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

Link - Posted by David on September 30, 2019 @ 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 October 1936 cover, It’s the Morane-Saulnier 27C1 & Roland D2!

The Ships on the Cover

THE French developed th_SF_3610 the outstanding monoplanes of the Parasol type produced during the war. The early Morane-Saulnier Parasols were very successful and the later war models progressed with the quick advance of aviation but continued the main design features of the original Parasols. The Morane-Saulnier 27 C1 was a single-seater righting scout which carried substantial strut bracing to the wings instead of the large number of wire braces used on previous monoplane models. The rounded fuselage housed a 160 h.p. Gnome motor.

This understrut bracing of the high wing Parasol has not really been abandoned. Many of our high winged monoplanes, although not strictly Parasols, never-the-less are closely related to the old Moranes. Our Stinson, Bellanca and several others with the understrut bracing, merely have the fuselage and cabin fused in with the top wing. It was a good stunt in the old days. It’s a good stunt now. A forerunner of the Morane-Saulnier Parasol was called the Aerostable on account of its inherent stability. It had no ailerons, so it was up to the pilot to shift his weight in his seat to give lateral control.

The Roland Seemed Impractical

The German plane known as the L.F.G, Roland had an original design which was seemingly so impractical that the firm, Luft Fahrzeug Gesellschaft was safe from anyone stealing their idea. The Roland D2 was a single-seater fighter in which this design was incorporated. The fuselage under the top wing was carried up to the wing cutting off the pilot’s view in front, even though this superstructure did thin out considerably at the top and left room for two windshields, one on each side of the center ridge. Despite this drawback the D2 was a good ship and was still used in many German squadrons in 1918. The 160 h.p. Mercedes may have been partly responsible for the good qualities of the D2’s performance but even with a good power plant it was against all reason to park a solid mass in front of the pilot’s eyes. It would be just as practical to put a strip of tin six inches wide smack down the windshield of your car directly in front of the steering wheel. But just a few dozen cockeyed hunches like that thrown into the war crates gave the civil designers plenty of precedents of what not to do when the war was over.

Possibly if war comes in the future it will be a mass of planes against a like mass of enemy’s fighting planes. Aces will be a thing of the past. A few men will be outstanding in their flying but it will be hard to observe their deeds in the terrific rnixup that must occur far overhead, possibly out of sight. Publicized stunts will be few and far between, but to cut out entirely from the picture the personal element of friendship and cooperation between men of a squadron will be impossible!

Saving a Buddy

The Morane pilot on the cover knew exactly where a buddy, who had been taken prisoner from a cracked-up plane, was confined in a hospital in a small suburb. He communicated with his friend by those devious means that humans will always work out some way, despite the vigilance of the enemy’s espionage system. The man in the hospital feigned lameness longer than necessary and at a prearranged moment, while the Morane was landing at an adjacent field, he swung his crutches with vim and vigor. Down went the two unarmed attendants. In ten minutes he was securely tied to the top of the Morane’s wing and high in the air headed for home. Another Parasol joined the French plane and drove off two Roland D2s who had sighted the overburdened Morane and considered it easy pickings.

The personal touch was in that quickly executed rescue. War will always have those daring exploits. Friendships formed under fire are lasting and strong.

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

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

Link - Posted by David on April 1, 2019 @ 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 Fairey F127 Seaplane making an escape after an attack on a giant Zeppelin on the April 1936 cover!

The Ships on the Cover

GOTHA and Friedrichshafen th_SF_3604 bombers of World War time ventured forth on daylight raids over England. They swooped down on the great cities dropping every conceivable type of bomb. But the slow-moving Zeppelins chose night as their time for harassing the enemy. Flying at tremendous heights with muffled engines they were often directly over their predetermined target before the defenders were aware of their presence.

Count von Zeppelin didn’t let size or weight bother him. There was fifty tons to be lifted into the air when the ship was fully loaded. The crew of twenty-two men could scramble through the big bag on a narrow catwalk running along the keel from one gondola to the others.

Aside from the navigation of the Zep they had to man nine machine-guns and release their cargo of about sixty bombs. Two of the machine-guns were mounted on top of the Zep in a small fenced platform. Her metal lattice work girder formation held twenty-four ballonets filled with inflammable hydrogen gas, within the framework. The big bag was around 650 feet long and 72 feet in diameter at its widest point.

Above London

The Zeppelin pictured on the cover nosed its way through the clouds of night towards the English Channel. Below faint splotches of flame marked the muzzles of roaring Allied cannon. Higher and higher climbed the air monster; Maybach engines pushed her toward her goal at around 50 m.p.h. Altitude was about 15,000 feet as she neared the Channel.

