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“Mannock, The Mad Major!” by Paul Bissell

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THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers 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 December 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Major Edward Mannock gives his all

Mannock, the Mad Major!

th_FA_3212FROM the war have come many nicknames which have since been applied rather freely to others besides those who originally earned them. “Crashing Colonels,” “Red Barons,” etc., are now commonplace, and to definitely determine the originals of these titles is almost impossible. However, there is one man, who, if we judge by the consensus of opinion in those places where airmen gather, enjoys his soubriquet without argument or question.

He was a man who started the war as a prisoner of the enemy, was repatriated because of defective eyesight, and lived to prove his eyes the most deadly, searching, and accurate of those of all the airmen who flew for the British, while his irrepressible humor and daredevil recklessness earned for him the name of the “Mad Major.”

On May 7, 1917, the failure of Captain Ball to return from a patrol held the attention of the Allied world. On the same day, unnoticed, the reports show the destruction of an enemy balloon by a Lieutenant Edward Mannock of Squadron 40. No one cried, “The King is dead, long live the King!” Yet well they might have, for this was the first victory of “Micky” Mannock, the “Mad Major,” one of the mysteries of the World War.

Micky, who was to tear through the skies of France like a thunderbolt, leaving a trail of victories surpassing even Captain Ball’s. Micky, who was to become Britain’s ace of aces, with 73 planes to his official credit, and who was to die, known only to his comrades, unfeted and unsung, with only an M.C. as a decoration from his country.

To be sure, the D.S.O. was going through at the time, and posthumously two bars and the V.C. were finally awarded, but even to this day this great ace is little known to the public at large, and it is difficult to learn a great deal about him.

Mannock’s comrades knew that he had been imprisoned by the Turks at the beginning of the war. He had been repatriated, and enlisted at once with the British, serving first with the R.A.M.C., then with the engineers in France, and coming finally to Squadron 40 in April, 1917.

It was soon evident that he was a Hun-hater, one of the few among all the aces. He was not the sportsman type, to whom war was just a game with death as the stake. Nor was he the hunter type, seeking only the joy of the kill. To him the war was “open season” on Germans, and he was out to exterminate them as he would rats or other vermin. He asked no quarter nor gave any, and yet his irrepressible sense of humor and love of a joke was constantly bobbing up.

He it was who, after failing for several days to get the Germans to engage him in battle, dropped a pair of boots on their airdrome with the note attached, “If you won’t come up and fight, maybe you can use these on the ground.”

With his M.C. came his captaincy, and he was made squadron commander. He was older than most aces, being thirty at his death, and he was noted for the care he took of his “new” men. He watched over them carefully, and tried to arrange it so that they would get a victory the first time over. Failing this, he would take them out alone and, finding their victim, he would maneuver the German into a good position for the new pilot’s fire. Then, making sure by a few bursts from his own guns, he would return to the drome, where he would enthusiastically congratulate the fledgling on getting his first German. It is said, in fact, that more than one ace-to-be had his first victory handed him by Micky.

IT IS told, also—and this story is pictured on this month’s cover—that on one of these excursions he gave the mud-covered Tommies in the trenches the thrill of their lives. He and his fledgling had spotted their victim and after some maneuvering Micky had finally forced the German into a position for his youngster to make the kill.

At this instant from the clouds dropped a red Albatross—motors on, and its-tracers already reaching hungrily for the new pilot below. A yank of the stick and Micky had thrown himself square into the line of the Albatross’ fire to save his companion. Bullets crashed through his cockpit and seared holes in his wings, but the German’s dive had been headed off, and a moment later, coming out of a mad vrille, the little S.E.5’s nose was square on the red tail with the black cross.

The Vickers rattled, and the German sped on down to pile up in a trench, while Micky turned back to the battle above. The youngster had failed to get his opponent at the first burst, and the more experienced German by clever flying had gotten himself into a good position for attacking the kid pilots.

However, seeing Micky return to the fray, the German decided to run for it, and turned toward Germany, but little did he know his opponent. The Irishman seemed to go wild. He flung his little S.E.5 after the fleeing Boche and quickly overtook him. Then, to the astonishment of those who watched below, Micky held his fire. Steeply he dived in from the side, forcing the German to turn. But again the Vickers were silent. Apparently the German decided that Micky’s guns were jammed, for he made a desperate attempt to turn to the attack.

Immediately, however, the twin Vickers spoke, spitting hot lead, and forcing him to swing back around. Then to the watching Tommies the game became evident. Like a cat with a mouse the Irishman was playing with the German. Slowly he was forcing the Albatross down.

Lower and lower they came. They were scarcely 100 feet up, and below them was the wrecked remains of the first plane, when suddenly the twin Vickers began chattering. The desperate Jerry swung right and left, only to be met by the deadly hail of bullets from the S.E.’s gun. Then one last burst and those below saw the German jerk from his seat, clawing the air madly in his death agony as his plane crashed, its wings touching the wreckage of the first Albatross.

Two more for Micky! No wonder they called him the Mad Major! And so it went, until, on a similar expedition in July, a machine-gun bullet from the ground found him. At least that’s one version. A second story says that he crashed a German to save one of his fledglings. It was another mystery, but the fact remains that no more would his comrades see him tuck his violin under his chin, and while they sat enthralled, play, “Where My Caravan Has Rested.” For the Mad Major had led his last caravan home.

The Ships on The Cover
“Mannock, The Mad Major!”
Flying Aces, December 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“The Red Eagle” by Harold F. Cruickshank

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WE’RE celebrating the works of Canada’s very own Harold F. Cruickshank this month. Mr. Cruickshank launched his career writing stories based loosely on his war experiences. As tastes turned from straight out battle field stories to air war stories, Cruickshank shifted his setting from the trenches to the cockpit. With stories appearing in such titles as War Birds, War Aces, Sky Birds, Airplane Stories, Flying Aces, and Sky Fighters.

For Harry Steeger’s trio of Popular Publication’s titles—Battle Aces, Dare-Devil Aces and Battle Birds—Mr. Cruickshank developed continuing characters that ran generally in short novelettes each month. Although the final issue of Battle Aces had just hit the stands in November of 1932, Cruickshank created a brand new series when asked to for the new companion magazine to Dare-Devil Aces—Battle Birds in December 1932.

