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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Oswald Boelke

Link - Posted by David on September 21, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s one of Germany’s greatest air fighters—Captain Oswald Boelke!

All the heroes of the flying forces were not on the Allied side. The enemy also had its heroic figures.

Captain Boelke was among the greatest of the enemy air fighters. He reigned supreme until his death; then Baron von Richtofen came along to carry on where Boelke left off.

The German air fighting tactics varied somewhat from those of the Allies, tending more towards mass attack, emulating in that respect the German system of arms to attack in force with superior number, For that reason accounts of German air fights are not usually as spectacular or glamorous as accounts of Allied fights. Boelke’s account of his fight with a dead pilot, however, borders on the realms of fiction, and could hardly he believed if it did not come from such a practical-minded, stolid figure as was the German flying Captain.

 

THE PHANTOM PILOT

by Captain Oswald Boelke • Sky Fighters, November 1933

ON THE 27th of September (1916) I attacked with my patrol a flight of six English single-seaters. I knocked down one of them, and immediately picked on another. But as I whirled into the second attack, the first machine, whose pilot I thought I had killed, having seen my tracer stream right into his face, made for me. I tried to escape the charge, but nothing I did seemed to avail. The enemy plane glued right on my tail. I was very much surprised at his tenacity.

After all, I was certain that I had killed the English pilot minutes before, yet here he was, still flying around in a circle stubbornly. The fact was mysterious indeed. I flew over very close to the enemy machine to investigate, and saw that the pilot was prostrate over the gunwales of his cockpit. He certainly seemed dead.

Sure, then, that the plane could do me no harm, I left it and banked off, to tackle another Englishman whom my comrades had rounded up for me. I got him without difficulty, sending him down in a slow spin.

Then the mysterious plane with the dead pilot at the controls veered around and headed toward me.

And what a strange thing! It crept up to within fifty meters of my plane. Next thing I knew, a stream of tracer spewed from its nose. The bullets rattled through my fuselage. I nosed down to escape the slugs. The plane shot overhead, so I banked around and slid down after the spinning Englishman. When the Englishman crashed in a shell crater, the other plane seemed suddenly to straighten out and scoot for its own lines.

I followed and watched, saw it land easily in an open space behind its own lines. When it stopped rolling, soldiers from the trenches came out and pulled the pilot from the pit. They laid him out on the ground and covered him with a blanket, face and all. One of the soldiers crossed himself. I knew then my own conclusions were confirmed. The pilot was really dead. But the way that plane maneuvered with a dead hand on the control stick was positively uncanny.

It had me in a cold sweat. I finally figured out that the plane was rigged so perfectly that it really flew itself.

That it seemed to tail me was pure coincidence. As for the slugs that poured from its nose, they were merely the result of a last convulsive muscular movement of the dying pilot. But I tell you, one experience like that is enough! I would rather fight ten daring, darting Englishmen all at once, than do solitary battle with a ghost plane with dead hands at the controls.

“Sky Fighters, October 1933″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on September 19, 2016 @ 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 October 1933 cover, It’s a battle of a lone Salmson being harassed by some Fokker D-7s!

The Ships on the Cover

THE SHIPS pictured on this month’s th_SF_3310cover are Fokker D-7s and a lone Salmson.

The Salmson was manufactured by the French firm Societe des Moteurs Salmson. It was one of the most reliable observation ships used during the World War and was flown extensively by the French. The Americans and Italians also used it to good advantage.

Its engine was a Salmson 260 h.p. radial turning over 1500 revolutions per minute. The cylinders arranged radially like the modern Wrights were mounted around a two part crankcase. Nine tubes brought the exhaust to a collector, formed as a ring and arranged in front of the cylinders. This is the outer rim of the nose of the ship.

The cylindrical shape of the nose with its numerous ventilating slits is distinctive. In fact it can be mistaken for no other war-time ship.

The span of the Salmson on the cover is 39 ft. The length 27½ ft. Its top speed was just under 120 m.p.h. It could climb to 10,000 ft. in 18 minutes.

Although this ship was far ahead of its time in streamlining, it had a certain bulky appearance that suggested it might be a stubborn brute when answering to its controls. Just the reverse was true. It could be taken up carrying a pilot and an observer and made to do things and go places.

Therefore the predicament in the picture may not be as serious for the Allied airmen as one would think at the first glance. The pilot has rolled his ship so that his gunner can blast the Fokker zooming up from below at the rate of 800 feet per minute. The pilot’s front gun is lined up on the tail of a second Fokker hammering out a stream of Vicker’s slugs.

Downing these two “N” strutted German planes will cut down the odds tremendously. But as long as even one of these blunt-snouted German pursuit ships remain in the sky the Allied flyers have plenty to worry about.

The Fokker was considered Germany’s best fighting plane produced during the war. It was a radical change from her ships which followed the sweep-back design of the Taube wing construction. There were no graceful sweeping lines on Tony Fokker’s bus; just a business-like ruggedly constructed engine of destruction. It could match any maneuver of an Allied ship except in diving.

