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

Link - Posted by David on October 3, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the November 1933 cover, It’s the S.E.5 vs the Phalz D-3!

THE ships pictured on this month’s th_SF_3311 cover are the S.E.5 and the Pfalz D-3.

The Pfalz was a single-seater chaser manufactured by the Flugzeugwerke firm founded by two famous pioneers of the German aviation industry, the Everbusch Brothers.

Germany built many types of planes during the World War. The Pfalz was one of her outstanding successes. Its motor was a 160 h.p. Mercedes, capable of swinging the plane through the air at 102½ m.p.h. when at a height of 10,000 feet. Low down its 160 horses could pull it along at a slightly increased speed. It was stable laterally, but unstable directionally and longitudinally. It answered to its controls obediently, but always had a tendency to keep turning to the left in flight.

The pilot from his office gets a good view of all that’s going on in all directions except where the top wing interferes with his vision.

The heavy Mercedes made this ship nose-heavy and many an ambitious German pilot got into plenty of trouble in putting his Pfalz into a dive and keeping it there too long. He had a difficult job in yanking the front end of his sky steed into level flight. He also had to watch his step when landing or he was likely to roll up in a ball.

The single-bay “V” struts were probably adopted from the early Nieuport design. The Germans, instead of connecting the lower part of the “V” placed a short member against the lower wing, hoping to get additional strength and to be able to anchor the bracing wires somewhat apart.

Two ships coming together in the air usually means curtains for both. Boelke, the famous German Ace, was killed when his plane was barely grazed by a ship being flown by one of his pupils. Many other airmen have cracked up in this way.

In the picture on the cover it is a toss up whether the Allied pilot will get his ship down safely. His undercarriage has snapped clear of its moorings. If he can keep control of his ship for a split second, he will be able to clear the tail of the German ship and possibly bring his own plane down for a pancake landing. If he can find two trees with a gap between them of about twenty feet he can sheer off his wings and slow up his smash. In the case of the German in his wing-wrecked Pfalz there is not a doubt of his end. He is through.

The S.E.5 single-seater scout (the S.E. stands for Scouting Experimental) was about the smoothest job in its class }hat the British turned out. It was a product of the Royal Aircraft establishment. It was powered by a Hispano-Suiza 220 h.p. motor. It could do around 120 miles an hour. The downward visibility was improved by cutting away a portion of the lower plane close to the body. A Lewis Vickers gun was parked on the left side of the hood in front of the pilot. A Lewis gun was mounted on a track arrangement above the top wing. The pilot was able to pull the butt end of his gun down till he could shoot at a vertical angle at any ship which got above him. This gave him a decided advantage over the single seaters of the enemy’s ships.

The dihedral of the wings was noticeably greater than any other British ship of its time. Landing, the pilot had to be mighty careful, as did the Pfalz pilot in his ship—both ships were nose-heavy.

Major Jimmie McCudden, the British Ace, who downed fifty-three enemy planes before a Spandau bullet carrying his initials snuffed out his glorious career, swore by the S.E.5s. He claimed, as did other of his brother pilots, that it was the finest ship produced during the war. It could hold its own in any maneuver that a Boche ship might force it into and nine times out of ten come out top dog.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Westland N-17 Seaplane and a German submarine!

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 11: Ernst Udet” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on September 28, 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 German Ace—Ernst Udet!

Ernst Udet was one of the highest scoring Aces in the German airforce—second only to the great Manfred von Richtofen with 62 victories to his 80! He entered the German Army in 1914 before becoming a fighter pilot serving in Jastas 4, 11, 15, 37 and eventually commanding the 37th and 4th fighter squadrons. However, injuries he had sustained forced the Ace out of active combat in late September 1918—which may have helped him survive the war, unlike Richtofen.

Udet was a young man of 22 at the end of the war. Following Germany’s defeat, Udet post-war career in the 1920s and early 1930s saw him work as a stunt pilot and in movies, international barnstormer, light aircraft manufacturer, and all around playboy before joining the Nazi party in 1933 and working to recreate the Luftwaffe that would play such a pivotal role in the coming Second World War.

Udet’s wartime success came to an abrupt end however in 1941. Accused by General Erhard Milch of bringing about the Luftwaffe’s shortcomings as demonstrated during the Battle of Britain, and under fire from Goring himself, Udet—who had become critical of the Nazi regime—’chose’ to commit suicide. His suicide was concealed from the public at the time and he was lauded a hero who had died in flight while testing a new weapon. Udet was buried next to Richtofen. He was 45.

(Editor’s Note: These early installments of Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” that were published in the pulp-sized issues have been reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Oswald Boelke

Link - Posted by David on September 21, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s one of Germany’s greatest air fighters—Captain Oswald Boelke!

All the heroes of the flying forces were not on the Allied side. The enemy also had its heroic figures.

Captain Boelke was among the greatest of the enemy air fighters. He reigned supreme until his death; then Baron von Richtofen came along to carry on where Boelke left off.

The German air fighting tactics varied somewhat from those of the Allies, tending more towards mass attack, emulating in that respect the German system of arms to attack in force with superior number, For that reason accounts of German air fights are not usually as spectacular or glamorous as accounts of Allied fights. Boelke’s account of his fight with a dead pilot, however, borders on the realms of fiction, and could hardly he believed if it did not come from such a practical-minded, stolid figure as was the German flying Captain.

