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The Story Behind The Cover


“Sky Fighters, December 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on June 11, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. For the December 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the Italian S.V.A. bringing loaves of bread to the troops high in the mountain passes!

The Ships on the Cover

BREAD! The mainstay of mankind. th_SF_3512 And when the army is the mainstay of nations, bread for the army ranks higher than Roman Emperors.

Who said an army fights on its stomach? Someone who did plenty of fighting in the old days and knew his armies. Of what importance were guns, bombs, and shells piled up ready for combat when the human bodies to man these weapons of war have no fuel to stoke the human engine!

The chuck wagon was greeted by loud cheers when it put in its appearance in “any man’s army.” Runners with food supplies strapped to their backs dodged bullets through a maze of communication trenches to get to the front line doughboys. Dogs pulling small carts of food got through to scattered outposts.

The Alpine Heights

Italy has a wonderful northern barrier which nature has seemingly bestowed upon that sunny boot projecting into the Mediterranean. When Italy declared war on the Austrian Empire in May, 1915, she looked hopefully at those lofty Alpine heights to keep her enemy in check.

The Italian advance of early days was halted. The Austrian counter-attack regained their positions but in 1917 when Italy finally declared war on Germany also, the Italians resumed their offensive and captured fourteen fortified mountains.

It is a different problem to fight on mountain sides than on the fields of the lowlands. The ordinary labor of warfare is made a hundredfold more difficult. Dragging heavy guns up rocky mountain sides by sheer nerve-racking will power—pulling shells on sleds over icy passes—stringing communication lines from crag to crag, where one well-placed shell would damage the patient work of days of laying the wires.

The contact, broken in some out of the way pass, impossible to mend without disastrous delay. All these had to be done on the ground. The only savior of these lonely mountain outposts was the new weapon of the world war—the airplane.

Italy, from poor beginnings, progressed Steadily forward in the aviation branch of her service despite her ground army’s advances or retreats. Planes could fly from their bases on flat ground to the besieged mountain country to drop messages keeping the army in touch with headquarters no matter how many communication lines on the ground were destroyed.

Flying high over such a wide expanse of territory they observed the enemy positions, often saving their own forces from being bottled up by enemy flanking movements.

But as important as any message to the morale of these men high in snow-covered fastnesses was the sight which is shown on the cover picture. Planes bringing the white-clad figures on the mountain side that which they could obtain by no other means—Bread! Big round, crispy loaves of the life-giving food.

The pass through which the guns and ammunition have been hauled was later completely buried under an avalanche, tons of snow and rock blocked the narrow road.

When Men Hunger

Days, weeks, months might elapse before that impassable barrier could be surmounted to transport food to the men cut off from their fellows. But four planes received their orders and cargo. They were in sight of the desperate little group in a few hours time. Sleek S.V.A.’s that could climb high above the loftiest peaks, their powerful Ansaldo engines overcoming the barrier that nature had created against the Italians as well as in their favor.

Shouts of “Bravo” from the snow. Shouts that would warm the heart of an opera star at the Milan Opera House. These cheers were for something better than music when men are hungry. They were for contents of the rope bags falling from the planes, the golden brown loaves of bread.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, Deecmber 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Sky Birds, November 1934″ by C.B. Mayshark

Link - Posted by David on May 28, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS May we’re celebrating the genius that is C.B. Mayshark! Mayshark took over the covers duties for Sky Birds with the July 1934 and would paint all the remaining covers until it’s last issue in December 1935. At the start of his run, Sky Birds started featuring a different combat maneuver of the war-time pilots. The lower corner presenting a play-by-play of that month’s maneuver with the remainder of the cover illustrating it. For November 1934 issue Mayshark gives us “Armored Audacity!”

Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots:
Armored Audacity

WITH one or two exceptions, th_SB_3411 all metal planes were uncommon during the war. The ships which saw service on the Front were of fabric construction, with wooden spars, longerons and ribs used throughout.

On planes of 1917 and 1918 design, however, metal was employed for hoods on the water-cooled jobs, as well as for the cowlings of radials and rotaries. Metal was not used further than this, except on ships of rare design, most of which never got into active service. In the hectic days of the war, manufacturers were reluctant to depart from time-proven standards and pitch headlong into the mass production of a design which had not established its worth over the blood-stained battlefields of France.

However, there is always some one a step ahead of the rest of the world—some one with courage and foresight enough to make a radical departure from conventional design. Such a step was taken by the engineers of the Bristol Works in England during 1918. The result of their efforts is the Bristol M-1, an all-metal adaptation of the famous Bristol Fighter.

The main object in building the M-1 was to produce a ship capable of resisting the climatic variations of hot countries such as Egypt and India. However, several M-1’s found their way across the Channel and into France. The M-1 was very similar in appearance to the Bristol Fighter, the important changes in design occurring in the center-section of the lower plane, which is entirely cut away, with only the two main spars remaining intact, and in the tail assembly, which carries a larger fin and a smaller tailskid than the Fighter.

Steel is employed throughout the fuselage construction, a light-weight composition metal being used on the outer covering. The spars and ribs of the wings are steel, fabric being used for a covering. The M-1 carries a 200-h.p. Sunbeam “Arab” in its nose, and Is capable of making about 124 miles per hour. The regulation Scarff mounting is used over the observer’s cockpit, on which either single or double Lewis gun units can be fitted. Twin Vickers are carried beneath the engine hood, and are equipped with an interrupter gear for firing through the prop.

The other ship pictured on this month’s cover is a single-seater German “Kondor.” It will be observed that the center-section on the upper plane is entirely cut away, even the main spars being eliminated. The ship is powered with a 140-h.p. Goebels rotary with air-cooling being accomplished by means of holes bored through the front turn of the cowling.

The maneuver executed by the pilot of the Bristol is quite appropriately termed audacious. With the Kondor on his tail, the Bristol pilot exposes himself and his observer to great apparent danger. As he fakes a dive, he hoiks the ship up and thunders before the German, directly in the line of a deadly fire. But the Spandau tracers cannot find a vital spot beneath the Bristol armor, and as the German pilot frantically fights for altitude, the Bristol observer, well in the German’s blind spot, lines up the best target he has ever seen through his Lewis sights.

