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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Hamilton Coolidge

Link - Posted by David on October 18, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have American Flyer Captain Hamilton Coolidge’s most thrilling sky fight!

As a famous athlete at Harvard, Hamilton Coolidge was well known throughout the land even before the war began. He enlisted in the aviation section of the Signal Corps and got his primary flight training at Mineola along with Quentln Roosevelt, his hoy-hood friend.

They went up to the front together on the same day. Coolidge was assigned to the 94th Squadron and Roosevelt to the 95th. Coolidge was killed when a German Archie scored a direct hit on his plane, something of which war time figures prove happened only once in every 20,000 attempts.

He had established an enviable record, soon becoming a recognized ace with 5 victories. He was promoted to a Squadron Commander, and succeeded in downing 3 more enemy planes. He was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and the Distinguished Service Cross. This account of his fight with the famous Flying Circus of Baron von Richthofen is taken from an interview he gave a war correspondent.

 

FIGHTING THE FLYING CIRCUS

by Captain Hamilton Coolidge • Sky Fighters, October 1935

THOUGH I had been expecting to encounter the Flying Circus, my first meeting with one of their patrols took me quite by surprise. With five of my mates I was cruising high above Lagny in a sky that was empty and void as a lonesome ocean.

I didn’t catch sight of the gaudily painted ships until they were almost upon us— they had come up from our own side of the lines, while I was probing the sky reaches in the opposite direction. Twelve ships there were, flying in layer formation.

I had to do some quick thinking. My patrol was outnumbered 2 to 1. And they had us cut off from our rear! I waggled my wings, whined up in vertical virage and went streaking for Germany, climbing for the ceiling as I ran.

We Gained an Even Ceiling

Luckily, the Fokkers didn’t catch us until we had gained an even ceiling with their topmost flight. Then the fighting began. It seemed that the bullets whined in from all directions at once. And the sky was just a kaleidoscopic whirl.

Finally the wild dog-fighting settled down to a man to man duel. I didn’t have to pick my quarry. He picked me with a ripping invitation in Spandau tracer that stitched a grim streak down my turtle-back. I jammed full throttle and roared into a loop, rolled out on top and got out of range. But only to run smack into a stream of tracer coming from another Hun’s gun. I ducked beneath that, pulled up and banked quickly, my sights on the checkerboard belly of my first antagonist. I had time for just a short burst before he slid out of my sights.

First Meat for Our Side

But that was enough. The Fokker tipped up on a wing, hung in the air momentarily, then went sliding down, turning over on its back finally and fluttering off in a spin.

It was first meat for our side against odds of two to one. It gave me renewed courage. Two more of the Fokkers fell before one of the Spad pilots got caught with a bad jam. While trying to clear it he was killed.

All the time we had been fighting we had drifted further over the German lines, so I concluded that now was the time for a risky maneuver. We would have to turn our tails to the Huns, give them a momentary bull’s-eye as we streaked for the earth straight down—but with the Spad’s diving speed with full power on, I figured we could leave the Fokkers behind, and take our chances with the Archies and groundfire from below. So I signalled and dived, the rest of the boys following.

I took plenty of lead in the rear, but by shaking my stick, I managed to dodge a vital burst, and finally got out of range.

We hedge-hopped for home then right over the German trenches, running the gauntlet of a terrific machine-gun fire from the ground. But when we had run through and zoomed up to the ceiling and reformed on our own side of the line, waiting, the famed Flying Circus didn’t accept the challenge.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Quentin Roosevelt

Link - Posted by David on October 4, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have American Flyer Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt’s most thrilling sky fight!

Quentin Roosevelt was born at Oyster Bay, N.Y., the fourth and last son of a famous fighting family, November 19th, 1897, six weeks after his illustrious father, Theodore Roosevelt, had left to fight for the freedom of Cuba. Although handicapped by a permanently injured back, he succeeded by dint of cunning and painful effort in fooling the medical examiners and being accepted for training as an aviator.

He was sent overseas July 13th, 1917, and assigned to the 95th Squadron of the First Pursuit Group. From the beginning he gave great promise of becoming a famous Ace—but his promising career was snuffed out before it really began when Sergeant Greber, famous German flyer, conquered him after a terrific battle.

Young Roosevelt died 15,000 feet up in the air. His tiny Nieuport turned over its back, streaked to earth and crashed on a hillside near the little French town of Chamery. He was buried where he fell with high military honors by the Germans. The account below is taken from one of the letters written to his mother.

 

MY FIRST VICTORY

by Lieut. Quentin Roosevelt • Sky Fighters, September 1935

I WAS cruising on high patrol with my flight when I spied far in the rear of the German lines a formation of seven enemy fighters. Though we were only three I though I might pull up a little and take a crack at them.

I had the altitude and advantage of the sun, and was sure they hadn’t seen me.

I pulled up, got within range, put my sights on the last man and let go. My tracer stream spewed all around him. I saw it distinctly. But for some strange reason he never even turned nor appeared to notice. It was like shooting through a ghost.

By that time the enemy formation began whirling up and down like dervishes. Spandau smoke trails snaked the sky around me and bullets clipped through my wings.

A Web of Fokkers

I stuck with my man, let go again. All of a sudden his tail went up and his ship went down in a vrille, spinning toward the cloud floor 3,000 meters below. I wanted to follow down after him, but his mates had cut me off from my flight and were making it hot on all sides.

I was so far within the enemy lines that I didn’t dare to tarry too long in a drawn-out fight because of my short gas supply, so I fought my way out of the web the Fokkers were spinning about me and ran for home.

