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“Jinx Peelot” by Harold F. Cruickshank

Link - Posted by David on January 20, 2017 @ 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!

Cruickshank gives us a tale of Sam Tenby, a young Peelot with a jinx that may be sending him back to Issoudun unless he can break it.

Every Time Sam Tenby Went Up in the Air to Chase the Boche, Something Went Wrong— Until. . . .

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 15: Major Vaughn” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on January 18, 2017 @ 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 American Ace—Major George Vaughn!

Major George A. Vaughn is credited with 13 victories—12 German planes and one balloon—and awarded the American Distinguished Service Cross, the British Distinguished Flying Cross and Silver Star with two citations. He was shot down twice, but managed to escape uninjured both times.

A student at Princeton when the war broke out, Vaughn returned and finished his degree after the war. He became a reearch engineer for Western Electric and later a slea engineer for Westinghouse.

Vaughn was asked by the Governor of New York, Franklin Roosevelt, to help organize the New York Air National Guard—the 102nd Observation Squadron—in the early 1920s. He served as it’s commander for nine years. In 1933 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned to the 27th Division Staff as Air Officer until he retired in 1939.

Vaughn was on of the organizers of the Casey Jones School of Aeronautics along with Lee D. Warrender and Casey Jones in 1932. The School, based at La Guardia Airport, would become the College of Aeronautics. In 2004, the name was changed to the Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology.

George Vaughn passed away in 1989 at the age of 92 of a brain tumor.

(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.)

“High Explosives” by Lt. Frank Johnson

Link - Posted by David on January 13, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

This time around we have a tale from the anonymous pen of Lt. Frank Johnson—a house pseudonym. Sky Fighters ran a series of stories by Johnson featuring a pilot who who was God’s gift to the Ninth Pursuit Fighter Squadron and although he says he’s a doer and not a talker, he wasn’t to shy to tell them all about it. Which earned him the nickname “Silent” Orth.

In this, the second of the Silent Orth stories from the pages of March 1934 number of Sky Fighters, Orth doesn’t quite understand why the other pilots of the Ninth Pursuit Fighter Squadron are giving him such a hard time. The C.O. doesn’t mind as long as Orth keeps shooting down the untouchable Boche Aces. In the process Orth comes to realize that you don’t always have to crow about your accomplishments.

Chattering Vickers and Screaming Spandaus in A Gripping Story of a Hell-Busting Pilot’s Savage Determination to Down Death-Dealing Sky Foes!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Frank Baylies

Link - Posted by David on January 11, 2017 @ 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 we have Lieutenant Frank Baylies’ most thrilling sky fight!

FRANK BAYLIES volunteered in the American Ambulance section, serving in that unit attached to the French armies from February 26th, 1916, to May 11th, 1918. In the early spring of ‘18 he transferred to the aviation. He became a member of the famous Stork squadron of the French Flying Corps.

He made an exceptional record there which he carried on to the Lafayettes.

After a short blasting meteoric career he disappeared in action on June 17th, 1918. He and Edwin C. Parsons, his American flying mate in the Storks, went out on a late afternoon patrol that day.

Soon after they took off at 5 p.m. Parsons lost sight of Baylies who was flying a much swifter machine. But he caught up with him later when it was almost dark. Baylies was far back in Germany in a dog fight with four Huns. Parsons saw his plane go down with smoke issuing from it.

Baylies never returned. Afterwards a German plane flew low over the French lines and dropped a weighted Streamer, carrying a simple message from the Germans: “Pilot Baylies killed in action. Burled with military honors.” Thus he died after marking up a record of over 20 Victories, 13 of which were officially observed. The account below is taken from one of his letters home.

 

STOPPING A PHOTO MISSION

by Lieutenant Frank Baylies • Sky Fighters, January 1934

I WAS out on solo patrol looking for Hun scouts who were supposed to clear the skies for a following photo mission. I had been zigzagging across the lines for some time when I got a glimpse of my prey, spewing down from a cloud formation.

I turned and started climbing. Number One passed me overhead. Number Two was vertical, standing on a wing-tip and heading me off. I pulled back on my stick, stood my Spad on its tail, and pressed my trigger trips, letting Number One Hun have it from both guns. He didn’t have much to say in reply—his ship went spinning down without a moment’s hesitation. His plane hit the ground with a terrific smash, flattened out there a crumpled mass of debris.