“Higher” ordered her commanding officer as the clouds disappeared and clear starlit skies opened ahead. The three men directly behind him glanced at each other with apprehension. Already the thermometer had dropped below freezing. It was going down fast. The great bag’s nose continued to point upward. The thermometer slid lower. Below zero. Hands froze at the control wheels. They were above London.

Bomb after bomb screamed down on the sleeping city, flames broke out, airplane motors roared as they lifted defense planes into the sky. Not a sign of the Zeppelin could they find. Altitude had again done the trick, and with dawn breaking in the east they pictured the high flying raider far back toward its home base.

The siren’s “All’s well” signal echoed through the darkened streets of London. The air raid was over. Householders could once more return to their broken slumbers. Those who had not perished.

But the Zeppelin was wallowing uncontrollable over the North Sea with a crew of men and officers nearly frozen to death. Control wires coated with ice from the morning mists, water ballast frozen in tanks. Even the engine radiators, although raised into cars, were frozen, and the motors were very nearly useless. Gradually the giant bag was settling.

The North Sea Patrol

Patroling the North Sea were the R.N.A.S. seaplanes. One of these, a Fairey F127 N9 was the first seaplane to begin flight by being catapulted from a warship. It was a big plane with a 50 foot span. The top plane had a large overhang. The machine had a 190 h.p. Rolls-Royce engine but these power plants were in such great demand for other planes that the N9 could not be put into quantity production. The original N9 was in service until a few months before the Armistice.

A surprised observer in the British Fairey seaplane rubbed his eyes and pounded his pilot on the back. Up shot the pontooned patrol boat. A nearly stationary Zeppelin hovering directly over the Channel in broad daylight was unbelievable. They soon realized it was the real thing as a barrage of machine-gun fire greeted their approach. A sharp bank brought the seaplane’s tail around. Lewis slugs streamed into the gut-covered ballonets. The great bulk of the raider shuddered as the first explosion racked her ribs.

Fire wrapped the envelope in clutching tentacles, ate into the canvas-covered sides of the control car and slashed at the three men and their commanding officer still fighting their controls. The fire engulfed the Zeppelin crew, just as flames had engulfed scores of non-combatants in London homes a few hours before.

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

“The Lone Eagle, August 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 4, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of The Lone Eagle from its first issue in September 1933 until the June 1937 issue when Rudolph Belarski took over with the August issue of that year. At the start of the run, Frandzen painted covers of general air action much like his Sky Fighters covers. Here, for the August 1934 cover, Frandzen has a couple of S.V.A. biplanes and an Austrian Lohner flying boat!

The Story of the Cover

ITALY, a country producing no th_LE_3408 steel or coal and an insufficient amount of foodstuffs, took a mighty walloping from Austria for over two of her three years in the Great War. But during that time, in the face of defeat after defeat, they put up a mighty sweet scrap against the Austrians.

Caught without sufficient airplanes, they tore into the job and produced some of the finest made by any country. During the war they were even supplying their allies with engines and planes.

The Adriatic does not appear to be much of a puddle when compared to other seas and oceans but it took all the ingenuity and vigilance of every available Italian flyer to patrol it.

Lurking Perils

German and Austrian submarines were lurking beneath its surface, laying in wait for cargo ships laden with iron ore and coal enroute to Italy’s foundries. Austrian airplanes roared down on seacoast cities; left a trail of ruins in their wake. Brandenburg and Lohner flying boats were continually a menace.

Gradually the speed and reliability of the Italian airplanes, seaplanes and flying boats increased. Outstanding among these were the S.V.A. types of planes. One of these, the S.V.A. biplane fitted either with pontoons or wheels, was a flying killer which the Austrians dreaded to meet.

On the cover two S.V.A. biplanes have caught an Austrian Lohner flying boat as it has finished dumping its load of bombs into a cargo ship laden with coal bound for the Italian coast.

A Devastating Bomb

One after another the bombs slipped from their racks and smashed through the steamer’s deck, down into the hold. The crew were mowed down with machine-gun fire from the Lohner’s front cockpit. Fire, the dreaded foe of all at sea, burst through the shattered deck. Dense masses of greasy opaque smoke billowed upwards. A bomb had ripped plates from the side of the ship below the water-line.

The gunner in the Lohner grins, points to the listing, stricken ship. His pilot laughs, shrugs his shoulders and looks at his gas indicator. It is low, just enough to reach home. Still smiling, he kicks his ship around to scram.

No Smile Now

The smile of victory is wiped from his lips. He yanks at his controls like a novice, nearly pitching his gunner into the briny. Bearing down on the Lohner are two S.V.A.’s tearing across the skies at a hundred and thirty-five mile clip, their 220 h.p. motors roaring. With hardly enough gas to see him home the Austrian pilot is forced to fight. To try to escape with his slower ship would be suicide.