As he trips the trigger, one burst of fire is emitted. The Kondor staggers, with prop spinning madly. The German plane levels off. Its nose begins to sink, and as it begins a long, wide, uncontrolled spiral, it sets itself to its last task—its last descent.

The Story of The Cover
Sky Birds, November 1934 by C.B. Mayshark
(Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots: The Story Behind This Month’s Cover)

“Sky Birds, October 1934″ by C.B. Mayshark

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

THIS May we’re celebrating the genius that is C.B. Mayshark! Mayshark took over the covers duties for Sky Birds with the July 1934 and would paint all the remaining covers until it’s last issue in December 1935. At the start of his run, Sky Birds started featuring a different combat maneuver of the war-time pilots. The lower corner presenting a play-by-play of that month’s maneuver with the remainder of the cover illustrating it. For October 1934 issue Mayshark gives us “The Camera Crasher!”

Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots:
The Camera Crasher

ONE of the most skilled, daring, th_SB_3410 and probably least appreciated members of tho air services during the war was the observer who happened to be capable of using an air camera. Actually, there were very few who could do this job well, in spite of the fact that all airmen were supposed to be trained in the use of the instrument. There was always one man in every squadron who was unlucky enough, right from the start, to be able to get good pictures. From that day on, he was marked.

The air photographer had to be a strange combination of grim, fighting courage, cool, methodical cunning and unbelievable patience. In the first place, he had to be an observer, a man worthy of any one’s respect. Then he had to be a plodding soul who was game enough to keep his pilot on a straight course while he got strips of pictures to make up the innumerable mosaic maps that the Army seemed to consume with amazing rapidity. Next, he had to be a capable fighting man, in order to do two things at once—and do them both well. He had to be able to fight with one hand on his Lewis or Parabellum gun while with the other he was ramming the plates through the camera with, machinelike precision.

Try holding off two Huns with one hand, ramming the feed handle of the camera back and forth with the other, while you count slowly to eight between plate changes— and you get an idea what it was all about. If your pilot got “windy” during the spree and let his ship run slightly off line to dodge the crackling tracer, you arrived back to find that half your plates had been exposed over a section you had taken the day before. Then back you went again, to try it all over.

The photography proposition was a serious business in the war days. The areas involved had to be photographed regularly, and not just in single shots, as most air-story readers believe. You had to get eighteen plates in a row at a time. The single plate exposure of some particular pinpoint came now and again, but not often enough to make up for the hair-raising experiences getting the mosaic strips.

Then there was the other side of the photography game—the defense against it. This is where we got the idea for this month’s cover.

Here we see a German two-seater that has sneaked over the French lines and caught an important strip which may or may not have considerable bearing on a coming offensive. That ship must be stopped. It must never get back to Germany. But it has already nailed the picture, and there is but one thing to do.

To shoot it down might help, but you cannot be sure. You might kill both the pilot and the observer, and yet the camera plates might still be intact. Then, if they are recovered from the wreckage and developed, they can still do the damage the French feared.

It was to this end that several countries on the Allied side of tho line worked on the development of a cannon-plane, or a ship that was armed with a one-pounder for a particular purpose. That purpose was the same for which Buckingham ammunition was intended—destruction by fire. When a ship was shot down in flames, everything aboard, including cameras and plate boxes, was usually consumed by fire.

The Spad-Cannon is well known, mainly because it was used with fair effect by both Fonck and Guynemer. The real truth of the matter, however, is that the cannon-ship was actually developed for the purpose of destroying enemy camera ships by setting them on fire. The shell used was a graze-fuse incendiary missile. The Buggatti-Spad shown in the upper portion of this month’s cover was a special two-seater using a Buggatti motor, with barrel-type water and oil-cooling chambers shown beneath the nose. The gun used was a spring-recoil weapon fitted to fire through the propeller-shaft, which was hollow and geared to the two eight-cylinder crank shafts. How many of these ships were built and titled on the Front is not known, but we are presenting it to show just how these much-talked-of cannon-ships were employed.

The Albatros CV shown is also a 1918 type, fitted with a 225-h.p. B.W.F. motor. The upper wing had a span of 41 feet, 6 inches, and the lower a span of 40 feet, 4 inches. The strangely balanced ailerons should be noticed. The unfortunate observer-camera man has ripped his Parabellum out of the Gotha-type gun mounting, a steel post which swivels from a point in the center of the floor, and fits into holes or slots around the ring.

The Story of The Cover
Sky Birds, October 1934 by C.B. Mayshark
(Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots: The Story Behind This Month’s Cover)

“Sky Birds, September 1934″ by C.B. Mayshark

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

THIS May we’re celebrating the genius that is C.B. Mayshark! Mayshark took over the covers duties for Sky Birds with the July 1934 and would paint all the remaining covers until it’s last issue in December 1935. At the start of his run, Sky Birds started featuring a different combat maneuver of the war-time pilots. The lower corner presenting a play-by-play of that month’s maneuver with the remainder of the cover illustrating it. For September 1934 issue Mayshark gives us “Death For The Decoy!”

Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots:
Death For The Decoy

THIS month our cover depicts a th_SB_3408 maneuver used many times during the latter months of the war, but not greatly exploited in story or illustration. It is not known who originated the decoy idea, but a defense for it was perfected by the British.

The painting shows two unusual ships, a German L.V.G. scout and the British Austin “Greyhound” two-seater fighter. It is improbable that either of these ships ever reached the Front and saw squadron service, but it is known that two or three were sent out and tried by the service-test pilots, whose duties were to flight-test new machines in actual combat, after they had been passed on construction, maneuverability and performance. The faults that lie hidden while ships are undergoing tests over friendly soil are usually brought out in the heat and flame of aerial warfare.

So, in order to give you new models to study, we show the British Austin “Greyhound” getting the D-type L.V.G. scout. We know of no better way of giving you accurate detail pictures, and at the same time explaining some of the intricate maneuvers used on the battlefront.

In this case, we have the original move of the German Staffel commander in sending down the unfortunate decoy. This ship was usually flown by a smart pilot who not only knew how to fake a “greenie” in the air, but was expected to be able to entice the Allied ships down and keep them occupied until the Staffel above could get down and come to his “rescue.” He not only had to be a game pilot, but he had to know every trick in the game. It was necessary that he know every inch of his Front, too, so that if his ship was damaged and he had to make a forced landing, he could cut into the bend in the line and be certain he was well inside his own territory.