In a dive it had a tendency to pull up. Many of its opponents, getting in a tight fix with a D-7 and seeing Spandau slugs lacing fabric to ribbons got away from seemingly certain death by opening wide their throttles and diving toward the earth.

The Fokker was powered by the famous Mercedes 160 h.p. motor, the most efficient of many fine power plants produced by German engineers. This engine had such stamina and dependability that some Allied pilots removed them from captured German planes and placed them in their own ships.

The entire fuselage assembly of the Fokker was constructed of steel, even including members where wood is almost universally used. The wings, reversing the steel construction principally used in the fuselage, were made entirely of wood.

External bracing wires are not used between the wings. Both upper and lower wings are without dihedral.

Salmson and Fokker ships were highlights of ingenious designers’ skill. Radically different in design, but both capable of doing their allotted jobs in a businesslike manner.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, October 1933 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the S.E.5 and Phalz D-3!

Now Available!

Link - Posted by David on July 23, 2016 @ 9:34 am in

IF YOU can’t make it to PulpFest in Columbus this weekend, you can still get copies of our new books online from the usual outlets. Both of our new books—Frederick C. Painton’s Squadron of the Dead and Donald E. Keyhoe’s Captain Philip Strange: Strange Spectres—are now available to order online from Adventure House, Mike Chomko Books and Amazon!

While you’re waiting for the books to arrive, why not check out some of the extras we’ve put on line for each book to whet your appetite. For Painton’s Squadron of the Dead we’ve posted the original pulp scans from Sky Birds magazine of the opening page art so you can see how it would have looked if you were reading the stories back in 1935 when they were originally published. You can also read the opening of the stories in the scans. Orignally we had posted a few of the Squadron of the Dead stories on our site—we had enjoyed them so much that we we had found all eight stories we decided to collect them into a book. The first one is still available here if you want to sample the book.

For the latest release of the weird World War I adventures of Donald E. Keyhoe’s Captain Philip Strange we have the original full page scans of the opening artwork for each of the six stories collected in Strange Spectres! For the last few volumes we’ve only been posting cropped artwork, this is the first time we’re posting the full page scan so you can read a bit of story and enjoy Eugene M. Frandzen’s art in all its glory from the pages of Flying Aces magazine. Painton’s Squadron also uses Frandzen’s art, but here in the bedsheet sized issues of Flying Aces you get those glorious painted images Frandzen would do—much better than his line art.

And the piece de resistance of any Strange book—Chris’ great cutout artwork he does for each of the stories! There are only six this time—but they’re all winners. You can check them out on the Strange Spectres Design page!

Both books are available for $16.99 wherever our books are sold, so pick up both today! You can order online from Adventure House, Mike Chomko Books and Amazon!

Premiering at PulpFest 2016!

Link - Posted by David on July 18, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Age of Aces will be back at PulpFest again this year where we will be debuting our two new titles!

First, we have the lastest in our Captain Philip Strange series—back with six more weird WWI stories in Strange Spectres! A mental marvel from birth, who used his talents on stage as a boy, Philip Strange is now known as “The Phantom Ace of G-2″ by the Allies during WWI. “Horrors of war” takes on a whole new meaning when WWI erupts with paranormal activity: Flaming planes piloted by charred skeletons; Battleship crews that mysteriously vanish; Medieval knights falling from the sky; The spirit of the Red Baron himself haunting the frontlines! When World War I gets weird, only America’s own “Phantom Ace of G-2” has a ghost of a chance against the supernatural slaughter. Captain Philip Strange in his strangest cases yet from the pages of Flying Aces magazine!

Our other title is from the pen of Frederick Painton, a prolific pulp author and venerated newspaper man. We’ve collected eight of his stories that ran in the pages of Sky Birds magazine in 1935 and are publishing them under the title Squadron of the Dead. The Squadron of the Dead contained all the hellions of ten armies! Men without hope; men courting death; men who loved to kill; men who laughed and fought, drank and cursed, lived hard, and died harder. Americans, British, Russians—even Germans—made up their ranks, and only one bond held them together: Death lay ahead of them. They were assigned the grim missions no other squadron dared to take—for they had all been condemned to die!

Painton’s Squadron of the Dead is a departure from our usual titles that feature a scrappy band of aviators flying through various adventures. Each of the eight stories in Painton’s Squadron of the Dead is the story of a different pilot who has been condemned to death and sent to the squadron to serve out his sentence. And die they did, dropping spies, bombing impossible places, strafing infantry for harassed Allied battalions. These men flew recklessly, savagely, knowing they could live again only when death really claimed them. Then their names would shine once again in the casualty announcements and they would be posthumously awarded the Legion d’Honneur.

In addition to these two volumes we’ll have all of our other titles that are still in print as well as our convention exclusive—Arch Whitehouse’s Coffin Kirk. So if you’re planning on coming to Columbus for PulpFest this year, stop by our table and say hi and pick up our latest releases!

“Sky Fighters, December 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on May 30, 2016 @ 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 December 1934 cover, It’s a battle of the Sea as the Phönix Seaplane is attacked by an Austrian Sea Tank!