“Poor devil,” I thought. “That’s his last ride!” Still I had the consolation of knowing that he’d have got ten men if he could. I wheeled around to attack the second, but both my guns jammed on the first burst.

I went home to clear them, then I tried out again. I was nearly five miles in when I spied the four Hun two-seaters out after photos, flying very low in perfect formation, with rear guns elevated for perfect cross fire. I dove at the last ship, shooting as I passed, but my burst missed.

The gunners in the rear seats swung their guns down, opened up full blast. But I pulled up through the fire, swiftly, hung right under the Hun’s belly and let him have it. Tac-tac-tac! My tracer streams scorched through the pilot’s seat. He crumpled. I pulled back further on the stick, still firing. The slugs stitched up the fuselage to the gunner’s pit. Then the two-seater slid off on a wing, went sliding down. That Hun would fight no more!

By that time the others figured they had enough, I guess. I chased them clear back to their field, dodging archies all the way. Then calling it a day, I wheeled about and went racing for home, landing just in time to douse my face and hands with water, change my shirt and dash into the mess. Happy as hell, but famished with hunger. You know I have an appetite like a bear, I eat more, and more often, than any of the other boys in the squadron.

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

Link - Posted by David on January 9, 2017 @ 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 July 1934 cover, It’s a battle of David and Goliath—a Belgian Hanriot 3 C.2 going after a L70 Class Zeppelin!

The Ships on the Cover

THIS month on the cover th_SF_3407 is shown one of the type of planes used during the World War by Belgium, that tiny country sandwiched in between France, Germany and Holland.

The plane with the Belgian insignia (red, yellow and blue) is the Hanriot 3 C.2, a French job powered by a Salmson radial motor.

Belgium’s refusal to let the German hordes pass through her country is probably the most important single event of the whole scrap. And while the ground troops of the plucky little country were holding back the rolling waves of German shock troops the Belgian airmen were doing things up in the clouds.

Real Fighting Spirit

The Belgians had observation machines spotting strategic points behind the German lines. But as the war progressed and machine-guns appeared on airplanes Belgium’s air fighters drove their machines, usually of French construction, into the teeth of the Boche ships. Odds seemed nothing to them. The fighting spirit of their beloved king and leader, King Albert, seemed to burn in the breast of every Belgian flyer.

The Belgians repeatedly bombed the Boche Zeppelin hangars. The hangars were moved beyond the range of the Belgian planes. But the Belgian flyers continued to hunt the Zeppelins slipping through the high clouds on raiding expeditions.

On the cover the Hanriot prowling alone in search of trouble roars through the scudding clouds thousands of feet above the crash of artillery fire and the rattle of rifles. Two guns with cartridge-filled belts poke wickedly from under the top wing. The rear gunner is ready for action with his Lewis gun. At one moment the sky is deserted except for the Hanriot. Then a great shape, with straining engines forcing its ominous bulk forward, breaks through the clouds. It is heading eastward, returning from a bomb dropping raid on the English seacoast towns; returning after releasing an avalanche of death and destruction.

A Matter of Seconds

A flip of the rudder and the Hanriot tears in at the bloated raider like an angry wasp. Vickers blasting sizzling incendiaries at the hydrogen-filled airship. The range shortens, the Hanriot’s Salmson motor labors as it climbs. The Zeppelin points its nose up fighting for altitude; altitude which means safety. The Hanriot’s greater speed shortens the gap. The Belgian rear gunner swings his Lewis into position. They are not to be denied—it is only a matter of seconds.

A roaring blue meteor slams down out of the clouds with guns spitting. It is between the climbing Zeppelin and the attacking Hanriot. Its wings are black-crossed. It is a matter of minutes before the Zeppelin will be above the altitude the Hanriot is capable of reaching. It will escape.

The Hanriot’s pilot opens fire on the German plane as Spandau bullets tear past his ears. Behind him the Lewis gun jerks on its scarf mounting. Incendiary bullets scream into the side of the Zeppelin. A thin tongue of flame licks at the torn fabric; a tiny spot of flame which will spread rapidly from bow to stern and will send the Goliath of the skies hurtling down toward the poppy fields of Flanders.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Morane-Saulnier and Fokker Triplane!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant David Putnam

Link - Posted by David on November 30, 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 we have Lieutenant David Putnam’s most thrilling sky fight when he scored five victories in one flight!