This time, the British two-seater leader spots the move. It is possible that the lurking German scouts above have not made full use of the sun, or else they have been spotted as they tore through a hole in their cloud hideout. At any rate, the British commander gives his sub-leader a signal, and the pilot fires a red light, indicating that he is having engine trouble and wants to go back.

Instead of cutting into Allied territory, however, the decoy-destroyer cuts back at the first opportunity, slides into the L.V.G.’s blind spot and works his way into a position where the gunner can get in a terrible burst. If all goes well, the decoy is caught napping, or at least is made to fight, thus drawing the attention of the lurking Germans above.

Down they come, to protect their bait, not noticing the other two-seaters that have withdrawn to a suitable position beneath the Staffel. Once the big formation is on its way down, the British two-seater dives and reverses the role of decoy. The Germans go after him, but put themselves where the British can chop down on them before they have an opportunity to win back a better position. And, in 1918, two sets of guns against one was bad medicine.

The “Greyhound” is really an adaptation of the S.E.5 or the Nieuport Night-hawk in two-seater form. It had an A.B.C. Dragonfly radial engine of 320 h.p. and could do 130 m.p.h. at 10,000 feet. It landed at 45 m.p.h. and climbed to 10,000 feet in 11 minutes.

Little is known of the L.V.G. except that it used the 230-h.p. Benz, and had unusually clean lines. It probably had a speed of about 118 m.p.h.

The Story of The Cover
Sky Birds, September 1934 by C.B. Mayshark
(Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots: The Story Behind This Month’s Cover)

“Sky Birds, August 1934″ by C.B. Mayshark

Link - Posted by David on May 7, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS May we’re celebrating the genius that is C.B. Mayshark! Mayshark took over the covers duties for Sky Birds with the July 1934 and would paint all the remaining covers until it’s last issue in December 1935. At the start of his run, Sky Birds started featuring a different combat maneuver of the war-time pilots. The lower corner presenting a play-by-play of that month’s maneuver with the remainder of the cover illustrating it. For August 1934 issue Mayshark gives us “Triplane Trickery!”

Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots:
Triplane Trickery

PROBABLY no more interesting bit th_SB_3408 of air action could ever be seen on any front than that involving two triplanes, one a Sopwith, the other, of course, the much discussed Fokker. Both were fast on the controls, almost equally powered and remarkable climbing ships.

The most amazing feature about this triplane business is that even today, with all the publicity that has been given to World War planes, few realize that the greatest triplane on the Front was the Sopwith—not the Fokker.

The Fokker triplane has drawn an unusual amount of regard mainly because von Richthofen flew it for a considerable period. Voss, the great German sportsman, also won twenty-two victories in three weeks in a triplane. The German triplane has attracted attention also because of the garish designs that have been credited to various noted German Staffels. A German triplane decked out in fantastic colors and diced designs looks more offensive than a Sopwith which had to retain its factory colors. The triplanes used by Ray Collishaw and his Black Gang when they were ordered to keep every German observation plane out of the air over Messines, in 1917, were the only British ships used on the Front during the daytime which were daubed up with unorthodox coloring. Our readers will recall that they were all painted black.

The Sopwith triplane was finished and first delivered on May 28th, 1916. The Fokker triplane came out several months later, and had many of the interesting features of the British ship. Except for the Fokker cantilever wing, which made it a stronger ship than the Sopwith, the Fokker was generally considered a steal.

Be that as it may, both were fine ships. The Sopwith triplane was first used by the Royal Naval Air Service and did fine work, but after several months of front-line and coastal action, it was practically superseded by the Camel, which came out in December, 1916. The one fault with the Sopwith was its unusually high landing speed, which frankly made it unsuitable for the temporary airdromes in vogue in France in those days. For this reason, it was practically abandoned. However, when Ray Collishaw, given the unenviable job of clearing the air for a period of three months over Messines, was asked what ship he preferred for the work, he practically stunned everyone by stating that the Sopwith triplane would be his selection.

They gave him five and let him daub them up as he liked. He selected four other young hellions like himself and went to work clearing the air over Messines while the British sunk their memorable mine under the German lines. In two months Collishaw shot down 29 German planes. His Black Gang accounted for nearly forty, altogether, and eventually Messines went up without a German’s knowing what had been going on.

Where the British triplane had it all over the German was in climbing. In the first place, it was much lighter and better powered. In our cover drawing this month, we show a typical maneuver during a raid on a German drome. The British ship had broken out of a patrol to give a line of hangars a dose of Vickers. A German had been taking off just as the Sopwith pilot reached his lowest point. Naturally the Fokker had the early edge in height, but the Sopwith pilot was taught to fake a dive on his enemy at the first opportunity he got. If he hit, okay. If not, he continued on under the Fokker yanked up hard and, with this added momentum, the Sopwith shot into the sky like a high-speed elevator. From that point on, the Fokker was completely outclassed, for while a pilot is struggling to climb, he has little chance to get his nose on an enemy.

Of course, if the Sopwith had tried to out-dive the Hun—that would have been different. But these are the tricks of the triplanes.

The Story of The Cover
Sky Birds, August 1934 by C.B. Mayshark
(Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots: The Story Behind This Month’s Cover)

“Sky Birds, July 1934″ by C.B. Mayshark

Link - Posted by David on April 30, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS May we’re celebrating the genius that is C.B. Mayshark and we’re getting things rolling a day early! Mayshark took over the covers duties for Sky Birds with the July 1934 and would paint all the remaining covers until it’s last issue in December 1935. At the start of his run, Sky Birds started featuring a different combat maneuver of the war-time pilots. The lower corner presenting a play-by-play of that month’s maneuver with the remainder of the cover illustrating it. For his inaugural issue Mayshark gives us “The Barrel-Roll Death Trap!”

Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots:
The Barrel-Roll Death Trap

THE rear gunner—aerial th_SB_3407gunner to the trade—was a much misunderstood figure. Few people today realize that the R.F.C. used many noncommissioned men on their fighting ships. As a matter of fact, the R.F.C. gunner was an important figure in the victorv that the Allied aerial arm scored over the enemy.

