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F.E. Rechnitzer’s “Three Tough Days”

Link - Posted by David on September 18, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

The Courier-News, Bridgewater, NJ, Friday, 15 November 1918, page 11.

F.E. RECHNITZER tells of his harrowing encounter with a Boche prison camp after his plane was forced to land on the wrong side of the lines. A prisoner of the Germans, this war aviator was given a strange third degree—and made the victim of a Boche Colonel’s grim joke!

Three Tough Days

FLYING a Sopwith Camel in good weather was a job which kept a pilot on his toes every minute of the time. But in bad weather, with visibility almost zero, and rain driving in over the cowling—well, that was just plain hell.
    And that was just the sort of thing I faced on the morning of September 28th, 1918—the day the Belgians started their drive to rid their country of the grey-clad army of the Kaiser.
    We’d lined up earlier in the morning for patrol duty only to be called back by our C.O., who said that it was murder to send men into the air in that sort of weather. But no sooner had we changed into dry outfits than we were ordered into the air again by the Wing commander.
    So off we hopped at intervals to ground-strafe the enemy from the air while the Belgians hammered away from the ground.
    The first thing I did on reaching the storm-curtained battle in the muck was to look for a target on which to unload my four twenty pounders. For those four bombs nestling under the fuselage didn’t help the flying qualities of my Camel a bit.
    I finally spotted a cluster of transport trucks bogged down in the mud. I circled above them and pulled the bomb toggles. I saw the muck fly, but when the smoke settled the transport was still there. An Aldis sight wasn’t so hot as a bomb aimer even in clear weather.
    I circled over the battlefield again, hiding my head behind the low windshield to escape the impact of the rain.
    Among the things the brass hat had lectured us on back in the mess was the activities of the R.A.F. during the coming drive. We were to take notes on them when the different outfits were to take off—bombers, fighters, ground strafers, photography jobs and the balloon burners.
    I made notes and took the paper back to the hut in an effort to memorize them. Some of the fellows got theirs down pat and burned the paper according to instructions. But I was slow and by bedtime I still wasn’t sure of them, so I put the paper in my pocket, meaning to review it before breakfast, just before shoving off. I hadn’t had a chance, however, and the piece of paper was still in my pocket.
    I thought of it now as I flew along in the storm, fighting the stick every minute of the time to keep my little Camel right side up. I tried to find a target for my machine guns on the ground, but I couldn’t tell a Belgian from a German. Everything was covered with mud. The men I saw traveling northeast might be Huns retreating, and then again they might be Belgians advancing.

THEN suddenly the storm slackened. The driving rain changed to a drifting mist and the ceiling dropped another hundred feet or so.
    Diving lower, I found myself welcomed by a crew of Hun machine-gunners. They poured it into me plenty, so back into the soup I ducked.
vHow long that ducking business kept up I don’t know. But I soon discovered that I was well lost, muddled, befuddled and all the rest of it. My compass was spinning like a top and everything on the ground looked alike. And every time I went down below the ceiling to take a look around, the Germans on the ground made it hot for me. At least I knew I was still over enemy-held territory.
    I tried my best to get straightened out, but it was no go. I might as well have been flying in China for all I could recognize on the plastered terrain below.
    Presently I swept low, and much to my relief not a shot was fired at me. Not a single tracer steamed through the swirling mist. Right then my old heart settled back to normal revs. That would mean that I was back within my own lines.
    But where? I didn’t hanker to get caught in another grey wall of mist and then find myself out over the North Sea. So I decided to set down in one of the fields below and ask where I was, locate some landmark and dig for home.
    I picked out a field, slid in for a landing and glanced around as I unfastened my belt. Somebody shouted. I looked over my shoulder to see three grey-clad figures break out of the bushes alongside the road bordering the field.

THEY were Huns!
    I slammed the throttle up against the post. The Clerget picked up the beat and dragged the Camel over the far hedge.
    Wham! Something hit the ship with a crash. The Clerget coughed, and I had a hunch I knew what had happened. Soon my nose told me I was right. A lucky shot from one of those Hun rifles had smacked my fuel tank.
    In a flash I reached for the valve of my reserve tank. Wonder of miraculous wonders, it began to feed right away. I heard another volley as the Camel dug for the low-hanging mists, while I wiped the sweat off my forehead with my sleeve. What a story I’d have to tell!
    Then it dawned on me that I still had to find my way back to the squadron before I could tell anybody anything.
    I tried blind flying, but it was no go—not with just a compass, an airspeed indicator and a tachometer to help me. Well, to save time—I mean in telling what happened—I ran out of gas. My reserve tank, holding a half hour’s supply, went dry and I had to land.
    Snapping off the switch, I headed for a beet field, set my trucks down in the mud. I was about to congratulate myself on making a good landing when the wheels dropped into a ditch and the Camel stood up on its nose. I jumped to the ground—and turned to face three civilians.

THEY all started to talk at once in a language that didn’t mean a thing to me. I soon decided that they were Belgians talking Flemish. But it might as well have been Arabic for all it meant to me.
    So I went into a pantomime act, trying my best to inform them that I wanted to reach a telephone. At last one of them nodded that he understood and pointed across the field to a road.
    I grinned and sighed with relief. Evidently, I thought, I had landed on my own side of the lines.
    Just as we reached the road we met a girl and two youngsters who were evidently hurrying to see the plane which had landed on its nose.
    The girl, a kid of about seventeen, stopped and spoke to me. I recognized a German word or two, but couldn’t quite get what she said. Then she tried French. I shrugged my shoulders, and muttered something in English. She laughed and replied in well-accented English.
    “You are an English aviator?” she asked, apparently surprised. “What are you doing here on the road?”
    “Going to telephone my squadron an’ tell them to send a tender for me,” I replied. “But I’m American, not English.”
    “Do you not know that this is Boche territory?” she said.
    “Boche!” I yelped. “You—you mean that I’m down on the wrong side of the lines?”
    She nodded and the rest of them shook their heads in agreement, and began to point in all directions.
    I was finally convinced and started back to perform the rite of burning my ship before it fell into the hands of the enemy. To do this, I had to lug some sheaves of wheat from a bordering field. I refused to allow the willing Belgians to help me for fear of getting them into a jam.
    Now a bus will catch fire quite easily when you don’t want it to burn. But try to get one perking on purpose. That’s a different story. I had to break open my oil tank with my Very light pistol, finally pounding for dear life with the heavy barrel, and then smear oil over the fuselage, before I finally managed to get the fabric to curling merrily.
    Then we hustled away from there, with the girl in the lead.

THE Belgians and the kids disappeared after we left the field, but the girl stayed, and motioned me toward a house just at the edge of the village which was now in sight.
    We entered the house and I took off my fur-lined flying suit which I had put on in place of the one that had gotten wet earlier in the day. Just as I handed it to the young chap who seemed to be the man of the house, a steady rattle of shots reached our ears.
    The boy and girl turned pale and glanced at each other fearfully. For a moment I could picture the house being raided by half the German army. Then I realized what had happened. In my hurry to burn the Camel and get away I had forgotten all about the ammunition left in my Vickers belts. Now they were popping way in the fire just a few fields away. Those Belgians were plenty scared and they had a right to be. Helping Allied soldiers to escape was a serious offense. The noise of those shots would surely attract attention. I cursed myself bitterly for my forgetfulness.
    Through the window of the steamy little kitchen we saw a group of Germans hustle by in a few minutes.
    “I’ve got to get away from here before they begin to search,” I said to the girl. “How far is it to Holland?”
    “About ten kilometers,” she said, pointing toward the north. The man interrupted. She spoke to him a moment and then continued. “He says you must be careful of the electric wire if you plan to make an attempt to get into Holland.”
    I’d heard plenty about that hellish wire, but I was determined to try.
    The old lady of the house fixed me up a cup of strong black stuff that passed for coffee and gave me a couple of slices of black bread smeared with lard.
    “I’ll save that for later,” I said, pocketing the bread. “I’m going to try and make the Border tonight, and slip through the wire at dawn. I’ll be hungry by then.”
    The young fellow went upstairs and came back down with a coat and a pair of trousers in his hand. The clothes weren’t new but fitted fairly well.
    As I slipped the coat on the girl handed me a half dozen lumps of sugar. “Smuggled from Holland,” she smiled.
    I thanked her and slipped the sugar into the pocket of my Bedford Cords, little realizing the part that sugar would play before the day was over. Then I put on the trousers, wrapped my scarf around my neck and put on an old cap the young fellow had taken from a nail. I transferred the two slices of bread to my coat pocket, and turned to the girl.
    “If you can,” I said, “notify my folks that I’m all right.” I gave her the address, which she wrote down.
    “The Burgomaster will see that your people get word,” she said as she folded the paper and slipped it into her dress.
    I thanked the people in whose house I had rested, through the girl, and then started out, hoping to get to the Dutch Border by dark.
    The boy had informed me that a brook about a kilometer west of the village ran due north to the Border and that if I followed that I would have little trouble keeping my direction. I found the brook and turned my face toward Holland and freedom.

I DON’T think I had traveled three miles before I was startled out of my wits by a man stepping out from a clump of bushes. He didn’t say a word as he handed me three raw eggs. I was a little suspicious as I took the eggs, but when I saw the light in the old man’s eyes I knew that he was trying to do his bit toward helping the cause. He had recognized me as a stranger and evidently guessed the rest.
    Putting the eggs in my coat pocket I hustled on, keeping to the brook and crossing under roads by walking in the water under the low bridges.
    Presently I came to a bridge with a wire across it which forced me to cross the road. I crawled up the bank, and just as I started across I saw an old woman come out from behind the walls of a barnyard. Now I hate to think that that old Belgian woman had anything to do with what occurred a couple of minutes later. But this is what happened: She looked me over from the other side of the bridge. Her eyes took in the thick flying boots I had partly covered with my tattered trousers. Then she turned around and went back into the barnyard.
    By the time I was across the road I heard a shout. I looked back to see two Germans wearing brass breast plates dangling by a chain on their chests. These plates, I found out later, denoted that the men were military police.
    One of them fired a shot as I jumped into the brook and started to splash through the water. Another shot and they were in the brook too. I jumped up on the bank and then back into the brook as I ran trying to duck the slugs cutting through the bushes. As I went I ripped the two slices of bread from my pocket and threw them into the bushes, hoping to shield the Belgians if I were caught.
    I came to a wall. I thought of jumping over, running along the wall on the other side, then popping back again. I’d seen that done once in the movies. But, as usual, things didn’t happen the way they happen in the movies. For as I jumped over I dropped right into the arms of a German who was walking along the path inside the wall.
    He said something which I did not understand, but I did understand the language of the gun he held against my belly. I reached for the clouds, which were beginning to lift, by the way, but a couple of hours too late.
    The only funny feature of my capture was the eggs. One of the other Huns began to frisk me the minute he came over the wall. When his hands touched the eggs he jumped, and began to point with lots of excited words at my pocket. I was sure he was saying something about grenades, so I reached in and took out the eggs. He looked so sheepish I had to laugh.
    After a little discussion they took me to a village, got a two wheeled cart and loaded me on. There I sat, a guard on either side with ready rifles and two following along on bicycles. I was feeling low and pretty desperate by now.
    It was almost dark when we reached the next village. I wouldn’t have known where I was if it hadn’t been for the girl. I saw her standing beside the road as we passed. As she saw me her face paled and she turned hurriedly away.
    “You know this town?” asked one of my guards in broken English.
    I shook my head.
    He asked me that same question in a dozen different ways while the cart stood in the village square, and each time I insisted that it might be any one of the hundreds of villages in Belgium as far as I was concerned.
    At last an automobile appeared on the scene and in a few minutes I was being whisked away to headquarters in Eecloo. It was here that the fireworks really started.