In “The Red Eagle,” Cruickshank gives us Ted Blair—a Yank Eagle who excelled more than any other with fighting guts and his ability to maneuver in tight loops and slip-offs which amazed and baffled his opponents. His eye was quick, as quick as the flash of greased lightning, and his Vickers twins were deadly accurate. In the dive he was merciless; he struck like a hungry, angered eagle, hence his nom de guerre, Red Eagle. That, and because of his flaming red hair and freckled spotted face.

Cruickshank gave him a brood much like the Sky Devil’s—formed from his old B Flight of the 44th, Blair had played with, fought with, nursed, and built up those members of the Brood—Lieutenant Sam Martin, the tall, blond deputy leader; Lieutenant Pete Monty Rider, the hard-egg scrapper from America’s ranch country; Lieutenant Frank “Spud” Fallon, the Irish-Yank, whose wit was no less appreciated than his fighting quality, and his flair for fixing things mechanical; and Lieutenant Dave “Babe” Deakin, the big-framed ex-fullback of Yale, a good-natured fighting hellcat, whose piano playing and singing, though of secondary importance, brought a big hand from his intrepid pals. They were all men of guts. Each wore a single decoration. Each packed an unswerving brand of loyalty and a fighting heart. These were the Red Eagle’s Brood—big-chested, rollicking sky scrappers, who feared nothing, save the tongue of their leader.

The Red Eagle and his Brood were established as an semi-independent flight under the command of Major Bruce Grove. Unfortunately, Grove had his own problems—a splendid fellow in every way, he had jeopardized his position some months back by taking the rap for a wrong done by one of his former flights. He knew that if he rode just once over a Wing order, his term of command was done. Bruce Grove was, literally, on the spot and Wing was ready to get him. Bill Mond, the surgeon, knew this. Ted Blair, the Eagle skipper knew it too.

With all that in mind, we present The Red Eagle’s self-titled premier outing from the December 1932 issue of Battle Birds!

Zeps stalked above; from below a flight of super-Fokkers zoomed, Spandaus snarling. But the Red Eagle led his devil’s brood straight on; like monster bird killers they dived straight for the staffle of Death, determined to slash a gap through this hell trap—or meet their doom fighting!

A listing of Harold F. Cruickshank’s RED EAGLE stories.

title magazine date vol no
1932
The Red Eagle Battle Birds Dec 1 1
1933
The Iron Eagle Battle Birds Jan 1 2
The Phantom Staffel Battle Birds Feb 1 3
The Masked Buzzard Battle Birds Mar 1 4
The Gray Phantom Battle Birds Apr 2 1
The Black Skull Staffel Battle Birds May 2 2
The Red Death Battle Birds Jun 2 3
Hellion’s Brood Battle Birds Jul 2 4
The Coffin Ace Battle Birds Aug 3 1
The Buccaneer Flight Battle Birds Sep 3 2
The Hell Busters Battle Birds Oct 3 3
Dodoes from Hell Battle Birds Nov 3 4
The One-Eyed Squadron Battle Birds Dec 4 1
1934
Storm Eagles Battle Birds Jan 4 2
Mad Shark of Prussia Battle Birds Feb 4 3
Staffel of Skulls Battle Birds Mar 4 4
Squadron of Lost Men Battle Birds Apr 5 1
The Bloodhound Patrol Battle Birds May 5 2
Tiger Patrol Battle Birds Jun 5 3
Dynamite Busters Dare-Devil Aces Oct 8 3
The Bloodhound Flight Dare-Devil Aces Dec 9 1
1935
The Black Comet Dare-Devil Aces Apr 10 1
Gunpowder Eagles Dare-Devil Aces Jul 10 4
The Vampire Flight Dare-Devil Aces Dec 12 1

 

“Sky Devil’s Trap” by Harold F. Cruickshank

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WE’RE celebrating the works of Canada’s very own Harold F. Cruickshank this month. Mr. Cruickshank launched his career writing stories based loosely on his war experiences. As tastes turned from straight out battle field stories to air war stories, Cruickshank shifted his setting from the trenches to the cockpit. With stories appearing in such titles as War Birds, War Aces, Sky Birds, Airplane Stories, Flying Aces, and Sky Fighters.

For Harry Steeger’s trio of Popular Publication’s titles—Battle Aces, Dare-Devil Aces and Battle Birds—Mr. Cruickshank developed continuing characters that ran generally in short novelettes each month. Following on from the success of The Sky Wolf in Battle Aces, Cruickshank was asked to develop a series for the newly premiered sister magazine, Dare-Devil Aces. For Dare-Devil Aces, Cruickshank developed his best known war hero—the rough and tumble Captain Bill Dawe—The Sky Devil! Cruickshank based Bill Dawe on his own infantry commander from WWI.

There was no better flight in France than the Sky Devil and his Brood. Led by Captain Bill Dawe, the famous Yank ace known to all of France as the Sky Devil, the brood consisted of Chuck Verne, Mart Bevin, Slim Skitch and Slug Walton. The crimson devil insignia on their silver Spads brought fear to any German pilot unlucky enough to meet them in the air. But the Sky Devil’s greatest enemy might just be his own C.O., Major Petrie, who had been railroaded into command of 120 Squadron over Dawe’s head. Jealous of Dawe’s popularity, Petrie will do anything to bring down the Sky Devil and his Brood!”

Sky Devil flew through the Hell Skies of 29 adventures in the pages of Dare-Devil Aces from 1932-1935. Cruickshank returned to the savior of the Western Front in six subsequent stories several years later. The first two were in the pages of Sky Devils (June 1939) and Fighting Aces (March 1940). The other four ran in Sky Fighters (1943-1946) where he was aged up and moved to the Second World War where Bill Dawe changes his name to get into the air service and flys along side his son!

Here we present The Sky Devil’s premier outing from the April 1932 issue of Dare-Devil Aces, it’s “Sky Devil’s Trap!”

Swiftly those Yank bombers ripped in, blasting that fake staffel to hell. They didn’t see the Fokkers swinging down from above; didn’t guess they were cold meat—snared in a blood trap from which only the yammering guns of one doomed sky devil could hope to snatch them.