Take this month’s fighting maneuver, for instance. Here’s a case where the rear gunner was the real brains of the action. The D.H.9 in the foreground is being piloted by an officer, but he is, at the moment, under the direct guidance of the N.C.O. gunner, who might be anything from a second-class air mechanic to a sergeant.

The case in question is the matter of maneuvers while being attacked by single-seaters. The D.H.9’s are coming home from a bombing show. They have already dropped their load on Manheim, Ghent, Gontrode, or perhaps even the submarine bases above Ostend. All they have to do now is return to the back area, where they will be picked up by the advance scouts—Camels, S.E.G’s, or Spads-who will escort them over the lines.

But in the meantime, twenty or thirty miles have to be negotiated before they can expect such protection, and from their objective back to this point, the bombers have to rely on their own ability. So far, they have managed to hold formation, but at a point about fifteen miles from the line they run into a bank of cumulus clouds and are forced to break up for safety. You can’t fly formation in cloud banks.

This break-up gives the enemy scouts their chance. They pick on the lame ducks, the ships that stray too far away from the original line of flight.

That’s where the rear gunner comes in. As the Siemens-Schuckert monoplane sweeps in for the kill, the rear gunner taps the pilot on either side of the shoulder to indicate which way he should turn. Then, when things get too hot, he feigns being wounded and holds his fire.

The German single-seater darts in for the final burst. Then, watching closely, the gunner signals a fake loop. The D.H.9 starts the loop and the S-S follows. But the D.H.9, gaining speed in the dive, suddenly goes into a fast barrel roll. The S-S ship continues the loop, and when her belly is shown, the rear gunner comes suddenly into action with his Lewis gun. In the loop, the single-seater is slow and offers a rare target. The gunner lets drive with all his might and plants a beautiful row in her dirty belly. A tracer finds the tank and sets her afire. The poor German, wondering where the D.H.9 went to, suddenly finds himself sitting in a blazing cockpit. The rest is history. It was the maneuvering of the gunner that brought this about—but the officer will probably get credit for the kill!

The Siemens-Schuckert shown in the picture is an unusual ship. It is a monoplane with the old Oburursal rotary, a copy of the Le Rhone, but it was fast in maneuvers. Few were flown on the Western Front, but a number were sent to Austria to combat the fast Italian Fiat chasers.

The D.H.9, one of the best two-seater bombers of the war, was powered with the B.H.P. 240-h.p. motor, a plane that was unusually suitable for fine streamlining, as seen in the nose detail. At 10,000 feet, it had a speed of 110 m.p.h. and was one of the important units of the R.F.C. in the late months of the war.

The Story of The Cover
Sky Birds, July 1934 by C.B. Mayshark
(Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots: The Story Behind This Month’s Cover)

“Sky Fighters, November 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 16, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. For the November 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the Kondor E3 and Salmson 7A-2!

The Ships on the Cover

SKY battles were fought for the th_SF_3511defense of the reconnaissance arm of the air service. The all important function of airplanes in warfare from the beginning was reconnaissance. More good was done to protect the lives of millions of men on the ground by the slow reconnaissance ships plodding their daily round of the skyways than many of the glorious dog-fights of crack squadrons. Commanders of divisions were desperate in carrying out their strategy. They stamped up and down at headquarters waiting for the word that would mean success or failure for their planned maneuvers. Word of what was happening “out there” after the men had gone “over the top.”

Telegraph wire was laid over miles of territory. At great risk it was buried deep to protect it. Despite this care it was often uprooted by the continuous barrage of shells tearing into the earth. It was torn to a mass of useless shredded copper fibres. Then runners were dispatched back through the lines with the precious messages which gave the position of the troops. Often those runners, despite the sacrifice of their lives, were never able to deliver the message which would mean so much to their buddies. Sometimes those who were lucky got through, but took so long to get back that the news was too old to be of help to the men directing the action. Even more difficulty was experienced in getting directions from the men behind the scenes to the front line troops. Contact with those out there was often impossible.

Motorcycles on Planes

An American had an idea that two fast moving inventions of man could be combined to overcome such a bad situation. He said, why not carry a motorcycle on a plane? A two-seater could carry a motorcycle rider in the back pit. He could be landed as close to the front line as possible and make a dash on his cycle to the isolated units separated from their reserve support. He could bring them directions for concerted action. The motorcycle dispatch rider had the speed to get the message where it would do most good in the shortest time. His two-wheeled vehicle without wings carried him at 60 m.p.h. over shell-torn roads to the farthest outpost.

The Salmson 7A.2 on the cover was in the midst of just such a job. It had flown as close to the front lines as it could to observe the ever shifting American troops. Intent on picking a landing spot, the Salmson pilot was suddenly aware that the sky held more planes than his own by a yell from his observer in the rear of the one long cockpit.

Two Monoplanes Buzz By

Two small monoplanes buzzed close by. Their 140 h.p. Oberursels brought them closer at the rate of 120 m.p.h. They were Kondor E 3 parasols whose pilots thought it would be easy to polish off the two-seater. But the Salmson’s observer wasn’t chosen for the hazardous work he did merely for his ability in scooting over rough roads on his motorcycle. He was as expert with the Lewis trigger as the handlebars. One Kondor misjudged the big ship’s maneuvers and the observer blasted straight at the German pilot. The second Kondor coming up under the forty feet wing spread of the Salmson had a big target, but the men in the observation ship had too much valuable information to deliver to sell their lives cheaply in a sky duel. The Kondor was literally blanketed with Vicker’s slugs. The Boche pilot decided he wouldn’t bother a ship with such a good marksman at the rear gun. He nosed over and limped for home. The Salmson sought the ground to land the motorcycle. The observer changed roles quickly and became the dispatch rider.

As the pilot took off again to return to his home tarmac he saw the motorcycle and helmeted rider fused together as one streak of lightning along the road toward Allied outposts, even as flashing a rider of fearlessness as Jove’s thunderbolt insignia painted on the side of the Salmson.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, November 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“The Lone Eagle, March 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 2, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of The Lone Eagle from its first issue in September 1933 until the June 1937 issue when Rudolph Belarski took over with the August issue of that year. At the start of the run, Frandzen painted covers of general air action much like his Sky Fighters covers. Here, for the March 1934 cover, Frandzen has a D.H.5 being attacked by a Pfalz D.12!