AFTER a few preliminary questions by a major, the coat and trousers which I had put on over my flying togs were taken away from me, together with the cap. Then I was led in to a high ceilinged office, to face a square-faced old colonel “Sit down,” he growled. For a few moments he looked me over. “So,” he finally went on, “we catch a British flyer behind our lines wearing civilian clothes over his uniform.”
    Right then the dumb trick I had pulled hit me right between the eyes, and he knew what I was thinking. He took off his glasses and sat playing with them as he looked at me. I felt like a cornered rat looking at a cat.
    “You have had help on this side,” he finally snapped.
    I shook my head.
    “Then where did you get these?”
    He motioned toward the coat and trousers.
    I had my story ready. I’d been thinking about those clothes on the way. So I looked him straight in the eye and went to it.
    “Why,” I said, “I went into an old barn this morning to get out of the rain. They were hanging on a peg so I stole them. Thought they would make it easier for me to get into Holland.”
    The old fellow glared. “And the eggs?” he barked.
    “Got them in the same place,” I bluffed. “Just as I was leaving I saw a hen on a nest and kicked her off and there were those eggs. If I’d waited a couple of minutes I might have had four.”
    The colonel’s eyes glowered at me across the desk. “That’s a lie,” he thundered. “These Belgians must be taught a lesson and I mean to find out who aided you.”
    I shrugged my shoulders. “Who would help a flyer to escape, especially give him clothes?” I argued.
    The colonel leaned back in his chair. I can see him yet in that dimly lighted room, his stubby fingers touching together under his chin. I can see the sly smile steal across his face as he leaned forward suddenly.
    “How can you prove that you are an aviator who was trying to escape?” He pointed toward the coat and trousers. “Remember, you were caught wearing these.”
    “But you found my plane, didn’t you?” I asked.
    “My dear fellow,” he grinned. “A dozen or more of your planes came down in our territory today. Have you any particular plane in mind?”
    I sighed in relief at this bit of news. I said:
    “I burned the ship I came down in; that’s orders, you know. It was a Camel.”
    He picked up a slip of paper, glanced over it for a moment, then turned to me. “We have three burned Sopwith Camels on our list. Could you by any chance name a town near which you came down? Surely you know the country well.” I shook my head and settled lower in my chair. His questions were getting awkward.
    “You realize that if you cannot prove that you are a pilot there is a severe penalty for being found behind our lines in civilian clothes?” he said steadily.
    I couldn’t think of an answer to that one. I was pretty worried by now.

HE BEGAN to write on a paper he had before him. For a while there wasn’t a sound except the scratching of the pen. He seemed to have either forgotten me or was giving the words he had just spoken a chance to sink in. And believe me they were sinking. So was my heart.
    I slumped lower in the chair, and stretched my tired legs and put my hands in my pockets. My fingers touched the sugar, then something else that made my heart flop over. It was paper! I knew in a flash that it was the notes I had taken down as the brass hat outlined the air activities for the first two days of the push. One day had passed, but there was another to come. And the information on that slip of paper would be very clear to this German officer.
    The information would not have much bearing on the outcome of the war. But it did mean that with that information in their possession the German airmen might be at the right place at the right time, and some Allied pilot might go west because of my negligence.
    Now I was glad that they had been so busy asking me questions which they hoped would allow them to vent their spleen on some unfortunate Belgian or two, that they had overlooked searching me.
    I had to get rid of that paper before somebody thought of going through my uniform!
    Then I got an idea. Taking a piece of sugar from my pocket I sat toying with it, tossing it into the air and catching it.
    “What is that?” snapped the colonel looking up,
    I tried to be casual as I held it out to him, and more casual as I said, “Just a lump of sugar. Always carry it with me. Fond of sweets.”
    He took it, examined it and then handed it back with a growl, I slipped it into my mouth and began to chew, making as much noise as possible.
    While I ate the first lump I squirmed around in my chair restlessly. While I wriggled I tore off a fair sized piece of the paper and wrapped it around a lump of sugar.
    I slipped it quickly into my mouth and went on with my crunching, and at the same time wrapped up another lump in the precious notes. Once or twice the colonel looked up in annoyance as I ground the sugar between my teeth. But I remained impervious to his glances and continued to munch my sugar.
    It took four lumps and a lot of swallowing, but I did away with the notes and believe me, wet paper sure can stick in a person’s throat.
    After a while he turned his attention to me again and began to ask questions about what was going on over on the other side. When I told him that he more than likely knew more about what was going on than I did, he got peeved. I tried to explain that we got our war information from the papers and that they were usually three or four days old. When I offered to bet him a pound that he had already seen that day’s London papers, he got mad. He finally ordered them to take me to another room and search me.
    They did. that. But all they found after stripping me to the hide, was two lumps of sugar, a package of cigarettes and fifteen francs. They were half an hour late.
    Then they gave me something to eat and left me to myself. I had nothing to do but think and do a lot of wishing. I did plenty of both.
    About ten o’clock I was called into the colonel’s office. He seemed quite friendly. Offered me a cigarette and I countered by offering him one of mine. He put his away and took mine. Then the questions started again. He wanted information about who had helped me. When he drew a blank there he went after war information and again discovered that when it came to knowledge about the activities of the Allies I was a numskull of the first water.
    Then things took an ugly turn. He began to talk about trading. It was my life for information against my Belgian friends or information about the Allied activities.

I TRIED to convince him that I didn’t know a thing about the Allied maneuvers and that no one had helped me. He persisted that I had at least heard rumors, and that he didn’t believe I had stolen the clothes.
    “We can shoot you as a spy for masquerading behind enemy lines/’ he threatened.
    I had a hunch he was bluffing. I realized that I had done wrong in putting on those clothes. Perhaps they did have a right to put me up in front of a firing squad. But I didn’t think they’d dare. The Belgians had seen me come down. I had been paraded through two villages whose inhabitants would no doubt tell the British that I had been seen alive in the hands of the Germans.
    My line of reasoning might have been all wrong. I’m not sure yet that it wasn’t. And what happened a morning or so later had me convinced at the time that it was.
    Day and night were the same. Questions at ungodly hours, until I began to ponder over the feasibility of giving the old boy some false information.
    On the morning of the third day a young officer came into the room and told me to dress. Wondering what was up now, I followed him downstairs. But instead of going to the colonel’s office, we went outside.
    There, lined up on the garden path was a squad of soldiers, six of them. I had lots of time to count them before I was through. The men fell in at my side and led by the officer we walked down the garden path.
    I thought of a million things as the officer told me to step from the path and stand by the wall.
    There was the way. There was the officer. There was the firing squad. And there was I, scared to death.
    The officer offered me a cigarette, but I shook my head.
    I’ve often seen pictures and movies of men facing a firing squad and they always refused a bandage for their eyes. They were supposed to be brave men, not afraid to look down the long barreled rifles from whose blazing muzzles slugs would fly and tear their manly chests to shreds.
    Perhaps that’s the way a brave man should act, but I didn’t feel that way about it. If there had been a potato sack handy I would gladly have crawled in and then asked somebody to tie me up.

    I glanced up at the back window of headquarters. There stood the old colonel, grinning as he looked down where I stood with my back against a garden wall quaking in my rubber-soled flying boots. The boots were lined with sheep’s wool, but my feet were cold.
    I heard a motor stop outside, and wondered if there were going to be witnesses. My heart looped and then went into a side-slip as the officer shouted a command.
    The rifles rattled, but instead of pointing at me they dropped to the men’s shoulders. Bewildered, I turned to the officer. He smiled and pointed to the gate, where the soldiers waited. My knees were like fresh putty as I walked through that gate.
    “Get in.” The officer pointed toward the car. I crawled in, and in a few minutes we were standing on the platform of a railroad station.
    “You were frightened back there in the garden, yes?” grinned the officer.
    “Frightened!” I almost yelled. “What do you think? Say, what was the big idea?”

THE officer laughed. “It was just the colonel’s little joke.
    “Yes, you see he had been threatening to have you shot as a spy when you would give him no information. Last night he thought of this as a farewell as you leave for the prison camp at Rasstatt. It was not funny to you, was it? I could not help, could not tell you, for he stood in the window.”
    For a moment I was speechless. “Listen,” I said, tapping the young officer on the chest. “If he likes jokes, tell him this one and see if he thinks it’s funny. Maybe he’ll decide the joke’s on him.”
    Then I told the young German about what I had done with the notes and how I had used the sugar to accomplish my purpose. His eyes opened a bit wider as I spread it on, stretching the importance of the paper a point or two.
    “Be sure an’ tell him everything,” I snapped.
    “I shall tell him,” the officer smiled.
    “But I do not think he will consider it funny.” He paused and glanced at the guards. “But I do,” he whispered.
    The train came in. I left for Rasstatt in company with an armed guard sitting on either side.
    I’m certain that the officer must have given the colonel my message, for no word about me reached either the States or England until after I had been released and sent into Switzerland a couple of months later. Evidently the colonel was having a last crack at getting even.
    At home I was given up for dead. Letters of condolence came to my people as word of my supposed demise spread. I’ve read those letters. They were nice, but they raised the devil with my ego.

Sky Fighters art department knocked up this facsimile of an official
communication regarding the Rechnitzer’s fate.

And quite a while later, news of Rechnitzer’s safe release is reported in The Courier-News!

The Courier-News, Bridgewater, NJ, Friday, 10 December 1918, page 6.

Ralph Oppenheim—Boy Biographer

Link - Posted by David on March 23, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

I’VE been researching Ralph Oppenheim, creator and author of The Three Mosquitoes, for six years or so now and I’m always thrilled when a new lead shows up. Recently I did my usual Oppenheim search on newspapers.com to see if anything would show up in any new papers they had added since the last time I had searched. Lo and behold, there were a number of new search results with the top ones being from newspapers dating from 1926 and showing “Ralph Oppenheim—Boy Biog” in the preview window!

These new entries were all from the Haldeman-Julius Weekly. I clicked the link. The Haldeman-Julius Weekly was a 4 page weekly newspaper that was, in fact, an ad for Haldeman-Julius’ library of Little Blue Books with articles and ads for current and upcoming publications. Foremost among the upcoming publications was their new literary quarterly journal (they were also starting up a monthly to help cover all their bases). It was in the ad for the new Haldeman-Julius Quarterly that they referenced Ralph Oppenheim as a “Boy Biographer.”