Looking back over my shoulder I saw my victim spinning, and he was still spinning when he hit the cloud floor and disappeared. I do not expect to get credit for the victory (my first) because the fight took place too far behind the lines for it to be confirmed.

But, even so, I know now that I am able to hold my place as a pursuit pilot over the front lines.

The Grim War Game

At first I was doubtful, and the first time I was attacked I’ll confess I was scared. But in the heat of the battle I forgot that feeling. It becomes then a sort of grim game, a duel for points, with a victory scored when the opponent dies or is shot down out of control. But one doesn’t have time to think of death when the shooting starts. In the excitement of the moment there is no other thought but getting your sights on the other fellow and letting go with your guns.

I am glad we three took a crack at those German planes—even though we were outnumbered, for it certainly taught me many things. It is experiences of this sort that give one a real thrill.

Yes, to date this has been my most thrilling sky fight. Who knows what will come? In the frenzy of fighting, one never thinks of anything but the battle itself—and a fierce determination to do one’s best predominates over one’s thoughts!

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lieut. Roosevelt’s victory was officially confirmed two days after he was shot down.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Silvio Scaroni

Link - Posted by David on September 20, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Italian Fighter Ace Lieutenant Silvio Scaroni’s most thrilling sky fight!

Lieutenant Silvio Scaroni was born at Brescia, Italy, and entered the aviation corps at the beginning of the war. As a bomber he was recognized as one of the best in the Italian Flying Corps and he was very adopt in handling big three-engined Capronis. But the big ships were too slow to satisfy Lieutenant Scaroni. He wanted to fly single Heaters and eventually managed to secure his transfer to a combat squadron on the morning of November 14, 1917.

That same day he registered his first victory. Within three months he had accounted for 18 enemy planes. His untimely end came in an accidental crash. He was decorated with all the honors Italy could confer, and in Brescia a magnificent monument has been erected to his memory. His story, below is one of the most remarkable of all war experiences.

 

THE FLAMING COFFIN

by Lieut. Silvio Scaroni • Sky Fighters, August 1935

I HAVE had many dangerous moments in the air, in observation, bombardment and combat planes. But there is no doubt in my mind as to the most dangerous I ever experienced. It was that night over the Adriatic when I was flying a big three-engined Caproni as part of a bombing formation headed for the Austrian coast. Night flying enemy planes attacked us when we were utterly unprepared.

The brigadier out front had just called for me to come up and take the forward guns as we were approaching the coast line, when I heard a rattle, like rolling thunder, above the roar of the engines. Then there was what seemed like a flash of lightning and I felt myself spinning in the forward nacelle under the impetus of a terrific blow on my shoulder. I picked myself up from the floor of the pit and staggered erect. The big plane was diving straight down, and two lurid streams of fiery tracers splashed on the gangway.

The night attacker was less than fifty meters off our tail. I yelled to the brigadier to pull back on the wheel and yank the ship out of its dive. Then in the phosphorous glare of the tracer I saw that was not possible. The pilot was dead at the wheel, his head almost severed from his body. As I groped toward the control pit, I wondered why Captain Ercle, in the back gunner’s pit, had not come up to take over the controls. The ship was spinning violently and surging downward abruptly now. The Austrian pilot remained fastened to the falling ship like a leech, pumping hundreds of rounds into us. The other planes had disappeared in the blackness.

I managed finally to gain the pit. I stumbled over something and almost fell. When I looked down I saw why Captain Ercle had not been able to take over from the brigadier. It was his dead body I had stumbled over. I yanked the wheel from the dead brigadier’s hand, pushed him from the seat and got his feet off the rudder bar. It was only then I realized that I had only one good hand. My right hung limply at my side.

I gave the wheel a twist and ruddered against pressure, looking overside as I did so. There was a bare, rocky headland beneath, a small black shadow jutting into the sea. The bursts from the attacking plane were still clattering into the Caproni. One engine went dead, then another. I had only one left. Luckily it was the one in the rear, for I would never have been able to maneuver the plane if it had been one of the wing motors. I was weak.

With the rough rock just beneath, I dropped a landing flare. It hit the ground and exploded all at once, blinding me in its dazzling light. The ensuing darkness was blacker than Hades. I could see absolutely nothing, not even the glow lights on my instrument board. But I heard the wheels crunch. I pulled up swiftly, staggered crazily, bumped and rolled still.

Oncoming soldiers shouted at me to throw my hands up. I laughed in their faces and carefully set fire to the big plane. The rifle shots did not get me. Two weeks later I stole across the border and regained our own lines.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain William Erwin

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

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have American Flyer Captain William Erwin’s most thrilling sky fight!

Captain William Erwin holds a unique record. He was the only accredited American observation ace, and piled up a string of 9 official victories while flying slow ungainly two-seaters. A Texan, William Erwin enlisted for training the day after war was declared. He received his commission as a Lieutenant after a bare forty hours of flight and was immediately sent overseas and assigned to the First Aero Squadron which he joined on its first day at the front. Before his first week he had downed an enemy plane and the French awarded him the Croix de Guerre. He was awarded additional recognition by the French and also received the American Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaves. Through the war safely, without ever having been wounded despite his rare courage and daring, he came to an untimely end while flying the Pacific in a futile search for the missing Dole flyers in 1923. Erwin, himself, recounted the following experience to the compiler of these records on a grey day in the Argonne many years ago.