The Ships on the Cover

TANKS, bristling with machine-guns th_SF_3412 and one pounders, crawled on to the muck and mud of the British front near Cambrai during 1916. Slowly these squat engines of destruction inched closer to the German hordes. Relentlessly they smashed the Boche lines, literally buried them in their supposedly impregnable trenches.

Tanks from that day on held a major position in the War’s spotlight. Not only on land did the tanks crush the enemy, they did things on the water.

A Slick Stunt!

About 400 miles southeast of Cambrai on the Adriatic is the fortified port of Pola. During the war the Austrians were top men of this strategic spot. In 1916 the Italians barged in with a flock of torpedo boats and raised hell with things in general, but it was not until 1918 that they pulled one of the slickest stunts of the whole war. They rigged up a small speed boat with geared cables running along each side just as a tank’s tractor treads are placed. Steel claws on this tractor cable made this boat literally a sea tank. It could do anything on the water that its famous iron brother could do on land.

Across the mouth of the harbor of Pola the Austrians had constructed stout obstructions which would frustrate any more raids from the Italian mosquito fleet. But they had not figured on the gnat fleet. That fleet consisted of two boats shown on the cover. Each boat carried two torpedoes, one swung on either side, two men and a machine-gun.

Bottled up in the harbor was the Austrian fleet. Vigilance had somewhat relaxed, the Austrians felt their position to be impregnable from sea raids.

And then out of the Adriatic two small strange-looking craft pounded across the choppy waves straight up to the harbor barriers. They slowed down, eased their noses against the wall, gears were meshed and the endless chain of iron claws scratched at the wall, dug in, held and the prows of the tiny raiders eased over the top. Slowly the boats were heaved over the first barrier. Down splashed their noses. One eased over the second obstruction and tore through the inner harbor toward the Austrian fleet.

Sirens screamed, land batteries roared. The battleships brought their guns into position and blazed away. Two Phönix seaplanes careened off the water, clawed their way into the air and dove on the brazen raiders. Down swooped one of the planes, front guns lacing the sea tank just pulling itself over the second obstruction. The after machine-gun on the sea tank bucked and jerked as its gunner arced it to meet his diving foe. The observer in the rear of the Phönix pushed his gun over the side, blasted slugs down. One bullet hit a vital part of the sea tank’s mechanism. Its engine sputtered, went half dead. Score one for the Austrians.

Two Famous Firsts

But the second sea tank miraculously raced safely through the gauntlet of falling shells and the fire of the second Phönix. The machine-gun went into action on the second sea tank and the pursuing seaplane’s propeller sprayed into a thousand bits. Score one for the tanks.

On went the tiny boat until at blank broadside range it released its two torpedoes at the 20,000 ton dreadnaught. A terrific concussion shook the harbor. Slowly the majestic fighting ship listed, shuddered, and sank.

One tiny, battered sea tank clawed its way out of the harbor and limped slowly across the choppy surface of the Adriatic toward home. Two famous firsts for the tanks; 1916 at Cambrai—1918 at Pola.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, December 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Fokker E.1 and the F.E.2!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Albert Ball

Link - Posted by David on May 18, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s British Captain Albert Ball’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Captain Albert Ball was the first of the Royal Flying Corps pilots to make a distinguished record. Unlike the French, the British made no mention of their air pilot’s victories. One day Ball wrote home that he had just counted his 22nd victory. His mother proudly showed this letter to her friends. Ball was disbelieved.

It was beyond belief at that time that any single pilot could have shot down so many enemy planes. Ball was finally vindicated. From that time on the British publicized the exploits of flying aces. Ball shot down 43 enemy planes and one balloon, being at the time of his death the Ace of Aces of all the armies.

He received every decoration the British Army could give him, including the Victoria Cross. He was killed in a new British triplane by the younger von Richthofen the day after America entered the War.

The account below is taken from a letter to his family in Nottingham.

 

AN ENGLISH ACE’S BEST FIGHT

by Captain Albert Ball • Sky Fighters, December 1933

WHILE cruising high over my own lines I spotted a formation of eight enemy machines about 5 kilometers away. They were well within their own lines, so I circled around slowly, watching, waiting for them to come after me. But they did not.

I decided then to do the attacking myself. The Hun formation let me come on without any apparent effort to scatter. I had my thumbs on the trigger trips, but I was determined not to fire until I got within deadshot range. I knew I had to knock down my first target to shatter their morale. Down, down I went, expecting Hun fire all the time. But oddly none came. They usually fire at very long range. But in another hundred yards I saw why they withheld fire. All at once they opened up simultaneously with a steady stream of slugs.

I was diving so fast and so steep that I couldn’t swerve off from that hail of lead. I had to go through run the gauntlet. I did, diving even steeper, trusting my life to the hands of Fate. The slugs sieved through my ship. I held my breath, shoved on my cockpit, ducked my head, won through without getting nicked in a vital spot.

Before the gunners could swing their muzzles and center me, I pulled up in a climbing zoom, nosing right into the blind belly of the nearest Hun. At fifteen meters I pressed my triggers. The pilot crumpled over. The ship went spinning down. I went over on my back, straightened out, lined another. It burst into flames with my second salvo of fire.

