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

Link - Posted by David on December 11, 2017 @ 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 June 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the Sopwith Dolphin and the Fokker D VIII!

The Ships on the Cover

TWO of the last ships to th_SF_3506 get into the air to swap lead in the World War were the Fokker D8 and the Sopwith Dolphin. The Dolphin had four exposed machine-guns, two Vickers shooting through the propeller arc and two Lewis guns shooting over the top of the arc at 45 degrees. The Dolphin’s pilot had good visibility with his top wing cut away and his office parked directly beneath this opening. His vision depended only on how far he could swivel his neck without putting it out of joint.

The Fokker D8, also known as the “Flying Razor,” was Fokker’s last contribution to Germany’s air fleet. He built it around an Oberursel motor because he could not depend on delivery of the Mercedes motors which he had used in his famous D7.

These Oberursel engines had been kicking around for months before Fokker finally in desperation figuratively jacked them up and built planes around them. Not many of these planes got to the front, but those that did, were used to good advantage. Udet, the famous German Ace flew the D8, and liked it. It was not as fast as Fokker would have liked because of the limited power of the rotary in its nose. But its ability to maneuver like a streak of greased lightning got it places where it could do things quicker than some planes with greater power which answered to their controls sluggishly.

Many Balloon Victories

Balloon busting was not confined to such sharpshooters as our own Frank Luke or Belgium’s Willy Coppens. Scattered through the official records of the Allies are scores of balloon victories chalked up to the credit of its flyers. Each of those downed bags represented a drain on the Kaiser’s money bags up to as high as $100,000. Therefore, the balloon falling in flames put a dent equal to from three to six war planes in the German finances.

As the Germans entered the last year of the war their supplies for making their kite balloons, or drachens, was at a premium. Where, in the early war stages, a half dozen of the cumbersome observation bags could be seen strung along four to six miles behind their lines, now only an occasional balloon floated.

“Blind the German’s observation,” was the terse order issued to all Allied armies.

By telephone, wireless, and despatches, this command raced along the lines. Long range guns poured streams of whistling shells into the skies. Their hits were few and far between. The ammunition wasted could have flattened mountains. The gunners gave up and watched tiny specks far up in the skies darting past, fading into the smoky war haze and disappearing over German territory.

Racing Through the Blue

Spads, Nieuports, Bristols, Moranes, Sop Camels, S.E.5’s raced through the heavens. Then the new Sopwith Dolphins flashed their black-staggered wings against an orange sky. Hisso motors yanked them toward a mountainous section where a German balloon had been floating unharmed for months. The massive gas bag was swaying swiftly down to its retreat between rocky crags as the Sopwith tipped their stubby noses down and blazed incendiaries into it. Smoke, then flame belched forth as the porcine mass writhed, collapsed and sank.

Two small monoplanes, one climbing rapidly. Another, diving, bracketed the Dolphins. Incendiary bullets were in the Sops’ Vickers belts, bullets that are outlawed for warfare against man. Down tipped the nose of one Dolphin, up went the prop of the other. Lewis guns bucked in their mounts, streams of orthodox bullets connected the enemy plane with the Dolphins. Two black-crossed monoplanes, “Flying Razors,” staggered in their flight. Blunted and dulled, they fluttered like discarded razor blades pitched from a roof, down into the purple haze of oblivion.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Spad 22 and 13 C1!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Joe Wehner

Link - Posted by David on November 29, 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 Frank Luke’s tail gunner, Lieutenant Joe Wehner!

Lieutenant Frank Luke was the most daring sky fighter in the American Air Service. But it is hard to say whether he would have established the record he did without the aid of Joe Wehner, his constant and steadfast companion and buddy in the 27th Squadron. He was Luke’s alter ego.

When war was declared by the United States, Joe Wehner hitch-hiked his way from Boston, Massachusetts to Kelly Field, Texas, to join the flying service. Wehner was finally dropped from his squadron when it left Kelly for overseas because he was suspected of being a German spy. He managed, however, to get reinstated at the point of debarkation. His fellow officers, however, never ceased to look upon him with suspicion. That is, all except Luke. Luke stood up for Wehner and this made him an outcast in the 27th until he began to compile his flaming and meteoric record. Flying with Luke on those record-making flights was Joe Wehner, and Luke himself admitted after Wehner was killed in action, that if it hadn’t been for Joe Wehner, who served as his protection when he went Drachen hunting, he doubted if he would have been able to down the number of Drachens credited to him.

