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“The Tail Buster” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on November 27, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. For the December 1933 issue Blakeslee paints the tail of a premeditated crash between a French Herriot and a German Fokker and L.V.G. in “The Tail Buster”…

th_DDA_3312THE COVER painting this month shows, not an accident but a premeditated crash. The Frenchmen—pilot and gunner—had left their drome to put a new Herriot through its paces. As a precaution, however, they loaded up with ammunition—and were glad they did. For as they stunted about over France, two L.V.G.’s attacked them.

A Fokker, flying higher, did not join the attack until one of the L.V.G.’s burst into flames, the victim of French guns. The Fokker then dove, passed under and looped to get on the Frenchman’s tail. By a quick skid, the French pilot brought his ship broadside on and the gunner poured a devastating fire into the Boche.

In the meantime, the second L.V.G. had maneuvered directly under the Frenchman. At the moment the French gunner sent his flaming slugs into the Fokker, tracers came up through the floor of the French machine right between the pilots legs, cutting one of the elevator wires. In a split second the pilot shoved his stick forward and dove.

The pilot of the L.V.G. saw the other ship begin its dive and whipped his tail down, too late. With a crack his rudder disappeared in a cloud of flying fabric and propeller splinters.

The French gunner coolly climbed out on the fuselage and righted the Herriot. Then he and the pilot took stock of the situation. The Germans were headed for the only cleared space dead ahead—and the Frenchman headed for it too. They just made the plowed field.

In the resulting crash the pilot of the Herriot was buried in wreckage; the gunner was hurled clear and perhaps it was fortunate that the field was plowed for he had a comparatively soft landing. He rushed over to the wreckage and began frantically to dig out the pilot, whom he could hear groaning. Presently he was conscious of having help. Two French flyers had joined him. Between them they soon had the unconscious pilot extracted, and right there and then they all got busy and set his dislocated shoulder.

After it was all over and the pilot was conscious and resting, the gunner thought of the German machine. He looked around and saw its wreckage about a hundred yards away but no signs of its crew. Startled, he looked more closely at the two rescuers who were now conversing in perfect French to the pilot. They were dressed in French flying clothes all right. But the gunner put two and two together—and realized that they were the pilot and gunner of the German ship!

When the Boches politely bade farewell and walked away, he made no move. Five minutes later the field was swarming with people. In answer to questions as to where the Germans were all the Frenchman said was—”They have escaped.”

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Tail Buster: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (December 1933)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.

It’s almost here. . . .

Link - Posted by David on November 26, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

After you’ve done your Christmas shopping and eaten your Thanksgiving leftovers, settle down to the first installment of our serialized drama—The Sky Raider! Here is some promotion from back at the time. From the front page of The Ironwood Daily Globe, Ironwood, MI the Monday before the serial started:

    Donald E. Keyhoe, the flying ace, writes from his own remarkable experiences the first thrilling mystery serial of crime in the air, “The Sky Raider.”
    Colonel Lindbergh recognized Keyhoe’s unusual skill and fearlessness by selecting him as his flying aide on his great ‘Round America Tour. Keyhoe is not only a pioneer in the world’s newest adventure the conquest of the air, but he is the first to write a mystery story of the skies.
    Colonel Lindbergh’s flying aide has written a gripping story of romance, adventure, mystery, devotion and death in “The Sky Raider.” Don’t miss the first of many thrills coming to you soon in The Daily Globe.

We’ll be presenting the first two chapters Friday! We’ll follow this with two more chapters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until we reach the exciting conclusion on New Years Eve!

Ad for Donald E. Keyhoe’s “The Sky Raider” from The Ironwood Daily Globe
(Ironwood, MI; Saturday. August 10, 1929)

Coming Soon. . . .

Link - Posted by David on November 21, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Starting next Friday we’re embarking on something new here at Age of Aces. We’re going to be posting a serialized story by Donald E Keyhoe that ran in newspapers back in 1929—The Sky Raider!

