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“Famous Firsts” November 1933 by William E. Barrett

Link - Posted by David on November 25, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS November we’re celebrating William E. Barrett’s Birthday. Before he became renown for such classics as The Left Hand of God and Lilies of The Field, Barrett honed his craft across the pages of the pulp magazines—and nowhere more so than in War Birds and it’s companion magazine War Aces where he contributed smashing novels and novelettes, True tales of the Aces of the Great War, encyclopedic articles on the great war planes as well as other factual features. Here at Age of Aces Books he’s best known for his nine Iron Ace stories which ran in Sky Birds in the mid ’30s!

Among those factual features was “Famous Firsts” which ran frequently in the pages of War Aces. “Famous Firsts” was an illustrated feature much along the lines of Barrett’s “Is That a Fact?” that was running in War Birds, only here the facts were all statements of firsts. And like “Is That a Fact?” in War Birds, this feature was also taken over by noted cartoonist Victor “Vic Vac” Vaccarezza in 1932.

The November 1933 installment, from the pages of War Birds, features President Taft, Parachute flares, the first fatal crash and Aileen Vollick—Canada’s first woman pilot!

“Sky Fighters, March 1937″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 23, 2020 @ 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. On the March 1937 cover, It’s the S.I.A. Type 9B!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3703ANY Italian or Austrian soldier who served during the World War on the Italian front could, without any trouble at all, pass the scaling ladder tests of any fire department in the world. Those combatants climbed perpendicular, glacial surfaces which, at first glance, seemed insurmountable. Metal hooks, somewhat resembling half of an iceman’s tongs, were heaved up against the icy sides of snowladen cliffs or ice formations.

When the hook held, the climbers inched their way up knotted ropes or ropes with loops for footholds. Sometimes they left an anchored rope hanging for others to follow, sometimes they pulled up the rope and pitched the hook farther up.

“Get there,” was the command. It was up to the soldier to climb till he reached his objective. There, exhausted, with aching muscles shrieking for relief, he probably was met by the foe with a fixed bayonet, or the defenders might cut his rope far above, sending him tumbling grotesquely into space.

An All Purpose Job

The S.I.A. (Societa Italiana Aviazione) Type 9B two seater fighter was one of those ships that was called an all purpose job. It hung up records in climbing, speed, lifting power and endurance. Its engine was the 700 h.p. Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino).

This ship was used extensively by the Italians. Their aviators liked its reliable engine and its sure fire reaction to the stick. It became the eyes of the Italian army. Spotting for the artillery attacking enemy positions and even rescuing Italian troops from surprise Austrian attacks.

A mountain has two major sides. That side facing the enemy which is watched continually for any advances. The other side behind the defenders, that side up which they have come, down which they may possibly have to retreat. It is so safe from enemy attack that its defense is completely neglected, for what enemy can come in from the rear without being annihilated?

But in the picture on the cover just this situation has occurred. An Austrian commander with vision and initiative penetrated the rear lines at night, sentries were captured without firing a shot. The way was clear. The Austrians commenced climbing before dawn. As the sun threw its yellow glaze over the cold sky the icy cliffs were alive with silent climbing figures in pot helmets. Nearer and nearer they approached their goal where the small group of Italian Alpinis manned mountain guns facing the enemy.

In ten minutes the Austrian climbers could annihilate that group of defenders, pull the guns back, swing them around and blast the Italians below from their positions, allowing the Austrian hordes to sweep through passes and on to a major victory.

A Speck in the Sky

Far in the distance a speck stood out in dark silhouette against the brightening sky. It gained size, its wings glinted as it banked and swooped down toward the cliff. The rear gunner stood in his pit tense with huge binoculars pressed to his unbelieving eyes. He looked a second time and then yelled to his pilot. The throttle was jammed full ahead, the motor roared an ominous shriek as the husky S.I.A. dove and leveled off.