Wehner shot down three enemy planes while flying this rear guard duty for Luke. As a protection flyer, there was none better in the American Air Service than Joe Wehner.

From on of Wehner’s letters to his boyhood friend in Boston, the following account is taken.

 

STALKING THE DRACHEN

by Lieutenant Joseph Wehner • Sky Fighters, January 1936

FRANK and I have developed a specialty. We are sausage hunters. Sausages, you know, are anchored observation balloons. The Boche call them Drachens. One day when I was flying rear guard for Luke, he shot down two of them within two min-

In addition to the Drachens he got two Bocke planes, and I was lucky enough to down one myself. In one swift, hectic fight, we accounted for five Boche, and we were outnumbered three to one. But Luke never takes account of odds.

We went out just at twilight, saw two Hun Drachens straining against their cables and weaving in the wind near Vieux. Frank held up his arm and signaled me that he was going down to get them, one after the other. I saw a patrol of Boche Fokkers further back across the lines, so I began to climb for ceiling as Frank started down toward the balloons. I aimed to get between him and the Fokkers to keep them off his tail when he started firing at the balloons.

Frank got the first Drachen before I could get between him and the Boche. He split-aired through the enfilade of machine-gun and anti-aircraft fire, and made a bee line for the second Drachen less than a kilometer distant. He scooted along at terrific speed not more than a hundred feet off the ground. But the Fokkers having height streaked even faster for him. There was a full Staffel of them. I piqued to head them off. The Staffel separated then into three flights. One went to my right, the other to my left and the center flight came at me hell for leather.

I picked the first Fokker and gave him the works. My aim was true. It wobbled for an instant. Then the pilot slumped down in the pit, and the Fokker slid off in a spin. I was watching it fall when a clatter of leaden hail rattled through my upper wing tank. The gas began pouring out in a blinding spray. Then black smoke enveloped me. For an instant I thought my Spad was aflame. The fumes were choking. But the smoke instantly cleared, and I realized it was the smoke of the second Drachen which I had winged through. Luke had made swift work of that sausage and was going round and round now with a Boche, while two more were darting in on him from different angles above.

I went down for the Boche on Frank’s tail, and we went at it hot and heavy. The whole sky seemed to be a kaleidoscopic whirl of diving, zooming, shooting black-crossed planes. Then one of the black-crossed ships burst into flame. Luke had ridden it almost to earth, firing with both guns. Zooming up when it crashed, he made for another Hun’s blind belly, and brought it down before the pilot knew what had happened.

The wind had drifted us across our own lines now, and the Boche Staffel leader called it enough, I guess, for all of a sudden they beat it for their own lines. Frank chased them until he ran out of ammo, and I coursed along on top of him. But we got in no more licks.

Next Time: MAJOR ANDREW McKEEVER

“The Balloon Busters” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on April 3, 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. This time Mr. Blakeslee brings us a story of “The Balloon Busters” from the July 1932 issue of Dare-Devil Aces!

th_DDA_3207THE cover shows a patrol of French Spads attacking a group of observation balloons. Helpless as these “sausages” were, it was dangerous business to attack even one of them. Many a good pilot met his Waterloo by so doing, and as a rule the Allies left them strictly alone, unless ordered otherwise.

German archie usually had the drachens ranged and an attacking pilot had to go through an explosive hell to get at them. A favorite trick of the Germans was to send up a decoy balloon which was not only ranged but instead of carrying an observer, had its basket filled with amanol. If a ship survived the barrage and came within range, the Boches exploded the amanol—and that was the end of the attacking ship. We can’t blame the Germans for using this trick, as the Canadians were the originators of it.

A similar ruse which the Allies played unsuccessfully was to surround Dunkirk at night with a dozen or more balloons which were attached to strong cables. Dunkirk suffered frequent bombing from the air and it was hoped that a raiding Boche would run into one of the cables. There is no official record, however, of such a thing ever having happened.

In spite of the danger of the observation balloons, Frank Luke, the American pilot, seemed to enjoy attacking them. He received the D.S.C. for bringing down eight of them in four days. Balloon bursting was Frank Lukes’ specialty.