The German formation was completely disorganized now. They turned and fled in all directions. I chased one, centered my fire from directly behind. My bursts were effective. A wing crumpled, collapsed. It went down. I banked, and took after another, caught up with him, gave him the same dose. The ship went spinning down. Four in one fight! It was a record for me.

I banked and chased the other three far into Germany. But had to give up before I caught them. My petrol was running short, and I have an unholy fear of being forced down in enemy territory.

“Sky Fighters, November 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on May 16, 2016 @ 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 November 1934 cover, It’s a battle of the wire jobs as the Fokker Eindecker 1 takes on the Farman Experimental 2!

The Ships on the Cover

THE airmen in the early th_SF_3411 months of the war were gallant knights who took their frail, slow-moving craft into the air for observation purposes only. Occasionally a bomb or two was pitched over the side just to make it interesting for the opposing ground troops. But when fliers from different sides of the line met each other above the war fields they usually nodded, waved their hands, or if they stirred up a little hate they thumbed their noses at each other.

Then one day a German pilot with a perverted sense of humor threw a few bricks down at an Allied aviator, which of course was unsportsmanlike. The next day the Allied flier took a shotgun into the clouds and blammed both barrels at a German plane. The handwaving and friendly nods ceased.

Next to break the peace of the sky lanes was Roland Garros, the French flier, who mounted a Hotchkiss machine-gun on the cowl of his fragile little Morane, put steel triangular plates on his propeller and let the Germans have the works. He did plenty of damage to the Germans until he had to make a forced landing in enemy territory with his precious gun. He was captured before he could destroy his gun and plane. The secret was out.

Fokker’s Synchronized Gun

Anthony Fokker got busy on a synchronized gun. He rigged up a system of mechanical gears connected to his prop shaft and was able to send a steady stream of lead through the propeller arc.

That invention really started the fireworks in the air. Garros’ gun was a makeshift arrangement worked with a hand-trigger not synchronized. The Fokker gun was synchronized and was a weapon of death and destruction.

Boelke and Immelmann were two of the first to flame through the skies with the new gun. Allied plane after plane went crashing to earth. The Germans were mopping up, blasting their opponents from the air.

And then when things looked the darkest, up soared the British pusher type planes. One of these, the F.E.2 (Farman Experimental) barged into the fight with a Lewis gun blazing from its front observer’s pit. And did those old flying bathtubs bust hell out of the Fokker menace? They certainly did!

Take a look at this month’s cover and you will get in on the last stanza of a fight between a Fokker E.1 and the famous old stick and wire job, the F.E.2.

Strange—But True!

Down below three British two-seaters are lumbering along. The Fokker Eindecker has been hidden above the clouds and spots the three foes. He carefully tests his one synchronized gun and tips his square-winged monoplane down. His Oberursel engine bellows as it yanks the plane down in a power dive. The German pilot suddenly glances to his right. Out of a cloud bank breaks an F.E.2. The German yanks his ship out of its dive, kicks it up to come around and down on this newest enemy before polishing off the two-seaters.

But an expert is behind the Lewis gun in the flying bathtub. The German’s body jerks in his pit as the British gunner’s slugs find their mark. A pained expression of surprise marks the German’s face. It is against all reason that such an awkward-looking contraption could fly, let alone down his sleek streamlined Fokker.

It might be against all reason, but facts fill the history books that tell us that it was the good old F.E.2’s that stopped the sky slaughter of the Fokker Eindeckers.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, November 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features a sea battle as Phönix seaplane is attacked by a Sea Tank!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Navarre

Link - Posted by David on May 4, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s French Lieutenant Navarre’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

The year before America entered the War, there was one name that was consistently emblazoned in the papers along with Marshal Joffre, Earl Kitchner, and the other high ranking generals. It was the name of Navarre, the “Sentinel of Verdun.” Navarre was the first Ace, the first man to destroy live enemy aircraft in plane to plane combat. At the first battle of Verdun he did yeoman duty. It was his reports brought in after solo patrols far in the rear of the German lines that enabled Marshal Joffre to so dispose his defense troops at Verdun that the attacking armies under the command of the German Crown Prince were never able to take the city.

Alone, of all the French fortifications, it stood impregnable through the entire War. To Navarre, as much as to anybody else, belongs the credit for this victory. It was only during Navarre’s last days on the front that his plane was equipped with a machine-gun.

Despite that fact, he rolled up a record of 12 enemy planes brought down and destroyed before he was wounded and permanently disabled. His account below is from the records of a French journalist.

 

AN UNUSUAL VICTORY

by Lieutenant Navarre • Sky Fighters, December 1933

THE AIR FIGHT which I believe the most remarkable is one which took place far beyond Verdun. A German photo plane had come down out of the clouds unexpectedly right over the fortress, had circled around undisturbed and taken pictures. I got the call at my airdrome just as I had landed from a flight.

Without taking time to fill with gasoline or load up with more ammunition, I hopped in my ship and took off again. When the enemy ship saw me coming, it banked off and headed for home. I poured on all juice and raced after it.

