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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Capt. Allan R. Kingsford

Link - Posted by David on March 7, 2018 @ 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 Australian flyer—Capt. Allan R. Kingsford!

Captain Kingsford enlisted as a simple private in the Australian Army. The troop ship carrying his contingent was torpedoed by a German submarine and he was cast adrift in a heaving sea at midnight with only a frail spar to buoy him up. He served for over a year as a Lance Corporal of Infantry in Mesopotamia, he determined upon obtaining a transfer to the Hying corps, and after many setbacks he finally was ordered for flight training and sent to England, He became pilot of the Zeppelin night patrol guarding London, later joining that strange organization, the British Independent Air Force, as a bombing pilot attached to 100 Squadron. As a member of that group which served under no army, but roved about from point to point, he took part in 270 night bombing raids and became known as the Ace of night bombers. This account of his most thrilling flight is taken from his private memoirs.



by Captain Allan R. Kingsford • Sky Fighters, November 1936

BOULAY! That is a name to conjure up grim thoughts. Boulay Airdrome … the home nest of the Hun Gothas that rained so much terror on Paris and London! When our C.O. told us Intelligence had discovered that the Hun Gothas were planning to put on a massive parade over Paris that bright August night and that 100 Bombing Squadron had been ordered to forestall their show, Bourdegay (my observer) and I danced with glee.

We had tried to destroy Boulay before but something had always been against us . . . bad weather, tricky engines, faulty bombs or too many enemy planes and archies for protection, that we had failed in our efforts. Still Bourdegay and I thought it could be done.

Loaded with sixteen bombs I took off with my flight at midnight and flew over the valley of the Moselle River toward Boulay 90 kilometers behind the front lines. Because of the great distance there and back (180 kilometers) I knew it would have to be a short show on a hot spot. We would have no time to waste when we got there, and we would have to go down through hell fire and brimstone to lay our iron eggs.

Lights Flash on!

Flying at a great height, masked by a convenient layer of clouds that hid our approach from the enemy, I managed to guide the formation intact right over Boulay. Our “Fees” (slang for F.F. 2B’s, the type of bomber they flew) were running perfectly that night.

Just as we appeared over the airdrome the take-off lights on the field flashed on. There were the flights of Gothas running across the field in take-off just below us! And all lit up conveniently like churches for us to pepper at!

Bourdegay hooped and yelled at me to dive down on the nearest one. I threw the Fee into a steep dive. A searchlight flashed on, another and another. The landing field went suddenly dark! The wind whined through the brace wires and struts of my diving plane like shrieking demons, A searchlight beam caught us full. Archie puffs blazed clear as Christmas lights around us. I slipped the Fee, tried to get out of that dazzling light, but the searchlight crew held us in their beam. “I’m going for them!” Bourdegay yelled, swinging his Lewis around and spewing out a long burst.

There was a dazzling flash. The searchlight seemed to explode, spread apart like a pinwheel in a million dazzling fragments. The Gotha ahead of us showed its red exhausts. I was down to three hundred feet now and almost over it. Other “Fees” were following behind me. I could hear the snort of the motors above the roar of my own. Machine-guns on the ground opened up in murderous volley, their tracer streams shooting up like light rays from a setting sun. “Pull her up!” Bourdegay yelled, bending over his bomb sights while his fingers tensed on the trips. I pulled back and he let go. A direct hit! The Gotha exploded in red flames.

I zoomed for the ceiling with all the sauce I had, managed to get up to a thousand feet before another probing finger of light caught up. Bourdegay had dropped two more pills on the way up. One set a hangar on fire. Another exploded on the field and hurled up a geyser of earth which a running Gotha tore into and up-ended on its nose.

Crashing Bullets

I slid the Fee again, but couldn’t escape the beam. Bullets crashed through my wings. Archie blasts rocked us mercilessly. I banked and zig-zagged, stood on my wingtips and dropped three hundred feet, but I couldn’t shake that light; so I determined on a ruse. I dropped a landing flare through the tube, cutting my engines at the same time. It exploded in flame beneath the plane. The Hun gunners thought they had made a direct hit on my ship. They ceased firing and the searchlight beam swung away seeking my mates.

All was bedlam now below on the earth and in the skies above. Boulay Airdrome was in flames. Fed by a fitful wind the flames leaped this way and that, igniting one hangar after another. Several of the Gothas, however, had succeeded in getting into the air.

Bourdegay spied one of these and yelled at me to go for it. He still had two bombs left.

A Fountain of Flame

I sent the Fee around in a split air turn, straightened out and streaked for the running Gotha. Just as I got over it a fountain of flame blossomed under my wings—flaming onions! Up they came like luminous dumbbells in their crazy, erratic trajectory. I lifted the nose and leaped over them, then piqued for the Gotha. Bourdegay tripped his first bomb. It missed.

But the second made a direct hit. The Gotha fell apart in the flame-ridden sky. And just in time—for a formation of night flying enemy fighters thundered in from the east, swarming around my flight like bees and attempting to cut off our return.