 

THE PHANTOM PILOT

by Captain Oswald Boelke • Sky Fighters, November 1933

ON THE 27th of September (1916) I attacked with my patrol a flight of six English single-seaters. I knocked down one of them, and immediately picked on another. But as I whirled into the second attack, the first machine, whose pilot I thought I had killed, having seen my tracer stream right into his face, made for me. I tried to escape the charge, but nothing I did seemed to avail. The enemy plane glued right on my tail. I was very much surprised at his tenacity.

After all, I was certain that I had killed the English pilot minutes before, yet here he was, still flying around in a circle stubbornly. The fact was mysterious indeed. I flew over very close to the enemy machine to investigate, and saw that the pilot was prostrate over the gunwales of his cockpit. He certainly seemed dead.

Sure, then, that the plane could do me no harm, I left it and banked off, to tackle another Englishman whom my comrades had rounded up for me. I got him without difficulty, sending him down in a slow spin.

Then the mysterious plane with the dead pilot at the controls veered around and headed toward me.

And what a strange thing! It crept up to within fifty meters of my plane. Next thing I knew, a stream of tracer spewed from its nose. The bullets rattled through my fuselage. I nosed down to escape the slugs. The plane shot overhead, so I banked around and slid down after the spinning Englishman. When the Englishman crashed in a shell crater, the other plane seemed suddenly to straighten out and scoot for its own lines.

I followed and watched, saw it land easily in an open space behind its own lines. When it stopped rolling, soldiers from the trenches came out and pulled the pilot from the pit. They laid him out on the ground and covered him with a blanket, face and all. One of the soldiers crossed himself. I knew then my own conclusions were confirmed. The pilot was really dead. But the way that plane maneuvered with a dead hand on the control stick was positively uncanny.

It had me in a cold sweat. I finally figured out that the plane was rigged so perfectly that it really flew itself.

That it seemed to tail me was pure coincidence. As for the slugs that poured from its nose, they were merely the result of a last convulsive muscular movement of the dying pilot. But I tell you, one experience like that is enough! I would rather fight ten daring, darting Englishmen all at once, than do solitary battle with a ghost plane with dead hands at the controls.

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

Link - Posted by David on September 19, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the October 1933 cover, It’s a battle of a lone Salmson being harassed by some Fokker D-7s!

The Ships on the Cover

THE SHIPS pictured on this month’s th_SF_3310cover are Fokker D-7s and a lone Salmson.

The Salmson was manufactured by the French firm Societe des Moteurs Salmson. It was one of the most reliable observation ships used during the World War and was flown extensively by the French. The Americans and Italians also used it to good advantage.

Its engine was a Salmson 260 h.p. radial turning over 1500 revolutions per minute. The cylinders arranged radially like the modern Wrights were mounted around a two part crankcase. Nine tubes brought the exhaust to a collector, formed as a ring and arranged in front of the cylinders. This is the outer rim of the nose of the ship.

The cylindrical shape of the nose with its numerous ventilating slits is distinctive. In fact it can be mistaken for no other war-time ship.

The span of the Salmson on the cover is 39 ft. The length 27½ ft. Its top speed was just under 120 m.p.h. It could climb to 10,000 ft. in 18 minutes.

Although this ship was far ahead of its time in streamlining, it had a certain bulky appearance that suggested it might be a stubborn brute when answering to its controls. Just the reverse was true. It could be taken up carrying a pilot and an observer and made to do things and go places.

Therefore the predicament in the picture may not be as serious for the Allied airmen as one would think at the first glance. The pilot has rolled his ship so that his gunner can blast the Fokker zooming up from below at the rate of 800 feet per minute. The pilot’s front gun is lined up on the tail of a second Fokker hammering out a stream of Vicker’s slugs.

Downing these two “N” strutted German planes will cut down the odds tremendously. But as long as even one of these blunt-snouted German pursuit ships remain in the sky the Allied flyers have plenty to worry about.

The Fokker was considered Germany’s best fighting plane produced during the war. It was a radical change from her ships which followed the sweep-back design of the Taube wing construction. There were no graceful sweeping lines on Tony Fokker’s bus; just a business-like ruggedly constructed engine of destruction. It could match any maneuver of an Allied ship except in diving.

In a dive it had a tendency to pull up. Many of its opponents, getting in a tight fix with a D-7 and seeing Spandau slugs lacing fabric to ribbons got away from seemingly certain death by opening wide their throttles and diving toward the earth.

The Fokker was powered by the famous Mercedes 160 h.p. motor, the most efficient of many fine power plants produced by German engineers. This engine had such stamina and dependability that some Allied pilots removed them from captured German planes and placed them in their own ships.

The entire fuselage assembly of the Fokker was constructed of steel, even including members where wood is almost universally used. The wings, reversing the steel construction principally used in the fuselage, were made entirely of wood.

External bracing wires are not used between the wings. Both upper and lower wings are without dihedral.

Salmson and Fokker ships were highlights of ingenious designers’ skill. Radically different in design, but both capable of doing their allotted jobs in a businesslike manner.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the S.E.5 and Phalz D-3!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Albert Ball

Link - Posted by David on May 18, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s British Captain Albert Ball’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Captain Albert Ball was the first of the Royal Flying Corps pilots to make a distinguished record. Unlike the French, the British made no mention of their air pilot’s victories. One day Ball wrote home that he had just counted his 22nd victory. His mother proudly showed this letter to her friends. Ball was disbelieved.