The Story of the Cover

THE planes pictured on this th_LE_3403month’s cover are the De Haviland 5 (D.H.5), an unusual back staggered job giving the pilot exceptionally good visibility, and the Pfalz D.12. The De Haviland name is taken from the chief designer of the Aircraft Manufacturing Co., a British company formed in 1912. The Pfalz D.12 was the successor to a long line of Pfalz ships, some of them—pusher—manufactured before the World War.

The usual V struts ordinarily appearing on the Pfalz ships have been discarded in this later model for twin bays of N struts on either side of the fuselage.

The D.H.5 pictured on the cover had been brought back into the war in 1918. It did its duty during 1917 nnd sent many German ships crashing to earth.

But those enemy planes were about equal in speed to the D.H.5. The Pfalz can outdistance the back-staggered British job about twenty miles per hour—some handicap. But don’t overlook the second D.H. coming into the fracas from above.

The pilots of the Allied ships are two Yank pilots, who, thinking the war in the air had become too tame, thought up a scheme to lure the Jerries into a real scrap. “We’ll give ‘em odds,” said one to the other.

“We’ll borrow those two old D.H.5s over in the Limey’s barn and go out and beg the Boche to come and play with us. Lately they’ve been hiding out way behind their own lines. We’ll sorta tie one hand behind the back and put a chip on our shoulder.” And so it came to pass that early one morning, helped by a British mechanic who was glad to get the relics out of his crowded hangar, they “borrowed” the two crates.

Back and forth above the lines the two Yanks drove their ships, ships which but a year before had been the last screech when it came to speed and maneuverability, but now pushed to the sidelines to make room for faster jobs. In the distance and in the direction of the German dromes they saw a single ship winging toward them at about one hundred and twenty-five miles per hour. The D.H.5s continued to saunter along at their hundred and five mile clip.

Evidently the Hun pilot knew that he was being bated because he became cagey when within striking distance. He shaded his eyes and looked carefully toward the sun. No lurking Allied ships could he spot, neither could he see any in any other direction. He licked his lips and cleared his guns.

Wham, he gave the Pfalz the gun and roared in to annihilate the brazen Yanks.

They let him blast them, let him get his bullets dangerously close to their skins before they lammed out of range. But those two were buddies, air buddies who worked together on enemy ships. Timing was their favorite stunt when flying their Spads. All they had to do in the slower crates was to wait a few seconds longer before opening up and letting the attacking ship slide through between them.

They did exactly this and then as the Hun was about to swing his fast ship around and barge back at the Yanks he found twin streams of lead boring into his ship, one stream from each single gun mounted on the front of the two D.Hs. A couple of those slugs got the gas tank. The engine sputtered, a tiny whisp of flame swept back, then suddenly the whole front of the engine cowling belched flames. One D.H. flashed by the German, whose ship was now slowed down under the speed of his enemy. The German yanked at his stick. If he could only climb his ship enough he’d ram the Yank with his flaming crate, take him with him on his death dive. But don’t worry, he didn’t do it because his opponents were only giving him a last salute before starting for home, giving him a chance for a last crack at them, but in doing it they didn’t take any chances of being shot down.

The Yank in the foreground didn’t flip into the Boche’s ring-sight till only the tail of his ancient crate would be available for the Spandau bullets to perforate. Again our friend had used—TIMING.

The Story of The Cover
The Lone Eagle, March 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Story of The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, October 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on March 19, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. For the October 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the classic age old battle of Spad 13 C1 vs Fokker D7!

The Ships on the Cover

THE first Spad made its debut in 1916. th_SF_3510It was a heavier ship than the French manufacturers usually turned out. They were prone to seek speed by making engine, wings and fuselage all as light as possible.

Then up popped the first Spad with its heavy Hispano-Suiza motor and its rigidly braced body and all around husky construction. It knocked the spots out of the lighter type of machines. Each succeeding model got heavier and each engine had more power.

Aviators put these husky Spads into prolonged power dives that other machines could not possibly make.

The Finest Fighting Plane

The Lafayette Escadrille swung over from Nieuports to Spads and any French squadron that could beg, borrow or steal them parked themselves in Spads and went up into the skies confident that they had the finest fighting plane in existence.

Of course there was a difference of opinion over on the German side of the line. The Fokker D7 made its appearance and the Heinie flyers just knew that they had the finest machine that ever sprouted wings. Therefore when the confident opposing war flyers, one in a Spad 13 C1 and the other in a Fokker D7 decided to smack each other with a few well placed slugs, it was an interesting show. And doubly interesting if two men happened to be aboard a one-place Spad.

Story of the Cover

Fifteen minutes before the action depicted on the cover, the Spad pilot set his ship down on German territory at a prearranged spot. A figure crawled from a clump of brush, raced to the Spad and shinned onto the right wing. Up zoomed the Spad with its precious wing passenger, an A1Iied intelligence operator who had documents that were important enough to cause three generals to be waiting at that moment at the Spad’s drome.

At a thousand feet the German archies started bursting in profusion. One lucky she11 sheared the undercarriage nearly off the Spad. It lurched and staggered with the swaying encumbrance. The wing passenger inched his way to the cockpit the pilot handed out a small hunk of iron.

Bullet Hemstitching

The passenger went to work just as a Fokker went into action. Three minutes of scientific prying on the shattered undercarriage released it and the Spad leaped forward with ten miles extra speed. It turned on the Fokker and hemstitched it from stem to stem.

The German with two minor wounds admitted the Spad, if it didn’t carry wheels, was the better ship.

He dove out of the fight cursing the anti-aircraft gunners who had ruined a sure kill for him. His only consolation was that his foe’s landing would be about as soft as a racing locomotive hitting the rear end of a cement train.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, October 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, September 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 19, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. For the September 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the Nieuport 17 taking on a Albatross D1!

The Ships on the Cover

PLANES kicked through the air at th_SF_3509 the first of the war and were laughed at by the ground troops and their commanders. Toys, things to wonder at and possibly admire; but to be taken seriously as an offensive weapon. Never!