Boulay was destroyed, however! We had accomplished our mission. Not a Gotha reached Paris that night, nor any night thereafter. We had scotched that last parade before it began.

How Bourdegay and me got back, I don’t know. I guess we were just lucky, for most of the boys with us did not return.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Sergeant Kiffin Rockwell

Link - Posted by David on February 21, 2018 @ 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 member of the LaFayette Escadrille—Sergeant Kiffin Rockwell!

Kiffin Rockwell was a true soldier of fortune. Born and raised In Aaheville, N. Carolina, young Rockwell got the wanderlust soon after graduating from the University of Virginia. When the Germans made their surprise move on the forts of Liege, Rockwell was serving in the ranks of the Foreign Legion. For a heroic exploit in hand to hand bayonet fighting, he was awarded the Medaille Militaire. For a whole year he served with the Foreign Legion in the trenches, then transferred to the aviation and went into training at Avord. When Norman Prince formed the first American Flying Squadron in Paris, Rockwell was one of those invited to join. He proved out to be one of the best and most daring pilots of that original band. His career was cut short by his untimely death on September 23rd, 1916.

Rockwell ran up a score of three official victories before being killed in action and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with additional citation for his Medaille Militaire. The following is taken from a letter to his brother in Asheville.



by Sergeant Kiffin Rockwell • Sky Fighters, August 1936

YOU asked why we call the Germans les Boches, or butchers, in our language. There are many reasons. I shall relate a recent experience so you can determine for yourself.

Captain Thenault, Prince and I had taken young Balsley out for his second trip over the front. We were cruising along behind the Boche lines when we suddenly found ourselves face to face with about 40 Boches. They were grouped together in a close formation but at different altitudes. On our level there were about 12 or 15 Aviatiks.

These Aviatiks had about the same speed as our Nieuports, but they carried a gunner behind the pilot. The pilot shoots as we do, but the gunner has a movable gun which enables him to fire in all directions.

A Mêlée of Battle

We were but four and on the German side of the lines, but none of us turned and ran away. For ten or fifteen minutes we flew over and around the Aviatiks, being fired at constantly, some of their bursts being at very close range. Finally we saw an opening. One of their machines raced toward our lines. The rest were behind us.

We plunged after this isolated Boche. A general mêlée resulted, for the whole swarm of Boches pounced on us, coming from above and all sides.

One of our planes dived and fell as though streaking to death. I wondered if it were Prince or Balsley. Tough in either case, I thought. Then in the mêlée I lost sight of another of our little Nieuports. Now both Prince and Balsley were gone. Only Captain Thenault and myself remained and the Boches were giving us plenty.

Thenault signalled to draw away and we ran for our lines, confident that both Balsley and Prince had been shot down.

An Exploding Bullet

We managed to run the gauntlet. Later Prince showed up. He had followed down after Balsley when he saw the youngster falling. It appeared that poor Balsley had darted in on a Boche and just as he pressed his Bowden to fire his gun, it jammed.

He swerved off to clear and just at that instant a bullet struck him in the stomach and exploded against his backbone!

Balsley’s machine went into a dive as he fainted over the stick. But the rush of air in the dive revived him. And as he had kept his feet on the rudder he was enabled to redress and land right side up. The machine, however, smashed to bits. Prince got Balsley out. Twelve pieces of the exploded bullet were removed from Balsley’s interior. Balsley will live but he will never fly again.

So, you see why they are called les Boches? This is the second time we have run into explosive bullets. First it was me, and I am not entirely recovered yet, now it is poor Balsley.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Col. William Barker

Link - Posted by David on February 7, 2018 @ 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 Canadian Flyer with the R.C.F.—Lieutenant Colonel William Barker’s most thrilling sky fight!

The plain unvarnished truth of William Barker’s career on two flying fronts reads more like fiction than fact. Born in the prairie province of Manitoba in 1894, he enlisted as a Private in the Canadian Army at the age of 19. He served in the cavalry before transferring to the flying corps. Barker began as a simple private. But he skyrocketed swiftly through all the grades to that of Lieut. Colonel. His training for a pilot was limited to two flights with an instructor. After that he was turned loose to begin piling up an amazing record. On October 27, 1918, he crowned this amazing record with the most astounding aerial feat of the whole war . . . fighting and escaping from a surrounding net of 6O enemy planes at the dizzy altitude of 20,000 feet.

With one leg useless, shattered by an explosive bullet, one elbow torn away by another, and two bullet wounds in his abdomen, he nevertheless maneuvered his plane in such a masterful manner that he downed 4 enemy aircraft and managed to escape to his own side of the lines. For this, his last and most terrific fight against stupendous odds, he was awarded the Victoria Cross. When he departed from the front he ranked fifth among the British Aces with 50 official victories. He was killed in an airplane accident 12 years after the war. Barker picked the following encounter as the most thrilling of his experiences.



by Lieut. Col. William Barker• Sky Fighters, September 1935

WHEN I was assigned to the 28th Squadron, I was made a flight commander. I decided on an immediate test to prove my right to the assignment. Richthofen’s Flying Circus was operating in our area, the Hauptmann himself was away on leave, but those remaining to carry on were crack air fighters. I called my boys together for a foray over their lines.

