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“The Yellow Monsters” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on November 30, 2015 @ 6:00 am 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. Last time Mr. Blakeslee gave us the first in a new series of mismatched time images with planes from the Great War along side present day planes from 1935! This time he returns with he second in the series, from the cover of the October 1935 number of Dare-Devil Aces—”The Yellow Monsters!”

th_DDA_3510ABOVE is the drawing of a Pterodactyl, a pre-historic flying reptile that lived thousands of years ago. Today the Pterodactyl flies again, but this time it is man-made—in short, a modern fighting airplane. Before we go ahead with our story, let us explain why you find a modern ship in combat with a wartime airplane.

The World War is long past, yet many are still interested in the war-time ship; but an equal number are interested in the modern craft too. In thinking it over we wondered what a war-time pilot would do, had he in war days, met a ship of today. The problem was solved. Why not mix time? Take 1918 and 1935 and just scramble them?

The result certainly isn’t the World War, in fact it isn’t any war; it isn’t even real and not being real we can let our imagination roam. By scrambling time this way we can not only show you a war-time ship, but a modern one as well both on the same cover thus giving you an easy way of comparing the fighting ship of today with the fighting ship of yesterday.

So now, let us enter the realms of imagination. Let us see what Otto, a German pilot of 1918 would do had he met the Pterodactyl.

Otto was a crack pilot; he was leader of his staffel and was in the habit of going off on bis own occasionally to look for trouble. He was on one of these trips when he saw a speck way off on his right. Being over the French lines he guessed it was an Allied plane. His big Mercedes engine soon had him high above the other ship. As he crossed its path he looked down and saw the British insignia on the wing-tips. Something about the plane seemed queer, but not giving it a second thought he dove.

He suddenly pulled out of his dive and rubbed his eyes. He looked again. His first impression had been right after all. Something was definately queer about the British ship. Mein Gott, what was it? Was it an airplane? If so it was like nothing he had ever seen.

But he could see the flash of propellers and the crew—that was real anyway, so it must be an airplane. Dunner und blit-sen, what a crazy thing it was! Why it looked as though it would fall apart if a wind hit it. Where was the tail? Well, thought Otto, this will be cold turkey.

He was about to dive again when the strange ship put on a burst of speed. To Otto’s surprise he discovered that he had had his throttle wide open to keep up with the yellow monster.

Well it certainly could fly, he decided, as the Britisher pulled rapidly away from him. Then he saw several others of the strange ships join the first and turn toward him. Otto thought he better return to his drome and get help.

Otto assembled his pilots and recounted what he had seen. The assembled pilots looked at each other but said nothing. Otto was their superior officer so what could they say? A tailless ship indeed, bosh!

Otto led his staffel back and soon spotted the strange ships.

He made a wide circle and gave the signal to dive. The scene on the cover shows the beginning of the fight.

Here we might consider what chance Otto and his men flying Fokker DVII’s would have against the Pterodactyl. We do not hesitate to say that they don’t stand a ghost of a chance.

At the time of writing this, no data on the performance of the Pterodactyl is available. The speed is very high; the exact figure we do not know. Note the wonderful unobstructed field of fire of the rear gunner. It would be impossible for an attacker to hide under the tail. It can deliver a steady stream of lead from its fixed guns and as it dives on an enemy another dose from the free gun as it zooms away. The rear gunner by the way is fully protected from the wind. The pilot can look either under or over the center section too.

Some think that the Pterodactyl may prove to be the most formidable fighter yet produced. Others wonder if it will not become extinct as the bird-lizard from which the new ship gets its name.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Yellow Monsters: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(October 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)

The Pterodactyl is manufactured by Westland Aircraft Co., England, and was first produced last year.

Editor’s Note: The Westland Pterodactyl was featured much more prominently earlier in 1935 on the January cover of Street & Smith’s Bill Barnes Air Adventurer. Here Frank Tinsley has place the Pterodactyl front and center with the tailless tailgunner blasting away at the pursuing biplanes!

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 2: Bert Hall” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 25, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Starting in the May 1932 issue of Flying Aces and running almost 4 years, Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Frandzen would feature a different Ace that rose to fame during the Great War. This time around we have the second installment featuring America’s Flying Soldier of Fortune—Bert Hall!

Weston Birch “Bert” Hall was one of the seven original members of the Lafayette Escadrille. And was probably America’s most colorful Soldier of Fortune. Born in 1885, he began his storied carrer in the early 1900’s in the Balkan war. Later, he is reported to have dropped rocks on the sultan of Turkey’s enemies while flying for the Turks. He was a four-flusher, a liar, a deserter and a damn good poker player who was good at reading his opponents.

Hall wrote two books about his exploits in the Lafayette Escadrille, En L’air (1918) and One Man’s War (1929). The former was the basis of the 1918 film A Romance of the Air, in which he starred as himself.

He assisted the Chinese in the 1920’s when he headed the Chinese air force. However he was sentenced to 30 months in jail when a money for arms deal fell through and was accused of receiving money under false pretenses.

When he was released in 1936, he ended up moving around alot—to Seattle for a while and Hollywood where he worked for 20th Century Fox Studios. By 1940 he found himself in Dayton, Ohio—finally settling in Castalia, Ohio and starting the Sturdy Toy Factory.

He died of a massive heart attack while driving down the highway in 1948.

