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“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)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 16: Georges Madon” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 1, 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 French flying Ace—Capitaine Georges Madon!

Capitaine Georges Madon was one of the most famous of the French flying aces. Along with Guynemer, Navarro and Nungesser, he furnished the spectacular flying news that filled the newspapers in the early days of the World War. He was credited with forty-one victories—only the great Guynemer topped him in the list of French aces during his time on the battle front—and awarded the Legion d’Honneur, Medaile Militaire, and Croix de Guerre.

Cool, courageous and audacious, he kited the battle skies, making short shrift of all the enemy flyers who were unfortunate enough to encounter his specially gunned Nieuport fighter.

Unlike the great Guynemer, Capitaine Madon survived the war. Sadly, he died in a plane crash on 11 November 1924—the sixth anniversary of the end of the First World War—while flying in tribute to the deceased French aviation legend Roland Garros. His aircraft having malfunctioned he deliberately crashed his aircraft into the roof of a villa rather than hit watching spectators. He was 32.

(Editor’s Note: These early installments of Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” that were published in the pulp-sized issues have been reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Georges Guynemer

Link - Posted by David on October 5, 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 Georges Guynemer, France’s national treasure!

Captain Guynemer, French flier, was the moat spectacular and colorful of all the flying Aces. Young, tall, slender, but in very poor physical health, he was a veritable demon in the air, He had absolutely no regard for his own personal safety. Time after time be attacked single-handed whole squadrons of enemy planes. On the ground he was shy, reserved, and spoke very few words to anyone. Whenever he came to Paris on his very infrequent leaves from the front to secure medical aid, the whole city was decorated in festive attire in his honor. He was the toast of the boulevards, the darling of the French populace. And the whole world mourned his passing when he died, shot down by a comparatively obscure German pilot, who got in a chance shot from exceedingly long range. The German pilot, Wisseman, never knew until afterward that it was the great Guynemer that he had shot down. When Guynemer passed mysteriously into the blue, he was officially credited with 57 enemy aircraft and universally recognized as the Ace of Aces of all the armies.

When asked by a newspaper correspondent to tell of his most thrilling air battle, he brought out a little black notebook from his tunic pocket and translated from it very matter-of-factly the account that follows below.

 

FOUR VICTORIES IN A SINGLE DAY

by Captain Georges Guynemer • Sky Fighters, October 1933

My most thrilling air battle! Let me think. Ah, I have it! It was the day I won four victories, a spring day in May, 1917. Two days before my closest rival, Lieutenant Nungesser, had downed three Boches. I was determined to beat his record.

I went out alone on solo patrol early in the morning. While cruising high behind the Boche lines, I see a lone enemy plane and make for it. A good start, I say to myself, I must not fail. I throw my Spad down in a power dive and approach very close. The enemy pilot does not see me. I press my gun trips and get in a burst. It is a good one. A wing shears from the other plane and it crashes in the woods near Corbeny. That was at 8:30 in the morning. I am elated. It was so easy. But I was foolish. I forgot to watch out of the corner of my eye.

A moment later I bank around lazily and run smack into the tracer of another Boche who has piqued down from the clouds to avenge the death of his comrade. The bullets crackle through my wings. I maneuver swiftly and escape the pilot’s hail of fire. But then the gunner in the rear seat has his guns on me. I remain calm, though, I slip off on one wing, go into a dive, then zoom up beneath. On my back I see that I have the other plane lined. I press the trips for a quick burst. It is enough. The two-seater goes down in flames toward Jusancourt.

Captain Auger comes along then, and we fly together towards another two-seater about a kilometer off, behind the enemy trenches. The enemy sees us and flees for home. I speed up and catch him, press my trips again. But sad thing! Nothing happens. My cartridge bandolier is empty. Then I realize my first flight must not have been so easy. I expended more cartridges than I thought. I turn and fly back to my own airdrome.

At 2 o’clock in the afternoon I go out again, hunting around by myself, I encounter soon a D.F.W. Ah, another chance, I say. I leap in with pulses throbbing, The other pilot shoots first, at long range. I dodge his bullets and press in closer. At close range I open up with both guns at a vital spot. I am rewarded for my patience. The D.F.W. bursts into flames. I watch it until it crashes, then go cruising around again.

I meet up with another two-seater between Guignicourt and Condesur-Snippes. If I make a record, I must get him, I think. So I am wary. I do not attack immediately. I pretend I do not see him and circle back behind the enemy lines, getting his machine between me and my own lines. Then I race back to attack from the rear. He wiggles out of my burst, and shoots back at me. We exchange bursts tit for tat. I vow I will press in with guns flaming until he falls. I do not fear he will get me first. I have confidence. My next bursts are effective. The pilot wilts in his seat. His plane goes spinning down.