It was late afternoon and the ceiling was less than 1,000 feet, but I picked my way across the lines by following the Memi road, vaguely discerned below by the twin rows of tall poplars on either side. Malloch, a high caste Indian, who always insisted on wearing his colorful turban with his regulation uniform, flew at my right. Fenton was at my left. Three other boys filled in the rear, 6 of us in all.

For almost an hour we dodged back and forth among clouds behind the Hun lines without having any luck. Our Sop Camels were ticking along smoothly but somewhat futilely . . . when suddenly it happened! We had slid from a cloud only to run smack into the whole Flying Circus. Malloch was closest and drew fire first, three Fokkers of dazzling hue pouncing in on him simultaneously. I split-aired to his assistance and cleaved the Hun attackers in two. But another Hun arrowed from nowhere, fastened on my tail and began pumping hot lead.

Diving for the Earth

I kicked rudder abruptly, glanced swiftly at the sky and ground, came to a sudden decision. I could spin or turn my light-engined Sop Camel on a half penny. The Fokker with its weighty Mercedes motor in the blunt nose was heavier and faster. The ceiling was low. I decided on a new adaptation of an old trick. Pushing the stick forward I dived for the all too close earth with full sauce. The Hun peppered away at my tail and I let him have it. When my lower wingtips almost touched the topmost leaves of the waving poplars I tugged the stick abruptly and went into a tight loop.

An old trick, yes. And easily countered—usually! It had been worn thin since Ball first used it two years before. But this was a new adaptation at an ungodly low altitude! The heavier Fokker couldn’t follow me. I came out sitting smack on his tail with my sights on the back of the pilot’s helmet. One Vickers burst was enough. The pilot crumpled over the controls and the Fokker fell.

I zoomed up again, just missed being hit by a tumbling Fokker coming down in flames. Fenton was going at it with two Huns. I lured one of them away by flashing my tail in his face. We went around and ’round in an ever tightening circle. The Spandau bursts swept harmlessly beneath my trucks. The Hun pilot was not able to bend his Fokker far enough to get my range. That was where our Camels were superior to the Fokkers. While circling that way I slid off on a wing nearer and nearer to the ground. When I could descend no farther I straightened out and let my antagonist line me in his sights. With his first burst I pulled up and went over in a loop to come out on the Fokker’s tail. Two bursts accounted for it. It exploded in flames. The pilot was a victim of the same trick I had pulled on the first Hun.

Four Missing Men

It was too dark now for further fighting and my squadron mates had swept away through the clouds, I could see neither friend nor enemy anywhere, so I turned homeward. Malloch was there when I landed. He reported getting one Hun. I had downed two. But four of my mates were missing! It was a sad and bitter ending to my first encounter with the Circus.

Later on, however, Fenton phoned in from a nearby field where he had been forced to land in the darkness and reported a victory. Two others had landed with him, but one of my men would never return. Fenton had seen him fall in flames behind the German lines. But I had won my first joust as a single-seater flight commander. The final score was 4 to 1 in our favor. But what pleased me most was the working out of my new tactic.

“Doin’s in the Dunes” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on January 26, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” You heard right! That marvel from Boonetown, Iowa is back! And this time we find that Knight of Calamity finds himself shrieking amongst the sheiks in “Doin’s in the Dunes” from the pages of the March 1936 Flying Aces.

Foreign Legionnaires, it was true, swallowed corosive cognac without batting an eye. But they choked when the Kraut Intelligence agents added Abd-el-Fizz to their diet. It was then that the action in Morocco got fast. And it got even faster when Phineas met Beni Hazzit—and let him have it!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Norman Prince

Link - Posted by David on January 24, 2018 @ 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 the founder of the LaFayette Escadrille—Lieutenant Norman Prince!

Born to the purple on August 31, 1887, scion of one of the blue-blooded families In old Boston, was Norman Pslnce, the founder of the famous LaFayette Escadrille. Educated at Groton and Harvard for a career in business with his wealthy family, he hazarded his promising future and used his wealth and family prestige in overcoming obstacle’s to form a squadron of American aviators for battle at the front. With him in the beginning were Thaw, Chapman, Rockwell, McConnell, Hall and Cowdin. These Americans with Prince made up the roster of the original squadron sent up to the front at Luxeuil in May, 1910.

Later on it became known as the Escadrille de Lafayette and 325 fighting pilots flew under its proud banner before the war came to an end. Prince’s career on the front was short but meteoric. Before he was killed, however, on October 15, of the same year, he had engaged in 122 aerial combats and won every award possible for his many acts of bravery and heroism. The story below is taken from the records of a French war correspondent.



by Sous-Lieutenant Norman Prince • Sky Fighters, May 1936

A HIDDEN Boche artillery emplacement was holding up the French advance on the captured fortress of Douai. The General des Armees became frantic. His cavalry scouts had failed. Infantry patrols had learned nothing. The Boches had command of the air. But locating the hidden emplacement was imperative. Though the weather was far from auspicious, the General demanded that the avions de chasse break through the Boche net and discover the hidden guns so that our 75s could destroy them.