(Editor’s Note: These early installments of Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” that were published in the pulp-sized issues have been reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)

“The Solo Skipper” by Harold F. Cruickshank

Link - Posted by David on November 20, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

This week we have a story by another of our favorite authors—Harold F. Cruickshank! Cruickshank is popular in these parts for the thrilling exploits of The Sky Devil from the pages of Dare-Devil Aces, as well as those of The Sky Wolf in Battle Aces and The Red Eagle in Battle Birds. He wrote innumerable stories of war both on the ground and in the air. Here we have a tale of “Mud” Collier, a flyer who likes to go it alone and is as comfortable in the trenches where he started out as he is in the air. From the February 1935 Flying Aces we bring you “The Solo Skipper”—

His own squadron called him “Mud” because he spent his leave up front with the infantry and his air hours patrolling their death-infested forward zone to protect them. But to those doughboys who every day defied the fury of the enemy barrage—his name was not mud.

“The Tailless Ship” By Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on November 16, 2015 @ 6:00 am 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. This time Mr. Blakeslee gives the first in a new series of mismatched time images with planes from the Great War along side present day planes from 1935! Without further Ado, Mr. Blakeslee gives us the story of “The Tailless Ship!”

th_DDA_3509AFTER looking at the cover this month you have probably turned to this story quickly to find out what it is all about. You probably think you have missed something in German war-time ships. But you haven’t. Its this way.

Recently we were wondering what a war-time pilot would think and do, had he, in 1918, met a ship of today. So we took 1918 and 1935, mixed them thoroughly and what have we? Well, the result certainly isn’t the World War. As a matter of fact it isn’t any war. It isn’t even real, and that is just the result we were after. Not being real we can let our imaginations roam. Therefore, this cover is No. 1 of a brand-new series. To
keep them in order we will number them. You will find the number in the lower left-hand corner on the blue band.

Now let us suppose that a French pilot, in 1918 meets a ship of 1935. This opens a fascinating field. We can keep abreast with the very latest in modern fighting aircraft design on these covers as well as present the war-time ship. And more, you will then have an easy way of comparing the fighting ship of today with the fighting ship of yesterday.

To start off, we have selected a tailless ship. It is not strictly speaking, a fighter. It was designed by a young German inventor in 1933 and he startled the aeronautical world by actually flying it.

It was, therefore, the forerunner of the modern tailless type. Designers seized on the tailless idea and a recent ship of this type, produced by Great Britain, may prove to be the most formidable fighting craft yet made. That ship is the Pterodactyl, which we shall show next month.

As we said above, the tailless ship was not designed as a fighter. But for the purposes of this cover and to give the Spad a break, we have made it into a fighter by merely making the passenger cockpit into a gun nacelle.

Granted it is a fighter, let us see what Pierre, our French pilot of 1918, would think of it. When he first sighted it he probably thought it was a bat, but as it approached and grew in size, and although it still looked to him like a bat, he knew it for what it was, for he caught the flash of propellers.

And then he sat fascinated as the strange ship circled him. His eyes told him it zvas an airplane, but his mind refused to accept it as such. He probably said to himself, in French of course, “There ain’t no such animal, there couldn’t be! Why, it hasn’t even got a tail and where the tail should be is a propeller! There’s a propeller at the bow too. Good grief, it’s a pusher and a tractor at the same time, impossible! And what are those green things at the end of the wings, if they are wings?”

Just then the bat-like ship banked. “Are they rudders? How could rudders be there? No, I’m seeing things, no more cognac for me!”

Of course we must assume all this went through Pierre’s head in a flash. As the ship banked, Pierre was startled to see smoking white tracers flash past. He then saw what had escaped him at first, the bat ship carried German crosses. Pierre looped and although he didn’t think the thing was really there, went to work.

Now what chance would Pierre have against this ship? A very good chance indeed. Pierre, with his 300 h.p. Hispano could do 130 m.p.h. on the straight-away. The tailless ship with only 150 h.p. could do 160, no use trying to run for it. Maybe he could out-climb it? No, the German could climb a thousand feet a minute. Well maybe he could out-dive it? Not that either, the German ship could dive like a bat out of hell.

He could out-maneuver it however, but what good would that do? The gunner had an unrestricted field of fire, back, ahead, up and to the sides. Well, maybe the thing has a blind spot. Ah! There we have him; underneath Pierre was as safe as a church. Now just tip up and let him have it.

Yes, we’re sure Pierre would win this fight, but next month the tailless ship tells a different story.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Tailless Ship: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(September 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 1: Eddie Rickenbacker” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 11, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Starting in the May 1932 issue of Flying Aces and running almost 4 years, Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Frandzen would feature a different Ace that rose to fame during the Great War. This time around we have the inaugral installment featuring America’s Ace of Aces—Eddie Rickenbacker!

Rickenbacker is credited with 26 victories—the most of any American flyer. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, Legion of Honor, Croix de Guerre and the Distinguished Service Cross with 8 oak leaf clusters (1 silver & 3 bronze).

Before the war, Rickenbacker had become one of the most successful race car drivers, and, with the war’s end, Rickenbacker went back to what he knew. He elected to leave the air service and established his own automotive company that ultimately went out of business. Not detoured, he bought the Indianapolis Speedway—turning it around and making it profitable. From there he went into General Motors. When GM aquired North American Aviation in 1935, RIckenbacker was asked to manage one of their holdongs—Eastern Air Transport which Rickenbacker merged with Florida Airways to form Eastern Air Lines—taking a little airline flying a few thousand miles a week to major airline!