A hail of bullets blast at the Austrian plane. Up flips the flying boat’s nose. The gunner in the bow, crouching over his gun, sends a stream of lead back at the S.V.A. The range is great but a lucky shot damages an aileron control.

The other S.V.A. coming up from below rakes the gunner and pilot of the Lohner with deadly effect. The bulky flying boat flutters, noses over and dives straight into the Adriatic, carrying a dead crew and a heavy 300 h.p. Austro-Daimler engine to use as a sinker.

The Story of The Cover
The Lone Eagle, August 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Story of The Cover Page)

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

Link - Posted by David on January 21, 2019 @ 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 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)

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

Link - Posted by David on December 10, 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 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.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 4: Manfred von Richthofen” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 28, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Back with the final of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time around we have the August 1932 installment featuring arguably the most famous Ace of WWI—Baron Manfred von Richthofen!

Widely known as the “Red Baron”, Richthofen is considered the ace-of-aces, officially credited with 80 air combat victories! He was awarded the Pour le Mérite, Order of the Red Eagle, House Order of Hohenzollern and the Iron Cross.

Wikipedia summarizes his rise to greatness thusly: Originally a cavalryman, Richthofen transferred to the Air Service in 1915, becoming one of the first members of fighter squadron Jagdstaffel 2 in 1916. He quickly distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, and during 1917 became leader of Jasta 11 and then the larger fighter wing unit Jagdgeschwader 1, better known as “The Flying Circus” or “Richthofen’s Circus” because of the bright colours of its aircraft, and perhaps also because of the way the unit was transferred from one area of allied air activity to another—moving like a travelling circus, and frequently setting up in tents on improvised airfields. By 1918, Richthofen was regarded as a national hero in Germany, and respected by his enemies.

Richthofen was shot down and killed near Vaux-sur-Somme on 21 April 1918.

As a bonus, here are links to all 45 “Live of the Aces in Pictures” that we’ve posted over the years:

Lives of the Aces in Pictures Index

“The Lone Eagle, June 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on August 20, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of The Lone Eagle from its first issue in September 1933 until the June 1937 issue when Rudolph Belarski took over with the August issue of that year. At the start of the run, Frandzen painted covers of general air action much like his Sky Fighters covers. Here, for the June 1934 cover, Frandzen has a couple Sopwith Camelss in a scrap with a D.F.W. Aviatik type C.V.!

The Story of the Cover

THE scrap depicted on the cover this th_LE_3406 month is between two Sopwith Camels and a D.F.W. Aviatik, type C.V. The initials “D.F.W.” stand for quite a mouthful; Deutsche Fregzeug Werke. This company, formed before the war, carried on with contracts from the government through the World War. This model of the D.F.W. is often confused with the L.V.G. It is an easy mistake to make, for they both have many of the same characteristics of construction. It carried a 228 h.p. Benz motor in its nose. It needed all this power for its forty-three foot wing span.

The Sopwith Camel was manufactured by the Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., founded in 1911 by Mr. T.O.M. Sopwith, a well-known aviator. Even before the war the Sopwith planes were famous, one of them, a seaplane, similar to the later Sopwith “Baby” seaplane which did such fine work for the R.N.A.S., having the distinction of winning the Schneider cup races.

It Delivered the Goods

The Camel was designed for extreme maneuverability and high performance. It made its appearance at the end of 1916, and during 1917 it was the outstanding single-seater of the British. Its high rate of climb made it particularly good for defense against Zeppelin raids. In the hands of a competent pilot it could out-maneuver any ship of its class on the front, but put a pilot used to a sluggish-controlled ship at the stick of a Camel and he was lost. The Camel was tricky to fly, but once used to the controls veritable wonders could be performed by a pilot who knew all the tricks of sailing the sky lanes.

This ship delivered the goods from the time it made its appearance right up to the end of the war, and that is something that cannot be said for many ships that were used during the Big scrap.

A Technique of Their Own

Two Anzacs who had done considerable cattle-herding in their beloved Australia had changed their mounts from shaggy ponies to “Camels.” But in the cockpits of their Camels their old habit of cutting out one animal from a herd was not forgotten. They developed a technique of their own of cutting an enemy plane from a flight and harassing it with cross-fire. Anticipating every move of the enemy plane they would gradually work it toward the Allied lines, then over the lines and finally force the unhappy German pilot, whom they had flattered with their undivided attention, to land on their own airdrome.

