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“The Jerry Cracker” by C.M. Miller

Link - Posted by David on November 3, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from the pen of C.M. Miller! Miller is known to Age of Aces readers as the author behind Chinese Brady, aa old war horse who’s fought in most every scrap there’s been. Here he presents a tale of a green pilot, Emmett Ralston, just up from training who can’t wait to get at the Huns! Problem is, circumstances seem to be conspiring against him.

You Can’t Graft Wings On A Prison Bunk, Or Bars Won’t Make A Fuselage—But Ralston Wanted A Crack At The Huns And No Prison Built Will Hold An-Ace-To-Be.

“Orth’s Flight Against Time” by Lt. Frank Johnson

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

ORTH is back! Silent Orth—ironically named for his penchant to boast, but blessed with the skills to carry out his promises—takes on a perilous mission to bomb a German ammunition dump. Using all the tricks and flying skills up his sleeve, Orth races to drop his bombs before the entire German Air force comes down on his neck. From the pages of the August 1934 issue of Sky Fighters, it’s “Orth’s Flight Against Time!”

Follow An Intrepid Fighting Pilot Over the German Lines on a Perilous Mission in this Exciting Story of the War-Torn Heavens!

“Flaming Death” by Frederick C. Painton

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

THIS week we have a story from the pen of a prolific pulp author and venerated newspaper man—Frederick C. Painton. In “Flaming Death” Painton gives us a pulse-stirring war-air novelette—”B” Flight’s mascot, Babe Norwood, the squadron’s youngest flyer, is shot down with incendiary bullets! All of the fighting nations had agreed to ban their use—so rigidly were they banned that any flyer caught using them was instantly stood against the wall with barely the mockery of a drum-head court-martial. The squadron uses all avenues of the services to hunt down the culprit and bring him to justice! From the November 1934 Sky Fighters it’s Frederick C. Painton’s “Flaming Death!”

Follow a Mad Race Through Roaring Skies on the Trail of a Sinister Hun Whose Guns Spout Outlawed Bullets!

And look for a brief appearance by the squadron’s operations officer named Willie the Ink, Painton uses a similarly named character—Willie the Web—as operations officer in his Squadron of the Dead tales.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 27: Major Edward Mannock” by Eugene Frandzen

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

Starting in the May 1932 issue of Flying Aces and running almost 4 years, Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Frandzen would feature a different Ace that rose to fame during the Great War. This time around we have one of the RFC’s most famous Aces—Major Edward Mannock!

Edward Corringham “Mick” Mannock was a pioneer of fighter aircraft tactics in aerial warfare. A British flying ace in the Royal Flying Corps and in the Royal Air Force, Mannock was credited with 61 aerial victories, the fifth highest scoring pilot of the war. Pretty good for a man with poor eyesight.

Mannock was among the most decorated men in the British Armed Forces. He was honoured with the Military Cross twice, was one of the rare three-time recipients of the Distinguished Service Order, and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

He was killed July 26th 1918. His posthumous Victoria Cross summed up the man quite nicely: “This highly distinguished officer during the whole of his career in the Royal Air Force, was an outstanding example of fearless courage, remarkable skill, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice, which has never been surpassed”.

As a bonus, check out Mannock’s entry in Eddie Rickenbacker’s Hall of Fame of The Air from 1935 at Stephen Sherman’s Acepilots.com!

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 25: Lt. Sumner Sewall” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on August 30, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Starting in the May 1932 issue of Flying Aces and running almost 4 years, Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Frandzen would feature a different Ace that rose to fame during the Great War. This time around we have one of America’s most famous Aces—Lt. Sumner Sewall!

Sumner Sewall rose to be Flight Commander in the 95th Aero Squadron. He is credited with seven victories and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster, the French Legion of Honor, the Croix de guerre and the Order of the Crown of Belgium. Sewall was the first American aviator whose machine had been sent down in flames and lived to tell the tale!

After the war, he worked in a variety of jobs, including being an executive with Colonial Air Transport and a director of United Air Lines before becoming an alderman in Bath, Maine in 1933. From there he was elected to the state legislature as a representative in 1934; then senator in 1936 and being named President of the State Senate with his electoral win in 1938. All this culminated when he was elected govenor of the great state of Maine and served for two terms.

After stepping down as governor, Sewall became president of American Overseas Airlines for a year, then served as the military governor of Württemberg-Baden from 1946 to 1947. After trying for the state senate again in 1948 and finishing a distant third, Sewall moved into banking becoming the president of Bath National Bank in the 1960’s.