The front guns spattered two long bursts into the Austrians. Ropes were severed, bodies jerked and twisted as men screamed and clawed for a footing. Like a landslide the figures above toppled, they caught others below in their death plunge. Only a few remaining pot-helmeted figures rocked in terror on the slippery ice surfaces of the ragged mountain side. The rear gun of the S.I.A. took up the attack as the front guns ceased to find a target. More Austrians fell from their icy footholds.

Above, the Italian mountain troops looked down, amazed and jittery from the realization of their close call. Far in the distance the receding S.I.A. dipped its wings in friendly salute to the massed group of Alpini troops on the lofty mountain peak who screamed their cheering thanks across the bleak crags of the perpendicular battlefields.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, March 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Black Flight” by William E. Barrett

Link - Posted by David on November 20, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS November we’re celebrating William E. Barrett’s Birthday with one of his pulp stories each Friday.

Before he became renown for such classics as The Left Hand of God and Lilies of The Field, Barrett honed his craft across the pages of the pulp magazines—and nowhere more so than in War Birds and it’s companion magazine War Aces where he contributed smashing novels and novelettes, True tales of the Aces of the Great War, encyclopedic articles on the great war planes as well as other factual features. Here at Age of Aces Books he’s best known for his nine Iron Ace stories which ran in Sky Birds in the mid ’30s!

On Easter Sunday, April 9 , 1917, the greatest British offensive of the war got under way. A blazing line of steel whipped across France and into Belgium; from Croiselles to Loos, from Ypres to the Nieuport Canal and to the sea. Under the greatest artillery barrage in the history of the world a grim horde of muddy infantry hit the Hindenburg Line.

April ninth was also the day on which Second Lieutenant Teddy Campbell, R.F.C., reported for duty to the headquarters of Fifth Wing at Albert. He came up jauntily with the pinkest breeches in the entire, air force, with his monkey hat at the correct angle and with the glow of training-camp victories still upon him. His heart raced madly but he strove to capture in his expression an attitude of casual indifference to everything. Like all of his breed he succeeded merely in looking like a raw kid.

However, by the next day he was a veteran and suspected of murdering his flight leader! From the August 1931 War Aces, it’s William E. Barrett’s “Black Flight!”

Every man but one in that flight hated their commander. When they pulled a murderous blade from his heart all were forced to shoulder the guilt, until the Reaper’s Scythe hacked the secret from one man’s wings.

Editor’s Note: The story is referred to as “The Raiders” on the cover which does not seem to be applicable to this story at all. A more apt title than “Black Flight” would have been “The Murder Flight!”

“Sky Writers, November 1936″ by Terry Gilkison

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

FREQUENT visitors to this site know that we’ve been featuring Terry Gilkison’s Famous Sky Fighters feature from the pages of Sky Fighters. Gilkison had a number of these features in various pulp magazines—Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Starting in the February 1936 issue of Lone Eagle, Gilkison started the war-air quiz feature Sky Writers. Each month there would be four questions based on the Aces and events of The Great War. If you’ve been following his Famous Sky Fighters, these questions should be a snap!

Here’s the quiz from the November 1936 issue of Lone Eagle.

If you get stumped or just want to check your answers, click here!

“Synthetic Ace” by William E. Barrett

Link - Posted by David on November 13, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS November we’re celebrating William E. Barrett’s Birthday with one of his pulp stories each Friday.

Before he became renown for such classics as The Left Hand of God and Lilies of The Field, Barrett honed his craft across the pages of the pulp magazines—and nowhere more so than in War Birds and it’s companion magazine War Aces where he contributed smashing novels and novelettes, True tales of the Aces of the Great War, encyclopedic articles on the great war planes as well as other factual features. Here at Age of Aces Books he’s best known for his nine Iron Ace stories which ran in Sky Birds in the mid ’30s!