 

ONE AGAINST THREE

by Captain William Erwin • Sky Fighters, July 1935

I HAVE had plenty of tough moments, but the toughest time I ever had was that day we (Erwin and his observer) were sent out to regulate fire on a Hun ‘77 emplacement that was holding up the advance of the whole 26th Division. Orders came through from G.H.Q. that that emplacement must be destroyed. Our squadron got the order, and the C.O. passed the job on to us. “Three Spads from the 95th will be waiting over Somme-Sous to pick you up and furnish protection.”

Well, we got over Somme-Sous all right. But instead of finding three Spads, we found a soupy sky chock full of wildly flying crates. The three Spads were all mixed up with about a dozen Fokkers, and I saw right away if we were going to regulate fire on that Hun target we would have to do it alone—without any protection.

I managed to duck the Huns in the soupy dripping sky and find the ‘77 emplacement. My observer reeled out his wireless antenna and got in contact with the battery. The first salvo came over—wide. Along with it came three Fokkers. I kept circling. The leader dived and sieved the turtleback behind me with a hot Spandau burst, then swept underneath and poked at my belly with snaky tracer. His mates up above were bent on making a mince-meat sandwich out of us. Bursts came from above and below.

Finally my observer got his corrections wirelessed to the battery and went to work with his Lewis on the top Huns. I split-haired and dived for the Fokker beneath. The second salvo came over—still wide! I could hear a sharp oath from the observer, even above the clatter of his guns. With one hand holding the Lewis, he pounded out corrections with the other. The Spandau pellets rattled like hail through my wings and fuselage.

A quick turn and abrupt stall gave me a chance for a burst at the leader of the Huns, who had zoomed up above when one of the others dived below. I pressed the trigger-trip, saw my tracer eat up the fuselage and bore into the pilot’s back. He maneuvered, cartwheeled into a cloud.

The battery meanwhile had got the range and the next salvo did plenty of damage, but a Hun coming head-on at me with both Spandaus flaming, took my mind off that matter. I replied in kind, without budging the stick, then closed my eyes waiting for the bullet with my name on it.

To my surprise, the other plane exploded in flames and went sliding down, leaving a black smoke trail behind. At the same moment a black shadow loomed above me. I glanced up, stick-handled my crate just in time to get out from underneath. The Fokker of the Hun leader was spinning erratically down. The pilot hung out of the cockpit, dead, held in the pit only by his safety belt. Whether he had died after taking that first burst of mine, or whether my observer had got him, I don’t know. That left only one Fokker. He dallied for a little while, until the battery had completely destroyed the ‘77 emplacement, then turned tail and beat it for safety.

Donald Keyhoe: To Tell The Truth

Link - Posted by David on September 4, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

IN 1956, Donald E. Keyhoe co-founded the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). He was one of several prominent professional, military or scientific figures on the board of directors, which lent the group a degree of legitimacy many of the other contemporary “flying saucer clubs” sorely lacked. With Keyhoe in the lead, NICAP pressed hard for Congressional hearings and investigation into UFOs. They scored some attention from the mass media, and the general public (NICAP’s membership peaked at about 15,000 during the early and mid-1960s) but only very limited interest from government officials.

Following a widely publicized wave of UFO reports in early 1966, the popular CBS panel show, To Tell The Truth featured UFO Investigator Major Donald Keyhoe as a guest on April 11th, 1966. Hosted by Bud Collyer, a panel of four celebrities—Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean, and Kitty Carlisle—question three people all claiming to be UFO Investigator Donald Keyhoe and must determine who is telling the truth.

As he states in his sworn affidavit:

I, Donald Keyhoe, am a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, a retired Marine Corps pilot and have been an aviation writer for many years. Currently I am working in Washington DC as director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. NICAP is a scientific organization which was especially created 10 years ago to investigate the facts surrounding unidentified flying object known as ufos or flying saucers. Recently there’s been another rash of reports of strange things in the sky. in the past 20 years there have been over 10,000 such sightings of UFOs. While many of these flying objects have been satisfactorily explained as a result of natural phenomena, others so far defy logical explanation. It is the position of NICAP that there is nothing to be gained by secrecy and that a thorough and intensive scientific investigation of unidentified flying objects would give the subject the dignity and importance it deserves and quite possibly reveal some startling facts.

signed Major Donald Keyhoe.


Three men all claiming to be Major Donald Keyhoe on
TO TELL THE TRUTH from April 11, 1966.

Click on either image to enjoy the show. Unfortunately for the imposters, Keyhoe knows his facts cold.

As a bonus: See if you can spot Tony Goodstone, author of the seminal The Pulps as he and two imposters try to fool the panel!

And be sure to check out the latest volume of Donald E. Keyhoe’s Philip Strange—Captain Philip Strange: Strange Hell—The German Empire has unleased Hell on Earth! The dead are climbing out of their graves and giant skeletons attack the living. Heads are detonating and soldiers are turning to bronze. But flying to the rescue like an avenging angel is America’s own “Brain Devil,” Captain Philip Strange, the phantom ace of G-2 Intelligence. Whether it’s deadly bridges or killer broadcasts, when the Allies need a miracle they pray for Philip Strange! When World War I gets weird, only America’s own “Phantom Ace of G-2” has a ghost of a chance against the supernatural slaughter. Captain Philip Strange in his strangest cases yet from the pages of Flying Aces magazine!

Pick up your copy today at all the usual outlets—Adventure House, Mike Chomko Books and Amazon!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Charles Nungesser

Link - Posted by David on August 23, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have French Flyer Captain Charles Nungesser’s most thrilling sky fight!

Of all the great French Aces, none is more poignantly remembered than Charles Nungesser, who began his flaming war career as a Lieutenant of Hussars and was one of that famous lighting band of cavalrymen that stopped the German Uhlans at the gates of Paris. For his exploits in this heroic stand he was awarded the Medal Militaire, the highest combat award.