Balloons were olive drab, camouflaged in green and brown or black and white checks. The large green balloon in the foreground of the cover is a German Ae. It is colored after a French war balloon which is now being kept as a war souvenir near Versailles. The green and brown balloon on the cover is a Luftchifftrupp 20.

A balcony runs around the inner court of Les Invalides in Paris. Hanging in one corner of it is a famous airplane which I have reproduced here from a color sketch I made last summer. The plane is the Spad used by Georges Guynemer. He called it “Vieux Charles” (Old Charles), and on the side, under the exhaust pipe, that name was printed. Back of that was the stork insignia of his squadron. You see this plane on the cover as it actually looks today.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Balloon Busters: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(July 1932, Dare-Devil Aces)

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Frank Luke

Link - Posted by David on October 19, 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! The man considered America’s second greatest Ace, Frank Luke tells us about his most thrilling sky fight.

Frank Luke! How much the name means to those few who knew how he fought and died. His front line career was short, hectic and dynamic. He blazed across the war-torn skies of France like a flaming meteor. Very few people ever heard of Luke during his short but Sensational career on the Western Front. His fame and name came after he died. He is recognized now as the most courageous, the most audacious war bird that ever handled a control stick and pressed the Bowden triggers mounted on it. Only Eddie Rickenbacker topped him in the final list of American Aces after the War was ended. Rickenbacker was officially credited with 26 victories. Frank Luke had 21. But the comparison is hardly fair to Luke, for Rickenbacker was on the front for almost six months, while Luke’s front line career lasted only a little over two weeks. Even in that short space of time he had worked up to the top and was the American Ace of Aces when he died. There is no telling what, score he would have run up, if fortune had been more in his favor. The story below he told to Sergeant John Monroe, who was a favorite of his.

 

VENGEANCE FLIGHT

by Lieutenant Frank Luke • Sky Fighters, October 1933

Which was my most satisfactory fight? Well, all of them that ended with the other fellow going down to his death were pretty satisfactory. But there is one that stands out above all my victories so far.

That’s the fight in which I got the Hun who knocked down the Englishmen in the crippled De Haviland. I didn’t like the way that Hun waited for the Limey’s motor to go bad before pouncing on them. They didn’t have a chance. One burst was all the Hun needed. Being on the ground myself at the time, I didn’t think I had time to get in my ship and get up there in time to get in on the fight.

But when I saw the D.H.’s wing fall off and the ship go down in a spin, I felt a peculiar feeling inside me. My Spad was ready on the line. I hopped into it and took off. By the time I had gained altitude the Hun was streaking for home. But I was determined to get him. It was a long rear-end chase and getting dark fast.

No matter, I caught the bird about five kilometers inside his own lines and piqued down on his tail with blood in my eye. I held my fire until I was about a hundred meters behind his streaking Fokker, then I let go with both guns.

But the Hun had been watching me, I guess. He jerked up in a screaming zoom and my shots went low. I got mad, threw my Spad into an abrupt chandelle right on his tail. He Immelmanned away. I followed. We went round and round.

He didn’t shoot at me, but was damn successful in keeping away from my bursts. I was getting madder and madder every second, and threw a lot of slugs, uselessly. After a few moments of that going round and round, I got wise to myself. The Hun was making a monkey of me, just playing me out.

Understand, I was plenty far back in the enemy lines and it was getting dark fast. He knew he would get me if he just strung out the fight a little. Within a few more minutes there was bound to be a whole sky full of his mates come to his assistance. He knew that and was just marking time. I sensed that after a while.

It made me mad again, to think I had been such a fool. But I didn’t go off my nut. I kept my head, and circled round and round with him some more, watching from the corner of my eye for other Huns, and keeping my thumbs off the Bowden trips. I didn’t intend wasting any more slugs until I had a sure shot.

That chance came before I expected it. He showed his tail surfaces just momentarily. I pressed the trips. The tracer bored through the fuselage behind his back. That was all there was to it. The Fokker plunged over in an abrupt dive and went roaring into the earth with the motor full on.

I beat it for our advance landing field then with my motor wide open. And good thing they had thrown some gasoline in the sand barrels and lighted it. With the light from those flares I was able to sit down without cracking up.

I won’t get any credit for that victory, though. There weren’t any observers. But what the h—! I got him after he got the crippled Englishmen. That’s reward enough!

It was my most satisfactory fight.