“Memphis” Mason is a synthetic ace, probably the only one of his kind in existence. Accidental aces there were aplenty in that big he war, but there was nothing accidental about Memphis Mason’s accomplishment. It was planned with an attention to detail that would do credit to a brigadier and it was attested by five of the finest fighters in the R.A.F. Those signatures are at the root of Mason’s secret sorrow to-day. At the foot of a square sheet of note-paper they bear flourishing witness to the fact that the signers witnessed the bringing down of five German planes by one Memphis Mason. Not one of those signers would have lied for anyone. They were officers and gentlemen and they saw what they said they saw. Yet, strangely enough, Memphis Mason never reached France. Therein lies a tale; one of the oddest tales to come out of the war and one that has never been told until this telling.

There was a new breed of angel in the sky one that used Vickers instead of a flaming sword; and the tracer stream of his vengeance spelled death to Prussians!

From the February 1931 War Aces, it’s William E. Barrett’s “Synthetic Ace!”

“Famous Firsts” January 1932 by William E. Barrett

Link - Posted by David on November 11, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS November we’re celebrating William E. Barrett’s Birthday. Before he became renown for such classics as The Left Hand of God and Lilies of The Field, Barrett honed his craft across the pages of the pulp magazines—and nowhere more so than in War Birds and it’s companion magazine War Aces where he contributed smashing novels and novelettes, True tales of the Aces of the Great War, encyclopedic articles on the great war planes as well as other factual features. Here at Age of Aces Books he’s best known for his nine Iron Ace stories which ran in Sky Birds in the mid ’30s!

Among those factual features was “Famous Firsts” which ran frequently in the pages of War Aces. “Famous Firsts” was an illustrated feature much along the lines of Barrett’s “Is That a Fact?” that was running in War Birds, only here the facts were all statements of firsts. And like “Is That a Fact?” in War Birds, this feature was also taken over by noted cartoonist Victor “Vic Vac” Vaccarezza in 1932.

The January 1932 installment, from the pages of War Birds, features Bert Hall, the first successful attempt to land an agent behind the lines, and the first biplane equipped with a Lewis gun!

“Sky Fighters, February 1937″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 9, 2020 @ 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. On the February 1937 cover, It’s the Pfalz D13 attacking a balloon!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3702THE elongated type of captive balloons were of French origin but the Germans were the first to put them to practical use in the World War. They called them “drachens,” or kite balloons. They are flown in exactly the same way as a boy’s kite, the force of the wind holding them aloft. In the earlier spherical-shaped balloons the wind spun them and had a tendency to force them down.

Theoretically any balloon was obsolete on account of the airplane, dirigible and anti-aircraft gun, but the big bags usually stayed up, did their work, were hawled down and tucked in for the night and sent aloft the next day to act as the eyes for our artillery.

Of course lots of balloons were eventually shot down, but so were airplanes and dirigibles. The number of balloons lost by the U.S. in action was forty-eight and our airmen flattened seventy-three of the Kaiser’s drachens.

A Poor Risk

To service one of these cumbersome bags took the combined muscle and brains of a considerable group of men; even motorcycle messengers, a furrier, shoemaker, tailor, barber, orderlies, etc., were necessary. Around the bag on the ground was spotted a ring of machine-guns and antiaircraft guns. That ring of shooting irons kept most airplanes away. When an ambitious airman did attack a balloon his greeting from the ground took on the aspect of a major attack. His chance of coming out of the scrap the victor and in one piece was so low that any insurance company would consider him a poor risk.

The Pfalz D 13 was one of the last ships put out by the German manufacturer of that name. Its design seems to have been influenced by the Bristol Fighter, one of Britain’s finest fighting ships. Both have the fuselage suspended between the upper and lower wings and the bracing from the fuselage to the lower wing and the undercarriage is very similar. This D 13 was a fast, maneuverable job with a powerful water-cooled motor to pull it. It had to be fast to hop an Allied balloon and down it.