Ad for Donald E. Keyhoe’s “The Sky Raider” from The Ottawa Journal
(Ottawa, Ontario; Tuesday, March 26, 1929)

Be sure to come back next Friday for the first installment!

“The Caterpillar Ace” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on November 20, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. Blakeslee illustrates an incident in the career of that great German Ace—Ernst Udet! His life was previously featured by Alden McWilliams in his “They Had What it Takes”, but here Blakeslee features the battle that led Udet to use a parachute for the first time, thus becoming “The Caterpillar Ace!”

th_DDA_3311THE COVER this month illustrates an incident in the sky adventures of one of Germany’s great war aces—Ernst Udet. There is one slight discrepancy from fact in the painting. The Allied ship on the cover is an R.E.8, whereas Udet was engaged in combat with a Bristol Fighter. When the story was first told me the two planes were described as a Fokker triplane and an R.E.8. Later on—after the canvas was painted and just before this magazine went to press—I discovered the error, but it was too late to remedy it then. Outside of this, however, the picture depicts a great battle climax as it actually occurred in war skies.

You will notice that the German pilot is wearing a parachute. Ernst Udet is the only war-time pilot to escape from a wrecked ship in a parachute—thus having the distinction of being the original member of the Caterpillar Club.

The event was remarkable since, on the day this happened, Udet was wearing a parachute for the first time and against his will. He had been ordered to do so as an experiment. Sighting a Bristol Fighter, he maneuvered onto its tail and when only about a dozen feet away opened fire. His tracers tacked a scam up the Bristol’s back into the gunner’s pit; the gunner slumped over, apparently dead.

Udet’s speed carried him beyond the Bristol. Careful not to give the .pilot chance for a shot at him, he swung around, again on its tail. As he came in close, holding his fire until he should be in perfect position, his eyes widened with horror. For the gunner—supposedly dead—was dragging himself upright, his face a mass of blood; swinging his guns around, he opened fire at point-blank range.

Before the astonished German ace could gather his wits, there was a rendering crash. His upper wing carried away—was shot away, rather—snapping the struts, and pulling the second and third wings with it. A split second later, the wingless fuselage began its plunge to earth.

It was then Udet remembered the unwanted bulk strapped to his back. Well, he might just as well try it. He would die anyway! So he leaped clear. The parachute, to his astonishment, opened and he floated easily to earth, landing in German territory. The pilot of the Bristol had been watching it all. He now came down low over where Udet had landed. The German waved his hand and the Bristol flew away south.

Udet fought under a lucky star. Sometime later, while flying a Fokker D-VII, he was rammed by a fire-eating Camel pilot and he crashed to earth, but was not severely injured.

Ernst Udet is Germany’s leading surviving ace, credited with sixty-two victories. He was respected by friend and foe alike for his sportsmanship in combat. Recently he came to the United States and flew for the movies. He is responsible for the really beautiful air shots in such movies as “The White Hell of Pitz Palu” and “Storm Over Mount Blanc.” Last summer he spent in Greenland working on the movie “S.O.S. Iceberg.” He is one of the most masterly stunt pilots in the world and is one of the few surviving aces who has not lost his cunning.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Caterpillar Ace: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (November 1933)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.

“The Broken Parole” by William E. Barrett

Link - Posted by David on November 18, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

William E. Barrett is an excellent author. Known for such classics as The Left Hand of God, Lillies of the Field, and our own The Iron Ace! In honor of William E. Barrett’s birthday this past weekend, we have for you a tale of broken wings from the January 1933 issue of Sky Birds. The brothers Cord, one stripped of his honor while the other was honor bound not to fly!

Flying high in a blood-red sky, von Sternberg had taken toll of the lives of many men. Over the brothers Cord he had thrown an even grimmer shadow, for he had robbed one of his honor, the other of the right to fly. But wings can be built that are too strong to be broken.