Voila! I am happy.

It was my best day, four victories.

At 3:40, when my gas is low, I turn about and fly home.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 7: René Fonck” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 3, 2016 @ 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 France’s Ace of Aces—Lt. René Fonck!

Lt. René Fonck is recognized as one of the greatest French air fighters since Captain Guynemer and is credited with bringing down no less than 75 enemy planes, out of a claimed 142—bringing down six in one day (twice)! As his fame grew, sadly, so did his ego and he never really gained the admiration and popularity of Guynemer.

After the war, Fonck returned to civilian life, but kept his hand in aviation even trying to win the Orteig prize by being the first person to fly across the atlantic—he unfortunately crashed on take-off, killing two of his three crew members. Charles Lindbergh would win the prize seven months later.

He return to military aviation and from 1937-39 he acted as Inspector of fighter aviation within the French Air Force. However his later record of working with the Vichy government following the fall of France in June 1940 later besmirched his reputation. A French police inquiry about his supposed collaboration with the Vichy regime completely cleared Fonck after the war. The conclusion was that his loyalty was proved by his close contacts with recognised resistance leaders such as Alfred Heurtaux during the war—and he was awarded the Certificate of Resistance in 1948.

Just five years later Fonck suffered a fatal stroke and died in 1953 at the age of 59.

(Editor’s Note: These early installments of Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” that were published in the pulp-sized issues have been reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 3: Georges Guynemer” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on December 9, 2015 @ 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 the third installment featuring France’s greatest flying Ace—Georges Guynemer!

That name may sound familiar to you if your a frequent visitor to this site. He’s been mentioned a few times in the past in conjunction with the lives of other Aces, and his demise was the subject of Frederick Blakeslee’s cover for the July 1933 issue of Dare-Devil Aces. Guynemer was France’s most beloved ace. He entered the French Air Service in November 1914 and served as a mechanic before receiving a Pilot’s Brevet in April 1915. Assigned to Spa3—Les Cigognes or Storks Squadron—Guynemer used his skills as an excellent pilot and marksman to quickly pile up the victories eventually being promoted to captain and commander of the Storks squadron.

By the time of his disappearance he had accrued 53 victories.

On 11 September 1917, Guynemer was last seen attacking a two-seater Aviatik near Poelcapelle, northwest of Ypres. Almost a week later, it was publicly announced in a London paper that he was missing in action. Shortly thereafter, a German newspaper reported Guynemer had been shot down by Kurt Wissemann of Jasta 3. For many months, the French population refused to believe he was dead. Guynemer’s body was never found.

(Editor’s Note: These early installments of Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” that were published in the pulp-sized issues have been reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 41: Lt. Frank L. Baylies” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on August 5, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another 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 November 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of a American Ace credited with 12 victories—Lt. Frank L. Baylies!

Frank Leamon Baylies enlisted with the United States Ambulance Service in 1916 after hearing a returning minister speak of the work the ambulance service was doing on the Western Front. He was posted to France with the US Ambulance Section, seeing action at Verdun, the Somme, Argonne and a few months in Serbia.

In May 1917, Baylies waspresented with an opportunity to leave the rat-infested trenches and join the French Air Service. Needless to say he jumped at the chance. Initially assigned to Spa73 in Sptember 1917, he was transfered in October to Spa3—Les Cigognes—Guynemer’s famous Storks Group! (Guynemer had been killed in action in September of 1917).

Baylies achieved all his victories flying his lucky number 13 Stork emblazed yellow Spad. According to newpaper reports of the day, Baylies had adopted a Belgian police dog named Dick to counteract any possible hoodoo that may come his way due to the numbering on his plane. Dick sleeps under his bed every night and even goes onn occasional flights with his master! (Like Click in Steve Fisher’s Captain Babyface stories)

When America officially entered the war, Baylies was offered a commision, but declined, choosing to remain with the French Air Service. He eventually did transfer as a 2nd Lieutenant in May, but remained with The Storks.

Baylies is credited with 12 confirmed victories and is said to be responsible for six others. He was awarded Croix de Guerre, Medaille Militaire and the Legion d’Honneur.

He was killed in action when his patrol encountered the Fokker Triplanes of Jasta 19. He was shot and his Spad wet down in flames five miles behind the German lines. The Germans buried Baylies with full military honours befiting a war hero at Rollet. In 1927 his body was exhumed and reburied in Paris.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 35: René Dorme” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 15, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another 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 May 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of France’s unpuncturable Ace—René Dorme!

