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“100 Minutes of Gas” by O.B. Myers

Link - Posted by David on December 7, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from the pen of a prolific pulp author O.B. Myers! Myers was a pilot himself, flying with the 147th Aero Squadron and carrying two credited victories and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The Plan was a simple one: Strip down a Nieuport to it’s barest essentials in order to nip across the lines and get the low down on Germany’s latest plane—the Pfalz. The plane was stripped so down that it was filled with only 100 minutes of gas, which left only ten extra minutes for trouble. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned! From the July 1932 issue of War Aces, it’s O.B. Myers’ “100 Minutes of Gas!”

It took a crazy man to fly into that trap; but when be found that he was the bait, Speck had them singing, “—and we learned about flying from him”

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 4: Manfred von Richthofen” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 28, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Back with the final 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 1932 installment featuring arguably the most famous Ace of WWI—Baron Manfred von Richthofen!

Widely known as the “Red Baron”, Richthofen is considered the ace-of-aces, officially credited with 80 air combat victories! He was awarded the Pour le Mérite, Order of the Red Eagle, House Order of Hohenzollern and the Iron Cross.

Wikipedia summarizes his rise to greatness thusly: Originally a cavalryman, Richthofen transferred to the Air Service in 1915, becoming one of the first members of fighter squadron Jagdstaffel 2 in 1916. He quickly distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, and during 1917 became leader of Jasta 11 and then the larger fighter wing unit Jagdgeschwader 1, better known as “The Flying Circus” or “Richthofen’s Circus” because of the bright colours of its aircraft, and perhaps also because of the way the unit was transferred from one area of allied air activity to another—moving like a travelling circus, and frequently setting up in tents on improvised airfields. By 1918, Richthofen was regarded as a national hero in Germany, and respected by his enemies.

Richthofen was shot down and killed near Vaux-sur-Somme on 21 April 1918.

As a bonus, here are links to all 45 “Live of the Aces in Pictures” that we’ve posted over the years:

Lives of the Aces in Pictures Index

“Death’s Lament” by William E. Barrett

Link - Posted by David on November 23, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS November we’re celebrating William E. Barrett’s Birthday with four of his pulp stories—one each Friday.

Before he became renown for such classics as The Left Hand of God and Lilies of The Field, Barrett honed his craft across the pages of the pulp magazines—and nowhere more so than in War Birds and it’s companion magazine War Aces where he contributed smashing novels and novelettes, True tales of the Aces of the Great War, encyclopedic articles on the great war planes as well as other factual features. Here at Age of Aces Books he’s best known for his nine Iron Ace stories which ran in Sky Birds in the mid ’30s!

To close out the fiction portion of our Barrett celebrations we have “Death’s Lament”—the story of Billy North who left home to fight in the war to avenge his brother’s death, but is stuck flying in the observation squadron where they fight the war with pencils rather than bullets!

In the crucible of duty-tortured skies was welded the stuff of which fighters are made—for only in the thunder of red-eyed guns could Angus play his death music for a friend.

From the May 1932 War Aces, it’s William E. Barrett’s “Death’s Lament!”

Some historical background was included with the story:

“The Night Eagle” by William E. Barrett

Link - Posted by David on November 16, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS November we’re celebrating William E. Barrett’s Birthday with four of his pulp stories—one each Friday.

Before he became renown for such classics as The Left Hand of God and Lilies of The Field, Barrett honed his craft across the pages of the pulp magazines—and nowhere more so than in War Birds and it’s companion magazine War Aces where he contributed smashing novels and novelettes, True tales of the Aces of the Great War, encyclopedic articles on the great war planes as well as other factual features. Here at Age of Aces Books he’s best known for his nine Iron Ace stories which ran in Sky Birds in the mid ’30s!

Today is Barrett’s birthday, so we have a different kind of story from Mr. Barrett. It’s the story of Philip Law—a young man who’s blind who longs to fight in the Great War when he hears about it. By chance a German doctor arrives at the asylum for the blind looking for willing participants for an experimental procedure he’s developed that could restore sight to the blind!

What meant blind ruin to other men was salvation to Philip Law—for in the pitiless glare of war-torn skies he alone could wrest the secret from the eyes that could not see.

From the July 1932 War Aces, it’s William E. Barrett’s “The Night Eagle!”

“Last Flight” told by Eddie Rickenbacker, O.B. Myers and Harold Hartney

Link - Posted by David on July 4, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

TO COMMEMORATE the fourth of July this year, we bring you the story behind Lt. Wilbert Wallace White’s final flight. White was a flight commander with the 147th Aero Squadron, part of the 1st Pursuit Group, First United States Army. The squadron was assigned as a Day Pursuit (Fighter) Squadron and White was the leader of C Flight. At 30, White was the oldest pilot at the 147th and the only one who was married with children. He was to be reassigned stateside, but set off on one final flight before he was to leave—sadly, it was a flight from which he didn’t return. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this same story was featured several months earlier on Frederick Blakeslee’s cover for the January 1932 issue of Battle Aces and the following year as the July 1933 cover of Flying Aces as imagined by Paul Bissell. From the pages of the June 1932 issue of War Aces, it’s Lt. White’s “Last Flight” as told by Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, Col. Harold Hartley and our own, Lt. O.B. Myers!

 

More than thirteen years have passed since Lieutenant Wilbert White gave his life for a friend. His body lies buried in France, but the broken joystick with which he drove his Spad head-on into a German Fokker rests on a mantel in the fatherless home of his widow and two children in New York City.

A daughter, now sixteen, and a son, fourteen, treasure the joystick, along with other splintered parts of the wrecked Spad, salvaged from the bank of the Meuse by Lieutenant White’s father, The Reverend Dr. W.W. White, of the Biblical Seminary in New York. The children are both in private schools now and their mother is engaged in scientific research for which she prepared after her husband’s death.

 

LAST FLIGHT

WITH A REPRIEVE FROM DEATH IN HIS POCKET, LIEUT. WHITE GAVE HIS LIFE THAT A COMRADE MIGHT LIVE
THE TRUE STORY OF ONE OF THE WAR’S GREATEST HEROES

as told by Eddie Rickenbacker, O.B. Myers and Harold Hartney
to James Martindale • War Aces, June 1932


LIEUT. WILBERT WALLACE WHITE
147th Aero Squadron

WA_3206THIS is the story of Lieutenant Wilbert White, of the 147th Pursuit Squadron. It is the story of his last flight. Whitey died on the last flight—he dove head-on into a Fokker to save the life of a youngster whom he had promised to protect on the youth’s first flight over the lines.

Eddie Rickenbacker, diving from above to join him, saw him die. The picture still haunts him, and he remembers Whitey as “the bravest man of the war.” Reed Chambers saw it, Jimmy Meissner and a half dozen others, but not one of them can talk of it without tears filling his eyes.

The War Department lists Lieutenant Wilbert W. White as “killed in action,” and on the records at Washington is a second citation, bestowing an oak leaf cluster for a previously awarded Distinguished Service Cross. The citation says:

“In command of a patrol of four planes which was attacked by a large flight of German Fokkers, Lieutenant White attacked the enemy plane which was hard pressing a new pilot. The German Fokker had gotten at the tail of the American plane and was overtaking it. Lieutenant White’s guns having jammed, he drove his plane head-on into the Fokker, both crashing to earth 500 meters below.”

