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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Andrew McKeever

Link - Posted by David on December 13, 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 Canadian Air Ace Major Andrew McKeever!

Andrew Edward McKeever was one of the many daring young sky fighters that came from Canada to add fame and lustre to the deeds and exploits of the Royal Air Force, He put in almost a full year in the infantry before he was transferred for flying training. He joined the R.F.C. in December, 1916, was commissioned a lieutenant and sent over to the 11th Observation Squadron in France on May 16th, 1917.

As a two-seater fighter he was without a peer. Beginning his career of victories just as he turned 19, this brilliant young man brought down his first enemy aircraft a month after he went to the front. When the war ended he was credited with 30 official victories, more than any other two-seater pilot in any other army.

He won the British D.S.O. and M.C, and the French conferred upon him the Croix de Guerre. He survived the war without ever receiving so much as a scratch in sky battles, only to be killed in an automobile accident in his home town on Christmas Day in 1918. The story below is his own account of a battle with 9 Huns 60 miles behind the enemy lines.

 

TWO HUNS WITH ONE BURST

by Major Andrew McKeever • Sky Fighters, February 1936

IT WAS soupy weather when my observer and I took off. There was a drizzling rain and the clouds over the trenches were almost on the ground. But H.Q. had ordered a picture of an ammunition dump 60 miles behind the lines. I volunteered to get it, and took advantage of the soupy weather in sneaking into Hunland. All the way in we saw no Huns. And we saw none at the dump. I flew above the clouds all the way by compass, and nearing what I thought should be my destination I dropped down through a hole in the clouds to get my picture. Odd as it sounds, I was right over the ammunition dump. Flying without sight of the ground I had hit the target of my flight right on the bull’s-eye.

The pictures were easy to get. My observer snapped them at 500 feet altitude, then we turned back for the long trip home, only to be met by 9 Huns, who had apparently been waiting for us. Two of them were painted a brilliant red. The other seven were black. They lost no time attacking when we turned for our own lines.

“Shall I run for it, or shall we try to fight them off?” I yelled back through the phones at my observer. “They’ve got the speed on us,” he shot back. “We can’t run. We have got to fight!”

His own guns were stuttering even before he finished, and tracer from the leading Hun attacker, a red Pfalz, was clipping through my upper center section. I lifted the Bristol’s nose and aimed for the Hun’s belly as he shot over me. I had time for just one short burst. But it was enough for that Pfalz. It went over and nosed into the ground, bursting in flames when it crashed. Gilbert, my observer, kept the Huns from sitting on my tail as I split-aired and dove for the other red Pfalz. A black Fokker cut across behind the Pfalz just as I fired. The Pfalz pilot wilted if his seat. My burst almost tore his head off. His ship went down, spinning erratically.

But the strangest thing was that the Fokker behind him fell apart in the sky at the same instant. One wing came off and fluttered down slowly. The fuselage and other wing sank like a plummet. That single burst of mine had passed through the Pfalz pilot’s head and sheared the Fokker’s wing off.

Gilbert, meanwhile had got one of the Fokkers, trying to attack from the rear. But two more pounced in on him, while I dived for one below me. There was terrific clatter and I looked over my shoulder toward the back pit. I couldn’t see Gilbert. I turned back again to get my sights on the Fokker and spray out a burst. It never came out of the nose dive it was in, just hurled on into the ground. I looked back again, and was relieved to see Gilbert standing in the back pit. But he was pointing at his Lewis guns. They were useless. A Spandau burst had wrecked them completely.

I swung around again and went for a persistent Fokker who was trying to get at me from below. I got my sights on him and pressed the trips. But it was no go! My guns didn’t answer. I reached up to clear what I thought was a jam. But it was worse than a jam. The whole breech had been shot away. My own gun had been rendered useless while I was staring at Gilbert’s.

