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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.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Giuseppe Barracca

Link - Posted by David on March 22, 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 Italian Ace of Aces Major Giuseppe Barracca’s most thrilling sky fight!

Quite in contrast with Alan McLeod of the Royal Flying Corps, who was one of the youngest of the famous flying aces. Major Giuseppe Barracca, Ace of Aces of the Italian Flying Corps, was one of the oldest, being 34 years of age when he was killed in the desperate air fighting above the Piave. Like Captain Ritter von Schleich, he entered the war a cavalry officer, but soon was transferred to the more romantic, yet more hazardous branch of the army, the flying corps.

He took part in more than 1,000 flights over the enemy lines, 70 of which were long distance bombing raids. He disappeared during a night flight when he took to the air to fight off German and Austrian bombers which had been reported bombing Red Cross hospitals. His body and the crashed ship was found two days later when the heroic Italians won back the ground the Austrians and Germans had taken from them six months before. A single stray bullet had snuffed out the life of this greatest of Italian aces, who, like von Schleich, had disappeared after running his score to 36 victories. The account below is taken from his diary.

 

TWO IN THE NIGHT

by Major Giuseppe Barracca • Sky Fighters, August 1934

JUMPING into my single-seater, I took off immediately. Not waiting for the rest of the squadron to form I headed for the front to intercept the enemy without circling for ceiling.

The night was bright with much moonlight bathing the scraggy battlefield beneath in an eerie, silvery glow. “What an ideal night for raiding!” I thought, but, “I must stop them before they reach their objective!”

I had my little single-seater climbing steeply. All the time I was peering ahead, trying to pierce the starry skies and spy my enemies. Finally they showed, an extended line of blinking red lights—the flames from their exhausts.

As I was above them, I throttled my own motor, so my own exhausts would not show and give my location away. Then down I went in a steady glide, headed directly for the leader, aiming directly between the fluttering exhausts of the two motors on either side of the pilot’s pit. At two hundred yards I pressed my triggers. Two livid streaks of flame marked the path of my tracers in the sky—but they were high!

I lowered my nose, pressed the trigger again. I saw my tracer cut luminous paths through the wings of the leading bomber. I ruddered back and forth, spraying the lead in a slow traverse.

Then all Hades bloomed in the night sky. Every gunner in the formation must have turned his guns on me at once. Tracers stream spewed from everywhere. Still, I held my own gun steady.

But the big bomber did not fall. We were approaching head-on at terrific speed, bullets still splattering. I had to dive under to keep from being rammed. I pulled up in a loop behind, half rolled, dived at it again, let go with my guns when in range. This time my shots were good. My explosive bullets must have penetrated the petrol tank.

Red flames shot out, fanwise, lighting the whole sky.

In the glare of light from the burning plane, I got my sights on the bomber at the left of the falling funeral torch. Bullets clattered into my little ship, but hit nothing vital. I let go with a burst at very close range, then dived underneath. The upper gunner swung his tracer on me, but I side-slipped, went into a dive, then zoomed up under another. It was just a vague black shape above me. But my tracer etched flaming holes in it. It slid off on one wing, went flailing down, to burst in fire when it crashed.

By this time my squadron mates had got up to help me.

I did not knock down any more, but the bombing armada was turned from its course. They never reached the cities. Their bombs exploded harmlessly in the open fields.

A very successful fight. I have heard of no other pilot who has brought down two enemy planea in a single night flight. Naturally, I am elated, but I wish it had been two more.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Alan McLeod, R.F.C.

Link - Posted by David on March 8, 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 Canada’s Lieutenant Alan McLeod’s most thrilling sky fight!

Alan McLeod was one of the three Canadian airmen winning the coveted award of the Victoria Cross, the highest honor bestowed on its fighting heroes by the British Empire, He was the youngest flyer ever to receive the honor, having it pinned on his chest in appropriate ceremonies at Buckingham Palace a few months before his nineteenth birthday.

Whereas most of the other British airmen who received this coveted honor accomplished their deeds of heroic valor in fast, single-seater fighting machines, young McLeod used a heavy, unwieldy, Armstrong-Whitworth two-seater which was poorly equipped for air combat. But Alan McLeod used it just as though it were a pursuit ship, never running from a possible chance lo shoot it out with enemy planes in the air, no matter how heavy the odds were against him. The fight he tells about below is one of the great epics of the air. McLeod was wounded six times, but recovered, only to succumb to influenza five days before the armistice was signed.

