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“Sky Fighters, May 1936″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

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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. Mr. Frandzen features A.E.G. on the May 1936 cover!

The Ships on the Cover

BEFORE the World War airplanes th_SF_3605were more scoffed at than praised as a possible military weapon. Capitalists invariably put an extra knot in their purse strings when approached by optimistic promoters or inventors.

Firms that did any manufacturing to speak of were those who built airplanes as a side line, having large established plants already at their disposal. Such was the Allgemeine Elektricitats Gesellschaft, A.E.G. for short. This firm was one of Germany’s big electrical manufacturers. Their first entry into aircraft was naturally engines. They secured the option for building Wright motors and made some of their own design. Later when they branched into airplane design and manufacture they stuck rigidly to military planes principally of metal construction and some armour plating.

The ship on the cover smacking the water, is an A.E.G. of 1917 and ‘18 vintage. It has armour plating protecting the under-part of the fuselage and sides of the cockpits. But the A.E.G. firm was up against a tough proposition. Heavy armour plate protected the pilots perfectly but the engines were not fine enough to carry this added weight satisfactorily. Light armour had very little satisfactory results, but could be lifted okay. Therefore the pilots kidded themselves that they were pretty safe from enemy bullets with the light armour till a few rounds of Allied ammunition tore through and made more jagged wounds than a clean sharp bullet.

Used for Trench Strafing

A Benz 200 h.p. motor was up front and managed to yank the ship along at around 100 m.p.h. with favorable wind conditions. Primarily used for trench strafing it was fairly successful if protected by fast scouts, but for any other type of work it couldn’t take any first prizes.

The German lines ran from a chicken wire fence backed up against Switzerland all the way to the North Sea. Now any place along that line the A.E.G. could have got in some good licks. But when it stuck its nose straight out over the water and ambitiously went about a little job of work in conjunction with a German submarine it just didn’t make the grade.

An Allied Freighter in Sight

Through a series of prisms a clear image of an Allied freighter loomed before the periscope observer in the submerged submarine. He ran his periscope up another foot, got a better view and barked the information into the stifling air. The commanding officer leaped to the instrument. He grinned in anticipation, as he saw thr flag of the merchantman. “Verdammter Amerikaner.”

Terse orders snapped to the crew. Engines whirred into added power, down to within a foot of the water came the protruding periscope. The sleek underwater raider slipped through the water toward its victim. Ten torpedo tubes were available to sink the plodding ship carrying supplies to the American forces. Grins wreathed the faces of the crew as they learned the freighter’s nationality. The U-Boat steadied, slowed up, pointed its nose then it flattened out. A shudder raced through the ship as a torpedo was shot by compressed air out through its tube. Another shudder of greater volume caught the undersea craft. A detonation shook the boat. A wreath of smoke hovered over the freighter’s 3-inch gun. It had made a direct hit.

hen the torpedo smashed into the Yank vessel. It listed and began to sink. Up came the sub, its wireless calling for help. The message picked up on the German shore was given to the A.E.G. crew. Up soared the plane, the only one available. “Kill all survivors of the freighter,” were their orders.

Wildcat, Do Your Stuff!

One Yank in the bow of the freighter’s lifeboat was a crack shot with anything from a bean shooter to a siege gun. He unhurriedly unlimbered a machine-gun. “Wildcat,” he crooned to his pet gun of guns, “do your stuff.”

He waited till the German plane had hailed them with bullets. And then at just the right moment “Wildcat” started spitting.

One burst was enough. It tore jagged holes through the thin protecting armour. The German pilot sagged, the plane nosed down and smacked the water. Armour plate in addition to the heavy Benz pulled the crate down into Davy Jones’ checkroom in fifteen seconds.

The Yank patted “Wildcat” affectionately. He looked longingly back at the spot where his 3-inch gun had sunk with the freighter.

“Cheer up,” chided one of his companions, “we’ll take up a purse and buy you a Skoda howitzer for your next birthday.”

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, May 1936 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Hell’s Seven Keys” by Lester Dent

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LESTER DENT is best remembered as the man behind Doc Savage. But he wrote all number of other stories before he started chronicling the adventures of everyone’s favorite bronze giant. Here we have an action-packed tale of the air from the pages of the February 1932 issue of War Birds—”Hell’s Seven Keys!”