It was a grim, desperate order. The sky was on the ground in spots. It was rain and sunshine alternately, and the wind blew in whirling tempests across our front . . . very bad weather for flying. And much, more worse for reconnaissance. Twenty-four avions took off on that desperate mission, 4 from our squadron; the rest from other squadrons nearby, including the famous Storks.

Little Hope of Returning

I had few hopes of returning when I lifted wings into the air on that bleak day. But one thing I vowed: no Boche in the sky or on the earth was going to force me to turn back until I had won through to Douai. I did not fear death. I feared only that I would not be able to accomplish the mission; that no one of us would.

The first half hour it was a battle against wind and weather. My frail avion tossed up and down like a cork. For a few minutes I saw my comrades on either side of me, then they gradually faded into the dismal sky and I found myself alone in a dripping, grey-black void. My thoughts were somber and the whirling rotary engine seemed to sob out a sinister cadence: “Solo to Douai! Solo to Douai!”

I caught myself mouthing it aloud in rhythm with the moaning exhausts where I was rudely awakened from my lethargy by the stitching, ripping sound of Boche bullets tearing into the fuselage at my back. Instinctively I whirled off in an abrupt virage and saw black spots that were enemy planes dotting the grey sky all around me . . . and the fortress of Douai was immediately beneath!

Enemy Avions

I took in everything with a single, darting glance. My Lewis coughed sharply as I spiraled down through the converging black specks. Some of those black specks puffed and mushroomed . . . shrapnel bursts! Others grew wings and blue smoke spouted over engine nacelles . . . enemy avions!

How many I did not know. There was not time to count. I circled, dived, zoomed; firing my piece when Boche shapes slid by in my sights. I got one I know, for I saw the avion sway and fall away in a lazy zig-zag glide with black smoke pluming from the cockpit.

But that was not important. More important was the blinding flash of firing guns just below me . . . the hidden gun emplacement! There it was in a wooded copse beyond and to one side of the fortress of Douai.

There was no need of me tarrying longer over Douai! Back I whirled with my avion not more than 500 meters off the ground. Bullets from sky and earth rained around me like hail.

Ages passed, it seemed, before our trench lines loomed beneath me. But finally they showed, then my own airdrome, the green turf glistening like an emerald in the sudden sunshine.

I set down safely to find that of the 24 who tried to reach Douai, I was the only one to succeed. And I had returned with what the General ordered. Fate had favored me, but I know that she shan’t always do so. Some day I shall not return.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Paul Marchal

Link - Posted by David on January 10, 2018 @ 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 Paul Marchal of the French Flying Corps!

Paul Marchal joined the colors on the first day war was declared, and it was he that answered the challenge of that bold German, lieutenant Max Immelmann, when the latter bombed Paris with leaflets calling for surrender. Immelmann had to fly a matter of but a hundred kilometers, or less, to get over the city of Paris. But when Marchal answered his challenge with an identical flight to Berlin, he had to fly 8QO kilometers.

The fact that Marchal succeeded in bombing Berlin with leaflets proves his unusual courage and daring. Marchal was the first sky fighter to be captured by the Germans. Likewise he was the first to make his escape from a German prison camp and rejoin his squadron after a trek through hostile Germany that reads like a page from epic literature. Before his flaming career on the front was inadvertently halted, young Paul Marchal was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the Medal Militaire, and the Cross of the Legion d’Honneur. He told the story below upon his return to France after escaping from Germany.



by Lieutenant Paul Marchal • Sky Fighters, April 1936

THE idea of a flight over Berlin bloomed suddenly in my dumb brain. Of course, if my motor should fail, or the avion falter, or should I run into contrary winds and had weather, I was doomed to failure. But I was willing and anxious to try.

Finally mon-commandant reluctantly consented. Then began the period of preparation. I had charted my course over Germany, intending to fly down the valley of the Moselle into the Rhine, then along the Rhine until it veered off suddenly to the left. After reaching Berlin, and dropping my leaflets, I was going to bend off to the right and make a try for Poland, the terrain of our Russian allies.

To lessen weight, I dispensed with all guns except a small pistol with a single full cylinder of ammunition. The day was just dawning, when my avion was wheeled from the hangar and faced toward the east. I shook hands all around, then took my place in the cockpit. After a long run I got into the air, and headed straight for the trenches, waving back over my shoulder as I left my comrades behind. Would I ever see them again? I did not know.

Over the trenches I was fired at. Some of the bullets made holes in my wings. One or two enemy avions I spied, or thought I did. But in the half light they did not see me. When it was fully light, I was far behind the enemy lines.