He passed away January 26th, 1965.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 21: Willy Coppens” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on August 16, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

STARTING in the May 1932 issue of Flying Aces and running almost 4 years, Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Frandzen would feature a different Ace that rose to fame during the Great War. This time around we have Belgian balloon buster—Lt. Willy Coppens!

Willy Omer François Jean Coppens de Houthulst was the Belgian Ace of Aces. He got his initial training as a soldier and officer in the cavalry division of the army. He transferred later on to the Flying Corps and began immediately to compile the record of victories that gained him top ranking among sky fighters. (a YouTube video exists that shows footage of Coopens demonstrating downing a balloon and talking about it years later.)

Because the German armies had overrun all but a narrow strip of his own country, he did all of his flying from foreign bases, usually being stationed in the sectors in Flanders occupied by the British forces. Flying foreign machines from foreign bases, he nevertheless built up a remarkable record of successful combats. When his time on the front was ended, unhappily but gloriously, he was officially credited with 32 victories and awarded practically every medal under the sun, chiefly among there were the Order of Leopold II with swords, Order of the Crown, Belgian Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 with 27 Palms and 13 Bronze Lions, French Legion d’Honneur, Serbian Order of the White Eagle, British Distinguished Service Order, British Military Cross, and French Croix de Guerre with 2 Palms!

After the war, Coppens served as a military attaché to France, Britain, Italy and Switzerland. He retired in 1940 to Switzerland, where he spent his time organising resistance work and marrying. His war memoirs, Days on the Wing was published in 1931 and was subsequently revised and re-issued in paperback forty years later in 1971 with the title Flying in Flanders.

In the late 1960s he returned to Belgium and lived his last five years with fellow Belgian ace Jan Olieslagers’s only daughter until his death in 1986. He was 94.

Silent Orth Returns in “Single Action” by Lt. Frank Johnson

Link - Posted by David on August 11, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

IT’S been a few months, but Silent Orth is back! Silent Orth—ironically named for his penchant to boast, but blessed with the skills to carry out his promises—comes up against a trio of deadly marksmen who manage to take down their victims with but a single bullet! Orth must take down all three before fresh new recruits arrive the next day—The problem is, Orth has vowed to take each of them out with a single shot. From the July 1934 issue of Sky Fighters it’s Silent Orth in “Single Action!”

Silent Orth Goes Gunning for Three German Flyers Whose Diabolical Tactics Call for Quick Reprisal!

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 20: Captain Elliot White Springs” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on August 2, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

STARTING in the May 1932 issue of Flying Aces and running almost 4 years, Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Frandzen would feature a different Ace that rose to fame during the Great War. This time around we have American Ace—Captain Elliot White Springs!

Captain Elliot White Springs was one of the first to enlist in the flying school established at Princeton when the United States entered the World War. He was sent to England, where he had varied training in British aviation schools. And on to France in May 1918 in Billy Bishop’s 85 Squadron, RFC! After recoving from wounds recieved at the end of June 1918 he was reassigned to the 148th Aero Squadron—although an American Squadron, it was still under the operational control of the RFC.

Springs is credited with 16 victories and was awarded both the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Cross. After the war, Springs returned home to work in the family textile mill—Springs Cotton Mills and wrote nine books that were mainly on his flying and war experiences. Most notable among them are Warbirds: The Diary of an Unknown Aviator, Nocturne Militaire and Warbirds and Ladybirds.

His post war life is excellently covered at Mike Culpepper’s The Shrine of Dreams.

Springs returned to service in the U.S. Army Air Corp during the Second World War, after which he came home and continued to run Springs Cotton Mills until shortly before his death of pancreatic cancer in August 1959. Springs was 63.

(Editor’s Note: Although Flying Aces has gone to a bedsheet sized publication with this issue, the feature is still being done in the two page format of the pulp-sized issues. As such, we have reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Ritter von Schleich

Link - Posted by David on July 12, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have German Flyer Ritter von Schleich’s most thrilling sky fight!

Hauptmann Ritter von Schleich was one of the least known, but nevertheless, one of the greatest and most successful of the German war birds. A nobleman by birth, he was educated for service in the army beginning with his early childhood. When the war broke out he was an officer in the Uhlans, the most aristocratic branch of the German Army. After transferring to the flying corps, he served some time as an observer, before learning to become a pilot himself; paralleling in that respect the career of Baron Manfred von Richthofen, who preceeded him as an officer of Uhlans.