The pilot in the Pfalz was not just a prowler who happened to spot the balloon and look a long chance in attacking. That Pfalz in downing the balloon hoped to save his side a major calamity. The balloon observer has for days been up in his basket with his glasses glued to his eyes; his face to the east and his mouth close to the small telephone transmitter. His words have been actuating receiving diaphrams on the portable receiving station on the ground. Concise information has then been transmitted to battery commanders stationed behind their smoking heavy guns. Those guns have been sighted on enemy troops rushing up to reenforce Hun front line positions. In sighting the guns dozens of artillery officers have used only one pair of eyes, those keen, searching eyes of the balloon observers high in the air whose only life line is a steel cable hooked to a drum winch on the ground.

Stern Orders

Therefore to silence dozens of batteries tearing German troops to pieces it is necessary to blind the Allies lookout. The order the German pilot got was: “Do not come back unless you explode the balloon.” The Pfalz pilot dove on his quarry. Incendiary bullets from his Spandaus ripped into highly explosive hydrogen gas. Poof, the balloon is through! Out bails the observer. The Pfalz pilot yanks at his stick, there is no response from his elevators. Shrapnel from the ground batteries has made a sieve of his plane. All control wires are gone; so is the Pfalz and its pilot.

As the Pfalz tore head on into the ground a second reserve balloon slowly eased itself out of a fake group of trees. A figure disentangled itself from a jumble of ropes, sped toward the anchored basket of the new balloon. He tore away pieces of scorched clothing, leaped into the basket, yelled, “Up ship!” and was slithering up into sky again.

A battery commander miles distant saw the new balloon mounting. He smiled grimly, “I thought they had blinded us, but it was just a cinder in our eye.”

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, February 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Phantom Eagle” by William E. Barrett

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

THIS November we’re celebrating William E. Barrett’s Birthday with one of his pulp stories each Friday.

Before he became renown for such classics as The Left Hand of God and Lilies of The Field, Barrett honed his craft across the pages of the pulp magazines—and nowhere more so than in War Birds and it’s companion magazine War Aces where he contributed smashing novels and novelettes, True tales of the Aces of the Great War, encyclopedic articles on the great war planes as well as other factual features. Here at Age of Aces Books he’s best known for his nine Iron Ace stories which ran in Sky Birds in the mid ’30s!

From the Tarmac letters column in the January 1932 War Aces—”Unless we misjudge the reading taste of our readers we feel that “Phantom Eagle,” by W. E. Barrett is about the ideal story. It has that balance of action, mystery and fantasy that gives you a new set of thrills. Obviously, it was too bizarre to be entirely fiction, so we asked the author about it. As is the case with most of Barrett’s fiction, it is based on some true incident. Here is his letter:

    You’ve guessed it. There was a great deal of truth behind that yarn. We were up at Ayr, Scotland, getting the finishing touches on acrobatics. In my flight there was a young English lad of the aristocratic type so commonly turned out by Oxford. He was about the best on the field when he felt like it or thought he had an appreciative gallery watching him. He didn’t have a great deal of stomach, though.

    He wiped his landing gear off one day making a stall landing and it was a week before he got over the resultant ground loops. Most of the chaps passed him by—the white feather was a bit obvious. We were all in a little pub one night imbibing a bit when our hero got into a brawl with a sour old Scotsman. He was getting the worst of it and was looking for a way to quit when the son of the heather knocked him cold.

    A big, burly, slow-moving chap got up out of the corner and came over. He faced the Scotsman and methodically assumed a fighting pose.

    “What a Lauterman starts, a Lauterman finishes.” Those were the only words he uttered, but he gave the Scotsman an unmerciful beating. By inquiring around a bit I found the history of those brothers who were so utterly dissimilar. I learned the history of that German father and English mother—the proud loyalty to anything that a Lauterman did held by that elder brother.

    We went out to France and young Lauterman went with us. He didn’t hold up on the line in combat work and was transferred to a bombing outfit. He turned up missing in action one day and we never heard from him after that.