It was beyond belief at that time that any single pilot could have shot down so many enemy planes. Ball was finally vindicated. From that time on the British publicized the exploits of flying aces. Ball shot down 43 enemy planes and one balloon, being at the time of his death the Ace of Aces of all the armies.

He received every decoration the British Army could give him, including the Victoria Cross. He was killed in a new British triplane by the younger von Richthofen the day after America entered the War.

The account below is taken from a letter to his family in Nottingham.

 

AN ENGLISH ACE’S BEST FIGHT

by Captain Albert Ball • Sky Fighters, December 1933

WHILE cruising high over my own lines I spotted a formation of eight enemy machines about 5 kilometers away. They were well within their own lines, so I circled around slowly, watching, waiting for them to come after me. But they did not.

I decided then to do the attacking myself. The Hun formation let me come on without any apparent effort to scatter. I had my thumbs on the trigger trips, but I was determined not to fire until I got within deadshot range. I knew I had to knock down my first target to shatter their morale. Down, down I went, expecting Hun fire all the time. But oddly none came. They usually fire at very long range. But in another hundred yards I saw why they withheld fire. All at once they opened up simultaneously with a steady stream of slugs.

I was diving so fast and so steep that I couldn’t swerve off from that hail of lead. I had to go through run the gauntlet. I did, diving even steeper, trusting my life to the hands of Fate. The slugs sieved through my ship. I held my breath, shoved on my cockpit, ducked my head, won through without getting nicked in a vital spot.

Before the gunners could swing their muzzles and center me, I pulled up in a climbing zoom, nosing right into the blind belly of the nearest Hun. At fifteen meters I pressed my triggers. The pilot crumpled over. The ship went spinning down. I went over on my back, straightened out, lined another. It burst into flames with my second salvo of fire.

The German formation was completely disorganized now. They turned and fled in all directions. I chased one, centered my fire from directly behind. My bursts were effective. A wing crumpled, collapsed. It went down. I banked, and took after another, caught up with him, gave him the same dose. The ship went spinning down. Four in one fight! It was a record for me.

I banked and chased the other three far into Germany. But had to give up before I caught them. My petrol was running short, and I have an unholy fear of being forced down in enemy territory.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Navarre

Link - Posted by David on May 4, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s French Lieutenant Navarre’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

The year before America entered the War, there was one name that was consistently emblazoned in the papers along with Marshal Joffre, Earl Kitchner, and the other high ranking generals. It was the name of Navarre, the “Sentinel of Verdun.” Navarre was the first Ace, the first man to destroy live enemy aircraft in plane to plane combat. At the first battle of Verdun he did yeoman duty. It was his reports brought in after solo patrols far in the rear of the German lines that enabled Marshal Joffre to so dispose his defense troops at Verdun that the attacking armies under the command of the German Crown Prince were never able to take the city.

Alone, of all the French fortifications, it stood impregnable through the entire War. To Navarre, as much as to anybody else, belongs the credit for this victory. It was only during Navarre’s last days on the front that his plane was equipped with a machine-gun.

Despite that fact, he rolled up a record of 12 enemy planes brought down and destroyed before he was wounded and permanently disabled. His account below is from the records of a French journalist.

 

AN UNUSUAL VICTORY

by Lieutenant Navarre • Sky Fighters, December 1933

THE AIR FIGHT which I believe the most remarkable is one which took place far beyond Verdun. A German photo plane had come down out of the clouds unexpectedly right over the fortress, had circled around undisturbed and taken pictures. I got the call at my airdrome just as I had landed from a flight.

Without taking time to fill with gasoline or load up with more ammunition, I hopped in my ship and took off again. When the enemy ship saw me coming, it banked off and headed for home. I poured on all juice and raced after it.

The distance between us narrowed very slowly. My heart was in my mouth. I was sad. I knew I must get that ship before it landed with its pictures. I goosed my throttle and spark, stuck the nose of my ship down until I was just skimming the ground. Boche rifles shot at me.

Stitches of little round holes appeared like magic in my wings. But I raced on with greater speed because I was close to the ground. The Boche photo ship was still high up, but beginning to circle. I prayed for time to wait! Pushed on my controls, did everything! Just managed to get beneath the Boche as he was coming down for a landing on his own drome. The Boches on the ground saw me. They hustled out other ships. I nosed up to meet the down coming Boche with my hand tense on the trigger of my Lewis gun. At fifty yards I gave a burst. It missed.

The Boche answered with two bursts. I banked and slipped away. The Boche nosed after me, sending out bullets all the while. Two other planes were taxiing across the ground. They would be up soon!

I had to do something swiftly, or not at all. I banked around, headed towards the photo plane, got it sighted and pressed my trigger again. But nothing happened! I had run through the last of my ammunition with the previous burst. I stuck my nose down. The Boche photo plane came after me, right on my tail. I stood up. in my seat, looked at my gun hopelessly. Looked back over my shoulder. The Boche plane was almost on me. The pilot was grinning. His propeller was almost gnawing at my tail surfaces. But there were no shots.