(Somehow during all this he found the time to also script two popular comic strip from 1935 to 1940—Ace Drummond and Hall of Fame of the Air.)

The advent of World War II brought Rickenbacker back to service—but as a civilian Representative to the Secretary of War in the survey of aircraft installations. Resuming his role at Eastern Air Lines after the war. With Eastern’s financial losses in the 1950’s, Rickenbacker was forced out of his position as CEO in 1959 and resigned as Chairman of the Board on December 31st, 1963.

Rickenbacker spent his remaining years lecturing, writing his autobiography and traveling with his wife. He suffered a stroke while in Switzerland and contracted pneumonia—dying on July 23rd, 1972.

(Editor’s Note: These early installments of Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” that were published in the pulp-sized issues have been reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)

“Aces and Boses” by C.M. Miller

Link - Posted by David on November 6, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

This week we have a story by C.M. Miller, author of Chinese Brady: The Complete Adventures! A short story of a green recruit who challenges his commanding officer’s orders in a way that yields surprising results! From the December 1935 number of Sky Birds, it’s C.M. Miller’s “Aces and Bosses”—

No Vandyke-bearded, college-prof cadet was going to tell Bull McGrady which way his propeller was turning—for Bull was head man of the Peppermints, and no mistake! “Those whiskers,” he told the tall newcomer, “will have to come off!” And they finally did—but not the way Bull expected . . . .

Battle Aces Covers Gallery

Link - Posted by David on November 2, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve posted anything, but we’re back with a gallery of covers from Battle Aces magazine. Battle Aces was Popular Publication’s premiere aviation pulp debuting in October 1930 as one of Popular’s first four pulp magazines along with Gang World, Detective Action, and Western Rangers.





Unlike other Popular Publications aviation titles, Frederick Blakeslee did not paint all the covers! Don Hewitt provides the first cover, October 1930; with Rudolph Belarski doing honors for two early issues––November 1930 and January 1931; and Sidney Risenberg applying his talents for the February 1931 number. The December 1930 issue is Blakeslee’s first Popular aviation cover and he would take over the honors with the March 1931 issue and from then on for all Popular aviation titles–Dare-Devil Aces, Battle Birds, G-8 and his Battle Aces, etc.

Stating with the June 1931 issue, an editorial decision was made to feature actual war-time events on the cover and artist Frederick Blakeslee would provide a story behind these covers. We’ve featured a number of those Battle Aces covers over the past year as part of the Story Behind the Cover feature. And we’ve provided links to those posts in the gallery so you can learn more about those covers we’ve featured.

While we’re still building our Dare-Devil Aces Cover Gallery, The Battle Aces Cover Gallery collects all 27 covers and includes links to those whose stories we’ve posted. Check it out!

“The Green Death” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on October 5, 2015 @ 6:00 am 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. This time, we have Mr. Blakeslee’s cover for the August 1935 number on which he depicts the story of The Green Death!

th_DDA_3508I HEARD this story at a club for ex-service men in London. The conversation had been on gasses used in the war.

“You were lucky, Bill,” someone said. “You flyers didn’t have to worry about gas.”

Bill Norman nodded. “You’re right, Frank. But nevertheless we were gassed once out of our drome. To this day no one knows what kind of gas it was.”

He looked around the room and spied a man standing by the fireplace. “Pip, come here, will you?” he called. (”Pip,” or Captain Larry Skidmore, was in the chemical warfare division.) “Pip was sent to our drome after the event, ask him.”

“Bill’s right,” said Pip, “the gas was something new in our experience and so far as I know has never been duplicated. We were never able to get a sample. But let Bill tell the story.”

“Well,” continued Bill, “it was in early March, 1918. We were stationed about sixteen miles west of Paris. One morning a farm cart drove up to the field. A guard stopped the old man who was driving the cart and looked with astonishment at the load. In the cart was a metal ball about seven feet in diameter. The guard brought the old man to the C.O.’s office. Lt. Read and myself were in the office at the time but the skipper told us to stay. The C.O. could speak French like a native and as the old man could speak no English it was just as well. To our amazement the conversation lasted almost half an hour and at last the C.O. turned to us.

” ‘Whew!’ he said, ‘This man looks like a peasant but talks like a college professor. He says he has developed a new gas that he wants us to drop on a German city. He promises that not one person will go near the city for a month afterward. Further, he says the gas will not kill, but he is mighty mysterious as to what it will do. Personally, I think we had better humor him,’ and he tapped his forehead.

“Well, to make a long story short, we promised to do as the old man said and stored the metal gas ball in a hangar. The chemical warfare division was notified. Pip was sent up.

“But before he arrived some curious mechanics managed to shatter the sphere and ran screaming from the hangar, a poisonous looking green smoke creeping out after them.

“It was a gas all right and for the next half hour the place was in an uproar. Whoever got a whif of that gas let out a terrible yell and ran. They actually saw horrible phantoms chasing them. We had to abandon the place altogether. More curious still, the gas remained in a circular area of about a half mile; even the road that passed our field had to be re-routed. It remained, despite rain and wind, for about a month, then suddenly vanished.”