Over Unknown Terrain

The winding Moselle heaves into view. I course along it until it empties into the Rhine, then I follow up the Rhine. It is a splendid day.

I have been hours in the air it seems when I must leave the Rhine and strike out over terrain unknown to me. But I have studied my carte Taride well, and I recognize the cities as I fly over them.

Finally Berlin looms beneath me. I am very high now. Over the Unter den Linden I fly, tossing my leaflets out on both sides. They flutter down like snowflakes.

But I am not to get out of Berlin without being shot at, and enemy avions come up, too. But I am so high that I run far from Berlin before they can reach my elevation . . . and they give up the chase.

Flight Toward Poland

Kilometer after kilometer, I fly in a straight line for Poland. I think I am going to make it when I see the Polish villages across the border line far ahead of me. But no, I am still 30 kilometers or so away, when my engine starts to spit.

I am still 20 kilometers from the Polish border when I am forced to spiral down and light on a plowed field. Being so near the border, there are many soldiers, and they run towards my avion as it volplanes down. I consider if I should use my pistol and make a fight of it. But I decide not to. There are too many against me.

That is all there is to it. I was taken prisoner and sent to a prison camp in Silesia, but I have made the longest flight in the war. And I have scattered French leaflets over the German capital. I had delivered my answer, France’s answer to Max Immelmann and the Imperial Army. The people of Berlin knew now that they were no longer safe from attacks by air.


“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 43: Capt. John Mitchell” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on January 3, 2018 @ 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 John Mitchell!

John Mitchell, a Harvard graduate, enlisted on March 1, 1917 and trained at Miami, Fla., Essington, Pa., and at M.I.T. He was commissioned 1st Lieut. June 27, 1917, and went overseas Sept. 1, 1917, continuing his training at Issoudun and Cazaux, France, and joined the 95th Squadron.

At Toul he was credited with helping members of his squadron to bring down two Boches, and at Chateau-Thierry he did excellent work in patrolling and strafing infantry formations. He tangled with Richthofen’s circus—dividing the honors with Lieut. Heinrichs in bringing down one of the circus.

On Aug. 1, 1918, Lieut. Mitchell was commissioned Captain, and on Oct. 13, 1918, he was placed in command of the 95th Squadron.

The Squadron was demobilized Dec. 10. Mitchell arrived back in the U.S. Feb. 14, and was discharged Feb. 16, 1919. He received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, and the American Distinguished Service Cross–both for engagement in the Toul sector in May 1918. Mitchell is credited with the destruction of four enemy planes in combat according to official credits in the A.E.F. at the close of the war.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Jan Thieffry

Link - Posted by David on December 27, 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 Air Ace Lieutenant Jan Thieffry!

Little Belgium played as heroic a part in the war of the air as she did in the war on the ground, when her brave soldiers held up the advance of the German hordes at the gates of Liege until the British and French armies could mobilize and get to the front to begin their counter-offensive. Corporal Jan Thieffry was a motorcycle despatch rider at that time. He was taken prisoner by a flying squadron of German Uhlans, but after some months made his escape.

He was later assigned for aviation training, and after graduation served as a bomber pilot for a brief period, In December, 1916, he was transferred to a chasse squadron, and on March the next year got his first official victory while flying a Nieuport Scout.

Before long his score of victories had grown to five. Thus he became the first Belgian Ace, and held that position as Belgian Ace of Aces until he was killed behind the German lines on February 23rd, 1918. His final total of victories mounted to 10. The story below is taken from his diary.



by Lieutenant Jan Thieffry • Sky Fighters, March 1936

THERE are many ways to down les Boches when on the wing. I have used many ways, but today I discovered something new—and quite by accident. A machine-gun, I find, is not always necessary. Always, when going out on patrols, it has been my habit to carry along a half dozen or so hand grenades. If I am forced down behind the enemy lines, I figure they will serve me in destroying my machine before it falls into their hands.

It was over Passchendale that I encountered a patrol of three Boche avions. For several minutes we flew along together, waiting for the other to make the first move, I guess. As for me, I forced a show of bravery to show them I was not scared. The Boches were probably waiting for me to turn my tail, so they would have a better target. I cocked my gun and waited, wary. I was going to make them fire first.

Defiant Battle

The shot was not long coming. The leader wheeled suddenly and came at me from the side, shooting as he came. I dropped my nose and piqued, then swiftly pulled up again and trained my gun on the other’s belly. The two other Boches circled around me from different directions.

I had the first Boche in my sights so I pressed the trigger. But the pilot must have anticipated my fire. He banked off just ahead of my bullets, and the burst went wide past his lower wing. I fell off on a wing and slid into a spiral that brought me in range of the second Boche who opened fire at me from in front. I pressed my trigger again. Two-three, bullets stuttered out, then my gun went silent.

I reached up and tried to clear, but the bullet was stuck tight in the breech. “C’est fini pour moi!” I gasped with a sudden feeling of panic. For one without guns to battle three with guns, I knew was impossible. And les Boches had my range-now. Their bullets sieved through my wings and fuselage. Then a sudden light struck my befuddled brain!

