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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Hamilton Coolidge

Link - Posted by David on October 18, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

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

As a famous athlete at Harvard, Hamilton Coolidge was well known throughout the land even before the war began. He enlisted in the aviation section of the Signal Corps and got his primary flight training at Mineola along with Quentln Roosevelt, his hoy-hood friend.

They went up to the front together on the same day. Coolidge was assigned to the 94th Squadron and Roosevelt to the 95th. Coolidge was killed when a German Archie scored a direct hit on his plane, something of which war time figures prove happened only once in every 20,000 attempts.

He had established an enviable record, soon becoming a recognized ace with 5 victories. He was promoted to a Squadron Commander, and succeeded in downing 3 more enemy planes. He was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and the Distinguished Service Cross. This account of his fight with the famous Flying Circus of Baron von Richthofen is taken from an interview he gave a war correspondent.

 

FIGHTING THE FLYING CIRCUS

by Captain Hamilton Coolidge • Sky Fighters, October 1935

THOUGH I had been expecting to encounter the Flying Circus, my first meeting with one of their patrols took me quite by surprise. With five of my mates I was cruising high above Lagny in a sky that was empty and void as a lonesome ocean.

I didn’t catch sight of the gaudily painted ships until they were almost upon us— they had come up from our own side of the lines, while I was probing the sky reaches in the opposite direction. Twelve ships there were, flying in layer formation.

I had to do some quick thinking. My patrol was outnumbered 2 to 1. And they had us cut off from our rear! I waggled my wings, whined up in vertical virage and went streaking for Germany, climbing for the ceiling as I ran.

We Gained an Even Ceiling

Luckily, the Fokkers didn’t catch us until we had gained an even ceiling with their topmost flight. Then the fighting began. It seemed that the bullets whined in from all directions at once. And the sky was just a kaleidoscopic whirl.

Finally the wild dog-fighting settled down to a man to man duel. I didn’t have to pick my quarry. He picked me with a ripping invitation in Spandau tracer that stitched a grim streak down my turtle-back. I jammed full throttle and roared into a loop, rolled out on top and got out of range. But only to run smack into a stream of tracer coming from another Hun’s gun. I ducked beneath that, pulled up and banked quickly, my sights on the checkerboard belly of my first antagonist. I had time for just a short burst before he slid out of my sights.

First Meat for Our Side

But that was enough. The Fokker tipped up on a wing, hung in the air momentarily, then went sliding down, turning over on its back finally and fluttering off in a spin.

It was first meat for our side against odds of two to one. It gave me renewed courage. Two more of the Fokkers fell before one of the Spad pilots got caught with a bad jam. While trying to clear it he was killed.

All the time we had been fighting we had drifted further over the German lines, so I concluded that now was the time for a risky maneuver. We would have to turn our tails to the Huns, give them a momentary bull’s-eye as we streaked for the earth straight down—but with the Spad’s diving speed with full power on, I figured we could leave the Fokkers behind, and take our chances with the Archies and groundfire from below. So I signalled and dived, the rest of the boys following.

I took plenty of lead in the rear, but by shaking my stick, I managed to dodge a vital burst, and finally got out of range.

We hedge-hopped for home then right over the German trenches, running the gauntlet of a terrific machine-gun fire from the ground. But when we had run through and zoomed up to the ceiling and reformed on our own side of the line, waiting, the famed Flying Circus didn’t accept the challenge.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Baron Manfred von Richthofen

Link - Posted by David on January 13, 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 week we have the legend that is Baron Manfred von Richthofen!

Captain Manfred von Richthofen was the greatest of all the German flyers. He had more victories to his credit than any other battle flyer. He began in the Imperial Flying Corps, on the Russian Front. Soon afterwards he was transferred to the German North Seas station at Ostend, where he served as a bomber. Backseat flying never appealed to him, so he took training, soon won his wings, and was sent to join the jagdstaffel commanded by Oswald Boelke. After his sixteenth victory, he was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to command a squadron. This became the Flying Circus, the most famous of all the German squadrons, the scourge of the western skies.

