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“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 21: Willy Coppens” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on August 16, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

STARTING in the May 1932 issue of Flying Aces and running almost 4 years, Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Frandzen would feature a different Ace that rose to fame during the Great War. This time around we have Belgian balloon buster—Lt. Willy Coppens!

Willy Omer François Jean Coppens de Houthulst was the Belgian Ace of Aces. He got his initial training as a soldier and officer in the cavalry division of the army. He transferred later on to the Flying Corps and began immediately to compile the record of victories that gained him top ranking among sky fighters. (a YouTube video exists that shows footage of Coopens demonstrating downing a balloon and talking about it years later.)

Because the German armies had overrun all but a narrow strip of his own country, he did all of his flying from foreign bases, usually being stationed in the sectors in Flanders occupied by the British forces. Flying foreign machines from foreign bases, he nevertheless built up a remarkable record of successful combats. When his time on the front was ended, unhappily but gloriously, he was officially credited with 32 victories and awarded practically every medal under the sun, chiefly among there were the Order of Leopold II with swords, Order of the Crown, Belgian Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 with 27 Palms and 13 Bronze Lions, French Legion d’Honneur, Serbian Order of the White Eagle, British Distinguished Service Order, British Military Cross, and French Croix de Guerre with 2 Palms!

After the war, Coppens served as a military attaché to France, Britain, Italy and Switzerland. He retired in 1940 to Switzerland, where he spent his time organising resistance work and marrying. His war memoirs, Days on the Wing was published in 1931 and was subsequently revised and re-issued in paperback forty years later in 1971 with the title Flying in Flanders.

In the late 1960s he returned to Belgium and lived his last five years with fellow Belgian ace Jan Olieslagers’s only daughter until his death in 1986. He was 94.

“Coventry” by Lt. Frank Johnson

Link - Posted by David on February 12, 2016 @ 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.

In the first of the Silent Orth stories, Orth arrives at the Ninth Pursuit as a replacement and sets about to eliminate their pesky boche problem—seems a Baron Schmidt has been hammering their sector and the Ninth has been making little headway. In trying to do so, Orth finds out what happens when the new guy doesn’t stay in line—he ends up in “Coventry,” from the pages of the February 1934 Sky Fighters.

His wingmates couldn’t stand Jason Orth’s opinion of himself—But he certainly knew his stuff in the air!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Alan Winslow

Link - Posted by David on February 10, 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 American Lieutenant Alan Winslow’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Alan Winslow first went oyer to France as a member of tho American Ambulance Section serving with the French Army. After America entered the war he was transferred to the American Army. When the American Air Service under command of Colonel Mitchell began definite duties on the Western Front, Alan Winslow had won his commission as a First Lieutenant and was assigned as a pilot in the 94th Aero Squadron, the famous “Hat in the Ring” outfit later made famous by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker.

Lieutenant Winslow and Douglas Campbell were both inexperienced battle flyers, but it fell to their lot to be the first American flyers in an American Squadron under American command, to engage the enemy in actual combat. Winslow and Campbell downed their respective enemies within two minutes of one another in the same dogfight. Wlnslow’s opponent fell first, hence he is credited with the first American air victory.

The account below was taken down by one of Winslow’s squadron mates.

 

FIRST AMERICAN VICTORY

by Lieutenant Alan Winslow • Sky Fighters, February 1934

I DON’T know yet just how it happened. Our Spads were lined up on the deadline ready for a practice flight over the lines when the field sirens began to scream raucously. All of us rushed out to see what was the matter, looking naturally towards the front lines. Then the anti-aircraft guns began to pop and I saw white mushroom puffs just over the northern border of the field.

Right in the midst of the archie bursts were two black winged planes flying towards our field. They weren’t more than 2,500 feet high. Campbell and I both rushed for our planes.

When I got in the air I kited off towards the front in a climbing turn to get the Boche between me and their home lines.

The Boche didn’t appear to be at all disturbed about us taking off after them. They flew serenely on towards Toul, snapping their pictures, I suppose, while Campbell and I clawed for the ceiling behind them. The archies kept up a continual fire, and only ceased when Campbell and I swung about and pointed our Spads for the two Rumplers. I picked one, Campbell
took the other. I fired a short burst from my guns to make sure they were clear, then dived in to the attack.

The Boche gunner in the rear seat calmly swung his guns on me and opened up with a stream of tracer.

I don’t know just what I did, but I ducked that burst somehow by agile maneuvering. When I redressed he was out of my sights, so I nosed up, renverscd and went back again with my fingers trembling over the Bow-dens, ready to fire the instant I lined him.

Again the Boche tracer stream came and I ducked, but not without sending out a few of my own. I nosed down and slid under Mm; zooming up on the other side. Banking quickly to line the Rumpler again, I was surprised to see it go tumbling down the sky. My first nervous burst had been effective,

But fearing a trick, I followed down after it until it crashed. Only then did I think about Campbell and the other Boche. I banked and climbed back to go to his assistance, and saw his Boche going down just like mine.