The premiere issue of the Quarterly (October 1926) featured many articles from current and upcoming publications, including Ralph’s “The Love-Life of George Sand.” In some of the early press for the article, they refer to Ralph as being sixteen years old—and, although he could have written it when he was sixteen—he most likely wrote it when he was eighteen, since the hype for it started before he turned nineteen. Ralph’s “The Love-Life of George Sand” article is actually just a reprinting of the 64 page little blue book of the same name. Both the Little Blue Book and the Quarterly were published in 1926.

From the March 20th, 1926 issue of Haldeman-Julius Weekly

One big difference between the Quarterly and Little Blue Book versions is in the illustrations. The Little Blue Book is not illustrated, while the Quarterly version is profusely illustrated. Foremost among them is A full page portrait of George Sand drawn by Gertrude Oppenheim, Ralph’s Step-Mother. Fred C. Rodewald provided the spot illustrations that pepper the remaining pages of the article.

George Sand by Gertrude Oppenheim in a more straightforward style then her portrait of her husband, Ralph’s father, James Oppenheim from the frontispiece of The Sea (1924).

But, better yet, from the research angle, the article starts with a full page introduction for it’s author—complete with a photo of the nineteen year old Ralph Oppenheim! So let’s meet Ralph Oppenheim, boy biographer. . . .

Ralph Oppenheim

THE author of “The Love-Life of George Sand” is nineteen years old. Here is one of America’s future authors already at work, beginning to express himself with freshness and vigor, with finish and style; an artist to the tips of his fingers. It is one of the purposes of the Quarterly to bring out the best work of young America, and in accepting Ralph Oppenheim’s study we believe we are giving space to material of first-rate significance. This essay compares favorably with the best work we have ever accepted from mature, experienced writers. We did not take Ralph Oppenheim’s manuscript because he happens to be only a boy in years; rather were we influenced by the sureness of his touch. His age came up for comment only after we were satisfied that his work was well done. . . The Quarterly boasts that all in America is not jazz, noise and fury; a minority speaks vigorously and clearly, with intelligence, understanding, humor and craftsmanship. Ralph’s essay helps prove this assertion. Read young Oppenheim’s study and you will realize how important it is for the United States to have a magazine the purpose of which will be to go out and seek for the best from the talented and intelligent minority, bringing out new gifts, fresh viewpoints and sound work. First credit must, of necessity, go to Ralph himself; second credit must go to his artist-mother, Gertrude Oppenheim, and his poet father, James Oppenheim; third credit, in all fairness, must go to the Quarterly for opening its columns to a new voice. America will hear much from Ralph Oppenheim. He has something to say; he knows how to say it; he is a civilized human being, a complete answer to the charge that all of America has been reduced to stifling mediocrity, to unimaginative standardization. There is enough to complain about, in all truth, without crying that all is lost. Let us protest against the viciousness and stupidity of the superstitious majority, the hypocrisy and cowardice of its leaders, the mawkishness of our bunk-ridden millions—yes, let us aim our spitballs at our shams and fakirs, but let us, by all means, recognize worthy talent when we see it and lend an ear to the emerging youngsters who are breaking away from the herd and learning to stand as free individuals. Turn now to Ralph’s essay. At first you will marvel that it was written by a boy, but after a few paragraphs you will forget its author and fly along with his tonic and captivating work. . . . The portrait of George Sand was drawn especially for the Quarterly by Mrs. James Oppenheim, Ralph’s mother.

According to the ads in the Weekly for the the Quarterly, Oppenheim’s George Sand article proved very popular with the readers and was highly promoted each week in ads for the first issue of the Quarterly. This popularity led to another of Oppenheim’s books being included as an article in the second issue.

The second issue of the Haldeman-Julius Quarterly (January 1927) featured Oppenheim’s “The Romance That Balzac Lived: How The Great Interpreter of the Human Comedy Lived and Loved” (a reprinting of The Romance That Balzac Lived: Honore de Balzac and the Women He Loved (lbb-1213, 1927)). The article was nicely illustrated with a daguerreotype of Balzac and spot illustrations by Fred C. Rodewald, but no introductory page about Oppenheim.

Oppenheim seemed to be a role with the Haldeman-Julius Quarterly readers (or at least their editors), for the third issue (April 1927) once again featured an article by Oppenheim. This time it was his treatise on his generation: “The Younger Generation Speaks: An American Youth Tells About Its Attitude Toward Life” (a reprinting of The Younger Generation and Its Attitude Toward Life (lbb-834, 1927)). In addition to numerous spot illustrations and photos, the article also featured an introduction to the author, once again using the same photo of Oppenheim as before.

The Spokesman of Youth

RALPH OPPENHEIM, the young writer who lives in New York—in storied Washington Square, with his father, James Oppenheim—is, in this issue of the Quarterly, a spokesman for American youth. Ralph Oppenheim is someone to be reckoned with, for he is a part of the younger generation in America and one of its thinkers who is now standing up to speak for it with a voice that surely must be heard. Ralph does not idealize and he is not enough of a cynic to color his assertions too much on the bitter side. He looks at youth and their present attitude toward modern life with clear eyes, and makes a fair estimate of what youth is doing and what may be expected from the young people who will soon be leaders among us. Some of the things that this young man has to say about himself and his fellows are harsh, and some of them are quite complimentary, but through all of his work you can depend upon it that Ralph Oppenheim is deeply sincere. Although not yet twenty, Ralph’s viewpoint has the compelling tone of maturity: he is not to be idly brushed aside as of no consequence. You will find that what he has to say is well worth reading, and considering; you will find yourself agreeing and disagreeing with him, and giving a great deal of thought to the ideas and facts which he offers you—and the degree of attention which you will give his work will after all be the best test of Ralph Oppenheim’s success as a spokesman for his generation.

By the time this third issue hit the stands, Oppenheim had already published five titles in Haldeman-Julius’ line of Little Blue Books and had switched gears—writing tales of daring pilots in the hell-skies of The Great War from his attic room in the House of Genius!

His first published story was a taunt tale of aviation and death he titled “Doom’s Pilot” in the pages of the February 1927 Action Stories! His second printed story—”A Parachutin’ Fool”—was another aviation tale, printed in the April 1927 issue of War Stories! He followed this up with—”Aces Down!”—in the July 1927 issue of War Stories—this was the story that introduced the world to that inseparable trio—The Three Mosquitoes!

The rest—as they say—is history.


Here is a facsimile copy of Ralph Oppenheim’s article on “The Love-Life of George Sand” from the premier issue of the Haldeman-Julius Quarterly:

Painton’s Letters Home from WWI | 24 January 1919

Link - Posted by David on December 30, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS month we’re featuring Frederick C. Painton’s letters he wrote home while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. Portions of these letters were published in his hometown paper, The Elmira Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York. Before the war young Fred Painton had been doing various jobs at the Elmira Advertiser as well as being a part-time chauffeur. He was eager to get into the scrap, but was continually turned down because of a slight heart affliction and was not accepted in the draft without an argument. He was so eager to go that he prevailed upon the draft board to permit him to report ahead of his time. Painton left Elmira in December 1917 with the third contingent of the county draft for Camp Dix but was again rejected. He was eventually transferred to the aviation camp at Kelly Field as a chauffeur, and in a few weeks’ time was on his way to England in the transport service with an aviation section, where he landed at the end of January 1918 as part of the 229th Aero Supply Squadron. He was transferred to the 655 Aero Squadron in France shortly thereafter and then to the 496th and eventually attached to the staff of The Stars and Stripes just before the end of the war and stayed on with the occupying forces.

A PANARAMA. Old Glory flies over Ehrenbreitstein fortress looking down on Coblentz, lying peacefully on the juncture of the Rhine and Moselle. Germany 1919.


Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York • 24 January 1919

Elmiran Sends Interesting Description of Chief City in American Sector and Portrays Feeling of the Doughboys When They Show That Kaiser Had the Wrong “Dope.”

Sergeant Frederick C. Painton, former Elmira newspaperman, writes an interesting account of the American army’s crossing of the River Rhine and the occupation of Coblentz. the chief city in the American sector of occupation. Sergeant Painton is now attached to “The Stars and Stripes,” the official paper of the American soldiers in France and is afforded an excellent opportunity to see the things which he describes.

He writes:

“Coblentz, Germany,
“Dec. 13, 1918.

“Today, in a very quiet undramatic marched into Coblentz, the chief and by far largest city included in the territory of occupation. Facing me not fifty yards away is the historic and much sung Rhine, not the German Rhine in our sector, but the American Rhine for the time being. By nightfall the streets swarmed with doughboys. To them came no emotion, this was an everyday job: the Argonne. Chateau Thierry, it was all the same. To the list of tiny unknown French villages, whose names later on were blazed across the papers through the deeds of the A.E.F. is now added that of Coblentz. To those who have never toured Europe. Coblentz is as much of a secret as is La Ferte.

“As Coblentz has been made the headquarters of the 3rd Army and everything of importance centers here, it would not go amiss to give a brief description. Coblentz, with Treves or Trier as the Germans call it, rate as two of the oldest cities in Germany, dating back to the time of Caesar. Although situated at the junction of the Rhine and Moselle, it has never grown much in population. In the Thirty Years War Coblentz was, in turn, besieged and garrisoned by the Swedes, French and Prussians.

“Slipping quickly to the era of Napoleon we find it, after Valmy, made the capital of the new French province of Meurthe et Moselle. It is thus that we can account for the dual names that are horn by all the towns rivers and departments. They have, after Waterloo, been all Germanized. Now, for the first time in over a hundred years, a foreign flag Old Glory, now flies from the City Hall and also from the Ehrenbreitstein, the fortress guarding Coblentz. Does this not give one a feeling of passionate pride in our country?

“I can not resist the temptation to describe for you the Ebrenbreitstein as it looks at the moment perched high on the rugged cliffs on the opposite bank of the Rhine. As I look out the window, the sun, which shines today for the first time in weeks, sets off this monstrous fortress in all its grim and powerful lines. On its highest tower, gently waving in the springlike breeze is “Old Glory.” flaunting in the Kaiser’s face a refutation of his remark that “The Americans will take no important part in this war as they will arrive too late.” We were late, but American speed brought the train in on time.

“Ehrenbreitstein—the name is reminiscent of three balls—has been called and rightly “The Gibraltar of the Rhine.” It was commenced about the time that Napoleon made his exit from the European stage and has been strengthened and improved from year to year as new modes of killing came into vogue. In a way it resembles Verdun, in that it has been hollowed out of the rock. The huge underground chambers will easily billet one hundred men. Monstrous supply rooms occupy the base and by means of spiral stair cases one finally rises to the height of 385 feel and gazes from the cement battlements down on the fair city of Coblentz, lying peacefully on the juncture of the Rhine and Moselle. On clear days one can see Andernach lying further down the Rhine. Up to the time we took possession of the fortress, no foreign soldiers had ever made its will resound with the tread of their footsteps. Now the case is reversed: No German soldiers are allowed inside.