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Green Death” by Frederick Blakeslee (August 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)

“The Sopwith Triplane” by Robert H. Rankin

Link - Posted by David on September 28, 2015 @ 6:00 am 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. This time, we have more of the approach he used for the covers he painted for Battle Aces—telling us about the ship on cover. But, instead of Mr Blakeslee telling us about the ship on the cover, we have Mr. Robert H. Rankin, formerly a draughtsman for the Fokker Aircraft Corp telling the story of the Sopwith Triplane—featured on the cover of the July 1935 cover of Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3507Editor’s Note: This month’s cover shows what would happen if a certain invention, had been perfected during the War. The rear-pit man in the all metal Junkers is operating a huge, highly magnified tense, so constructed as to concentrate a powerful percentage of the sun’s rays. When focused on the fabric covering of an airplane, this sunlight beam would cause a tiny burn. It is based on the same principle as that of lighting a fire by focusing sunlight on a small glass dial. The Allied ships on the cover are Sopwith triplanes.

The Sopwith Triplane
Formerly draughtsman, Fokker Aircraft Corporation

OF THE various Sopwith planes, all of which attained great fame, none is more interesting and characteristic than the Triplane—or as it was better known by the German and British pursuit pilots, the “Tripe” or “Tripe-hound.”

The Triplane was the ninth type produced by the Sopwith works, being accepted by the Experimental Board about four months after the Sopwith Pup. The principal object aimed at in the design of the Triplane was the attainment of an extra high degree of visibility, or in other words, the reduction to minimum of the pilot’s blind angle.

With his eyes on a level with the intermediate plane the pilot had practically an junrestricted arc of vision through some 120 degrees, while a section cut out of the intermediate wing enabled him to have a rather good view of the ground while landing the ship, the position of the cockpit being such that the bottom wing had no restricting effect on the vision.

The narrowness of the chord made possible by the use of three main planes also enabled the pilot to have an exceptional view upward and to either side—a most important consideration in any pursuit ship. Another object aimed at in the “Tripehound” was an increase in maneuverbility.

It will be seen that due to the narrow; chord the shifts in the center of pressure with varying angles of incidence is smaller than in a biplane, and consequently a much shorter fuselage can be used to suport the tail surfaces. In addition to this, the small span of the triplane reduces the moments of inertia in the horizontal plane and an airplane is thus obtained which is very sensitive to its controls, which fact adds to its ability to dodge to various strategic positions in a fight.

The factor of the movement of the center of pressure enabled single I-struts to be used instead of the usual pairs, one springing from each spar. This simplified construction by permitting a simplification of inter-plane wire bracing system. Ailerons of the unbalanced type were fitted to each of the three wings.

The “Tripehound” was armed with a single machine gun mounted on the forward top side of the fuselage. In the hands of experienced pilots the ship gave a splendid account of itself and coped favorably with the Fokkers then in use on the Western Front.

The dimensions of the Triplane follow:

Sweepback None
Stagger 1 ft. 6 in.
Dihedral (same for each wing) 2.5 degrees
Total wing area 231 sq.ft.
Length over all 18 ft. 10 in.
Overall span 26 ft. 6 in.
Wing span (same for each wing) 26 ft. 6 in.
Chord (same for each wing) 3 ft. 3in.
Wing areas—
    Top 84 sq. ft.
    Intermediate 72 sq. ft.
    Bottom 75 sq. ft.
    Gap 3 ft.
    Aileron 34 sq. ft.
    Tail plane 14.0 sq. ft.
    Elevators 9.6 sq. ft.
    Total 23.6 sq.ft.
    Fin 2.5 sq. ft.
    Rudder 4.5 sq. ft.
    Total 6.5 sq. ft.


Powered with a 130 h.p. Clerget engine the Sopwith Triplane had a high speed of 112.5 miles an hour (at 6,500 feet). The landing speed was 35 m.p.h. and it would climb to 6,500 feet in 6.5 minutes and to 15,000 feet in 22.3 minutes.

The plane had a fuel capacity of 180 pounds and a flight range of 310 miles. The ceiling was 20,500 feet. The “Tripehound” weighed 1,103 pounds empty and 1,543 pounds loaded which made a loading of 6 pounds per square foot or 12.4 pounds per horse power.

Although judged by present standards the Triplane was low-powered and rather slow, its speed, ease of handling and general performance were outstanding at the time of its introduction into the Royal Flying Corps.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Sopwith Triplane” by Frederick Blakeslee (July 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)

“Horse Flyers” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on September 25, 2015 @ 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—Yes it’s the marvel from Boonetown, Iowa himself—Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham! It was a strange chain of circumstances that pulled Phineas Pinkham right out of France, towed him across the Channel, and finally deposited him in a very bucolic spot in Merrie England.

Yoicks! Tallyho and tantivy! Here is Phineas Carbuncle Pinkham riding to ‘ounds—believe it or not—in plane! But, as Phineas says, “It’s more fun to be the fox!”

“The Fokker Triplane” By Robert H. Rankin

Link - Posted by David on September 21, 2015 @ 6:00 am 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. This time, we have more of the approach he used for the covers he painted for Battle Aces—telling us about the ship on cover. But, instead of Mr Blakeslee telling us about the ship on the cover, we have Mr. Robert H. Rankin, formerly a draughtsman for the Fokker Aircraft Corp telling the story of the most recognized plane of the era—the Fokker Triplane—featured on the cover of the June 1935 cover of Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3506AFTER one look at the cover this month you would probably think that the American and German pilot were doomed. However, both escaped, the American with minor burns and the German with a bad fright.
  As a matter of fact, the fire on the Spad was not quite as bad as we have shown; just bad enough to make the pilot think that he was due for an awful death. He decided to crash one of the Fokker tripes, bringing it down with him. But the pilot of the Fokker got ont of the way just in the nick of time.
  The American discovered in that dive that if he side-slipped the blast of wind would keep the fire away from the cockpit. He managed to reach the ground by side-slipping. As he later said—”Given my choice of crashing or being burned to a cinder, I’ll crash every time.” And crash he did.