Weapon? That’s exactly the right word that keys the whole advance of the airplane from a trick war sideline to a major cog in the wheels of war. On the Nieuport in the foreground the weapon blazing from the top wing is the Lewis gun with a revolving metal drum which fed shells into the gun breech. But let’s slide back to the first part of the war when machine-guns were not thought possible. In August, 1914, cavalry carbines were occasionally tucked into a cockpit and the observer or even a pilot of a single seater optimistically pushed the snout out over the side of the fuselage and took a pot shot at a Boche flying parallel to his plane. With the vibration from the engine, the bumpy air and the back pressure from the slipstream it was all the would-be assassin could do to hold the rifle from jerking out of his hands and barging back into the empennage, let alone draw a bead on the enemy who had ideas of his own about remaining in focus.

Bags of Bricks

Finding this method useless the sharpshooters of the air dragged out, believe it or not, good old bags of bricks. The trick was to get above your opponent, mentally calculate the trajectory of a brick from your shaking hand to the whirling prop of the enemy plane. Of course there was always the chance of ringing the bell by a super-lucky throw if the falling brick made direct contact with the enemy’s head. About the only casualty from this duck on the rock technique was a direct hit on a high official’s private cow. Orders went out immediately: No more bricks.

Small steel darts, diminutive bombs and hand grenades were hurled down at ground troops and supply trains but the damage was small. Then came the machine-gun firing from the back pit or from the front nacelle of the pusher type.

In January, 1915, the Lewis gun was first mounted on the top wing of a Nieuport firing over the top of the propeller in the line of flight. A few months later the Roland Garros gun appeared, shooting through the propeller arc, but not synchronized. Triangular steel plates deflected bullets that would otherwise have shattered the wooden propeller.

Finally the Fokker synchronized guns blazed a devastating hail of bullets through the prop arc. The Allied airmen were battered and smashed from the skies. Fast pusher type planes were thrown against the German’s super gun. And then a German plane crashed behind the Allied lines. The interrupter gear secret was out. Synchronized Vickers guns were mounted on Allied cowlings. The Germans’ advantage had been lost. The war in the skies blazed forth with accelerated tempo. Toy ships of a few months past had blossomed into major weapons of war.

An Old Stunt

However, the top gun firing forward was not discarded by many Allied aviators. Nieuports and S.E.5s used it, up until the Armistice. The Nieuport on the cover has its top gun and a synchronized Vickers which has jammed hopelessly. Only a few shells remain in the pancake drum above. The French pilot is wounded and attacked by two German Albatross D1s. He knows he cannot get them with front gun fire, but he remembers an old trick. Painfully he reaches up, yanks back the Lewis butt, jams the Bowden wire on the trigger as he zips under the belly of one German plane. A direct engine hit. Down goes the enemy. The remaining German sees the tricky gun work of the wounded Frenchman and feels the wind from the bullets of a second Nieuport coming to the rescue. He veers off and streaks for home allowing the Frenchman to get away, land and become a confirmed booster for the old top gun Lewis.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, September 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“The Lone Eagle, February 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 17, 2018 @ 10:21 pm in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of The Lone Eagle from its first issue in September 1933 until the June 1937 issue when Rudolph Belarski took over with the August issue of that year. At the start of the run, Frandzen painted covers of general air action much like his Sky Fighters covers. Here, for the February 1934 issue, Frandzen has a British Bristol monoplane taking on a cornered German L.V.G.!

The Story of the Cover

THE planes pictured on this th_LE_3402month’s cover are the Bristol monoplane, one of the prettiest little jobs turned out by the famous British and Colonial Aeroplane Co. The German ship is an L.V.G. type C.V.

High above the ground, against a background of blue, these two planes have met. The German pilot was heading back into German territory when the prowling Bristol pilot hopped the German. The Bristol, only rating one gun, was outclassed in armament at the start of the scrap by the L.V.G. which had two guns in perfect working order; one Spandau up front and a Parabellum at the back pit.

For ten or fifteen minutes the two guns on the L.V.G. have kept the Bristol at bay, but the L.V.G. being the slower and bulkier of the two has been more or less driven into maneuvers by the Bristol. And after each maneuver the German has found himself closer to the Allied lines. Also he has been forced to allow his ship to lose considerable altitude.

Over No Man’s Land

They have passed over No Man’s Land with its writhing lines of battered trenches and shell-torn fields. The Allied pilot signals the German to land—gives him to understand that he will be given a safe passage to the ground. The reply from Fritz and his observer is an assorted spray of slugs.

“O.K.,” the Allied pilot yells. And slamming the gas into the hungry carburetor he starts to really do his stuff.

The Bristol slashes back and forth across the back of the L.V.G. like a fighting shepherd dog ripping the hide from a bulldog’s back. In and out of ring-sights— short bursts—few of them, but effective. The German observer shudders, claws at his chest and stiffens, then slumps against the ring of his pit, mortally wounded.

Little Chance of Escape

The German pilot knows now that his tail is unprotected; his chances of escape amount to very little. Still, that small chance is better than nothing. He kicks his ship around and blasts at his enemy, his Spandau hammering out sizzling slugs.

Far below, carefully hidden from keen-eyed Boche airmen, a battery of Yank anti-aircraft guns have been trained on the aerial combatants.

Suddenly the commanding officer sees the Bristol dive away from the spurting gun of the German plane.

“Fire!” barks the artillery officer.

The drone and roar of the fighting planes is drowned by the sharp bark of the “75s.”

The Bristol pilot coming out at the top of a loop sees two blossoms suddenly burst on either side of the L.V.G. He pours a steady stream of lead into the German plane.

An Exciting Moment

That is the spot in the fight pictured on the cover; just that one moment when the unlucky German is beautifully bracketed by a couple of archie bursts and is getting a broadside from the Allied Vickers gun. One second later the German raises his hands above his head. The Bristol closes in on his tail. The anti-aircraft guns cease firing.

“Just in time for lunch, Fritz,” chuckles the victor. He points toward a cleared space flanked by tent hangars far below. The German nods solemnly, shrugs his shoulders—and obeys orders.