Now look at the picture on the cover again and you’ll get the drift of the situation. That D.F.W. Aviatik has been picked by our friends in the Camels as a hostage and they are herding him off the range into the corral. And it won’t be long now till all three planes will be making a landing. The back gunner of the D.F.W. is shy his Parabellum gun. He unhooked it from its swivel mount and pitched it overboard at the request of the Camel pilots delivered in sign language and punctuated with a drizzle of Vickers slugs that literally wrote their initials in the side of the Boche ship.

Following the Leader

As the home drome looms ahead the closest Camel pilot sends a short burst across the tail of the German ship. He points down, identifying the drome on which the unhappy Germans must land or be blasted out of the sky. As he flips his Camel under the bulky two-seater the German gunner raises bis hands high above his head, signifying his willingness to play follow the leader.

All three ships nose downward. The Anzacs have brought home the bacon again; just another stray cut out of the sky pastures and jriven private grazing ground for the duration of the emergency.

The Story of The Cover
The Lone Eagle, June 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Story of The Cover Page)

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

Link - Posted by David on August 6, 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 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)

“The Lone Eagle, May 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on July 23, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of The Lone Eagle from its first issue in September 1933 until the June 1937 issue when Rudolph Belarski took over with the August issue of that year. At the start of the run, Frandzen painted covers of general air action much like his Sky Fighters covers. Here, for the May 1934 cover, Frandzen has a couple British S.E.5As in a battle of wits with a pair of German Fokker D.8s!

The Story of the Cover

FEATURED on this month’s cover are two th_LE_3405 types of ships that were swapping lead during the last year of the war. The ship in the foreground and the one in the background losing its right wing are Fokker D.8s. The British planes, the one skidding over the Fokker with the cracked wing and the one coming up to attack the leading Fokker, are S.E.5As.

The Fokker D.8 was Mr. Fokker’s last contribution to the numerous fighting and experimental line of ships he designed for the Central Powers during the little argument “Over There.” This parasol monoplane was a sleek stream-lined Job of pretty proportions. In its flying tests it went through every stunting maneuver with speed and precision. It outflew all competitive planes submitted by other manufacturers and the Aces from the front who tried out the plane all clamored for one to use against the Allies.

Why They Shed Their Wings

As the D.8 had withstood all the flying tests and sand bag tests Fokker knew that he had a good plane: but the German scientific testing organization discovered that Fokker had omitted certain bracing of the rear spar near the wing tirs which they always specified for a biplane. Fokker argued that the monoplane wing did not need this bracing. The scientific boys were not to be swayed from their decision so the extra bracing was installed, and thereby lies the reason for several of these speedy ships which actually saw service at the front shedding their wings in a dogfight. It caused the wing to take more load at its wing tips than in the middle part, torsion causing the wing to collapse when unduly strained.

Although the D.8 didn’t show up at the front till 1918 you would have heard plenty about it if the ships had not been grounded during the controversy between Fokker and the Big Bugs of the German testing division. When Fokker was finally allowed to build the wing as in his original design the plane withstood all strains, but by the time delivery was made at the front the war was over.

The British S.E.5A was also a product of the last year of the World War, It was speedy and could be depended on to give a good account of itself against any of the German scouts, including the Fokker D.8.

Those two S.E.5’s on the cover have tangled with two D.8’s that have attacked two Allied sausage balloons, successfully igniting one. The archie guns opened up from the ground but the flitting monoplanes seem to anticipate the arrival of the bursting shells and are not harmed. The shells from the ground did not get them, but two prowling S.E.5A’s swooped down and the fight was on. The British pilots had never swapped lead with the fleet little monoplanes of this type and were at a disadvantage as the German pilots knew most of the S.E.5A’s tricks.

A Burst of Vickers Lead

The planes howl down the sky lanes, twisting, writhing in and out of each others ring-sights. Suddenly a burst of Vickers lead laces the foremost Fokker.

The German pilot stiffens, slumps. His stick is pulled back and his left foot shoved forward on the rudder bar, A dead man is driving his plane up into the heavens on his last ride. Unnerved at seeing his partner killed the second German pilot goes haywire with his sticks, skids under an S.E.5A and touches his wing tip against a speeding wheel. The Englishman’s axle sheers off the pi op on the sleek monoplane. Horrified the Allied pilot sees his left wings buckling, cracking. If that back strut holds till he can nurse his ship into a favorable glide he may get down. But the Fokker D.8 is doomed. Its ticket reads: One way. To earth. No stopovers.

The Story of The Cover
The Lone Eagle, May 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Story of The Cover Page)

“The Lone Eagle, April 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

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

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of The Lone Eagle from its first issue in September 1933 until the June 1937 issue when Rudolph Belarski took over with the August issue of that year. At the start of the run, Frandzen painted covers of general air action much like his Sky Fighters covers. Here, for the April 1934 cover, Frandzen has a Salmson 2-A 2 in a backseat battle with a Hannover!