 

DOWN IN FLAMES

by Lieut. Alan McLeod, R.F.C. • Sky Fighters, June 1934

WHEN zooming up after dropping my last bomb, I saw a Hun Fokker, coming at me from the rear. I swung my machine up on one wing, gave my observer, Hammond, in the back seat, a chance at it. His first burst of Lewis fire was effective. It went fluttering down like a falling leaf, swaying from side to side.

I climbed for altitude then. At 5,000 feet the sun broke through the clouds. A flight of eight scarlet-painted Fokker tripes burst through with the sun. One dived, then zoomed up under my tail. I banked steeply. Hammond got his guns on it just as the Hun let go with a burst that crackled through the lower wing just beyond my head. It went spiralling down, a black smoke trail pluming behind it.

The seven other Fokker tripes dived in with a vengeance then, attacking from all sides, and simultaneously! The air was full of German tracer. My wings were sieved. Flying wires snapped, coiled up like watch springs. I felt something like a hot knife slide across my stomach. A red shape flashed down in front of me. I pressed my gun triggers, sent in a withering burst of lead that seemed to splatter like a pinwheel as it hit. More struts on my plane cracked, shattered, sheared in two from Spandau bursts. A sharp pain stabbed me in the groin. But the red Fokker went to pieces in the air, tumbled down beneath me.

I glanced back. Tracer streams from two Fokkers were pouring at Hammond. One of his arms was hanging limply. Blood saturated his mitten. He was aiming his Lewis’ with the other hand. I went around in a sweeping, climbing turn, to get him above the attackers. Our plane groaned, crackled some more. More holes appeared like lightning in the upper wing, the lower. Another sharp pain stabbed through my lower right leg. A burst of German tracer found my petrol tank, it puffed into flames. I got in a final shot at a red Hun who swept across my path. He went down, out of control.

The heat from the burning tank lashed back in my face. Flames, choking smoke swirled in the cockpit. I loosened my belt, stepped out on the lower left wing. Holding on with my left hand, moving the stick with my right, I threw the machine into a steep side-slip, blowing the flames and smoke away from us.

Two Fokkers slid down with us, firing as they came.

Hammond, weak and reeling in the back pit, got one of them just before we hit the ground, then climbed up on the top wing. The machine crashed, thudded, bounced, throwing me off. Hammond was swept back into his pit. Flames and smoke enveloped him, the whole machine.

I raced back, pulled him out, carried him away from the fire. Bullets thudded around us, machine-gun and rifle bullets from the Huns in their trenches, not two hundred yards away,

I kept going away from them until a deep blackness descended. That is all I remember.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Charles J. Biddle

Link - Posted by David on February 22, 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 Major Charles J. Biddle’s most thrilling sky fight!

Major Biddle was one of that small number of American aviators who had actually had front line battle experience when his own country entered the war. Even before there were any indication* of his own country taking part, he sailed for France and enlisted in the French Army, where he was eventually transferred for aviation tralning. When the La Fayette Escadrille was formed, he wan invited to become a member. In that organization he won his commission as a Lieutenant in recognition of his ability and courage.

When General Pershing formed the American Air Service and put Colonel William Mitchell in command of the air squadrons on the front, the able Colonel promoted Biddle to major and save him command of the 13th Pursuit Squadron, which he formed, organized and took to the front to make a distinguished record.

Though not supposed to lead his men in battle, he always did so. Just before the armistice, he left the 13th Squadron to become commander of the 4th Pursuit Group. The account below is taken from one of his letters when he was in command of the 13th Squadron at Toul.

 

MY FOURTH VICTORY

by Major Charles J. Biddle • Sky Fighters, May 1934

A GERMAN plane had been coming over our airdrome every morning just about daybreak. I decided to set a trap for him one night.

I took off at 3:30 A.M. I had cruised around idly for almost an hour and a half before I saw my friend, Mr. Boche.

I circled around behind him. He was flying at about 4,500 meters and I had plenty of ceiling on him.