War has its humorous moments as well as its many tragic ones. At least it would seem so after reading the account of the German flying captain, who took a captured Allied plane and rode the battle skies in company with an enemy patrol, the only instance upon record when it was known to be done.

 

A SKY TRICK

by Captain Ritter von Schleich, Imperial Flying Corps • Sky Fighters, July 1934

THE DAY before this, my most thrilling day in the air took place. My staffel had forced a young, inexperienced French pilot to land his latest model Spad pursuit plane intact behind our own lines.

After painting a black cross on it in the place of the circular cocarde of the Allies I decided it would be great fun to take it on a flight over the enemy lines. Fortunately, my staffel had forced it to land with almost a full supply of ammunition, so I had plenty of bullets for the Vickers guns. I phoned our anti-aircraft batteries and informed them of my plans so they would not bother me.

After taking off, I headed for Verdun. Our own Archies let me pass unmolested. When I slid across the lines, the Allied Archies did the same thing. I encountered a single enemy aircraft on patrol over Verdun, but he waved at me and passed on. I laughed and waved back, then swung about and headed for the Argonne. Over the Argonne I ran into the tail end of a formation of five Spads who were sweeping along parallel with the lines at 10,000 feet.

I goosed up my engine and took my place at their rear, flying along behind them and following the leader’s signals as well as I could. Suddenly they banked and flew over my own lines. I went in with them, still keeping my place in the formation.

As I flew along I wondered what would have happened if the leader really knew who it was tailing along at the rear of his flight. It was a sad thought, though. It certainly would have been curtains for me if those Spad pilots had suddenly turned and charged me.

We had gone about five miles behind our own lines when I decided that I was not
giving our Archie gunners any breaks at all. They had been directed not to fire at my plane, hence could not fire at the others in the formation without danger of getting me.

I banked off suddenly, went into a half roll, then dived to 6,000 feet. Our Archie gunners opened up then with a terrific barrage. The Spad pilots maneuvered then to escape it. The leader wheeled, saw me going down, caught sight of the black cross on my Spad for the first time, I guess, and came tearing down after me.

At 3,000 feet he let me have it—a heavy burst that forced me to duck swiftly. Now, that he had attacked me, I felt that I would not be taking advantage of my trick, so I maneuvered into shooting position and fired back.

We went at it hammer and tongs. I swept by him so close one time that I could see the angry expression on his face. We went round and round. Bullets nicked my Spad, but they did not come close to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his mates up above come streaking down to join the fun. I knew I had to do something quick or be in an awful pickle. I zoomed, half rolled, came down at my opponent with both Vickers blazing. The burst was effective. He sagged in his pit. The Spad went floating down in an uneven spiral.

I followed down until it crashed, then went hedge hopping over the field for my staffel drome, with all of the speed I could get from my captured Spad. Our Archie gunners kept my pursuers so high they could not reach me.

It was my twentieth victory. I got official credit for it later. Yes, under the circumstances I am sure it was my most thrilling sky fight.

“Von Satan’s Lair” by Harold F. Cruickshank

Link - Posted by David on June 2, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story by another of our favorite authors—Harold F. Cruickshank! Cruickshank is popular in these parts for the thrilling exploits of The Sky Devil from the pages of Dare-Devil Aces, as well as those of The Sky Wolf in Battle Aces and The Red Eagle in Battle Birds. He wrote innumerable stories of war both on the ground and in the air. Here we have a tale of Captain Jack Malone, the last of his squadron not to be downed by the evil von Satan. Malone learns that his fellow flyers were not killed by von Satan, but captured and had their brains operated on to turn them against their countrymen! To save his pals, Malone must free them from “Von Satan’s Lair!” From the April 1934 Sky Fighters

Captain Jack Malone Sails the Sky Lanes Grimly in this Gripping Drama of Sinister Secrets of Hun Hate!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Corporal Edmond C. Genet

Link - Posted by David on May 17, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have American Flyer Corporal Edmond C. Genet’s most thrilling sky fight!

The great-great-grandson of Citizen Genet, who served as the revolutionary ambassador from France during George Washington’s term as president, Edmond C. Genet had a distinguished heritage. Mild-mannered and handsome he was a typical soldier of fortune at heart, possessing an astonishing courage. At 10 he missed an appointment to Annapolis and immediately enlisted in the navy where he participated in the taking of Vera Cruz. A year later he was in battle in Haiti. Later on after the war in Europe broke out, he sailed for France to enlist in the Foreign Legion. He served for some years in the trenches as a simple poilu, then was transferred to aviation and assigned to Escadrille N-124, better known as the Lafayette, where he was the youngest American in a company of famous men. Genet’s flying time on the front was short. He was one of the few airplane pilots to be killed in the air by enemy shrapnel. He was the first American to die in action under the stars and stripes, his death occurring just ten days after America entered the war. The account below is from one of his letters home.