We couldn’t fight any longer, so I ran for it. We hedge hopped in and out of the clouds all the 60 miles back, with those four Fokkers hi-tailing after us. But the clouds served in good stead. The Fokkers followed me right to the drome, and didn’t leave until I sat down.

Death whispered in our ears all the way back, but my old Bristol had just enough speed to keep one jump ahead of the grim spectre. It was my hardest and longest fight . . . and closest shave. I don’t want any more like it. And for once Gilbert agreed with me.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 44: Major Charles J. Biddle” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 8, 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 one of the great American Aces—Major Charles J. Biddle!

Major Biddle was one of that small number of American aviators who had actually had front line battle experience when his own country entered the war. Even before there were any indication of his own country taking part, he sailed for France and enlisted in the French Army, where he was eventually transferred for aviation tralning. When the La Fayette Escadrille was formed, he wan invited to become a member. In that organization he won his commission as a Lieutenant in recognition of his ability and courage.

When General Pershing formed the American Air Service and put Colonel William Mitchell in command of the air squadrons on the front, the able Colonel promoted Biddle to major and save him command of the 13th Pursuit Squadron, which he formed, organized and took to the front to make a distinguished record.

Though not supposed to lead his men in battle, he always did so. Just before the armistice, he left the 13th Squadron to become commander of the 4th Pursuit Group. By wars end he had amassed 7 victories and been awarded the Legion of Honor, Croix de Guerre, Distinguished Service Cross and Order of Leopold II.

After the war, Biddle wrote a book entitled The Way of the Eagle (1919) and joined the family law firm in 1924—becoming a partner by 1925 and a major force within the firm through the fifties.

He died in 1972 at “Andalusia”—the family estate on the Delaware River in lower Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania.

As a bonus—

“T.N.T. Party” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on October 27, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back and this time the marvel from Boonetown is caught between two woman and finds himself the guest of honor at a T.N.T. party! From the February 1936 issue of Flying Aces it’s “T.N.T. Party” (with Phineas serving the lemon!).

Now that the great Mata Hari had been filed away via a shooting squad, the guerre would be a lot easier for the Allies. Phineas knew that. But the Boonetown Bamboozler didn’t know that his John Henry was on the flight schedule for a high altitude solo trip—one without his Spad.

“The Vickers Vampire” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on May 1, 2017 @ 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. On the February 1936 cover of Dare-Devil Aces, Mr. Blakeslee brings to our attention a plane that sounds like it’s straight out of the pages of G-8 and his Battle Aces or Captain Philip Strange—The Vickers Vampire!

th_DDA_3602NEARLY every reader has heard the merits of the Spad, Camel, S.E.5 and Fokker DVII drummed into their ears by fiction writers. Authors, of course, write about the ships with which they are most familiar. The authors of the stories in this magazine were war fliers, and as the United States did not have combat ships in France, the Americans used the French ships, mostly Spads. That is why, in the majority of stories, the Spad figures so prominently and since the Germans had practically washed out the Phalz and Albatross in favor of the Fokker DVII by the time the American aviators became effective at the Front, naturally the DVII figures largely in these stories, since they were the ships the authors fought against.

However, we have painted on this month’s cover a little ship that happens to be a pet of ours, and I think you will agree that she’s a beauty. We recommend to authors the Vickers “Vampire”, which is, by the way, rather a sinister name. This ship is rarely heard of in fiction. It was a trench strafer and the first ship to make a name for itself in France.

Its low altitude speed was 121 m.p.h., which made it a pretty speedy target for the dreaded ground machine guns. Machine guns on the ground, however, were more dreaded than those of enemy planes. It also took a high order of courage to attempt it.

The “Vampire” was a pusher, driven by a four-bladed propeller. It was an attempt to solve the forward field of fire. The pilot was out in front of the top wing with the motor behind and machine guns in front, a nasty bus to crash, but then, aren’t they all?

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Vickers Vampire: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(February 1936, Dare-Devil Aces)