The account below, in which he describes his flight with Major Hawker, the famous British Ace, on November 3, 1916, is from Richthofen’s personal memoirs. For this victory he was awarded the order of Pour le Merite. Only Immelmann and Boelke before him had gained this honor, and no air fighter following him over received it. In his scarlet red battle plane he coursed the Western Front from end to end, strewing death and destruction in his wake—until that fatal day when bullets from a British flyer’s gun brought him to his end, as he had brought upwards of a hundred others.

 

DOWNING A BRITISH ACE

by Baron Manfred von Richthofen • Sky Fighters, February 1934

I WAS flying along with my patrol of three wing-mates when I noticed three Englishmen. They looked me over keenly in the manner of stalkers looking for cold meat. I was far below the rest of my patrol flying above, so I sensed that they had only spied me and not the others. I let them think I was flying alone and boldly flaunted my wings in challenge.

They had the ceiling, so I had to wait until one of them dropped on me before shifting for attack myself. Down one came presently, streaking in a line for my tail. At a close range, he opened up. But I banked swiftly and escaped the burst, intending to nose back and get in one of my own as he swooped past. But he banked, too, sticking on my tail. Round and round we circled like madmen, each trying to catch up with the other at an altitude of 10,000 feet.

First we circled about twenty times to the left. Then reversed and circled thirty times to the right, each trying to tighten the circle sufficiently to line in a burst—but without success. I knew then this fellow I had so boldly tackled wasn’t any beginner. He had no intentions of breaking or running. And his machine was a marvelous stunter (D.H.2 with 100 h.p. mono-soupape motor—Editor). However, mine climbed better than his, so I succeeded finally in getting above and behind my dancing partner.

When we had settled down to 6,000 feet with the battle still a draw, my opponent should have had sense enough to leave, for we were fighting over my own territory. But he held on like a leech.

At 3,000 feet we were still battling for position with guns silent, neither of us having been able to line the other in his sights. My opponent looked up from his pit, smiled. He was a good sportsman.

We made twenty or thirty more circles, getting lower and lower. Looking down in my opponent’s pit I sized him up carefully, expecting some trick. He had to do something, for I was continually pressing him down, and he had to decide between landing in German territory or making a run for his own lines.

He looped suddenly trying to get on my tail. His guns blasted simultaneously. Bullets flew around me, crackling and whining. Coming out of the loop just off the ground he darted off in a zig-zag course. That was my most favorable moment.

I pounced on his tail, firing with all I had from a distance between 150 and 250 feet away. His machine simply could not help falling. My bullets poured through it in a steady stream.

At that the jamming of my guns almost robbed me of victory, but just at that moment his plane toppled off on one wing and slid into the ground just 150 feet behind our lines.

When I landed, I found that one of my bullets had passed through his head. How he managed to duck all but that one was more than I could understand—until I learned later that my victim was the famous Major Hawker!

“The Fokker Triplane” By Robert H. Rankin

Link - Posted by David on September 21, 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, we have more of the approach he used for the covers he painted for Battle Aces—telling us about the ship on cover. But, instead of Mr Blakeslee telling us about the ship on the cover, we have Mr. Robert H. Rankin, formerly a draughtsman for the Fokker Aircraft Corp telling the story of the most recognized plane of the era—the Fokker Triplane—featured on the cover of the June 1935 cover of Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3506AFTER one look at the cover this month you would probably think that the American and German pilot were doomed. However, both escaped, the American with minor burns and the German with a bad fright.
  As a matter of fact, the fire on the Spad was not quite as bad as we have shown; just bad enough to make the pilot think that he was due for an awful death. He decided to crash one of the Fokker tripes, bringing it down with him. But the pilot of the Fokker got ont of the way just in the nick of time.
  The American discovered in that dive that if he side-slipped the blast of wind would keep the fire away from the cockpit. He managed to reach the ground by side-slipping. As he later said—”Given my choice of crashing or being burned to a cinder, I’ll crash every time.” And crash he did.

Now let’s hear from an expert the inside dope on the Fokker triplane.