    The rest of the story is pure fiction. I simply pictured what would happen if those two brothers met on the lines. In the last analysis I believe the elder Lauterman would have acted just as I have him do in the story.

— W.E. Barrett.

Hell’s hinges sealed the lips of that Unteroffizier in the pilotless Spad. None could tell how that phantom transfer had been made in shell-torn skies, or the meaning of that dying speech, “What a Lauterman starts, a Lauterman finishes”

From the January 1932 War Aces, it’s a story you won’t soon forget—William E. Barrett’s “Phantom Eagle!”

“Famous Sky Fighters, March 1938″ by Terry Gilkison

Link - Posted by David on November 4, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

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

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

The March 1938 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, features Col. William A. Bishop, Lt. Elliott Cowden, Captaincies. J.A. Bellinger, Lt. Kiffen Rockwell and the Zeppelin L59!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters”, Terry Gilkison features Georges Thenault, Lt. Jimmy Bach, Mario Galderara, and Captain John H. Towers! Don’t miss it!

William E. Barrett: Sign In and Tell Us About Yourself

Link - Posted by David on November 2, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

William E. Barrett is one of our favorite authors. Before he became renown for such classics as The Left Hand of God and Lilies of The Field, Barrett honed his craft across the pages of the pulp magazines—writing all matter of stories from Mystery to Detective to Aviation and War. Here at Age of Aces Books he’s best known for his nine Iron Ace stories which ran in Sky Birds in the mid ’30s!

Sign In

Recently I picked up a couple of issues of Dime Detective Magazine from 1935—May 15th and October, both featuring William E. Barrett’s unconventional crime solver, tattoo artist Needle Mike. And both featuring great Walter Baumhofer covers! Pretty decent shape for their price aside from the fact someone had to write their name across the guy’s chest on the May issue.

As I looked at it, I was thinking it looked familiar. . .
It couldn’t be . . .
. . . but I think it is.

Matching it up with other examples I have . . .

it matches pretty well—I think it’s William E Barrett’s signature scrawled across the chinaman’s chest! I got me a surprise signed copy!

And Tell Us About Yourself

SINCE William E. Barrett’s birthday is on the 16th of this month, we’re celebrating Barrett all month long with one of his stories each of the next three Fridays. To lay a little ground work, here is an autobiography Barrett had in the first and only issue of the digest-sized Swift Story Magazine (It fits in your pocket!) from November 1930:

I VENTED my first squawk at life in the City of New York on November 16, 1900. It was snowing like blazes that day, if I remember rightly. Anyway, 1 managed to survive the hazards of Manhattan boyhood until I was sixteen, then, while the native New Yorkers of my age were pouring in from Kansas, Missouri and Minnesota, I followed the family star of destiny to Colorado. I had prepared at Manhattan College Prep in New York for an engineering career, but this proved to be a misdeal and I took a whirl at reporting for a Denver daily. I never progressed past the cub stage and was fervently advised by a harassed city ed. that I never would. After that I became one of the young men who signed the coupon.

I took a correspondence course in engineering and went to work for a power company, continuing the engineering studies at night. After several years of misery at the drafting board an engineer, who took pride in his profession, intervened.

“Get thee into publicity work,” he said. “I’ll help you. Anything which reduces the quota of rotten engineers is a blessing, even if it adds to the ranks of the press agents.”

A publicity job with a big electrical manufacturer took me all over the West—mining camps, oil towns and every place where spectacular installations were made.

But presently some base deceiver told me about the big pay and easy hours in fictioneering and I tried my hand. By the time I found out the horrible truth, I was too badly bitten by the bug ever to escape. I learned to fly with the idea of writing air stories that would be authentic, then took a publicity job with a large aircraft company for about a year. Derek Dane was evolved out of the experiences of that year which brought me in touch with many characters fully as picturesque in background as Dane—men to whom the dramatic is daily fare.