Here is a listing of Harold F. Cruickshank’s SKY DEVIL stories.

title magazine date vol no
1932
Sky Devil’s Trap Dare-Devil Aces Apr 01 02
The Green Devils Dare-Devil Aces Jul 02 01
Hell’s Skipper Dare-Devil Aces Sep 02 03
The Sky Devil’s Brood Dare-Devil Aces Oct 02 04
Killer’s Drome Dare-Devil Aces Nov 03 01
The Sky Tiger Dare-Devil Aces Dec 03 02
1933
Captain von Death Dare-Devil Aces Jan 03 03
The Flaming Ace Dare-Devil Aces Feb 03 04
Sky Devil’s Trap Dare-Devil Aces Mar 04 01
The Haunted Fokker Dare-Devil Aces Apr 04 02
Buzzards’ Brand Dare-Devil Aces May 04 03
Torpedo Buzzards Dare-Devil Aces Jun 04 04
The Bat Patrol Dare-Devil Aces Jul 05 01
Hell Buzzards Nest Dare-Devil Aces Aug 05 02
The Sky Cobra Dare-Devil Aces Sep 05 03
The Outlaw Ace Dare-Devil Aces Oct 05 04
Ace of Devils Dare-Devil Aces Nov 06 01
Skeleton’s Drome Dare-Devil Aces Dec 06 02
1934
The Sky Pirates Dare-Devil Aces Jan 06 03
Staffel of Hate Dare-Devil Aces Feb 06 04
The Flaming Vulture Dare-Devil Aces Mar 07 01
No-Man’s Squadron Dare-Devil Aces Apr 07 02
The Storm Buzzard Dare-Devil Aces May 07 03
The Derelict Patrol Dare-Devil Aces Jun 07 04
Staffel of Skeletons Dare-Devil Aces Jul 08 01
Graveyard Staffel Dare-Devil Aces Sep 08 02
1935
The Stratosphere Patrol Dare-Devil Aces Feb 09 03
The Undersea Buzzard Dare-Devil Aces Jun 10 03
Staffel of Dead Men Dare-Devil Aces Sep 11 02
1939
Wings of the Brave Sky Devils Jun 01 06
1940
A Torch for the Damned Fighting Aces Mar 01 01

 

When Cruickshank brought The Sky Devil back in the 40’s for Sky Fighters, he moved his theater of operations from the First World War to the Second World War. Older, more reckless and enlisted under false pretenses, he’s fighting the good fight and watching out for his son as well!

 

1943
Sky Devil and Son Sky Fighters Jan 28 02
Return of the Sky Devil Sky Fighters Mar 28 03
1946
Settlement in Full Sky Fighters Win 33 01
Sky Route to Hell Sky Fighters Spr 33 02

 

We’ve collected and published all 29 of The Sky Devil’s stories from Dare-Devil Aces into two volumes—Hell’s Skipperand Ace of Devils! In addition, we’ve posted many of the post-Popular stories on the site here (just click on the “Sky Devil” tag below). The books can be picked up through the usual sources—Adventure House, Mike Chomko Books and Amazon!

“Squadron of the Snows” by Allan R. Bosworth

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THIS week we have a story from the pen of the Navy’s own Allan R. Bosworth. This time Bosworth gives us a tale of war in the Alps! Bart Mason, American pilot of Native-American desert is attached to the British squadron posted at the Italian army post west of Treviso. The sector has been terrorized by Paul Katz and his Squadron of the Snows. The problem is, Katz’ Staffel flies all-white planes which seem invisible against the snowy backdrop of the Alps—that is until Bart dons some warpaint!

Somewhere in the ice-covered heights of the Alps that deadly Snow Squadron had its lair— and none could challenge their invisible menace, until a yelling, fighting Indian had a yen to paint the town red.

From the pages of the April 1932 issue of War Birds, it “Squadron of the Snows!”

“War’s Youngest Ace Downs Voss” by Paul Bissell

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THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers 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 October 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Rhys-Davids downs Werner Voss!

War’s Youngest Ace Downs Voss

th_FA_3210YOUTH, winged youth. Youth, flying to meet death.

In all the strange chapters that came from the war there is nothing more incredible than the youthfulness of its air heroes.

23 years old—a major. Officially credited with seventy-five victories in individual combat.

22 years old—a captain. Internationally known for aggressive bravery, the idol of his nation, and a price on his head, dead or alive.

21 years old—a lieutenant. With more than twoscore victories to his credit. Decorated by nations and feted by kings.

And so it went, on down—20 years—19 years—18 years—and there it stops—officially! But listen:

“And you,” said the recruiting sergeant to a glad-faced youngster who stood, bright-eyed, in front of him. “What do you wish?”

“I’ve come to enlist, sir,” replied the boy.

“Enlist, is it? And do you think it’s a kindergarten in France we be asending the lads to?”

“No, sir. I mean to fight,” was the quiet answer.

For an instant the sergeant studied the serious eyes before him. “And your age, my boy?”

“Fift—I mean eighteen, sir.”

“Eighteen, eh,” growled the sergeant, shaking his head as he reached for an enlistment blank. “Do you know what you’re doing, sonny?”

“Righto, sir.”

“Righto, it is then. And eighteen years ye be, though if you’re eighteen, Mister Methusaleh is my name. What’s your name, youngster?”

“Rhys-Davids, sir,” he replied, and a school lad had started on the road to glory, death and fame.

It was early autumn of seventeen, and the 56th Squadron, R.F.C., was in the thick of it. This famous squadron almost daily battled Richthofen and the best of his “gentlemen.” Fought them through the entire war to a credit of 411 planes downed—but not without themselves adding many famous names to the already long list of those who died for England. Included in this list was the name of their famous commander, McCudden, with fifty-eight victories to his personal credit.

Here, with this outfit, was the lad who had come to France “meaning to fight.” And fight he had. Never was there a pilot more willing or eager for a scrap. He would attack recklessly, even though outnumbered, and in a dogfight he became a madman—a madman dealing death to the enemy. And then he would return to his drome to become all boy again. A happy boy, with pets—birds that sang to him—pups that “Waited each day for his return—and tame rabbits that nipped off the shoots in the little garden behind his shack and nibbled greens, from his hand.

Already more than a score of German. had fallen before his fire. Schaffer, of “Richthofen’s Own,” had fought his last fight against this youngster. But it was on September 23, 1917, that he gained his most famous victory.