 

HOLDING THE HUNS AT BAY

by Corporal Edmond C. Genet • Sky Fighters, December 1934

I WAS flying along with McConnell at a very low altitude behind the German lines. Mac and I were making a survey of the enemy troop concentration. Intelligence had brought word that the Germans were preparing for a push in our area. We were to check on this, and as the country was hilly and wooded, we had to fly low to make the proper observations.

Being so engrossed with our ground work, both of us had neglected to watch the sky lanes. Suddenly we were jumped by a whole flight of Huns who took us completely by surprise! A burst of Spandau lead crackled through my plane from the rear! I glanced back, saw three Huns on me, throwing lead! At the same instant my right cheek began to sting and something scorched across my hip.

I swept up on one wing tip, whirled around. Two other Hun planes confronted me there. Their Spandaus were smoking. I looked over at McConnell, waved at him to go on with the mission while I attempted to hold off the Huns. I thought I could hold them off by making a bold, dashing frontal attack at first one, then the other. Mac banked off and swept down lower toward the ground.

I charged my first Hun with Vickers chattering. He turned aside and I plunged for the next. The second Hun clung to me and we began going round and round ineffectively. But a third Hun from above dived down, raked my turtleback with tracer. I was forced to pull out, but did not run away. I sneaked further inside the German lines drawing the Hun planes with me.

They had apparently forgotten Mac. Our strategy had been successful so far, but I wasn’t so sure that I was going to figure in the picture much longer. For the Huns had the speed on me and it was only a matter of minutes before I was entirely surrounded again. Bullets came from all directions at once. I was cornered. There was nothing to do but fight my way out boldly.

I dived for speed, then zoomed at my nearest antagonist. My tracer raked across his nose, puffed holes in his upper wing. He rolled off to one side to let me pass, for I was determined I would not turn out for him. That gave me an opening and I streaked through with the whole flight of Huns after me.

Presently I was rejoined by Mac, and what a relief! He was smiling, so I knew he had finished his mission successfully. We fought clear back to our lines where the Huns left us. I had just enough strength left to set down on the squadron drome safely, but my squadron mates had to lift me from my seat. It was a hot fight, but Mac and I got what we went out after—information that enabled our corps commander to forestall the German push!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Willy Coppens

Link - Posted by David on May 3, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Belgian Ace, Lt. Willy Coppens’ most thrilling sky fight!

Willy Coppens was the Belgian Ace of Aces. He got his initial training as a soldier and officer in the cavalry division of the army. He transferred later on to the Flying Corps and began immediately to compile the record of victories that gained him top ranking among sky fighters.

Because the German armies had overrun all but a narrow strip of his own country, he did all of his flying from foreign bases, usually being stationed in the sectors in Flanders occupied by the British forces. Flying foreign machines from foreign bases, he nevertheless built up a remarkable record of successful combats. When his time on the front was ended, unhappily but gloriously, he was officially credited with 32 victories. The account below is from his diary.

 

TRUSTING TO FATE

by Lieutenant Willy Coppens • Sky Fighters, November 1934

FIGHTING great odds is not an uncommon thing. But today I felt for a time that, at last, I had run into a situation where the odds were too great for me.

I was cruising alone over La Chapelle on solo patrol at a very low altitude because of the low hanging clouds.

A full flight of Fokkers, six in all, came down at me like a lightning bolt. I was bottled up before I fully recovered from my first surprise.

I decided to open the attack myself and fight it out if I could. I dived for speed with throttle wide open, then banked swiftly, aiming for the Fokker below. I pressed both trigger trips, sent out a vicious double burst the instant I lined him. But he had pulled back and swept into a swirling vertical bank at the same instant. My burst passed harmlessly beneath the Fokker’s trucks. And instantly bullets began to clatter and zing through my instrument board. I glanced back up, saw one Fokker bearing down on me not more than 10 meters off my tail.