“The city proper lies on the peninsula formed by the juncture of the Rhine and the Moselle. We were much impressed with the civic upbuilding. Each building and private residence were beautiful examples of German architecture and everything was scrupulously neat and clean. The city is laid out very beautifully, with long gardens and promenades running along the banks of the Rhine. Being on that great inland waterway, there is considerable business done in cargo carrying.

“It is rather amusing to run into a newcomer and have him ask eagerly, “Is that there river the Rhine” Upon receiving an affirmative answer, he usually stares long and thoughtfully at it and then with a smile and shake of the shoulders, remark: “Well, that’s sompen to tell the folks at home, by Gosh. I saw their old German Rhine.”

“You can well imagine our thoughts when, as we stood on the now historic pontoon bridge, about ten o’clock at night, we heard the sweet strains of “Taps” wafted over the swift flowing waters beneath. That we would eventually stand here none of us had any doubts, but who would have thought a few short months ago that the curtain would have been rung down so quickly?

“Today is the 14th of December, a day that will go down in the annals of historv as the day on which our olive drab columns crossed the Rhine to finish occupying our area. We were all up before daybreak, eagerly awaiting the moment when the advance would be sounded. The streets were crowded with the boys of the gallant First. As the dim gray crept across the sky announcing the approach of another dismal, rainy day. the brief command. “Forward March” was given to the leading battalion and the great moment had arrived. Who can say what emotions pierced our breast as battalion after battalion swung into line and the boards began to rattle with the impress of hundreds of steel shod boots? Who can say that we had not received our reward for all the hardships endured as we watched the grim, gaily painted guns go thundering over the bridge quaking beneath their weight? What could we think when we remembered that the remnant of Germany’s fighting machine were slinking away a few short hours ahead of these boys, whose deeds at Monfaucon, Cantigny and Soisson will live forever in the memories of all Americans? All felt the same desire to yell with joy, toss their caps, anything to give vent to their superexuberant spirits brought on by witnessing such a show of a nation’s power as was this. Further up on another bridge of more substantial construction, the lads of the famous second were also taking their place in line. Hundreds of the civilian population left their beds to witness this great event. To those who took stock in Kaiser Wilhelm’s statement that aside from two or three regular divisions, there were no American troops in France, this sight must have been well nigh incredible. Can you wonder that, instead of being angry at having to remain a few months longer, we are intensely proud?”


A few weeks later, The Star-Gazette reported that Sergeant Painton was to be shipped home after suffering injuries from gas attack in the St. Mihiel Drive.



Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York • 18 February 1919

Elmira Soldier Collapses Several Months After Having Been Gassed in St. Mihiel Drive—Has Been Attached To Staff of the Stars and Stripes.

Sergeant Frederick C. Painton, son of Mr. and Mrs. George Painton, former Elmira newspaperman, whose interesting letters from France have been widely read, is enroute home, suffering from the effects of gas, which he received during the St. Mihiel drive by General Pershing’s troops. Painton has lately been attached to the staff of The Stars and Stripes and was having a most interesting experience as a reporter with the American Army of Occupation when he suddenly collapsed and was forced to give up his work.

He writes: “A year ago today I landed in Glasgow, England, and now, on the anniversary, I find myself scrapped, war’s cast-off and en-route home.” Painton was gassed several months ago. and at the time paid no attention to the matter. He says “now I am getting the real effects, my stomach is gone, my nerves are gone, and, as you know, I already had a bad heart, so here I am feeling as bad as the Kaiser. I expect to sail in about a week and should be in Elmira by the first of March.”

Painton was evacuated from Coblentz on the Rhine and was forced to leave all effects in his trunk at Paris. He says he fears he will have to spend his first month home in bed, but he hopes to soon be tearing off copy for local papers before very long.

Painton was thrown by the concussion of a shell while at Troyon, during the St. Mihiel drive, and believes that he suffered an injury to his side. Because of the condition of his nerves, he is unable to sleep at times without the aid of an opiate. The former reporter declares he dislikes very much to leave at this time, because he was having a wonderful experience with the American Army. However, he looks forward to the trip home as a tonic, although greatly disappointed because he must leave his trunk full of war souvenirs behind. He hopes to have a friend take care of it for him until he can have it sent home.

Painton was a reporter in Elmira at the time the United States entered the war. He was eager to get into the scrap, but was continually turned down because of a slight heart affliction. He was not accepted in the draft without an argument, and so eager was he to go that he prevailed upon the draft board to permit him to report ahead of his time. He was again rejected at Camp Dix, but finally was allowed to go to Kelly Field as a chauffeur, and in a few weeks’ time was on his way across in the transport service with an aviation section.

Finally an opportunity came to him, after the armistice was signed, to become attached to The Stars and Stripes, the official publication of the American soldiers, published in Paris. His articles, which have appeared in the local papers, have been widely read.

Painton’s Letters Home from WWI | 3 January 1919

Link - Posted by David on December 26, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS month we’re featuring Frederick C. Painton’s letters he wrote home while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. Portions of these letters were published in his hometown paper, The Elmira Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York. Before the war young Fred Painton had been doing various jobs at the Elmira Advertiser as well as being a part-time chauffeur. He was eager to get into the scrap, but was continually turned down because of a slight heart affliction and was not accepted in the draft without an argument. He was so eager to go that he prevailed upon the draft board to permit him to report ahead of his time. Painton left Elmira in December 1917 with the third contingent of the county draft for Camp Dix but was again rejected. He was eventually transferred to the aviation camp at Kelly Field as a chauffeur, and in a few weeks’ time was on his way to England in the transport service with an aviation section, where he landed at the end of January 1918 as part of the 229th Aero Supply Squadron. He was transferred to the 655 Aero Squadron in France shortly thereafter and then to the 496th and eventually attached to the staff of The Stars and Stripes just before the end of the war and stayed on with the occupying forces.

TREVES. Locals turn out to watch the allied occupying forces come through town.
1 December 1918


Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York • 3 January 1919

Boy Tries to Sell Helmet for Meat—Entire A.E.F. Envious of Those Who Make Up the American Army of Occupation—Does Not Expect to Be Home for Several Months.

“It is tiresome work, this making history for our kids to study.” is the apt way in which Sergeant Frederick Painton writes of his experiences, in one of the first letters received from Germany since the American Army of Occupation took up its march to the Rhine.

Sergeant Painton, who is now attached to the Staff of “The Stars and Stripes,” the official paper of the American Epeditionary Forces, writes from Treves, one of the tirst of the German cities occupied by the Americans, he writes that the German people appear glad to see the Americans and are quick to barter souvenirs for something to eat. Sergeant Painton writes:

“Treves, Germany,

“December 6, 1918.

“Dear Friend:

“When I walked out of the office a little over a year ago who could have said that a year later I would be in a German city, sleeping in a German Hotel, and not a prisoner? But such is the case, which proves that truth is stronger than fiction. At present I rest, covered from head to foot with the mud of two nations and the Duchy of Luxemburg. We drove all the way from Verdun, which we left early this morning.

You cannot imagine the mental sensation of being actually in Germany and seeing German soldiers walking down the street unguarded. And what irony of fate to order and eat a meal in a German hotel and pay for it with French money! In spite of all that has been written in the negative, there is not a doubt but what the lower classes are in a hard way for food, which I will prove by the following incident:

We entered Treves at S o’clock, French time, swearing like pirates. It was blacker than Hades, foggy, slippery, and to cap the climax we had two flat tires and an empty stomach. Wc stopped to try and find some place to cache the car for the night and while my companion was trying to find one a little German lad came up to me and offered to sell one of those Dutch picklehaubes, or spiked helmets, which the boys are so crazy to get as souvenirs. I asked him how much, and he said “Das Fleisch,” which means meat. He did not want money, as money will not buy meat in this country. In this hotel, however, we had plenty to eat for five marks and 30 pfennig.

German money is used entirely, which means learning a new money system and I am becoming a shark when it comes to rates of exchange. I talk in halting German, so halting, in fact, that it stands still most of the time. I have become so used to talking French that the little German I learned in school has completely left me. It is like a Ford, though, it may start again at any time.

I can’t say when I will be home. Being with the Army of Occupation means not within three or four months at any rate. I don’t mind though, this is a privilege and the whole A.E.F. is envious of us. As we came across the bridge over the Moselle, which is the frontier. I saw by the dim light a tall, grey-cloaked, spike-helmeted man walking down the road. As we came closer I also saw that he wore an up-turned mustache a la Kaiser. As the swirling fog eddied around him I was forcibly impressed with the likeness to the ex-Kaiser and also that we were victors. This was doubly brought home when he glanced over his shoulder and then slunk out of the road. Vanished hopes and bitter memories, indeed. Here was the incarnation of them.

In the city, however, the people are gay without being noisily so. Children laugh and imitate our salute as we walk down the street. The people are for the most part well dressed and have a relieved air about them.

I am enclosing a German identification tag which you may wish for a souvenir. In our Ford at present we have ten or twelve helmets, six guns, paper bandages, caps and the Lord only knows what else. But how to get it home, that’s the question.

German time is an hour later than French and it now registers 11 o’clock, so here is where I hit the hay. It is tiresome work this making history for our kids to study. I prefer to sleep just now.

Auf wiedersehn, as they say here!

Painton’s Letters Home from WWI | 24 December 1918

Link - Posted by David on December 24, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS month we’re featuring Frederick C. Painton’s letters he wrote home while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. Portions of these letters were published in his hometown paper, The Elmira Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York. Before the war young Fred Painton had been doing various jobs at the Elmira Advertiser as well as being a part-time chauffeur. He was eager to get into the scrap, but was continually turned down because of a slight heart affliction and was not accepted in the draft without an argument. He was so eager to go that he prevailed upon the draft board to permit him to report ahead of his time. Painton left Elmira in December 1917 with the third contingent of the county draft for Camp Dix but was again rejected. He was eventually transferred to the aviation camp at Kelly Field as a chauffeur, and in a few weeks’ time was on his way to England in the transport service with an aviation section, where he landed at the end of January 1918 as part of the 229th Aero Supply Squadron. He was transferred to the 655 Aero Squadron in France shortly thereafter and then to the 496th and eventually attached to the staff of The Stars and Stripes just before the end of the war and stayed on with the occupying forces.


Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York • 24 December 1918

Writes That One Day’s Meals Cost $12, but the People of the Duchy Appear to Eat Well Just the Same—Is Attached to Third Army.

Sergeant Frederick C. Painton, former Elmira newspaperman, now a member of the staff of The Stars and stripes, the official paper of the American Expeditionary Forces, was in Luxemburg November 26, the date of his last letter. According to the Elmira soldier, Luxemburg is no place to sojourn on a private soldier’s salary, unless the latter carries his own canteen along with him. One day’s meals cost about twelve dollars.

Sergeant Painton writes:
November 26, 1918.