The Fokker Triplane
By ROBERT H. RANKIN
Formerly Draftsman, Fokker Aircraft Corporation

DURING the early part of the year 1916 the German High Command realized that the war had developed into a bitter struggle which would be prolonged much longer than had at first been expected.

With this fact in mind, Germany at once redoubled her efforts to gain undisputed supremacy of the skies and Anthony Fokker was asked to design and produce a new combat ship which would enable her to gain the upper hand. Fokker set to work at once and in the early fall of 1916 this plane was placed in the hands of the fighting pilots. It was the Fokker D.R.-I, or as it was perhaps better known, the Fokker triplane.

At first the performance of the triplane was not viewed seriously by the Allies. But within a short time they learned to have a high regard for the new Fokker pursuit. Although this unique ship was slower than the Nieuports, Sopwiths and Spads, its ability to climb and maneuver gave it a decided advantage over any ship then in use and the series of impressive victories for which it was responsible gave the entire world notice that it was a most important factor in aerial warfare.

In general outline the Fokker D.R.-I was of the orthodox triplane type. However, unlike the Sopwith triplane the span of the wings were unequal.

The span for the top wing was 23 feet, 7 inches, the span for the middle wing was 20 feet, 6 inches, while the span of the bottom wing was 18 feet, 9 inches. The chord was the same for all three wings. The top wing alone was provided with ailerons, and these were of the balanced type.

One of the outstanding features of the Fokker was the wing spar construction. The main point of interest is that the twin spars were built up of two box section tapering spars, these being joined by transverse plywood. The front and rear shear strength of this built-up member was supplied by one right and one left plywood bulkhead in each wing.

Structurally the main wing frame could be regarded as consisting of three pairs of cantilevers tied by pseudo-struts near the wing-tips. The function of this structure was to distribute the load evenly from wing to wing.

The use of the triplane design gave the advantage of a larger ratio of lifting power. Of course, there was some increase in head resistance caused by the use of the extra set of inter-plane struts. But by bracing the wings internally, Fokker eliminated all brace wires, thus reducing the total head resistance to some extent.

It is interesting to note in connection with this that Fokker was the first designer to completely do away with inter-plane bracing.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Model No.14 – Fokker Triplane” by Frederick Blakeslee (January 1934, Battle Birds)

The fuselage of the triplane was built up of welded tubular steel and was covered with linen fabric. It was rather well streamlined, and like most of the Fokker war-time designs it compared closely to modern aeronautical practice.

The empennage or tail of the ship was a fabric covered steel tubing framework. There was no vertical fin, there being only the characteristic Fokker rudder. The tail plane or stabilizer was comparatively large and was fitted with the usual type elevators.

The landing gear axle was inclosed by a wing, a feature which was incorporated on all of the later Fokker fighting models. This wing was two pieces and these were attached to a central casting which housed the shock absorbing agents and the axle. The covering for this wing was plywood.

The triplane or D.R.-I was equipped with a 110 h.p. 9 cylinder Oberursel rotary motor. This motor was mounted on a plate which was stamped from sheet steel. The plate was attached, of course, to the front ends of the fuselage longerons.

For armament the plane was fitted with twin Spandau machine guns, these being mounted on the top side of the fuselage directly in front of the cockpit. Directly behind the engine was the synchronizing gear for the guns, and behind this gear was located the fuel tank. This tank was of a rather small capacity and as a result the flight range of the machine was greatly limited.

The triplane answered very well to the controls and as far as climb and general maneuverability are concerned it was equaled by but very few of the later war time designs.

German pilots have told the writer that they were greatly impressed with the ship and if the speed of the plane could have been increased they would have preferred it to any other plane, with the possible exception of the D-VTI. Certainly it was the choice of many of the German pilots.

The great von Richthofen, who could select any ship he desired, favored it above them all; and his series of victories indicate the famous flyer made no mistake in his choice of a pursuit.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Fokker Triplane” by Frederick Blakeslee (June 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)

 

Mr. Blakeslee covered the Fokker Triplane himself with the story of the great von Richthofen last flight for the cover of the March 1932 number of Battle Aces.