“Terror Bomb—” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on November 13, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

This week we feature Dare-Devil Ace’s October 1933 cover, Frederick Blakeslee’s “Terror Bomb!”

th_DDA_3310TWO BRITISH FLYERS were ordered to destroy certain balloon sheds in Germany. Flying a D.H-9 loaded with four bombs, they reached their destination without opposition and released the eggs. There were only three bursts of dust and smoke—all wide of the mark—and the gunners thought that the fourth bomb had proved a dud. About that time archie suddenly stopped, which meant Boche planes were approaching. While the gunner scanned the sky for the enemy the pilot set out for home.

The pilot noticed that his ship had a tendency to bank right. In order to correct the bank he had to depress his right aileron. He told the gunner, who immediately remembered the fact that the fourth bomb had not exploded.

Three Fokkers were rapidly overtaking them, but forgetting them, the gunner leaned out and down to peer under the wing. What he saw made his heart skip a beat. The bomb was hanging, head down, its tail tangled in the release gear! Had the wind started the timing propeller in the nose of the bomb ? If so, they only had minutes to live.

The gunner yelled something to the pilot and climbed out onto the wing and from there to the landing gear. He saw that the timing propeller was still and that the bomb could be released easily.

The pilot swung his ship in a circle and started back into Germany. Again and again the Fokkers rushed to attack. Flaming slugs filled the air. But the daredevil D.H. hurtled on for the balloon sheds—reached them. The lead Fokker, however, was on its tail.

The Yank pilot leaned back, pulled the gun around and sent a burst through his own tail directly into the nose of the pursuing Fokker! The Jerry dove away with a smashed propeller, spun dizzily, then crashed to the ground. They were directly over their objective by now; the gunner released the dangling bomb—which spun down true to its mark. It hit a gas tank and a moment later, the whole outfit—shed, balloon and outhouses—was in flames!

The gunner crawled back to his pit and began to fight off the other two Fokkers. More Boche ships were approaching so the pilot began his race for home—and it was some race! They landed with their ship so badly damaged by tracers that it had be rebuilt.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Terror Bomb: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (October 1933)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 28: Major Andrew McKeever” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 11, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Here’s another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This week we have the his illustrated biography from the October 1934 issue, that famous Canadian Ace—Major Andrew McKeever!

Major Andrew Edward McKeever is the RFC/RAF’s leading two-seater fighter pilot ace scoring 31 victories with seven different gunners/observers. He was awarded a chest-full of awards—The Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross & Bar, Distinguished Flying Cross, and from France, the Croix de Guerre.

With the end of the war, McKeever accepted a job managing an airfield at Mineola, New York. Before he could start work, he was involved in an auto accident in his home town of Listowel on September 3rd, breaking his leg. Over the following weeks, complications set in—he died of cerebral thrombosis on Christmas Day, 1919.

“Ace of the Storm” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on November 6, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Frederick Blakeslee painted the covers for Dare-Devil Aces‘ entire fourteen year run. Every one of those covers told a story, and Blakeslee had a page with which to do so. This time we present Blakeslee’s cover for the September 1933 issue—”Ace of the Storm”…

th_DDA_3309ALL BOCHE machines on the French side of the lines turned and fled toward Germany—Allied ships on the German side turned and fled toward France—dogfights were broken off abruptly. The cause of this was a mutual enemy and one whom no man could fight—a thunderstorm.

A lone Allied pilot, deep in Germany, saw it coming and swung his Nieuport back toward the front. Just as he was passing the head of the storm, two L.V.G.’s approached. He knew they were Boches, but the storm was close and looked ugly, so he decided to pass them. However, as he sped by with a wave of his hand, one of the Jerry gunners sent a burst of steel into his ship which just missed the cockpit.

Enraged, he turned. Sweeping in from the side in a figure eight, he sent a burst into the gunner’s cockpit—and was gratified to see the Boche crumple up. But at the same time he saw flaming tracers flash by his head. Without turning, he looped just in time to spot a Halberstadt flash by underneath. It apparently had arrived from nowhere and, unknown to him, had been riding his tail. A blinding flash of lightning just then made him decide not to attack the newcomer.