THE squadron was on patrol, protecting some bombers, when off to one side were seen two German planes. It did not seem likely that they would attack, as the English squadron numbered more than a dozen of Bristols, Camels and S.E.Ss. That is, it did not seem likely until, by the black-and-white-checkered fuselage it was seen that one of the Germans was Lieutenant Werner Voss.

This was one adversary that the Allies held in the greatest respect. Already both his plane and name were known all up and down the Front. He was always looking for combats, and fought generally over Allied territory, which could not be said of Richthofen. And with forty-eight victories over the Allies, Voss, himself of most humble origin, was a serious rival of the noble-born baron.

Indeed, records seem to show that Voss, feeling himself in every way the equal of his rival as an ace, had refused to be the tail protector to Richthofen and, on at least one occasion, when the victories of Voss had reached a number almost equal to those of the Rittmeister himself, the High Command had seen fit to transfer the mere “Lieutenant” to a less active sector, where opportunities for combat were fewer.

With such an opponent as this, the Britishers knew that attack might be expected, and when, a moment later, a patrol of Albatrosses appeared, no one was surprised to see the checkered triplane dive in headlong. Voss’ companion, flying to one side and slightly behind, was almost immediately shot down. And when the Albatrosses refused to accept battle, Voss was left to his fate.

It was an unequal fight, though after the German had winged his way through the first terrific rain of fire from all the other ships, it was Rhys-Davids who engaged him in a duel. Around and around they tore, with Voss, hemmed in on all sides, hoping only to sell his life as dearly as possible. The Fokker tripe, with its German pilot, had met its equal in the little S.E.5 flown by the English boy!

The British plane turned and twisted, meeting maneuver with maneuver, until at last the looked-for opening came and the checkered fuselage for a moment was full in the sights. Just for an instant—but an instant that was filled with spitting lead, an instant that began that mad, twisting dive that ended near Poelcapelle for the triplane with the black crosses on its wings, and ended in eternity for the brave German ace.

Rhys-Davids followed him down to the ground. It was the game—there must be no slip. Then, with motor full on, himself untouched, he raced back to his pets.

The lad—his comrades thought he must be now almost seventeen years old—had thirty-two unofficial victories to his credit, and those gods that be must have laughed as they wrote his name on a shell. No German airman carried it. But an Archie battery, a month later, shot it from the ground. Ten thousand feet up it found him.

Back in his shack the birds still sang in their cages and the rabbits still nibbled in the garden. But the puppies waited the return of their boy master in vain, for the war’s youngest ace had gone West.

The Ships on The Cover
“War’s Youngest Ace Downs Voss”
Flying Aces, October 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Akbar the Black” by O.B. Myers

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THIS week, he 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. He wrote hundreds of stories for the pulps—primarily in the detective and air war pulps. We’ve collected a few of his best he had in Dare-Devil Aces as The Black Sheep of Belogue: The Best of O.B. Myers.

Memo, to all intelligence operatives, and to all Air Squadron Commanders:

    Wanted, for desertion, as a renegade and spy, the following: Full name, Akbar Swaalii Ajjaszid, known as Akbar or Akbar the Black (le Noir). Half-breed African, mixed negroid and Arab parentage; skin dark brown in color. Born in French Somaliland, about 1890; left Jibuti to come to Paris in 1915 as the body-servant of a major of Spaliis. Left his master after arrival, to join a gang of apaches. Involved in stabbing affray in Cafe Fouleau in August, 1915. Enlisted, French Foreign Legion, September of same year. Assigned by request to flying service; trained Pau, Avord; sent to Front in January, 1916, with 5th Escadrille de Chasse (Pursuit). In three months of action gained two accredited victories. Disappeared April 19th; believed to have deserted to the enemy, and to be at the present lime actively engaged in their flying forces. Report of his capture, or evidence of his death, will please be sent to this office at once.

They called him Akbar the Black. His cannibal ship spewed hate through black skies—but even outlaw wings must crack when the ghost of the past calls “Time!”

“Major Vaughn Wins the D.S.C.” by Paul Bissell

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THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers 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 September 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action that lead to Major George Vaughn winning a D.S.C.!

Vaughn Wins the D.S.C.

th_FA_3209“FOR extraordinary heroism in action near Cambrai, France. On September 22, 1918, Lieutenant Vaughn, while leading an offensive patrol, sighted 18 enemy Fokkers about to attack a group of five Allied planes which were flying at a low level. Although outnumbered nearly five to one, he attacked the enemy group and personally shot down two of the enemy planes, the remaining three pilots of his flight shooting down two more. His daring and courage enabled the group of Allied planes to escape ….”

So reads the American army citation on which the D.S.C. was awarded to Lieutenant George A. Vaughn. But between the lines is even more of a story—the story of a youth who left school to serve his country, first with the British and then under his own colors, with the 17th Aero Squadron—the story of a lad who came victorious through many air battles and who, that morning in September, 1918, seeing some of his comrades trapped by the enemy, went unhesitatingly to their aid. He knew he was outnumbered five to one by the Boche, yet he deliberately accepted the desperate odds. He calmly watched the chill hand of death reach for him; coolly he evaded its annihilating clutch and saw its grim fingers close on two of his enemies.

He fought many times after this, wresting victory after victory from the Boche until the war’s end found him one of America’s leading aces, with the rank of major.

It was 8:45 a.m. on a clear sunny morning. Big cumulus clouds about seven thousand feet up floated slowly across No-Man’s-Land, casting great blue shadows on the shell-pocked surface, and themselves affording excellent hiding places for enemy airplanes.

Vaughn, with three companions, was flying just under the clouds, protecting another flight of five Camels about three thousand feet below and slightly in advance of him. From the east fifteen Fokkers came in at about Vaughn’s level. They turned and flew parallel with him, all the time watching the lower flight. Then suddenly they tipped over on their noses and went down in a body on the planes below.

Suspecting a trap, Vaughn immediately searched the skies overhead. Sure enough, there they were—another batch of Germans ready to swoop down like hawks on him and his companions. Instantly he saw the one chance—to lead his flight down into the fight below, and do what damage they could diving in—at the same time giving the five Allied planes a chance to break away-and then try to get out of it before the enemy from above could surround them.

DOWN the four Camels tore, into the twisting dogfight below them—tracer bullets reaching out ahead, searching their red targets. In an instant it was every man for himself. Vaughn saw one of the Camels go down in flames and cursed the damned Boche as his sights picked up a black cross squarely. His fingers squeezed the trips. A wild answering throb as his guns spit flame, and he saw the red machine fall off out of control.