Lieutenant Putnam was one of the American flying aces who saw service under two flags. He began his career with the French before America entered the war. At first he served with the Ambulance Corps, but was later transferred to aviation, where he established a reputation as one of the most daring flyers on the front.

As late as July, 19I8, he was still flying with the French, but transferred to the American Forces in August. He was officially credited with 10 victories, but his actual record was over twice that number. Confirmations for his victories were hard to get, for he always flew alone and operated far within the German lines. But flyers who flow in the same squadron with him acknowledged his ability and superiority. The account, given below was secured from him when he was still a Sergeant with the French Flying Corps.

 

FIVE VICTORIES IN ONE FIGHT

by Lieutenant David Putnam • Sky Fighters, November 1933

My most thrilling air fight is hard to pick. All of them are thrilling in one way or another. Some maybe more than others. I hesitate to choose the most thrilling, so I shall give an account of my most successful flight.

That is the time I knocked down five Boches in a single fight. It was during the big push of the Germans on the Marne on June 5th, 1918. I was still flying with the French, and was cruising alone far behind the enemy lines in the region of Fere-en-Tardenois, when I glimpsed five, six, seven—yes, ten black specks slightly above the horizon line four or five kilometers farther in.

I circled slowly and watched the specks while they grew and took shape. As they approached closer to me I saw that they were German Albatrosses flying in layer formation. For an instant I debated with myself whether to run for home or stay and attack. The odds of ten to one were against me. I came to a snap decision, poured on all throttle, and raced right for their midst.

I figured that my sheer audacity would momentarily disrupt them. In that moment I might have a chance to get in some telling blows.

I kited right for the middle of the formation, aiming to get my plane between the ten enemy ships in such a position that they couldn’t shoot at me without danger of shooting down their own comrades.

My tactics were successful.

The Albatrosses spread and let me in their net; then they all turned as one and came in at me with guns blazing. It was what I wanted. I banked tightly, letting the bullets spray around me until the Albatrosses came in very close. The German guns suddenly stilled, however, when they saw their tracers streaming perilously close to their own comrades’ planes.

That was the moment I was awaiting. I opened up with both guns. One Albatross fell immediately. It was my seventh victory. I banked quickly and lined on another. It burst into flames.

The Germans began to scatter now, darting every way, up and down and to both sides, to get out of their own lines of fire. I followed two who wheeled away from me, got my sights on one, pressed the Bowdains. It fell off quickly. I lined the other instantaneously, still holding my triggers down. The plane burst into flames. Both went down together.

My slugs couldn’t seem to miss. I was just lucky, I guess. I felt a crackle behind my back. I turned my head quickly, saw a Boche hanging on my tail and peppering me with lead. His tracer was close, too close!

I dived, then reversed.

Again I was lucky. I came out right under his belly and gave him both guns. He fell off in a slow spin. It was my fifth victory in that single dog-fight. The Germans must have had enough. The five Albatrosses turned and ran away.

I let them go, certain that I couldn’t rely on sheer luck any longer; for sheer luck it most surely was. I looked at the clock on my dash as I kited for home. The whole flight had lasted only about eighteen or twenty minutes!

But when I got back, I found that only one of my victories had been observed. It was the only one I got credit for—officially. Yet, what did it matter? Actual results are what count. Whether it is a matter of record or not is unimportant.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Capitaine Georges Madon

Link - Posted by David on November 16, 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 week we have Capitaine Georges Madon, another great French Ace, telling of his most thrilling sky fight!

Capitaine Georges Madon was one of the most famous of the French flying aces. Along with Guynemer, Navarro and Nungesser, he furnished the spectacular flying news that filled the newspapers in the early days of the World War. He was credited with over forty victories and only the great Guynemer topped him in the list of French aces during his time on the battle front.

Cool, courageous and audacious, he kited the battle skies, making short shrift of all the enemy flyers who were unfortunate enough to encounter his specially gunned Nieuport fighter. Yet, when asked to describe his most thrilling air battle, he hesitated some moments before giving an account of the air collision described below. Such a collision three miles above the earth was something that was feared by every front line pilot.