The storm by now had cut off the further retreat of the Germans and they were diving toward earth, presumably to land. There was only one opening beyond which the sky showed brightly. Behind and on two sides the storm was raging and fast closing the gap. Bewildered by his useless compass, and not knowing whether the gap led toward France or Germany, the Yank made for it in desperation. He reached it and had just landed when the storm broke.
German reports for that day list five ships missing. Among them one Halberstadt and two L.V.G.’s!

During 1917 and 1918 the Halberstadt firm produced one of the best two-seater fighters of the war. The first one was brought down at Villes Bocage by Lieutenants Armstrong and Mert in an R.E.8 on September 6, 1918.

The Halberstadt. in all probability, represents the high-water mark of two-seater German airplane construction, as it was not only well and strongly constructed, but its general behavior in the air was good according to the standards of the day.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Ace of the Storm: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (September 1933)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 26: Lt. Thomas Hitchcock, Jr.” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 4, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Here’s another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This week we have the August 1934 installment which pictorialized the life of Lt. Thomas Hitchcock, Jr., Yank flyer!!

Hitchcock, rejected by the American forces due to his age, enlisted with the Lafayette Esquadrille where he was decorated for bringing down two German flyers. Captured in March of 1918 when he fell behind enemy lines while in a tangle with three Boche planes, he managed to escape by jumping from a train near Ulm and walked 80 miles through hostil territory to reach the Swiss border.

Hitchcock was a whiz on the polo field as well as in the air—leading the U.S. team to victory in the 1921 International Polo Cup. He carried a 10-goal handicap from 1922 to 1940 and led four teams to U.S. National Open Championships. In 1990 he was inducted posthumously into the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame.

It is said that F. Scott Fitzgerald even based two characters on Thomas in two of his novels. He turned all his virtues to vices in The Great Gatsby for the character of Tom Buchanan in 1925 and later used him as inspiration for Tommy Barban in Tender is the Night (1934).

Hitchcock served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II and was assignedas an assistant air attache to the US Embassy in London. In this capacity he was instrumental in the development of the P-51 Mustang fighter plane. Sadly he lost his life while test piloting the plane near Salisbury, Wiltshire, England in 1944. He was 44.

“Wolves of the Sky” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on October 30, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

We’re back with another of Frederick Blakeslee’s “The Story Behind The Cover”—this week the spotlight’s on the July 1933 cover of Dare-Devil Aces. Blakeslee presents the story of an attack on a flight of German planes that was the result of a toothache! Without further ado, Blakeslee’s “The Yellow Hornet”…

th_DDA_3308TWO ALBATROSSES had become the special terror of Allied two-seaters. Known as the “Wolves of The Sky,” unlike wolves they were not cowardly. They fought viciously but fairly. They seemed to love a fight against odds. Although they did not hesitate to attack a two-seater that was weakly protected, they seemed to take special interest in those which had strong escorts.

One day however, they met their match in a numerically weak combination—a two-seater Bristol and a single Nieuport. The former was flown by an English crew, the latter by a Frenchman. The Germans sighted this pair over Boche lines, and went to the attack. The Nieuport was flying a little above and behind the Bristol, and kept this position apparently unaware of the enemy’s approach, until the Germans had approached within range. Then suddenly both Allied ships turned and charged at the startled Boches, guns blazing. The Germans swerved aside only to find that each one had an enemy on his tail. Then two separate combats developed.

The German who found himself in combat with the heavier and slower Bristol could not, despite his superior speed, get that ship in his sights. Finally in desperation, he looped, dove and came up under—where the Bristol should have been. But the British plane had executed a sudden skid, dove and passed the Alba-tros as it shot up. The British gunner’s deadly aim did the rest. With a wrecked motor the Albatros stalled, then dropped away out of sight.

In its first dive on the other German, the Nieuport had so badly damaged the tail assembly of the Albatros that it, too, was compelled to dive away, unable to turn either to right or to left.