Captain “Bustem Bill” Harn is sent to the Sixtieth Pursuit Squadron to help take care of a certain Ace that’s been plaguing them lately—but that’s just a cover story. He was given secret orders…

To Bustem Bill Harn:
    This is confidential. It accompanies orders you will receive to report to the Sixtieth, R.F.C., and fly a lone patrol in an effort to shoot down the German ace, Hauptmann Robart von Fleigg, whose circus is stationed in front of the Sixtieth. The orders have gone in duplicate to Major Geising, commanding the Sixtieth.
    Here’s some dope for you. During the early part of the war, the Sixtieth was stationed in Egypt. While there, a detachment of native soldiers reported witnessing seven planes of the Sixtieth shoot down a German bomber. The crew of the enemy ship were slain, according to the witnesses, and the bomber was then burned, demolished and the parts buried in the desert sand. A patrol of seven Sixtieth ships in the air at the time denied having encountered the bomber. The native soldiers could not locate the spot where they said the bomber was shot down, when asked to do so.
    Since then, five flyers of the Sixtieth have met mysterious and violent death, evidence in each case pointing to murder.
    The only thing we have discovered which might point to a solution of the murders is that all of these five were among the group of seven who denied shooting down the Boche bomber.
    The surviving two of the seven are lieutenant “Cockney Pete” Sauls and Captain “Devil” Leeds.
    You are joining the Sixtieth ostensibly to bag von Fleigg. Make every effort to do this. But you will also bend every effort to solving these murders. Use care. Military intelligence sent an agent to investigate these killings and he was murdered.
    This Sixtieth is a hard-boiled outfit and they have a cast-iron and brimstone skipper in the person of Major Geising. I can guess about how you two will get along. sending you there to get von Fleigg insulted him no little. He gave me a cussing over the telephone when I told him you were coming. unofficially, I hope you knock hell out of him. Officially, you had better bill and coo like a pair of doves.
    Bustem, I’m sorry to hand you a lemon like this. But you’re the man for the job. Go in there and stamp on everybody’s toes and you may learn something. I can smooth out anything short of a killing. and if you succeed in shooting down von Fleigg, I can promise the ranking of major which you recently lost, will be restored. And should you solve these murders, I can also promiss you command of any pursuit squadron on the Front.
                                Luck to you!
                                          General Sam H. Fitch,
                                          Officer Commanding.

A key around a dead man’s neck was the thing that sent that Devil’s spawn of seven into action. It took red skies and Spandau steel to end that bloody trail.

If you enjoyed this story, Black Dog Books has put out an excellent volume collecting 11 of Lester Dent’s early air stories set against the backdrop of World War !. The book includes this story as well as others from the pages of War Birds, War Aces, Flying Aces, Sky Birds and The Lone Eagle. It’s The Skull Squadron! Check it out!

 

And as a bonus, here’s another newspaper article about Lester Dent! This time it’s a biography of the writer as a young man, well, 30. From The Daily Oklahoman, it’s “Lester Dent, The Wizard of the Pulps!”

 

Lester Dent, The Wizard of the Pulps

by Jack E. Ray • The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, OK • 19 July 1936

Lester Dent

LESTER DENT is one of the most valid of cosmopolitans. He was born in Missouri. Was taken to and lived on a series of farms near Broken
Arrow (Oklahoma). Just In tjme to avoid having oil struck on his place. Dent’s father sold out and the family moved to a godforsaken cow ranch in the Wyoming sagebrush.

Then back to Missouri, in 1918 when Dent was 12 years old. Only 30 years old now. he has lived almost everywhere. Recently he returned from a treasure hunt in the Caribbean on his schooner, “The Albatross.” His home, he says, is wherever he happens to be sitting at his typewriter at the moment. Just at present, that is New York. However: “I guess I’m more Oklahoman than anything else, having lived there longer than anywhere else by about five years.”

Dent got to the fifth grade, moved to another place, and entered high-school. . There he flunked English for four consecutive years, after which a disgusted teacher asserted that he was hopeless along that line. Graduated from hlghschool in 1923, and took a course In telegraphy. Got a job at $45 a month, working nights for the Associated Press in Tulsa.

WHILE on that job, Dent started writing adventure stories. Sent one of them to George Delacorte of the Dell Publishing Co. Delacorte wired him to come to New York If he was making less than $100 a week. “But,” says Dent, “I thought he was nuts. I’m still not sure—” Anyway, after telegraphing friends in New York to inquire about the publisher’s sanity, he went to New York. He was given two magazines (”Scotland Yard” and “Sky Riders”) to fill. Dent cleaned up 4.000 bucks the first month, and as much monthly for three more magazines. Then both magazines went broke. That was in 1931—the depression had arrived. For the next six months he would sell a story to a magazine and before he could sell it another one, that magazine would fold up. Finally he found some that were on an even keel.

Dent’s work has been for the pulp magazines. He has sold to over 30 publications, of the cowboy, detective, adventure, air, and mystery types. Also to writers’ magazines. He uses a dozen pen names, including Kenneth Robeson. Maxwell Grant, H. O. Cash, Tim Ryan, and various others. Has long ago lost track of just how many yarns he has sold, although he knows the total is more than 1,000. For the last three years he has received not one rejection slip; in fact, the stories were contracted for in advance.