“Dear Friend:

“I think that my presence in Luxemburg will take you by surprise, but, anyway, here I am enroute for Paris. This is sure some beautiful city, but talk about the high cost of living, this takes the brown derby. The Alaskan gold rush couldn’t even touch it. Here are some of the prices in American money that I had to pay today: Two dollars for breakfast, four-dollars for lunch, and five-fifty for dinner. Remember, this is for one only. There is a candy shop near here where a bar of chocolate of ordinary size costs $16 each. Beer is fifty cents a small glass, and four sticks of licorice costs two dollars. Ice cream is fifty cents a glass and ordinary wine like we buy in Paris for three franc a bottle costs twenty here. These were the prevailing prices before we came and in some cases they were even higher.

“All the citizens have a sleek, well-fed appearance, and, as I found no signs of paper clothes or wooden shoes here, I think I will have to go further into Germany to find them I shall go further as I shall be attached to the Third Army. There is a great deal to tell you, so I shall put most of !t off until I get back to Paris. That trip following the German retreat was the greatest thing in my young life.

“I saw Jack Wilkinson in Paris and have a date with him for Wednesday night if all goes well. If you would like a Boche helmet for a souvenir I can send you one. We came upon hundreds of boxes of new helmets that were ready to be Issued. We all had Mauser rifles for souvenirs and plenty of “ammo.” so shot holes through some of them for practice.

“Well, it is time to hit the hay, so will close. This is the first time I have slept in a bed in two weeks, so I will make it a good one. I was stationed in Verdun for three or four days and had to sleep in an old shack on the floor.

“Every sign in this town is painted in both French and German, although the latter language is in more use.”

Painton’s Letters Home from WWI | 30 November 1918

Link - Posted by David on December 18, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS month we’re featuring Frederick C. Painton’s letters he wrote home while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. Portions of these letters were published in his hometown paper, The Elmira Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York. Before the war young Fred Painton had been doing various jobs at the Elmira Advertiser as well as being a part-time chauffeur. He was eager to get into the scrap, but was continually turned down because of a slight heart affliction and was not accepted in the draft without an argument. He was so eager to go that he prevailed upon the draft board to permit him to report ahead of his time. Painton left Elmira in December 1917 with the third contingent of the county draft for Camp Dix but was again rejected. He was eventually transferred to the aviation camp at Kelly Field as a chauffeur, and in a few weeks’ time was on his way to England in the transport service with an aviation section, where he landed at the end of January 1918 as part of the 229th Aero Supply Squadron. He was transferred to the 655 Aero Squadron in France shortly thereafter and then to the 496th and eventually attached to the staff of The Stars and Stripes just before the end of the war.

ARMISTICE DAY Parisians flood the streets and party hard after hearing the war was over.
11 November 1918


Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York • 30 November 1918

Sergeant Frederick Painton Tells of Being in Paris, When Good News Is Received—City Declares Three Day Holiday and Wild Scenes Are Enacted.

Sergeant Frederick Painton, formerly of the 496th Aero Squadron and now attached to the staff of The Stars and Stripes had the enjoyable experience of being in Paris when the news came that the war was over. His description of the seen that followed in the French capital gives an indication of the great joy the end of the war brought to the Frenchmen, and not the least enjoyment for the American soldiers, who happened to be in Paris was the enthusiasm of the girls, or the “flappers,” as Sergeant Fred calls them. With their streets lined with war material captured from the Huns and the street lights operated again after four years of darkness, the Frenchmen gave themselves to celebration in utter abandon.

Fred Painton is a son of Mr. and Mrs. George Painton of this city, and a former Elmira newspaperman. He was among the first Elmirans to land in France, being attached to the aviation service as an automobile driver. As a result of his newspaper experience, young Painton has secured a place on the American soldiers’ official paper, The Stars and Stripes.

His description of the celebration in Paris, written the day after the armistice was signed, follows:

“I arrived in Paris Sunday night, so I was here yesterday when the announcement came that hostilities were over and that the armistice had been signed. From that moment yesterday morning, when the Parisians were informed that the war was over, they went mad, simply mad, with joy.

“Never before have I witnessed such a demonstration as took place, commencing yesterday afternoon, and still in progress. As I sit here typing, this letter to you, I can hear the yells and cheers of the people as they promenade ceaselessly back and forth on the Boulevard Des Italians. It has been said that the French government has declared a three days holiday, and I can well believe it, as I doubt much whether anyone would work at any price.


“The town, the people and the vehicles are bedecked with streamers, flags and ribbons of the colors of the various allied countries. Yesterday afternoon about 5 o’clock as I left the office, the boulevard was a seething mass of swaying, demonstrative humanity in the midst of which were several taxicabs and fiacres stalled and unable to move. Impromptu parades were formed and the howling mob chanted the national anthems of the Allied powers. To use a hackneyed phrase, the scene was beyond description. If you can picture Elmira on an election night and then magnify it a thousandfold, you may perhaps be able to visualize the sight I have witnessed for the past two days. Coincident with the announcement of cessation of warfare, the lights of Paris, which have, for the past four years been turned off or darkened, were turned on full blast and tonight, the boulevard almost puts in the shade our “Great White Way.”

“On both sides of the Champs Elysee, the place de la Concorde and the Fuileries Gardens have been placed captured artillery and airplanes. They range from a machine gun to a grim siege mortar and from a giant Gotha bombing plane to the tiny dragon fly of a Fokker. There are literally thousands of pieces and to one unaccustomed to seeing large displays, perfectly appalling.


“When it comes to “taking joy out of life”, a Frenchman takes the “brown derby”. After four years of repression, they have cut loose with an abandon which, if tried in the United States would land them all in jail. As I was walking down to the hotel in company with another chap, we were violently assaulted by vivacious French girls and strenuously kissed to the intense enjoyment of the bystanders and our distinct embarrassment(?) It’s said, and I can well believe it, that two hours after the glad news was unknown that one could not buy a flag or piece of bunting in Paris. It is very amusing to us, who take our enjoyments more or less quietly, to watch the violent and hysterical manifestations of joy of these volatile French. All places of business were closed except the cafes and restaurants which did a pre-war business.

“It has been one of the great moments of my life, and I would not have missed it for any amount of money and will always owe The Stars and Stripes a debt for being instrumental in getting me here in time.

“The intense enthusiasm seems to be catching, for Italian, American, British, Aussies, Canadians, Portuguese and other soldiers yell as loud as the French and festoon themselves just as fantastically. In a way it reminds one of the Mardi Gras of New Orleans, as there is no limits placed on anyone’s wildest eccentricities. The kissing of the very pretty French “flappers,” at any rate, is contagious to say the least.

“Of course, with my change in stasix for which I am in a way genuinely sorry, as the old girl and I covered 10,000 miles of French soil ranging from end to end, on good roads and bad. I can at least say when I come back I have taken a personally conducted tour of France which covered everything very thoroughly.

Painton’s Letters Home from WWI | 23 October 1918

Link - Posted by David on December 16, 2019 @ 11:00 am in

THIS month we’re featuring Frederick C. Painton’s letters he wrote home while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. Portions of these letters were published in his hometown paper, The Elmira Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York. Before the war young Fred Painton had been doing various jobs at the Elmira Advertiser as well as being a part-time chauffeur. He was eager to get into the scrap, but was continually turned down because of a slight heart affliction and was not accepted in the draft without an argument. He was so eager to go that he prevailed upon the draft board to permit him to report ahead of his time. Painton left Elmira in December 1917 with the third contingent of the county draft for Camp Dix but was again rejected. He was eventually transferred to the aviation camp at Kelly Field as a chauffeur, and in a few weeks’ time was on his way to England in the transport service with an aviation section, where he landed at the end of January 1918 as part of the 229th Aero Supply Squadron. He was transferred to the 655 Aero Squadron in France shortly thereafter.


Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York • 23 October 1918

Former Elmira Newspaper Man, Now Serving in France, Gives Detailed Descriptions of Sensations Experienced in First Air Voyage.

Sergeant Fred Painton, former Elmira newspaper man. now attached to the 496th Aero Squadron, with the American Expeditionary Forces in France, in his latest letter describes his “most wonderful experience,” a trip in an airplane. His account of the journey through the air makes the reading almost as thrilling as the ride itself.

Sergeant Painton recently enjoyed a furlough in Paris, an experience to which he had long looked forward to, and, next to Elmira, he declares it the most beautiful city in the world. It was shortly after his trip to Paris that he was given the opportunity to ride in an airplane.

His letter follows:

“496 Aero Squad. Amexforces. France.
“Oct. 1, 1918.

“Dear Friend:—

“Well I shall have to tell you the many experiences that have happened to me since I wrote from Paris.

“To begin with I have made my initial trip in an airplane and that to me is the most wonderful thing that could happen to anyone. The day after I wrote you from Paris, I took some high officials of the air service to a aviation camp. After the business, which called them there was transacted they decided to take a “joyhop.” Forthwith we proceeded to the flying field, where they made ready for the trip.

“I waited my chance and then when one of the aforementioned high officials came close to me, I heaved a deep sigh and remarked to the empty atmosphere that I would give my right arm, if only I could get a chance to take a trip in a “ship.” The said H.O. turned to me and asked if I had ever been up, and upon my answering ‘no’, he yelled to one of the pilots, and told him that it would be all right for him to take me up in the next two seater he flew. The ‘airgnat’ said that he was going to fly one of the two sealers right away and motioned for me to follow him. I did and you can believe that I was all afluter. To think that I was going up there, where all the rest of those white winged planes were lazily running in circles. It seemed almost to good to be true.

“As they had no helmets to spare, I simply took off my overseas cap and left on my goggles. The pilot told me that it would give me a good shampoo. They are glad to take anyone up at this field, when they have occasion to fly a two-seater, as it does away with the necessity of putting in a two hundred pound sack of sand. I very gingerly climbed into the rear cockpit and waited for them to crank the motor. This is done very carefully as the slightest mistake means the life of the mechanic, who is cranking. The pilot calls out “coupe.” The mechanic repeats it after him so that there can be no mistake. That means that the switch is off and then the propeller is turned over to draw a charge of gas into the cylinders. Then the mechanic yells “contact,” and again the pilot repeats after him. Then with one foot braced that he may jump away from the terrific suction caused by the churning of the propeller, the mechanic gives a quick twist and with a roar the powerful motor starts. The noise was deafening and the wind from the propellor seemed more than likely to tear the hair from my head. Eventually the pilot nodded his head and then by means of long ropes, the blocks were withdrawn from in front of the landing wheels and we “taxied” across the field for the start.

“I have no distinct remembrance of the exact moment, when we left the earth, but suddenly saw the tops of the hangars and the trees drop away beneath me. Then I knew that I was actually for the first time in my life off of terra firma, with nothing but a bit of canvas and wood between me and—what? There were no straps, as the observer usually stands up. All I had to rest on was a little folding seat on the side and a couple of grips. We were then about 600 feet up. and climbing all the time in wide spirals. The sensation is something that I shall always remember. The view itself was wonderful, of course, but it reminded me of the time when I first saw a moving picture taken from an airplane. But then came the realization that it was I, really I, in this machine, and that there was the earth below me, falling away gradually as we continued to climb. At 800 feet the buildings, trees and hills stood out somewhat, and made the scene unequalled for grandeur, but when the little dial on the dash registered 1,200 feet, things became flat, and the earth resembled a multi-colored checker board. The wind was terrific. I had to keep my neck and head craned forward to overcome the terrific pressure.