Thus began a series of fights between these four ships, extending over a period of five or six weeks. Neither gained a victory—then, just before Armistice Day. the luck broke for both sides.

The two Germans, by using a cloud formation, surprised the Frenchman. In one burst the propeller of the Nieuport was shattered and the fabric on the tip of one wing was chewed to ribbons by flaming slugs. The Frenchman turned and dove, with the Germans strung out behind. There was purpose in that dive, for the Nieuport passed under the Bristol who met the Germans with a blistering broadside. The leading Boche joined the Frenchman in his glide to earth.

The battle between the remaining Albatros and the Bristol was short but savage. Suddenly the German was seen trying to correct a jam in his guns; he was forced to stop firing. Almost at the same time the Englishman discovered that he had used his last drum of ammo.

He looked toward the German who threw up his hands to indicate he was through; the Englishman did the same. They waved to each other and both went home, with their planes in bad shape.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Wolves of the Sky: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (August 1933)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.

“Hans Up!” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on October 28, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Haw-w-w-w! It’s another Phineas Pinkham howl. We present another humerous tale of Phileas Pinkham from the prolific pen of Joe Archibald. Pinkham appeared in almost every issue of Flying Aces from November 1930 through November 1943! As if Archibald didn’t have enough to do, he also supplied the artwork for the story.

It was a nice trip. It began with Phineas knocked out cold after a crack-up. It continued with a couple of doughboys loading him onto an ambulance bound for the hospital. And it ended with a couple of doughboys knocked out cold in an ambulance. What do you expect?

“The Yellow Hornet” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on October 23, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

We’re back with another of Frederick Blakeslee’s “The Story Behind The Cover”—this week the spotlight’s on the July 1933 cover of Dare-Devil Aces. Blakeslee presents the story of an attack on a flight of German planes that was the result of a toothache! Without further ado, Blakeslee’s “The Yellow Hornet”…

th_DDA_3307THE COVER shows a Spad attacking a group of Germans. However, it was not a premeditated attack at all—it was the result of a toothache!

This story was told to me by the pilot involved. I shall call him Smith, although that is not his name. It happened in early 1918. Smith doesn’t remember the exact date, but two days before, a pain developed in his left jaw. He didn’t pay much attention to it, except to think that sooner or later he must visit a dentist. By night the pain was steady, yet not troublesome and Smith hoped it would be gone by morning. Morning came and so did the toothache—by now more severe.

It acted like an ulcerated tooth but the nearest regimental dentist was miles away, so Smith put off the dreaded ordeal and in the excitement of a dogfight that day the pain was forgotten.

He took his place next day in the dawn patrol. They had been out about an hour when an agonizing pain shot through his head. It made him jump and yank back his controls. The rest of the squadron were startled to see Smith’s Spad shoot suddenly straight up, tracers blazing. (In the agony of the moment he had squeezed his triggers.) Thinking they had been attacked the squadron broke rank and zoomed in every direction.

Smith let go his throbbing face long enough to bring his ship out of a tail spin, and then with motor wide open he streaked for home and a dentist. The squadron, not seeing the enemy and shrewdly surmising the trouble, had reorganized and started in pursuit of their comrade. They had to keep their distance, for every so often Smith’s plane would emulate a contortionist.

These spasms marked the pain that came and went in Smith’s face. It was during one of these that Smith barged onto a Boche patrol, scattering them right and left. Strange to say, his tracers, shot without aim—in fact without knowledge —found their mark in an L.V.G. which was put out of commission and forced to land. Before the startled Boches could get organized, Smith had gone. The rest of the patrol, taking advantage of the situation, proceeded to give a thorough beating to the frightened Jerries.

Smith meantime had landed. A crowd, luckily a French crowd, was at the spot almost at once and by gestures and groans which anyone could understand, and with the help of the sympathetic crowd and a pair of pliers the tooth was yanked out then and there.