But horses were too slow for this daring, dashing young officer. He transferred to aviation and was trained as a bombardment pilot, after which he took part in thirty-eight bombing raids across the German lines, before his unusual flying ability was recognized and he was sent on to a chasse squadron—Nieuport 65.

Nungesser was wounded seventeen different times, but in between times in the hospital managed to run up a score of forty-one victories and was awarded every decoration possible.

Ten years after the war’s end, Nungesser, with a colleague, Major Coli, took off from Paris on an attempted non-stop flight to New York. His plane disappeared into the blue and no trace of either Nungesser, his colleague, or the wreckage of the plane has ever been found. Thus ended the flaming career of one of the greatest of all sky fighters. His own story of a thrilling battle as recorded by a French journalist, follows.

 

A STRANGE VICTORY

by Captain Charles Nungesser • Sky Fighters, June 1935

ALL duels du ciel are thrilling—some in one way, others in another. It is thrilling to down an enemy after pouring burst after burst into his avion. Many times I have done that, but I think it is even more thrilling, more exciting, and certainly more unique when one downs an enemy avion without firing a single shot. I have done that—in fact, I didn’t even have guns on my avion, let alone bullets. I shall tell you about that.

The motor of my avion had been acting up. The mechanic came to me when he had repaired it, and I said I would take it off for a test flight. I did, went way up into the blue above the clouds to 5,000 meters. The motor was splendid. I sailed around absent-mindedly enjoying the beautiful view, when lo and behold, a Boche avion breaks into the clear space beneath me.

Ready for Battle

It is a two-seater, less than thousand meters away. I dip and go for him, but he sees me before I reach firing range. The gunner in back stands up and swings his mitrailleuse on me. Tack-tack! He puffs a short burst. I slip under it and dive faster, my own fingers poised on the trigger trip—ready to give it to him when I get closer.

I get closer, close enough! The Boche is clear in my sight. I press the trigger— but nothing happens! Another burst from the Boche gunner flicks through my wings. My own gun is jammed, I think. I reach up to clear it, still holding on the Boche’s tail.

But Mon Dieu—I have no gun! The cradle is empty!

I am almost about to crash the other’s tail now. He has to dive to get away. I see the rear gunner standing up in his seat. He is fumbling with his gun. It has jammed. Terror is on his face. The Boche pilot dives and zig-zags to get out of my range. I keep pressing close on top, pushing him down in a long steep spiral.

Waiting for the End

The rear gunner gives up, folds his hands complacently and waits for my bursts to snuff his life out. Down and down we spiral, through the clouds, out underneath. The gunner fumbles at his mitrailleuse again, I decide to run my bluff, hoping that I can force them to land before the gunner clears.

Voila! I do. The Boche pilot spies a clear space and sets down. I circle and land beside them, but I am helpless when they set fire to their machine. I have no guns to prevent it.

Poilus surrounded the burning avion and took the two Boches prisoners. Both were very mad and swore profanely when they found out I had no guns on my avion. But it was another victory for me, the most unusual one! The armorer had removed my gun to clean, when my avion was laid up for repairs. I had neglected to see that it was in place before I took off.

The Real Strange War: Capt. Fernand Jacquet

Link - Posted by David on August 14, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Donald E. Keyhoe’s Philip Strange battles all manner of strange and wild planes and their pilots. How many times has the ‘Brain-Devil of G-2′ come up against planes or pilots that seem to be skeletons floating in the inky darkness of night? Too many times. But maybe all that wasn’t just from the fertile imagination of Mr. Keyhoe. . .

Case in point: Captain Fernand Jacquet. Jacquet was Belgium’s first pilot to score an arial victory, and subsequently became that country’s first ace! And he did all of this primarily while flying a Farman F.40! Inspired by Roland Garros, who had equipped a Morane monoplane with a machine gun, Jacquet fitted one to his Farman pusher—a biplane used primarily for reconnaissance and observation. By mid-1916, he had painted the nose of his plane with a ghoulish insignia of a skull.

Jacquet survived the war with 7 credited victories (and 2 uncredited) and was the only Belgian awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross. He left the Belgian military in 1921 and with his old gunner Louis Robin, he started a flying school near Charleroi, at Gosselies.

When the Germans once again invaded Belgium, at the start of World War II, Jacquet returned to his nation’s service—as an active member of the Belgian Resistance until he was imprisoned in Huy Fortress in 1942 where he was held until war’s end.

Fernand Jacquet died in Beaumont, Belgium, on October 12th, 1947.

You can read more of Donald E. Keyhoe’s Philip Strange tales in the latest volume of his collected adventures—Captain Philip Strange: Strange Hell—The German Empire has unleased Hell on Earth! The dead are climbing out of their graves and giant skeletons attack the living. Heads are detonating and soldiers are turning to bronze. But flying to the rescue like an avenging angel is America’s own “Brain Devil,” Captain Philip Strange, the phantom ace of G-2 Intelligence. Whether it’s deadly bridges or killer broadcasts, when the Allies need a miracle they pray for Philip Strange! When World War I gets weird, only America’s own “Phantom Ace of G-2” has a ghost of a chance against the supernatural slaughter. Captain Philip Strange in his strangest cases yet from the pages of Flying Aces magazine!

Pick up your copy today at all the usual outlets—Adventure House, Mike Chomko Books and Amazon!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Sergeant Take Engmann

Link - Posted by David on August 9, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have German Flying Corp Sergeant Take Engmann’s most thrilling sky fight!