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

Link - Posted by David on January 27, 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 Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Colonel William Bishop is one of the few great war Aces still living. And he probably owes his life to the fact that the British General Staff ordered him to Instruction duty in London while the war was still on. Bishop first served in the Second Canadian Army as an officer of cavalry, but tiring of the continuous Flanders mud, he made application for transfer to the Royal Flying Corps. He was first sent up front as an observer. When he went up later as a pilot he immediately began to compile the record which established him as the British Ace of Aces. He won every honor and medal possible. He was an excellent flyer, but attributed most of his success to his wizardry with the machine-gun. When the war ended he was officially credited with downing 72 enemy planes and balloons. The account below is from material he gathered for a book.

 

THE DECOY MAJOR

by Lieut. Col. William Bishop • Sky Fighters, February 1934

OUR WING received orders to take some pictures seven miles inside the enemy lines. This was a hazardous mission, and the Major in command of Wing volunteered to do it alone, but his superiors ordered that he be given protection. My patrol was assigned to furnish that protection. We were to meet the Major in his photo plane just east of Arras at the 6,000 foot level.

The rendezvous came off like clockwork. I brought my patrol to the spot at 9:28 and cruised lazily about. Two minutes later we spied a single Nieuport coming towards us. I fired a red signal flare and the Nieuport answered. It was the Major.

I climbed slightly then, leading my patrol about 1,000 feet above the Major’s Nieuport, protecting him from attack from above as we kited over the lines. The formation kept just high enough to avoid the German archies.

We got to the area to be photographed without too much trouble, flying through a sea of big white clouds which made it difficult for the archie gunners to reach us. We circled round and round the Major while he tried to snap his pictures.

But the clouds made it as difficult for him as for the archie gunners.

During one of our sweeping circles I suddenly saw four enemy scouts climbing between two immense clouds some distance off. I knew they would see us soon, so I got the brilliant idea of making the enemy scouts think that there was only one British machine by taking my patrol up into the clouds.

I knew the Huns would dive to attack on the Major the instant they spotted him, then the rest of us could swoop down and surprise them. I did not want to make it hard on the Major, but I couldn’t resist the chance of using him as a decoy.

The enemy scouts saw the Major and made for him in a concerted dive. He didn’t see them until one of them opened fire prematurely at a long range of over 200 yards.

His thoughts then—he told me afterwards—immediately flew to the patrol. He glanced back over his shoulder to see where we were—and saw nothing! He pulled up and poured a burst at a German who came down on his right. Then he banked to the left for a burst at another German. The two Huns flew off, then returned.

I dived with my patrol now. One Hun fired at the Major as I flashed by. I opened both my guns on him at a ten-yard range, then passed on to the second enemy scout, firing all the while, and passing within five feet of his wing tip. I turned quickly to get the other two, but they dived out of range and escaped.

When I looked back over my shoulder the first two were floundering down through the clouds out of control. Ten seconds of firing had accounted for both of them in a single dive. The Major finished his photo job in fifteen minutes without further interruption, and we made our way home through heavy aircraft fire.

Later, I apologized to him for using him as a decoy. “Don’t worry about me,” he said. “Carry on.”

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!

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

Link - Posted by David on January 11, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

This week we have the cover of Sky Fighters from February 1934 by our old friend Eugene Frandzen. Franzen 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.

THE SHIPS pictured th_SF_3402on this month’s cover are the German Rumpler type C5 and the French Spad type 13.

The Rumpler was one of Germany’s most successful war planes. As far back as 1908 Herr E. Rumpler was working on airplane designs. At first his ships followed closely the Eitrich “Taube” design, that queer birdlike swept-back wing construction. In a Rumpler biplane an eighteen-hour record was established just before the war by Herr Basser who flew from Berlin to Constantinople, making only three stops.

This flight was phenomenal for those days and it was only natural that when the World War flared and burst over nearly all Europe that the German High Command would do plenty of concentrating on their prize-winning Rumpler. It eventually lost its swept-back wings but the general appearance of the fuselage and nose remained the same up to the end of the war.

The two Rumpler C5s pictured on the cover are equipped for light bombing. Their speed was around 105 to 110 m.p.h.

From the blast of the explosion coming from the bottom of the picture it looks as though they have caused plenty of trouble. When we consider that the bill for the World War amounted to about 186 billion dollars and that plenty of that sweet little amount went into explosives of assorted shapes and potency one little ammunition dump valued at a few hundred thousand dollars doesn’t amount to much on the books, but add a few of these dumps together along a front that is causing the opposing power plenty of headaches and you’ll easily see how extremely important a little bomb-dropping party really is.

That in exactly what is happening in the picture—an ammo dump has gone blooey. One bomb beautifully spotted by the leading Rumpler pilot has done the trick. His pardner in the background is shedding his load of eggs in a businesslike manner too. The odds are against the Allies in this particular instance. They will have to rush some fresh ammunition to this particular sector if they want to have sufficient food for their hungry cannons.