“Richthofen’s Last Flight” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on February 23, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Editor’s Note: This month’s cover is the tenth of the actual war-combat pictures which Mr. Blakeslee, well-known artist and authority on aircraft, is painting exclusively for BATTLE ACES. The series was started In give our readers authentic pictures of war planes in color. It also enables you to follow famous airmen on many of their amazing adventures and feel the same thrills of battle they felt. Be sure to save these covers if you want your collection of this fine series to be complete.

th_BA_3203THE COVER painting this month depicts the essential elements that combined to cause the death of Baron von Richthofen. All of the planes involved are shown.

Baron von Richthofen was the greatest ace Germany ever produced. He was a cool daring fighter who fought to kill or be killed, and the more skillful his adversaries were the better he liked them. To match wits with a clever opponent brought him the utmost pleasure. He fought like a demon, quickly and surely, taking advantage of every fortune of combat. His
deadly aim accounted for the crashing of eighty Allied planes.

An analysis of his combats show that of his eighty victories, forty-six of the vanquished were two seaters and thirty-four were single-seater scouts. He killed eighty-eight men in these combats, seventeen of whom were unidentified. His record of eighty may be disputed, however, for there are no British casualty records to account for three of the ships which were reported by von Richthofen. If we give him the benefit of the doubt—and there is no evidence that he did not bring down these three—eighty is an imposing” record. He was the terror of the Front and in his all-red ship he blazed his way through the sky from September 17, 1916, until the day of his death, April 21, 1918.

Von Richthofen’s circus became a byword at the Front. The ships composing this staffel resembled a sinister rainbow. They were painted in every color imaginable, no two ships being alike and every one having a different combination. Only one of his circus had a single color scheme. This ship—a Fokker triplane—painted a brilliant red except for the black maltese cross on its white background.

It fell to the lot of Captain Roy Brown to put an end to “The Red Knight of Germany. This he accomplished on April 21, 1918, in the vicinity of Hamel. Four triplanes led by von Richthofen had dived on some old R.E.’s which were engaged on a photographic mission. Captain Roy Brown, with his flight of seven Camels, was two miles above. His attention was directed to the plight of the R.E.’s by the English anti-aircraft calling for help. Down he came in a two-mile dive with his flight screaming in his wake.

The triplanes had been joined by additional Fokkers and Albatrosses, so that they numbered about twenty-two. With guns blazing, the eight Camels plunged into the fight. It developed into one of the most desperate dogfights of the War.

The R.E.’s relieved of their pursuers, streaked for home and escaped.

In Captain Brown’s flight was Lieut. W.R. May, a newcomer and out for the first time. Nevertheless he joined the melee. After downing a Boche he remembered his orders to stay out of a combat, so with great difficulty he disengaged himself and started for home. Death, however, in the form of an all-red triplane, rode on his tail. Do what he could, side, slip, loop and turn, May could not shake the cool and determined fighter who pursued him. His ship was being-shot to pieces and he was painfully wounded. But fortunately death showed no partiality and also road on the tail of the red triplane. Brown had seen the unequal combat and diving in from the right his tracers tucked a seam up the body of the Fokker until they reached the cockpit. The triplane faultered, then glided to the earth, making a nearly perfect landing. It settled between the lines. The pilot did not move. An Australian crawled over the top, attached a rope to the undcr-carriage and drew it to the shelter of a rise in the ground. The pilot was taken out. Baron von Richthofen was dead.

The triplane was another creation of Anthony Fokker, It was speedy and a machine to be avoided in a scrap. Some authorities contend that it had one fatal fault—its tendency to tear itself apart in the air. For this reason the Germans finally abandoned it.

The Fokker triplane had a 110 h.p. engine and its speed was approximately 125 m.p.h. It was 19 feet, 1 inch in length over all and had a top wing span of 25 feet including the balancing fins on the aileron. The span of the center wing was 21 feet and that of the bottom wing was 19 feet. It carried two fixed machine guns on the cowl, syncronized through the propeller.

Richthofen's Last Flight
“Richthofen’s Last Flight” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (March 1932)