The distance between us narrowed very slowly. My heart was in my mouth. I was sad. I knew I must get that ship before it landed with its pictures. I goosed my throttle and spark, stuck the nose of my ship down until I was just skimming the ground. Boche rifles shot at me.

Stitches of little round holes appeared like magic in my wings. But I raced on with greater speed because I was close to the ground. The Boche photo ship was still high up, but beginning to circle. I prayed for time to wait! Pushed on my controls, did everything! Just managed to get beneath the Boche as he was coming down for a landing on his own drome. The Boches on the ground saw me. They hustled out other ships. I nosed up to meet the down coming Boche with my hand tense on the trigger of my Lewis gun. At fifty yards I gave a burst. It missed.

The Boche answered with two bursts. I banked and slipped away. The Boche nosed after me, sending out bullets all the while. Two other planes were taxiing across the ground. They would be up soon!

I had to do something swiftly, or not at all. I banked around, headed towards the photo plane, got it sighted and pressed my trigger again. But nothing happened! I had run through the last of my ammunition with the previous burst. I stuck my nose down. The Boche photo plane came after me, right on my tail. I stood up. in my seat, looked at my gun hopelessly. Looked back over my shoulder. The Boche plane was almost on me. The pilot was grinning. His propeller was almost gnawing at my tail surfaces. But there were no shots.

A sudden idea hit me. I reached up, wrenched the empty ammunition drum from my Lewis. Without waiting I hurled it back over my head. The propeller blast carried it straight back. I heard a chattering thud, then a hissing plop. I looked back over my shoulder. The drum had shattered the Boche’s prop. One blade had broken. The engine was wobbling in its frame. I swung out of my dive, banked up. The Boche hurtled past out of control, plunged into the earth, burst into flames.

The other Boche got up, raced me all the way to Verdun. But I beat them back. They didn’t come across after me. They turned back at the lines. That without question is my most remarkable flight.

“Sky Fighters, October 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on May 2, 2016 @ 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 October 1934 cover, It’s the Halberstadt C.L.2 vs the Avro “Spider”!

The Ships on the Cover

THE Halberstadt C.L.2 was, th_SF_3410 with its sister ship the C.L.4, a bright spot in Germany’s output of two-seater fighters. It was simpler in design than most of the German ships of this type; probably thereby lays the reason for its very good performance. Kicking over 1,385 r.p.m.’s at 10,000 feet, it could travel at around 100 m.p.h. It was not so hot on climbing, but was light on its controls and could be maneuvered with ease.

The other ship on the cover is the Avro “Spider,” a job turned out by the famous A.V. Roe & Co., Ltd. It had “It” when it came to speed, maneuverability, and climb. Its trick triangular system of inter-plane bracing obviated the use of flying or landing wires. And when it came to visibility that “one holer” in the top wing gave the pilot a look-see up and ahead. Even downward vision was good as the chord of the lower wing was very narrow.

Let’s slip back about half an hour before this crackup that’s pictured on the cover.

A Trophy of War

Consider yourself planked on an Allied tarmac. Out in front of number one hangar is a captured German ship; a Halberstadt. A group of British aviators are standing around admiring their trophy. Greaseballs have tuned her up, she is idling beautifully. One of them with three pots of colors is ready to paint the British cocardes on this German ship. There is darn good reason for this art work on captured machines. It’s to save the Allied test pilots who take up the captured ship back of the lines from getting popped down by some other Allied aviator who might think a German was at the stick.

Standing among the British aviators is a young man with a very dejected expression on his square face. His goggles are shoved back. His collar ornaments are German. To the Allied aviators, whose captive he is, he is just a flyer who happened to work for the wrong side. Much wine and spirits have trickled down all throats since the capture of the German. All hands are buddies, friends; in fact old pals. What if Fritz did pop at them from his Halberstadt? It was all in the game.

Just a Joy-Ride

“Let’s have a little ride in your old war chariot, Fritz,” suggested Lieutenant Mills, who had forced the German down.

So Fritz climbed in at the controls after it was certain his front and rear guns were harmless. Lt. Mills tucked a pistol into his pocket and heaved himself up on the side.

Smack!

Fritz fist clipped the Britisher on the button. The Mercedes roared. Dirt blasted into the other’s eyes on the ground.

An Avro roared throatily in the next hangar. Lt. Mills was in it in a jiffy, gunned the Bentley and blasted down the drag and up into the air. It took him twenty minutes to catch Fritz. Then came ten minutes of systematic sniping at engine and wings. Finally the Halberstadt’s engine sputtered, died. Down she came, flopping and shuddering. As her undercarriage hit the ground her wings folded and called it a day. Lt. Mills landed close by, rubbed his aching jaw and walked over to the wreck. Fritz crawled out, felt himself all over and indicated that he was not injured. He then shoved out his jaw and Lt. Mills carefully planked a beautiful right uppercut home. Fritz took it standing up and grinned.

Mills produced a flask—”Cheerio,” he grinned.

“Prosit,” replied Fritz.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, October 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Fokker E.1 and the F.E.2!