 

AN EIGHTEEN THOUSAND FOOT FALL

by Capitaine Georges Madon • Sky Fighters, November 1933

I was flying high over the front lines. The altimeter showed 6,000 meters to be exact. I looked down over one side of my lower left wing and saw a Boche. I dived down to attack him immediately. He didn’t see me until my tracer began to crackle through his fuselage. Then he maneuvered quickly to avoid my charge. But he must have been a new pilot for he did the wrong thing. He zoomed right up into the path of my Nieuport.

There was a thunderous crash, then all went still as death. My right lower wing was torn off. The enemy plane was completely pulverized. In some manner we fell apart as we started to drop. The minutes that followed gave me some thrills, I tell you. I looked at my sick plane. The propeller was broken. Struts were torn out. Guy wires fluttered back in the growing air stream. The wing that had torn off fluttered down beside me. All was in ruins, I saw that.

But it was the atrocious, horrid thought of the fall, which was bound to end soon with a smash on the ground, that set my nerves tingling and put my mind to work.

The wreck of my plane dropped nose down for several hundred meters. Then it went into a slow spin that lasted for about 4,000 meters.

I moved my control stick, convulsively, frantically, but uselessly. The control wires had sheared away. A sickening sensation gripped me. My mind went aflame with multiple thoughts. In turn, I seemed to review in my memory, scenes of my family, of my duty in the chasse squadrons, of my captivity in Germany, of my escape, and a thousand other things. One’s memory works fast at such moments. But what was co-existent with these scenes and towered above all else was my fear of falling among the Boches.

Suddenly, by some miracle of fate, the spinning ceased. I had done nothing with my controls. Nevertheless, my sick plane slowly but surely righted itself. And miracle of miracles! It headed right toward our own lines.

I ponder with my heart still in my chest. Perhaps I shall escape death? I’ll fracture my legs! I’ll break my back! I shall surely become an invalid—but I shall live!

I shall live! Words of hope, divine words that often were, alas, the last ones faintly uttered by so many of my comrades. A shadow crosses my vision. I look, barely see some poplar trees. I try to steer through them, hit them in order to break the impact of my fall. But the stick dangles loosely in my grip. The rudder bar is pressureless beneath my feet.
I shoot beyond the poplar trees. A darker shadow looms. It is the ground!

There is a terrific crackling. A sinister thud. Flying debris. A rude jolt and jar. It is the end!

But no! From the tangled heap I succeed in extricating myself. And I had only broken my finger!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Gabrielle d’Annunzio

Link - Posted by David on November 2, 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 the Italian Ace, Captain Gabrielle d’Annunzio.

Captain Gabrielle d’Annunzio, famous Italian poet and dramatist and enthusiastic patriot, was one of the most colorful and forceful of Italian flyers in the early days of the World War. He enlisted early in the most spectacular branch of the army, the Italian Air Corps. Soon after completing his training he was assigned to a bombardment squadron which was charged with harassing the then fast-advancing Austro-German armies, which threatened to overwhelm the brave Italian defenders and take the capitol at Home. By exerting superhuman efforts the Italians prevented that.

The following is taken from reports of newspaper correspondents at the scene of battle.

 

MY FIRST NIGHT FLIGHT

by Captain Gabrielle d’Annunzio • Sky Fighters, October 1933

I was nervous on that night. It was to be my first night bombardment flight. I was detailed to blow up an ammunition dump. It was necessary that this dump be destroyed to halt the advance of the victorious Austro-German armies. I was not sure of myself, but my heart bled for my country. I must succeed, I vowed. It was not fear of death that made me nervous, but fear of not being able to accomplish my mission.

We took off shortly after midnight. The moon was shining brilliantly on the beautiful Italian hill country over which we were flying. Soon we were across the lines, and the Austrian anti-aircraft batteries opened up. I thought I was high enough to be out of range, but a dazzling red mushroom flare that burst above me made me realize I was mistaken.

I tried to climb, then, and nosed up. But my bomber was too heavily loaded and the controls wouldn’t answer. For an instant I was panicky, I swung right and left when the shell began to burst nearer and nearer to me.