I jerked into a desperate loop, whined out with my attacker just ahead of me. Again I pressed my triggers. This time my bursts literally tore the Fokker to pieces. The vertical rudder shattered, sheared away. Only a quick maneuver on my part saved me from being hit by it. Next the whole tail seemed to disintegrate, and the following moment the Fokker nosed abruptly earthward. First blood was mine. It gave me confidence. But too soon!

When I looked up again, another Fokker was charging at me head on, both Spandaus yammering. The smoke streams parted my wings. Then a second stream of tracer rattled in from the rear. I was getting it fore and aft. I decided to plunge straight ahead.

I did so, gripping both trigger trips and sending out twin streams of tracer as I roared in toward the first Hun. Bullets from the following Hun still rattled around me. But I knew that if I held my ground, the oncoming Hun would have to swerve to escape being rammed in midair. But my senses would not stand the sight. I could not look at the Fokker charging at me, so I closed my eyes and decided to keep them closed until I counted off ten seconds. I kept my guns firing all the time, for the Fokker was centered directly in my sights.

I expected in be killed, and trusted only to fate. The seconds passed interminably in the darkness I had willed. Still I lived! At the count of ten I opened my eyes. The Hun who had been flying at me from in front was spiralling down toward the ground, his plane a mass of red flame and black smoke trails.

God had been with me I knew then. I had got that Hun with my eyes closed. My bullets had exploded his gas tank. Charged now with a renewed vigor and desire to live, I wheeled and attacked my pursuer. But the three remaining Fokker pilots did not stay to fight any longer. They ran for home. I would have chased them, but when I looked at my ammo supply, I saw that I had none, so I went home myself.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Adolphe Pegoud

Link - Posted by David on April 19, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Lt. Adolphe Pegoud of the French Flying Corp’s most thrilling sky fight!

Adolphe Pegoud was a famous flyer before the war began. In 1913, flying a tiny Bleriot monoplane, he astonished the world by doing a series of intricate air maneuvers. Later, he made an upside down landing, the first and to this day the only aviator deliberately to perform such a stunt.

With Pourpe, Garros, Vedrines, and several others, he made up the first French air squadron to see action in the World War. In those days planes, frail contraptions of wood, linen and wires, were not armed. The pilots usually carried a rifle or shotgun when going aloft, and sometimes darts and hand grenades. Plane to plane fighting was unknown. The crafts were used for scouting. Pegoud changed all this when ho initiated the first air battle. He tells about it in the account below.

 

THE FIRST AIR BATTLE

by Lieutenant Adolphe Pegoud • Sky Fighters, October 1934

WHILE I had always carried arms while on my trips over the Boche lines and many times had passed within fifty or a hundred meters of Taube pilots, I had never thought to try out my marksmanship on the flying targets. But on this day when I was ordered aloft, I decided that I would allow no more Taube pilots to pass me by so nonchalantly. At least, I was going to let them know that there was a war taking place.

And lucky for me, I encountered my first Taube the same day I was filled with that resolve. I met him just beyond the Fortress of Verdun. He was just a speck when I first glimpsed him off to my right, but I ruddered toward him, flying as fast as my machine would carry me. At one hundred meters distance, the Taube pilot stood up in his seat and waved at me. That fact made me mad. Here I had come to kill him (if possible) and he greeted me with that friendly gesture. I waved my Lebel in the air over my head and shouted at him in French to beware. Of course, he could not hear because of the noise of the engines.

He continued on past me and I swung around and followed him. This maneuver seemed to surprise him. I continued on, coaxing my machine to its greatest speed. Finally I was not more than ten meters to the rear of his. I shouted again, made faces, then put the rifle to my shoulder and fired a bullet over his head to let him know my intentions. Though I had firmly resolved to shoot at the pilot, I realized now that I could not, for he wan apparently unarmed and had been so friendly.

When I fired at him, he must have seen the smoke from my Lebel or saw it flash. He knew then that I was not fooling and tried to escape from my plane by streaking down toward the earth. But I followed intently, my mind occupied now, not on shooting the pilot, but damaging his machine so it would have to land, thus ha would be unable to accomplish his mission.

I stood up in the pit and fired two shots at his gas tank, but nothing happened. Then I had to sit down and maneuver my plane again. The Taube pilot was zigzagging. I got closer and stood up again. This time, he too, stood up, and hurled a hand grenade back at me. But his aim was wild. It hit on the ground far below and exploded there sending up a puff of blue smoke. I aimed my rifle and rapidly fired all my remaining shells at the gas tank again.