There are similar citations in the archives of the British and French War Offices. But none of them tell, as do the words of Rickenbacker, Colonel Harry Hartney and others who know, the real facts behind that last flight, the facts which make Whitey’s death one of the greatest sacrifices of the war.

Why did he do it?

Rickenbacker answers, “If you had known Whitey as we knew him you would understand.”
In the first place Whitey was a minister’s son and when he enlisted, killing Huns became his religion. War was no game to him—it was a war between right and wrong, and with God and right on the side of the Allies Whitey regarded his guns as weapons of the Lord. Strangely, for all of his six feet or more of bone and muscle and the tinge of red in his hair, he had little use for violence. In the recollection of his pals, he used his fists only once, and on that occasion—an excellent portrayal of his character—to strike a bunkmate for ridiculing a young cadet flyer on his knees in prayer.

In the second place, and this fact probably had a lot to do with his actions, Whitey was thirty years old, an old man in the eyes of his companions just out of their ‘teens. He was the oldest man in the squadron and its only married man. He left a wife and two small children to make the world a safe place to live in and when he reached the Front he immediately wrote his minister-father that at last he felt he had “something to live for, and, if necessary, to die for.”

Whitey died October 10, 1918, while the 147th, a unit of Colonel Hartney’s First Pursuit Group that included Rickenbacker and his famous 94th, was stationed at Rembercourt behind Verdun. Dawn of that same morning found Whitey, already a wearer of the Distinguished Service Cross and the leader of 147’s C Flight, in the midst of an attack on a German observation plane over the lines.

THE stream of lead from Whitey’s Vickers was ripping up the tail of the slow-moving Halberstadt. Another burst from the diving Spad and the German gunner slumped in his cockpit. An incendiary found its way into the Halberstadt’s gas tank and the Hun burst into flames.

The American victor straightened out as the flaming mass crashed into the ridges behind Montfaucon, and with a beckoning wave of the hand reformed with his four companions. A flip of the tail of his Spad and the early morning patrol of C Flight turned for home and breakfast. It was Whitey’s seventh Hun. He signed the combat report with a sense of satisfaction, as of a duty well done, and with the rest of his flight—Ken Porter, O.B. Myers, Billy Brotherton and Pat Herron—trekked down the muddy road from the hangars to the mess hut. There usually, Whitey shared doughnuts and coffee with Rick and Jimmy Meissner, his own commander in the 147th; but this morning Rick and Jimmy were in conference with Colonel Hartney at Group Headquarters. Captain “Ack” Grant of the 27th and Johnny Mitchell of the 95th were there too, for the group commander had called in all four of his squadron leaders.

“I don’t get the idea of the job, colonel,” Rickenbacker was objecting. “And why Whitey?”

“It’s this way, Rick,” Hartney answered. “General Kenly wants an accredited ace to serve on the staff of the Chief of Air Service in Washington. He Wants an inspirational type, a man who can stand as a model to younger men; he wants to send him over the country making speeches, to stir up a little patriotism, I guess. Of course, he will serve in a technical advisory capacity as well.”

“But why do they have to take White?” persisted Rickenbacker. “That crowd of generals-”

“I know, Rick,” Hartney temporized. “You can’t deny though—Whitey fits the bill.”

“He’ll never do it,” broke in Meissner.

“He’ll have to,” responded the commander. “The orders came through from General Patrick at Tours this morning.” Hartney hesitated a moment, then added, “You’re forgetting, fellows, Whitey has a wife and two kids back there. That’s not the reason he’s going back, but his wife probably will be glad even if we are reluctant to lose him.”

“She won’t if she’s anything like Whitey,” interjected the 94th’s leader. “You’ll have a swell time convincing Whitey that that’s not the reason he was picked, and I for one don’t want to be here when you tell him. Is there anything else, colonel?”

Hartney shook his head. The four squadron commanders filed out, and after them went Captain Cunningham, operations officer, to summon Whitey to headquarters. The pilot returned with him and found Hartney standing beside bis desk, tapping a pencil.

“Whitey,” he began. “I’ve some good news for you—”

“Yes, I know, colonel, Meissner told me. Young Charley Cox is coming up with us. I’m glad, colonel.” Then more seriously he added, “You see, I sort of feel it a duty to take care of that kid. I knew him you know, and his father and mother. That’s why I asked you to help me in getting him here with us. I just got a letter from his dad this morning.”

Hartney’s face clouded; he walked behind his desk.

“Yes, Whitey,” he said. “Cox will be up sometime to-day, and he’ll be assigned to the 147th. But that’s not what I called you over for.” The commander hesitated as a look of doubt spread over the pilot’s browned and wind-burned face. “It’s this, Whitey—there’s no use trying to put it in softer words—General Patrick has ordered you back to the States for special duty on the staff of General Kenly, Chief of the Air Service at Washington.”

THE orders left the younger man speechless. The amazed, hurt look in his eyes caused Hartney to turn away and to finish his order in short, staccato sentences.

“Your new duties will be varied—advisory work partly and other special stuff. You can take my word for it you weren’t picked at random. You were chosen because of your excellent record. It’s an important job. I’m sorry, more sorry than I can say, to lose you. We all are, but it comes from above me, and I haven’t anything to say about it.”

Hartney tried to end it there. It wasn’t easy, nor pleasant, ordering a fellow like Whitey back to the States; ordering anyone, for that matter, from that reckless crowd of fighting youths. He couldn’t refuse to listen as the amazed flyer regained his tongue.

“I—I don’t understand, colonel.” The good-natured smile was gone now. In its place was a look of doubt, as if he questioned the truth of Hartney’s explanation.

“I can’t leave, colonel—not now anyway. You’re sure” —he spoke more quickly as the thought occurred to him— “You’re sure the fact that I have a family has nothing to do with it? ”

There was only one way for Hartney to deal with the situation. That was to be brusque. As difficult as that was, Hartney spoke sharply.

“I can’t help it, White. Orders are orders. Here they are.” He handed over a sealed envelope. “They date from to-morrow. Better get packed up. The boys, I understand, want to throw a little party for you to-night, and you can leave early in the morning for Paris.”

Hartney turned away, indicating dismissal, but as the bewildered pilot walked slowly toward the entrance of the hut there came one more command from his senior officer.

“Just one more thing, Whitey. I’ve instructed Meissner to take you off the regular patrols for the rest of the day. I—I’d stay on the ground if I were you. That’s all. I’ll see you again before you leave for Paris.”

Whitey did not answer. He walked out slowly, the sealed orders in his hand unopened, and wandered unseeing in a circuitous journey that finally led him to 147’s barracks across the Sacra Via that ran from Rembercourt to Verdun.

He was sitting on his cot, staring at the floor, when Ken Porter and “Obie” Myers, his companions of the morning patrol, found him. They walked up quietly, and both cleared their throats significantly before they uttered a word. Porter spoke first.

“What’s the use of our trying to say anything, Whitey? It’s a lousy trick to play on any man, especially you.”

Whitey seemed not to hear. He sat unmoved, his head pressed tightly between his hands, his elbows on his knees. Porter continued.

“There is this about it, though, old fellow. You’ve got to think of the wife and kids. You’re the oldest man in the squadron, you know, and the only one with a family. This suicide club is no place for a fellow like you; it doesn’t matter about the rest of us bums.”

The mention of the word “family” brought the first response from the flight leader.