DENT is the second most prolific author in the world. For a year his output was an average of 200,000 words a month/all of which he sold. That, he says, Is not his limit. Here’s how he works: Out of bed at 11 a.m. works until about 4 p.m., reads the papers, takes a walk, naps for an hour; then works until 3 or 4 a.m. Does this five days a week. Biggest production for a day: On dictaphone, 32,000 words; on typewriter, 24,000 words. Most words turned out in a continuous session: 45,000 words (a book). This required a night, day, and part of night, from beginning of plotting. He never revises. His copy comes out of machine and goes in “as is.”

Under the nom de plume of Kenneth Robeson. Dent writes monthly a 60,000-word (book-length) “Doc Savage” story. The “Doc Savage Magazine” was the most successful pulp magazine in the world the second year of its existence. Dent claims his character. Doc Savage, is an unconscious composite of the physical qualities of Tarzan of the apes, the detective ability of Sherlock Holmes, the scientific sleuthing mastery of Craig Kennedy, and the morals of Jesus Christ. He has written perhaps 50 novels about his creation, at present being over a year ahead of the magazine which prints them.

THE following should encourage embryo writers. Dent swears it’s true: “Pulp magazines are more widely open than ever for new writers. Just send them a half-way printable story and they’ll buy it. . . . The pulps are an excellent training field. When I started writing for them, less than five years ago, T. S. Stribling was only a pulp hack.”

Dent regrets that he has written under so many pseudonyms, instead of building up one name—his own—in the pulps. This mistake was made partly because of the fact that editors don’t like to carry more than one story under the same name in a single issue of a magazine. So Dent would sign one with his real name, and others with noms de plume. Occasionally, he has written entire issues of magazines in this manner. Consequently, although his output ranks among the greatest, his name is not especially well known.

Asked if he entertained any unrealized literary ambitions. Dent replied, “One million of them, all made of silver, called dollars, and in banks, preferably several banks.” Everything considered, this is not a vain desire at all—for Mr. Dent.

“Sky Fighters, March 1936″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

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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. Mr. Frandzen features a battle between a De Haviland Pusher and a German D.F.W. C4 on the March 1936 cover!

The Ships on the Cover

THE R.E.8 had the title th_SF_3603“Reconnaissance Experimental” but there was not so much experimental in her as good old fighting spirit. Since the line of R.E.s preceding the 8 had worked out most of the defects in actual combat flying rather than in the brain of designers, the old girl had been pretty well refined when she made her debut. The British Royal Aircraft Factory was responsible for some lesser lights in their production but the S.E.5 came out on their wartime stage to end the show in a round of applause from the aviators who flew them. But even when the S.E.s were starring at the front the R.E.8s were holding up their end of the show patrolling the sky lanes dropping bombs In the darkness of night to the end of the war.

Backstage at the training schools the R.E. put the young novices through the groundwork, in this case groundwork of the sky of fancy turns, pauses for leveling out between steep dives, pirouettes, all maneuvers to make sky hoofers for the chorus of war.

Never a Has Been

The R.E.8 did her work so well carrying on in any job that she could never have the slurring title of “Has been.” A ship that could look back on the glories of such a career need never slink away when the applause was for newcomers. It had the quiet reserve to serve gracefully, giving of its experience while treasuring in the heart of its big engine the memory of such days as the one when it flew back in 1918, the scene pictured on the cover.

An army is said to march on its belly. That’s a good old bromide and gets past first base, but marching never brought in a home run. The same can be said for a plane with only gas to feed it. It can go places but it can’t do things. The one thing needed above all others to ground or air forces is ammunition.

Silencing a pair of machine-guns in a bombproof hillside dugout commanding a pass was the problem confronting “Crackup” Jones of Texas and points West. Now “Crackup” came by his name because he had smashed more planes in landing and taking off than any other three living flyers in the A.E.F. He’d cracked his way through two schools and left a trail of splinters that ran up the national debt considerably. But that didn’t bother Mr. Jones for he and every one else who had seen him fly knew that once he got into the air no other two-legged mortal could swap lead with him and live to tell the story.

Wotta Man!

One guy swore he’d seen Jones crack a Nieuport full speed into a hangar roof. Thrown clear he sailed through the air a hundred feet and landed gracefully on the top of a grounded captive balloon. When they finally got him down he’d written a thousand-word account of the experience with diagrams for the “Stars and Stripes.” Wotta man!