All the great heroes of the war in the air did not fly single-seater fighting planes, and all of the heroes did not accomplish their missions single handed. Some of the great feats were accomplised by the pilots of the bigger, bulkier, clumsier, two and three-seater observation and bombing planes. Sergeant Engmann was one of the heroes of this latter class. Obscure, reticent, retiring by nature, his own part in the many successful missions accomplished by the greatest of all German observation aces, Captain Heydemarck, whose pilot he was, marks him as one of the outstanding flyers of the war.

Between them, flying together, they accounted for over a dozen Allied Planes, despite the fact that destroying enemy aircraft was not their primary duty. The account below is from one of the few written records Engmann left.

 

AGAINST DESPERATE ODDS

by Sergeant Take Engmann • Sky Fighters, May 1935

CAPTAIN HEYDEMARCK was given the initial mission of photographing a Russian concentration camp in France and plotting it on our maps of the enemy terrain, so that our night bombers might attack it later. But we decided to do a little bombing of our own, so I loaded our plane to the limit with forty kilo bombs. The morning mists still lay on the hills and valleys of the Marne when we flew over the lines at 6 a.m.

By using the rising clouds as a mask for our entry, I managed to skip from one to another and keep concealed from enemy patrols. When we got over Mailly, the clouds had broken some, and the morning sun began to break through. The Russian camp lay beneath us.

I idled the motor and nosed down, leveled off when about 300 meters over the camp. Heydemarck snapped his pictures as I circled around. As soon as he had finished, I began dropping the bombs; one, two, three. They hit squarely in the center of the camp and set the barracks on fire. I headed for home.

But I had not gone far when I decided that the whole of the Allied air forces had been called on to intercept us. One after another French ships, Nieuports, Caudrons, Breguets, poked their noses through the rising mists to come hurtling at my Rumpler. I decided to make a bold show, so headed abruptly for the first Nieuport. Just as it commenced firing, I pulled into a swift turn, letting Heydemarck in the back seat take care of it, while I nosed up for the belly of another Nieuport.

Heydemarck’s guns and mine spoke at the same instant, two short bursts! My Nieuport slid off on one wing, turned over, and went spinning down through the clouds. Heydemarck had managed to set fire to the other’s gas tank.

More enemy planes pounced on me swiftly. Heydemarck got his guns in action, but an enemy burst clicked a right strut. Another snapped a flying wire. My left wing dragged. I zigzagged, plunged into a cloud. Saw ten more enemy planes in a group when I came out. They attacked from all sides.

I don’t know what happened for several seconds. We went around and around. Heydemarck kept firing. I fired short bursts, wary of using all my ammunition.

Back and forth, over and up. Then a fast dive, a quick turn. Somehow I found myself in another cloud. The enemy guns were silent. Heydemarck was smiling.

In another moment the enemy formation met us again, guns blazing. I wheeled swiftly, darted back into the cloud. When I broke free of the mists, I had lost the enemy far off to my left. I banked again, raced in a straight line for the trenches. I could see them below. The Nieuports raced after me.

When I skirted over the trenches I was not more than 100 feet off the ground and traveling with the speed of light. Our Archies and machine-guns protected me.

We landed safely at Attigny, our pictures still intact. Not a bullet had touched them! Heydemarck pointed at our one remaining bomb: “What if one of their bullets had hit that detonator?” he said.

I had forgotten to drop it in the excitement of the fight. “Yes, what if one had?” I replied.

My Most Thrilling Sky Flight: Lt. Waldo Heinrichs

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

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have American Flyer First Lieutenant Waldo Heinrichs’ most thrilling sky fight!

First Lieutenant Waldo Heinrichs was among the first contingent of flying cadets to be graduated from the air combat school at Issoudun, France, the great flying field established by the American Air Service on foreign soil after the United States entered the war. He was one of tho original members of the famous 95th Pursuit Squadron, the first American squadron to do actual front line duty with the American Army. Among his squadron mates in the 95th were Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt and Lieutenant Sumner Sewell.

No other American flyer ever fought through the hail of bullet fire absorbed by Lieutenant Heinrichs and lived long enough afterward to tell about it in his own words. The account of his last flight as written in his diary is one of the most amazing records of the war. He was shot down and captured by the enemy soldiers on the 17th of September, 1918, after compiling a record of sheer courage second to none.

 

THE BULLET ABSORBER

by Lieutenant Waldo Heinrichs • Sky Fighters, April 1935

WITH six other pilots from the 95th, I encountered an enemy patrol of nine planes flying at 2,500 meters. Lieutenant Mitchell, the flight commander, signalled for an immediate attack and went down in a dive for the tail of the first German. His guns jammed in the first dive. I followed on the same Fokker he had picked, one of seven which had remained to fight after our attack.

But my guns jammed also, at the first burst!

While zooming up, trying to clear, I fell into a spin. All seven attacked me in my spinning Nieuport. I straightened, hurdled a burst from a forward attacking plane. But the Fokker behind me got in a burst at close range. An explosive bullet hit me in the left cheek, then shattered my windshield. I spit out teeth and blood (16 teeth, I found out afterward). I pulled into a swift renversement, came out beneath the attacker behind.

Two more explosive bullets hit me in the left arm, tearing through, breaking the elbow. Two more broke in my right hand, nearly tore off my little finger. Another hit in the left thigh. One in the left ankle. One in the right heel. Two more hit my leg.

