Frederick Blakeslee painted the covers for Dare-Devil Aces‘ entire fourteen year run. Every one of those covers told a story, and Blakeslee had a page with which to do so. We present Blakeslee’s cover for the February 1933 issue of Dare-Devil Aces—”Decoy Smashers”…
AN IMPORTANT offensive had been held up by the activities of a group of four German balloons, that, floating close together in a line, looked exactly alike. When a patrol was sent against them it was found that at least three of these balloons were decoys filled with H.E. Upon being attacked the balloons were all pulled down to lure the planes closer, and then they were exploded with frightful results. The first patrol was almost wiped out and a short time later four more balloons were floating in the same place.
After a day of careful observation it was still uncertain which balloon carried the observer. However, another group of fighting ships took off with a plan to trick the Germans into exploding all the decoys, after which the remaining balloon could be attacked. This patrol was driven off by superior numbers and the balloons remained.
It became a game to see who could outwit the other and the outcome was watched by every outfit in that sector. More than one pilot in a fast pursuit ship had a go at these balloons without any success. The sausages still held the sky and still held up the offensive. It remained for a comparatively slow bomber, totally unprotected and quite by accident, to discover and destroy the correct balloon.
A British pilot and observer had completed an important photographic mission into Germany. Returning they suddenly became aware that a strong force of the enemy were converging on them from three sides.
Only one way was open. This led directly over the four balloons. They sped for this opening, intent only on getting away with the photographs. As they flew over one of the balloons they saw an object drop from the basket and a moment later a parachute open. They knew then that this was the one balloon of the four that for days had held up the offensive. Turning quickly, the observer poured a deadly fire into the bag at close range. The sudden turn of the Bristol completely disorganized the pursuit and before the Germans could follow, the balloon was falling in flames and the Bristol was speeding to safety. Without giving the balloons time to be lowered and positions changed, troops went over the top, captured the position and so allowed the offensive to organize, and later secure a victory.
Did the two Englishmen receive medals from a grateful government? They did not! They were reprimanded for jeopardizing the safety of valuable photographs.
Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.