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“The Sky Terrier” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on July 31, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Since we’re deep into the dog days of summer, we thought we’d give you a shaggy dog story from the pen of Joe Archibald. Instead of our usual Phineas Pinkham mirthquake we have the story of Muggins, a scottish Irish terrier, that finds himself taken in by a squadron fighting a loosing battle with the Germans and turns their luck around!

What a buddy for a fighting, daredevil pilot! Yet this dog was air-wise, every inch of him—and he proved it through the snarling menace of a thousand flaming Jerry tracers.

“The Fokker D-VII” by Robert H. Rankin

Link - Posted by David on July 27, 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 if the Fokker D-VII on the cover of the February 1935 cover of Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3502The contraption shown on the cover was supposed to have been invented just after our entry into the war. The idea was for a bomber to drop the net and then the combat ships were to lure the enemy into it, or else the combat ship was to carry the net itself. The story goes that the inventor offered it to the U.S. government, then to France and England and finally into German hands. (A similar device was employed in the Sky Devil story “The Haunted Fokker” (Dare-Devil Ace, April 1933))

Now let’s review the history of the Fokker D-VII, written by an authority on the subject.

THE FOKKER D-VII
by ROBERT H. RANKIN
Formerly Draughtsman, Fokker Aircraft Corp.

TO ANY one familiar with the fighting planes developed during the World War the Fokker D-VII is outstanding. It was superior to any other plane used by Germany and it was certainly the equal of any machine used by the Allies. Using the D-VII the German pilots were able to hold their own against a much larger force of Allied aircraft, and so great did the fear of these planes become that it was definitely stated in terms of the Armistice that all Fokker planes should be destroyed.

The D-VII was the result of the gradual development of the earlier Fokker Fighters. When it was found that the 110 H.P. Le Rhone powered Nieuport easily outmoded the 80 H.P. Gnome powered Fokker the design of the Fokker tri-plane was completed.

The triplane enabled the German pilots to gain a series of impressive victories and it was used by the great von Richthofen in many of his aerial duels. Although the speed of this plane was comparatively slow, its decided ease of maneuverability more than made up for the disadvantage.

But its flight range was limited by a small gasoline capacity and Allied pilots found that the best way to escape it was to out-distance it.

As it became apparent that the fighting planes of the Allies, and in particular the Sopwith Camels and Spads, were giving them the advantages of speed and flight range the design of the D Series Fokkers was started. The first of these was the D-I, a bi-plane powered with a 120 H.P. Mercedes, and like the rest of the series it was fast and efficient.

About this time the Albatros works (Albatros Werke) began production of the D Series Albatros machines. The Albatros D-II proved itself superior to the Fokker D-I and by 1917 the later developed D-III had surplanted the Fokkers at the Front. This Albatros was powered with a 175 H.P. Mercedes, weighed 1,470 lbs. and carried a useful load of 297 lbs.

These D Series Albatros planes were a bi-plane design, having a small lower wing (made of a single spar) connected to a larger upper wing with a V strut. Any combat advantages which the Albatros offered were offset by the fact that the plane was structurally weak and the wings could not stand torsions. Consequently, when fighting the Albatros, Allied pilots had but to put their planes into a steep dive to be safe.

Many German airmen were killed when their planes went to pieces in mid-air; the celebrated Captain Boelke met death when the wings of his Albatros pulled off while he was flying over his own lines. Several pilots deliberately wrecked their machines rather than take them into the air.

The father of the D-VII was a bi-plane of somewhat radical appearance. Its fabric-covered fuselage was made of wood covered welded tubing, making a clean and decidedly streamlined job. The wings were built up of wood in much the same manner as were the wings of the later Fokker commercial types.

Although this plane offered every advantage and was years ahead of its time in many ways it was refused by the German High Command. Realizing that little satisfaction could be had from the German government (politics meaning more to them than efficient fighting equipment) Mr. Fokker managed to contact the important pilots. He found that they were not satisfied with the planes and materials furnished them and they desired to select their own equipment.

After some difficulty and much red tape an open competition of the leading makes of military planes was held. For this competition Fokker redesigned his bi-plane and the D-VII was born.