He swung in a tight turn to the left. The whole world now seemed nothing to him but white streaks of smoke cutting the sky in every direction, while red, yellow, green ships— ships with huge black crosses or ships with the tricolored circles of the Allies—seemed to come suddenly from nowhere.

The upper flight was now on him. He could see their tracers swish by him as they came down.

The red belly of a Fokker stood squarely in front of him. A quick burst, and he saw the red tail kick up as the Boche started on his last dive. Number Two—but a burst of bullets came through the cockpit just over his knees. Too close! They had him hemmed in, so he took his only chance, and threw himself into a spin.

Down he went, his tail whipping around and around. In this way he afforded no easy target. But the Germans followed him down, firing burst after burst into him, diving past, zooming back and diving again, their guns blazing. That spin seemed endless.

Luckily, most of the Germans had given him up as finished, and turned back. One last persistent Boche fired a long burst, and then he, too. turned, leaving Vaughn, as he supposed, to crash. Just in time the little Camel answered the controls.

THEN came the greatest blow of the battle. He was out of gas. There was no answering roar from the motor, and with a sinking heart and a vision of German prison camps, he sought a place to set her down. Lower he came. Now scarcely fifty feet was between him and the torn earth, the idling prop was slowing perceptibly, when suddenly it came to him—-the emergency tank! Quickly he switched it on. There was a sputter; then with a full-throated roar the engine took hold and the little machine climbed rapidly up again.

But the battle was over, and now not a plane was to be seen. So, turning toward his airdrome, some twenty minutes away, Vaughn for the first time had an opportunity to think about himself. It was then he was conscious of a burning sensation across his back. His flying suit was soaking wet just below his right shoulder. Wounded, he thought, and to use his own words, “Fine! Now I’ll get a month in the hospital. Or perhaps they’ll send me to Blighty.”

He could feel no pain, so decided it was slight, and landed with a broad smile, feeling he had rather put it over on the boys. Then came the second blow of the day, as the mechanics pointed to where the corner of his gas tank had been shot away. His clothes were soaked, not with blood, but with gasoline. No wound! No Blighty! Well, what the hell! It had been a good scrap, anyway. Six Fokkers had been accounted for, and only two Camels lost.

All Vaughn got then was a new ship. But later, with bands playing and flags flying and a lot of soldiers standing round to see how it was done, they pinned a bit of ribbon on him. Not much for a man who had played with death daily, but just the Army’s way of saying, “This guy’s damn good!”

The Ships on The Cover
“Major Vaughn Wins the D.S.C”
Flying Aces, September 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Famous Firsts” January 1932 by William E. Barrett

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THIS November we’re celebrating William E. Barrett’s Birthday. 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!

Among those factual features was “Famous Firsts” which ran frequently in the pages of War Aces. “Famous Firsts” was an illustrated feature much along the lines of Barrett’s “Is That a Fact?” that was running in War Birds, only here the facts were all statements of firsts. And like “Is That a Fact?” in War Birds, this feature was also taken over by noted cartoonist Victor “Vic Vac” Vaccarezza in 1932.

The January 1932 installment, from the pages of War Birds, features Bert Hall, the first successful attempt to land an agent behind the lines, and the first biplane equipped with a Lewis gun!

“Phantom Eagle” by William E. Barrett

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THIS November we’re celebrating William E. Barrett’s Birthday with one of his pulp stories 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!

From the Tarmac letters column in the January 1932 War Aces—”Unless we misjudge the reading taste of our readers we feel that “Phantom Eagle,” by W. E. Barrett is about the ideal story. It has that balance of action, mystery and fantasy that gives you a new set of thrills. Obviously, it was too bizarre to be entirely fiction, so we asked the author about it. As is the case with most of Barrett’s fiction, it is based on some true incident. Here is his letter:

    You’ve guessed it. There was a great deal of truth behind that yarn. We were up at Ayr, Scotland, getting the finishing touches on acrobatics. In my flight there was a young English lad of the aristocratic type so commonly turned out by Oxford. He was about the best on the field when he felt like it or thought he had an appreciative gallery watching him. He didn’t have a great deal of stomach, though.

    He wiped his landing gear off one day making a stall landing and it was a week before he got over the resultant ground loops. Most of the chaps passed him by—the white feather was a bit obvious. We were all in a little pub one night imbibing a bit when our hero got into a brawl with a sour old Scotsman. He was getting the worst of it and was looking for a way to quit when the son of the heather knocked him cold.

    A big, burly, slow-moving chap got up out of the corner and came over. He faced the Scotsman and methodically assumed a fighting pose.

    “What a Lauterman starts, a Lauterman finishes.” Those were the only words he uttered, but he gave the Scotsman an unmerciful beating. By inquiring around a bit I found the history of those brothers who were so utterly dissimilar. I learned the history of that German father and English mother—the proud loyalty to anything that a Lauterman did held by that elder brother.

    We went out to France and young Lauterman went with us. He didn’t hold up on the line in combat work and was transferred to a bombing outfit. He turned up missing in action one day and we never heard from him after that.

    The rest of the story is pure fiction. I simply pictured what would happen if those two brothers met on the lines. In the last analysis I believe the elder Lauterman would have acted just as I have him do in the story.

— W.E. Barrett.

Hell’s hinges sealed the lips of that Unteroffizier in the pilotless Spad. None could tell how that phantom transfer had been made in shell-torn skies, or the meaning of that dying speech, “What a Lauterman starts, a Lauterman finishes”

From the January 1932 War Aces, it’s a story you won’t soon forget—William E. Barrett’s “Phantom Eagle!”

“Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians” by Paul Bissell

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THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers 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 August 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the cockpit with Baracca as his squadron bombs the Austrian Naval at Pola!

Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians

th_FA_3208“ALL ships are on the line, sir. Bombs are in racks, and they are ready to take off.” The general’s aide saluted smartly, and the general turned ^o a major at his side, who wore his boots like a cavalryman, but whose silver wings showed him to be an aviator.

“You know your orders, major. You will lead the squadron and be guided across by the boats. The planes will follow you at four-minute intervals. When you have found your objective, you will drop your bombs. Captain Barrechi will release his parachute light on the target you designate. After dropping their explosives, all ships will return directly to this airdrome. That is all.”