The Story of the Cover

THE planes pictured on this month’s cover th_LE_3404 are the Salmson 2-A 2 and the Hannover (or Hannoveraner). The Salmson was manufactured by the French firm Societe des Moteurs Salmson. It was one of the most reliable observation ships used during the war by the Allies. It was flown extensively by the French and the Americans, and the Italians also used it to good advantage. Its power plant was a Salmson Z9 radial motor developing about 1S00 r.p.ms.

The Hannover was used extensively by the Germans and did its stuff in a reliable manner. It wasn’t as fast as the Salmson zipping by on its back and pouring hot slugs through the muzzles of its twin Lewis guns, but this is one fight where there are no odds in favor of the fastest ship.

How come? Well, this is a back seat battle. Both pilots, the Heinie and the gentleman flipping the rudder and ailerons on the Salmson have run out of ammunition. Therefore it isn’t a matter of getting on the opponent’s tail. It is an even break for the back gunners unless one happens to be the prize trap-shooter of his home town.

At the start of the fight it looked like curtains for the Hannover when the faster Salmson hopped it and another Hannover which can be seen far in the background swirling crazily, a flaming coffin for its two occupants, straight for the hills far below. When both pilots ran out of ammunition the German waved his hand at his foes and kicked his plane around toward home. As far as he was concerned the battle was over and no hard feelings.

The Fight Goes On

But not to be done out of a kill the Salmson pilot tailed the German, being careful to keep out of range of the Parabellum gun in the rear pit of the German ship. Then suddenly the cylinders in the Salmson throbbed, pounded flaming exhaust through nine tubes into the collector ring on the nose of the ship; a streak of flame spurted out of the exhaust stack and the Allied ship dove underneath the German.
Up flipped the two Lewis guns, gloved fingers pressed the triggers. A ragged line of bullet holes appeared just back of the observer in the German ship. The belly fabric was in a shaved part of a split second perforated all the way back to the tail.

The Hannover whipped around—no more hand waving, no more thoughts of running for home. There was only one chance to get out of a difficult situation and that was to stage a back seat fight.

In Opposite Directions

The Salmson pilot kept herding the German toward the Allied lines as much as he could without giving his opponents any chance for a sure shot. Time and again the two planes whipped past each other going in opposite directions. Gun muzzles blasted a few bullets wildly at fleeting shadows of the other ship. A thousand to one chance of doing any damage this way for the combined speed of the planes was over two hundred miles per hour. That is the reason there were so few casualties in the early years of the war when the boys blasted away at each other with shot guns and rifles over the cockpit edges.

And then when there was only a few more rounds of ammunition in his pancake drums the Salmson pilot flipped his ship over on its back and barged straight at the Hannover which dipped quickly underneath. That is the point illustrated on the cover. It is the last blazing exchange of shots between a couple of brave back seat gunners who will be mighty thankful when their respective pilots turn the noses of their ships toward home—and keep them there.

The Story of The Cover
The Lone Eagle, April 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Story of The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, December 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on June 11, 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. For the December 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the Italian S.V.A. bringing loaves of bread to the troops high in the mountain passes!

The Ships on the Cover

BREAD! The mainstay of mankind. th_SF_3512 And when the army is the mainstay of nations, bread for the army ranks higher than Roman Emperors.

Who said an army fights on its stomach? Someone who did plenty of fighting in the old days and knew his armies. Of what importance were guns, bombs, and shells piled up ready for combat when the human bodies to man these weapons of war have no fuel to stoke the human engine!

The chuck wagon was greeted by loud cheers when it put in its appearance in “any man’s army.” Runners with food supplies strapped to their backs dodged bullets through a maze of communication trenches to get to the front line doughboys. Dogs pulling small carts of food got through to scattered outposts.

The Alpine Heights

Italy has a wonderful northern barrier which nature has seemingly bestowed upon that sunny boot projecting into the Mediterranean. When Italy declared war on the Austrian Empire in May, 1915, she looked hopefully at those lofty Alpine heights to keep her enemy in check.

The Italian advance of early days was halted. The Austrian counter-attack regained their positions but in 1917 when Italy finally declared war on Germany also, the Italians resumed their offensive and captured fourteen fortified mountains.

It is a different problem to fight on mountain sides than on the fields of the lowlands. The ordinary labor of warfare is made a hundredfold more difficult. Dragging heavy guns up rocky mountain sides by sheer nerve-racking will power—pulling shells on sleds over icy passes—stringing communication lines from crag to crag, where one well-placed shell would damage the patient work of days of laying the wires.

The contact, broken in some out of the way pass, impossible to mend without disastrous delay. All these had to be done on the ground. The only savior of these lonely mountain outposts was the new weapon of the world war—the airplane.