The D-VII was characterized by its cantilever wings (made up of box spars). No wires or external braces were used and the wings were joined together at the tips with a single strut. The fuselage was of a rectangular cross section which feature made for simplified manufacturing and quantity production. By streamlining the landing gear axle with a tiny wing, speed was added to the plane.

The D-VII fast became a favorite of the pilots. Although the Rumpler climbed faster, it handled very badly, especially on the turns. So great was the demand for the new Fokker that the factories making other planes were required to stop production of their own types and concentrate on the building of the D-VIIs.

The following figures give an insight into the construction and performance of the plane.

Wing curve Fokker varying
Sweepback None
Dihedral, upper wing
Dihedral, lower wing 1° 20′
Stagger 2′ 1″
Total wing area, including ailerons 236 sq. ft.
 
Upper plane—
  Span 27′ 5½”
  Chord 5′ 3″
  Area, with ailerons 145 sq. ft
 
Lower plane—
  Span 22′ 11¼”
  Chord 3′ 11¼”
  Area 91 sq. ft.
  Incidence 1 to 1.5 degrees
  Gap 4′ 6¼”
 
Fuselage—
  Max. cross section shape Rectangular
  Max. cross section area 9.35 sq. ft.
  Max. cross section dimension 3′ 9½” by 2′ 5½”
 
General Dimensions—
  Overall span 27′ by 5½”
  Length 23′
  Height 9′ 3″
 
The weight of plane (empty, including water) 1,867 pounds
The weight of plane loaded 2,462 pounds

The endurance of the Fokker D-VII is, full throttle at 10,000 feet (including climb) 2 hrs. 13 minutes.

Minimum speed of the D-VII at sea level (lowest throttle) is 62 miles per hour.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Fokker D-VII” by Frederick Blakeslee (February 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)

 

Mr. Blakeslee covered the Fokker D-VII himself with the story of Billy Bishop for the cover of the February 1932 number of Battle Aces.

“Sky Lines” by Raoul Whitfield

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

Raoul Falconia Whitfield (1896-1945) is probably best remembered for his hardboiled crime fiction published in Black Mask such as the Jo Gar stories about a Filipino detective in an inter-war Manila. But Whitfield also wrote fiction for titles like Adventure, Blue Book, Breezy Stories, Everybody’s Magazine, as well as Battle Stories, War Stories, Boy’s Life and Air Trails. Frequently his stories in Air Trails featured “Buck” Kent, an adventurous pilot for hire. The stories, although more in the juvenile fiction vein, do feature some elements of his harder prose.

The July 1929 issue of Air Trails featured two pieces by Whitfield. There was the monthly dose of the adventures of “Buck” Kent and in the back of the issue was a cheifly autobiographical piece from his time as an aviator in the first World War. The autobiographical article is presented below; while the “Buck” Kent story, “Sky Lines” can be downloaded at the bottom of the post.

 

Sky Seconds That Count

by Raoul Whitfield • Air Trails • July 1929 (vol.2 no.4)

Mr. Whitfield, famous pilot-writer, author of the “Buck” Kent stories, tells about some of his own exciting moments in the air.

THIS fellow Whitfield has had some sky seconds, that have counted—even if he has to interview himself in order to admit it. We have to go back a few years to the days when army pilots didn’t pack ‘chutes; when stabilizers and inertia starters were things to talk about and say: “Well, maybe. Ten years from now—maybe.”

We have to go back to the days when a lot of good chaps were getting into tail-spins and not getting out of them. Back to war days.

There was the time a De Haviland’s Liberty conked out, over the Gironde River in France. That wasn’t so good, even though Lieutenant Whitfield did stretch the ship’s glide and reach a sandy strip along the stream’s edge. There was the time a Nieuport got her nose down and went into a tight spin five hundred feet off the ground, near Issoudoun, France.

That wasn’t so good, even though she whipped out of it a hundred feet above the earth. And there was still another time when a gray wall of fog swept northward across Colombey-la-Belle, and sent the lieutenant down for a nose-over on a soggy stretch too close to the front for comfort. And there were the seconds when a J.N. 4’s wings scraped those of another Jenny—at Kelly Field, Texas.