A sudden idea hit me. I reached up, wrenched the empty ammunition drum from my Lewis. Without waiting I hurled it back over my head. The propeller blast carried it straight back. I heard a chattering thud, then a hissing plop. I looked back over my shoulder. The drum had shattered the Boche’s prop. One blade had broken. The engine was wobbling in its frame. I swung out of my dive, banked up. The Boche hurtled past out of control, plunged into the earth, burst into flames.

The other Boche got up, raced me all the way to Verdun. But I beat them back. They didn’t come across after me. They turned back at the lines. That without question is my most remarkable flight.

“Night Eagle” by Harold F. Cruickshank

Link - Posted by David on April 22, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

WE’RE back with another exciting air adventure from the pages of the pulp magazines of the 1930’s. This week we have a tale from the pen of that Canadian stalwart—Harold F. Cruickshank. Cruickshank was a prolific writer. He wrote all manner os stories for the pulps—war, aviation, westerns, even animal stories!

Here we have a story from the December 1933 issue of Sky Fighters. In Night Eagle Cruickshank tells a tale of Squadron Twenty tasked with taking out a German ammo dump and meeting with little success.

Johnny Blair was all set to smash the german ammo dump to smithereens—but his bombs proved to he duds!

For more great tales by Harold F. Cruickshank, check out Sky Devil: Hell’s Skipper—All along the Western front, everyone was out to get The Sky Devil’s Brood! There was no better flight in France. 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’s Brood!”

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Raoul Lufbery

Link - Posted by David on April 20, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s the inimitable Major Raoul Lufbery’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

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. The story below was told to a Chicago newspaper correspondent a few days before his death at Toul airdrome

 

THREE AVIATIKS (?) WITH ONE SHOT

by Major Raoul Lufbery • Sky Fighters, December 1933

YOU ASK me my most memorable flight? Let me think a minute. Ah, I have it! It was the day at Luxeuil soon after we got our new Nieuports, the day the great air armada bombed Karlsruhe on the Rhine.

With Prince, De Laage, Masson, I took off from the drome at Luxeuil. We climbed all the time. Below us was the formation of French and British bombers we were to escort. Above were great masses of clouds. We went up through them, looking for Boche on top. But, there were none. That is, I saw none, but I felt that I was being watched.

I glanced up suddenly. Just in time! A three-seater Aviatik was diving on me. My companions had gone ahead. I turned back quickly, making believe I had not seen the Aviatik. I wanted the pilot to come closer before I started shooting.

The Boche tracer screamed over my head. I moved the stick, sent my Nieuport into a screeching chandelle. The black Aviatik whirled past me, tracer streams spouting like fountains. I straightened out, my fingers going tight on the gun trips. I dived, got the Aviatik in range, let go with a long burst while I feathered the controls, making my tracer stream weave. But the Boche pilot was no amateur. He slipped away.

His bullets shattered my compass. The alcohol in the bowl spurted, clouding my goggle glasses. I shoved them up on my forehead. The alcohol sprayed in my eyes, burned. I blinked. All I could see was red. I was blind! But I heard the Boche tracer ripping through my wings. I dived, then maneuvered crazily. I shook my head, threw off one mitten, wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. All the time I was weaving my stick, diving and zooming alternately, to give an erratic target. My eyes began to clear and I looked out overside.

I saw three Aviatiks then. All black, all shooting at me. I maneuvered some more, managed to get my guns lined on one of them. I pressed the gun trips quickly. My tracer streamed out in a blue haze. All three Aviatiks tumbled over in the sky and fell down at once. I banked, went circling after them to see that they crashed. It was only when I was almost to the ground, that I saw it was only one Aviatik that had crashed.

My eyes, blurred by compass alcohol, had tricked me. There was only one Aviatik where I had seen three. I got only one when I thought I had three. But I was happy enough,
anyway.

That one Aviatik might have got me if—I had not been so lucky.

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

Link - Posted by David on April 13, 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 English Ace—Major Lanoe G. Hawker!

Lanoe George Hawker joined the Royal Flying Corps and quickly developed a reputation as an aggressive pilot. In April 1915, armed with just a few bombs and some hand gernades, he successfully attacked a Zeppelin plant at Gontrobe while flying a BE-2. This earned him the Distinguished Service Order.

A few months later, on 25th July 1915 Hawker became the first fighter pilot to win the Victoria Cross for air combat. Flying a single-seater Bristol Scout and armed with a single-shot cavalry carbine mounted on the starboard side of the fuselage, Hawker attacked an enemy two-seater over Ypres. He managed to not only bring that plane down, but two others as well—and all three had been armed with machine guns!

Promoted to the rank of major, Hawker died after taking part in one of the longest dogfights of the war. Flying an Airco DH-2 over Bapaume on 23rd November, 1916, Hawker was eventually shot down and killed by Manfred von Richthofen.

(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 10: Captain Ball, British V.C.” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on March 16, 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 English Ace—Captain Albert Ball!

Captain Albert Ball was the first of the Royal Flying Corps pilots to make a distinguished record. Unlike the French, the British made no mention of their air pilot’s victories. One day Ball wrote home that he had just counted his 22nd victory. His mother proudly showed this letter to her friends. Ball was disbelieved.

It was beyond belief at that time that any single pilot could have shot down so many enemy planes. Ball was finally vindicated. From that time on the British publicized the exploits of flying aces. Ball shot down 43 enemy planes and one balloon, being at the time of his death the Ace of Aces of all the armies.