“Crackup” is in the pilot’s pit of the old R.E.8 he borrowed from the British. He’d dropped all his bombs on the bombproof dugout at the head of a narrow pass just in front of his own lines. He’d sprayed every round from his machine-guns. His gas was nearly exhausted when he spied three Boche lugging up ammunition to the machine-gun nest. If those men got their cargo to the guns safely it meant the Yanks couldn’t push through.

“Crackup” Thinks—and Acts

“Crackup” thought fast. A narrow river was below the cliff. If he could smash his plane into those Germans and his luck held out he’d be catapulted into the water safe on the Allied side. Having thought, “Crackup” acted. Down he swooped, gave the last drop of gas to his coughing engine and smacked his enemies and their dangerous ammunition over the edge of the cliff with his empennage.

His tailless plane leaped through the air like a ski jumper, cleared the river and smashed head on into a jagged mass of rocks. “Crackup’s” luck had deserted him at last. When they pulled him out of the wreckage it was found that the wind had been knocked completely out of him and he had suffered a severe fracture of the left little finger.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, March 1936 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Full specifications of the R.E.8 were featured in the LIBRARY OF WAR PLANES in this issue.

“Scrappy Birthday” by Joe Archibald

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“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 to vex not only the Germans, but the Americans—the Ninth Pursuit Squadron in particular—as well. Yes it’s the marvel from Boonetown, Iowa himself—Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham!

What do you get the man who has everything? If you’re Herr Hauptmann von Spieler and you’re looking to please his Excellenz Kaiser Wilhelm, you go out and get him that one thing no one has been able to get—Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham! Just make sure you wrap it well!

Over in Kraut-land spirits were high. Flourish and fanfare heralded a super celebration in honor of the A-l Hohenzollern. And the first dish listed on The Great One’s menu was—”Phineas Pinkham on the Half-Spad.” But too many cuckoos spoil the hasenpfeffer, and though the meat is sweeter near the joint, the Vons hadn’t figured on double joints.

“C’est La Ear!” by Joe Archibald

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“Haw-w-w-w-w!” That sound can only mean one thing—it’s time to ring out the old year and ring in the new with that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors—Phineas Pinkham.

For the past week von Speiler’s circus has been right over Allied heads—strafing doughs that we’re trying to get up to the front. The bridge near Framerville had has so many Pfalz crates in the air every day that the engineers haven’t got any further with the job than to look at the blueprints. When the Boonetown marvel is downed near Souilly, a chance meeting with a Yankee dough, two poilus, and a Senegambian give him an idea to how he can get von Speiler out of the way! From the pages of the November 1936 issue of Flying Aces, it’s Phineas Pinkham in “C’est La Ear!”

“The first hundred ears are the hardest!” So quoth Carbuncle when he met Sambo Jambo, razor-welding pride of the Senegambians. But though a pair of galloping dominoes threatened to put poor Sambo on the Five Ear Plan, it was the No Ear Plan that had Herr Hauptmann von Speiler worried.

Editor’s Note: Joe Archibald’s Phineas Pinkham stories are a product of their times, reflecting attitudes toward certain races and cultures commonly held in America in the 1930’s. As such, these tales can sometimes be rife with derogatory or racially insensitive words or stereotypes which would scarcely make it into print today. We have chosen to present the stories as they were written some 80 years ago in the interests of authentically preserving this bit of Pulp history. Age of Aces Books means no disrespect by including this potentially offensive material. Quite the contrary. It is the respect we have for our discerning readers that demands we present Archibald’s fiction unexpurgated.

“The Hun Hunter” by Arch Whitehouse

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THIS week we have a short, but gripping tale from the prolific pen of Arch Whitehouse! Whitehouse gives us Len Stallard, a natural pilot and a keen hunter. He had a one-track mind and, once mounted in an active service squadron, he went to work with inevitable results—Four Huns the first week, a citation and a Croix de Guerre. Unfortunately, as good as he was in the air, he was equally poor on the ground—and found himself unable to mix with the rest of the gang at No.76. He discovers how his fellow pilots feel about him when his plane goes down behind enemy lines! From the August 1936 issue of Sky Fighters, it’s Arch Whitehouse’s “The Hun Hunter!”

Hated alike by friend and foe, Len Stallard lights out for Boche territory to end it all!

“Watch Your Steppes” by Joe Archibald

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“HAW-W-W-W-W!” That sound can only mean one thing—it’s time to ring out the old year and ring in the new with that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors—Phineas Pinkham.

A peace between Russia and Germany was impending. Chaumont, Downing Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, and Versailles were in more than a dither as rumors flew hither and yon over the map of Europe to the effect that the Heinies were trying to get the Russkys to throw in with them and start cleaning up on the Western Front.