Smith was promptly dubbed the “Yellow Hornet,” because his small, bright yellow ship, contrasted with the dull colors of the German ships, gave exactly that appearance.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Yellow Hornet: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (July 1933)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 24: Captain Quigley” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on October 21, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time we have the June 1934 installment which pictorialized the life of that great Canadian Ace—Captain Francis Granger Quigley!

Private Quigley enlisted in December 1914 and served with the 5th Field Company of the Canadian Army Engineers on the Western Front. He transfered to the RFC in September of 1917 where he was assigned to the 70th Squadron RFC. By this time he had made the rank of Captain and flying a Sopwith Camel, he is credited with 33 victories! He earned the Distinguished Service Order, the Military Cross and the Military Cross with Bar!

Wounded in March of 1918 when a bullet shattered his ankle, he was sent to Le Touquet Hospital to recover. He finished his convalescence in Canada where he served as an instructor at Amour Heights. Requesting a return to action in France when his ankle had heeled, Guigley came down with the influenza on the way back to England. He died in a hospital two days after his ship docked in Liverpool.

Writing for The Air-War Pulps

Link - Posted by David on October 20, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Here’s a nifty little article from the pages of the September 1942 issue of Writer’s Digest, the leading and largest writer’s magazine. Every issue is a gem. There’s usually articles about how to write for certain genres and markets; listings of the publications and opportunities available in different regions; and the letters column which frequently features letters from authors and publishers of the day.


By Richard Cromwell • Writer’s Digest, September 1942

A GOOD MARKET that many able writers are passing up are the air-war pulps, by which I mean the magazines that feature the American or British hero and fighting in the air in either the first world war or the present conflict. Such publications are legion. Many of the better known ones are Fighting Aces, Battle Birds, Dare-Devil Aces, and Sky Fighters. Writing for these magazines is comparatively easy once one has learned the rules of the game. And these pulps do pay well.

Do these periodicals stick to the formula? What type of character is preferred? What length? These same questions arc asked every day by writers. In this article, I hope to answer them.

These magazines stick so decidedly to formula that most of the situations and plots are so threadbare that they are distasteful. People are beginning to tire of the same old thing done up in a different package every month. A writer who can produce something fresh will be eagerly welcomed into this group.

The veterans are afraid to change from their moth-eaten plots to something new and fresh. Why? Simply because they know that if they turn out something which is original, and the editor does not like it, they are in danger of losing their steady markets. Authors who continue to write hackneyed stuff arc on the way out. Don’t start out using beaten-to-death plots or you shall regret it.

One of the most shopworn plots, one which you should steer safely away from, is this fragile example. Flying hero goes out on patrol with the rest of his flight-mates. The patrol is engaged by the enemy. Something goes wrong with hero’s guns or engine, and he is forced to pull out and limp back to his home base. Going back, his engine or gun trouble clears up. When he lands, he is flatly accused of deserting his mates. The members of the squadron begin to hate him like poison. After another forced pull-out, he is threatened with a court-martial or some other form of punishment. He escapes, steals a plane, and heads for Hunland, determined to make it plenty hot for the Germans in his last hour. An enemy flight intercepts him. Climaxing a bitter fight, during which he shoots down several Germans, he has to make a forced landing. Holding off the enemy ground troops with his machine guns, he makes the necessary repairs, takes off after being wounded and goes back, to home field. Upon landing there, he is greeted by his fellow-officers, who have found they had been wrong about him.

Writers of air stories would do well to make a study of different aircraft and parts. For instance, a pilot always refers to the power plant as “the engine” instead of “the motor.” Be very careful about stunts. Here are some of them: the loop, wing-over, Im-melmann turn, chandelle, snap-roll, aileron or slow roll, and the outside loop. These stunts are used in military flying. Study the ground terms, personnel of an airport, flying terms, weather, etc. One book which will give you all of this is “The Air Story Writer’s Guide,” published by the Digest’s book department. The price is only twenty-five cents.