But the sky seconds that counted most slipped by at St. Jean de Monts, on the Bay of Biscay, France. This fellow Whitfield was flying a dep-control S.A.E. She was a terrible crate, and he was testing her out for target towing.

In the rear cockpit of this two-place ship was a noncom who had never tossed out a wrapped target sleeve before. The lieutenant was flying over the beach, headed into the wind.

He got the ship’s nose up and nodded his head. The noncom stood up and the prop wash battered him off balance. Instead of tossing the packed silk out, he held it momentarily.

Whitfield shoved the wheel forward and the nose dropped. A down current dropped it a bit more. The noncom recovered his balance—and let the packed target sleeve go.

The tail assembly slanted up—and the silk lodged between the rudder and elevator fins. The wind pressure jambed it there, tight—very tight. The plane was going down with power on, her dive angle around thirty degrees. And the more Lieutenant Whitfield tugged on that wheel—the worse the silk sleeve jamb became!

Seconds were counting, and counting big!

THE lieutenant swore at the noncom, howled at him to jerk the pack loose. The lieutenant cut the throttle speed, and stared down at the white beach. The ship had less than two thousand feet, and her dive angle was just right for a sweet crash.

A crash in this particular plane meant that the pilot would rate the engine in his lap, and plenty of fire to top off. Whitfield was pretty scared.

But he worked the wheel forward and backward, perhaps an inch. That would have meant something in a Nieuport or a Sop. But this crate didn’t notice the movement. And the target sleeve stuck like Bishop on a Boche’s tail.

The noncom was pulling at the rope coil—methods were crude in those days—but it was no go. Five hundred feet above the sand, Lieutenant Whitfield cut the ignition switch and thought of a girl back in the States. (He married the other one later).

He was still tugging at the wheel control, a hundred feet off the sand. But the dive angle was still thirty degrees or better. It looked like he’d eaten his last Bay of Biscay lobster and partaken of his last bottle of Mumms’ champagne. Then the wheel pulled back an inch—two inches—three inches! That helped.

There was still plenty of crash. The undergear went first, then a wing ripped along and buckled. The plane nosed over and the prop splintered. The pilot and the sergeant crawled out of the wreckage. The ship didn’t burn. She sizzled, but she didn’t fry.

The silk sleeve was still lodged between the rudder and elevator fins, partially opened. As the lieutenant writes, he yawns and looks at a splinter of that ship’s prop, hanging on the wall.

A lot of seconds pass by in eleven years. But he didn’t yawn then—and every second counted when he tugged at that diving crate’s wheel.

 

 

AND now down to New Orleans where “Buck” Kent has been earning his keep with a little sky writting, and some favors on the side in Raoul Whitfield’s “Sky Lines.”

“Buck” Kent matches his airman’s wits with the snarling bullets of bandit guns.

“Death Lightning” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on July 20, 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. It’s another of Mr. Blakeslee’s future tech story covers—and it’s a cover you don’t see often because it’s a hard to find issue due to G-8 guest staring in Robert J. Hogan’s Red Falcon story that month—Dynamite Cargo! (available in our first volume of Red Falcon: The Dare-Devil Aces Years.) Another side note: Although Blakeslee did the cover, he did not do the interior illustrations aside from the interstitials Would You Believe it? and The Story Behind The Cover—Josef Katula handled the art honors this month. So feast your eyes on the January 1935 number of Dare-Devil Aces!

th_DDA_3501THE cover this month, as last month, is dedicated to war in the air as it might have been fought had inventors realized their dreams.

If you did not believe the story behind the cover last month you probably will not believe it this month. As a matter of fact we are a bit incredulous ourselves, yet we have it on authority that such an invention as this month’s cover shows was actually being worked on during the war.

As you see, the invention consisted of a device by which an electrical charge would be built up sufficient to jump the gap between two airplanes.

When we visualize the huge apparatus required to jump a spark across even a comparatively small gap, we wonder what the airplane that could carry such a machine would look like. So we selected the German Roland Walfische which was a queer looking ship for those days, a beauty however, and far in advance of its time as you can see by the above drawing of it.

We may laugh all we please at these “impossible” things, yet in this age who is to say what is impossible and what is possible? Imagine what would have happened to a man fifty years ago had he described the radio—a padded cell for him perhaps. So reserve your laugh to fifty years hence.