I tried to yank the throttle wide to get more speed. No go! It would not work. The motor died. I saw my arm hanging broken at my side. The blood I spat out
splattered my goggles, blinded me, so I threw them up over my helmet, and dove for the ground. Pulled out just before I crashed into a wood, found a field in front of me, telephone poles. I dove under the wires, fearing they would crash me with a dead motor. The right wing crashed a telephone pole, broke it in two. The Nieuport landed, stopped five feet shy of the field’s edge—in enemy territory!

I broke the gas feed from the wing tank purposely. The gasoline filled the cockpit, sprayed over me. I reached for my matches in the side pocket, to fire the plane. But I was unable to hold anything. I tried to hold the box in my teeth, while I scratched the match, but my whole mouth was blown away.

I did not think to grasp the match box between my knees.

Sixty soldiers with rifles lined on me came running out of the woods. I loosed my belt. As I climbed over the cockpit I saw a pool of blood, my blood, swishing around in the bottom of the pit. I couldn’t run. I had no strength.

I surrendered, holding my right arm up with my left. The German soldiers gave me first aid, applying tourniquets to my left arm and left thigh. But they left me lying there on the field for two hours. Two stretcher bearers came along then and gathered me up. The war was over for me!

“Flying with Lindbergh” by Donald E. Keyhoe

Link - Posted by David on July 20, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

IN MAY 1927, ninety years ago, a little known U.S. Air Mail pilot became the first person to fly non-stop across the atlantic from Long Island, New York to Paris, France. Two months later, that aviator, Charles Lindbergh, embarked on a three month Good Will Tour of America that would see Lindbergh visit 82 cities in all 48 states and deliver 147 speeches and ride in countless parades. It’s estimated he was seen by more than 30 million American—one quarter of the nation’s population at the time.

The Tour’s purpose was the promotion of Aeronautics and to raise interest in commercial aviation. Lindbergh flew in the famed Spirit of St. Louis and was accompanied by a crew of three that flew along separately arriving a half an hour ahead of Colonel Lindbergh at all stops. Heading up the crew was Capt. Donald E. Keyhoe of the aeronautics branch, US Department of Commerce who is acting as Colonel Lindbergh’s aide and business manager of the tour; piloting Capt. Keyhoe’s plane was Philip R. Love, inspector, aeronautics branch, US Depatment of Commerce; the third member of the crew—arguably the most important—is Theordore Sorensen, expert mechanic of the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, Paterson, NJ, who’s job it is to keep the Wright Whirlwind, nine-cylinder motor of The Spirit of St Louis in shape for the 13,000 mile grind.


The tour’s participants (left to right): Donald E. Keyhoe, Philip Love, Charles Lindbergh,
with C. C. Maidment, and Milburn Kusterer.

Heralded everywhere they went, the Tour was a great success. Lindbergh followed it up with a Good Will Tour of sixteen Latin America countries between December 1927 and February 1928.

Captain Donald E. Keyhoe wrote a book about his experiences flying with Lindbergh on the Good Will Tour. It was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 1928. As promotion for the book—simply titled “Flying with Lindbergh”—Keyhoe himself went on a bit of a promotional tour speaking at various schools across the country.

Below is a recounting of Captain Keyhoe’s talk to the packed crowd at the high school in Belvidere, Illinois.

 

PAL OF LINDY TALKS TO BIG SCHOOL CROWD

Belvidere Daily Republican, Belvidere, IL • Tuesday, November 27, 1928

LIEUTENANT DONALD KEYHOE TELLS OF ODD SENCE OF HUMOR OF THE “FLYING COLONEL” AND RELATES SWIFT PROGRESS OF AVIATION IN THIS COUNTRY—ADDRESS MUCH ENJOYED

By far the most enjoyable and instructive of the attractions yet offered during the progress of the high school lyceum program was the appearance and address given Monday afternoon by Lieut. Donald Keyhoe, who accompanied Col. Charles Lindbergh on his goodwill trip over the United States following his epochal solo flight to France.

Lieut. Keyhoe, who has been publicity director of the U.S. bureau of aviation of the department of commerce, appeared before the crowd that entirely filled the high school auditorium attired in a marine uniform.

He punctuated his highly informative and interesting talk with interesting experiences he has had in the flying game and while all were much enjoyed especially so were those with Col. Lindbergh. “Lindy” he described as a man without a nerve in his body and utterly without fear. He said he detests hero worship and will frequently quit hotels by riding down on a freight elevator at the rear rather than encounter crowds waiting for him in front.

The colonel, he said, has an odd sense of humor and told of how he and another flyer had shaved off one half of the speaker’s mustache, forcing him to remove the other half. Keyhoe also recounted an incident wherein Lindbergh had sewed up his clothing while he slept and also stitched tightly in his pocket his billfold. Lindbergh remarked to the hotel clerk while Keyhoe was endeavoring to get it out that it merely showed his Scotch training and that he sewed it in his pocket that way every night.

The desire to fly, Keyhoe said, started back in the stone age but the first real attempt was not made until 1783 when the first smoke balloon made a successful flight with animal passengers in the basket. “There are no dull moments in the flying of balloons,” he said pointing out that they are left to the whims of the elements.

There has been some criticism of the U.S. government, he said. over the building of dirigibles but pointed out that the two now being constructed for the navy overcome all objections.

The greatest advance in flying has been in airships. He traced the steady progress of aviation since the first Wright plane had been sent aloft and said it received its biggest boost during the late war. Rapid strides have been made since the coming of peace until today there are airplanes from coast to coast with airports and beacon lights to assist flyers.

“Your training days will be the happiest of your education,” he told the big crowd of students.

Commercial aviation got its big boost from Col. Lindbergh’s goodwill flight and since that time there has been a steady and rapid increase in air mall, air mindedness, etc.