“That’s just it, Ken.” He dropped his hands from his head. “If I thought—if I thought for one minute that that was the only reason, I’d never go back.” The flash of anger faded then, and more soberly he continued, “It isn’t that I don’t care about my family—God knows I do. It’s just that this is my duty; this is what I’m trained for, this is something that I can do to help. Why, then, why should they keep me from doing it?”

Porter, the youngster of the 147th, whose youthfulness had won him the fatherly protection of the older man, had no answer, and with Myers stood glumly silent as their flight leader searched his mind for some answer, some explanation. Suddenly Whitey leaped to his feet. The set of his jaw startled his two listeners.

“Listen to me, you two!” Whitey’s voice rose almost to a shout. “Orders are orders, Hartney said. All right, there’s no way out that I can see. But if I’ve got to go back, I’m going to finish up my job here first. I’ve got seven Huns now, haven’t I? Alright, I’m not going back without another crack at them, and you two have got to help me?”

Myers spoke now for the first time. There was a pleading note in his voice.

“But Whitey, don’t be a damned fool.
You’ve got your orders in your pocket. 
You’re alive now, you’re all whole. 
Stay that way. You’re only asking for 
it if you—”

“Are you going to help me or do I have to go out alone? ” demanded Whitey.

There was only one answer when Whitey spoke like that. And Porter and Myers knew that if they didn’t go along to help and protect this Hun hater, that he would go alone, and that he probably wouldn’t come back alive. They promised, although reluctantly.

“Fine,” Whitey responded, his spirits reviving. “We’ll do a reconnaissance patrol. Meissner won’t keep me down. I’ll notify him and we’ll meet at the hangar in twenty minutes.”

MEISSNER argued for fifteen of those twenty minutes before he gave up trying to dissuade his flight leader from going’aloft. Rickenbacker, too, pleaded. It was all to no avail.

“You’d feel the same way, Rick, in my place.”

“Yeah? I’d stay right on the ground!”

“No you wouldn’t,” and Whitey smiled and walked away.

There was, of course, Hartney. Hartney could have stopped him with an authoritative command had he known. But who was there in all that group who would have cheated the pilot of his wish? He had said, had insisted, that he’d rather die than go back without one more journey over the lines, and there was in the refusal of his fellows to notify the commander almost the resignation of allowing a dying man his last wish. No, Whitey could go if he must; putting themselves in his place they all felt they probably would have wanted to do the same thing. Nevertheless they all watched his take-off with dubious shakes of their heads.

The trio of Spads, Porter on the left and Myers on the right of their flight leader, cleared the wooded slopes at the north end of the muddy field and followed the ravine toward Dun-sur-Meuse. Over Montfaucon again, and the hill that had been the quarters of the German Crown Prince before the Americans broke the Hindenburg Line, and the woods where only the week before Whittlesey and his famous “Lost Battalion” had stood off the surrounding Huns for five days.

Whitey led his companions on a steep climb over Bantheville as they flew into enemy territory. Above and below him the sky was clear of the enemy, as far as the eye could penetrate the mist and fog. Where were they? Why didn’t they come out and fight, the rats! Didn’t they know this was his last day at the Front?

He fondled the triggers on his joystick. It was almost a caress. The States! What was the “special duty?” Why? What for? Even thinking of it was enough to drive a man mad! And why, of the whole lot, did he have to draw the assignment? Whitey could have unleashed a few bursts of his Vickers just to relieve his pent-up anger.

Behind him, to the left and right, flew Ken and Obie, their minds also burdened with their thoughts, too burdened and preoccupied in fact for the safety of the tiny flight of Spads.

It was Ken, not Whitey whose eye and sense of the enemy’s presence usually was so keen, who first saw the Fokkers; and even he did not see them until the red-nosed biplanes were well into their dive out of the protective rays of the sun that was poking its way through the clouds. Ken grabbed his triggers, gave one short burst as a signal of warning to Whitey and Obie and sideslipped away from the dive of one Fokker and caught a quick burst at a second Hun that swept across his bow.

They were seven, the Fokkers, Stenay Fokkers from the late Baron’s own circus and they dove through the trio of Spads with their twin Spandaus spurting flame.

Whitey turned at Ken’s warning burst. Damn! Caught asleep! He jerked at his stick and strained his Spad into a roll that saved him from the opening fire of the Hun leader. He saw two of the enemy tearing at Obie and two others at Ken as he climbed with the Fokker leader on his tail.

Spandau tracer was licking at his tail. His motor! Hit! It was missing. He rolled over instinctively as the whizzing bullets reached out for his cockpit. Something was wrong with him—he couldn’t shake this Hun. Another burst of Spandau lead. A worthy opponent. It was time to start fighting, if he wanted to live.

WHITEY was climbing now, seeking a cloud, and from it he dove for the Hun. For the moment he had him in line of fire. But no, his guns jammed. Was everything against him to-day? A balky motor—now a jam! Whitey dove for safety as he struggled to repair his weapons.

But escape was not so easy. Not that he wanted escape, but the Hun was on him again now. Lead was streaking over his head. Another roll, another loop? Where was Ken? Obie? He had lost them; no, he had deserted them, deserted the two who had come out to protect him, abandoned them to the mercy of six other Fokkers. Two against six.

Fool! Selfish fool! Whitey’s jaw set. He slapped the obstreperous Vickers, and turned on his opponent with a vengeance that was not to be denied. It was an aroused, red-haired Yankee at the stick of the Spad now, a pilot whose fingers fairly itched at the triggers of his joystick. The old Whitey.

They were some distance apart now, coming at each other head-on. The German triggered first. His bullets were wasted. “The fool,” muttered Whitey. The Vickers were silent. The Hun was getting scared. The rat! He was wavering now, too. “Turn out, you Heinie! Turn out and die!” Whitey held his course, straight for the red nose of the Fokker. It was turn out or die in collision. “Make ‘em turn out,” was Whitey’s motto; “they’ll turn.” And the Fokker’s master turned, turned out to avoid collision and he died in the first burst of Whitey’s deadly aim.

Triumphant, the Spad leader grinned with satisfaction as he watched the Fokker slowly circle into its last spin, its pilot dead at the stick. But the grin faded suddenly with the thought of Ken and Obie. Where were they? Whitey cursed himself, and with a shameful sense of desertion sought for the Spads of his companions. In vain he scanned the sky above and below. He covered the lines with the same result. Fokkers or Spads, there were none to be seen. With a sinking heart he started for home.

He circled the drome twice before landing. His heart leaped as he saw a Spad being pulled into the hangar. But was it Ken’s, or Obie’s? He swept down to a sloppy, dangerous landing on the muddy field.
His first words were to the mechanic who helped him out.

“Porter—Myers! Are they back?”

The mechanic seemed not to hear.

“My God, tell me, you fool! Porter and Myers—did they get back?”

The mechanic looked up.

“Porter? Myers? Oh, yeah, they got back. But there ain’t enough left of their two ships to make one good training crate.”

The mechanic’s lightly given assurance left Whitey weak in the knees. He felt a little sick.

“Thanks,” he mumbled, and with his helmet dangling in his right hand, he stumbled toward barracks, not even waiting to make out a combat report.

He found them drinking coffee. Their cheerful greeting was lost on him. He walked straight up to them, his eyes filling up with tears.