After a few minutes of that, I saw that I could dodge the shrapnel. The feeling of panic left me. I grew confident and headed directly for my target, which was easily recognized in the shower of moonlight. I sent the bomber down low, through a hail of shrapnel and machine-gun bullets. But I didn’t worry about them. I was over the dump and knew I could destroy it the moment I dropped my bombs.

I went down lower and lower to make sure I wouldn’t miss. Finally I let go and zoomed up. There was a brilliant flare that filled the whole sky. Then a terrific concussion that shook my bomber like it was fragile cardboard. But I didn’t care. I was happy. I had accomplished my mission. Whether I returned or not was inconsequential.

But I did get back, and safely. I knew then that I could handle a night bomber. I was never nervous about night bombardment any more and I hadn’t failed my country.

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

Link - Posted by David on October 31, 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 January 1934 cover, It’s a battle of the Allied piloted Sopwith Camels against the German Albatross DVs!

The Ships on the Cover

THE SHIPS on this th_SF_3401 month’s cover are the Sopwith Camel and the Albatross D.V. Both were outstanding in their class during the World War.

The Sopwith Camel was a single-seater tractor biplane which had such fine fighting qualities that the pilots of the Royal Air Force gave this ship credit for the successful end of the war in the air. Many of the best known British aces flew Camels at some time in their careers.

A Tricky Little Scout

Collishaw alone brought down over twenty enemy aircraft in this ship out of his sixty confirmed victories. Barker flew a Camel over the Alps at the head of a British squadron which utterly routed the Austrian air forces. Many American squadrons were equipped with Sop Camels. George Vaughn and Elliott White Springs ran up their victories in them. Despite the effectual qualities this little scout possessed, it had plenty of tricks. It was the doom of many novices, but in the hands of an experienced pilot its trickiness could be turned to an advantage.

It had a tendency to rotate the plane instead of the propeller. However, there wasn’t a ship at the front which could out-maneuver it below ten thousand feet. At that height it made 113 m.p.h. It was equipped with a Clerget motor of 130 h.p. The maximum height was 9 feet, length 18 feet 9 inches and the span 28 feet. It could climb to 10,000 feet in twelve minutes.

Two Albatross D-5’s pitted against two Sopwith Camels is a fight in which either side may win. Much depends on the pilot.

An Exciting Fight

In the fight pictured on this month’s cover the Albatross scouts are in a bad way. One is a smoker trying vainly to shed the persistent Camel on his tail. The other has his guns blazing down at an enemy machine-gun nest. The broadside he is receiving from the Camel barging in from his side is dangerously close. Theoretically those two Albatross’ should have the bulge on the slower Camels. But the Boche ships are heavier, harder to jerk around. Those little Camels have been flashing in and out, lashing the Germans with Vickers slugs; completing a dangerous maneuver and being set for another before the foe could get organized.

Family Tree of the Albatross

The Albatross D-5 brought to the front in 1918 had a long line of ancestors. The beginning of its family tree was in the dim past—the days of the “Taube” school of airplane design in 1911. From those Taube-like types of monoplanes through the slow moving biplanes of early war days, mostly two-seaters, to the trim ship on the cover was a big jump. The Albatross scout of 1915 had a speed of 80 m.p.h. with its Mercedes 130 h.p. engine. The Albatross D-5 pushed along at from 135 to 140 m.p.h. without any trouble at all. Its Mercedes motor was stepped up to 220 h.p. by that time.

When any of these husky German ships were attacked the Allied aviators treated them with plenty of respect.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Hanriot 3 C.2 and the giant L70 Class Zeppelin!

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 14: Lieutenant Werner Voss” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on October 26, 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 one of Germany’s greatest Aces—Lieutenant Werner Voss!


Voss infront of his prototype Fokker DR.I Triplane with a face painted on the engine cowling.

Werner Voss began his military career as a Hussar in November 1914 while still 17 years old. Turning to aviation, he proved to be a natural pilot and after flight school he spent six months in a bomber unit. Moving on he joined a newly formed fighter squadron—Jagdstaffel 2 on 21 November 1916. It was here he became friends with Manfred von Richthofen.