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

Next time, Mr. Blakeslee brings us another fanciful invention—”Death Lightning” for the January 1935 cover. Be sure not to miss it.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 40: Major Francesco Baracca” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on July 15, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time around we have the October 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of Italy’s Ace of Aces—Major Francesco Baracca!

Major Francesco Baracca is Italy’s greatest Ace of WWI but started his millitary carrer in the cavalry before the war with the prestigious Piemonte Reale Cavalleria Regiment upon his commisioning in 1910. Baracca’s interests turned to Aviation a few years later when he was transfered from Rome to a small town in central Italy and learned to fly at Reims, France.

Son of a nobleman, Barraca is credited with 34 victories and emblazzened the fuselage of his plane with his personal emblem, a black prancing horse—the Cavallino Rampante—in tribute to his calvalry days. It is this emblem that his mother gave to Enzo Ferrari in later years to be the official symbol of the Scuderia Ferrari Racing team since 1929 and later Ferrari Automobiles.

He was killed while out on a straffing run in June 1918.

“The Flying Torpedo” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on July 13, 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. Blakeslee had three different formats for his stories behind his covers. First, there’s the straight story of the cover action; second, there was the ship on the cover where he told the specifics of the plane featured on said cover; and then there were future visions of air warfare. This week we have the first of these where he talks about the flying torpedo—or guided missle! From the December 1934 issue of Dare-Devil Aces

th_DDA_3412DOES this cover look fantastic? Perhaps it does, but it is based on actual fact.

During the war inventors were busy all over the nation. The butcher, the baker, the candle-stick maker, all turned their minds to contraptions calculated to win the war. Farmers who had never seen the sea went to work on unsinkable ships, clerks in the corner store who had never seen a big gun, invented marvelous shells.

Almost without exception the thousands of war inventions that flooded the patent office were useless and often fantastic. Without exception however the individual inventors were serious in their intentions and the government wisely treated even the fantastic inventions with the respect they deserved. The government realized that someone somewhere might turn in a workable idea.

Occasionally workable ideas were received from obscure inventors and in such a case government engineers were dispatched to the inventor to investigate, test and report. Many new and workable war inventions were acquired in this way but that was the exception and not the rule.

It was left to experts in the various fields to evolve new ideas and one was the aerial torpedo. How the torpedo was to have worked is pictured on this month’s cover.

Being an air magazine we have selected the Zep as the target, but the torpedo was meant primarily for operations against munition factories, ammunition dumps, ships, etc. We do not know what the torpedo looked like, but we do know that they were controlled by wireless. They were actually, and successfully tested near Dayton, Ohio.

A humorous incident occurred that might have proved tragic, during the test. One of the torpedoes got out of control and had the countryside thoroughly scared until it eventually landed in a wood with disastrous results—but only to the trees.

Our informant tells us that the torpedo was self-propelled and had a wing span of about six feet. Direction up, down, right or left was controlled by wireless. Although the torpedo had wings we have shown them on the cover as rockets.

The question naturally arises, why weren’t they used in the war ? We can’t answer that one so we will let you answer it and if anyone does know the answer we would be glad to hear it.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Flying Torpedo: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(December 1934, Dare-Devil Aces)

Next time, Mr. Blakeslee brings us another fanciful invention—”Death Lightning” for the January 1935 cover. Be sure not to miss it.

“The Breguet” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on July 6, 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, Blakeslee presents us with more of the approach he used for the covers he painted for Battle Aces—telling us about the ship on cover of the November 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3411THE BREGUET pictured on the cover was one of the most successful bombers produced by France during the war. There are several types, the 14 A 2, 14 B 2, 16 B.N.2. and the three-motored machine. The ship here shown is a 14 B 2 and is from a Signal Corps photograph.

The BREGUET was designed by M. Louis Breguet, one of the great pioneers of French aviation. He was one of the first designers to produce a satisfactory tractor biplane.

