander, gaining sixty official victories before he was recalled to London to help in the formation of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and made a Lieutenant-Colonel.

Collishaw still lives. After the World War he fought with the “White” troops of the old Czarist cause against the Bolshevists—then in Poland, Persia, Mesopotamia, and against the Arabs in Palestine. He has risen to Flight Commander. Besides his D.S.O. and bar, D.S.C., and D.F.C., he has been awarded the order of “Commander of the British Empire.”

He was a sailor, and as he himself once said, after coming out unhurt from a crash in No-Man’s Land, “Sailors die at sea.” May he stay always on land—or in the air!

The Ships on The Cover
“Collishaw’s Black Hawks”
Flying Aces, March 1933 by Paul Bissell