But don’t overlook that Spad coming in with both guns blazing at the Rumpler. It didn’t get there quite in time to drive the Fritz away before he could shed his bombs but if a stray hunk of exploding shell from the dump doesn’t get one of the Spad pilots it will just be too bad for the men in the German ships.

This Spad 13 could kick off about 130 to 135 miles per hour. It carried plenty of horsepower up front in its nose, 220 to be exact. The ambitious pilots of the bomb-dropping Rumplers are quite some distance behind the Allied lines. Their protection planes are far behind the German lines. And those two Spads will either herd the Germans down to the ground or blow them out of the sky.

Bombing ammunition dumps during the World War was done extensively by both sides. Many times the pilot and observer of a two-seater plane went on a special ammunition-bombing expedition from which they knew they would never return.

They had specific jobs to accomplish and they grinned, smoked a last cigarette and flew their ships to the spot indicated on their maps. Usually a one-way trip, but if the mission was successful thousands of lives were saved.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Morane-Saulnier Parasol (type P)!

“Hell Divers” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on December 18, 2014 @ 12:00 pm 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 the story is self evident Blakeslee tells us, but then turns around to tell us the story behind his cover for the prvious December’s issue of Battle Birds and ties our old pal, French Ace Georges Guynemer. All this in February’s cover form 1934—”Hell Divers!”

th_DDA_3402WE ARE not going to write a story behind the cover this month. It seems to us that the story is told right there on the cover. You see three Spads doing what Spads did best, and you can visualize the mix-up that followed at the end of their dive. The Fokkers have spotted the Spads and are breaking formation to meet the onrush. Who got the best of the scrap? Well, we’ll let you figure that one out. The Spads all belong to the Lafayette Escadrille, and as that was a hard fighting outfit, its safe to say that they did some damage and then escaped. Note the markings on the ships. The Spad in the foreground carries the mark of the 97th squadron, that on the left the 112th, and on the right the 77th.

Now that we have told you that, perhaps it would be a good time to discuss another Spad, not only because of its unusual history (which we think will interest you) but also to correct some impressions of it.

th_BB_3312It appeared on the cover of the December issue of BATTLE BIRDS. The scene is a close-up of a Spad looking forward from just behind the cockpit. We have been told that it should have had two machine guns, that—well anyway, it was all wrong! Now it may surprise our critics to know that the Spad on the cover was painted from an actual ship. The ship is right here in America and has been seen by thousands, so ten chances to one you have seen it too.

The ship is a Spad 7, one of the earliest types put out under the Spad name and made famous by Guynemer. Guynemer’s ship, which is in the Invalides in Paris, and which we have examined, is a Spad 7, These ships were the first to get the synchronizing attachments added to them; at that time only one gun was being put on a ship. It was not until later that French ships began using the twin mounting.

Now for the history of the ship shown on Dec. Battle Birds. Thousands saw it do a spectacular crack-up some years back—in the movies! Its war-time history has not been handed down, but Paramount purchased it in 1924 for the then proposed picture “Wings.” It was one of several purchased and it was in A-l flying condition.

If you remember the picture, you can not fail to recall the scene of the memorable crash, when Armstrong’s plane (Richard Arlen) was shot down by a German and landed in German wire. Dick Grace, doubling for Richard Arlcn, flew the ship and was supposed to crack-up the plane in the wire. The wire had been cleverly faked by using ordinary knitting wool with balsa wood posts. The spot was marked so Dick Grace would land there. But he overshot and landed in the real wire, causing the broken neck from which he suffered for many months.

The Spad landed upside-down and was a complete wash-out. Only the badly damaged fuselage remained. Since then, time and souvenir hunters have done their work, but at last it has been rescued from oblivion and is being restored. It will eventually have a resting place in the Jarrett War Museum, where, if you are in Atlantic City, you may see it.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Hell Divers: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (February 1934)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.

“The Varnishing Americans” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by Bill on October 22, 2009 @ 12:33 pm in

If you thought Elmer Hubbard and Pokey Cook were a couple of wild Indians before, just wait until you see them with their war paint and feathers on! Even C.O. Mulligan had to listen to their war whoops with a smile.

“The Nippon Nightmare” by Arch Whitehouse

Link - Posted by Bill on November 14, 2008 @ 4:01 pm in

The moment Buzz Benson flew over that landing field near the Mississippi River, he knew that something strange, something ghastly, had happened. A weird glow filled the air, and a white dust coated the field like snow. And on that tarmac, where men lay huddled and telephone bells remained unanswered, nothing moved— nothing stirred. Yet it was not death that had claimed them.

“Hell’s Hack” by Arch Whitehouse

Link - Posted by Bill on May 23, 2008 @ 11:57 pm in

Handley-Page No. 13 was just an old hack, battered by months of night flying for the Independent Air Force. Her sides were patched, her wings weary from too many foldings. The crew of Handley-Page No. 13 was just an ordinary bomber gang, as battered and bruised as their plane. But see what happens when these scrappers are accused of bombing their own troops.