The BREGUET was very strong and sturdy, being constructed almost exclusively of aluminum. Only the upper wings were provided with ailerons. The part of the lower plane lying behind the rear spar was hinged along its total length and was pulled downward by means of 12 rubber cords fixed on the under side of the ribs; the tension of these could be adjusted by means of screws, an automatic change of aerofoil corresponding with the load and speed thus resulting with an easier control of the airplane with and without a load of bombs. The ship was equipped with a complete dual control which could be removed from the observer’s cockpit. The engine was a 260 h.p. Renault stepped up to 300 h.p. by the use of aluminum pistons and a greater number of revolutions. To the left on the outside of the body a fixed machine gun for the pilot was mounted. The observer was armed with two machine guns clutched together and mounted on a raising and turning ring. As the ring was mounted high, the firing range forward was good. The characteristic features by which the ship could be recognized were beside the usual backward stagger to be found on other airplanes, the following; the high fuselage with the right-angled rudder and forward sharp rounded keel fin, the landing gear with three pairs of struts, the triangular-fixed tail plane, the divided elevator, with cornered balance, as well as the dihedral upper planes and horizontal lower ones.

We have discussed bombs and bomb dropping; this month we shall discuss machine guns. Of the three guns carried on the BREGUET, two arc Lewis and one a Vicker. These two types were used extensively by France and England. The Lewis machine gun was an air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine fed gun, weighing about 26 lbs. with the jacket, or 18 lbs. without. The gun was used almost entirely without the jacket, without any loss of efficiency. Its extreme mobility made it a most efficient gun for airplane work, being capable of operating in any position, firing straight up or straight down, or in any position. The speed of getting into action and the ability to function automatically in any position were due to the use of detachable, drum-shaped, rotating magazines, each magazine holding 47 or 97 cartridges. When a magazine is latched on the magazine post, it temporarily becomes part of the gun requiring no further attention until empty, when it is snatched off and another snapped on, as quickly as an empty magazine.

The Vickers is a water-cooled, recoil-operated, belt-fed machine gun. Like the Lewis gun, it is capable of being fired at the rate of 300 to 500 shots per minute. Its advantage over the Lewis gun is that it is capable of being fired continuously up to 500 shots, whereas the Lewis requires changing of magazine after 97 shots. On the other hand it has the disadvantage of being belt-fed, so it does not afford the mobility which the Lewis gun afforded. The water-cooling in the Vickers, like the air-cooling device in the Lewis, was dispensed with for aerial work, as unnecessary.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Breguet: The Ship on the Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(November 1934, Dare-Devil Aces)

Next time, Mr. Blakeslee brings us the fanciful tale of “The Flying Torpedo” for the December 1934 cover. Be sure not to miss it.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 39: Gabriel Guerin” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on July 1, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time around we have the September 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of the ninth ranking French Ace—Gabriel Guerin!

Sous Lieutenant Gabriel Fernand Charles Guerin was credited with 23 confirmed victories—including five of which he shared—and a reported 10 more unconfirmed. Most of these victories were while a pilot in SPA 15. As we said he was France’s ninth ranking Ace in the First World War and was awarded the Legion d’honneur, Médaille Millitaire and the Croix de Guerre with 15 palms and two bronze stars!

Sadly, Guerin died when the aircraft he was piloting, a SPAD VII, spun out of control and plunged to the ground soon after take-off near Mont l’Eveque on the 1st of August 1918. He was 26.

“T.N.T. Wings” by Eliot Todd

Link - Posted by David on June 29, 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, Eliot Todd recounts the story behind Blakeslee’s October 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3410THE Bristol Fighters on this month’s cover have dropped the last of their light demolition bombs on the blazing ammunition dump below and are now battling their way through a cordon of avenging Fokker D-VII’s. Will they make the lines? Well, the Bristol Fighter was so good that it was used right up to the close of the war with very few changes and could be trusted to give a good account of itself in any show.

Perhaps the most spectacular of all war sights was the explosion of an ammunition dump. Thousands upon thousands of shells and bombs of all types and sizes were stored in these dumps. And one well-placed hit was enough to transform them from orderly, harmless looking supply depots into white-hot infernos of death and destruction.

Such great concentrations of munitions as were to be found in 1918 were unheard of during the early days of the war. Open tactics prevailed for those first few weeks and not until the armies dug in did positions become comparatively permanent. Then the establishment of definite lines made supply centers necessary for the support of the armies.