Italy, from poor beginnings, progressed Steadily forward in the aviation branch of her service despite her ground army’s advances or retreats. Planes could fly from their bases on flat ground to the besieged mountain country to drop messages keeping the army in touch with headquarters no matter how many communication lines on the ground were destroyed.

Flying high over such a wide expanse of territory they observed the enemy positions, often saving their own forces from being bottled up by enemy flanking movements.

But as important as any message to the morale of these men high in snow-covered fastnesses was the sight which is shown on the cover picture. Planes bringing the white-clad figures on the mountain side that which they could obtain by no other means—Bread! Big round, crispy loaves of the life-giving food.

The pass through which the guns and ammunition have been hauled was later completely buried under an avalanche, tons of snow and rock blocked the narrow road.

When Men Hunger

Days, weeks, months might elapse before that impassable barrier could be surmounted to transport food to the men cut off from their fellows. But four planes received their orders and cargo. They were in sight of the desperate little group in a few hours time. Sleek S.V.A.’s that could climb high above the loftiest peaks, their powerful Ansaldo engines overcoming the barrier that nature had created against the Italians as well as in their favor.

Shouts of “Bravo” from the snow. Shouts that would warm the heart of an opera star at the Milan Opera House. These cheers were for something better than music when men are hungry. They were for contents of the rope bags falling from the planes, the golden brown loaves of bread.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, Deecmber 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, November 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 16, 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. For the November 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the Kondor E3 and Salmson 7A-2!

The Ships on the Cover

SKY battles were fought for the th_SF_3511defense of the reconnaissance arm of the air service. The all important function of airplanes in warfare from the beginning was reconnaissance. More good was done to protect the lives of millions of men on the ground by the slow reconnaissance ships plodding their daily round of the skyways than many of the glorious dog-fights of crack squadrons. Commanders of divisions were desperate in carrying out their strategy. They stamped up and down at headquarters waiting for the word that would mean success or failure for their planned maneuvers. Word of what was happening “out there” after the men had gone “over the top.”

Telegraph wire was laid over miles of territory. At great risk it was buried deep to protect it. Despite this care it was often uprooted by the continuous barrage of shells tearing into the earth. It was torn to a mass of useless shredded copper fibres. Then runners were dispatched back through the lines with the precious messages which gave the position of the troops. Often those runners, despite the sacrifice of their lives, were never able to deliver the message which would mean so much to their buddies. Sometimes those who were lucky got through, but took so long to get back that the news was too old to be of help to the men directing the action. Even more difficulty was experienced in getting directions from the men behind the scenes to the front line troops. Contact with those out there was often impossible.

Motorcycles on Planes

An American had an idea that two fast moving inventions of man could be combined to overcome such a bad situation. He said, why not carry a motorcycle on a plane? A two-seater could carry a motorcycle rider in the back pit. He could be landed as close to the front line as possible and make a dash on his cycle to the isolated units separated from their reserve support. He could bring them directions for concerted action. The motorcycle dispatch rider had the speed to get the message where it would do most good in the shortest time. His two-wheeled vehicle without wings carried him at 60 m.p.h. over shell-torn roads to the farthest outpost.

The Salmson 7A.2 on the cover was in the midst of just such a job. It had flown as close to the front lines as it could to observe the ever shifting American troops. Intent on picking a landing spot, the Salmson pilot was suddenly aware that the sky held more planes than his own by a yell from his observer in the rear of the one long cockpit.

Two Monoplanes Buzz By

Two small monoplanes buzzed close by. Their 140 h.p. Oberursels brought them closer at the rate of 120 m.p.h. They were Kondor E 3 parasols whose pilots thought it would be easy to polish off the two-seater. But the Salmson’s observer wasn’t chosen for the hazardous work he did merely for his ability in scooting over rough roads on his motorcycle. He was as expert with the Lewis trigger as the handlebars. One Kondor misjudged the big ship’s maneuvers and the observer blasted straight at the German pilot. The second Kondor coming up under the forty feet wing spread of the Salmson had a big target, but the men in the observation ship had too much valuable information to deliver to sell their lives cheaply in a sky duel. The Kondor was literally blanketed with Vicker’s slugs. The Boche pilot decided he wouldn’t bother a ship with such a good marksman at the rear gun. He nosed over and limped for home. The Salmson sought the ground to land the motorcycle. The observer changed roles quickly and became the dispatch rider.