“Night Eagle” by Harold F. Cruickshank

Link - Posted by David on April 22, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

WE’RE back with another exciting air adventure from the pages of the pulp magazines of the 1930’s. This week we have a tale from the pen of that Canadian stalwart—Harold F. Cruickshank. Cruickshank was a prolific writer. He wrote all manner os stories for the pulps—war, aviation, westerns, even animal stories!

Here we have a story from the December 1933 issue of Sky Fighters. In Night Eagle Cruickshank tells a tale of Squadron Twenty tasked with taking out a German ammo dump and meeting with little success.

Johnny Blair was all set to smash the german ammo dump to smithereens—but his bombs proved to he duds!

For more great tales by Harold F. Cruickshank, check out Sky Devil: Hell’s Skipper—All along the Western front, everyone was out to get The Sky Devil’s Brood! There was no better flight in France. Led by Captain Bill Dawe, the famous Yank ace known to all of France as the Sky Devil, the brood consisted of Chuck Verne, Mart Bevin, Slim Skitch and Slug Walton. The crimson devil insignia on their silver Spads brought fear to any German pilot unlucky enough to meet them in the air. But the Sky Devil’s greatest enemy might just be his own C.O., Major Petrie, who had been railroaded into command of 120 Squadron over Dawe’s head. Jealous of Dawe’s popularity, Petrie will do anything to bring down “The Sky Devil’s Brood!”

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Raoul Lufbery

Link - Posted by David on April 20, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s the inimitable Major Raoul Lufbery’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Raoul Lufbery was already famous when America entered the War. For some time he was the mechanic of Marc Pourpe, famous French flyer. Pourpe was killed in aerial combat. Lufbery who was with the Foreign Legion, asked to take his place in order to avenge his death. The French army, defying usual procedure sent him to join Escadrille de Bombardmente V. 102, where he made a distinguished record.

When the La Fayette Escadrille was formed, he became one of the seven original members of that famous air squadron—and, as it proved ultimately, became the most distinguished, winning his commission as a sous-lieutenant.

When America entered the War he was transferred to the American Air Service and made a major, refusing, however, to take command of a squadron. When he was killed at Toul. Lufbery was officially credited with 17 victories. The story below was told to a Chicago newspaper correspondent a few days before his death at Toul airdrome

 

THREE AVIATIKS (?) WITH ONE SHOT

by Major Raoul Lufbery • Sky Fighters, December 1933

YOU ASK me my most memorable flight? Let me think a minute. Ah, I have it! It was the day at Luxeuil soon after we got our new Nieuports, the day the great air armada bombed Karlsruhe on the Rhine.

With Prince, De Laage, Masson, I took off from the drome at Luxeuil. We climbed all the time. Below us was the formation of French and British bombers we were to escort. Above were great masses of clouds. We went up through them, looking for Boche on top. But, there were none. That is, I saw none, but I felt that I was being watched.

I glanced up suddenly. Just in time! A three-seater Aviatik was diving on me. My companions had gone ahead. I turned back quickly, making believe I had not seen the Aviatik. I wanted the pilot to come closer before I started shooting.

The Boche tracer screamed over my head. I moved the stick, sent my Nieuport into a screeching chandelle. The black Aviatik whirled past me, tracer streams spouting like fountains. I straightened out, my fingers going tight on the gun trips. I dived, got the Aviatik in range, let go with a long burst while I feathered the controls, making my tracer stream weave. But the Boche pilot was no amateur. He slipped away.

His bullets shattered my compass. The alcohol in the bowl spurted, clouding my goggle glasses. I shoved them up on my forehead. The alcohol sprayed in my eyes, burned. I blinked. All I could see was red. I was blind! But I heard the Boche tracer ripping through my wings. I dived, then maneuvered crazily. I shook my head, threw off one mitten, wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. All the time I was weaving my stick, diving and zooming alternately, to give an erratic target. My eyes began to clear and I looked out overside.

I saw three Aviatiks then. All black, all shooting at me. I maneuvered some more, managed to get my guns lined on one of them. I pressed the gun trips quickly. My tracer streamed out in a blue haze. All three Aviatiks tumbled over in the sky and fell down at once. I banked, went circling after them to see that they crashed. It was only when I was almost to the ground, that I saw it was only one Aviatik that had crashed.

My eyes, blurred by compass alcohol, had tricked me. There was only one Aviatik where I had seen three. I got only one when I thought I had three. But I was happy enough,
anyway.

That one Aviatik might have got me if—I had not been so lucky.

“Sky Fighters, September 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 18, 2016 @ 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 September 1934 cover, It’s the Pfalz Triplane vs the indomitable S.E.5!

The Ships on the Cover

THE Pfalz Triplane was th_SF_3409 one of the neatest looking jobs among the number of multi-wing planes which all European countries experimented with during the late fracas Over There. The fuselage was exceptionally slick in proportion and line. If you can imagine the two top wings removed and the bottom wing having a much greater chord you will see a strong resemblance between this tripe of bygone war days and the Lockheed Sirius of modern times.