The Story of The Cover
The Lone Eagle, February 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Story of The Cover Page)

“The Lone Eagle, January 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 5, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of The Lone Eagle from its first issue in September 1933 until the June 1937 issue when Rudolph Belarski took over with the August issue of that year. At the start of the run, Frandzen painted covers of general air action much like his Sky Fighters covers. Here, for the fourth issue from January 1934, Frandzen has a German Halberstadt smashing into the undercarriage of a French Breguet—with dire consequences.

The Story of the Cover

SMASH! A crackup in the air! th_LE_3401 That is the picture on this month’s cover.

A shaved second before the collision there were two trim ships battling each other high above the war-torn fields—two ships piloted by airmen intent on blasting each other into oblivion. Vickers, Lewis, and Spandau slugs have slashed back and forth across the heavens.

The big Breguet with its wing span of forty-seven feet is not as maneuverable as the small Halberstadt scout with a span of only twenty-eight feet. But the Breguet’s handicap is offset by its rear gunner, who has an office unequalled for visibility. On either side of his pit he has Cellon windows.

There is a hole in the floor that he can see through and fire through if necessary. Therefore the blind spot under his tail is not as vulnerable as in ordinary two-seaters.

A Dangerous Opponent

The small Halberstadt has had a taste of the observer’s fire when sneaking in from behind to make the hoped for kill. The ship the German pilot thought was an easy victim has turned out to be a dangerous opponent.

Twice the German pilot has barged in from in front. Each time a stream of Vickers’ slugs drenched his ship. One of those hot, whistling messengers of death has slashed into his shoulder. Not a fatal wound, but a painful one. A wound that causes his flying to become jerky and erratic.

Another Angle of Attack

Mad clear through from being bested in a sky duel with a lumbering two-seater the German pushes the nose of his ship down. He starts to slither out of the fight, then he suddenly changes his mind. There is one angle of attack he has not tried; that one is coming up under the blunt nose of the Breguet. Coming up with a brace of Spandaus churning out hot steel.

His Halberstadt shudders as he pulls it out of its dive into a loop. Up swings the nose. He presses his gun trips. A short stutter from one gun, then it jams.

The other gun is silent—its ammo exhausted. Then directly in front of his blazing eyes looms the undercarriage of the Breguet; six husky steel members holding the axle and wheels—the strongest under construction of any Allied two-seater. Too late the German yanks on the stick to pull out of danger.

And This Is What Happens

Smash—his prop chews into the tough steel struts. His top left wing snaps—rips off—his prop flies to pieces, as does the undercarriage of the Breguet.

Both ships will get to earth; but one will be a wingless fuselage holding a doomed German pilot. The Breguet, minus wheels, can come down under its own power, flatten out and take the ground on its chest. It will be a rough landing but it is a ten to one chance that those two Yanks will be in the air again in a few days. They will be on the job—looking for trouble and overconfident Boche pilots.

The Story of The Cover
The Lone Eagle, January 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Story of The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, August 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on January 22, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. For the August 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the a couple of Junkers C.L.1 Seaplanes taking on a Neieuport 27!

The Ships on the Cover

ALL metal low-wing monoplanes th_SF_3508 are not a new wrinkle in sky ships. Back in the World War days, Professor Hugo Junkers sat before a drafting table littered with plains, blueprints and bits of corrugated metal. His simple stream-lined designs were far ahead of his day, therefore they were scoffed at by the heads of the German Flying Corps.

Anthony Fokker had a welded steel frame in the fuselage of his planes at the time. But this welding job was an exception. Fokker liked the looks of the Junkers design and saw to it that certain strings were pulled along the political line and it came to pass that those who had turned down the Junkers all metal planes swung into a snappy about-face in their beliefs. Fokker linked his name definitely with Hugo Junker’s. If those shiny metal jobs load been adequately powered with engines which were not too heavy, they would have revolutionized airplane design.

Finest of ‘em All

The C.L.1 All Metal monoplane in the foreground on the cover, powered by a Mercedes engine, was probably the finest ship turned out by Junkers in 1918. The wings had considerable dihedral and were very thick at the leading edge. Junkers who was an authority on Diesel engines which his firm manufactured, insisted that the Mercedes engine be used in his planes. Car type radiators were used in the nose. Ailerons on most of the Junkers craft were balanced, similar to the Fokker D7. But on this particular version of the C.L.1 they were unbalanced as was the elevator. The rudder was anchored by a single post which in rotating swung it to left or right. Corrugated aluminum was used throughout, which did not by any means make the ship bullet proof but it did minimize the fire hazard and give added strength to the ship that allowed inner structural bracing to be lightened.

Professor Junkers, who died only a few months ago at the age of seventy-six, predicted when he made his first all metal airplane that some day planes would be armor-plated. But with heavy motors developing less than 300 h.p., he was limited to aluminum which is about one-third the weight of steel. Had he been able to armor plate the Junkers planes, a different story could be told of the cover picture.

Zeebrugge, the submarine lair of the German navy, was bottled up by the British navy on April 23, 1918, by sinking ships filled with concrete across the mouth of the harbor.

Blazing Red Skies

A lone French Nieuport roared along the coast toward the heavily fortified submarine basin. A final observation from the air was necessary to the British. Two shining German Junkers seaplanes skidded off the water and flashed into the skies. The Nieuport looked like a butterfly attacked by two bats. But the thundering Vickers guns in the French plane’s nose blasted a rain of slugs through the thin-gauge aluminum of the Junkers into a vital spot. One down! The back gunner on the foremost Junkers blazed at the Nieuport. The tiny French ship flipped under the German plane. One volley sent it reeling towards the sea. The Nieuport circled twice over Zeebrugge, streaked for home.

A telegraph key clattered in a British seaport. An admiral smiled grimly as he read the dispatch from the French pilot.

That night the skies blazed red above Zeebrugge in the most spectacular naval-land battle of the whole war. The engagement mounted to an unbelievable pitch, then slowly died out as the British ships, battered, decks blasted away and superstructure listing, limped into the darkness toward home.

A terse message flashed through the ether from the Admiral’s flagship to British headquarters: “Mission accomplished satisfactorily.”

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, August 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, July 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on January 8, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. For the June 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the Spad 22 and Spad 13 C1!