He received every decoration the British Army could give him, including the Victoria Cross. He was killed in a new British triplane by the younger von Richthofen the day after America entered the War.

(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 9: David Putnam” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on March 2, 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 American Ace—Lt. David Putnam!

David Endicott Putnam, a descendant of Revolutionary War General Israel Putnam, was a Harvard student before running off to join the French Foreign Legion in may 1917. From there he transferred to the air service. Putnam has thirteen confirmed victories, but his unconfirmed totals could range as high as twenty-six or thirty—he’s known for shooting down five planes in one day (although only three were confirmed).

Putnam was awarded the Croix de Guerre, with palms and stars, The Medaille militaire, the Cross of the Legion of Honor, the American Areo Club Medal and the Distinguished Service Cross—the last posthumously. Putnam was shot down in September 1918 by German Ace Georg von Hantelmann and laid to rest in Toul beside Luftbury, Blair and Thaw.

(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.)

“Slow-Speed Demon” by Robert J. Hogan

Link - Posted by David on January 15, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

This time around we have a tale from the man that brought us The Red Falcon, Smoke Wade and G-8 and his Battle Aces—Robert J. Hogan! From the pages of the June 1933 number of Flying Aces, we have a tale of modern aviation—Chuck Page pits his plane he’s cobbled together against the big boys in a cross-country race!

Set an old orange crate of a ship up against a couple of low-winged speed demons in a cross-country air race—and they’d call you crazy. But some people say that a race is more a test of the pilot than of the ship, and maybe they’re right. Here’s a story of modern aviation to prove it.

“How The War Planes Flew” by Robert Sidney Bowen

Link - Posted by David on May 13, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

From the pages of the June 1933 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing R. Sidney Bowen to conduct a technical department each month. It is Mr. Bowen’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Mr. Bowen is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot of the Royal Air Force, but also because he has been the editor of one of the foremost technical journals of aviation.

FORMATION FLYING

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters, June 1933)

WELL, maybe I’m getting good, or maybe you buzzards have ganged up together and decided to kid your old Uncle Wash-out. But anyway, I’m certainly getting a flock of letters asking me all sorts of questions. And would you believe it?—most of them are real sensible. They almost make me believe that you apes keep your ears buttoned back when I start to talk. As I said, maybe I’m getting good, and then again maybe I’m—! Oh, well, we’ll let that one go this time.

However, it all leads up to the fact that I’ve just received a note from Tony Battagalia out in Chicago. Now there is a buzzard who does his sleeping in the night time only. He keeps his eyes open while the sun is shining—and even on rainy days, too. In his note he tells me what a wonderful war eagle I must have been (which of course is quite correct), and then he asks me to get in a few words about formation flying.

Well, I was going to speak about knitting woolen helmets for high altitude flying, but in view of the fact that Tony wants to hear about formation flying then that’s what he’s going to hear about. Of course some of you other buzzards may think that you know all about that sort of thing. If you do just stick your chins in your vests and don’t snore too loud. Tony and the other lads crave information, so take a tip and shut up.

FORMATION flying is, of course, just what the two words signify—flying together in a group in a definitely arranged group. And why? Of course you can guess. When soldiers march they don’t go along the street in mob fashion, half of them in the gutter and the other half shuffling across peoples’ front lawns. No, they march in closed order. And the main idea is so that the whole group will execute an order as though they were one man. The same idea holds true for cavalry, gun batteries, tanks, etc. Formation is maintained so that the group will act as a solid unit.

Now, that is great stuff for the fighting forces on the ground. They can march into battle in formation positions, and in some cases they can fight a battle and still keep their formation. In the case of infantry going over the top, they go over in what are known as waves. The first wave is a line of soldiers spaced so many feet apart. In some cases it may be two lines. Then comes the second wave, and if necessary a third wave. But what I’m trying to bring out is that the soldiers advance upon the enemy in formation. When they meet the enemy and it becomes a case of hand to hand conflict, their original formation is of course broken up. But up to that point, the soldiers that were not killed while advancing across no man’s land kept an advancing formation that made it possible for their officers to maneuver them as a solid group.

THAT is exactly what happens in the air—planes fly in formation not because it looks pretty, but so that all of them will maneuver as a fixed body when the signal comes from the pilot in command. Troops on the ground march behind their commanding officer. The reasons for that are, first; an officer leads his men. That’s why he’s an officer. Second, so that they will be able to see or hear his commands and execute them as a unit.

So naturally, it follows that the commanding air officer leads his pilots through the air. And the best way to lead them is when they are flying behind him in formation position. When in formation they can see his signals, and by looking back he can see them.

Now, that brings us up to the matter of the various types of aerial formations, their names, and their uses.

The first is, of course, the most common one of all. It is called the V formation. (Fig. 1) A V formation can be made up of any number of planes, from three to six billion, if you want that many. The officer in command flies at the peak of the V. On his left and on his right, just behind him, are usually two experienced pilots. And then behind each of them is a new or inexperienced pilot. And behind each of them is a veteran. Now, because of prop wash (which is simply air churned up and disturbed by the revolving propeller) it is impossible for one plane to fly directly behind another and at the same altitude. Believe it or not, the air just back of the first plane is like a greased pole. You just can’t stay on it. Your plane will slide off to the right or the left. Therefore, in order that the plane behind will maintain its position, it flies a few feet above the level of the plane ahead, and a bit to the right or left such as the case may be. And the plane behind that flies a bit high. And so forth, right back to the last plane. In other words the planes on both sides form a flight of steps that slant outward and upward from the leading plane.

