“The Green Death” by Frederick Blakeslee
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!
“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.”