The speaker said that flying is becoming more and more safe and that much unfavorable newspaper publicity concerning accidents has been a retarding factor. Government regulations, he pointed out. tend to discourage stunt flying.

He painted a picture of the future of aviation and said that it will be but a short time until practically everybody “will be tacking to the air.” Although
there are still some doubters concerning aviation he prescribed as a cure a ride with a trusty pilot.

Plenty of thrills may be had 
from flying he said without resorting to ddoing “stunts” in the air.

Lieut. Keyhoe was introduced by Supt. R.E. Garrett and given a rousing welcome by the students.


The aviation committee of the Chamber of Commerce was present and held a short conference with him following his address.

If you’d like to read of Keyhoe’s experiences flying with Lindbergh, here’s a copy of Keyhoe’s book sourced a few years ago from archive.org:

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Ritter von Schleich

Link - Posted by David on July 12, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have German Flyer Ritter von Schleich’s most thrilling sky fight!

Hauptmann Ritter von Schleich was one of the least known, but nevertheless, one of the greatest and most successful of the German war birds. A nobleman by birth, he was educated for service in the army beginning with his early childhood. When the war broke out he was an officer in the Uhlans, the most aristocratic branch of the German Army. After transferring to the flying corps, he served some time as an observer, before learning to become a pilot himself; paralleling in that respect the career of Baron Manfred von Richthofen, who preceeded him as an officer of Uhlans.

War has its humorous moments as well as its many tragic ones. At least it would seem so after reading the account of the German flying captain, who took a captured Allied plane and rode the battle skies in company with an enemy patrol, the only instance upon record when it was known to be done.

 

A SKY TRICK

by Captain Ritter von Schleich, Imperial Flying Corps • Sky Fighters, July 1934

THE DAY before this, my most thrilling day in the air took place. My staffel had forced a young, inexperienced French pilot to land his latest model Spad pursuit plane intact behind our own lines.

After painting a black cross on it in the place of the circular cocarde of the Allies I decided it would be great fun to take it on a flight over the enemy lines. Fortunately, my staffel had forced it to land with almost a full supply of ammunition, so I had plenty of bullets for the Vickers guns. I phoned our anti-aircraft batteries and informed them of my plans so they would not bother me.

After taking off, I headed for Verdun. Our own Archies let me pass unmolested. When I slid across the lines, the Allied Archies did the same thing. I encountered a single enemy aircraft on patrol over Verdun, but he waved at me and passed on. I laughed and waved back, then swung about and headed for the Argonne. Over the Argonne I ran into the tail end of a formation of five Spads who were sweeping along parallel with the lines at 10,000 feet.

I goosed up my engine and took my place at their rear, flying along behind them and following the leader’s signals as well as I could. Suddenly they banked and flew over my own lines. I went in with them, still keeping my place in the formation.

As I flew along I wondered what would have happened if the leader really knew who it was tailing along at the rear of his flight. It was a sad thought, though. It certainly would have been curtains for me if those Spad pilots had suddenly turned and charged me.

We had gone about five miles behind our own lines when I decided that I was not
giving our Archie gunners any breaks at all. They had been directed not to fire at my plane, hence could not fire at the others in the formation without danger of getting me.

I banked off suddenly, went into a half roll, then dived to 6,000 feet. Our Archie gunners opened up then with a terrific barrage. The Spad pilots maneuvered then to escape it. The leader wheeled, saw me going down, caught sight of the black cross on my Spad for the first time, I guess, and came tearing down after me.

At 3,000 feet he let me have it—a heavy burst that forced me to duck swiftly. Now, that he had attacked me, I felt that I would not be taking advantage of my trick, so I maneuvered into shooting position and fired back.

We went at it hammer and tongs. I swept by him so close one time that I could see the angry expression on his face. We went round and round. Bullets nicked my Spad, but they did not come close to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his mates up above come streaking down to join the fun. I knew I had to do something quick or be in an awful pickle. I zoomed, half rolled, came down at my opponent with both Vickers blazing. The burst was effective. He sagged in his pit. The Spad went floating down in an uneven spiral.

I followed down until it crashed, then went hedge hopping over the field for my staffel drome, with all of the speed I could get from my captured Spad. Our Archie gunners kept my pursuers so high they could not reach me.

It was my twentieth victory. I got official credit for it later. Yes, under the circumstances I am sure it was my most thrilling sky fight.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Ivan Kosakov

Link - Posted by David on June 28, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Russian Imperial Flying Corps Ace Captain Ivan Kosakov’s most thrilling sky fight!

Captain Ivan Kosakov was already a great war hero when lie transferred from the cavalry to the flying corps. After a short course of just two weeks in flying school, he was sent up to the front again as a bombardment pilot. But flying heavy, unwieldy bombers was too slow and tedious work for him. He was transferred to a single-seater fighting squadron after two months with the bombers. It was then that his remarkable record began to grow.

Kosakov never stayed on his side of the lines and waited for the enemy planes to attack him. He flew far behind the Austrian lines and stalked them. It was on one of those long solo patrols into Austria that he and his plane disappeared. Whether he was killed in battle, captured by the enemy, or died in some obscure prison, has never been officially determined. At the time of his disappearance he had run up a score 23 victories, and at one time was the Russian ace of aces. The account below is from his diary.

 

TWO VICTORIES WITH ONE BURST

by Captain Ivan Kosakov, Russian Imperial Flying Corps • Sky Fighters, March 1935

I FEEL good today. I have now to my credit 6 official victories over the enemy. Today I got two and expended the very minimum of ammunition—17 bullets. But one of those two was due to good luck, nothing else. Or maybe, possibly, because I said my prayers faithfully last night?