And instead of the usual salute he held out his hand, which was eagerly grasped by the major.

The field was an Italian airdrome on the west coast of the Adriatic. The major, unlike most aviators of the war, was not a young man. He had entered the Italian army almost fifteen years before, serving in the cavalry, and rising to the rank of captain. In the first days after Italy had cast her fate with that of the Allies and it became necessary to build up an Italian air force, he had, in spite of his “advanced age,” obtained a transfer to this branch of the service, and had quickly become an ace.

Now he was Major Baracca, the Italian ace of aces. All up and down. the entire front he was known not only as a great pilot, but as one of the great air fighters of the world. With a more matured mind than the younger men, he, though ever searching and participating in personal battles with the enemy, was constantly planning and scheming larger offensive movements—movements using whole groups and squadrons, and inflicting severe damage along the Austrian front. More than seventy successful bombing raids were under his personal leadership. More than a thousand times he crossed the enemy line, seeking battle. In thirty-six of these individual combats he had come away victorious, before finally, on June 21, 1918, fighting against tremendous odds, the bullet bearing his name found its mark, and he fell from the skies, a flaming sacrifice to war.

Tonight, in the late summer of 1917, he was leading one of the largest and most daring of his raids. Over to the east the Austrians, in their naval base at Pola, felt themselves safe from attack in the knowledge that the broad Adriatic lay between them and their Italian foes.

At nine-thirty sharp, the first huge ship took the air. One thousand pounds of high explosives were fastened beneath its wings. Below, stretched out across the Adriatic, was a fleet of power boats, speeding across the dark waters, a hooded light shining from each stern to guide the big planes to their destination. Four minutes later, with huge engines roaring, the second plane took off, and so on at four-minute intervals until the entire force was in the air. Twenty planes were in the first squadron, and twenty-six in the second. Long before the last ship had left the field, the first ship had already dropped its missiles and was on its way back home.

The night was deathly still. Not even a light breeze fanned the smooth surface of the sea below. From three thousand feet up Major Baracca could see the tiny light guiding him—a light which he soon overtook, only to pick up another immediately a few miles farther along and speeding in the same direction. And so he passed from one to another of these moving beacons, until he made out the lights of a city on the dim horizon.

Now the tiny light he had been following flashed brightly twice, then swung out in a wide circle and vanished. It was the signal. In front and below him lay the naval base and arsenal of Pola. The moment had arrived. Carefully he made his calculations and peered searchingly into the darkness below. His must be a direct hit. The naval base itself must be spotted, so that Captain Barrechi might drop his parachute flare directly over their objective.

He signaled to his pilot, who nosed the big plane over into an easy glide, motors throttled down and wires singing. He had made almost a complete circle over the town when his eyes picked up the marks he was looking for. A quick order to the pilot, and the plane flattened out, gliding squarely over the target. The bomber leaned tensely over the side, his arm raised, his eyes carefully lining through the sights on the lights below. A quick signal, a click of levers, a slight waver, and two dark masses detached themselves from below the wings and hurtled downward.

One tense instant, and then, far below, two blinding flashes followed by the sharp, terrific intonation of high explosives. Immediately the night was stabbed by beams of light. Major Baracca gazed, eagerly over the sides to mark his hit. The blinding light of one of the beams caught his ship full in its glare, and shells began to burst around him. But below a sudden burst of flame, as a small store of munitions went off, showed that his bombs had landed in the arsenal area.

THE archies were now bombing him heavily. Machine guns spattered, and flaming onions swept through the night. His motors roared as the pilot gave her the gun, and with a wild feeling of exultation Baracca signaled to swing in a wide circle so as to give Barrechi a chance to drop his light, and give himself the benefit of this light, in dropping his other bombs.

As Barrechi glided down and dropped his flare, there was a sharp explosion, followed by a bright downward rush as of a falling meteor. Then a sharp snap as the parachute opened, and the light floated easily in space, swaying gently and lighting up the scene below. With no breeze, the light hung in the air as if anchored.

This came as a complete surprise to the Austrians, and for some minutes there was panic. Men could be seen dashing madly around; the guns actually ceased firing, and even the searchlights snapped off as if trying to hide from the merciless glare above.

Quickly Baracca saw his advantage, and undisturbed by fire from below, he calmly glided his plane lower and directly over a spot marked with a red X on the map held on his knees. Leisurely and with deadly certainty the bomber sighted; his arm flashed downward, and the levers clicked. Tensely they waited, leaning over the side to watch the two bombs drop straight down, their white fins clearly seen in the brilliant light.

For a split second they seemed to disappear as they landed. Then there was a terrific upheaval. A whole section of the surface below seemed to lift itself up in an attempt to reach the plane above—then, giving up its vain effort, to split into a thousand weird shapes and tongues of flame. Explosion after explosion followed, as one building set off another. Again Baracca’s lever worked, and the giant plane dealt another hand of death from the sky.

Now Barrechi was also releasing his bombs. And plane number three was just entering the circle of light. The archies had commenced their fire again, but their aim was wild, for terror had struck the hearts of the Austrians.

For five hours this bombardment continued. One after another the big Capronis, heedless of the shell-fire from below, coolly dropped their eggs. Forty-six ships came over, carrying death and destruction to the Austrians, and forty-six ships returned safely to Italy, with their bomb-racks empty.

The Ships on The Cover
“Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians”
Flying Aces, August 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Nungesser to the Rescue!” by Paul Bissell

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THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers 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 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Lieutenant Charles Nungesser surprises a flight of German Hell hawks!

Nungesser to the Rescue!

th_FA_3207IT WAS a hazy morning in December of ’16. The sun struggled to break through the heavy fog which had for days now hung close to the sodden landscape. Here and there were patches of snow, but in general the land was all half-frozen mud. The armies of the Allies and the Germans had dug themselves in for the winter, satisfied, except for an occasional almost individual effort, merely to hold what they had, fortify themselves against attack, and await spring for offensive movements.

On a French airdrome just a few kilometers back of the lines several ships were being groomed to take off. Motors were warmed up and impatient pilots looked constantly up at the sky, waiting for the fog to clear away. Finally a small Nieuport took off, circling the field and climbing away rapidly, soon to be lost in the mist. On the wings was the tri-color cocarde of the French. On the fuselage was painted a curious insignia. On a black heart was imposed a white skull and crossbones, above which was a coffin with a lighted candle at either end, and to one side was featured in large figures the number 13.