WHEN you speak of the left and right side of a formation you speak of them in reference to the right or left side of the leading plane. And the left or right side of a plane is its pilot’s left or right when facing forward. Therefore No 1 plane on the right is the first plane on the leader’s right. No. 2 plane is the next one back, and so forth. And the same numbering holds true for the left side. So by checking back on what I said about the two inexperienced pilots, you will note that in that seven plane flight one inexperienced pilot, was No. 2 plane on the right. And the other was No. 2 on the left.

Now, don’t rush me. I’m going to tell you why.

It’s simply for this reason. The greenhorns are protected in front and in the rear. In other words in case the flight is attacked from either the front or the rear, the attackers will smack into veterans first. They won’t be able to slip down and take a crack at the greenhorns when veterans aren’t looking.

AND as an added precaution against that, there is sometimes a veteran who flies what is called Top-cover position. You will note that that position is shown in Fig. 1. He flies in the center of the V, but at an altitude higher than any of the others. And so, in that particular formation you have the leader and two veterans keeping a weather eye on the air above and in front. You have two more veterans doing the same thing behind and above. And you have a lone veteran riding herd above the center of them all.

Now, before I go on with other formations just let me mouth a few last words about the V. That is the way a flight would go over the lines. However, maneuvering in formation is a rather ticklish job because each plane is so sensitive on the controls, and because of varying air currents. Naturally, planes used in the war were not as stabilized as the ships of the present time, and therefore any idea of fancy flying in formation was OUT. The formation could climb and dive together. It could bank to the left or the right. But looping together or rolling together wasn’t tried—and for two reasons. First, it was too risky. And second, it wasn’t of any value. However, banking to the right or the left was of value, for the simple reason that the formation had to turn some time. They didn’t go across the lines flying straight and then go right on around the world until they hit their own field. And so, of course, a way was doped out how to turn around to the left or the right and still maintain the V formation.

It was done in two ways—not both at the same time!

Once the leader signaled a bank to the right, the pilots flying ships on the inside of the turn (ships on the leader’s right in this case) would throttle their engines and more or less stall around. And the pilots flying planes on the outside of the turn (the leader’s left in this case) would speed up their engines and go fast. Naturally the reason for that was that to make the turn, they had to fly a greater distance than the ships on the inside of the turn. And then, of course, when the formation was headed straight again the pilots on the right would speed up their engines again, and the pilots on the left would slow up their engines—’and thus everybody would keep formation position.

The second way was really the most effective, because it did not necessitate the trouble of throttling or goosing the engine. And also it made it possible for the V formation to turn quicker and in a much smaller area.

It was executed this way. Again we’ll have the leader signal a turn to the right. (He’d signal by wabbling his wings and pointing his right arm to the right. Or he might just dip his right wings, and then start to turn.) But anyway, let us say that he has signaled a right turn.

As he started to turn, the planes on the inside (his right) would dip down to the left then up and over to form position on his left. At the same time the planes on the outside of the turn (his left) would climb up to the right and then down to form position on his right. In other words the right and left planes would simply change places. The ones on the inside of the turn going down to the left and up. And the planes on the outside of the turn going up to the right and then down. Of course a turn to the left was made in the opposite manner.

So much for that. Nope. One more word. The flight would cross the lines in formation but once they were attacked, or did the attacking themselves, the formation would soon break up. Because no matter how much you may slice it, a dogfight in the air is an individual against individual affair. Once a fight starts its just the same idea as when the advancing wave of soldiers reaches the enemy line. A general free-for-all with the best man winning. You can advance, attack, and retreat in formation—but during the scrap the formation goes by-by.

NOW, by squinting at Fig. 2, you will see what a V of Vs formation looks like. As in an ordinary V formation there can be as many planes as you want in each V. But in a squadron there are usually three flights; A, B, and C. Therefore, on a squadron patrol the formation flown is by individual flights, with the flight leader heading each group. And we call it a V of Vs because each group is in the form of a V, and all three groups form a large V. Maneuvering is, of course, just the same as with one V only on a larger scale.

And Fig. 3 is what is called line formation. It can start across the lines that way, or it can be formed by both sides of a V formation moving up into line with the leader in the middle. That type of formation was used for ground strafe work over a wide area. The line of ships would simply sweep forward dropping their small twenty pound Cooper bombs (usually four to each scout plane) and firing their guns at the troops below. To reverse and come back each plane simply half rolled and pulled up out of its resulting dive. (Naturally the ships flew far enough, apart to make reversing possible without tangling wings.)

Fig. 4 is a formation that was seldom used during the late mix-up on the other side of the big pond. It’s called, “line formation in echelon.” As you will note it’s simply a V formation with one-half of the V missing. The planes are like a flight of steps. And that type of formation was for ground strafing a small area. The ships came down, one after the other, and let drive with guns and bombs just before zooming up for altitude.