“Ken,” he mumbled, putting his hand on the younger pilot’s shoulder. “Ken, I ought to be shot. And you, Obie, I can’t tell you how I feel. It was rotten, just plain selfishness. I should have been killed; I deserved to be, for running out on you like that. And when the two of you came along just to help me with my silly pride—”

Words failed him then, and he sank down on a bench, his head in his hands. Porter and Myers exchanged glances, and nodded. Porter spoke up first. His words came in pseudo-sarcasm.

“What’s the matter with you, Whitey? Gone haywire or something?” He slapped his flight leader on the back and pushed a cup of black coffee at him.

” Come on now, come out of it. We’re all here, aren’t we? All alive? What the hell does it matter? It wasn’t your fault because the damned Hun leader happened to pick on you. We managed it okey. We just ran around until we saw you were on top, then we tore for home. That’s all there was to it. Forget it!”

The play-acting had its hoped-for effect. Whitey shook his head, uttered another apology and then relaxed with a sigh of relief and drank his coffee with a lighter heart.

“Okay, Ken,” he said finally. “I guess I was a little worked up about it. But I’m sorry, anyway, and that apology goes to you too, Obie.”

“Forget it, Whitey,”responded Myers with a reassuring shove. “Now let’s do a little serious thinking about this party to-night—it’s a farewell party, Whitey, and we ought to make it a good one. This crowd needs a party. There’s been too damned much thinking going on around here.”

“Madame Mourot’s, huh?” suggested Porter.

“Now wait a minute, fellows,” in
terrupted Whitey. “You know, hon
estly, I’d just as soon pack up my stuff
and then sort of drop around quietly 
and shake hands with everybody. This 
dinner and party stuff—”

“Too late, son,” cut in Myers, rising to his feet. “You’re overruled. Mr. Porter and Mr. Myers of the committee on arrangements are already on their way to Erize la Petite to negotiate. So long, Whitey, see you hence.”

THE two pilots left immediately for the village. It was nearly 2:30 when Porter returned alone. He found Whitey in barracks, finishing a letter to his wife telling of his orders home.

“Everything is set, Whitey,” he said and started off for his own bunk, but the other pilot, rising from the floor, called him back.

“What’s the hurry?”

“Got a little work to do, sir,” Porter answered, picking up his flying togs. “Hartney detailed A Flight to stick a balloon over at Dun-sur-Meuse, same one you took a crack at the other day, I think. But A Flight hasn’t any balloon gun in working order, so Billy Brotherton drew the job, and he prefers C Flight men for company.”

“Who’s going?”

“Well, you’re not down.”

“Who’s going, I said,” Whitey repeated.

“Well, Meissner, Pat Herron, myself and this Cox kid that just came up.”

Whitey scowled, more with disbelief than surprise.

“Not Charley Cox, the kid ”

“Well,” responded Porter with a shrug, “he’s down on the list. Meissner said the kid insisted on going along, and that he didn’t have the heart to refuse him.”

Without another word Whitey turned and reached for his own flying clothes. He had started changing before Porter noticed.

“Now what?” Porter demanded.

“I’m going along,” said Whitey, slipping on a heavy shirt.

Porter slammed his heavy gloves to the floor and strode over with his hands on his hips.

“For God’s sake, Whitey! We’ll take care of the kid, if that’s what’s worrying you. You’ve had enough. I thought we settled all that a while ago.”

The older pilot shook his head. “I know, Ken, but—well, I got the kid up here, and I want to see him over the lines for the first time. I promised his people that, and I want to do it, that’s all.”

Ken started to argue but he gave up in exasperation as Whitey calmly finished changing.

“What’s the use of my arguing with you, Whitey? All I hope is that Meissner or Hartney keeps you on the ground. I can’t,” and he strode out of barracks.

But Meissner’s argument was no more successful than it had been earlier in the morning, and when three o’clock came around Whitey was ready to lead his flight. He greeted Cox for the first time out on the field, took him aside for a brief chat and a bit of advice and then returned to the corner of the hangar where he waited with Porter and Brotherton while mechanics warmed up their Spads.

The assignment was more extensive than Porter had described. It called for simultaneous attacks on two balloons, the one at Dun-sur-Meuse and another near Bantheville. Brotherton, C Flight’s balloon strafer, was to stick the balloon at Dun-sur-Meuse under Whitey’s protecting flight; Reed Chambers, guarded by another flight, was to tackle the other bag while his teammate, Rickenbacker, with a flight from the 94th, was detailed to cover both flights from above and rendezvous with them over the line at four o’clock.

Porter and Brotherton chafed impatiently as the Spads warmed up, but Whitey was silent. He leaned against the corner of the hangar, drawing slowly and deeply of his cigarette, his eyes scanning the clouds above. His thoughts seemed far away. Not until the signal from the mechanics came did he speak, and then it was only a parting word of instruction to Porter.

“My adieu to the Huns, Ken,” he said. “I’m glad you’re along. Keep an eye on the kid, keep him in close.”
They parted on the line, the three of them, but the flight leader was the last to climb into his ship. First, he walked clear around the plane, surveyed each patched spot on wing and tail, each nicked strut or repaired brace. He came around to the side of the cockpit and was ready to climb in when Rickenbacker came up.

“Whitey, for God’s sake listen—”

“It’s okay, Rick, this is the last trip. We’d better get going.”

The 94th’s leader was reluctant to leave. Whitey climbed in the cockpit smiling and reached up for Rick’s hand.

“All right, Whitey. Lots of luck. I’ll be upstairs looking out for you.”

“Thanks, Rick.”

The five Hispanos of C Flight roared in unison. Whitey took off first from the emergency sod runway laid on top the soggy field. Cox followed, then Herron, Porter, Meissner and Brotherton, but Porter’s Spad faltered as it was clearing the trees at the edge of the field and he barely made it back to the drome with the high-speed jet on his left bank of cylinders clogged by an aluminum shaving.

ALOFT the five Spads moved into formation with Brotherton underneath as the grounded Porter climbed into another ship to rejoin them. But they waited in vain, for as Porter sent his new mount over the soggy runway a clod of mud splintered his prop and both Spad and pilot landed nose up “in the soup.” Whitey gave the signal now to move on, but he gave it reluctantly. He wanted Ken along this last trip, might need him; somehow it was comforting to know that Porter was back there on his left. Ken could catch up, though, maybe, before they hit the lines. But Ken never caught up—an overheated motor turned him back for the third and last time as his companions passed out of sight.

They crossed the lines and pointed for Dun-sur-Meuse with the sun over their left shoulders. Brotherton flew at about four hundred meters, ready to snag the balloon with his 11-millimeter guns. Six or seven hundred higher, and slightly back, came the others, Whitey leading with his newly arrived protege in the rear between Meissner and Herron.

The air was fairly clear of the enemy as they went in, but the Huns were not idle; even as the flight of Spads crossed the lines eleven Fokkers were moving in from Stenay behind the youthful Lieutenant Pfaffenritter who carried in his pocket a leave that was to take him home to Berlin that night for a visit.

Rickenbacker, wide of his own flight, saw them first, and he tackled the rear of their formation as they swung out of the rays of the protecting sun.

Whitey saw them, ahead and above. He turned toward them, the best tactical move to cover up Billy down below. For a moment nothing happened. It looked as if there was to be no scrap, except that single duel which had taken the rearmost German and Rickenbacker a mile to the west. Then Brotherton, his heavy balloon guns spitting out their streams of incendiaries, dove through the rain of Jerry fire for the descending bag below. His attack was the signal for the attack of the Fokkers.