Voss was chalking up the victories one after another until that fateful day in September 1917. On the 23rd, Leutnant Werner Voss, commanding officer of Jagdstaffel 10 and flying his prototype Fokker DR.I Triplane, encountered the renowned ‘B’ Flight of British 56 Squadron in the skies north of Frezenberg. B Flight was comprised of some of britain’s finest Aces—James McCudden and Arthur Rhys Davids among them.

The odds stacked against him—Voss managed to hold his own against the seven S.E.5s of B Flight. Somehow hitting each plane in a dogfight that lasted ten minutes before his own was hit by fire from at least two of the British airplanes. Voss himself, was struck by three bullets. His plane went into a steep dive and crashed north of Frezenberg, Belgium. Voss was killed. He was 20 years old.

In the ten short months Voss was in the air he was confirmed to have 48 victories (which practically matched the great von Richtofen plane for plane during the same time) and was awarded the Pour le Mérite, House Order of Hohenzollern and the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class.

(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.)

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Frank Luke

Link - Posted by David on October 19, 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! The man considered America’s second greatest Ace, Frank Luke tells us about his most thrilling sky fight.

Frank Luke! How much the name means to those few who knew how he fought and died. His front line career was short, hectic and dynamic. He blazed across the war-torn skies of France like a flaming meteor. Very few people ever heard of Luke during his short but Sensational career on the Western Front. His fame and name came after he died. He is recognized now as the most courageous, the most audacious war bird that ever handled a control stick and pressed the Bowden triggers mounted on it. Only Eddie Rickenbacker topped him in the final list of American Aces after the War was ended. Rickenbacker was officially credited with 26 victories. Frank Luke had 21. But the comparison is hardly fair to Luke, for Rickenbacker was on the front for almost six months, while Luke’s front line career lasted only a little over two weeks. Even in that short space of time he had worked up to the top and was the American Ace of Aces when he died. There is no telling what, score he would have run up, if fortune had been more in his favor. The story below he told to Sergeant John Monroe, who was a favorite of his.

 

VENGEANCE FLIGHT

by Lieutenant Frank Luke • Sky Fighters, October 1933

Which was my most satisfactory fight? Well, all of them that ended with the other fellow going down to his death were pretty satisfactory. But there is one that stands out above all my victories so far.

That’s the fight in which I got the Hun who knocked down the Englishmen in the crippled De Haviland. I didn’t like the way that Hun waited for the Limey’s motor to go bad before pouncing on them. They didn’t have a chance. One burst was all the Hun needed. Being on the ground myself at the time, I didn’t think I had time to get in my ship and get up there in time to get in on the fight.

But when I saw the D.H.’s wing fall off and the ship go down in a spin, I felt a peculiar feeling inside me. My Spad was ready on the line. I hopped into it and took off. By the time I had gained altitude the Hun was streaking for home. But I was determined to get him. It was a long rear-end chase and getting dark fast.

No matter, I caught the bird about five kilometers inside his own lines and piqued down on his tail with blood in my eye. I held my fire until I was about a hundred meters behind his streaking Fokker, then I let go with both guns.

But the Hun had been watching me, I guess. He jerked up in a screaming zoom and my shots went low. I got mad, threw my Spad into an abrupt chandelle right on his tail. He Immelmanned away. I followed. We went round and round.

He didn’t shoot at me, but was damn successful in keeping away from my bursts. I was getting madder and madder every second, and threw a lot of slugs, uselessly. After a few moments of that going round and round, I got wise to myself. The Hun was making a monkey of me, just playing me out.

Understand, I was plenty far back in the enemy lines and it was getting dark fast. He knew he would get me if he just strung out the fight a little. Within a few more minutes there was bound to be a whole sky full of his mates come to his assistance. He knew that and was just marking time. I sensed that after a while.

It made me mad again, to think I had been such a fool. But I didn’t go off my nut. I kept my head, and circled round and round with him some more, watching from the corner of my eye for other Huns, and keeping my thumbs off the Bowden trips. I didn’t intend wasting any more slugs until I had a sure shot.

That chance came before I expected it. He showed his tail surfaces just momentarily. I pressed the trips. The tracer bored through the fuselage behind his back. That was all there was to it. The Fokker plunged over in an abrupt dive and went roaring into the earth with the motor full on.