Sous Lieutenant René Pierre Marie Dorme has been credited with 23 victories although officially noted with a probable 43. He had started his service as an artilary man in North Africa before becoming a pilot and managing to get injured in a crash before even seeing action. But that didn’t stop him—He got into combat in March of 1916 and achieved his first credited victory in July shooting down an L.V.G.

The French called him “the beloved” and even the great Guynemer called him France’s greatest air fighter. His plane was only hit twice in all his fights earning him the name “unpuncturable.” Dorme was awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, the Médaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre (with 11 palms!).

While flying on May 25th 1917, Dorme dissapeared over German territory after downing a plane. Two weeks later the enemy reported he was killed in combat, but nothing more than that was ever heard of him—no trace ever found!

“The Vanished Ace” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on October 16, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Frederick Blakeslee painted the covers for Dare-Devil Aces‘ entire fourteen year run. Every one of those covers told a story, and Blakeslee had a page with which to do so. We present Blakeslee’s cover for the June 1933 issue of Dare-Devil Aces—his tribute to the great French Ace, Georges Guynemer—”The Vanished Ace!”

th_DDA_3306THE COVER this month is dedicated to the French hero, Georges Guynemer. It shows him gaining his fifty-first victory, when on August 17, 1917, he shot down a two-seater Albatros. He was to bag two more victories before the end. Then on Sept. 11, 1917, he flew away on patrol—and never came back. He disappeared completely, neither his body nor his ship ever being found. Guynemer’s disappearance is one of the unsolved mysteries of the War.

On that fatal day of September he left his drome with Second Lieutenant Verduraz. They sighted a two-seater over Poelcapelle and Guynemer went to the attack while Verduraz sought to draw off the impending attack of eight German scouts. In this Verduraz succeeded, and he flew back to the spot where the combat had taken place. Guynemer was not in sight. After waiting some time, he flew close to the ground, looking for wreckage. Seeing none and thinking that Guynemer had returned to the airdrome, he flew back, but Guynemer was not there and never was again.

The news was kept quiet in the hope that he had landed and was in hiding. There were grounds for this belief. Germany, always prompt to proclaim a victory, was silent. Ten days later, immediately after a notice of Guynemer’s death had been published in an English paper, Germany published a letter from a pilot named Wissemann, to the effect that he had shot down Guynemer on Sept. 10. This date only added to the mystery for it was a proven fact that Guynemer was alive on Sept. 10. France then demanded details and Germany replied that Guynemer was shot down on the 10th of September and buried in Poelcapelle cemetery with military honors. Another report with a different version had it that two soldiers were present and saw Guynemer’s body with a broken leg and a bullet through the head.

On October 4th, the British took Poelcapelle, but found not a trace of Guynemer’s grave or his ship. France, impatient at so many conflicting reports, again demanded the true facts. This time Germany replied that Guynemer had been killed on the 11th. (This date had already been widely published.) Germany said that due to heavy shelling of the spot the body and machine could not be reached and the shelling had eventually obliterated the wreckage. This version was finally accepted.

If it were true that Wissemann shot Guynemer down, he did not long survive his victory. He had written to his parents thus, “Have no more fears about me, I have brought down Guynemer and I can never again meet so dangerous an adversary.” Yet on Sept. 30th he fell before the guns of Lieutenant Rene Fonck.

The day Guynemer flew away on his last flight his favorite ship was being repaired, and so it has been preserved. He called his little Spad “Vieux Charles” (old Charlie) and today it is on the balcony within the court of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris. His name is engraved on the roll of honor in the Pantheon, where are the names of the greatest heroes of France.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Vanished Ace: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (June 1933)

According to his english wikipedia page, the red cross provided the following confirmation of his death:

Information received by the Red Cross says Guynemer was shot through the head north of Poelcapelle, on the Ypres front. His body was identified by a photograph on his pilot’s license found in his pocket. The burial took place at Brussels in the presence of a guard of honor, composed of the 5th Prussian Division. Such is the story told by a Belgian, who has just escaped from the Germans. The burial was about to take place at Poelcapelle, when the bombardment preceding the British attack at Ypres started. The burying party hastily withdrew, taking the body with them. The German General chanced to be an aviation enthusiast with a great admiration for Captain Guynemer’s achievements. At his direction the body was taken to Brussels in a special funeral car. Thither the captain was carried by non-commissioned officers and was covered with floral tributes from German aviators. The Prussian Guards stood at salute upon its arrival and during the burial, which was given all possible military honors. The French Government has been invited to place in the Pantheon, where many great Frenchmen are buried, an inscription to perpetuate the memory of Captain Guynemer as ′a symbol of the aspirations and enthusiasm of the Army.′ A resolution to this effect has been introduced in the Chamber of Deputies by Deputy Lasies.

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