“The roar of the motor was deafening, but after a few moments I paid no attention to it; my mind being taken up with the different emotions that assailed me. I had no sense of fear, this machine being a large roomy craft, with a wireless key, clocks and other intricate machines for telling the aviator where he was and how high. No more did I have that qualmy feeling in the “basement” that so many fellows tell about, who have taken their first ride. This, however, may be explained by the fact that it was about five-thirty when we went up and at this time there are no “air pockets,” or diverging stratas of air that cause the ‘plane to sway. When we would bank around the ‘plane would roll gently like a ship in a heavy sea, although the former rolls more quickly. After twelve minutes had elapsed the roar of the motor ceased and we “peeked over” for the long volplane to the field. The wind whistling through the wire braces sounded like a thousand ghosts trying to shriek at once. The earth still resembled a flat, many colored checkerboard, but when we had dropped to about seven or eight hundred feet, the hangars, buildings and trees began to assume depth. This is a very strange phenomenon and is truly wonderful to watch. It seemed to me as we rapidly neared the earth that we would not clear the hangars, but suddenly they passed beneath me and the next thing I felt was a slight bump. We bounced into the air, but the pilot turned on the motor in order to keep her nose up and we came down again with another bump, this time to stay. I had been in the air just fourteen minutes, that is counting the time that we started “taxiing.” The experience is one that will ever be green in my memory and although it is just possible that I may get a chance to go up again, the sensations experienced will never be the same as they were on this, my initial trip.

“I was going to tell you about Paris, too, so will do my best. Aside from Eimira, N.Y., it is the most beautiful city in the world, at least I think so, and so do all the rest. The bridges across the Seine are beautiful examples of architectures and the goldened domed invalides when viewed from the Place de la Concorde, is magnificent beyond description. Unfortunately the Arch de Triumph has been divested of most of its wonderful sculptoring for fear of destruction in raids but even what is left is very wonderful.

“Paris in war time is the most cosmopolitan city that one could ever see. Uniforms of all nations are to be seen on its boulevards at all times. There are representatives of all the relief societies, that I ever heard of and some that I or anyone else never heard of. There are associations for the relief of all the ailments that mankind is heir too and a few that we are not. Bizarre and gaudy uniforms are worn by these people. I really believe that thev have got a “society for the rehabiliation of asphyxiated cooties” and an association for the education of shell shocked trench rats. No disease misses their eagle glance

“If the night life of Parts is called quiet
now, I certainly would have liked it here 
before the war. The life centers mostly
 around the “Folies Bergere” and the 
Casino des Paris. I really enjoyed myself
 six days there very much. As It Is time 
for “taps” I must close. Your friend.


Painton’s Letters Home from WWI | 13 May 1918

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THIS month we’re featuring Frederick C. Painton’s letters he wrote home while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. Portions of these letters were published in his hometown paper, The Elmira Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York. Before the war young Fred Painton had been doing various jobs at the Elmira Advertiser as well as being a part-time chauffeur. He was eager to get into the scrap, but was continually turned down because of a slight heart affliction and was not accepted in the draft without an argument. He was so eager to go that he prevailed upon the draft board to permit him to report ahead of his time. Painton left Elmira in December 1917 with the third contingent of the county draft for Camp Dix but was again rejected. He was eventually transferred to the aviation camp at Kelly Field as a chauffeur, and in a few weeks’ time was on his way to England in the transport service with an aviation section, where he landed at the end of January 1918 as part of the 229th Aero Supply Squadron. He was transferred to the 655 Aero Squadron in France shortly thereafter.


Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York • 13 May 1918

Sergeant Painton Learns Much Regarding Atrocities Accomplished as Result of German Invasion—German Posters Given Publicity.

Sergeant Frederick Painton, who was a member of one of the Chemung county draft contingents, and who is now in active service with the expeditionary forces in France, has written to friends in this city telling of the horrors inflicted upon the Belgians by the German hordes during the latter’s first rush toward Paris. He says:

“I suppose that you think that the letters are following themselves very fast, but honestly, there has been so much of interest that has happened that I must tell you about it. After my adventure with the Harley, I went to the Y.M.C.A. with the intention of seeing the movies. The show had started when I got there. The first reel was the world’s series photoed by the Universal. It was good. Then came the surprise. The Y. secretary introduced Countess De La Tours San Marie, who showed up the most wonderful collection of German posters that has ever been gathered together. A collection is being made for the British museum. Her’s is the only other one in existence, besides that one, and is to be presented to an American museum at the end of the war. These were posted in Belgium and invaded France at the beginning of the war. As she exhibited them to us she translated the meaning of each one and some of them were enough to make a man’s blood run cold, or hot.

“The first one was headed “Proclamation,” and signed by Von Der Golz, that inventor of exquisite torture. It was put out in the first advance of the Germans into Belgium at the time that the tiny but heroic Belgian army was contesting every foot of the ground given. The Belgians had been destroying railroad bridges, tearing up railroad tracks and barricading everything that would impede the advance of the Boche. That of course, was war, and countenanced by all articles of war. But it was not in the Huns code. Speed was necessary above all things so Von Der Golz, not being able to get at the plucky little Belgian army, tried different tactics. He immediately had printed thousands of posters stating that all villages within the immediate vicinity of railroads would be held to strict accountability for the preservation of the railroads and bridges. If the latter were, in any way damaged, all the inhabitants of the village would be shot. At the time such a proceeding was unheard of, so it was thought to be a scare, so the destruction still continued. Then without any pretext or excuse other than this infamous order, Belgian peasants were shot down in cold blood. Not hundreds, but thousands. There it was in black and white. No denial is possible.

“The next poster, when explained, proved to be the most senseless thing I that the Germans ever done. For some reason or other that was not mentioned, they suddenly became suspicions of French chickens. Not the chickens in the sense that we mean, but real hens with feathers. The proclamation said, in part, that ell the inhabitants within the jurisdiction of the German imperial government should immediately render to the local headquarters an accurate list of all chickens that they owned. This was to be kept up-to-date, and at any time one died, the remains should be brought in to headquarters to find the cause of death. All eggs from the hens should be surrendered to the Germans and if, upon examination, any were found to have been needlessly cracked, the owner of the hen should be severely punished. If at any time the German officials in charge, thought that a hen was not laying enough eggs, the owner of the former should immediately put the fowl to death. Sounds crazy, don’t it? It is. However, if any one reading this piece should know of a way whereby a hen can be made to lay more eggs than she wants to, that person can save many Belgians severe punishment.

In all the principal villages of Belgium, the most prominent citizens were sent to Germany as hostages for the good behavior of the town. Most of these will never return. You can take it from me, this dame had my goat for fair by this time. This stuff seemed to get home.

For the first few months that the Germans occupied the invaded country, they were half way reasonable in their demands. All they required was six pounds of wool per person from every one. Recently they confiscated everything of any value whatever. The populace is destitute.

There were lots of other posters, including the one put out by the German government announcing the capture of Paris. There was another one announcing the fact that poor Germany had been picked on by the British pigs and it was the Imperial command of the German Emperor, that Germans fight to the last that they may strafe England. It also mentioned they had with them the help of God, who had especially appointed him (Kais Bill) to wipe the British off the map.

Well, I must close. I gotta go to work.

      Your friend.

Painton’s Letters Home from WWI | 23 April 1918

Link - Posted by David on December 9, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS month we’re featuring Frederick C. Painton’s letters he wrote home while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. Portions of these letters were published in his hometown paper, The Elmira Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York. Before the war young Fred Painton had been doing various jobs at the Elmira Advertiser as well as being a part-time chauffeur. He was eager to get into the scrap, but was continually turned down because of a slight heart affliction and was not accepted in the draft without an argument. He was so eager to go that he prevailed upon the draft board to permit him to report ahead of his time. Painton left Elmira in December 1917 with the third contingent of the county draft for Camp Dix but was again rejected. He was eventually transferred to the aviation camp at Kelly Field as a chauffeur, and in a few weeks’ time was on his way to England in the transport service with an aviation section, where he landed at the end of January 1918 as part of the 229th Aero Supply Squadron. He was transferred to the 655 Aero Squadron in France shortly thereafter.


Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York • 23 April 1918

Sergeant Frederick C. Painton Near General Pershing in France When Picture Is Filmed—Says Pershing Is “Big” All Around.

Sergeant Frederick C. Painton of the 655th Aero Squadron in France, formerly engaged in Elmira newspaper work, has written to friends in this clty, telling of his experiences in France.

Sergeant Painton was recently close to General Pershing, when a motion picture camera man “shot” the latter as he was leaving a hotel. His letter follows:

Headquarters 655 Aero Squadron,
Amexforces, France,
March 15, 1918.

“Yesterday was a regular day around this man’s town. We all had the honor of seeing General Pershing and Secretary of War Baker. In fact, I stood so close to him that I could have reached my hand and touched him on the shoulder. I had been down to the station to see about something or other and got back to the Hotel—just after he had gone inside. So being right on the job I got right up on the door step and waited until the first full-fledged General since Grant should come out.

“While looking around I saw that there was a moving picture camera up in the window ready to start the minute that the General came out. I was right in the direct range and there is no doubt but what I registered joy on the celluloid. Then he came out.

“Black Jack Pershing” looked just like his pictures, Except that they never do him justice. He is a big man. Big in physique; big in mind; big in heart and is holding down a big job.

“We are organizing a baseball team in our squadron and in the near future intend to play the flying cadets. When we do I will have something interesting to write about as it promises to be some game. We have several near pro’s on our team and several of the cadets have been playing pro’ ball.

“I guess that that is all this time as I have got to get to work. I will have something more of interest to write when I get on my other Job that I told you about. For the present bunch that I say ‘comment allez vous mes amis,’ which same means ‘Har hunch, how’s tricks.’

“So Long.      

Painton’s Letters Home from WWI | 12 March 1918

Link - Posted by David on December 4, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS month we’re featuring Frederick C. Painton’s letters he wrote home while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. Portions of these letters were published in his hometown paper, The Elmira Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York. Before the war young Fred Painton had been doing various jobs at the Elmira Advertiser as well as being a part-time chauffeur. He was eager to get into the scrap, but was continually turned down because of a slight heart affliction and was not accepted in the draft without an argument. He was so eager to go that he prevailed upon the draft board to permit him to report ahead of his time. Painton left Elmira in December 1917 with the third contingent of the county draft for Camp Dix but was again rejected. He was eventually transferred to the aviation camp at Kelly Field as a chauffeur, and in a few weeks’ time was on his way to England in the transport service with an aviation section, where he landed at the end of January 1918. Fellow Elmiran “Jake” Golos, a well known newsboy, also arrived in France on January 31st.


Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York • 12 March 1918

Sergeant Painton Says the Trolleys “Over There” Remind Him of Elmira’s Work Cars—Meets Elmiran.

Sergeant Frederick Painton, Elmira boy, now attached to the 655th Aero Squadron in France, has written an interesting letter to friends in this city describing his experiences in France. Sergeant Painton left Elmira with the third contingent of the county draft for Camp Dix and was later transferred to the aviation camp at San Antonio, Tex. After a short period of training, he was ready for the trip across to England, where he landed a few weeks ago.

In one part of the letter he speaks of meeting Jacob Golos, an Elmira boy, who is “over there.” Sergeant Painton says In part:

“I think that since leaving the states I have traveled by every mode of conveyance except airplane and submarine. The most excruciating of those was a two-day trip in a French freight car with a flat wheel and me riding over the flat wheel. Though I was not seasick on the trip this certainly made me feel funny. I met Jake Golos a short time back, but was separated from him shortly after. Since then I have not seen a single Elmira fellow. We are at present quartered in a city of some size which has a history that would fill a book. One of the cathedrals was built in the 15th century and is a wonderful structure. There are many points of interest which, believe me. I am going to get to see before coming back to the old home town.

“Streets are not streets here such as we know. They are alleys. The road, especially the middle of the road, is the walk. It is a good thing, too, because as I was going back to the barracks the other night I walked along the sidewalk. By the time I got to the barracks I had a cheap skate on from trying to follow the crooks in said sidewalk.

“Oh, I almost forgot the trolley cars. Those razzle dazzle things of beauty which are identical with the E.W.L. & R.R. Co.’s sand car and made in the same year. They are called a tram car. Two or three times I have seen one going at full speed, which is about nine miles per hour. I don’t mind riding on them. however. Peachy-looking dames come to garner in the sheckles. Whenever we get on one we always remark that we don’t know where we’re going but we’re on our way.”

Painton’s Letters Home from WWI | 2 March 1918

Link - Posted by David on December 2, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS month we’re featuring Frederick C. Painton’s letters he wrote home while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. Portions of these letters were published in his hometown paper, The Elmira Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York. Before the war young Fred Painton had been doing various jobs at the Elmira Advertiser as well as being a part-time chauffeur. He was eager to get into the scrap, but was continually turned down because of a slight heart affliction and was not accepted in the draft without an argument. He was so eager to go that he prevailed upon the draft board to permit him to report ahead of his time. Painton left Elmira in December 1917 with the third contingent of the county draft for Camp Dix but was again rejected. He was eventually transferred to the aviation camp at Kelly Field as a chauffeur, and in a few weeks’ time was on his way to England in the transport service with an aviation section, where he landed at the end of January 1918.

FREDERICK C. PAINTON’S Armed Forces Registration Card. June 5th, 1917


Elmira Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York • 2 March 1918

Sergeant Frederick Painton Writes Parents From England That “Sub” Tries to Sink His Transport.

Mr. and Mrs. George Painton have received interesting letters from their son, Sergeant Frederick Painton, who recently arrived in England with a detachment of Expeditionary Forces from Camp Dix. Portions of his letters relating to details across and his experience follow:

“Somewhere in England. Jan. 31. 1918.

“Well, here I am in the land of grandfather’s birth, right side up with care, as usual. Many thrills I have experienced, but that of mounting guard on a liner, with giant waves running a 60-mile lee wind eclipses them all. A sub (tin fish) chased us and was chased off by our destroyers.

“The song, ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ is very apt and applies at all times to us. We know, less than outsiders. Oh, I feel so good to get off the old tub of a liner. I hope that you people did not worry over me. I knew 1 would land all right.

“February 2.

“I was so terribly busy yesterday I could not write, but will finish this today. We were paid off yesterday, the first since I entered Uncle Sam’s army. From now on I will draw about $40 a month.

“It rained all day today and I had to drill my platoon at that. Well, they would not stop a battle just for rain.

“All a soldier has to live for is what he gets to eat and believe me I am going to pamper my inner man. The stuff costs like the deuce. A six pence here, and eight pence there soon amounts to a pound. I have learned the money already. We sleep in planks over here—no cots. When we get to our destination, of course, we will, have our own cots, but that is not yet. I have been drilling my men in squads right and left and other drill pertaining to squad formation. This is the stuff I learned at Camp Dix. I am supposed to be a duty sergeant, but as they are shy on ‘non-coms’ I have been pressed into service, for I am supply sergeant.

“229th Aero Supply Squadron,
“via New York.”

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lt. Luigi Olivari

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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 Italian flying ace, Lt. Luigi Olivari’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Luigi Olivari was born in Milan and educated in Switzerland in a military school. Although but a boy in his minority when the war began, he left home and school immediately and enlisted in the ranks of the Italian Army. He rose swiftly in the ranks and was commissioned a Lieutenant in tho Alpine Corps, those rugged mountain troops that did so much to protect the fertile Italian plains from Austrian army raids. After brief service as an officer in that branch he was transferred to the flying corps. Sent to the front he was assigned to a squadron flying little Pomilio monoplanes with Fiat engines. These were the fastest but trickiest of front line lighting machines of their day. Luigi Olivari downed three Austrian planes in his first sky battle. When killed on October 15, 1917, he had run his score to 12 official and was the third ranking Italian ace. The account below is taken from an interview he gave to an American correspondent.



by Lieutenant Luigi Olivari • Sky Fighters, October 1936

FIGHTING by day and fighting by night are not at all similar. Of course, one uses his guns in the same manner in both cases; but tactics and strategy are entirely different. In day time one maneuvers to secure the advantage of the sun, so that he may come down in the path of the sun’s rays unseen by his antagonist. To try the same tactics at night, say to maneuver into the path of the moon’s rays, would be fatal. For instead of being hidden you would only succeed in revealing your presence to the enemy. Then another thing, in day fighting one usually tries to gain position behind and above the enemy. In night fighters against bombers such a position is fatal. The glare of your exhausts gives your presence away, and the night bombers are so arranged that many guns can be brought to bear on the rear, in front and to all sides. The only proper way to attack is from directly beneath.

One has to unlearn most of his day fighting tactics when he goes on night patrol. I had had good schooling before I ever went on night patrol. That accounts, I believe, for my success in my first night flight, when I succeeded in bringing down an Austrian Gotha that was attempting to bomb one of our ammunition factories,

A Moonlit Night

Front line patrols had reported that a formation of three Gothas had crossed our lines, proceeding in the general direction of T——. The night was one of bright moonlight, ideal for bombing. And I must also say helpful to us, the flyers of the night patrol, who were supposed to keep them from laying their eggs—and down them if possible.

With Captain M——, Lieutenants S—— and G——, and Sergeant T——, I took off from our airdrome and flew to intercept the night raiders. Even in moonlight one cannot see far at night, hence the Gothas passed us unseen. They came over at a much higher level than they had been reported. It is only when the anti-aircraft battery protecting the factory at T—— began to fire at them, that our formation located them.

We all dashed in then with full power. Our instructions were to split the formation if possible. That we managed to do even before the night raiders had a chance to drop their bombs. Captain M—— and two others went for the Boche leader. Sergeant T—— and I then attacked the Boche on the right. The sergeant went up above and the Boche gunners opened up on him with a heavy fire which he returned. I could see the tracers from both ships racing back and forth like a streaking shuttle in power loom.

Firing at Close Range

Taking advantage of the Boche gunner’s momentary distraction with Sergeant T——, I dived down and came up with full power immediately beneath, my sights fastened on the Boche’s black belly. Knowing that they were armored in places beneath I waited until I was very close before firing. Then when I did, I rooked my stick fore and aft, so that my tracers traversed the whole length of the fuselage.

The Boche gunners saw me now, however, and they switched their fire to me. But their tracers went harmlessly through my outer wings. They couldn’t reach me in a vital spot, for parts of their own plane intervened. I was hovering under their blind spot.

With speed lost, my ship began to wobble. I had fired a whole belt of ammunition into the Boche’s belly and still nothing had happened. I thought my surprise attack from beneath was going to fail and was sick at heart. But no!

A little tongue of fire began to lick along the fuselage. Fanned by the air blast it leaped into a giant flame, the heat of which I felt against my cheeks as I fell off into an uncontrolled spin. Then there was an explosion. My own plane seemed to suddenly thrust sideways. It groaned under the sudden strain and the braces crackled.

But my motor was roaring, so I soon managed to regain control.

There below and to one side of me was a night raider falling in flames. The other two Gothas were streaking homewards with my comrades darting in at them and sniping from all sides like swallows attacking a hawk.

The bombs that were dropped did not do any damage, and I had succeeded in gaining my first victory over a night raider.

At Home with Robert J. Hogan, 1948

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Five years ago we posted a great article about Robert J. Hogan at home from 1962. We’ve come upon another great article about Hogan as he sets out on his book writing career in 1948. He wrote a number of hard cover westerns for Dodd, Mead & Company, three of them historical westerns featuring a cowboy named Smoke Wade who rides a pinto horse name Jake!

Here’s the article from The Bergen Evening Record, July 14, 1948:

Pulp and Slick Author of More Than 13,000,000 Words Commences Task of Writing First 2 Book-Form Novels

The Bergen Evening Record, Bergen, New Jersey • 14 July 1948, P.20

Describes Office Boy Literature As An Escape And Good Clean Fun

One of Americas most prolific fiction writers, Robert J. Hogan, a man who has written more than 13 million words yet never has had a novel published in book form, is spend-ing the summer in Tea neck while he works on two novels, his first to be published between stiff covers.


Hogan started writing for pulp and slick magazines in Florida 18 years ago. 8ince that time this word artist has written enough material to fill 35 “Gone With the Winds”. His efforts during this time were directed toward creating mystery stories of the China Seas or thrilling young and old with stories of racing drivers and airplane pilots.

The present work Hogan is doing is along the lines of the stories he has been working on throughout his career but he is gaining the added recognition of having them put in book form rather than the usual style of the pulp magazines.

He says that people today have a false opinion of the type of literature found in the news stand mystery magazines and that because of an early black eye the magazines have been forced to toe the mark of decency closer than many of the leading magazines of the day. He has received letters from children telling him that their parents would not allow them to read his stories. His advice to the young ones was to allow their parents to read a few of the stories and then abide by their decision.

According to Hogan, after father read the story the children had difficulty in getting the books away from their parents. He believes, that many persons in the country look at his work and similar work of other authors as a complete escape from the realties of the problems at hand.

The writer says that many of his Wall Street friends discovered that the literature of the office boys was a wonderful escape and a way to be completely consumed in good clean fun. According to Hogan, the Wall Street trycoons first became aware of his stories in the early thirties, those days when business was slower than ever before on the exchange. Since that time he has had many devoted followers from the region of finance.