The watchful Spad leader turned again to meet them but the red-nosed Fokkers swerved for the rear of the Spad formation and, avoiding its leader, swarmed over Meissner, Herron and Cox with the German leader singling out the inexperienced Cox for his victim.

Whitey looked over his shoulder. Meissner was deftly rolling out of the path of one German; Herron, both guns blazing was tangling with two of the enemy. Whitey challenged one of them, and avoiding his opponent’s initial swoop, turned to meet him at closer quarters.

The German was too hasty. His Spandaus were blazing wildly. Whitey grinned confidently, withholding his own fire. His Spad strained and bent as he twisted and came out of a roll on the Hun’s tail. Whitey gripped his triggers, ready for the kill. A short burst of Vickers tracer caught the Fokker cockpit; another burst now and it would be over. But the Vickers jammed! Whitey cursed as he fought with the stubborn gun.

A Spad screamed past overhead. It was Cox, and on his tail was the Fokker leader with both guns spitting flame.

Whitey forgot his jammed guns; he forgot his own opponent and allowed him to slip away to safety. He came about on a wing-tip, his eyes glued on the red-nosed plane that was dropping into deadly position on Charley Cox’s rudder. Spandau lead was eating up the fuselage of Cox’s Spad. It was a matter of split seconds now and Cox would be gone. Whitey tore in head-on, his Spad with its useless guns pointed straight for the Fokker leader.

The move succeeded. The breathless Cox, so close to death an instant before, climbed to safety as the Hun leader turned to meet the onrush of his new enemy. Twice his Spandaus barked out. The Vickers of Whitey’s Spad were silent but the bulletlike directness of his drive never varied. Head-on they
raced, Whitey and the youthful German.

Rickenbacker, tearing in from victory over his opponent, saw it. Reed Chambers, fleeing from his successful attack on the other balloon, saw it. They watched with bated breath. They could almost hear the Spad leader’s chant, “Never turn out for a Hun—make him turn out!” Whitey was holding his fire, they thought, for the German to turn out. But the Hun never wavered; nor did Whitey. Two of a kind, they were—the same methods of combat, equally matched in nerve and skill, except that Whitey’s guns were useless. A brave determined Yankee, a brave determined German. Turn out and die. Neither turned out. Both died.

THE Spad and Fokker struck head-on. There wasn’t much of a crash. Their wings just seemed to melt together, and they locked in one crazy tangle. There was no fire; no smoke. It was just a floundering mass of splintered wood and fabric that fell swiftly down and down. A few splinters of wood, a few shreds of canvas fluttered around as if lost. That was all.

Somehow there was no combat after that. Not a trigger was pressed from the moment that Whitey swept into that headlong drive to force the Hun from his protege’s rudder. The stark tragedy of it all took everybody by the throat, Boche and Yankee alike. Two brave men had gone to their end in that brief moment that had encompassed one of the most supreme sacrifices of the war. No taste for fighting remained, and the leaderless formations of Spads and Fokkers turned for home.

Rickenbacker was the first to reach Hartney’s office with the news. He staggered into the headquarters hut, his eyes blinded by tears.

“Whitey—” he mumbled, and sank weakly into a chair. It was several minutes before he found his voice.

“A Hun got on young Cox’s tail— Whitey went to his rescue—his guns jammed and he drove head-on into the Hun. They fell together just east of the river. I tried—I tried to get down, but too late.”

Hartney swallowed hard and walking to the pilot’s side, shook him roughly.

“Brace up, Rick. Get yourself a drink.”

“I—I can’t, colonel, I’m sick,” and Rickenbacker staggered out the doorway.

Meissner came in next; then Chambers and all the rest except young Billy Brotherton who never came out of his dive on the balloon. Young Cox, whose life had been spared by Whitey’s sacrifice, couldn’t tell his story until the next day. And he told it while virtually every patrol sought through low, dangerous flying, to find where Whitey had fallen. They hunted for days but not until next April, months after the Armistice, was the search successful.

Reed Chambers, who remained in command of the 94th after Rickenbacker returned to the States, found the body on the east bank of the Meuse near Dun. With Whitey’s father and two members of the Graves Registration Department, he searched for three days along the bank where he had seen the interlocked Spad and Fokker crash. A shred of Spad fabric, caught on the remains of a stretch of barbed wire, led him to a spot where beneath a shallow layer of earth the heroic American pilot had been hastily buried by villagers. Not far away was another grave bearing only the marking, “An Unidentified German Aviator.”

Ironically, the two bodies were identified by papers found in the pockets of their uniforms, and the papers in both instances were orders for home—for Whitey, his orders back to the States; for Lieutenant Pfaffenritter his leave for a visit with his mother in Berlin.

 

The 147th
The 147th Aero Squadron They are, standing, from left to right, 1Lt Oscar B Meyers, 2Lt Arthur H Jones, 2Lt Edward H Clouser (adjutant), 2Lt Ralph A O’Neill (five victories), ILt James A Healy (five victories), 2Lt Charles P Porter, Maj Harold E Hartney, commander 1st Pursuit Group (seven victories), Capt James A Meissner, commander 147th Aero Squadron (eight victories), 1Lt Heywood E Cutting, 1Lt James P Herron, 2Lt Francis M Simonds (five victories), 1Lt George H Brew, 2Lt G Gale Willard, 2Lt Cleveland W McDermott and 1Lt Collier C Olive. Squatting, from left to right, ILt Walter P Muther, 2Lt Frank C Ennis, 2Lt Louis C Simon Jr, 1Lt G A S Robertson, 2Lt Stuart T Purcell, 2Lt Thomas J Abernethy, 1Lt Horace A Anderson (supply officer), 1Lt Josiah P Rowe Jr, 2Lt James C McEvoy and 2Lt John W Havey (armament officer)

AS A bonus, we present “Lieutenant White’s Supreme Sacrifice”—The story behind the cover of Paul Bissell’s July 1933 cover for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the July 1933 cover Bissell recreates Lt. White’s headlong dive into a German plane to save a young pilot he was looking out for on his squadron—The spectacular crash captured in a freeze-frame. The story behind it is Lt. Reed Chamber’s account of events.

Lieutenant White’s Supreme Sacrifice

th_FA_3307“SO THIS was the stick he used to guide his plane! It’s hard to realize that my boy’s live hands once held it as I hold it now.” And the man dressed in clerical garb revolved the broken joystick slowly in his hand as he turned sadly to the young lieutenant with him.

The speaker was Dr. W.W. White of the Biblical Seminary in New York. He had come to France to search for the body of his son, Lieutenant Wilbert Wallace White of the 147th Squadron who, on October the tenth, 1918, in one of the most dramatic sacrifices of the war, had crashed head on with an enemy ship high above the lines. The Doctor’s companion was Lieutenant Reed Chambers, American ace, who had taken charge of the 94th Squadron when Captain Rickenbacker had returned to America.

Now, six months after Lieutenant White’s death, these two sat in a little pension near the village of Dun on the banks of the Meuse. For three days they had searched up and down the banks of the river for some sign of the wrecked ship which Reed Chambers himself had seen fall, twisted and tangled with the German plane.

Only this afternoon had their search been rewarded by their finding the scant remains of the wrecked planes half-buried in the muddy banks of the Meuse. From peasants in the neighborhood they learned that the two aviators had been buried in a near-by field, and, in the morning, with two members of the Grave Registration Department present, the bodies were to be disinterred for identification.