What type of character is preferred? The red-blooded, he-man type fits the bill. He should be a hell-raiser and always in the midst of trouble. However, make your main character sympathetic to the reader and give him strong motivation in order to make the story convincing.

As to the length, 5,000 words is the best for one who is just trying to break into these markets. After you sell a few short stories, then is the time to try a novelette. It is best not to aim at the longer yarns at first, not until you get some experience.

Before sending in a yarn to a specific magazine, write the editor a letter asking what he likes personally. Lots of writers don’t advise this, but I have found that it is better than making a blind stab at the target. Some editors have peculiar dislikes. When you enter into a correspondence with an editor, you are making the first sure step toward the goal.

Now is the greatest period of all times for beginning writers to break into the pulp air-war magazines. New air publications are springing up constantly — in a never-ending stream. Millions of words by new writers are being printed every month. Some magazines use the very cheapest sort of material, especially if their editorial budget is down, and the editors must buy the best they can get at their ½ cent a word rate. But, in order to find your place in these markets, you must study the different magazines month in and month out. Do not merely glance at them. Study the kind of characters they use, the type of story, the advertisements.

At the present time, I am writing air-war yarns for Collier’s. While we are talking about pulps, I believe that the type of plot used in my current slick story is the sort which would appeal to the readers of the pulp sheets. The hero is not the do-or-die individual with whom we are so readily familiar. Instead, he is a mental coward. He can not face the ghosts in his mind. For that reason, he never went to bed until 4 o’clock in the morning; he loafed in the canteen until that time. The excerpt which I have taken from the yarn reveals what he fears, and definitely establishes him as a strange character. It goes as follows:

  Benton said coldly, “You’ve changed, Steve. Why, I can remember when you joined the R.A.F. six months ago; how excited you were when you were transferred to this squadron ; how—”
  “That was six months ago,” Armitage said. “Six months can be a lifetime when you’re in a war.”
  Benton studied him closely. “In reality, you’re not a coward. You’re just trying
to do an impossible thing. Hide from yourself.”
  “Aw, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Larry.” Armitage rested his head in his hands.
  “I’m slowly going nuts. And I have to drink to wash the ghosts from my mind. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”
  “I know all about it.”
  “Remember last week, Larry? I sent a Nazi down in flames that day. And just before the fire closed over him, I saw his face. It was like a face from Satan’s own pits. But that man didn’t die. He still lives—in my dreams every night. A face with scorched skin, hair ablaze—”

How do you like Armitage? One way to keep the reader’s attention is to present unusual characters. Strive to do that thing, and you will add a lot to your story.

Do you open a story with thudding fists and scraping feet? Plenty of inexperienced writers open a story like that, and most of the time, the fight has absolutely no bearing on the yarn. It is just thrown in for effect, to catch the reader’s eye. Of course, if the fight has some definite purpose, it is all right. A good trick, for the first three or four paragraphs, is to surround the protagonist in mystery and to place against him such odds as to make his situation appear hopeless. For example:

  Conover knew he was about to die. But he didn’t fear dying so much. He had always thought he would relch and scream as lead pounded into his body. Slugs were eating into his body now, and he didn’t do either of those things.
  Von Schiller and his crew were coming in to finish him off. The Baron lashed around. Steel-jacketed death battered into the Hurricane’s greenhouse, then into the office. A grimace split Gonover’s face into a million lines as a bullet found his side. A pool of blood covered his flying jacket. Crimson trickled from his mouth in warm streams. The instrument panel burst into a mess of tin and glass and wood. Gasoline poured through the wrecked panel and onto the floor boards—

Now you can see that our hero is in a hell of a fix. The worse you make it, the better the reader likes it. The hero’s squadron can be dragged onto the scene in time to save his neck.

I’ve tried my best to tell you a bit about the air-war pulps. I don’t know whether I’ve succeeded or not. Hope I have.