The Ships on the Cover

THE cannon ship used during th_SF_3507 the World War did not necessarily have to be one type of plane. Any ship having a “V” type engine with a geared propeller could do the trick. The geared prop was above the crank shaft at the front of the engine, therefore above the center of the round radiator in the Spad. The hub of the propeller was made hollow just large enough to clear the sides of the muzzle of the 37 millimeter cannon which protruded about two inches. In the accompanying drawing this is clearly shown.

The ship with the complicated bracing in the foreground of the cover is the Spad 22, one of the little known crates of the war. It rated a 220 h.p. Hispano-Suiza motor with a geared prop which could accommodate the cannon. The Spad zooming up in the lower background is the Spad 13 C1 with geared prop. There were plenty of these “cannon ships” tried out from time to time and words flew hot and heavy from pilots who used this new gun arrangement for and against the stunt.

The Original Cannon

The original 37 millimeter cannon, the type the great French ace Guynemer used to down his forty-ninth to fifty-second victims, had to be fed by hand. Each seven-inch shell weighing about one pound had to be dropped into the breach of the gun. This took about three seconds in which time a pair of Vickers guns could churn out around fifty slugs, one of which might find a vulnerable spot in the enemy or his ship. But said enemy ship in three seconds could vary its position about 600 feet which is about equal to a shooting gallery target being reduced from the size of a wash tub to an aspirin tablet, a comparison which you fans with air guns or .22 caliber rifles Will appreciate.

On the other hand a Vickers slug might smack into a strut longeron, engine or even the gas tank, if it was rubber housed and not cause any serious damage; but let one of the one-pounder shells which explodes on impact connect with about any part of the enemy plane and the fight is over. The non-explosive one-pounder shell will knock a plane down in from one to three hits. Then there was a “fireworks” shell which was designed to set the target on fire, also a shell similar to a shotgun shell, which when loaded with buckshot would tear a wing to pieces.

A versatile gun, that cannon, and one which certainly did plenty of damage to the Germans.

Later Models Weighed More

The later cannon was semi-automatic, using the recoil, which was eight inches or more, depending on the muzzle velocity, to eject the used shell and slide a new one into the gun chamber. Guynemer’s cannon weighed about 100 pounds. The later models, 150 pounds or more. So put this added weight into a plane with a given speed and load, is to cut down its speed and put it at a disadvantage in a fight. To overcome this, the ammunition supply was limited or the fuel supply cut down which naturally decreased the cruising range. There were plenty of arguments for this weapon but also a few plain and fancy arguments against it.

Those two Albatross D5s zipping down on the foremost Spad are churning out four streams of slugs at a range which only amateurs would fire. The Spad 13 C1 coming up under them has a better range at a good angle. Not only are the bets on the Spads to come out with flying colors but when those explosive shells from the one pounder connect with the German ships, only one shell is necessary for blasting each one, where dozens of Spandau bullets may whistle through the Spads without harming them.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, July 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Nieuport 27 and Junkers C.L.1!

“Sky Fighters, June 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on December 11, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. For the June 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the Sopwith Dolphin and the Fokker D VIII!

The Ships on the Cover

TWO of the last ships to th_SF_3506 get into the air to swap lead in the World War were the Fokker D8 and the Sopwith Dolphin. The Dolphin had four exposed machine-guns, two Vickers shooting through the propeller arc and two Lewis guns shooting over the top of the arc at 45 degrees. The Dolphin’s pilot had good visibility with his top wing cut away and his office parked directly beneath this opening. His vision depended only on how far he could swivel his neck without putting it out of joint.

The Fokker D8, also known as the “Flying Razor,” was Fokker’s last contribution to Germany’s air fleet. He built it around an Oberursel motor because he could not depend on delivery of the Mercedes motors which he had used in his famous D7.

These Oberursel engines had been kicking around for months before Fokker finally in desperation figuratively jacked them up and built planes around them. Not many of these planes got to the front, but those that did, were used to good advantage. Udet, the famous German Ace flew the D8, and liked it. It was not as fast as Fokker would have liked because of the limited power of the rotary in its nose. But its ability to maneuver like a streak of greased lightning got it places where it could do things quicker than some planes with greater power which answered to their controls sluggishly.

Many Balloon Victories

Balloon busting was not confined to such sharpshooters as our own Frank Luke or Belgium’s Willy Coppens. Scattered through the official records of the Allies are scores of balloon victories chalked up to the credit of its flyers. Each of those downed bags represented a drain on the Kaiser’s money bags up to as high as $100,000. Therefore, the balloon falling in flames put a dent equal to from three to six war planes in the German finances.

As the Germans entered the last year of the war their supplies for making their kite balloons, or drachens, was at a premium. Where, in the early war stages, a half dozen of the cumbersome observation bags could be seen strung along four to six miles behind their lines, now only an occasional balloon floated.

“Blind the German’s observation,” was the terse order issued to all Allied armies.

By telephone, wireless, and despatches, this command raced along the lines. Long range guns poured streams of whistling shells into the skies. Their hits were few and far between. The ammunition wasted could have flattened mountains. The gunners gave up and watched tiny specks far up in the skies darting past, fading into the smoky war haze and disappearing over German territory.

Racing Through the Blue

Spads, Nieuports, Bristols, Moranes, Sop Camels, S.E.5’s raced through the heavens. Then the new Sopwith Dolphins flashed their black-staggered wings against an orange sky. Hisso motors yanked them toward a mountainous section where a German balloon had been floating unharmed for months. The massive gas bag was swaying swiftly down to its retreat between rocky crags as the Sopwith tipped their stubby noses down and blazed incendiaries into it. Smoke, then flame belched forth as the porcine mass writhed, collapsed and sank.

Two small monoplanes, one climbing rapidly. Another, diving, bracketed the Dolphins. Incendiary bullets were in the Sops’ Vickers belts, bullets that are outlawed for warfare against man. Down tipped the nose of one Dolphin, up went the prop of the other. Lewis guns bucked in their mounts, streams of orthodox bullets connected the enemy plane with the Dolphins. Two black-crossed monoplanes, “Flying Razors,” staggered in their flight. Blunted and dulled, they fluttered like discarded razor blades pitched from a roof, down into the purple haze of oblivion.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, June 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Spad 22 and 13 C1!

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