The situation was more of a mess with left wing and right wing revolutionists brawling on the Steppes. Trotsky and Kerensky were making faces at each other and tweeking each other’s beards. Red and White Russians were at loggerheads. The Czar and his family had been chased out of St. Petersburg. The Czechs were getting to be a nuisance, and Cossacks were pulling straws to see which side they would fight on.

Add into this one Phineas Pinkham and stir! From the pages of the October 1936 Flying Aces, it’s Joe Archibald’s “Watch Your Steppes!”

Things certainly looked tough for the Allies! The Wilhelmstrasse quoted 2 to 1 that the Russkys would join up with the Krauts—and the 9th Pursuit laid 3 to 1 that Phineas would join up with the angels. But when the Vons ordered caviar, Carbuncle served greased bird shot. And when Rasputin rose from the grave ….

“Fish and Gyps” by Joe Archibald

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“Haw-w-w-w-w!” That sound can only mean one thing—that marvel from Boonetown, Iowa is back causing more trouble than he’s worth! That miscreant of Calamity brings down a well-known Von and the higher-ups feel he should be sent Stateside to go on the lecture circuit to drum up enlistees. Problem is, he only makes it as far as Jolly Ol’ England where he comes upon a Boche Zeppelin. It’s “Fish and Gyps” with a “flying cigar” for dessert! It’s another Phineas Pinkham laugh panic from the pages of the September 1936 Flying Aces!

“Hail, the Conquering Hero Comes!” To those rousing strains, the Brass Hats paraded Phineas back to the States. And so, Garrity rejoiced as peace finally reigned once more on the drome of the 9th. But how was the Major to know which way the Pinkham parade was headed? And who’d have expected the von Sputzes to supply that parade with its main “float”?

“Sky Fighters, February 1936″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

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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. Mr. Frandzen features a battle between a De Haviland Pusher and a German D.F.W. C4 on the February 1936 cover!

The Ships on the Cover

THE De Haviland planes will always th_SF_3602 be remembered in the United States by the number of D.H.s this country ordered on such a grand scale when we entered the war. The early D.H.s are not given the credit they deserve because Capt. Geoffrey De Haviland might never have had a chance to build later models if his early one had not been so good. It combatted the Fokker menace back in 1916 when the Germans had things their own way in the air. When these D.H. Pusher biplanes came along the Allied airmen began to take heart. At last they had a machine that could outfly the Fokker which was the scourge of the Front. The D.H. Pusher was similar to the earlier F.E.s but much superior in speed. They had only two bays of struts and were simplified considerably in the tail boom construction.

The British airmen in the bucket seat of the D.H. Pusher on the cover had confidence in their machine when it proudly paraded its course through the skies. They had a speedy ship with a front gun to blaze the Germans from the air when those hitherto superior, overconfident airmen darted across Allied territory for a looksee at all the preparations being made on the ground.

On this occasion they met not one of Mr. Fokker’s products but a German D.F.W. C4 (Deutsche Flugzeug Werke). This two-seater carried a 200 h.p. Benz motor. The C4 had radiators on the sides of the fuselage directly in the slipstream which made it possible to use a small radiator to run a big engine, by which trick the Germans gained efficiency. The wings were not swept back but had dihedral.

Funny-Looking, But—

Funny-looking crates, those old flying bird cages, but some pilots who flew them still brag about them and swear that it was a wonderful sensation to fly a pusher. Of course, there was the uncomfortable feeling of having a heavy engine nestling behind your seat to squash you flatter than a pancake in a crackup.

When the tractors replaced the pushers all but a few aviation experts predicted that pushers would never more waddle through the air. But along toward the end of the war the British Vickers Co. came out with a single-seater Pusher with two front guns. It was powered with a better engine than the old Pushers used and could tick off over 120 miles per hour low down; and low down was the place it did its job, right over the German trenches. It was built for ground strafing and it was a honey to fly. Again the anti-pusher crowd said “It’s a freak, a last try using an obsolete principle. There ain’t no such thing as a good pusher.”

That old Vickers Vampire was just about 
the swan song of the pushers for many 
years. And then, nearly fifteen years after
 the end of the World War the French 
Hanriot Company brought out one of the
speediest, slickest-looking fighters of the
 year, the Hanriot H-110-C1. And believe it
 or not, it was a PUSHER that could slice
 through the air at the very nice speed of
 220 m.p.h.

Lightning-Quick Action

The German D.F.W. on the cover had a pilot who had knocked down several of the earlier slower moving pushers. He saw an easy kill and got careless. One moment the D.H. Pusher was in front of him. The next it had pulled a lightning-like maneuver which no ship other than a tractor had hitherto been capable of Lewis slugs cracked and rattled into the German ship, knocking the front gun’s firing mechanism cock-eyed. Then the stream of lead slid back and ripped a section of canvas from the observer’s pit. That worthy never got in a shot, his hands were too high in the air clawing at the clouds.