Now I saw that something had happened. The Taube began to wobble crazily. The Boche pilot seemed frantic. Finally the motor stopped turning. Then I saw what had happened. One of my bullets had cracked the propeller, and it had shattered, throwing the Taube into terrific vibration and forcing the pilot to cut his engine.

He had to go down. I wished then that I had not been so hasty, for as it was he landed inside his own lines. If I had waited, I could have captured him by forcing his landing on our side. A fresh Taube and its Boche pilot would have been a great trophy to take home and show my mates.

Silent Orth Returns in “Sunset Song” by Lt. Frank Johnson

Link - Posted by David on April 14, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

SILENT ORTH—ironically named for his penchant to boast, but blessed with the skills to carry out his promises—comes up against a trio of skilled acrobatic flyers that manage to elude the most skilled flyers while downing three enemy planes in every encounter, but Orth asks for one day to do the impossible and take down the trio! From the May 1934 issue of Sky Fighters it’s Silent Orth in “Sunset Song!”

Three Acrobatic Fokkers Work Havoc in the Air In This Zooming Yarn Packed With Thrills and Action!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Sergeant Norman Prince

Link - Posted by David on April 5, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have American Norman Prince’s most thrilling sky fight!

Norman Prince lived in France when the World War began. Being immensely wealthy in his own right, he offered to furnish and equip an entire squadron of planes and pilots. The French Army would not accept this generous offer, but Prince, acting in co-operation with William Thaw of Pittsburgh, convinced the officials that they could muster enough Americans to man an entire squadron. Their offer was accepted, and the LaFayette Escadrille was born. A French officer was put in command. All the rest of the pilots were American. Prince’s death was tragic. Though wounded in an air battle, he managed to fly his crippled plane homeward, and was about to land on his own airdrome in the gathering darkness when his plane ran into a telephone pole and crashed. In his weakened condition he did not have strength enough to guide his plane over or around the obstacle. So perished one of the bravest and most courageous of the early American pilots who gave their lives for France. The story below was told to a French reporter.

 

ONE SHOT, ONE HUN!

by Sergeant Norman Prince • Sky Fighters, September 1934

I HAVE had many thrilling brushes with the enemy, so many that I scarcely know which is the most thrilling. All air fights are more or less of the same nature, and the actual thrills are usually delayed until the bottle is passed in mess several hours after the fight took place. No one has time to feel thrilled when the actual fighting takes place. One’s mind is then concentrated on how to defeat the enemy pilot and escape death.

My hardest fight happened over St. Menehold. With two squadron mates I chased five Boche fighters far back behind their own lines. Ten kilometers in, the Boche divided, flying in three different directions. One swung to the left, two to the right, and two continued straight ahead. I kited after those ahead. They waited just long enough to separate me from my companions, then banked suddenly, swinging around at me from opposite directions. One zoomed above me. The other dived under my belly; perfect team work on their part. Almost before I realized it the bullets from their guns came clicking through my plane.

I dived, went into a swift loop, saw when I was coming out of it that they had anticipated this maneuver; so I shifted controls quickly, half rolled and came out flying in the opposite direction. An instant vertical bank got me on the tail of the first Boche. I pressed my stick trigger. Nothing happened! The Vickers had jammed without spewing a single shot. Panic seized me momentarily.

But another burst of bullets clicking through my fuselage brought me out of that daze. I crossed controls, fell off on one wing; then stood up in the cockpit and leaned over the gun breech. I saw what the trouble was. The webbed bandolier had been raked with machine-gun bullets. It was useless. The Boche bullets still rained about me. I had to do something quickly.

I ripped the bandolier from the breech feeder, shoved a single shell in the chamber and pulled the cocking handle. I had then what was equivalent to a single shot rifle. One bullet against two Boches with perfectly functioning Spandaus! It was ridiculous, but war plays strange pranks. Sometimes you are favored, sometimes not.

I managed to shed the Boche bursts in their next attack. Then as one swept past me, I swung in line with him, dived, came up under his belly. As my plane poised in air almost vertical, my sights centered the pilot’s pit. I uttered a silent prayer, pressed the stick trigger, expended my single shot.

It was effective. The Boche plane wobbled, one wing-tip upended, then it began to spin, uncontrollably. I reached up again, cleared the shell and jammed in another, then went sailing after the second Boche. But he had seen enough, I guess. He went scuttling homeward with his tail between his legs.

I did not have gas or—nerve enough—to chase him any further inside his own lines. Believe me I was glad to set down on my own drome safely fifteen minutes later. It was my narrowest escape, the tightest moment I ever want to experience.

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