I let him go until he got almost over Toul. Then with the sun at my back, my plane intervening between his and the sun, I went at him in a long power dive. Getting closer I saw it was a two-place Rumpler, so I dived under his tail and came up beneath, letting go with a burst, then pulling off to one side to see what happened. The observer swung his guns around, aimed them at me. I dived again, got my guns on him from beneath, withheld my fire until I was at a 10 yard range and let go. My tracer tore through the bottom of the pit.

The pilot dived for some seconds, went down to 2,000 meters, then straightened out, headed for home. I headed him off, trying to get in a burst from in front, but the Boche fooled me, giving me a burst, then banking out of my range, and diving again. I renversed and got behind him, my guns leveled on his back. I sent in a burst that splintered through his upper wing. He ducked. We were down to a thousand meters now. He tried once more to shake me off, but didn’t succeed. I sent out another burst, purposely high. I didn’t want to kill him, now, I wanted to force him down, and capture his plane. Finally a green field alongside a river showed beneath and he dipped down.

I kept close on his tail, fearing a trick. But he drifted down nicely, landing light as a feather alongside the river. I circled around him and fired my guns some more to attract attention in a near-by village. French poilus came running out and surrounded the plane. I set down then in a field next to him, hit the only rough place in it, and nosed over in a crash. I ran over, however, and captured my prisoner. He seemed glad it was all over, smiling when I shook his hand. Blood soaked one of his sleeves. One of my bullets had nicked him in the shoulder. The observer was Fatally wounded by bullets through his chest. He died as we were laying him out on the ground. I tell you at such moments, when you see your opponent die before your eyes, war becomes far from a glorious thing. It is different in the air.

It was my fourth victory. We got much information from both plane and pilot.

“Falling Leaf” by Lt. Frank Johnson

Link - Posted by David on February 10, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

This time around we have a tale from the anonymous pen of Lt. Frank Johnson—a house pseudonym. Sky Fighters ran a series of stories by Johnson featuring a pilot who who was God’s gift to the Ninth Pursuit Fighter Squadron and although he says he’s a doer and not a talker, he wasn’t to shy to tell them all about it. Which earned him the nickname “Silent” Orth. This time Silent Orth goes after Baron Rapunzel—a Boche Ace who’s already claimed 51 victories—and Orth doesn’t plan to be the 52nd!

Baron Rapunzel Was the Mystery Man of German Air—And A Tough Bird to Tackle in Combat!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major J.T. McCudden, R.F.C.

Link - Posted by David on February 8, 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 Major J.T. McCudden’s most thrilling sky fight!

MAJOR James T. McCudden was one of the most modest and unassuming of the great flying aces. When the war began he was an engine mechanic with the then recently formed Royal Flying Corps. After flying training he became a Sergeant pilot, and began, piling up the string of victories which eventually placed him at the top of all the British aces. He was progressively promoted to Lieutenant, Captain and Major, and won every medal possible, including the Victoria Cross.

In the air he was absolutely fearless and could handle a plane as well as the best of his fellows. But his ability in using the machine-gun made him superior to all others. He was a crack gunner. He was killed in an accident when taking off to fly back to the front after one of his infrequent leaves. The account below is taken from his book, “Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps.”

 

ONE AGAINST FIVE

by Major J. T. McCudden, R.F.C. • Sky Fighters, January 1934

I WAS out stalking alone at a 19,000 foot level over Cambrai when I caught sight of five Hun scouts over Bourlon Wood. They were cruising several thousand feet below me. I sized up the situation for a moment, then went down swiftly in a screeching dive, aiming right through the middle of the formation.

After driving through the formation, I pulled up abruptly directly behind and beneath the leader, in his blind spot. I withheld my fire as long as possible, then let go with a short burst at very close range. His ship, an Albatross, went streaking down with plywood strips shredding and crackling from the fuselage. My tracers had almost ripped his fuselage in two. I didn’t have time to watch him crash for the four other scouts jumped me from behind.

I maneuvered quickly, however, and managed to get behind one of them, a Pfalz. One short burst took care of him. He went down in a spiral dive. The other three now began to show signs of alarm. They spread in all directions. I got my guns on an Albatross, pumped a long burst at him, but he spun and got away. I had been so intent firing at him, I didn’t notice the Albatross that slid in behind me pumping lead, until I heard the bullets crackling through the fuselage at my back.

I reversed more quickly than I ever had. Got my sights in line again, and was feeding him a lovely burst from Vickers and Lewis when both my guns stopped. On looking, I saw that the Lewis drum on the top gun was empty, the Vickers belt below was broken.