Now let’s hear from an expert the inside dope on the Fokker triplane.

The Fokker Triplane
Formerly Draftsman, Fokker Aircraft Corporation

DURING the early part of the year 1916 the German High Command realized that the war had developed into a bitter struggle which would be prolonged much longer than had at first been expected.

With this fact in mind, Germany at once redoubled her efforts to gain undisputed supremacy of the skies and Anthony Fokker was asked to design and produce a new combat ship which would enable her to gain the upper hand. Fokker set to work at once and in the early fall of 1916 this plane was placed in the hands of the fighting pilots. It was the Fokker D.R.-I, or as it was perhaps better known, the Fokker triplane.

At first the performance of the triplane was not viewed seriously by the Allies. But within a short time they learned to have a high regard for the new Fokker pursuit. Although this unique ship was slower than the Nieuports, Sopwiths and Spads, its ability to climb and maneuver gave it a decided advantage over any ship then in use and the series of impressive victories for which it was responsible gave the entire world notice that it was a most important factor in aerial warfare.

In general outline the Fokker D.R.-I was of the orthodox triplane type. However, unlike the Sopwith triplane the span of the wings were unequal.

The span for the top wing was 23 feet, 7 inches, the span for the middle wing was 20 feet, 6 inches, while the span of the bottom wing was 18 feet, 9 inches. The chord was the same for all three wings. The top wing alone was provided with ailerons, and these were of the balanced type.

One of the outstanding features of the Fokker was the wing spar construction. The main point of interest is that the twin spars were built up of two box section tapering spars, these being joined by transverse plywood. The front and rear shear strength of this built-up member was supplied by one right and one left plywood bulkhead in each wing.

Structurally the main wing frame could be regarded as consisting of three pairs of cantilevers tied by pseudo-struts near the wing-tips. The function of this structure was to distribute the load evenly from wing to wing.

The use of the triplane design gave the advantage of a larger ratio of lifting power. Of course, there was some increase in head resistance caused by the use of the extra set of inter-plane struts. But by bracing the wings internally, Fokker eliminated all brace wires, thus reducing the total head resistance to some extent.

It is interesting to note in connection with this that Fokker was the first designer to completely do away with inter-plane bracing.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Model No.14 – Fokker Triplane” by Frederick Blakeslee (January 1934, Battle Birds)

The fuselage of the triplane was built up of welded tubular steel and was covered with linen fabric. It was rather well streamlined, and like most of the Fokker war-time designs it compared closely to modern aeronautical practice.

The empennage or tail of the ship was a fabric covered steel tubing framework. There was no vertical fin, there being only the characteristic Fokker rudder. The tail plane or stabilizer was comparatively large and was fitted with the usual type elevators.

The landing gear axle was inclosed by a wing, a feature which was incorporated on all of the later Fokker fighting models. This wing was two pieces and these were attached to a central casting which housed the shock absorbing agents and the axle. The covering for this wing was plywood.

The triplane or D.R.-I was equipped with a 110 h.p. 9 cylinder Oberursel rotary motor. This motor was mounted on a plate which was stamped from sheet steel. The plate was attached, of course, to the front ends of the fuselage longerons.

For armament the plane was fitted with twin Spandau machine guns, these being mounted on the top side of the fuselage directly in front of the cockpit. Directly behind the engine was the synchronizing gear for the guns, and behind this gear was located the fuel tank. This tank was of a rather small capacity and as a result the flight range of the machine was greatly limited.

The triplane answered very well to the controls and as far as climb and general maneuverability are concerned it was equaled by but very few of the later war time designs.

German pilots have told the writer that they were greatly impressed with the ship and if the speed of the plane could have been increased they would have preferred it to any other plane, with the possible exception of the D-VTI. Certainly it was the choice of many of the German pilots.

The great von Richthofen, who could select any ship he desired, favored it above them all; and his series of victories indicate the famous flyer made no mistake in his choice of a pursuit.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Fokker Triplane” by Frederick Blakeslee (June 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)


Mr. Blakeslee covered the Fokker Triplane himself with the story of the great von Richthofen last flight for the cover of the March 1932 number of Battle Aces.

“Sopwith 1½ Strutter” by Robert H. Rankin

Link - Posted by David on September 14, 2015 @ 6:00 am 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. This time, we have more of the approach he used for the covers he painted for Battle Aces—telling us about the ship on cover. But, instead of Mr Blakeslee telling us about the ship on the cover, we have Mr. Robert H. Rankin, formerly a draughtsman for the Fokker Aircraft Corp telling the story of the Sopwith 1½ Strutter on the cover of the May 1935 cover of Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

Editor’s Note: This is a surprise cover. In painting it, Frederick Blakeslee attempted to tell no story, but simply painted a ship for your collection. The color and every detail on the ship is exactly as it is on the original. We are very anxious to know how you like this cover. Write to Frederick Blakeslee in care of this magazine and tell him what type of cover you like best.