From echelon formation it was but a simple matter to form what was known as the Lufbery Circle, Fig. 5. (So called because it was used extensively by the great Lafayette Escadrillo ace, Raoul Lufbery.) As you can figure out for yourselves, regardless of its name, it is simply a follow-the-leader formation, or a ring-around-the-rosey affair. But its uses and its advantages were most helpful. It was used not only for trench straffing, but also for air attack defense. A pilot in a pursuit ship doesn’t have to worry much about what is in front of him, for the simple reason that he can see forward and shoot his guns forward. But, behind him it is another question. He can look behind, but he can’t shoot behind unless he turns around.

SO that makes the line formation in echelon and the Lufbery Circle, or follow the leader formation, a great help to each man’s tail. In other words you dive down on a trench, spray it with your guns, and zoom up without worrying much whether a load of nickel jacketed steel is going to crease the seat of your pants. And you don’t worry much because the pilot behind you is taking his turn at spraying the troops in the trench, with the result that they are too occupied with getting out of his way to turn around and blaze away at you as you zoom up.

And in the case of the Lufbery Circle, it wouldn’t be healthy for a Hun to try and drop down on the tail of the ship in front of you because you would simply pull up your nose a bit and chew off the soles of his field boots with your bursts. Incidentally, line formation in echelon, or follow the leader formation, was good for bombing work or photographic work. It enabled the pilots to bomb or snap, one at a time, the same spot on the ground, and while doing it be more or less protected from the rear. That is, each plane covered the ship ahead, with the exception, of course, of the last ship. But the pilot flying that ship was the only one who had to pray to Lady Luck to keep Spandaus lead away from him. And even he was protected if the planes formed the Lufbery Circle.

And so there you are, a few words of wisdom (?) on formation flying. In general, formation flying- was okay before and after the scrap. In fact, as you can figure out yourselves, if you’ve kept your ears open, formation flying or flying in formation was absolutely essential to effective patroling. BUT, in a scrap?—nuts to formations! Pick your man, and go get him. That was the idea. And when it was all over but the shouting, if you were still in the air, gather around your leader and reform your formation.

“The Mail Must Go Through!” By Arch Whitehouse

Link - Posted by David on December 9, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Here it is—the first of a thrilling series of True Air Adventures—amazing yarns based on the real adventures of airmen all over the world today! This month, read the true story of what happened to a pilot who stuck to the motto of the Air Mail—”The Mail Must Go Through!”

The Mail Must Go Through

By Arch Whitehouse (Sky Birds, March 1933)

OVER the facade of the New York Post Office building runs a word motto reading to the effect that, in spite of wind and weather, the postal department must remain true to its trust and carry out the business of the Postal Department. But the Air Mail pilot has chopped it all down to a few words: “The Mail Must Go Through!”

It is upon this motto that an almost unbelievable esprit de corps has been founded by the men who carry Uncle Sam’s mail over the skyways.
Things have changed a lot in the past few years, as far as flying the mail goes. The ships are better and faster. The motors are more reliable.

The routes are carefully marked with flashing beacons every ten miles. The airports are no longer cleared cow pastures with a shed at one end. Radio has come to guide the knights of the muzzle-mike. An efficient meteorological system has been worked out, and pilots are warned every few minutes what weather they can expect ten miles ahead.

Above all, every pilot is provided with the airman’s life-preserver—the parachute. If things go wrong, all he has to do is to cut the switch and step off. A billowing canopy of silk blossoms out above him, and he descends slowly to the ground.

But there are airmen in the Air Mail who balk at stepping off and letting the mail go down to a splintering crash—perhaps to a flaming finish. There may be valuable papers in those bags. There may be some widow’s pension stowed away. A love-letter, perhaps, reconciling two youngsters who have been parted by a petty quarrel. There may be the evidence that will save an innocent man from the chair. Or, perhaps, just a letter to some old lady who waits patiently for a happy word from her boy, who has gone away to try his fortunes in some other part of the country. One never knows what’s in the mail bag.

John Wolf, an Air Mail pilot, took off from Cleveland one night for Newark, 390 miles away. In the back pit of his Douglas mail ship lay 900 pounds of Uncle Sam’s choicest postal cargo. Pilot Wolf had often wondered what was in this mail. He’d pondered over it many times as he pounded his way across “the hump” of the Allegheny Mountains.

The airmen have named the hump the Mail Pilots’ Graveyard, for the whole trail is scored and marked with the numberless crashes that have occurred there. Pilot Wolf often wondered whether it was worth it. Then he’d stare at the insignia on the side of his ship—”U. S. Mail”—make an imaginary salute, and climb into the cockpit.

But on this night in question—about a year ago, to be exact—Pilot Wolf would have had all the excuse in the world for saying, “Bad weather upstairs. No use risking a crash tonight.” For there was a welter of fog and rain sweeping across the Cleveland field when he went out to the throbbing Douglas. He had been inside the operations office to look at the weather report coming through from Newark—and it was none too encouraging.

But Wolf took off. The mail had to go through!

Fifteen minutes after he took off, his radio set went dead. This would have been sufficient for most people, but Wolf kept on. There might be a break near Newark. After all, there were 900 pounds of mail in the back pit. He climbed to 12,000 feet to make sure that he’d clear the hump, but ice began to form on his wings, changing the camber and choking the controls. He had to go down lower and risk a crash in the Mail Pilots’ Graveyard.