So there I was with no guns. But my two quick victories had given me confidence. I felt awfully brave, so went chasing after them with no guns. The two Albatross pilots weren’t very lively on either the stick or trigger, and I almost ran into the tail of the remaining Pfalz. I got so close that I could have popped the pilot in the eye with a rotten egg—if I had had any.

I chased those two fellows as far in as Cambrai, then growing cautious because of my failing petrol supply, I turned back and left them. I had got two of the formation and chased the other three away without any bullets. Of course, if the Huns had known that, it wouldn’t have been so easy, the three of them might have ganged on me.

When I got home and made my report my flying mates kidded me about not having a ready supply of rotten eggs handy in the pit.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Max Immelmann

Link - Posted by David on January 25, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

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

LIEUTENANT Max Franz Immelmann was the first of the great German Aces. Immelmann scored victory after victory over the Allied flyers until his total score mounted higher than that of any of the Allied Aces.

He was an excellent gunner and as a flyer had no peer during his time. He was the first to use the quick Climbing reverse turn, which was the fastest method of changing direction while in full flight. The maneuver first demonstrated by Immelmann in his sky battles over the Western front has since been named after him, the Immelmann turn. It was a very effective maneuver and enabled him to gain many victories. He and Oswald Boelke served in the same Squadron. When he was killed Boelke went on to surpass his records, only to be surpassed himself after he was killed, by Baron von Richthofen.

None of the American flyers, except those flying with the French, ever encountered Immelmann in the air. He was killed in 1918 before America entered the war. The account below was told to a newspaper correspondent.

 

TWO OUT OF THREE

by Lieutenant Max Immelmann • Sky Fighters, January 1934

AIR fighting is like any other kind of fighting. Victory goes usually to the strongest and best prepared. The French have tried to make it more romantic, like the fighting of the knights of old, man to man in bold, open fighting on mounted chargers. That is spectacular and picturesque. I do not believe it the best method. The object in war is to down as many of the enemy planes as is possible without losing any of your own. Thus you may obtain the mastery of the air, which is necessary in this modern war, if the ground troops are going to win success.

For that reason I have adopted tactics which seem on the surface prudent. I aim to destroy the enemy without letting them destroy me. My methods are best explained by giving an example. Three days ago, I was out cruising the lines with my patrol. We were in layer formation. One was far below, leading. Two others were further back of him and higher up, one on either side. I brought up the rear, directly behind the leader, and higher up than any of them.

While flying in that formation, the leader encountered a patrol of three Frenchmen. His instructions were to fly on until attacked, which he did. My patrol never even let on that they saw the approaching formation. They flew along parallel with the lines in steady flight without changing elevation. I throttled down my machine and dropped back, until the rest of my patrol was just mere specks. Then I shoved on full throttle and climbed for the sun.

The Frenchmen drove in for the attack on the three German planes below. My men kept their formation until the bullets began to get too close, then they returned the fire and adopted defensive tactics. At the same time, they retreated back over our lines, to draw the enemy over our territory. They were making a running fight of it, according to instructions, diverting the attackers’ intentions all to themselves; but knowing all the time that I would be diving down unawares from the disc of the sun behind to pounce upon the enemy in surprise.

And I did. I dived straight down from the well of the sun, my fingers poised over the gun trips. At one hundred yards I opened up on the first Frenchman. My tracers bored through his cockpit and he went spinning down. But not before I had dived underneath him to zoom up again with my guns pointed at his nearest comrade.

I opened up on him, saw my tracers eating into his belly. One plane was down now. I had the position on the second, and the first shots in. My comrades then, all banked and raced in for attack on the third Frenchman. He fought them bravely, I must admit, returning burst for burst. But he was doomed from the first with three against one.

My opponent slipped from my tracer stream, and nosed down towards his own lines. I zoomed up, half-rolled (Immelmanned—Ed.), changed direction and went streaking after him, still pouring tracer. Glancing back over my shoulder I saw the second enemy break apart beneath the guns of my mates. His plane fell to pieces and went fluttering down.

When I looked forward again, my opponent had dived and won away from me. I nosed down and went after him, but he went even faster for a forced landing just on the other side of his own lines where his ship upended in a shell crater and smashed one wing.