Not because Mr. Patten is the boss when I write for you, but because it is so, I want to acknowledge him as one of the biggest influences in my life—that before I even knew his name was Patten. His Merriwell stories dominated my youth, and nobody ever toiled harder to be like some one than I did to be like Frank Merriwell. Not at all athletic, nor inclined to “big” effort, I still managed to make four school letters struggling to be Merriwell. Many other decisions were Merriwell colored, too—and a career is only a series of effects from a multitude of small decisions. I have two trunks of Merriwells—every one published—and will have my boy read them some time.

My total published stuff, if any one cares, is 263 short stories, 10 complete novels, 18 novelettes and countless articles. In Derek Dane I am not trying to create a detective of the master-mind school. Great thinkers are not lions for courage—thought convinces them of the folly of risk. I am thinking of the men who brought the law to the wilderness in the first place (the same type who will bring it back when it strays). Most of them were men who sought escape from the law some place else— not sticklers for the fine points of the written law, but foursquare for a square deal and for the rights of human beings to live their lives and keep what they have. Derek Dane stands for that and, if he steps outside the statute book to get results, he has fundamental laws to justify him.

I hope that the readers of Swift Story Magazine will like Derek Dane, and I’ll give them my pledge that as they get to know him better with succeeding yarns they will find him developing an increasing ability to entertain them. He is too complex a character to put across in one story.

My wife made her first short story sale this week and we are in a celebrating mood. She has helped me with so many of mine that it is a big kick to see her push across a yarn of her own. I’ve got a boy and a girl—to round out the personal narrative—and I’m still in love. . . .

Sorry there isn’t more plot or drama or excitement in this—but if there was, this being a sordid age, I’d probably stick a name like Pete Jones on myself and sell the darn thing.

Hasta luego,

“Flight Team Flight!” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on October 30, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

“HAW-W-W-W-W!” That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back to vex not only the Germans, but the Americans—the Ninth Pursuit Squadron in particular—as well. Yes it’s the marvel from Boonetown, Iowa himself—Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham!

Life on the drome of the Ninth Pursuit Squadron savored of raccoon coats, chrysanthemums, and ticket scalpers. The pigskin fever had hit the squadron and football was the ruling passion when the Spads were not upstairs. Twelve miles away, a limey squadron, irked by certain remarks from an ex-footballer from Boonetown, Iowa, to the effect that the British rugby was a sissy’s pastime, had challenged the Ninth to a game, American style. For three weeks the Limey pilots had been practicing under the tutelage of a Yankee top-kick who claimed he had once scored a touchdown for Weakfish Normal against Purdue. From the pages of the January 1938 issue of Flying Aces, Phineas lets go with a pass, a punt and a prank as the Ninth must “Flight Team Flight!” by Joe Archibald.

“Crashity—spiff! Crashity—spiff! Kill the bums who eat roas’ biff!” So sang Sergeant Casey’s grease monkey cheering section on that sunny day when Major Garrity led his hardy Ninth Pursuit eleven against Captain Hardleigh-Bryte and his lambasting Limeys. But meanwhile the Vons had put over a spinner that reversed the field so you could see into the basements of laundries in China. And if it hadn’t been for Pinkham’s timely lateral, the Allies might have ended up horizontal.

“Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on October 26, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the August 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the cockpit with Baracca as his squadron bombs the Austrian Naval at Pola!

Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians

th_FA_3208“ALL ships are on the line, sir. Bombs are in racks, and they are ready to take off.” The general’s aide saluted smartly, and the general turned ^o a major at his side, who wore his boots like a cavalryman, but whose silver wings showed him to be an aviator.

“You know your orders, major. You will lead the squadron and be guided across by the boats. The planes will follow you at four-minute intervals. When you have found your objective, you will drop your bombs. Captain Barrechi will release his parachute light on the target you designate. After dropping their explosives, all ships will return directly to this airdrome. That is all.”

And instead of the usual salute he held out his hand, which was eagerly grasped by the major.