The first dumps were just what the word means—piles of ammunition dumped on the ground, sometimes protected by canvas or some other rude shelter. No attempt was made to conceal the positions of the depots; secrecy was not considered necessary at that time.

But when aerial observation and photography developed from a curiosity into an important branch of the service, it became necessary to protect the depots from the prying eyes and tell-tale camera of the airmen.

Dumps were necessarily located near some road or railway. For that reason they were all the easier to spot from above when not camouflaged.

With the position of a dump located on a map or shown on a photograph, and with each section ranged, it was generally a simple enough matter to shell the target if within range of the artillery.

If not, planes were rolled out, courses set and bomb racks loaded.

Well aware of the vital importance of these dumps to the successful operation of their plans, the general staffs of each nation used every known device to protect their supplies. Camouflage was the answer. Roads were screened when it was necessary to bring up supplies by daylight in preparation for a big drive.

Some dumps were located underground, not only to mask their position but also to protect the ammunition in case of a raid. In some cases great tarpaulins were stretched and painted to resemble the ground.

As the art of camouflage advanced it became more and more difficult to recognize them. But in spite of all precautions, the dumps continued to be spotted and bombed by that new weapon which has done more than anything else to revolutionize modern warfare—the airplane.

The Story Behind The Cover
“T.N.T. Wings: The Story Behind The Cover” by Eliot Todd
(October 1934, Dare-Devil Aces)

Check back again. We will be presenting more Stories behind the Covers.

“Crêpe Hangars” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on June 26, 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 and this time the marvel from Boonetown faces a dilema—face a court martial or transfer to the Pallbearer Squadron—the most morose lot on the Western Front—to boost their morale as only a Pinkham can.

They thought Phineas could make anybody laugh—until they sent him to the Pallbearers’ drome, where even the birds sang death marches. Yes, it looked for once as if Phineas had met his match in that bunch of Crêpe Hangars!

“The Bourges Bomber” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on June 22, 2015 @ 6:30 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, Blakeslee presents us with more of the approach he used for the covers he painted for Battle Aces—telling us about the ship on cover of the September 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3409THERE is no story behind the cover this month. The scene is simply a background to display the Boulton & Paul “Bourges” bomber. You can easily pick it out, for it is the only British ship on the cover.

The “Bourges” was produced late in the war as a fighter bomber, and had it arrived at the Front in time would have given the Germans the surprise of their lives. Not only did it have the fuel and load capacity expected of a large bomber, but the speed, climb, and maneuvering qualities usually associated with a small single-seater combat ship. It not only could carry nearly a thousand pounds of bombs, but if necessary, whip into an Immelmann, a loop or any other intricate maneuver impossible for a machine of its size in those days.

The specifications for the ship follow. It had a span of 54 ft. a gap, maximum and minimum of 6 ft. 6 in. The total overall length was 37 ft. The chord of the top wing was 8 ft. while the bottom wing was 6 ft. 6 in. Span of the tail was 16 ft.

It had two 320 h.p. A. B. C. “Dragonfly” motors turning a 9 ft. 6 in. dia. prop. 1650 r.p.m. The weight of the machine empty was 3420 lbs. and its load per sq. ft. was 8 lbs. It carried 190 gallons of gas, enough to keep it aloft nine and a quarter hours. Its speed at 10,000 ft. was 124 m.p.h. and it could climb to this height in 11 minutes. At 15,000 ft. its speed was 118 m.p.h. and it took 21 minutes to climb to this height. Its landing speed was 50 m.p.h.

In our cover painting, two bombs are making a direct hit on the bridge. Had that painting been based on fact, the two hits would have been exceptional, for the art of bomb dropping was not as easy as it may sound.

For instance, a falling bomb will have an initial speed equal to and in the same direction as the airplane from which it is dropped. This force is compounded with two other forces which are constant, the resistance of the air and the acceleration due to gravity. The result will be a curved trajectory, the trajectory being the path the bomb follows from the point of discharge to the striking point. A head wind or a tail wind will cause the bomb to drift which modifies the value of the trajectory, which is again modified by the type and weight of the bomb used.

To successfully hit a target a bomber must know the normal speed of the particular airplane in which he flies; the height of the airplane from the target; the velocity of the head or tail wind and the weight and type of the bomb to be dropped.