The Fateful Grenade

I reached for a grenade, looked back over my shoulder, saw the Boche kiting behind me, right on my tail. I turned around again, pulled the firing pin on the grenade, then tossed it back over my shoulder. Then I counted silently and prayed that my aim would be true. But nothing happened!

I glanced back again. The Boche was nearer and it seemed that I could see the bullets streaming from the muzzle of his rapid firer. I pulled the pins and tossed two more grenades back at him.

And le Bon Dieu flew on my side. I heard a sharp explosion—a shearing, crashing noise that sounded even above the roar of my motor. I glanced back. The Boche plane was wobbling. The propeller had shattered, and the engine was tearing loose from its base, because of the uneven torque and terrific vibration. My grenade had scored a clean hit!

I banked sharply, and the stricken Boche plane wobbled past me and into a spinning nose dive, then it up-ended suddenly and fluttered down like a falling leaf. Before the two other Boches could pick up where their leader had left off, I was on my way home—and they were not quick enough to catch me.


“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 45: Adolph Pegoud” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on December 20, 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 great French Aces—Lt. Adolphe Pegoud!

Adolphe Célestin Pégoud was born 13 June 1889 in Montferrat, France.[1] Pégoud served in the French Army from 1907 to 1913. Discharged on 13 February 1913, he immediately began flying, and earned his pilot’s certificate 1 March 1913.

Pegoud was in the aviation service in Morocco before the war—and already world famous. Pegoud’s renown came from his feat of being the first Frenchman to loop the loop. He was also first to attempt a drop from a plane by parachute!

At the outbreak of war, Pegoud immediately joined the gallant band of experienced airmen who undertook to get information for their army by use of planes. Frequently sent on dangerous reconnaissance trip far back of the German lines—he gathered data that was invaluable tot the harassed French ground forces in the fall of 1914.

Pegoud is credited with six victories and was awarded the Knight of the Legion d’Honneur, Medaille Militaire, and Croiux de Guerre!

On 31 August 1915, Pégoud was shot down and killed by one of his pre-war German students, Unteroffizier Walter Kandulski, while intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft. He was 26 years old.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Andrew McKeever

Link - Posted by David on December 13, 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 Canadian Air Ace Major Andrew McKeever!

Andrew Edward McKeever was one of the many daring young sky fighters that came from Canada to add fame and lustre to the deeds and exploits of the Royal Air Force, He put in almost a full year in the infantry before he was transferred for flying training. He joined the R.F.C. in December, 1916, was commissioned a lieutenant and sent over to the 11th Observation Squadron in France on May 16th, 1917.

As a two-seater fighter he was without a peer. Beginning his career of victories just as he turned 19, this brilliant young man brought down his first enemy aircraft a month after he went to the front. When the war ended he was credited with 30 official victories, more than any other two-seater pilot in any other army.

He won the British D.S.O. and M.C, and the French conferred upon him the Croix de Guerre. He survived the war without ever receiving so much as a scratch in sky battles, only to be killed in an automobile accident in his home town on Christmas Day in 1918. The story below is his own account of a battle with 9 Huns 60 miles behind the enemy lines.



by Major Andrew McKeever • Sky Fighters, February 1936

IT WAS soupy weather when my observer and I took off. There was a drizzling rain and the clouds over the trenches were almost on the ground. But H.Q. had ordered a picture of an ammunition dump 60 miles behind the lines. I volunteered to get it, and took advantage of the soupy weather in sneaking into Hunland. All the way in we saw no Huns. And we saw none at the dump. I flew above the clouds all the way by compass, and nearing what I thought should be my destination I dropped down through a hole in the clouds to get my picture. Odd as it sounds, I was right over the ammunition dump. Flying without sight of the ground I had hit the target of my flight right on the bull’s-eye.

The pictures were easy to get. My observer snapped them at 500 feet altitude, then we turned back for the long trip home, only to be met by 9 Huns, who had apparently been waiting for us. Two of them were painted a brilliant red. The other seven were black. They lost no time attacking when we turned for our own lines.

“Shall I run for it, or shall we try to fight them off?” I yelled back through the phones at my observer. “They’ve got the speed on us,” he shot back. “We can’t run. We have got to fight!”

His own guns were stuttering even before he finished, and tracer from the leading Hun attacker, a red Pfalz, was clipping through my upper center section. I lifted the Bristol’s nose and aimed for the Hun’s belly as he shot over me. I had time for just one short burst. But it was enough for that Pfalz. It went over and nosed into the ground, bursting in flames when it crashed. Gilbert, my observer, kept the Huns from sitting on my tail as I split-aired and dove for the other red Pfalz. A black Fokker cut across behind the Pfalz just as I fired. The Pfalz pilot wilted if his seat. My burst almost tore his head off. His ship went down, spinning erratically.

But the strangest thing was that the Fokker behind him fell apart in the sky at the same instant. One wing came off and fluttered down slowly. The fuselage and other wing sank like a plummet. That single burst of mine had passed through the Pfalz pilot’s head and sheared the Fokker’s wing off.