The field was an Italian airdrome on the west coast of the Adriatic. The major, unlike most aviators of the war, was not a young man. He had entered the Italian army almost fifteen years before, serving in the cavalry, and rising to the rank of captain. In the first days after Italy had cast her fate with that of the Allies and it became necessary to build up an Italian air force, he had, in spite of his “advanced age,” obtained a transfer to this branch of the service, and had quickly become an ace.

Now he was Major Baracca, the Italian ace of aces. All up and down. the entire front he was known not only as a great pilot, but as one of the great air fighters of the world. With a more matured mind than the younger men, he, though ever searching and participating in personal battles with the enemy, was constantly planning and scheming larger offensive movements—movements using whole groups and squadrons, and inflicting severe damage along the Austrian front. More than seventy successful bombing raids were under his personal leadership. More than a thousand times he crossed the enemy line, seeking battle. In thirty-six of these individual combats he had come away victorious, before finally, on June 21, 1918, fighting against tremendous odds, the bullet bearing his name found its mark, and he fell from the skies, a flaming sacrifice to war.

Tonight, in the late summer of 1917, he was leading one of the largest and most daring of his raids. Over to the east the Austrians, in their naval base at Pola, felt themselves safe from attack in the knowledge that the broad Adriatic lay between them and their Italian foes.

At nine-thirty sharp, the first huge ship took the air. One thousand pounds of high explosives were fastened beneath its wings. Below, stretched out across the Adriatic, was a fleet of power boats, speeding across the dark waters, a hooded light shining from each stern to guide the big planes to their destination. Four minutes later, with huge engines roaring, the second plane took off, and so on at four-minute intervals until the entire force was in the air. Twenty planes were in the first squadron, and twenty-six in the second. Long before the last ship had left the field, the first ship had already dropped its missiles and was on its way back home.

The night was deathly still. Not even a light breeze fanned the smooth surface of the sea below. From three thousand feet up Major Baracca could see the tiny light guiding him—a light which he soon overtook, only to pick up another immediately a few miles farther along and speeding in the same direction. And so he passed from one to another of these moving beacons, until he made out the lights of a city on the dim horizon.

Now the tiny light he had been following flashed brightly twice, then swung out in a wide circle and vanished. It was the signal. In front and below him lay the naval base and arsenal of Pola. The moment had arrived. Carefully he made his calculations and peered searchingly into the darkness below. His must be a direct hit. The naval base itself must be spotted, so that Captain Barrechi might drop his parachute flare directly over their objective.

He signaled to his pilot, who nosed the big plane over into an easy glide, motors throttled down and wires singing. He had made almost a complete circle over the town when his eyes picked up the marks he was looking for. A quick order to the pilot, and the plane flattened out, gliding squarely over the target. The bomber leaned tensely over the side, his arm raised, his eyes carefully lining through the sights on the lights below. A quick signal, a click of levers, a slight waver, and two dark masses detached themselves from below the wings and hurtled downward.

One tense instant, and then, far below, two blinding flashes followed by the sharp, terrific intonation of high explosives. Immediately the night was stabbed by beams of light. Major Baracca gazed, eagerly over the sides to mark his hit. The blinding light of one of the beams caught his ship full in its glare, and shells began to burst around him. But below a sudden burst of flame, as a small store of munitions went off, showed that his bombs had landed in the arsenal area.

THE archies were now bombing him heavily. Machine guns spattered, and flaming onions swept through the night. His motors roared as the pilot gave her the gun, and with a wild feeling of exultation Baracca signaled to swing in a wide circle so as to give Barrechi a chance to drop his light, and give himself the benefit of this light, in dropping his other bombs.

As Barrechi glided down and dropped his flare, there was a sharp explosion, followed by a bright downward rush as of a falling meteor. Then a sharp snap as the parachute opened, and the light floated easily in space, swaying gently and lighting up the scene below. With no breeze, the light hung in the air as if anchored.