As the pilot took off again to return to his home tarmac he saw the motorcycle and helmeted rider fused together as one streak of lightning along the road toward Allied outposts, even as flashing a rider of fearlessness as Jove’s thunderbolt insignia painted on the side of the Salmson.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, November 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“The Lone Eagle, March 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 2, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of The Lone Eagle from its first issue in September 1933 until the June 1937 issue when Rudolph Belarski took over with the August issue of that year. At the start of the run, Frandzen painted covers of general air action much like his Sky Fighters covers. Here, for the March 1934 cover, Frandzen has a D.H.5 being attacked by a Pfalz D.12!

The Story of the Cover

THE planes pictured on this th_LE_3403month’s cover are the De Haviland 5 (D.H.5), an unusual back staggered job giving the pilot exceptionally good visibility, and the Pfalz D.12. The De Haviland name is taken from the chief designer of the Aircraft Manufacturing Co., a British company formed in 1912. The Pfalz D.12 was the successor to a long line of Pfalz ships, some of them—pusher—manufactured before the World War.

The usual V struts ordinarily appearing on the Pfalz ships have been discarded in this later model for twin bays of N struts on either side of the fuselage.

The D.H.5 pictured on the cover had been brought back into the war in 1918. It did its duty during 1917 nnd sent many German ships crashing to earth.

But those enemy planes were about equal in speed to the D.H.5. The Pfalz can outdistance the back-staggered British job about twenty miles per hour—some handicap. But don’t overlook the second D.H. coming into the fracas from above.

The pilots of the Allied ships are two Yank pilots, who, thinking the war in the air had become too tame, thought up a scheme to lure the Jerries into a real scrap. “We’ll give ‘em odds,” said one to the other.

“We’ll borrow those two old D.H.5s over in the Limey’s barn and go out and beg the Boche to come and play with us. Lately they’ve been hiding out way behind their own lines. We’ll sorta tie one hand behind the back and put a chip on our shoulder.” And so it came to pass that early one morning, helped by a British mechanic who was glad to get the relics out of his crowded hangar, they “borrowed” the two crates.

Back and forth above the lines the two Yanks drove their ships, ships which but a year before had been the last screech when it came to speed and maneuverability, but now pushed to the sidelines to make room for faster jobs. In the distance and in the direction of the German dromes they saw a single ship winging toward them at about one hundred and twenty-five miles per hour. The D.H.5s continued to saunter along at their hundred and five mile clip.

Evidently the Hun pilot knew that he was being bated because he became cagey when within striking distance. He shaded his eyes and looked carefully toward the sun. No lurking Allied ships could he spot, neither could he see any in any other direction. He licked his lips and cleared his guns.

Wham, he gave the Pfalz the gun and roared in to annihilate the brazen Yanks.

They let him blast them, let him get his bullets dangerously close to their skins before they lammed out of range. But those two were buddies, air buddies who worked together on enemy ships. Timing was their favorite stunt when flying their Spads. All they had to do in the slower crates was to wait a few seconds longer before opening up and letting the attacking ship slide through between them.

They did exactly this and then as the Hun was about to swing his fast ship around and barge back at the Yanks he found twin streams of lead boring into his ship, one stream from each single gun mounted on the front of the two D.Hs. A couple of those slugs got the gas tank. The engine sputtered, a tiny whisp of flame swept back, then suddenly the whole front of the engine cowling belched flames. One D.H. flashed by the German, whose ship was now slowed down under the speed of his enemy. The German yanked at his stick. If he could only climb his ship enough he’d ram the Yank with his flaming crate, take him with him on his death dive. But don’t worry, he didn’t do it because his opponents were only giving him a last salute before starting for home, giving him a chance for a last crack at them, but in doing it they didn’t take any chances of being shot down.

The Yank in the foreground didn’t flip into the Boche’s ring-sight till only the tail of his ancient crate would be available for the Spandau bullets to perforate. Again our friend had used—TIMING.

The Story of The Cover
The Lone Eagle, March 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Story of The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, October 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on March 19, 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. For the October 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the classic age old battle of Spad 13 C1 vs Fokker D7!

The Ships on the Cover

THE first Spad made its debut in 1916. th_SF_3510It was a heavier ship than the French manufacturers usually turned out. They were prone to seek speed by making engine, wings and fuselage all as light as possible.

Then up popped the first Spad with its heavy Hispano-Suiza motor and its rigidly braced body and all around husky construction. It knocked the spots out of the lighter type of machines. Each succeeding model got heavier and each engine had more power.

Aviators put these husky Spads into prolonged power dives that other machines could not possibly make.

The Finest Fighting Plane

The Lafayette Escadrille swung over from Nieuports to Spads and any French squadron that could beg, borrow or steal them parked themselves in Spads and went up into the skies confident that they had the finest fighting plane in existence.

