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

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

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

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

“Falling Leaf” by Lt. Frank Johnson

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

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

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

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Donald McClaren

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

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

Donald McLaren was born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1893, but at an early age his parents moved to the Canadian Northwest, where he grew up with a gun in his hands. He got his first rifle at the age of six, and was an expert marksman by the time he was twelve. When the war broke out he was engaged in the fur business with his father, far up in the Peace River country. He came down from the north in the early spring of 1917 and enlisted in the Canadian army, in the aviation section. He went into training at Camp Borden, won his wings easily and quickly, and was immediately sent overseas. In February, 1918, he downed his first enemy aircraft. In the next 9 months he shot down 48 enemy planes and 6 balloons, ranking fourth among the Canadian Aces and sixth among the British. No ranking ace in any army shot down as many enemy aircraft as he did in the same length of time. For his feats he was decorated with the D.S.O., M.C., D.F.C. medals of the British forces, and the French conferred upon him both the Legion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre. Oddly, just before the war ended, he was injured in a wrestling match with one of his comrades and spent armistice day in a hospital nursing a broken leg. He had gone through over a hundred air engagements without receiving a scratch. The air battle he describes below is unusual because almost 100 planes took part in it.

 

A REAL DOG-FIGHT

by Major Donald McLaren • Sky Fighters, April 1934

I was cruising along with twelve of my Camels when we met 17 enemy aircraft 15,000 feet high, slightly east of Nieppe Forest. When the Germans spotted us above them, they started circling. We began diving at them, and had succeeded in shooting down two, when another German formation appeared, coming up from La Bassee. I signalled and we drew out to watch developments, climbing together. At that moment our archies opened fire. The white bursts were thick like cotton tufts, with the enemy planes diving in and out. As we drew away to reform and attack again, we were joined by some additional S.E.5’s and Camels. Then another formation of Bristol Fighters and S.E.S’s drifted along from the south.

A real air battle promised now—the kind you read about but seldom witness. My Camels attacked the first formation of Huns, diving, firing a few rounds at close range, then climbing away, only to resume the tactic again as soon as we reformed. I swooped down on a white painted Albatross with a red nose. At my first burst, he exploded in flames. But I felt somebody shooting at me for all his worth.

From the sound of the bullets I knew he was very close, so I pulled back in a quick climbing turn to get a look. I saw two of my Camels chasing a Pfalz who tried to avoid them by turning from side to side. They got it, however. It went spinning down but I had no time to watch. Bullets were flying everywhere, coming from almost a hundred fighters at once. Just then two Albatrosses under me picked on a little Camel. I went for them, managing to get the first with a single burst. But the other got away by diving under his formation.

The Bristols and S.E.5’s were having the time of their lives. One S.E.5 that had shot down a Hun was being given a ride by three of the fallen Hun’s mates.

But by a fast climbing turn and wing-over, he managed to get the advantage over one. The Hun in trying to avoid his charge turned too slowly and rammed one of his fellows. Both smashed and went down, leaving bits of fabric floating behind them. By agile maneuvering the Bristols had managed to split up the German formation, so the enemy thinking they had enough, drew off and made for home as fast as they could. Our ammunition had been pretty well used up, so we called it a day.

Nearly a hundred planes took part in the scrap. I had never been in such a dog-fight before.

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

Link - Posted by David on February 8, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the April 1934 cover, Frandzen featured the Nieuport 17 and the giant Gotha bomber!

ON THE COVER this month th_SF_3404you will find two ships as radically different in design as you could wish for. The fleet little scrapper, the Nieuport 17 and the cumbersome engine of destruction, the Gotha bomber. The Nieuport was one of the most effective scouts that the French turned out. Owing to its high speed and maneuverability it was very popular with the French flyers. It was really a parasol in that the lower wing was so small that its chief function was to give girder strength to the upper wing. The Nieuports of this type were commonly called “one-and-a-half-planes.”

The big Gotha smacking the ground was just the last word in bombers as far as Germany was concerned. She built some bigger ones and stuck more engines on them than this 77 ft. twin-engined job, but in the case of the larger bombers they had plenty of trouble lifting them off the ground.

Slip back a few hours and take off with this broken Gotha as it leaves its home drome with a half a ton of bombs snuggled against its belly. With its two 160 horse power Mercedes churning the two pusher props more than four tons of ship and load are eased into the air. Two other giant bombers follow. The field is circled twice and then the three ships with their motors blasting orange streaks of flame from six exhaust stacks point their noses westward, toward the English Channel. The vibrating motors are laboring like mogul locomotives pulling a heavy train over a steep mountain grade—they are climbing. At last they reach twelve thousand feet, level off and throttle down to about sixty-five miles per hour. It is a clear night with high clouds scudding just below. Finally the nose of the leading Gotha is pointed downward. The other two follow. They slip down through the clouds. The Channel is below, now it has been passed. Again the bombers level off, wing slightly to the left. Scattered houses, the outskirts of London are below. Now the dwellings are bunched together. The gunner in the front pit has his eye glued to a Georz bomb-dropper’s sight. The pilot is watching his galvanometer, his left hand is on his bomb releases. Government buildings are now below at an angle of about twelve degrees.