Robert J. Hogan, one of the most prolific fiction writers In the country, poses at his Teaneck home where he will work on two novels, with his attractive wife, a fiction editor, and pretty daughter, Betty. (Bergen Evening Record Photo)

Hogan was born in a parsonage in upper New York State, but left the small town of Buskirk to attend Blair Academy in Blairstown, and then 8t. Lawrence College, where he majored in agriculture.

During the years that he has been turning out his 115 or more novel-length mystery stories he has been living in Florida and Lake Mohawk. Once quizzed on why he preferred to live at Lake Mohawk and Teaneck in the off seasons he stated “I find the local yokels much more interesting than the summer colony people or the Winter vacationers of Florida”. The statement appeared in an article in the Saturday Evening Post about his home at Lake Mohawk, a home built and designed by the writer.

After a time Mrs. Hogan caught the writing bug and has since been fiction editor for the magazine Institute of New York City. Along with caring for her family, writing and editing, Mrs. Hogan also finds time to do some painting.

Hogan has become quite interested in the historical background of the Bergen County area since he has resided in Teaneck. Bent on doing a historical novel of the area Hogan is presently compiling facts about the early homes and historical sights.

When his pretty 19-year-old daughter, Betty, who attends Ogelthorpe University in Georgia, was asked if she too wished to follow a writing career the answer was an emphatic no. She hopes to be a Kindergarten teacher when she completes her studies.

The Man Behind The Mosquitoes

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BACK in 2015 during our first Mosquito Month, we ran a series of articles from The Pocono Record that covered Oppenheim’s Magic Puppet World. Recently, I came upon another article about Ralph and Shirley Oppenheim and their Magic Puppet World—this time from nearby Allentown, PA’s The Morning Call from 1967—complete with a picture!

Monroe Puppeteers Automate Their Art

by WEALTHY KORTZ | The Morning Call, Allentown, PA • 8 February 1967

Oppenheim’s Music Puppet World near Snydersville takes the age-old art of puppetry and harnesses it to automation to depict in pantomime stories full of whimsy, humor and absorbing action.

Ralph and Shirley Oppenheim create new doll exhibits,

The work of Ralph and Shirley Oppenheim represents 15 years of creative effort and study. It is an enchanting, completely new entertainment medium with an appeal to young and old alike.

Marionettes perform without puppeteers. Their strings are pulled by automatic precision machinery, giving them more versatility of flowing motion.

Although self-educated in the field of electronics and other necessary components, the Oppenheims achieved their success—admittedly—by trial and error.

Both native New Yorkers, the Oppenheims decided to settle in the Poconos because they like the area and it was familiar to them since childhood.

Bought Farm

They opened their Magic Puppet World about three years ago shortly after purchasing the old Rupert farm along business Route 209 about six miles west of Stroudsburg.

The couple polished the 110-year-old barn discreetly to preserve the original meaning of the landmark and set up 17 exhibits. Each is self-contained within its glass-enclosed cabinet stage and electronic impulses to present the series of pantomime stories that have been tastefully arranged.

Tedious hours were spent perfecting the impulses for complete synchronization; the careful uniting of silk threads to as many as 13 joints of the single puppet with its mechanical puppeteer levers and cams; the careful lighting effect and art work. It takes the husband and wife team a minimum of from two to four months to perfect a single exhibit.

Dancing Ballerinas — a small segment of the “Doll Ballet.”

The largest exhibit in “Ballet Square” of the old barn is the “doll ballet.” This took several years and nearly threadbare patience to master the movement of the seven eight inch high marionettes that perform in true ballet technique.

There are more than 200 strands of silk thread and 32 working levers with companion cams that control the precision. Another problem was synchronizing the “thought1ess” ballerinas with the music.

Backstage Peek

Visitors are invited “backstage” by the Oppenheims at this particular performing exhibit so they may view the automatic machinery controlling the miniature dancers.

Because of the intricate mechanism and its complications, the exhibit is personally attended by its creators at each performance.

Mrs. Oppenheim, a former ballet student, worked closely with her husband in perfecting the movements.

The beautifully hand-painted verse at each exhibit is the handiwork of Mrs. Oppenheim, who is a professional artist. The verses, describing the action, were composed by her husband.

Verse adds a warm appeal. For example, at the “Rival Romeos” Oppenheim composed:

“Two Romeos, not one but two!
Came to Juliet’s house to woo!
One wooed her with a simple song
Until the other came along;
From him she tried to take a rose,
And nearly fell upon her nose.
Which one would save her?
Watch and see
Who puts her back on the balcony
And see what kisses this one got.
See the other one get . . . a flower pot!”

The rustic road that visitors take leads them through Lilliput, “The Littlest world in the World,” where a four-foot Gulliver introduces the Lilliputian marionettes less than three inches high.

Children’s Stories

In another area exhibits are devoted to favorite children’s stories about Miss Muffet, Cinderella and the like.

Taped music box melodies enhance the background for the over-all atmosphere.

Oppenheim, who sports a flattering mustache and goatee left over from the Stroudsburg Sesquicentennial, is a former pulp fiction adventure story writer.

Holder of several patents, Oppenheim invented a textile machine to make raffia. The ingenious operation of his magic puppets is also under patent.

The puppets were almost a first love of this gifted man — dating back to boyhood in a boarding school.

The stall area of the old barn has been transformed into a comfortable workshop for the couple. Shared only by their two schnauzers, Bridget and Maggie.

It is in this area that the couple develop their “dolls” from chunks of white Canadian cedar, pine, birch and virgin maple. They also make clever items of jewelry and souvenirs of their exhibits. A craft shop that is a part of complex is open during the off season of the Magic Puppet World which is open to the public from May to October.

Ralph and Shirley Oppenheim are the originators of automatic puppetry. They have won national recognition for their new medium of special projects commissioned by some of the country’s leading industrial companies — for such showplaces as the New York World’s Fair and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

They had been approached by a representative of Walt Disney a couple of years ago — but declined all offers rather than lose their individual identity.


With Ralph’s death in August 1978, Shirley closed up the Oppenheim Gallery and Puppet World and moved back to New York City to be near family. She passed away in 2006.

“Niebling’s Phenomenal Feat” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on December 24, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present “Niebling’s Phenomenal Feat”—The story behind Paul Bissell’s April 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 April 1933 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Lt. Paul H. Niebling shoots his Colt .45 at an oncoming Fokker while parachuting to the ground!

Niebling’s Phenomenal Feat

th_FA_3304UNSWERVING and terrifying, like a messenger from hell, the red plane, its guns blazing, bore down on the hapless young American swinging dizzily in his parachute harness. He heard the whine of the German bullets as they whizzed by, cutting another of his shroud cords. He clutched desperately at one of the loose ends as the wind began to spill out of his chute, at the same time twisting in his leg straps to empty the rest of his magazine into the red machine as it roared by him in a wild zoom.

Five times the Colt .45 spoke sharply, and then the mechanism jammed . . . .

Less than two minutes before, this young American, Lieutenant Niebling, and his companion observer, Lieutenant Carroll, had been quietly watching the enemy positions from their basket, some two thousand feet above Maixc. Not a plane had bepn in sight. The clouds hung low. Then, without warning, nosing out of a cloud, its motor picking up with a full-throated roar, had come this red devil, spitting flaming bullets into the big silken bag above.

At Niebling’s command, Carroll had jumped. But Niebling, an old hand at the game, had decided to stick to the last minute. Three times before this, he had gone overboard as the balloon above him went up in flames. He was sick of just going over and putting up no fight. So this time he had swung out of the basket that he might be in the clear if he felt the whole balloon give suddenly, as it does when it finally explodes. He was determined to get in a few shots at the Boche before he let go.

So, as the red plane had banked up sharply and came back for another go at him, Niebling had freed his automatic. If only he could put a bullet in that damned red nose, that came on relentlessly, shooting flaming darts which bit into the silken folds above! Damn him! And Niebling’s automatic had pulsed as he squeezed the trigger. Like a trip-hammer he felt it kick in his hand. The plane, apparently untouched, had nosed up and put a last fierce burst into the big bag. “Great God, how futile!” had thought Niebling, and in anger almost threw the partly empty automatic at the German plane. A sudden return of caution, however, had warned him that he had hung on as long as he dared. He released his hold and dropped like a stone, turning over and over in his plunge down.

The first seconds of a jump, even to the most experienced old jumpers, are seconds in which life seems suspended. Whether or not it will go on depends on the chute. If it opens—good! If not—well, c’est la guerre. So with Niebling, for a few seconds life stopped.

He himself, when first at the Front, had seen a French lieutenant carefully tuck the parachute into its carrier, demonstrating just how it should be done, had seen the parachute attached to sand-bags placed in the balloon basket, had seen the balloon ascend three thousand feet. Then, from the ground, he had seen the bags pushed over the basket’s edge, drop and rip the chute from its container—had watched breathlessly and vainly for the chute to open, only to see those bags plunge three thousand feet down, to crash in a cloud of dust with the folded chute trailing hopelessly behind. Yes, sometimes it didn’t open.

But this time it did, and with a rush and a snap, life was on again for the young lieutenant, and he found himself floating gently earthward, still gripping his automatic. Above him, and to one side, his balloon, now a mass of flames, was falling slowly to pieces. The Fokker had swung off and was attacking the other balloons. Even as he watched, Niebling saw the second, third and fourth bag explode, and then the German banked up in a sharp turn and headed back toward him.

ONCE before when Niebling had been shot down, the enemy had returned to the attack and passed so close that the American had made some excellent snapshots of the German plane with a tiny vest-pocket kodak. This time, however, Niebling longed not for pictures, but for blood. So he had waited for the German to get closer. Already the fixed gun, shooting through the Fokker’s prop, flashed steadily. What a chance! Just a service .45 against a Spandau.

Yes, but if only he could get one bullet in the right place—one, just one! And Niebling’s teeth gritted as he squeezed the trigger and butt of his Colt. Five times the automatic spoke, square into the red body, so close now that Niebling could almost have touched it with a fishing pole.

That was the moment when the mechanism jammed. The plane, apparently untouched, turned and headed back toward Germany, while the American, cursing with rage, worked feverishly to clear his gun. Watching the fast-retreating Fokker, he saw something suddenly go wrong.

Slowly at first, then more rapidly, the plane headed downward. Quickly it was apparent that the headlong dive was uncontrolled, as if death’s hand were on the stick. The motor roared, pulling the ship into a tight spin from which it never came out. Twisting faster and faster, it finally crashed, burying its nose deep in a hillside.

Yes, Niebling got down. With the wind still spilling out of his chute, he landed fast but safely. Modest always, he says that he was never able to prove positively that his bullet brought down the German. But evidently America and France thought that he had done a good job, for First Lieutenant Paul H. Niebling, 1st Minnesota Field Artillery, A.E.F., attached to the 73rd Company, French Balloon Corps, today wears a D.S.C. and Croix de Guerre, with Palm for exceptional valor, and is, we believe, the only man of the war who, in a head-on duel in the air, with only a sendee automatic against a Spandau, came away the victor.

The Ships on The Cover
“Niebling’s Phenomenal Feat”
Flying Aces,April 1933 by Paul Bissell

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