That was the end of the fight. Two French ships had been destroyed in our own territory. The other had been forced down to a crash landing just out of our reach. That was poor strategy on my part. I should have headed him off, making him land on our side. However, my patrol was still intact. Next time, I vowed I would not make such a slip. With perfect strategy and tactics properly executed, we would have accounted for all three enemy ships over our own territory.

“High Explosives” by Lt. Frank Johnson

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

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

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

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

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Frank Baylies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

STOPPING A PHOTO MISSION

by Lieutenant Frank Baylies • Sky Fighters, January 1934

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link - Posted by David on January 9, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the July 1934 cover, It’s a battle of David and Goliath—a Belgian Hanriot 3 C.2 going after a L70 Class Zeppelin!

The Ships on the Cover

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

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

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

Real Fighting Spirit

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

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

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

A Matter of Seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link - Posted by David on October 31, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the January 1934 cover, It’s a battle of the Allied piloted Sopwith Camels against the German Albatross DVs!

The Ships on the Cover

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

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

A Tricky Little Scout

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

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

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

An Exciting Fight

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

Family Tree of the Albatross

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

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

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

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

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

Link - Posted by David on May 30, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the December 1934 cover, It’s a battle of the Sea as the Phönix Seaplane is attacked by an Austrian Sea Tank!

The Ships on the Cover

TANKS, bristling with machine-guns th_SF_3412 and one pounders, crawled on to the muck and mud of the British front near Cambrai during 1916. Slowly these squat engines of destruction inched closer to the German hordes. Relentlessly they smashed the Boche lines, literally buried them in their supposedly impregnable trenches.

Tanks from that day on held a major position in the War’s spotlight. Not only on land did the tanks crush the enemy, they did things on the water.

A Slick Stunt!

About 400 miles southeast of Cambrai on the Adriatic is the fortified port of Pola. During the war the Austrians were top men of this strategic spot. In 1916 the Italians barged in with a flock of torpedo boats and raised hell with things in general, but it was not until 1918 that they pulled one of the slickest stunts of the whole war. They rigged up a small speed boat with geared cables running along each side just as a tank’s tractor treads are placed. Steel claws on this tractor cable made this boat literally a sea tank. It could do anything on the water that its famous iron brother could do on land.

Across the mouth of the harbor of Pola the Austrians had constructed stout obstructions which would frustrate any more raids from the Italian mosquito fleet. But they had not figured on the gnat fleet. That fleet consisted of two boats shown on the cover. Each boat carried two torpedoes, one swung on either side, two men and a machine-gun.

Bottled up in the harbor was the Austrian fleet. Vigilance had somewhat relaxed, the Austrians felt their position to be impregnable from sea raids.

And then out of the Adriatic two small strange-looking craft pounded across the choppy waves straight up to the harbor barriers. They slowed down, eased their noses against the wall, gears were meshed and the endless chain of iron claws scratched at the wall, dug in, held and the prows of the tiny raiders eased over the top. Slowly the boats were heaved over the first barrier. Down splashed their noses. One eased over the second obstruction and tore through the inner harbor toward the Austrian fleet.

Sirens screamed, land batteries roared. The battleships brought their guns into position and blazed away. Two Phönix seaplanes careened off the water, clawed their way into the air and dove on the brazen raiders. Down swooped one of the planes, front guns lacing the sea tank just pulling itself over the second obstruction. The after machine-gun on the sea tank bucked and jerked as its gunner arced it to meet his diving foe. The observer in the rear of the Phönix pushed his gun over the side, blasted slugs down. One bullet hit a vital part of the sea tank’s mechanism. Its engine sputtered, went half dead. Score one for the Austrians.

Two Famous Firsts

But the second sea tank miraculously raced safely through the gauntlet of falling shells and the fire of the second Phönix. The machine-gun went into action on the second sea tank and the pursuing seaplane’s propeller sprayed into a thousand bits. Score one for the tanks.

On went the tiny boat until at blank broadside range it released its two torpedoes at the 20,000 ton dreadnaught. A terrific concussion shook the harbor. Slowly the majestic fighting ship listed, shuddered, and sank.

One tiny, battered sea tank clawed its way out of the harbor and limped slowly across the choppy surface of the Adriatic toward home. Two famous firsts for the tanks; 1916 at Cambrai—1918 at Pola.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Fokker E.1 and the F.E.2!

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