Those designers of a sixth of a century ago did some sweet visualizing far in advance of their time. If they’d have had engines as efficient as those of today to yank their stick and wire jobs through the clouds there’s no telling what the outcome of the air campaigns might have been.

Three Winged Crates

But we’re not as interested in the fuselage as in those three wings which make our Pfalz a Triplane or Dreideckcr. In building this type of ship the hope was for greater efficiency in all ways. They got it in some and lost it in others. In using three instead of one or two wings the chord and span could be reduced. Then the tail assembly could be pushed up closer to the wings, giving compactness and maneuverability. A single interplane strut could be used on each side, instead of the conventional double struts. The Pfalz used a combination of V strut and straight single strut. The top wing did most of the lifting work as the lower wings had a very narrow chord.

The Nieuport, Sopwith, Albatross and Fokker firms experimented with the triplane idea. Fokker undoubtedly was influenced by the Sopwith “tripe.” Some other manufacturers even went in for quadraplanes, and not to be outdone, one stuck on five planes which made the crate look like a flying stepladder.

On the cover the Pfalz tripe in the foreground with the red belly has been tearing in and out of the ring-sights of the S.E.5. That fight started down low and gained altitude as the two ships circled and sparred with left and right guns.

Even Steven

The famous S.E.5 of British origin, one of their outstanding successes, has the edge on the tripe in many of their in and out maneuvers, but a triplane has a much reduced period of inertia in the horizontal plane; so therefore is able to slip from one dodging tactic to another quicker than the S.E.5. So it was about “even Steven” in this climbing fight.

Suddenly another Pfalz tripe hove into the scrap with spitting Spandaus. Just about the time it looked like curtains for the S.E.5 her pilot flopped his ship into a trick skidding turn and sprayed a drizzle of slugs into the second ship. Down it went smoking, out of control. Not contented with his one victory he repeated his maneuver on the surprised Boche in the foreground Pfalz. One quick burst from the Vickers sent bullets thudding into the German pilot. He died instantly with his nerveless hands and feet still holding his plane in a climbing circle.

The S.E.5 pilot followed for a moment then eased his plane aside and headed for home. Once he turned, raised his right hand in salute as he watched the triplane, now a tiny speck far above, still gracefully climbing into the blue dome of heaven.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, September 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Halberstadt C.L.2 and the Avro Spider!

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 12: Major Hawker” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 13, 2016 @ 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 English Ace—Major Lanoe G. Hawker!

Lanoe George Hawker joined the Royal Flying Corps and quickly developed a reputation as an aggressive pilot. In April 1915, armed with just a few bombs and some hand gernades, he successfully attacked a Zeppelin plant at Gontrobe while flying a BE-2. This earned him the Distinguished Service Order.

A few months later, on 25th July 1915 Hawker became the first fighter pilot to win the Victoria Cross for air combat. Flying a single-seater Bristol Scout and armed with a single-shot cavalry carbine mounted on the starboard side of the fuselage, Hawker attacked an enemy two-seater over Ypres. He managed to not only bring that plane down, but two others as well—and all three had been armed with machine guns!

Promoted to the rank of major, Hawker died after taking part in one of the longest dogfights of the war. Flying an Airco DH-2 over Bapaume on 23rd November, 1916, Hawker was eventually shot down and killed by Manfred von Richthofen.

(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.)

“Bat Trap” by Lester Dent

Link - Posted by David on April 8, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Lester Dent is best remembered as the man behind Doc Savage. But he wrote all number of other stories before he started chronicling the adventures of everyone’s favorite bronze giant. Here we have an action-packed tale of the air whose hero—Major Hercules Gade—bares a striking resemblance everyone’s favorite chemist, Monk Mayfair: “He was pint size, this Yank buzzard. His ears were tufts of gristle. Somebody had once broken his nose. There was long hair on his wrists and the tendons on the backs of his knotty hands stood out like twisted ropes. His face was something to scare babies with. But just now an infectious grin cracked it from ear to ear.”

Herk is sent to the Groupe de Chasse 71 to get an unruly flight in line by any means necessary—which in this case means his fists—and take care of the Baron von Gruppe’s jagdstaffel and a German backed Sinn Fein plot!

They were fighting hounds from Devil’s Island and no man could tame them, but that was before a half-pint major named Hercules blasted them through the sky-trail that had no return.

If you enjoyed this story, Black Dog Books has put out an excellent volume collecting 11 of Lester Dent’s early air stories set against the backdrop of World War !. The book includes this story as well as others from the pages of War Birds, War Aces, Flying Aces, Sky Birds and The Lone Eagle. It’s The Skull Squadron! Check it out!

 

And as a bonus, here’s another article from Lester’s home town paper, The LaPlata Home Press, about his early success selling stories to the pulps while working as a telegraph opperator in Tulsa, Oklahoma!

 

At 25, Lester Dent Makes Hit As Writer

Will Visit Parents Here Enronte To New York Position
The LaPlata Home Press, LaPlata, MO • 25 December 1930

Lester Dent will leave Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first of January to spend the remainder of the winter in New York City, writing magazine adventure fiction. Mr. Dent is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Bern Dent, of north of LaPlata. and graduated from LaPlata high school in 1923. In going to New York, he is accepting flattering offers made by an eastern publishing house. Mr. Dent expects to visit his parents here enroute east.