Two giant bombs drop flatly from beneath the Gotha, lazily point their noses downward, then gathering momentum they go streaking down at their target. Buildings rock, flames spurt from shattered windows. Sirens from tops of buildings wail their eerie warnings through the chill before dawn air. AIR RAID. Again the bombs go racing toward the sleeping city. A ton and a half of high explosive has been released.

The British home defense planes are in the air, sweeping up to engage the giant destroyers, but already those dark shapes have slunk off into the blackness and are well out over the Channel.

The British were taken by surprise. They had not adequate speed in their protection planes. The advantage of the raiders was too great, they escaped across the Channel. But did they get back to their hangars behind the German lines? They did not! One was forced down with a balky engine. The two others ran into a dawn patrol of French airmen out looking for big game. Spandaus and Vickers snarled and spat lead as the eastern sky burst gloriously into color as the sun rose over the torn and twisted battle fields. A Vickers’ bullet found a vulnerable spot in the left engine of the Gotha pictured on the cover. Another killed the pilot. Flames, a dive, oblivion for the raiders. The Nieuport pilot circles the flamer once, salutes his fallen foe. It’s all in the day’s work.

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

“The Yellow Comet” by Eliot Todd

Link - Posted by David on June 8, 2015 @ 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. This time, Eliot Todd recounts the story behind Blakeslee’s April 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3404SUNSET. The lone Spad droned on, headed directly into the blazing rays of a dying sun that flushed the western skies with crimson. A Yank pilot sat in the Spad’s tiny “office,” his back to Germany, his two hour evening patrol over. From time to time he turned and searched the sky for enemy ships. He had nearly reached the lines when he saw them—four black specks, one larger than the others, all spinning about in crazy gyrations.

He snatched for binoculars. Three Fokker D-7’s were ganging a French Salmson. One, a blue Fokker, was just dropping on the Salmson’s tail. Spandaus flamed. Twin Lewises flashed in the sun. The Fokker seemed to shudder. The motor belched a billowy sheet of livid flame, then, falling into a right-hand spin, the Boche plane blazed its final trail across the sky like a fiery comet.

Instantly the two remaining Fokkers caught the Salmson in a deadly cross-fire. That was enough for the Yank. He stood the Spad on its prop, spun around and roared toward the fight.

A blue Fokker swelled in his ring-sight. He estimated the distance. Two hundred yards, one hundred yards. He reached for the trips. But just as his fingers tightened on the stick a red ship appeared like magic at his right. Spandaus steel smashed into his motor. The Hisso ground to a stop with a grating of metal parts.

Numb terror gripped the Yank’s heart. Engine dead, he was cold meat for those Boches. The red ship had looped upward, probably intending to swoop in a death-dealing dive; and from the corner of his eye the Yank could see the blue Fokker swinging in on his tail. He began gliding earthward.

As he flashed past the Salmson, he glanced up—and gasped. For the French observer had aimed his guns and was riddling the belly of the red Fokker with lead. The Boche ship hung for a moment in the sky, almost motionless—then it began to fall in a series of crazy side-slips, pilot fighting the controls.

But the blue Fokker was fast on the Spad’s tail now, raking the crippled ship with burst after burst. The Yank felt the tiny shocks of slugs smash up the camel-back toward the fuselage. Grimly he turned to face the final burst. As he did so the Salmson whipped around in a vertical bank not fifty yards away. Again twin Lewises flamed; feathery tracers impaled the blue Fokker’s cockpit. The Boche pilot slumped forward. His ship plunged down, guns still yammering, a dead hand clutching the trips.

Breathing a sigh of heartfelt relief, the Yank eased the stick and sought a place to set down. There wasn’t much time to choose. Two miles inside the German lines, with 500 feet altitude and a dead stick, it was pretty much of a hit and miss proposition.

A clearing showed ahead. He landed in it, jumped out and touched a match to the ship just as a squad of Germans rushed into the open, waving their rifles. But before they could reach him the Salmson came hurtling over the trees, Vickers snarling. The Boches faltered and broke, running for cover. The Salmson banked, bouncing past the Yank, who ran after it. Bullets pinged around his head but he flung himself on the wing.

A few minutes later on the tarmac of his own drome, he gripped the French pilot’s hand in a gesture that expressed his thanks more eloquently than words.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Yellow Comet: The Story Behind The Cover” by Eliot Todd (April 1934)

Check back again. We will be presenting more Stories behind the Covers.