It happened like this. With three others of my squadron mates I encountered a flight of Austrians at 2000 meters. The Austrian flight spread when we attacked. Three of my mates went after those that banked off to the right. That left me alone to battle the three that banked my way. The enemy took immediate advantage of my predicament. One came at me head-on. Another dove underneath, and the third charged at my rear.

Another Enemy Plane!

I had no time to figure strategy, so plunged blindly for my frontal attacker, the nearest one. Leveling my guns on his radiator I let go with a burst, hoping to damage his engine and put him out of the flight. That is, I pressed my triggers for a burst. But there wasn’t a burst. Sly guns jammed without firing a single shot.

At the same time bullets came clattering through my ship from beneath. I banked steeply, then dived and zoomed. At the top of the zoom I leveled off and cleared my guns. It wasn’t a bad jam, luckily. The three Austrians were still clinging to me, and my mates and the other Austrians had disappeared. I tell you it wasn’t a sweet feeling, but now that my guns were in order I vowed to give my attackers all I had.

I dived to shed an Austrian on my tail whose bullets were spotting holes in ray wings, then zoomed up abruptly, half turned, and found an Austrian plane dead in my sights. I let him have it. Tac-tac! Tac-tac.

No Time for Strategy

Another of the enemy planes swept past behind the one I was firing on at the same instant.

I held my triggers down for a short second or so.

The first plane began to wobble. I released my triggers. It wobbled some more, then slid off sideways, and tumbled into a spin. Then, of all things! I ruddered to chase the other plane. But it had burst into flames! It too, went spinning down, leaving a weaving black smoke trail behind.

I had got both of them with that single burst, in that split second when they lined up together in front of my guns. When I got home I counted the empty loops in my bandoliers. I had used but 17 bullets!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Rex Warneford, R.F.C.

Link - Posted by David on June 14, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Sub-Flight Lieutenant Rex Warneford’s most thrilling sky fight!

Sub-Flight Lieutenant Rex Warneford of the British Royal Flying Corps was the first airman to shoot down an enemy Zeppelin, likewise he was the first war pilot to win the coveted Victoria Cross. Previous to his epic fight with the raiding Zeppelin young Warneford was a comparatively obscure pilot. After this amazing and brilliant victory he leaped to the highest pinnacle of fame, he escaped from the German lines with his plane after being forced down fully five miles from his own territory. A troop of German cavalrymen rode up to take him prisoner, but using his machine-gun to the greatest advantage he managed to hold them off until he had completed temporary repairs on his plane. Then, amidst a continual hail of fire, he took off in flight, running the gauntlet of fire successfully, eventually to land within his own lines. Unhappily, two days after the V.C. had been conferred on him, he was killed in an air accident near Paris. In the account below he tells the story of this fight in his own words:

 

DOWNING A GERMAN ZEPPELIN

by Lieutenant Rex Warneford, R.F.C. • Sky Fighters, February 1935

I WAS cruising high over Belgium beyond Poelcapelle on a solo bombing mission when I chanced to glance above me and saw a huge moving shape parting the cloud reaches above me. At first I did not recognize it for what it was, but after swinging up on one wing to get a better view, saw immediately that it was a giant Zeppelin raider. It was far above me and flying in the opposite direction.

I decided immediately to go after it, so swung up in a steep climbing circle with the bright noonday sun at my back. The clouds served me in good stead, for they kept my movements somewhat masked. I managed to get within 500 yards of the big bag. Then a veritable hail of machine-gun fire began spouting at my plane. I was not nervous nor scared at the moment, but I recall that my hand shook uncontrollably on the control stick and my feet quivered against the rudder bar. The consequent erratic motion of my plane probably helped me to dodge the German bullets.

I was so thrilled that I shook all over. But after I had fired my first burst of retaliatory fire, self-command returned. I went about my task grimly, sliding in through the Zeppelin’s fire until I was immediately over the bag. I let loose then with my first bomb. It missed by several yards.

I whined back in a swift bank, climbing, came in again, nosed down swiftly, got over the bag again and let go with another bomb. The Zeppelin fire was terrific now. I heard the bullets crackling through my wings. One landing wire snapped. That second bomb missed, too.

I got mad, dived straight down with my gun blazing. The bullets poured through the big bag—but nothing happened. I dived underneath, climbed up on the other side to the rear and came in again haltingly. My motor had begun to falter. I pushed the nose down and dived head-on until within a few yards of the airship, then pulled up quickly in a stall and dropped my last bomb. It hit squarely.

The resultant concussion when the big bag exploded buffeted my plane severely. My motor was faltering badly and while I was struggling to right my ship it conked out completely. I had to go down in enemy territory, but I was not unhappy, for as I looked down below me I saw the giant Zeppelin break in two in the middle and go flaming earthwards in separate parts. I thought, as I went gliding down, of the old story of David and Goliath. The fact that I was soon to be taken prisoner did not sadden me.

The story of my escape from the Germans is a long one and will have to be told another time. That was certainly my lucky day and most thrilling fight!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Ernst Mathy

Link - Posted by David on May 31, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have German Zeppelin Commander Captain Ernst Mathy’s most thrilling sky fight!

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

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

 

SINKING A SUBMARINE

by Captain Ernst Mathy • Sky Fighters, January 1935

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Corporal Edmond C. Genet

Link - Posted by David on May 17, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have American Flyer Corporal Edmond C. Genet’s most thrilling sky fight!

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

 

HOLDING THE HUNS AT BAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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