This came as a complete surprise to the Austrians, and for some minutes there was panic. Men could be seen dashing madly around; the guns actually ceased firing, and even the searchlights snapped off as if trying to hide from the merciless glare above.

Quickly Baracca saw his advantage, and undisturbed by fire from below, he calmly glided his plane lower and directly over a spot marked with a red X on the map held on his knees. Leisurely and with deadly certainty the bomber sighted; his arm flashed downward, and the levers clicked. Tensely they waited, leaning over the side to watch the two bombs drop straight down, their white fins clearly seen in the brilliant light.

For a split second they seemed to disappear as they landed. Then there was a terrific upheaval. A whole section of the surface below seemed to lift itself up in an attempt to reach the plane above—then, giving up its vain effort, to split into a thousand weird shapes and tongues of flame. Explosion after explosion followed, as one building set off another. Again Baracca’s lever worked, and the giant plane dealt another hand of death from the sky.

Now Barrechi was also releasing his bombs. And plane number three was just entering the circle of light. The archies had commenced their fire again, but their aim was wild, for terror had struck the hearts of the Austrians.

For five hours this bombardment continued. One after another the big Capronis, heedless of the shell-fire from below, coolly dropped their eggs. Forty-six ships came over, carrying death and destruction to the Austrians, and forty-six ships returned safely to Italy, with their bomb-racks empty.

The Ships on The Cover
“Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians”
Flying Aces, August 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Challenge of the Cuckoos” by Alexis Rossoff

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

THIS week we have a fun tale of the Cuckoo’s Nest from the prolific pen of Alexis Rossoff. The Cuckoo’s Nest stories ran in War Birds in 1930. The Cuckoo’s are an outfit a lot like Keyhoe’s Jailbird Flight—a group of hell cats who found themselves afoul of military rules who have been given another chance to die fighting rather than rot in a Blois cell.

With the Germans stepping up their patrols in the Vosges in hopes of stumbling upon the Cuckoo’s hidden nest, “Limey” Barrow stacked the deck and left his fate to Lady Luck when he wrangled the mission to try to stop new recruits from trying to find their way to the Cuckoo’s Nest and inadvertently lead Jerry pilots to their front door as well! From the June 1930 issue of War Birds it’s Alexis Rossoff’s “Code of the Cuckoos!”

Boche eyes pierced through the skies, and that band of forgotten buzzards huddled with the only fear they knew— discovery and then return to the rotten disgrace of Blois. But out of that strange group of outcasts came “Limey” Barrow ready to play that shivering game with death on the last hunch that his sweetheart. Lady Luck, would not turn him down. Another sensational yarn of those renegades of the air—the Cuckoos!

“Sky Writers, October 1940″ by Terry Gilkison

Link - Posted by David on October 21, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

FREQUENT visitors to this site know that we’ve been featuring Terry Gilkison’s Famous Sky Fighters feature from the pages of Sky Fighters. Gilkison had a number of these features in various pulp magazines—Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Starting in the February 1936 issue of Lone Eagle, Gilkison started the war-air quiz feature Sky Writers. Each month there would be four questions based on the Aces and events of The Great War. If you’ve been following his Famous Sky Fighters, these questions should be a snap!

Here’s the quiz from the October 1940 issue of Lone Eagle.

If you get stumped or just want to check your answers, click here!

“War Eagle” by George Bruce

Link - Posted by David on October 16, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from the highly prolific George Bruce. Bruce, a former pilot, began writing in the 1920’s and became noted for his aerial war stories—several publications even bore his name. In the 1930’s and ’40’s he transitioned into screenwriting for Hollywood action films and then into tv in the 1950’s and ’60’s.

The blurb below explains the whole story:

John Wolfe, Crow Indian, Rides a Sky War-Pony and Comes to Grips With a White-Man’s Scourge Over French Battlefields!

From the November 1937 issue of Sky Fighters, it’s “War Eagle” by George Bruce!

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