If all this is known, it is reasonable to suppose that the bomb would hit the target, and it would if it wasn’t for the fact that perhaps a thousand feet lower from the height of the bomber, the wind may be blowing ten miles faster or change its direction. Add to this bursting “archie” and enemy ships and you will see why bombing was, and is, difficult. In fact, some authorities during the war despaired of ever being able to get results in aerial bombing comparable to the efforts made.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Bourges Bomber: The Ship on the Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(September 1934, Dare-Devil Aces)

Next time, Eliot Todd returns with the story of “T.N.T. Wings” on the October 1934 cover. Be sure not to miss it.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 38: Carl Bolle” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on June 17, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time around we have the August 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of the last leader of the Jagdstaffel Boelcke—Carl Bolle!

Carl Bolle started his military career in the cavalry, later transfering to the air service. During his time in the air service he is credited with 36 victories rising to the rank of Oberleutnant and transfered to command Jasta 2—the very squadron Oswald Boelcke had commanded.

After the war, Bolle became a flying instructor and in the 1920’s director of German Air Transport School—the Deutsche Verkehrsfliegerschule. Subssequently helping in the covert training of pilots for the Luftwaffe with which he served as an advisor during the second World War, reporting to Hermann Goring himself!

Carl Bolle passed away on the 9th of October 1955 in his native city of Berlin.

“Suicide Buzzards” by Eliot Todd

Link - Posted by David on June 15, 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, Eliot Todd recounts the story behind Blakeslee’s July 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3407MOTORS thundering, four giant Handley-Pages trundled across the 89th’s field at St. Contay. They were off to do the impossible—bomb the enemy rail center at Harvencourt.

For months a thorn in the side of G.H.Q., Harvencourt was now the mainspring in the Germans’ last stab at victory. Every other attempt to destroy it had ended in disaster. Now G.H.Q. was pinning their faith on a bold daylight raid.

Thirty minutes later the rail center slid into view. The air became charged with flying steel as German batteries came to life. Jagged chunks of shrapnel and Maxim slugs crashed through wings, shredding fabric, smashing struts and ribs to splinters. Grimly the H.P.’s held their course through the maelstrom of lead and steel, laying egg after egg.

By now the ground was a blazing inferno, the network of tracks a mass of twisted junk. But the dump, the all important store of ammunition, was untouched.

A gunner snatched the release and the last bomb spun true to its mark. Magically a solid sheet of flame leaped upward as hundreds of tons of H.E. ignited. When the smoke and debris cleared there was nothing to mark the dump but a tremendous crater.

During the early years of the war, bombing was more or less haphazard and unreliable. Equipment was crude. Bombs consisted mainly of hand grenades, and bomb sights were nothing more than a couple of nails and a few pieces of wire.

But with the rapid strides made in aviation during 1917-18, bombing leaped from the hit or miss, hope-we-get-there-stage, into a powerful weapon of offense. Very few things got more respect than the bombers as they droned overhead with a cargo of eggs along about two ack emma.

When objectives were deep in enemy territory, as happened in the story depicted on this month’s cover, the bombers were forced to leave their escorts after crossing the lines, and, because of the shorter cruising range of the smaller ships, penetrate miles behind the lines alone. As early as 1916 one R.F.C. outfit flew more than ninety miles to reach its objective.

And if the objective happened to be an important one they were usually met with a hot reception. Batteries of ground defences flung up shrapnel, flaming onions and Maxim slugs until the air was literally charged with flying steel. In many instances the crews were trapped in the pits of their lumbering busses and blasted out of the sky by Fokkers.

Even if they sucecded in reaching their objective, escaping anti-aircraft fire and the savage attacks of Fokkers, they were still faced with many minutes of flying over hostile territory that was by tins time fully aroused to their presence.

Crouched in the pits of their clumsy, sometimes crippled crates, the crews fought their way mile after mile back to the Front until they contacted their escort over the lines.

In that case the escort went into action, driving off the Boche planes. But when they missed the escort, as they sometimes did, the entire job was up to them.