Sopwith 1½ Strutter
Formerly Draughtsman, Fokker Aircraft Corporation

WITH the exception of Fokkers, the Sopwiths were in all probability the best-known fighting ships used during the World War. The Sopwith Camels did more to repulse the German attempts at aerial supremacy than any other type or make of plane, while the Sopwith Pups and Triplanes made themselves almost equally as famous.

Although not as well-known as the other Sopwith models, the 1½ Strutter has a definite claim to historical distinction, not only because it was a great fighter, but because it was the first British plane to be fitted with a gun synchronized to shoot through the propeller.

The Sopwith-Kauper synchronization gear which made this possible was developed at the Sopwith factory and was as much a product of that firm as was the ship to which it was fitted.

The 1½ Strutter was originally designed as a high-performance two-seater fighter powered with the 100 h.p. Clerget engine. As such it gave a very good account of its self, showing an excellent performance and a decided ease of maneuverability.

In view of its worth as a fighter, many 1½ Strutters were built to the order of the governments of Roumania, Russia, Belgium, and the United States. In addition to this, the French government, under license, built more than 4,500 of these machines.

Structurally the 1½ Strutter was interesting in several ways. The wing bracing, which gave the ship its name, was rather unusual, for the top plane was in two halves, bolted to the top of a central cabane, while the wing spars were provided with an extra support in the shape of shorter struts running from the top fuselage longerons to the top plane spars some distance out.

In the single-seater pursuits which followed the 1½ Strutter, this bracing of the top wing was generally adopted, with the exception that the central cabane was done away with, the outer struts of the W formation having a slightly less pronounced slope, and supporting a separate top wing centersection.

Aerodynamically the machine is of interest because of the air-brakes with which it was fitted. These were in the form of adjustable flaps in the trailing edge of the lower wings. These flaps could be rotated by the pilot until they were normal to the wind, thus helping to pull the plane up as it was about to land.

Another innovation incorporated in the 1½ Strutter was the trimming gear by means of which the angle of incidence of the tail plane could be altered in flight. This allowed the tail to be adjusted for speed, climbing, etc.

Although designed originally to be used as a two-seater fighter only, the 1½ Strutter was later successfully adopted as a single-seater bomber, and as such it was used in bombing such German towns as Essen, Munich, and Frankfort. For bombing service the machine was equipped with the 130 h.p. Clerget.

Later this higher-powered engine was used in the standard two-seater fighters. After the war a number of these fighters were fitted with dual controls and powered with 80 h.p. Le Rhone engines for use as training planes.

A study of the following figures will give some idea of the characteristics of the 1½ Strutter:

Span 33 ft. 6 in.
Chord S ft. 6 in.
Area 183 sq. ft.
Incidence in degrees 2.45
Dihedral 2.45
Gap 5 ft. 5 in.
All dimensions the same as for the top plane.
Total wing area 373 sq. ft.
Length over all 25 ft. 4 in.
Stagger 2 ft. 0 in.
Sweepback 0 ft. 0 in.
Aileron area 52 sq. ft.
Tail plane area 35.5 sq. ft.
Elevator area 21.5 sq. ft.
Fin area 3.5 sq. ft.
Rudder area 7.25 sq. ft.


Powered with the 110 h.p. Clerget engine, the two-seater fighter weighed 1,281 pounds empty, had a high speed of 130 m.p.h. and climbed 6,500 feet in 10½ minutes. The ceiling was 16,000 feet, the military load 160 pounds, and the landing speed 35 m.p.h. In addition to the fixed gun, the fighter carried a Scarfe ring and gun for the use of the man in the rear pit.

As a bomber, powered with the 130 h.p. Clerget, the ship weighed 1,316 pounds empty, showed a high speed of 102 m.p.h., and climbed to 6,500 feet in 12.7 minutes. The ceiling was 13,000 feet, the military load was 344 pounds, and the landing speed 35 m.p.h.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Sopwith 1½ Strutter” by Frederick Blakeslee (May 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)

The Jailbird Flight—Resurrecting the Dead Man’s Drome

Link - Posted by David on September 7, 2015 @ 12:54 pm in

WHEN you’re collecting pulps after the fact rather than buying them off the newsstands you rarely acquire issues in their publication order. As such when you find a character or series, you don’t often read those stories in sequence. For some characters that is not essential, for other series you realize after reading two or three stories that you need to collect all the stories and then read them in order to appreciate the continuity that runs throughout the series. Such is the case with Donald Keyhoe’s Jailbird Flight.

I discovered Keyhoe and his Jailbird Flight stories in Dare-Devil Aces. Here was a band of convicts who chose to die flying suicide missions and fighting for their country—the very country that condemned them to life in prison—rather than rot in said prison. They were a rough and tumble bunch assembled by Colonel Rand from the bowels of Blois:

The Flight, at is core, is comprised of Bruce Kirby—Below the Rio Grande he had once been known as “The Killer,” now he flew through hell skies, leader of the strangest squadron that ever dared face death from flaming Spandaus; “Big” Durgin, the hugest Jailbird of all, a mountain of a man with pile-driver fists and a fierce, battered face that masked the gruff kindness beneath his hard exterior; “Tiger” Haight, whose dark eyes ever smoldered as at some hateful memory, perhaps of the day which had turned his hair to silver, though he was but thirty—no one knew his past—no questions were asked in the Jailbird Flight; Cartwright, the tall, urbane Englishman who looked like a British lord; the lanky Tinker with his drawling humor and comical, homely face; and last and by no means least—Kid Denison who reminded Kirby of his ill-fated young brother who had been brutally sacrificed by a drug-mad S.C.! All bore the notorious brand—the sign of the Jailbird Flight—a broad arrow burned on the back of their right hand—but they made it stand for courage!