I beat it for our advance landing field then with my motor wide open. And good thing they had thrown some gasoline in the sand barrels and lighted it. With the light from those flares I was able to sit down without cracking up.

I won’t get any credit for that victory, though. There weren’t any observers. But what the h—! I got him after he got the crippled Englishmen. That’s reward enough!

It was my most satisfactory fight.

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

Link - Posted by David on October 17, 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 1933 cover, It’s a Westland N.17 Seaplane hunting for German submarines!

The Ships on the Cover

THE planes on this month’s cover th_SF_3312 are all of one type, the Westland N.17 Seaplane. It was a shipboard plane which could be stowed away below decks by folding the wings back along the sides of the fuselage.

The British had plenty of work for these little sea scouts. The North Sea and other near-by waters were the favorite lurking places for German submarines. To spot a sub with only its periscope above the surface or completely submerged could be efficiently accomplished only by a plane above. Then it was the seaplane pilot’s job to go into action with his bombs or to wireless the position of the enemy to the nearest sub-chaser.

The three Westlands pictured on the cover have caught the German submarine above water. Before it could submerge they have attacked it with machine-gun fire and with bombs. The sub’s commander has no choice but to fight back. Up comes his hidden gun which is below the deck plates in its own water-tight compartment when the sub is submerged.

Twenty seconds is all the time needed before the gun goes into action. A shell whistles by the Westland in the foreground. Machine-gun bullets from the Westlands slash through the air. Two German!! are down. Another leaps to the breach of the gun. Another shell screams at the attackers. Just at this moment the plane directly over the sub has released • bomb. The pilot’s aim is perfect. In less than a second it will hit—a twisted mass of steel plates will sink to the bottom.

Possibly in less than an hour a huge transport with thousands of our troops Aboard will steam over this very spot In the distance one of our doughboys may spot the three Westlands flying low over the water. Ten to one he’ll think, “Now, that’s the kind of a soft job to have. Nothing to do but roost up there and put in a couple of hours doing nothing to help us Yanks win the war.”

The Westland N.17 was powered by a Bentley Rotary motor. It could skim above the water at about 108 miles per hour. It’s landing speed was forty-five miles per hour when fitted with trailing edge flaps. This ship was the answer to the British Admiralty’s demand for a stable, fast single-seater scout which could be used from seaplane carriers as a fighter, sub spotter and light bomber. It came up to all specifications and was in service up to the end of the war.

Just before the battle of Jutland it was a seaplane that warned Admiral Jellicoe that German submarines were directly ahead. Possibly a different outcome to the greatest naval engagement of the World War would have been written in our history books if It had not been for the alertness of those sturdy little planes roaring back and forth across the path of British dreadnaughts.

Seaplanes directed the fire of the battleships shelling the entrance to the Dardanelles, making possible direct hits at a range of 12,000 yards.

For those who care to shed their parachutes and don a diver’s suit we are including a self-explanatory diagram-drawing of a German sub. These undersea engines of destruction accounted for a loss In merchant tonnage to the Allies amounting to nearly 13,000,000 tons.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Sopwith Camel and Albatross D.V.!

“Free Air is Right!” by Raoul Whitfield

Link - Posted by David on October 14, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another of Raoul Whitfield’s ‘Buck’ Kent stories from the pages of Air Trails magazine. Whitfield is primarily known for his hardboiled crime fiction published in the pages of Black Mask, but he was equally adept at lighter fair that might run in the pages of Breezy Stories. ‘Buck’ Kent, along with his pal Lou Parrish, is an adventurous pilot for hire. These stories, although more in the juvenile fiction vein, do feature some elements of his harder prose.

In the December 1928 issue of Air Trails, ‘Buck’ and his pal Lou find themselves in Mississippi down along the Gulf of Mexico low on fuel and looking for a place to land in their two-place plane. Before long they find themselves embroiled in local carnival politics and trying to rescue a girl doing a trapeze act from a hot air balloon that is about to be ripped apart by an approaching tornado!

A balloon broken loose—a Mississippi tornado! Buck Kent and Lou Parrish find perilous action.

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

Link - Posted by David on October 12, 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 Canadian Ace—Major Donald MacClaren!