The odds against them and the difficulties that faced them were all in the day’s—or night’s—work to the men who flew in those giant crates. They were real airmen and they did a real job.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Suicide Buzzards: The Story Behind The Cover” by Eliot Todd (July 1934)

Check back again. We will be presenting more Stories behind the Covers.

“Raid of the Unseen” by Kenneth Brown Collings

Link - Posted by David on June 12, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

This week we have a tale from the pen of a dare-devil adventurer, aviator, soldier and war correspondent—Kenneth Brown Collings, whose interest in aviation began in childhood when he saw the Wrights brothers and their flying machine perform at Fort Myer, Va., in 1908. From the pages of the February 1935 number of Flying Aces, it’s a smashing yarn of night bombers—”Raid of the Unseen!”

The C.O. of the 7th Marines Squadron was not new at the fighting game. He’d taken lessons from blood-crazed Moros in the Philippines, from slant-eyed Boxers in China. And he’d learned one thing—you’ve got to hit what you shoot at, whether you’re on the ground or in the air. And because he’d learned that lesson so well—he was faced with a court-martial!

“The Yellow Comet” by Eliot Todd

Link - Posted by David on June 8, 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, Eliot Todd recounts the story behind Blakeslee’s April 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3404SUNSET. The lone Spad droned on, headed directly into the blazing rays of a dying sun that flushed the western skies with crimson. A Yank pilot sat in the Spad’s tiny “office,” his back to Germany, his two hour evening patrol over. From time to time he turned and searched the sky for enemy ships. He had nearly reached the lines when he saw them—four black specks, one larger than the others, all spinning about in crazy gyrations.

He snatched for binoculars. Three Fokker D-7’s were ganging a French Salmson. One, a blue Fokker, was just dropping on the Salmson’s tail. Spandaus flamed. Twin Lewises flashed in the sun. The Fokker seemed to shudder. The motor belched a billowy sheet of livid flame, then, falling into a right-hand spin, the Boche plane blazed its final trail across the sky like a fiery comet.

Instantly the two remaining Fokkers caught the Salmson in a deadly cross-fire. That was enough for the Yank. He stood the Spad on its prop, spun around and roared toward the fight.

A blue Fokker swelled in his ring-sight. He estimated the distance. Two hundred yards, one hundred yards. He reached for the trips. But just as his fingers tightened on the stick a red ship appeared like magic at his right. Spandaus steel smashed into his motor. The Hisso ground to a stop with a grating of metal parts.

Numb terror gripped the Yank’s heart. Engine dead, he was cold meat for those Boches. The red ship had looped upward, probably intending to swoop in a death-dealing dive; and from the corner of his eye the Yank could see the blue Fokker swinging in on his tail. He began gliding earthward.

As he flashed past the Salmson, he glanced up—and gasped. For the French observer had aimed his guns and was riddling the belly of the red Fokker with lead. The Boche ship hung for a moment in the sky, almost motionless—then it began to fall in a series of crazy side-slips, pilot fighting the controls.

But the blue Fokker was fast on the Spad’s tail now, raking the crippled ship with burst after burst. The Yank felt the tiny shocks of slugs smash up the camel-back toward the fuselage. Grimly he turned to face the final burst. As he did so the Salmson whipped around in a vertical bank not fifty yards away. Again twin Lewises flamed; feathery tracers impaled the blue Fokker’s cockpit. The Boche pilot slumped forward. His ship plunged down, guns still yammering, a dead hand clutching the trips.

Breathing a sigh of heartfelt relief, the Yank eased the stick and sought a place to set down. There wasn’t much time to choose. Two miles inside the German lines, with 500 feet altitude and a dead stick, it was pretty much of a hit and miss proposition.

A clearing showed ahead. He landed in it, jumped out and touched a match to the ship just as a squad of Germans rushed into the open, waving their rifles. But before they could reach him the Salmson came hurtling over the trees, Vickers snarling. The Boches faltered and broke, running for cover. The Salmson banked, bouncing past the Yank, who ran after it. Bullets pinged around his head but he flung himself on the wing.

A few minutes later on the tarmac of his own drome, he gripped the French pilot’s hand in a gesture that expressed his thanks more eloquently than words.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Yellow Comet: The Story Behind The Cover” by Eliot Todd (April 1934)

Check back again. We will be presenting more Stories behind the Covers.

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