Newspaper work usually leads to nothing but more newspaper work but once in a while there are exceptions to that rule. As in the case of Lester Dent, who is now the recipient of flattering offers from New York because of his yarn-spinning in magazine columns as well as daily news sheets.

Lester Dent

For more than four years Mr. Dent has been an Associated Press operator and Maintenance man, allied with The Tulsa Tribune. Less than two years ago he commenced to try his hand at fiction writing. He turned out, 13 stories, all of which were rejected, wrote, the fourteenth and found a market. That encouraged him to go on and he has been going better and faster ever since. His marker has included “Popular Stories,” “Air Stories,” ”Top-Notcoh,” “Action Stories” and “Sky Riders.”

Some of the earlier titles were ”Pirate Cay,” “Death Zone,” “Bucaneers of the Midnight Sun” and “The Thirteenth Million Dollar Robbery.”

Later Mr. Dent’s name appeared over stories called “Vulture Coast,” “The Devil’s Derelict,” “The Skeleton From Moon Cay” and, most recently, “Hell Hop.” The last-named tale attracted the attention of one of the editors of “Sky Riders” in which it is
to appear. Soon after the author received a night letter suggesting that the New York publishing field had a place for writers of his imagination.

Mr. Dent is 25 years old and has been in Tulsa nearly five years, most of that time employed by the Associated Press. He once enrolled in the law school at the University of Tulsa but gave it up, because, he says some what laconically, “it was too much work.” Planning thirteen million-dollar robberies and tales of buccaneers for the delight of the American public that likes its action swift and daring seems easier work, evidently. Now he has the choice of continuing to write the news as it does happen or as it might but probably would not happen.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Donald McClaren

Link - Posted by David on April 6, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s Canada’s Major Donald McLaren’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Donald McLaren was born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1893, but at an early age his parents moved to the Canadian Northwest, where he grew up with a gun in his hands. He got his first rifle at the age of six, and was an expert marksman by the time he was twelve. When the war broke out he was engaged in the fur business with his father, far up in the Peace River country. He came down from the north in the early spring of 1917 and enlisted in the Canadian army, in the aviation section. He went into training at Camp Borden, won his wings easily and quickly, and was immediately sent overseas. In February, 1918, he downed his first enemy aircraft. In the next 9 months he shot down 48 enemy planes and 6 balloons, ranking fourth among the Canadian Aces and sixth among the British. No ranking ace in any army shot down as many enemy aircraft as he did in the same length of time. For his feats he was decorated with the D.S.O., M.C., D.F.C. medals of the British forces, and the French conferred upon him both the Legion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre. Oddly, just before the war ended, he was injured in a wrestling match with one of his comrades and spent armistice day in a hospital nursing a broken leg. He had gone through over a hundred air engagements without receiving a scratch. The air battle he describes below is unusual because almost 100 planes took part in it.

 

A REAL DOG-FIGHT

by Major Donald McLaren • Sky Fighters, April 1934

I was cruising along with twelve of my Camels when we met 17 enemy aircraft 15,000 feet high, slightly east of Nieppe Forest. When the Germans spotted us above them, they started circling. We began diving at them, and had succeeded in shooting down two, when another German formation appeared, coming up from La Bassee. I signalled and we drew out to watch developments, climbing together. At that moment our archies opened fire. The white bursts were thick like cotton tufts, with the enemy planes diving in and out. As we drew away to reform and attack again, we were joined by some additional S.E.5’s and Camels. Then another formation of Bristol Fighters and S.E.S’s drifted along from the south.

A real air battle promised now—the kind you read about but seldom witness. My Camels attacked the first formation of Huns, diving, firing a few rounds at close range, then climbing away, only to resume the tactic again as soon as we reformed. I swooped down on a white painted Albatross with a red nose. At my first burst, he exploded in flames. But I felt somebody shooting at me for all his worth.

From the sound of the bullets I knew he was very close, so I pulled back in a quick climbing turn to get a look. I saw two of my Camels chasing a Pfalz who tried to avoid them by turning from side to side. They got it, however. It went spinning down but I had no time to watch. Bullets were flying everywhere, coming from almost a hundred fighters at once. Just then two Albatrosses under me picked on a little Camel. I went for them, managing to get the first with a single burst. But the other got away by diving under his formation.

The Bristols and S.E.5’s were having the time of their lives. One S.E.5 that had shot down a Hun was being given a ride by three of the fallen Hun’s mates.

But by a fast climbing turn and wing-over, he managed to get the advantage over one. The Hun in trying to avoid his charge turned too slowly and rammed one of his fellows. Both smashed and went down, leaving bits of fabric floating behind them. By agile maneuvering the Bristols had managed to split up the German formation, so the enemy thinking they had enough, drew off and made for home as fast as they could. Our ammunition had been pretty well used up, so we called it a day.

Nearly a hundred planes took part in the scrap. I had never been in such a dog-fight before.

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