Donald MacLaren joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 and quickly accrued 54 victories, making him the highest scoring ace to fly a Sopwith Camel. He was awarded the Military Cross & Bar, Distinguished Service Order, Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre. MacLaren recorded his last victory on October 9, 1918—as his combat career came to an end the next day when he broke his leg while wrestling with a friend.

Following the Armistice, he helped form the Royal Canadian Air Force before retiring to begin a career in civil aviation where he formed Pacific Airways which was eventually acquired by Western Canada Airways.

He died on 4 July 1988, aged 95.

(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.)

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Georges Guynemer

Link - Posted by David on October 5, 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 Georges Guynemer, France’s national treasure!

Captain Guynemer, French flier, was the moat spectacular and colorful of all the flying Aces. Young, tall, slender, but in very poor physical health, he was a veritable demon in the air, He had absolutely no regard for his own personal safety. Time after time be attacked single-handed whole squadrons of enemy planes. On the ground he was shy, reserved, and spoke very few words to anyone. Whenever he came to Paris on his very infrequent leaves from the front to secure medical aid, the whole city was decorated in festive attire in his honor. He was the toast of the boulevards, the darling of the French populace. And the whole world mourned his passing when he died, shot down by a comparatively obscure German pilot, who got in a chance shot from exceedingly long range. The German pilot, Wisseman, never knew until afterward that it was the great Guynemer that he had shot down. When Guynemer passed mysteriously into the blue, he was officially credited with 57 enemy aircraft and universally recognized as the Ace of Aces of all the armies.

When asked by a newspaper correspondent to tell of his most thrilling air battle, he brought out a little black notebook from his tunic pocket and translated from it very matter-of-factly the account that follows below.

 

FOUR VICTORIES IN A SINGLE DAY

by Captain Georges Guynemer • Sky Fighters, October 1933

My most thrilling air battle! Let me think. Ah, I have it! It was the day I won four victories, a spring day in May, 1917. Two days before my closest rival, Lieutenant Nungesser, had downed three Boches. I was determined to beat his record.

I went out alone on solo patrol early in the morning. While cruising high behind the Boche lines, I see a lone enemy plane and make for it. A good start, I say to myself, I must not fail. I throw my Spad down in a power dive and approach very close. The enemy pilot does not see me. I press my gun trips and get in a burst. It is a good one. A wing shears from the other plane and it crashes in the woods near Corbeny. That was at 8:30 in the morning. I am elated. It was so easy. But I was foolish. I forgot to watch out of the corner of my eye.

A moment later I bank around lazily and run smack into the tracer of another Boche who has piqued down from the clouds to avenge the death of his comrade. The bullets crackle through my wings. I maneuver swiftly and escape the pilot’s hail of fire. But then the gunner in the rear seat has his guns on me. I remain calm, though, I slip off on one wing, go into a dive, then zoom up beneath. On my back I see that I have the other plane lined. I press the trips for a quick burst. It is enough. The two-seater goes down in flames toward Jusancourt.

Captain Auger comes along then, and we fly together towards another two-seater about a kilometer off, behind the enemy trenches. The enemy sees us and flees for home. I speed up and catch him, press my trips again. But sad thing! Nothing happens. My cartridge bandolier is empty. Then I realize my first flight must not have been so easy. I expended more cartridges than I thought. I turn and fly back to my own airdrome.

At 2 o’clock in the afternoon I go out again, hunting around by myself, I encounter soon a D.F.W. Ah, another chance, I say. I leap in with pulses throbbing, The other pilot shoots first, at long range. I dodge his bullets and press in closer. At close range I open up with both guns at a vital spot. I am rewarded for my patience. The D.F.W. bursts into flames. I watch it until it crashes, then go cruising around again.

I meet up with another two-seater between Guignicourt and Condesur-Snippes. If I make a record, I must get him, I think. So I am wary. I do not attack immediately. I pretend I do not see him and circle back behind the enemy lines, getting his machine between me and my own lines. Then I race back to attack from the rear. He wiggles out of my burst, and shoots back at me. We exchange bursts tit for tat. I vow I will press in with guns flaming until he falls. I do not fear he will get me first. I have confidence. My next bursts are effective. The pilot wilts in his seat. His plane goes spinning down.

Voila! I am happy.

It was my best day, four victories.

At 3:40, when my gas is low, I turn about and fly home.

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