The British gunner pointed towards the Allied rear lines. The German pilot nodded his head and slanted his ship down, swearing solemnly that if he ever escaped and got into the air again he’d be mighty careful to keep out of the way of pushers.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, February 1936 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Blois, Blois, Black Sheep” by Joe Archibald

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“HAW-W-W-W-W!” You heard right! That marvel from Boonetown, Iowa is back! This time the skull-duggerian of the Ninth Pursuit Squadron, U.S. Air Force runs afoul of some brass hats and gets busted and sent to Blois—provided they can find him! It’s another sky-high Phineas mirthquake! From the August 1936 Flying Aces, it’s “Blois, Blois, Black Sheep.”

Phineas hadn’t figured on a flight from the back of a mule instead of from the drome of the 9th. And the gallant Garrity hadn’t figured on getting stuck when he put adhesive tape on his francs. Anyhow, they called out the guard. But what’s the good of jailing a Jekyll if you haven’t hamstrung the Hyde?

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Maurice Boyau

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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 French flyer—Lieut. Maurice Boyau!

Maurice Boyau was France’s fifth ranking ace. Fonck, Guynemyer, Nungesser and Madon, all ranked above him in actual victories scored. Maurice Boyau combined all the best qualities of these four aces and wan in addition the most ingenious. If death had not cut short his flaming career long before the war ended, it is very possible that he might have attained the honor of being France’s ace of aces, for he had every qualification for that distinction. He was struck down when he had run his 35 victories, but not before he had won every medal within the power of his native country to bestow. These Included the Legion d’Honneur, Medaille Militaire and the Croix da Guerre, with numerous stars and palms. The following story taken from his diary gives a striking and vivid example of his ingenuity. The translator has made no attempt to polish the language of Boyau’s script, feeling that to do so would take away from the charming simplicity of the document.

 

THE BALLOON SLASHER

by Lieutenant Maurice Boyau • Sky Fighters, September 1936

DOWNING enemy avions is one thing. It requires a certain technique that one learns only by experience. I have much experience in such fighting up to date with considerable luck thrown in. But until today I had never challenged any Boche Drachens or the anti-aircraft crews ordered to guard them. In order to augment my battle experience I decided to tackle one of those big rubber cows which are much like a youngster’s carnival gas balloon of grotesque shape held with a string.

I went out on a solitary balloon hunting expedition behind the Boche lines. But as was my usual habit before taking off I filled the side pocket of my petite Spad with hand grenades. These were mainly, of course, to destroy my own machine if I should be forced to land behind the enemy lines. Today I used them for a much different purpose, a most unusual purpose….

Allons! It is of no interest what I am writing. I should be specific, otherwise there is no point in keeping a diary. I proceed to the action.

A Dot in the Sky

I flew for almost a full hour before finding what I set out for. Finally I spied one, just a grey, elongated dot in the blue and white sky, maybe ten kilometers ahead and to my right.

I swing up on each wing alternately to search the sky lanes for hidden enemy aircraft. But I see none, so I straighten out and make for the area behind the Drachen. I hope to surprise by attacking from the rear in the glow of the sun. My strategy is successful, for I almost reach it in a silent dive with throttled motor before the crew sees me.

The archies start firing and the puffs blow around me. I have my sights on the balloon though, and press my triggers. Sacre! My mitrailleuse! It jams with the first shot. I chandelle and try to clear, but it is useless. The breech is plugged tight. The archie shells puff like corn in a popper! Only the kernels are black instead of white. I struggle vainly.

The Drachen begins to descend in swift, jerky movements. The winch on the ground is hauling it in. The archie fire intensifies, and I hear the flutter of machine-gun bullets from the ground as they sift through the fabric of my wings.

Defeat is Unthinkable

I have come many kilometers into enemy skies and have spent a whole hour in search of this Drachen. To return in full defeat is unthinkable. Suddenly I think of my little souvenirs in the side pocket. The grenades! I pull one from the pocket and dive again through the hail of fire. Pinching the stick between my knees I pull the firing pin with one hand and toss the grenade with the other.

But I miss by many meters! Two, three times I climb off, only to return and dive with the same trick. But each time I miss. And then I have only one grenade left. The Drachen is almost to the ground, and the gunfire is terrific. My poor petite Spad has been riddled like a sieve.

Ah! A sudden thought strikes me. “Why not?” I say. “The tail skid is like a knife. It’s a steel shoe. . . .”