For four hours he flew, averaging about 115 miles per hour, but no sign of Newark could he find. He was above a fog blanket that shrouded everything. On eastward he continued to push—hoping for a break. His ship bounced and pounded against the icy winds. New and amazing things happened to his instruments, and at times he found himself flying on his back. He kept fighting the Douglas, got back on the course and peered down again. No sight of Newark—or of anything else.

“Look here, John,” Pilot Wolf must have argued with himself. “You only have so much gas in this boiler. How about going down and taking a chance? Or how about slipping off and taking to the silk? Why risk your neck for 900 pounds of mail that is probably only bills, advertisements or dunning letters?”

But he glared at himself in the reflections cast by the dials of the in struments and shook his head. He had to go on.

He finally realized that there was none too much fuel left, however, and common sense prevailed.

He went down—down—down until he felt that he must crash into some buildings. Then he steadied himself and released a parachute flare. The big flaming ball of fire seeped away and went down farther and then, Pilot Wolf saw the cruel, reaching whitecaps of the Atlantic Ocean!
“Whew! Where am I?” he growled yanking back on his stick and pulling the Douglas out of the glide.

Turning westward, he tore back toward land, expecting any minute to find himself impaled on the lofty masts of some fog-bound transatlantic liner. He sat tense for nearly half an hour and raced westward peering over the cowling into the blanket of fog.

Then, a light! A dim but heaven sent gleam twinkled ahead. Pilot Wolf shot his Douglas for it with every ounce of power in the big Liberty engine. It was a lighthouse, he could tell by the time of the flashes. He tore up toward it and recognized it as Montauk Light on Long Island. Evidently he had passed over Newark without seeing it.

Now should he bail out? He was over ground, he was certain of that. There was not much gas left, so it would be wise to get out while the getting was good. No, the mail must go through!
He circled the village twice, seeking a place to land. He couldn’t get back to Newark now. He dropped more flares in an effort to find a level space to set the big mail ship down. There was nothing in sight.

Then one of those things happened that people think can happen only in fiction. Some one—a member of the village fire department—was air-minded enough to realize what was the matter. He probably had been a reader of a good aviation magazine—like Sky Birds, for instance. The pounding of the big Liberty up there in the soup and the trickling pathetic flares coming down through the fog told their story.

A fire alarm was sounded, and all the volunteer firemen were sent to the widest fairway of the North Fork Country Club. The air-minded fireman, who goes nameless, superintended the placing of the cars so that their headlights lit up a wide swath of level turf.

Wolf, amazed at the sudden appearance of this uncharted landing field, took a chance. He cut his motor and glided down to a perfect landing—just as the idling Liberty spluttered its last gasp. The tanks were dry.

Wolf slept at the firehouse that night, after seeing the mail safely aboard a train for New York. The next morning he calmly told his story to the air-minded fireman who had unconsciously adopted the Air Mail motto, “The Mail Must Go Through!”

“The Tail Buster” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on November 27, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. For the December 1933 issue Blakeslee paints the tail of a premeditated crash between a French Herriot and a German Fokker and L.V.G. in “The Tail Buster”…

th_DDA_3312THE COVER painting this month shows, not an accident but a premeditated crash. The Frenchmen—pilot and gunner—had left their drome to put a new Herriot through its paces. As a precaution, however, they loaded up with ammunition—and were glad they did. For as they stunted about over France, two L.V.G.’s attacked them.

A Fokker, flying higher, did not join the attack until one of the L.V.G.’s burst into flames, the victim of French guns. The Fokker then dove, passed under and looped to get on the Frenchman’s tail. By a quick skid, the French pilot brought his ship broadside on and the gunner poured a devastating fire into the Boche.

In the meantime, the second L.V.G. had maneuvered directly under the Frenchman. At the moment the French gunner sent his flaming slugs into the Fokker, tracers came up through the floor of the French machine right between the pilots legs, cutting one of the elevator wires. In a split second the pilot shoved his stick forward and dove.

The pilot of the L.V.G. saw the other ship begin its dive and whipped his tail down, too late. With a crack his rudder disappeared in a cloud of flying fabric and propeller splinters.

The French gunner coolly climbed out on the fuselage and righted the Herriot. Then he and the pilot took stock of the situation. The Germans were headed for the only cleared space dead ahead—and the Frenchman headed for it too. They just made the plowed field.

In the resulting crash the pilot of the Herriot was buried in wreckage; the gunner was hurled clear and perhaps it was fortunate that the field was plowed for he had a comparatively soft landing. He rushed over to the wreckage and began frantically to dig out the pilot, whom he could hear groaning. Presently he was conscious of having help. Two French flyers had joined him. Between them they soon had the unconscious pilot extracted, and right there and then they all got busy and set his dislocated shoulder.

After it was all over and the pilot was conscious and resting, the gunner thought of the German machine. He looked around and saw its wreckage about a hundred yards away but no signs of its crew. Startled, he looked more closely at the two rescuers who were now conversing in perfect French to the pilot. They were dressed in French flying clothes all right. But the gunner put two and two together—and realized that they were the pilot and gunner of the German ship!

When the Boches politely bade farewell and walked away, he made no move. Five minutes later the field was swarming with people. In answer to questions as to where the Germans were all the Frenchman said was—”They have escaped.”

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Tail Buster: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (December 1933)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.

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