This was the plane of Lieutenant Charles Nungesser, a pilot who, even at this early date in the war, was already an ace, and whose daring and aggressiveness were to lead him into numberless air battles, gain for him the credit of forty-five victories against his adversaries, and leave him, at the end of the war, with more wounds than any living aviator. He fought always for the glory of France, with a recklessness and abandon that did not take into consideration any thought of personal safety. To him days that he could not fly were days wasted. He chafed with impatience when bad weather or wounds kept him from the skies and his eager search for the enemy.

For days now Nungesser had been held down to earth by the bad weather and restlessly he had waited for the sun to break through, until, when telephonic advices from up and down the line told him that the weather was clearing, he took off into the mist rather than wait longer for it to lift.

He was not a thousand feet up when he went into a cloud bank, and, nosing the little machine up slightly, he headed in the general direction of Metz, flying solely by his compass and instinct. All around was gray mist. There was no top, no bottom, just one moist, gray evenness all around. Only the “feel” of his seat told him whether he was climbing, level, or banked over.

Steadily he gained altitude, his windshield running little streams of water, his whole plane glistening wet from the gray mist. Ten, fifteen minutes he climbed; his altimeter now showed twelve thousand feet when suddenly he burst from the grayness into the blazing sunlight. Above him, now, was only the limitless blue, below the great billowy clouds formed an irregular floor, dazzling white in the sunshine, with brilliant blup shadows.

IT WAS some seconds before he could adjust his eyes to the sudden brilliance. Then, off to the left, he made out four planes, mere specks against the horizon. Placing the sun behind him, and still climbing, slowly he gained on them, and before long made them out to be four German Halberstadt scouts. He was now fifty miles north of his airdrome, and the cloud formations were beginning to break up. Great holes in them showed, far below, the woods of Valluber, splotched with sunlight and shadow.

Just east of Lechelle he saw the four scouts suddenly turn over on their noses and go diving through one of these openings. His first thought was that they were simply diving to get below the clouds, but a second glance showed him the reason of their plunge. A British Caudron artillery observation plane was flying calmly below, unaware of the death and destruction hurtling toward it.

A push forward on the wheel and the little Nieuport nosed over, motor full on, roaring in pursuit of the diving Germans. The British pilot, now aware of his danger, banked around sharply, avoiding the first German plane, which flashed by and turned in a wide spiral to renew the attack. The second German, diving with guns blazing, was forced to change his course to avoid the deadly fire that the British observer poured out on him.

Nungesser, as yet unobserved, banked over to keep “in the sun” and be ready for the first German as he turned back to dive at the Caudron. Easing back on his wheel to hold his elevation, he got himself directly in position, counting on the fact that because of the sun at his back he would be unseen by the German, now up on his wingtip, twisting as he turned for his second attack. Over again went the Nieuport’s nose, on went the motor full, and carefully Nungesser guided his headlong flight until at last he saw the German’s tail creep between his sights. A little more and the Boche pilot himself was full in line with the Frenchman’s guns. A squeeze of the trigger and a tracer bullet proved the aim was true. Then a full burst. The German, caught unawares, half-turned in his seat as the bullets spat around him. His arm jerked up sharply as he was hit. Helplessly he attempted to evade the diving Frenchman. He veered off to the left, but his move was anticipated by Nungesser, and another burst, this time into his gas tank, finished the show.

A puff of smoke, then a burst of flame, and the doomed Halberstadt plunged downward, twisting and turning, leaving a trail of smoke behind.

A sharp renversement and Nungesser was back to the defense of the slow-moving Caudron. The Germans, however, seeing their leader go down in flames, had had enough, and were already streaking it for home.

The Ships on The Cover
“Nungesser to the Rescue!”
Flying Aces, July 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

IT WAS ten years later, and again the day was gray. Again a ship stood impatiently at a French airdrome. It was a larger ship this time, a ship carrying untold gallons of gasoline to enable it in one flight to span an ocean. A ship all white, but on its fuselage was again painted that strange insignia, a white skull and crossbones on a black heart. It was scarcely daybreak, but a crowd had collected. Word had gone around that Nungesser and Coli were about to start.

For days and weeks they had waited impatiently on the ground for conditions which would give them at least a chance of success. On the other side of the Atlantic, groomed and ready, other planes were waiting to make this same attempt from the west. No time could be lost if Nungesser was to.gain for his beloved country the honor of the first successful flight between France and America. The telegraph clicked, word was flashed that the weather over the Atlantic seemed favorable, or at least as favorable as they might hope for. The chance must be taken.

Quick orders were given. The motor, already warmed, was again tested. Last-minute directions and dispatches were given, and farewells spoken. Two men climbed into the cockpit. All was ready. A face leaned out of the cabin, a hand went up in a waved farewell to the crowd. The chocks were pulled, and the plane started down the runway. A moment later, and the great White Bird, staggering under its weight of gasoline, rose into the air, and Nungesser, one of France’s great air heroes, had started on his last flight.

Twenty hours had passed. Once again a plane struggled in the dense nothingness of the fog. A pilot who had come victorious through many air battles against the Germans was now at death grips with the elements themselves. A missing motor, wings heavily laden with ice, fuel low, and a storm-whipped sea beneath. The last grim secrets of that brave flight have been hidden forever.

On the night of Nungesser’s fateful flight there was on the west shore of the Atlantic a British ex-war pilot who owed his life to the French ace, a pilot who waited anxiously for word of the White Bird’s safe arrival, waited anxiously and waited in vain. And there is a legend that on a high cliff of the bleak Newfoundland coast there is a small stone that looks ever out toward sea. It has no name, and bears but two words, “In Memory.” And carved deep in the solid granite slab is once again that strange insignia—a skull and crossbones on a heart.

“The Singing Major” by Raoul Whitfield

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THIS week we have a story by Raoul Whitfield! 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. We’ve posted a few of his Buck Kent stories from Air Trails. While the Buck Kent stories were contemporary (1930’s), “The Singing Major” from the January 1932 issue of War Aces is set in The Great War and, in fact, based on a real person. At the time of publication, Whitfield told the editors of War Aces that the legends of this major are still talked about among the peasants in one locality. His was a temperament they couldn’t understand, hence many are the wild stories about him.