Gilbert, meanwhile had got one of the Fokkers, trying to attack from the rear. But two more pounced in on him, while I dived for one below me. There was terrific clatter and I looked over my shoulder toward the back pit. I couldn’t see Gilbert. I turned back again to get my sights on the Fokker and spray out a burst. It never came out of the nose dive it was in, just hurled on into the ground. I looked back again, and was relieved to see Gilbert standing in the back pit. But he was pointing at his Lewis guns. They were useless. A Spandau burst had wrecked them completely.

I swung around again and went for a persistent Fokker who was trying to get at me from below. I got my sights on him and pressed the trips. But it was no go! My guns didn’t answer. I reached up to clear what I thought was a jam. But it was worse than a jam. The whole breech had been shot away. My own gun had been rendered useless while I was staring at Gilbert’s.

We couldn’t fight any longer, so I ran for it. We hedge hopped in and out of the clouds all the 60 miles back, with those four Fokkers hi-tailing after us. But the clouds served in good stead. The Fokkers followed me right to the drome, and didn’t leave until I sat down.

Death whispered in our ears all the way back, but my old Bristol had just enough speed to keep one jump ahead of the grim spectre. It was my hardest and longest fight . . . and closest shave. I don’t want any more like it. And for once Gilbert agreed with me.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Joe Wehner

Link - Posted by David on November 29, 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 Frank Luke’s tail gunner, Lieutenant Joe Wehner!

Lieutenant Frank Luke was the most daring sky fighter in the American Air Service. But it is hard to say whether he would have established the record he did without the aid of Joe Wehner, his constant and steadfast companion and buddy in the 27th Squadron. He was Luke’s alter ego.

When war was declared by the United States, Joe Wehner hitch-hiked his way from Boston, Massachusetts to Kelly Field, Texas, to join the flying service. Wehner was finally dropped from his squadron when it left Kelly for overseas because he was suspected of being a German spy. He managed, however, to get reinstated at the point of debarkation. His fellow officers, however, never ceased to look upon him with suspicion. That is, all except Luke. Luke stood up for Wehner and this made him an outcast in the 27th until he began to compile his flaming and meteoric record. Flying with Luke on those record-making flights was Joe Wehner, and Luke himself admitted after Wehner was killed in action, that if it hadn’t been for Joe Wehner, who served as his protection when he went Drachen hunting, he doubted if he would have been able to down the number of Drachens credited to him.

Wehner shot down three enemy planes while flying this rear guard duty for Luke. As a protection flyer, there was none better in the American Air Service than Joe Wehner.

From on of Wehner’s letters to his boyhood friend in Boston, the following account is taken.



by Lieutenant Joseph Wehner • Sky Fighters, January 1936

FRANK and I have developed a specialty. We are sausage hunters. Sausages, you know, are anchored observation balloons. The Boche call them Drachens. One day when I was flying rear guard for Luke, he shot down two of them within two min-

In addition to the Drachens he got two Bocke planes, and I was lucky enough to down one myself. In one swift, hectic fight, we accounted for five Boche, and we were outnumbered three to one. But Luke never takes account of odds.

We went out just at twilight, saw two Hun Drachens straining against their cables and weaving in the wind near Vieux. Frank held up his arm and signaled me that he was going down to get them, one after the other. I saw a patrol of Boche Fokkers further back across the lines, so I began to climb for ceiling as Frank started down toward the balloons. I aimed to get between him and the Fokkers to keep them off his tail when he started firing at the balloons.

Frank got the first Drachen before I could get between him and the Boche. He split-aired through the enfilade of machine-gun and anti-aircraft fire, and made a bee line for the second Drachen less than a kilometer distant. He scooted along at terrific speed not more than a hundred feet off the ground. But the Fokkers having height streaked even faster for him. There was a full Staffel of them. I piqued to head them off. The Staffel separated then into three flights. One went to my right, the other to my left and the center flight came at me hell for leather.

I picked the first Fokker and gave him the works. My aim was true. It wobbled for an instant. Then the pilot slumped down in the pit, and the Fokker slid off in a spin. I was watching it fall when a clatter of leaden hail rattled through my upper wing tank. The gas began pouring out in a blinding spray. Then black smoke enveloped me. For an instant I thought my Spad was aflame. The fumes were choking. But the smoke instantly cleared, and I realized it was the smoke of the second Drachen which I had winged through. Luke had made swift work of that sausage and was going round and round now with a Boche, while two more were darting in on him from different angles above.

I went down for the Boche on Frank’s tail, and we went at it hot and heavy. The whole sky seemed to be a kaleidoscopic whirl of diving, zooming, shooting black-crossed planes. Then one of the black-crossed ships burst into flame. Luke had ridden it almost to earth, firing with both guns. Zooming up when it crashed, he made for another Hun’s blind belly, and brought it down before the pilot knew what had happened.