“I’m sure it is his stick, sir,” Chambers answered, “and to me, too, it hardly seems possible that that useless bit of wood still remains much as it was, while Whitey, with all that he could and would have done, is no longer with us.

“You see,” he continued, “that’s where you who have faith have it over the rest of us. To you, it is all a part of some plan, even if you don’t understand it completely. We at the Front soon became fatalistic, feeling, as the French would say, ’C’est la guerre,’ or else we feel like blaming some one in some way or other for it all.”

“Certainly there is no one to blame in this case,” the older man replied.

“No, I don’t think there is, really, but we all felt a little bit to blame, sir. Perhaps particularly Colonel Hartney and Jimmy Meissner. Either of them could have ordered Whitey to stay on the ground, but you know how he was. To begin with, when first he heard of the orders sending him back home, he was stunned and angry. He knew that all of you back there felt as he did, that he belonged here where he was best able to serve. He resented what appeared as perhaps a choice, granting him safety and life, while other chaps were sent out to be bumped off.”

“Yes, I can understand that,” replied White’s father.

“God knows he had already done his duty,” said Chambers. “He had seven Germans to his credit already, and had been in a hundred scraps. That was what we all tried to get over to him—that he had done his bit here, and that real work was awaiting him back in Washington. It took a lot of talking, but he was convinced at last, and keen on getting back to see all of you. He had no intention of making that last flight. It wasn’t a foolhardy gesture, I’m sure of that, sir. But you know, he was somewhat older than a lot of the kids that came up and he liked to look after them, not only in the air, but on the ground.

“And, you see, he had looked forward to Cox’s coming. In fact, he had helped get Cox assigned to the 147th. Only that morning he had heard from the boy’s parents, and so, when he learned that Cox had been assigned to immediate patrol, he wanted to go over with the youngster on his first flight.

“YOU, too, were on the patrol, were you not?” asked the Doctor.

“Yes,” replied Chambers. “I had a crack at a balloon just below here at Bantheville. Whitey, with Meissner, Pat Herron, Cox, and Porter were to keep the Germans off Brotherton’s tail, while he went at a sausage just above this village here. Rickenbacker, with a flight from the 94th, was upstairs, keeping an eye on both of us. Ken—that’s Porter, you know—didn’t finally fly the patrol at all. Three engines went bad on him in succession. “So, after waiting a short time for him to join the formation, we all headed over in this direction, Whitey leading his flight, with Brotherton below and Meissner and Herron behind, riding their planes on either side of Cox.

“As we came over the lines, things were pretty clear, but just as we got a short distance from here, eleven Heinies came flying in from Stenay. This bunch was part of Richthofen’s old crowd, you know. Whitey turned to meet them, which was the only thing to do in order to cover up Brotherton below, who was then all set and ready for his dive on the balloon.

“The Germans did not attack at once, though Rickenbacker up above slipped in on the rear of their formation and after a short scrap got the last one of the crowd. Just then Brotherton dived on the balloon and, as if this were a signal, the whole flight of Germans dropped on Whitey and his crowd. I was pretty busy over Bantheville at this minute, but Jimmy tells me that the Jerries swung off, avoiding Whitey’s head on attack, then turned quickly and came at them from behind, the German leader apparently singling out Cox for his victim.

“Jimmy and Herron both had their hands full, what with the enemy outnumbering them about three to one, and Cox got separated from them. Whitey, it seems, turned and had just rolled himself into a swell position on one of the German’s tails when his guns jammed. I guess that’s what did the trick, sir.

“Having his guns jammed was no new experience for Whitey, and ordinarily, even against the odds, he could have slipped out of the fight, fixed his guns, and been back at it in a minute. But just when his guns jammed, he caught sight of Cox, tipped up on one wing, heading toward him, striving desperately to get away from the red-nosed machine on his tail.

“The kid was putting up a swell fight, but he was up against old hands at the game, and the odds were against him. Whitey had no time to clear his guns now. In another moment it would be all over. No one knew that better than Whitey, and as quick as a flash he had left his own German and was diving headlong at Cox’s opponent.

“Maybe he forgot his guns were Jammed. Maybe he thought the German would turn out. He used to say, ‘Never turn out for a Hun. Make him do the turning out.’ But if you ask me, I don’t think it was that either, he was responsible for the kid, and the kid must be saved, let the cost be what it would. And there was only be way, since his guns were jammed, and that was to make the German turn.

“Well, I had finished my job and was just heading back, trying to get into the scrap, when I saw Whitey go for the red machine. I didn’t know his guns were jammed. I thought he was holding his fire, holding it till the Jerry turned out and he could give him a burst.”

Chambers looked up at the older man, who stared fixedly at the broken stick in his hands. Then the lieutenant rose to his feet and, putting his hand on his companion’s shoulder, continued.

“Well, the German didn’t turn out, sir. And this I’m sure of—if it had to be done over, there would be no hesitation on Whitey’s part, and he would again crash any German that ever flew if that was necessary to save a comrade in trouble.”

NEXT morning the sun shone down from a clear April sky. A soft spring breeze stirred the new-sprung blades of grass in the small field just at the river’s edge. To the right a row of tall poplars lined a road that wound over a hill to the small village beyond, hidden except for the thrust of its church spire, above the trees.

In the corner of the field the earth had been thrown back from two shallow graves, and here a small group of men were gathered.

“There can be no doubt about it, sir. These are the orders we found in his pocket. You can see that they are papers ordering Lieutenant Wilbert Wallace White to return to Washington for special duty on the staff of General Kenly, Chief of Air Service.”

There was a hush as the elderly civilian, taking the crumpled and worn papers from the officer, read them through slowly and carefully. In the distance the soft peal of the church bells could be heard.

“Yes,” he said, finally, “I am sure there is no question about it. It is my boy. And what of the other lad?”

“His name was Pfaffenritter,” they answered. “We identified him also by his orders.”

But they did not go on to say that this lad, too, held in his pocket a reprieve from death. On the following morning he was to have gone on leave to Berlin to see his mother.

The Ships on The Cover
“Lieutenant White’s Supreme Sacrifice”
Flying Aces, July 1933 by Paul Bissell

 

“Ginsberg’s War: Crash on Delivery” by Robert J. Hogan

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A HUNDRED years ago today, the United States declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire. To mark the occasion, we will be posting Robert J. Hogan’s Abe Ginsberg stories that ran in the pages or War Birds magazine from 1932-1933.

    “Geeve a look,” he chirped. “I’m here, already. Abe Ginsberg’s de name.”

Lieutenant Abraham Ginsberg was small and slim-shouldered. His eyes twinkled over a Roman nose and from under heavy, black brows. His head was crowned with curly hair of the same hue. His face was like leather, tanned by wind and sun and blasting prop wash of many flights. His uniform, ill-fitting and sagging at the knees, was in striking contrast to the finely tailored outfits of the favored sons of the Seventy-sixth. A long, leathery coat, smeared with grease and oil and stained about a hole at the shoulder, where a Spandau slug had necessitated a vacation for a time, hung perilously from his slim shoulders; it was held together at the front with a huge safety pin, that once had graced the blanket of a horse in a wind storm.

Abe had medals on his chest and a yen in his heart to fly with a high-hat outfit. When he found they didn’t want him he invented the slogan “Crash on Delivery.”

“The Bluff Buster” by Lester Dent

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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—The Boche have developed an even faster and better plane and Major Sam Flack has been called in to double bluff a captured Boche agent into taking him behind enemy lines to the prototype!