Of course there was a difference of opinion over on the German side of the line. The Fokker D7 made its appearance and the Heinie flyers just knew that they had the finest machine that ever sprouted wings. Therefore when the confident opposing war flyers, one in a Spad 13 C1 and the other in a Fokker D7 decided to smack each other with a few well placed slugs, it was an interesting show. And doubly interesting if two men happened to be aboard a one-place Spad.

Story of the Cover

Fifteen minutes before the action depicted on the cover, the Spad pilot set his ship down on German territory at a prearranged spot. A figure crawled from a clump of brush, raced to the Spad and shinned onto the right wing. Up zoomed the Spad with its precious wing passenger, an A1Iied intelligence operator who had documents that were important enough to cause three generals to be waiting at that moment at the Spad’s drome.

At a thousand feet the German archies started bursting in profusion. One lucky she11 sheared the undercarriage nearly off the Spad. It lurched and staggered with the swaying encumbrance. The wing passenger inched his way to the cockpit the pilot handed out a small hunk of iron.

Bullet Hemstitching

The passenger went to work just as a Fokker went into action. Three minutes of scientific prying on the shattered undercarriage released it and the Spad leaped forward with ten miles extra speed. It turned on the Fokker and hemstitched it from stem to stem.

The German with two minor wounds admitted the Spad, if it didn’t carry wheels, was the better ship.

He dove out of the fight cursing the anti-aircraft gunners who had ruined a sure kill for him. His only consolation was that his foe’s landing would be about as soft as a racing locomotive hitting the rear end of a cement train.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, October 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, September 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 19, 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. For the September 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the Nieuport 17 taking on a Albatross D1!

The Ships on the Cover

PLANES kicked through the air at th_SF_3509 the first of the war and were laughed at by the ground troops and their commanders. Toys, things to wonder at and possibly admire; but to be taken seriously as an offensive weapon. Never!

Weapon? That’s exactly the right word that keys the whole advance of the airplane from a trick war sideline to a major cog in the wheels of war. On the Nieuport in the foreground the weapon blazing from the top wing is the Lewis gun with a revolving metal drum which fed shells into the gun breech. But let’s slide back to the first part of the war when machine-guns were not thought possible. In August, 1914, cavalry carbines were occasionally tucked into a cockpit and the observer or even a pilot of a single seater optimistically pushed the snout out over the side of the fuselage and took a pot shot at a Boche flying parallel to his plane. With the vibration from the engine, the bumpy air and the back pressure from the slipstream it was all the would-be assassin could do to hold the rifle from jerking out of his hands and barging back into the empennage, let alone draw a bead on the enemy who had ideas of his own about remaining in focus.

Bags of Bricks

Finding this method useless the sharpshooters of the air dragged out, believe it or not, good old bags of bricks. The trick was to get above your opponent, mentally calculate the trajectory of a brick from your shaking hand to the whirling prop of the enemy plane. Of course there was always the chance of ringing the bell by a super-lucky throw if the falling brick made direct contact with the enemy’s head. About the only casualty from this duck on the rock technique was a direct hit on a high official’s private cow. Orders went out immediately: No more bricks.

Small steel darts, diminutive bombs and hand grenades were hurled down at ground troops and supply trains but the damage was small. Then came the machine-gun firing from the back pit or from the front nacelle of the pusher type.

In January, 1915, the Lewis gun was first mounted on the top wing of a Nieuport firing over the top of the propeller in the line of flight. A few months later the Roland Garros gun appeared, shooting through the propeller arc, but not synchronized. Triangular steel plates deflected bullets that would otherwise have shattered the wooden propeller.

Finally the Fokker synchronized guns blazed a devastating hail of bullets through the prop arc. The Allied airmen were battered and smashed from the skies. Fast pusher type planes were thrown against the German’s super gun. And then a German plane crashed behind the Allied lines. The interrupter gear secret was out. Synchronized Vickers guns were mounted on Allied cowlings. The Germans’ advantage had been lost. The war in the skies blazed forth with accelerated tempo. Toy ships of a few months past had blossomed into major weapons of war.

An Old Stunt

However, the top gun firing forward was not discarded by many Allied aviators. Nieuports and S.E.5s used it, up until the Armistice. The Nieuport on the cover has its top gun and a synchronized Vickers which has jammed hopelessly. Only a few shells remain in the pancake drum above. The French pilot is wounded and attacked by two German Albatross D1s. He knows he cannot get them with front gun fire, but he remembers an old trick. Painfully he reaches up, yanks back the Lewis butt, jams the Bowden wire on the trigger as he zips under the belly of one German plane. A direct engine hit. Down goes the enemy. The remaining German sees the tricky gun work of the wounded Frenchman and feels the wind from the bullets of a second Nieuport coming to the rescue. He veers off and streaks for home allowing the Frenchman to get away, land and become a confirmed booster for the old top gun Lewis.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, September 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

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