I chandelle again, dive down for another attempt. But this time I hold my dive until my avion almost touches its nose to the quivering Drachen. At the last moment I pull back swiftly, kicking my tail down and hear nothing, feel nothing. But when I look back over my shoulder I see that I have slashed the Drachen with my tail skid. Some of the balloon netting is dangling from my skid and whipping backwards.

I renverse swiftly, take my last grenade. As I sweep over the sliced balloon, it spreads apart like a cleaved sausage. I toss the grenade into the yawning chasm. Over my shoulder I see a burst of orange-red flame, then a blanket of smoke. The huge envelope fails over lazily in the sky and goes streaking down.

It is my first balloon victory. And to think that I win it with jammed guns. C’est un miracle!

“Sky Fighters, January 1936″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on July 9, 2018 @ 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. Mr. Frandzen features the trusty Sopwith 1½ Strutter whose pilot has been injured in a battle with a couple of German Rumpler C1’s on the January 1936 cover!

The Ships on the Cover

THE British Sopwith 1½ Strutter was th_SF_3601 one of those ships that rated so high early in the war that all the Allied governments were scrambling to get them for their own air forces. T.O.M. Sopwith began making planes that did things back in 1912. His seaplane scout won the Schneider Cup at Monoca. His “Bat boat” was so good that the Germans bought them before the war.

The amphibian “bat boat” had wheels which could be raised or lowered long before the days of modern retractable landing gear. Then came the Sop Tabloid which so revolutionized airplane design in 1913 that it became the grandpa of all fighting scout machines of the war. All the best features of former Sopwith models had been incorporated in the Tabloid.

In 1915 the Sop 1½ Strutters came out with the goods. They carried a synchronized gun firing through the propeller. The gun and the plane were a Sopwith team as the Sopwith Aviation Co. developed the synchronization gear which made the teamwork possible. The 1½ Strutter was a two-seater, although they manufactured a singe seat version later.

The name 1½ Strutter came from the peculiar bracing job. The top wing was in two parts joined to a center section. To support these, short struts ran from the top of the fuselage at an angle to quite a distance out on the top wing.

Another Two-Seater

The Rumpler C1 was a two-seater also. It wasn’t much of an original idea in design as it was so directly related to the old Taube which the Rumpler Co. had manufactured under license from its originator, the Austrian Etrich. The C1 had the backswept fish-like tail of the Taube monoplanes. An exposed radiator hung in the breezes at the center part of the leading edge of the top wing.

One day back in 1916 these two-seaters, the Sop and the Rumpler got in a scrap. That is where we find them on the cover. Two Rumplers have ganged up on the Sop, which wouldn’t place the 1½ Strutter in such a bad position as it was a much superior ship and welcomed a chance to show off to the challenging Germans. The Britishers were cocky and allowed the German observer to get in a burst.

The pilot of the land 1½ Strutter suddenly groaned in an agonized breath. The observer busy swinging his Lewis on the German ship couldn’t hear the startled cry from the front pit. The ship lurched and nearly threw the amazed gunner from his cockpit. He turned his head. “What the—” he shouted and was suddenly silent. The pilot was bent over the instrument panel. With no dual controls the ship seemed doomed. There was only one thing to do.

“Hold Her Steady!”

The observer shouted “Hold her steady!” He swung out of his pit and muscled slowly up over the turtleback and grabbed a center section strut as the ship shuddered from the enemy’s fire. It rocked and swayed dangerously. Holding onto the fuselage the observer got on the left wing and inched his way to his comrade’s side. German bullets had put both the plucky pilot’s arms out of commission. He was trying to fly the plane with his legs and feet alone. His face was chalk-like, his teeth clamped tight in pain. The observer grabbed the stick and pulled up the nose. Then, as the Rumplers came in for the kill, their guns churning a drizzle of slugs into the Allied ship, he shoved the slick against the firewall. The Sop nosed over.

As the gap widened between the diving Sop and the surprised German pilots, the British anti-aircraft gunners on the ground below who had been waiting for just such a break smacked upward a curtain of screaming steel. The Rumplers’ pilots quickly turned back across their own lines.

The 1½ Strutter pulled drunkenly out 
of her dive, wobbled and did a bellyflop 
in an abandoned potato patch behind the 
lines. It took two to land her, a pilot and 
a backseat driver who said little but did
much.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, January 1936 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Scratch-as-Scratch-Can” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on June 29, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

“HAW-W-W-W-W!” That sound can only mean one thing—it’s time to ring out the old year and ring in the new with that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors—Phineas Pinkham.