They played the double-cross both ways from the middle—when it boomeranged on the major none knew which way the fire would fall.

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, this time reprinting a feature on Dent originally published in The Daily Oklahoman!

 

Oklahoma Biographs Lester Dent,

The Wizard Of The Pulps
The LaPlata Home Press, LaPlata, MO • 29 June 1939

Lester Dent

Lester Dent is one of the most valid of cosmopolitans. He was born in Missouri. Was taken to and lived on a series of farms near Broken Arrow (Oklahoma). Just in time to avoid having oil struck on his place. Dent’s father sold out and the family moved to a godforsaken cow ranch in the Wyoming sagebrush.

Then back to Missouri, in 1918, when Dent was 12 years old. Only 33 years old now, he has lived almost everywhere. Recently he returned from a treasurer hunt in the Caribbean on his schooner, “The Albatross”. His home, he says, is wherever he happens to be sitting at his typewriter at the moment. Just at present, that is New York. However: “I guess I’m more Oklahoman than anything else, having lived there longer than anywhere else by about five years.”

Dent got to the fifth grade, moved to another place, and entered high school. There he flunked English for four consecutive years, after which a disgusted teacher asserted that he was hopeless along that line. Graduated from high school in 1923, and took a course in telegraphy. Got a job at $45 a month, later worked nights for the Associated Press in Tulsa.

While on that job, Dent started writing adventure stories. Sent one of them to George Delacorte of the Dell Publishing Company. Delacorte wired him to come to New York if he was making less than $100 a week. “But,” says Dent, “I thought he was nuts. I’m still not sure—” Anyway, after telegraphing friends in New York to inquire about the publisher’s sanity, he went to New York. He was given two magazines (”Scotland Yard” and “Sky Riders”) to fill. Dent cleaned up 4,000 bucks the first month, and as much monthly for three more magazines. Then both magazines went broke. That was in 1931—the depression had arrived. For the next six months he would sell a story to a magazine and before he could sell it another one, that magazine would fold up. Finally he found some that were on an even keel.

Dent’s work has been for the pulp magazines. He has sold to over 30 publications, of the cowboy, detective, adventure, air, and mystery types. Also to writers’ magazines. He uses a dozen pen names, including Kenneth Robeson, Maxwell Grant, H.O. Cash, Tim Ryan, and various others. Has long ago lost track of just how many years he has sold, although he knows the total is more than 1,000. For the last three years he has received not one rejection slip; in fact, the stories were contracted for in advance.

Dent is the second most prolific author in the world. For a year his output was an average of 200,000 words a month, all of which he sold. That, he says, is not his limit. Here’s how he works: Out of bed at 11 a.m., works until about 4 p.m.; reads the papers, takes a walk, naps for an hour; then works until 3 or 4 a.m. Does this five days a week. Biggest production for a day: On dictaphone, 32,000 words; on typewriter, 24,000 words. Most words turned out in a continuous session: 45,000 words (a book). This required a night, day, and part of night. He never revises. His copy comes out of machine and goes in “as is”.

Under the nom de plume of Kenneth Robeson, Dent writes monthly a 60,000-word (book-length) “Doc Savage” story. The “Doc Savage Magazine” was the most successful pulp magazine in the world the sec-year of its existence. Dent claims his character, Doc Savage, is an unconscious composite of the physical qualities of Tarzan of the Apes, the detective ability of Sherlock Holmes, the scientific sleuthing mastery of Craig Kennedy, and the morals of Jesus Christ. He has written perhaps 50 novels about his creation, at present being over a year ahead of the magazine which prints them.

The following should encourage embryo writers. Dent swears it’s true: “Pulp magazines are more widely open than ever for new writers. Just send them a half-way printable story and they’ll buy it. . . The pulps are an excellent training field. When I started writing for them, less than eight years ago, T.S. Stribling and MacKinley Kantor were only pulp hacks.”

Dent regrets that be has written under so many pseudonyms, instead of building up one name—his own—in the pulps. The mistake was made partly because of the fact that editors don’t like to carry more than one story under the same name in a single issue of a magazine. So Dent would sign one with his real name, and others with noms de plume. Occasionally, he has written entire issues of magazines in this manner. Consequently, although his output ranks among the greatest, his name is not especially well known.

Asked if he entertained any unrealized literary ambitions. Dent replied. “One million of them, all made of silver called dollars, and in banks, preferably several banks.” Everything considered, this is not a vain desire at all—for Mr. Dent.

(Copied from The Daily Oklahoman. Sunday, July 19, 1936.)

“The Balloon Busters” by Frederick Blakeslee

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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 Mr. Blakeslee brings us a story of “The Balloon Busters” from the July 1932 issue of Dare-Devil Aces!

th_DDA_3207THE cover shows a patrol of French Spads attacking a group of observation balloons. Helpless as these “sausages” were, it was dangerous business to attack even one of them. Many a good pilot met his Waterloo by so doing, and as a rule the Allies left them strictly alone, unless ordered otherwise.

German archie usually had the drachens ranged and an attacking pilot had to go through an explosive hell to get at them. A favorite trick of the Germans was to send up a decoy balloon which was not only ranged but instead of carrying an observer, had its basket filled with amanol. If a ship survived the barrage and came within range, the Boches exploded the amanol—and that was the end of the attacking ship. We can’t blame the Germans for using this trick, as the Canadians were the originators of it.

A similar ruse which the Allies played unsuccessfully was to surround Dunkirk at night with a dozen or more balloons which were attached to strong cables. Dunkirk suffered frequent bombing from the air and it was hoped that a raiding Boche would run into one of the cables. There is no official record, however, of such a thing ever having happened.

In spite of the danger of the observation balloons, Frank Luke, the American pilot, seemed to enjoy attacking them. He received the D.S.C. for bringing down eight of them in four days. Balloon bursting was Frank Lukes’ specialty.

Balloons were olive drab, camouflaged in green and brown or black and white checks. The large green balloon in the foreground of the cover is a German Ae. It is colored after a French war balloon which is now being kept as a war souvenir near Versailles. The green and brown balloon on the cover is a Luftchifftrupp 20.

A balcony runs around the inner court of Les Invalides in Paris. Hanging in one corner of it is a famous airplane which I have reproduced here from a color sketch I made last summer. The plane is the Spad used by Georges Guynemer. He called it “Vieux Charles” (Old Charles), and on the side, under the exhaust pipe, that name was printed. Back of that was the stork insignia of his squadron. You see this plane on the cover as it actually looks today.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Balloon Busters: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(July 1932, Dare-Devil Aces)

“Revenge Bombs” by Frederick Blakeslee

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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 present “Revenge Bombs,” the story behind Mr. Blakeslee’s cover for the very first issue of Dare-Devil Aces!

th_DDA_3202

NEAR Dunkirk there was a large air-drome where several squadrons were located, among them a bombing outfit using Handley-Pages. This airdrome was bombed regularly every clear night by the Germans, who would always reserve a few bombs to drop there after giving Dunkirk a salute. The men got used to it and became rather bored.

One night, however, the usual force flew over and to the surprise of all gave the airdrome a bombing it never forgot. The Boches first dropped a parachute flare that lit up the place like day, and then proceeded to drop thirty-two bombs. Hangars caught fire, the landing field was ploughed up, and the Jerries scored a direct hit on a so called bomb-proof dugout, killing forty officers and men. Fortunately the Handley-Pages were out on a straff of their own, or the damage would have been greater. When they returned they found the field ripped up to such an extent that they were unable to land and had to either fly around for the rest of the night or make a landing on the beach three miles away.