Dare-Devil Aces was my entry into air war pulps—they were plentiful and relatively cheaply priced at the time (this is like 15 or 20 years ago we’re talking). Finding most issues was relatively easy save for a few—the January 1935 issue which has G-8 appearing in Hogan’s Red Falcon story that month; a couple of 1934 issues—February and July; and the first year of issues from 1932. Condition was not really a concern at the time—I just wanted to read the stories. The initial core of my collection was a lot of 17 issues that Editor Emeritus Bill Mann sold me at PulpCon one year for $100!

The Cyclone Patrol
THE OPENING SPREAD of “The Cyclone Patrol” by Frederick Blakeslee (February 1933, Dare-Devil Aces). This is not the original copy I had read, but an upgraded issue with the cover still attached. The previous owner, J.B., felt so strongly about this story that he printed his succinct review in the margin—”This story is NUTZ, , and so is KIRBY.”

Being familiar with Robert J. Hogan and G-8 and his Battle Aces, I initially read the Red Falcon stories in the issues. But my attention started to wander to the other stories in the wealth of issues as it does and that’s when I came upon the February 1932 issue and its lead story—”The Cyclone Patrol” by Donald E. Keyhoe. Frederick Blakeslee’s two page illustration for the story was shear pandemonium! At first glance, it appears to be two arrow emblazoned planes zooming down to strafe a bunch of armor-clad knights with rifles! Kooky. But as you study it more as you do—you start to notice that there are a bunch of much smaller figures running in fear and that Blakeslee’s perspective is not off and these knights are giants(!) and the smaller figures are normal-sized men! Reading the blurb at the bottom of the picture hooked me—

Pilots twelve feet tall—mammoth planes—rifles big as cannons—this was the squadron of giants, Bocheland’s newest sky horror. Armies fled in terror before them—until Killer Kirby took up their awful challenge, dared defy the strength of these super-aces with the gutty courage of his Jailbird Brood!

I had to read it! And I did—it was an electric story of a mad German Scientist, von Horde, who had appropriated another’s invention—the Q ray—to turn normal people into twelve foot tall giants which he planed on using to defeat the Allies once and for all. While trying to get into von Horde’s castle, Kirby comes across the Q-ray’s creator Kauben who wants to rescue his girl from von Horde’s clutches. They team up to break into his castle, smash the device, get the girl and put an end to von Horde’s mad schemes! It’s a great story—Kirby even comes upon one of his own Brood in von Horde’s dungeons that has been transformed into one of his giants—showing Kirby the enlarged scar on the back of his hand when he doesn’t believe it possible.

After finishing that story, I looked through my other issues to see if I had any more stories of this Jailbird Flight. At the time I had one other story—”The Red Lightning Ace”—as the blurb puts it: “For the Fourth time the Terror had struck What was this new War weapon—this terrible wheel of flame that roared out of the night skies to bring destruction—death—to all it touched? Grimly Kirby followed that fire sky trail, straight into the most hell-bent adventure he or his dare-devil Brood ever tackled.” More wacky WWI super-science action as only Keyhoe could write it!

In looking for The Jailbird Flight in indexes I found there were only two more stories in Dare-Devil Aces in issues I didn’t own at that time as well as one in the first issue of Battle Birds which would precede the four Dare-Devil Aces stories, and seven earlier tales in the even harder to find Battle Aces. A whole wealth of stories—12 in all—I just had to find them.

So I would haunt eBay and AbeBooks and similar places and do websearches and such and over the years I was able to get the other two stories in Dare-Devil Aces and the last two Battle Aces stories—for some reason, the later 1932 issues of Battle Aces seemed to be easier to find that the 1931 or earlier ’32’s.

When we started Age of Aces Books in 2007, I always had a goal of getting all the Jailbird stories so we could collect them into a book. As it turns out—two books. We discussed printing them out of order or maybe just the Dare-Devil Aces stories just to get them out there, but in the end we decided we should do them in order in two volumes. As it worked out, the story in the first issue of Battle Birds—”The Jailbird Patrol”—works as a great introduction to the series and so it and the four Dare-Devil Aces stories could be one book while the seven stories from Battle Aces of various lengths would be the first volume.

I was finally able to track down the first five Jailbird stories through eBay—the hardest to obtain being the March 1932 issue with a Red Baron cover! When I finally got the first Jailbird story from the September 1931 Battle Aces around Thanksgiving 2013 I read it with excitement! I wasn’t sure what to expect—if it would contain the oft mentioned incident that landed Kirby in Blois—the killing of his drug-addled S.C. who had sent his green-pilot of a younger brother on a suicide mission—or maybe the formation of the Brood—or would it just start already in existence. “The Jailbird Flight”—the first story—was a present. It contained everything! The first chapter is one of the best aviation tales I’ve read—there we meet Bruce Kirby coming back from patrol when he comes upon an obviously inexperience flight of Allied pilots being attacked by von Falke’s Hate Staffel! Amongst the besieged is Kirby’s own little brother! whom he see’s gunned down before his eyes! Crazed he returns to his base and confronts the S.C. only to find him hopped up on drugs unable to handle his job. Kirby offers him a fair chance to defend himself as he had done in his life before the war south of the Rio Grande.