“The Vanished Ace” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on October 16, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Frederick Blakeslee painted the covers for Dare-Devil Aces‘ entire fourteen year run. Every one of those covers told a story, and Blakeslee had a page with which to do so. We present Blakeslee’s cover for the June 1933 issue of Dare-Devil Aces—his tribute to the great French Ace, Georges Guynemer—”The Vanished Ace!”

th_DDA_3306THE COVER this month is dedicated to the French hero, Georges Guynemer. It shows him gaining his fifty-first victory, when on August 17, 1917, he shot down a two-seater Albatros. He was to bag two more victories before the end. Then on Sept. 11, 1917, he flew away on patrol—and never came back. He disappeared completely, neither his body nor his ship ever being found. Guynemer’s disappearance is one of the unsolved mysteries of the War.

On that fatal day of September he left his drome with Second Lieutenant Verduraz. They sighted a two-seater over Poelcapelle and Guynemer went to the attack while Verduraz sought to draw off the impending attack of eight German scouts. In this Verduraz succeeded, and he flew back to the spot where the combat had taken place. Guynemer was not in sight. After waiting some time, he flew close to the ground, looking for wreckage. Seeing none and thinking that Guynemer had returned to the airdrome, he flew back, but Guynemer was not there and never was again.

The news was kept quiet in the hope that he had landed and was in hiding. There were grounds for this belief. Germany, always prompt to proclaim a victory, was silent. Ten days later, immediately after a notice of Guynemer’s death had been published in an English paper, Germany published a letter from a pilot named Wissemann, to the effect that he had shot down Guynemer on Sept. 10. This date only added to the mystery for it was a proven fact that Guynemer was alive on Sept. 10. France then demanded details and Germany replied that Guynemer was shot down on the 10th of September and buried in Poelcapelle cemetery with military honors. Another report with a different version had it that two soldiers were present and saw Guynemer’s body with a broken leg and a bullet through the head.

On October 4th, the British took Poelcapelle, but found not a trace of Guynemer’s grave or his ship. France, impatient at so many conflicting reports, again demanded the true facts. This time Germany replied that Guynemer had been killed on the 11th. (This date had already been widely published.) Germany said that due to heavy shelling of the spot the body and machine could not be reached and the shelling had eventually obliterated the wreckage. This version was finally accepted.

If it were true that Wissemann shot Guynemer down, he did not long survive his victory. He had written to his parents thus, “Have no more fears about me, I have brought down Guynemer and I can never again meet so dangerous an adversary.” Yet on Sept. 30th he fell before the guns of Lieutenant Rene Fonck.

The day Guynemer flew away on his last flight his favorite ship was being repaired, and so it has been preserved. He called his little Spad “Vieux Charles” (old Charlie) and today it is on the balcony within the court of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris. His name is engraved on the roll of honor in the Pantheon, where are the names of the greatest heroes of France.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Vanished Ace: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (June 1933)

According to his english wikipedia page, the red cross provided the following confirmation of his death:

Information received by the Red Cross says Guynemer was shot through the head north of Poelcapelle, on the Ypres front. His body was identified by a photograph on his pilot’s license found in his pocket. The burial took place at Brussels in the presence of a guard of honor, composed of the 5th Prussian Division. Such is the story told by a Belgian, who has just escaped from the Germans. The burial was about to take place at Poelcapelle, when the bombardment preceding the British attack at Ypres started. The burying party hastily withdrew, taking the body with them. The German General chanced to be an aviation enthusiast with a great admiration for Captain Guynemer’s achievements. At his direction the body was taken to Brussels in a special funeral car. Thither the captain was carried by non-commissioned officers and was covered with floral tributes from German aviators. The Prussian Guards stood at salute upon its arrival and during the burial, which was given all possible military honors. The French Government has been invited to place in the Pantheon, where many great Frenchmen are buried, an inscription to perpetuate the memory of Captain Guynemer as ′a symbol of the aspirations and enthusiasm of the Army.′ A resolution to this effect has been introduced in the Chamber of Deputies by Deputy Lasies.

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.

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