According to Hoyle, the old authority on the pasteboards of ruination, there should only be one joker in a deck. But the fickle femme known as Fate does not deal her cards according to Mr. Hoyle. She sent the Rittmeister Gottfried von Bull over to Bar-Le-Duc one early morning in June 1918 with a particularly insulting missive for Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham. Phineas, Public Joker Number One, sat in front of his hut, after a blistering early patrol, striving to teach a certain canine named Rollo to say its prayers. In view of Rollo’s apparent age it was fitting that the Boonetown Spad pusher should prepare the subject for dog heaven. Add one Monk Flannigan—the Boonetown miracle man’s nemesis—to the mix and you’re holding a hand with little chance of winning. No holds are barred in another rollicking Phineas Pinkham Roar! From the July 1933 Flying Aces, it’s “Scratch-as-Scratch-Can!”

A flank movement by Flanagan started it. Then von Bull horned in. But Phineas knew that a man’s best friend is his pooch. And though it isn’t news when a dog bites a man, it certainly was when Napoleon, Josephine, Danton, and Dubarry sunk their incisors in poor Rollo.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Linke Crawford

Link - Posted by David on June 27, 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 Austrian flyer—Captain Linke Crawford!

Captain Crawford was one of the most brilliant and scintillating of all the flying aces. Most everyone knows that Captains Brumoninski and Linke were the ranking Austrian flyers and carried on a duel for top honors all through the war with first one, then the other, on top. But what most informed people do not know, is that Captain Crawford and Captain Linke were one and the same person! Son of an English father and an Austrian mother, Linke Crawford was born and raised in gay Vienna. When he began to win fame as a fighting pilot he had dropped the Crawford part of his name and was known as Captain Linke. although he was listed on the army rolls as Captain Crawford. He fell victim finally under the guns of Colonel Barker, famous Canadian ace. Up to that time, however, he had scored 27 victories and won all the awards possible from his country. The story below is taken from the archives of the Austrian Imperial Air Corps in Vienna.

 

BRINGING THEM DOWN ALIVE

by Captain Linke Crawford • Sky Fighters, July 1936

OUR Intelligence had given us word that a crack British squadron under command of one of the most famous Canadian aces was being sent overland to Italy to operate against the Austrian Imperial Air Corps.

“Very well,” I said to the high staff officer who so informed me. “I shall watch for them and try for the initial victory. It might take some of the stiffness out of their British necks to see one of their ace pilots get it in the neck the first crack out of the box.”

The Chance Soon Comes

My chance came very soon afterwards. While on patrol with my staffel we encountered the British formation flying over a narrow defile in the mountains. They were just under a bank of overhanging clouds. I sized up the situation immediately. One enemy flyer was straggling somewhat, slightly beneath and behind the others. Before their squadron leader had caught sight of me I had dived from the sun and cut off the straggler from his mates. My first burst was wide of the mark, but I zoomed up again quickly, Immelmanned, and went at him again, both guns blazing.

The enemy pilot turned and dived to get away from my fire. I laughed. I knew that narrow defile, every twist and turn of it. My quarry had dived right into it. I followed behind him, keeping just on top. My mates up above engaged with the rest or the enemy formation. I kept herding and pressing my quarry down.

Forced Landing

When he was down to 100 meters I knew I had him. Steep mountains hemmed him in on three sides. I guarded the only exit. The Britisher decided to run for it. I held steady and pressed my triggers. The fusillade of machine-gun bullets poured into his nose. I saw debris slash off and whip back in his slipstream. He banked. His motor stopped. Down he went to a forced landing.

I set down behind him and stalked over to capture pilot and machine intact. The poor fellow looked scared, then I noted he was just a boy. “Well, I guess you got me, old chappie,” he said and smiled wanly, hopelessly. Holding both hands in the air he stepped down on the ground and came toward me. The next thing I knew his machine burst out in flames. The youngster had completely disarmed me with his sickly smile and presuming salutation. I cursed myself for being tricked by him.

But first blood was ours. The initial victory was mine. I made up my mind then to tackle the British leader next time and make up for my dereliction in allowing the youngster to fire his plane.

(Editor’s note: He did—but came out second best. Barker shot him down in flames two days after this initial victory.)

“Sky Finance” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on May 25, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” That sound can only mean one thing—that marvel from Boonetown, Iowa is back causing more trouble than he’s worth! That miscreant of Calamity manages believes he has a sure thing goin’, but overplays his hand andgets not only himself in hick, but practiaclly the whole of the Ninth including the Old Man! It’s a case of “cash-and-miscarry” ala Carbuncle in “Sky Finance” from the pages of the June 1936 Flying Aces!

Battling Casey, the Ninth’s famed ackemma, needed a fight trainer, so Phineas assumed the role—and he figured on assuming the roll of a couple of Limeys into the bargain. But when the leather pushers squared off, the Iowa Impresario found his man entered in the weight-lifting events. Moral: It’s easy to don the leather, but you can’t always push it.

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