The wind had drifted us across our own lines now, and the Boche Staffel leader called it enough, I guess, for all of a sudden they beat it for their own lines. Frank chased them until he ran out of ammo, and I coursed along on top of him. But we got in no more licks.


“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 44: Major Charles J. Biddle” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 8, 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 great American Aces—Major Charles J. Biddle!

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. By wars end he had amassed 7 victories and been awarded the Legion of Honor, Croix de Guerre, Distinguished Service Cross and Order of Leopold II.

After the war, Biddle wrote a book entitled The Way of the Eagle (1919) and joined the family law firm in 1924—becoming a partner by 1925 and a major force within the firm through the fifties.

He died in 1972 at “Andalusia”—the family estate on the Delaware River in lower Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania.

As a bonus—

“T.N.T. Party” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on October 27, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back and this time the marvel from Boonetown is caught between two woman and finds himself the guest of honor at a T.N.T. party! From the February 1936 issue of Flying Aces it’s “T.N.T. Party” (with Phineas serving the lemon!).

Now that the great Mata Hari had been filed away via a shooting squad, the guerre would be a lot easier for the Allies. Phineas knew that. But the Boonetown Bamboozler didn’t know that his John Henry was on the flight schedule for a high altitude solo trip—one without his Spad.

“The Hawker Fury” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on September 18, 2017 @ 6:00 am 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. On Dare-Devil Aces’ September 1936 cover, Mr. Blakeslee presents a couple Hawker Furys escorting a flight of Hawker Demons on a bombing mission!

th_DDA_3610THIS black and white drawing which you see above, is the English ship, the Hawker “Fury.” It appears on the cover as an escort to the Hawker “Demons,” towards which we have given much space in the past. The “Demons” of course, are doing the actual bombing. The “Fury” happens to be a single-seater fighter with a maximum speed of 240 m.p.h. at 14,000 feet. It is naturally a very handy crate with which to protect the bombing ships.

Now, I believe, is as good a time as any in which to answer the frequent question, “Why don’t you paint more American ships?” The answer, I believe, should be obvious.

America, of all the nations of the world, should be about the last to be drawn in a major war. We are less secretive about our military plans and aviation developments than other nations, and any information regarding our ships is readily available to the readers.

However, across the seas, such, unhappily, is not the case. War clouds hover constantly above the threatened capitals of Europe. And while no nation there will admit to thoughts of aggression, we are well aware that it might come any minute. I have a natural interest in the ships of the English, feeling that they are naturally our friends and allies. We know too, that they are as peace loving as we, but by the very nature of their geographical situation, are more apt to become involved in war than ourselves. Feeling that your interest naturally runs that way, I have tried to give you as much information on British ships as I possibly can.

You will also note that I have from time to time, painted the German ships of war. We all know of Germany’s gigantic military preparations; we know very well that she may become the bombshell that will once again rock the earth. What then is her equipment in the sky? Next month I shall try to elaborate on the German air strength, giving you all the information I can possibly gather. It must be kept in mind however, that Mr. Hitler and his aides keep their activities pretty much under cover. Once in a while, though, I manage to get a peek. And when I do, you can be sure that I’ll pass the news along.

Fred Blakeslee

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Hawker Fury: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(October 1936, Dare-Devil Aces)

“The Overstrand” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on August 21, 2017 @ 6:00 am 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. On Dare-Devil Aces’ September 1936 cover, Mr. Blakeslee gives us his two favorite things to paint—planes and trains—in this case a couple Boulton Paul Overstrands attacking a train depot!

th_DDA_3609I DON’T know whether it makes much sense or not to tell the story behind this month’s cover, because action speaks louder than words, and all but the blind can see that a perfectly good piece of railroad is being blasted all over the premises by the sky raiders. Still, maybe we could use a little information on just what sort of ships these giant bombers are.

The big crates, coming in low, are Boulton Paul “Overstrands.” From the damage apparent on the cover and the bombing to be inflicted by ships we were not able to show, you can well imagine what’s going to happen to the enemy’s railroad. Of course, it is a practical military tactic, as old as warfare itself, to cripple your enemy’s means of transportation.

If at this late date, War should come to us again, and God forbid that it ever should, I believe this cover should give you some idea of what would happen. We have, for purposes of illustration, placed the “Overstrands” at a much lower altitude than they would really attempt. Were they actually to fly at this altitude, the terrific concussion that would ensue from the bombardment, might well put them out of commission. War is no longer a pleasant pastime, and the bombs to be dropped today are not precisely baseballs.

But suppose they were actually at this height—suppose this illustrated scene were actually taking place. At that altitude the ship’s speed would be somewhere around 160 m.p.h.—somewhat faster than the speed attained by the fastest, single-seat combat crates of World War days. The “Overstrand” is a bomber, pure and simple, but it is carefully protected by three gun positions, bow, amidship and prone. It can carry a load of 2,196 pounds, and its service ceiling is 22,500 feet.

Fred Blakeslee

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Overstrand: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(September 1936, Dare-Devil Aces)

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