A hangar more or less blown to pieces and a torn-up landing field were to be
expected, but forty men gone West at one blow was not to be born. The men determined to wipe out the particular nest that had caused the damage.

They got under way the very next night and on being joined by a fleet of D.H.9’s, set a circular course that would bring them onto the enemy from behind.

The D.H.9’s took the lead. With a roar, they streaked over the Boche drome, letting go a storm of bombs.

As more than fifty bombs struck there was a flash and a stunning report that could be seen and heard for miles. By the time the dust settled and the smoke cleared away the D.H.9’s had gone.

The startled Germans were just coming to, when the huge Handley-Pages swept in on them, dropping tons of high explosives. The blast shook the ground and blew ships, supplies, men and hangars skyward in a mass of smoke and dust.

On the cover the Handley-Pages are shown bombing the undamaged portion of the airdrome. Looking back from the departing bomber the scene was horrible, the destruction complete, the Boche squadron practically annihilated and the forty British flyers revenged.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Revenge Bombs: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(February 1932, Dare-Devil Aces)

“Death Eggs” by Frederick Blakeslee

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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 Mr. Blakeslee brings us a story of what seemed to be an unnecessary bombing mission, that turned into a great success! From the June 1932 issue of Dare-Devil Aces, we present “Death Eggs!”

th_DDA_3206IN JULY, 1918, a British bombing outfit was given what was believed to be an unimportant mission. It had been reported by spies that there was an unusual movement in and out of a certain German town which was located opposite a sector that had been quiet for a week. As there were no railway yards or anything of military importance in the village—which was partly in ruins and apparently deserted—the bombing orders were indefinite. One Handley-Page was assigned to the mission and the pilot was ordered simply to bomb anything that looked suspicious. It was probably this nonchalant attitude that made the raid such a success.

As a matter of fact, the trains were bringing fresh troops. An entire German regiment—with supplies, machine guns and artillery outfit—had already been moved in under cover of night and plans were being rapidly completed for a major push, intended to take the Allies by surprise.

Things might have gone as scheduled if the German general had not felt the need of exhorting his troops before sending them into battle. He ordered them one morning to parade in the market square, and after the maneuvers proceeded to address them. The troops were standing at attention, listening to their commander, when with a roar a huge Handley-Page bomber streaked low overhead.

The pilot of the Handley-Page had come to a low altitude to better observe the supposedly deserted village and as he flew over the market place was startled to see it packed with Germans.

Too late the Germans recognized the British insignia. The bombs landed right in among the massed ranks. The results can better be imagined than described.

The bomber had been escorted by a squadron of Neiuports, which now came down and joined in, finishing the business with machine guns at close range. It was slaughter—but it was also War!

That same day, alive to the importance of the town, a large scale bombing raid was planned and executed, completing the ruin of what was to have been an important Boche victory.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Death Eggs: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(June 1932, Dare-Devil Aces)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 8: Edmond Thieffry” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 17, 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 Belgium’s favorite Ace—Lt. Edmond Thieffry!

Thieffry was Belgium’s daring ace who entered the war as an orderly and worked his way up to being King Albert’s leading sky fighter—preferring to fight alone, crashing at the enemy ships from high above. A strategy that worked well for him leaving him with 10 victories on his balance sheet by the end of the war.

After the war, Thieffry resumed his pre-war job as a lawyer, but kept his hand in aviation—helping to found Sabena (Societé Anonyme Belge d’Exploitation de la Navigation Adrienne) in 1923 which would remain Belgium’s national airline until 2001.

Thieffry was killed in a crash close to Lake Tanganyika during a test flight while trying to set up an internal air service in the Congo on April 11th, 1929. He was 36 years old.

(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.)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 7: René Fonck” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 3, 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 France’s Ace of Aces—Lt. René Fonck!

Lt. René Fonck is recognized as one of the greatest French air fighters since Captain Guynemer and is credited with bringing down no less than 75 enemy planes, out of a claimed 142—bringing down six in one day (twice)! As his fame grew, sadly, so did his ego and he never really gained the admiration and popularity of Guynemer.

After the war, Fonck returned to civilian life, but kept his hand in aviation even trying to win the Orteig prize by being the first person to fly across the atlantic—he unfortunately crashed on take-off, killing two of his three crew members. Charles Lindbergh would win the prize seven months later.

He return to military aviation and from 1937-39 he acted as Inspector of fighter aviation within the French Air Force. However his later record of working with the Vichy government following the fall of France in June 1940 later besmirched his reputation. A French police inquiry about his supposed collaboration with the Vichy regime completely cleared Fonck after the war. The conclusion was that his loyalty was proved by his close contacts with recognised resistance leaders such as Alfred Heurtaux during the war—and he was awarded the Certificate of Resistance in 1948.

Just five years later Fonck suffered a fatal stroke and died in 1953 at the age of 59.

(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.)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 6: Raoul Lufbery” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on January 20, 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 the leading Ace of the Lafayette Escadrille—Major Raoul Lufbery!


Lufbery playing with Whiskey.

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.

(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.)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 5: Major McCudden” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on January 6, 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 one of Britain’s most famous Aces—Major James McCudden!

Major J B McCudden, VC, DSO, MC, MM
Major J B McCudden, VC, DSO, MC, MM 1918 William Orpen, Oil on Canvas 30×36″.
© IWM (Art.IWM ART 2979)

James Thomas Byford McCudden was born in 1895. He joined the Royal Engineers in 1910, becoming a qualified sapper by 1913—holding a grade Air Mechanic 2nd Class, No.892 and enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps as a mechanic in 1913—the year before the war broke out. He worked his way up through the ranks eventually training as a pilot only to find he was a natural in the air. He is credited with 57 victories and awarded the Victorian Cross, Distinguished Service Order & Bar, Military Cross & Bar, Military Medal and the French Croix de Guerre—becoming the most highly decorated British pilot of the war.

He was killed in July 1918 when his aircraft stalled after take off and crashed to the ground. Shortly before his death McCudden published a renowned memoir of his air war, Five Years in the RFC.

(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.)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 3: Georges Guynemer” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on December 9, 2015 @ 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 the third installment featuring France’s greatest flying Ace—Georges Guynemer!

That name may sound familiar to you if your a frequent visitor to this site. He’s been mentioned a few times in the past in conjunction with the lives of other Aces, and his demise was the subject of Frederick Blakeslee’s cover for the July 1933 issue of Dare-Devil Aces. Guynemer was France’s most beloved ace. He entered the French Air Service in November 1914 and served as a mechanic before receiving a Pilot’s Brevet in April 1915. Assigned to Spa3—Les Cigognes or Storks Squadron—Guynemer used his skills as an excellent pilot and marksman to quickly pile up the victories eventually being promoted to captain and commander of the Storks squadron.

By the time of his disappearance he had accrued 53 victories.

On 11 September 1917, Guynemer was last seen attacking a two-seater Aviatik near Poelcapelle, northwest of Ypres. Almost a week later, it was publicly announced in a London paper that he was missing in action. Shortly thereafter, a German newspaper reported Guynemer had been shot down by Kurt Wissemann of Jasta 3. For many months, the French population refused to believe he was dead. Guynemer’s body was never found.

(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.)

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