One in particular they like to tell. A ranking colonel came to the major’s field for one of those everlasting inspections. The major smilingly met him and then, in front of the whole company and while humming Madelon, he knocked the colonel down. He did it to get the court-martial that would relieve him of his command, but the audacity of the act left him scot free. The colonel excused the act on the grounds of ragged nerves from overwork and war strain. His next effort was to knock a buck private kicking, but again it didn’t work. The major went through the war with something eating him inwardly and trying all sorts of things at the most unexpected moments to get himself in clink.

He looked mild, but he was rough, tough and nasty—that Singing Major, Up and down the Front he was famous for anything from arson to mayhem until he answered his third curtain call and found the Reaper himself blocking the wings.

“Little Orphan Danny” by Allan R. Bosworth

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THIS week we have a story from the pen of the Navy’s own Allan R. Bosworth. Being a Navy man, Bosworth’s stories primarily dealt with the Navy. However, this week’s story from the pages of War Birds, Bosworth gives us something different—the Steenth Squadron has a German spy in their midst. Dizzy Donovan exists the help of a local orphan the squadron has taken a shine to to help ferret out the hidden Boche agent. But the pilots are the ones in for a surprise at Little Orphan Danny’s birthday Party! From the pages of the December 1932 it’s “Little Orphan Danny!”

Dizzy Donovan, premier poet of the air, took an orphan to raise. When the pilots of the Steenth tried to celebrate Little Danny’s birthday they learned about the war from him!

“Sea Bats” 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 war time intrigue from the pages of the April 1932 issue of War Birds—”Sea Bats!”

A flying ship without a pilot; a murder without a murderer; a base without a hangar—Squeak knew something was haywire. It took double-crossed wings to throw the shadow of black crosses where they belonged.

 

And as a bonus, here’s another newspaper article about Lester Dent! This time it’s an article of Lester planning on touring the west retracing the route he had taken as a kid in a covered wagon. From The La Plata Home Press, it’s “Magazine Writer To Tour West!”

 

Magazine Writer To Tour West

La Plata Home Press, La Plata, MO • 13 AUGUST 1931

Doing Farm Work Here Occupied Part of Vacation

THIRTY years ago, Bern Dent of LaPlata, then a rancher in the West, trailed cattle herds over a route thru the Northwest. The country was then sparsely settled. Today, his son, Lester Dent, New York fiction writer and author of western stories, starts from his LaPlata farm home to cover this same territory and on to the coast, not in a slow-moving van, but in a high-powered motor car.

Crossing the Big Horn mountains, Mr. Dent will also retrace the course of a trip he, as a small boy, made in company with his parents in a covered wagon, before the era of motor cars and good roads. On this trip, there were no bridges and they camped three weeks on the banks of Big Powder river, waiting for that fast-flowing stream to subside until it could be forded.

After helping put up hay, and wielding a hoe on his father’s farm here, Lester Dent went to Carrollton, Mo., Thursday, where he plans to join his wife for a motor trip through the Black Hills, the Yellowstone and Jackson Hole country, Oregon, Utah and Colorado. A sister-in-law, Miss Corrine Gerling, of Carrollton, will accompany them.

Mr. Dent will obtain material to be used in a series of western stories he is writing. He will return to LaPlata in three weeks or a month, and in October will return to New York for the winter.

The story of Lester Dent and his development as a fiction writer is as interesting as any story he has written. On the cover page of such magazines as All-Fiction, Popular, Western Trail, War Brides, War Aces, you will find the name of Lester Dent, and now, after writing all kinds of adventure stories, his name is found in Scotland Yard and other such magazines, as a writer of detective stories.

“How Barker Won the V.C.” by Paul J. Bissell

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THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers 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 February 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Major Barker fights his way through Hell skies to down five German planes in a single day!

How Barker Won the V.C.

th_FA_3202JUST four years before, it had been Barker. W.G. Private 106074, First Canadian Rifles. Today, October 17, 1918, it was Major Barker, D.S.C., M.C., with forty-six Germans to his credit, who was waving good-bye to his squadron mates as in his Snipe machine he took off for England. The day was clear, and those on the ground smiled as they saw the little machine climb higher and higher. Yes, Billy Barker was obeying orders and “proceeding to England,” but via Germany, and one last scrap.

He was four and a half miles up when he met his first enemy, a double-seater machine, with a good pilot and a scrappy observer. Twice Barker attacked before he sent this plane down. Then, when the machine burst into flames, he pulled out of his dive, leveling off just as a burst from above caught him completely unawares.

He slipped away on a wing, but not soon enough to avoid an explosive bullet which completely shattered his left thigh. Turning to the attack, his fast-maneuvering Snipe quickly got him into a position where, with deadly coolness, he finished his second German of the day.

Dizzy from loss of blood, he suddenly found the sky around him literally black with German pjanes. The watching Tommies on the ground estimated that the planes numbered no less than sixty.

Without hesitation Barker dived at the nearest enemy. Number three went down.

Now the Germans were firing at him from every direction. His machine was hit repeatedly and he himself was wounded again, this time in the right thigh. His machine out of control, he fell into a spin, followed down by the whole German circus. After a few thousand feet, however, the rush of air revived Barker, and savagely he returned to the attack.

A quick tight loop—his favorite maneuver—one short burst, and the fourth German went down in flames. But again Barker pays dearly. This time another explosive bullet takes away his entire left elbow joint. Once again he goes into a spin, down he twists, the Boche diving after and riddling his machine. The gas tank is demolished. Fighting desperately to maintain consciousness, he switches his engine to his auxiliary tank, and once again turns on his foes.

But the battle is over. Faint from loss of blood, scarcely conscious, Barker, with one last effort, turns his plane toward the west, and dives headlong toward the shell-pocked earth, piling up in a barbed wire entanglement just inside the British lines.

Downed at last, but still alive and smiling. Sixty to one were the odds. Five German planes was the toll he took.

The best that England could give in medical attention was his. Slowly they nursed him back to health, and Major Barker became Colonel William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O., M.C., with fifty-one official air victories to his credit—and he was less than twenty-four years old!

The Ships on The Cover
“How Barker Won the V.C.”
Flying Aces, February 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

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