    Killer Kirby stood like a statue, facing him. His hands hung at his sides, but the fingers were curled like talons. When he spoke his voice was strange and unnatural.
    “Better take that drink, Dorsey,” he said. “It’s the last drink you’ll get this side of hell.”
    An awful pallor crept into Dorsey’s face under the jaundiced skin.
    “What do you mean?” he whispered. His right hand crept toward the desk.
    “Jimmy—my brother.” A strange film came over Kirby’s eyes. The pupils had become mere pin points, black, menacing. “He’s dead, and it was you who killed him!”
Dorsey sank back before the look in Kirby’s face.
    “No, no,” he cried. “I swear to God I didn’t mean to do it! You can’t—”
    “Draw your gun!” rasped Kirby. “It’s there in your desk. Draw it—or I’ll burn you down!”
    “It’s murder!” Dorsey shrieked. “You’re mad—”
    “Murder! Yes, and you murdered him! Draw!”
    With a crazy scream, Dorsey jerked his pistol from the drawer. His hand threw the weapon upward. Instantly, Kirby’s hand flashed down. The gun seemed to leap into his clutching fingers. There was a crash as two shots came at once. Dorsey’s face turned a hideous gray as he staggered back. His gun fell from his hand. Suddenly he crumpled up and fell like a log.
    Startled voices sounded outside. Men burst into the squadron office. Kirby turned and faced them. He held out his pistol butt foremost, while a red stream trickled from his left arm.
    “Here’s my gun,” said Kirby slowly. His face was black as granite. “You needn’t call the surgeon. I shot him through the heart.”

Chapter two picks up as Kirby sits a dank cell in Blois awaiting eventual transfer to the Federal Prison at Leavenworth, Kansas to be imprisoned for the rest of his life. That is until Colonel Rand shows up and makes Kirby an offer—one he initially turns down until he hears their first mission will be a suicide flight against von Falke and his Hate Staffel!

And that’s just the beginning!

Our new book The Jailbird Flight: Dead Man’s Drome collects those seven hard to find stories from the pages of Popular Publication’s Battle Aces. As a Labour Day Special to whet your appetite, here are the first two chapters of the first story to get you hooked!

The Jailbird Flight: Dead Man’s Drome, like all Age of Aces Books, can be order from Adventure House, Mike Chomko Books, and, of course, Amazon!

Strange Staffels Now Available!

Link - Posted by David on August 24, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Yes! The fourth in our series of themed stories of Donald E. Keyhoe’s Captain Philip Strange is now available! The book premiered at PulpFest this month, and although we had copies there, our printer informed us there was a problem with the files and one of the spreads needed to be tweeked and resubmitted.

This time around Captain Philp Strange faces off against seven of Germany’s Strangest Staffels! America’s enemies have assembled squadrons of flying furies, exploding skeletons, and invisible airplanes to turn the tide of the First World War. From the backalleys of Paris to the skies over Germany, Strange finds high-flying fortresses above the clouds, cursed aerodromes, strafing skulls, and other wild weapons of mass destruction!

Strange Staffels, like all Age of Aces Books, can be order from Adventure House, Mike Chomko Books, and, of course, Amazon!

“The Death Disc” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on August 17, 2015 @ 6:00 am 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. This time Mr. Blakeslee brings us a story of a weapon that was made, but never used during the war. From the April 1935 issue of Dare-Devil Aces, we present “The Death Disc!”

th_DDA_3504SOME time ago we mentioned the fact that during the war people in all walks of life set their creative minds at work on inventions to “win the war.” Each inventor seemed to think that he had hit upon an original principle, or a new application of an old principle. The majority of these inventions were utterly useless. This month’s cover is based on the invention of a German who lived in a small village in East Prussia.

He had been a brilliant instructor of mathematics in a famous German university. Later on in life he retired and when war broke out he was too old to fight

There was no lack of courage in the old man for he tried in vain to find a place in the fighting forces of his country. But German officialdom at that time would have none of him.

Finding no place for himself he had retired to his village again and there devoted his time and his modest fortune to experimentation on explosives. None of his formula proved successful and after an accident that wrecked his laboratory, the towns people persuaded him to give up this dangerous occupation. Discouraged by his failures, he did stop dabbling in explosives and turned to commodities.

He figured, and rightly, that the war would last longer than people thought, and foresaw a shortage in some of the staple commodities. He received no backing whatever, although some of his ideas, conceived during this period, were later adopted.

Constant discouragement undermined his health and his mind broke under the strain, He kept on working, but his inventions were noted for their utter uselessness. Before this he had become interested in the airplane and had started the device that is pictured here. After his mind gave way he completed it in this form. Early in 1917 he died and whatever his intention was concerning this device died with him.

However, there is a model of it preserved in the village and from an examination of it, it would appear that part of its function is shown on the cover. We know it was to have been shot from a German two-seater by a sort of spring gun. The gun, they say, was actually built but there is no record that it worked.

The device itself is very light and consists of a bomb-like core around which revolved a driving propeller and cutting blades. There is nothing within the core now to indicate how the propeller was to have been revolved.

It was invented before the machine gun came into general use, when pilots were throwing bricks at each other’s prop or fighting with rifle and pistol. Assuming that the thing was workable, we have shown on the cover our idea of what it could do, What do you think it was?

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Death Disc: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(April 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)

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