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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Norman Prince

Link - Posted by David on January 24, 2018 @ 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 the founder of the LaFayette Escadrille—Lieutenant Norman Prince!

Born to the purple on August 31, 1887, scion of one of the blue-blooded families In old Boston, was Norman Pslnce, the founder of the famous LaFayette Escadrille. Educated at Groton and Harvard for a career in business with his wealthy family, he hazarded his promising future and used his wealth and family prestige in overcoming obstacle’s to form a squadron of American aviators for battle at the front. With him in the beginning were Thaw, Chapman, Rockwell, McConnell, Hall and Cowdin. These Americans with Prince made up the roster of the original squadron sent up to the front at Luxeuil in May, 1910.

Later on it became known as the Escadrille de Lafayette and 325 fighting pilots flew under its proud banner before the war came to an end. Prince’s career on the front was short but meteoric. Before he was killed, however, on October 15, of the same year, he had engaged in 122 aerial combats and won every award possible for his many acts of bravery and heroism. The story below is taken from the records of a French war correspondent.



by Sous-Lieutenant Norman Prince • Sky Fighters, May 1936

A HIDDEN Boche artillery emplacement was holding up the French advance on the captured fortress of Douai. The General des Armees became frantic. His cavalry scouts had failed. Infantry patrols had learned nothing. The Boches had command of the air. But locating the hidden emplacement was imperative. Though the weather was far from auspicious, the General demanded that the avions de chasse break through the Boche net and discover the hidden guns so that our 75s could destroy them.

It was a grim, desperate order. The sky was on the ground in spots. It was rain and sunshine alternately, and the wind blew in whirling tempests across our front . . . very bad weather for flying. And much, more worse for reconnaissance. Twenty-four avions took off on that desperate mission, 4 from our squadron; the rest from other squadrons nearby, including the famous Storks.

Little Hope of Returning

I had few hopes of returning when I lifted wings into the air on that bleak day. But one thing I vowed: no Boche in the sky or on the earth was going to force me to turn back until I had won through to Douai. I did not fear death. I feared only that I would not be able to accomplish the mission; that no one of us would.

The first half hour it was a battle against wind and weather. My frail avion tossed up and down like a cork. For a few minutes I saw my comrades on either side of me, then they gradually faded into the dismal sky and I found myself alone in a dripping, grey-black void. My thoughts were somber and the whirling rotary engine seemed to sob out a sinister cadence: “Solo to Douai! Solo to Douai!”

I caught myself mouthing it aloud in rhythm with the moaning exhausts where I was rudely awakened from my lethargy by the stitching, ripping sound of Boche bullets tearing into the fuselage at my back. Instinctively I whirled off in an abrupt virage and saw black spots that were enemy planes dotting the grey sky all around me . . . and the fortress of Douai was immediately beneath!

Enemy Avions

I took in everything with a single, darting glance. My Lewis coughed sharply as I spiraled down through the converging black specks. Some of those black specks puffed and mushroomed . . . shrapnel bursts! Others grew wings and blue smoke spouted over engine nacelles . . . enemy avions!

How many I did not know. There was not time to count. I circled, dived, zoomed; firing my piece when Boche shapes slid by in my sights. I got one I know, for I saw the avion sway and fall away in a lazy zig-zag glide with black smoke pluming from the cockpit.

But that was not important. More important was the blinding flash of firing guns just below me . . . the hidden gun emplacement! There it was in a wooded copse beyond and to one side of the fortress of Douai.

There was no need of me tarrying longer over Douai! Back I whirled with my avion not more than 500 meters off the ground. Bullets from sky and earth rained around me like hail.

Ages passed, it seemed, before our trench lines loomed beneath me. But finally they showed, then my own airdrome, the green turf glistening like an emerald in the sudden sunshine.

I set down safely to find that of the 24 who tried to reach Douai, I was the only one to succeed. And I had returned with what the General ordered. Fate had favored me, but I know that she shan’t always do so. Some day I shall not return.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Corporal Edmond C. Genet

Link - Posted by David on May 17, 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 American Flyer Corporal Edmond C. Genet’s most thrilling sky fight!

The great-great-grandson of Citizen Genet, who served as the revolutionary ambassador from France during George Washington’s term as president, Edmond C. Genet had a distinguished heritage. Mild-mannered and handsome he was a typical soldier of fortune at heart, possessing an astonishing courage. At 10 he missed an appointment to Annapolis and immediately enlisted in the navy where he participated in the taking of Vera Cruz. A year later he was in battle in Haiti. Later on after the war in Europe broke out, he sailed for France to enlist in the Foreign Legion. He served for some years in the trenches as a simple poilu, then was transferred to aviation and assigned to Escadrille N-124, better known as the Lafayette, where he was the youngest American in a company of famous men. Genet’s flying time on the front was short. He was one of the few airplane pilots to be killed in the air by enemy shrapnel. He was the first American to die in action under the stars and stripes, his death occurring just ten days after America entered the war. The account below is from one of his letters home.



by Corporal Edmond C. Genet • Sky Fighters, December 1934

I WAS flying along with McConnell at a very low altitude behind the German lines. Mac and I were making a survey of the enemy troop concentration. Intelligence had brought word that the Germans were preparing for a push in our area. We were to check on this, and as the country was hilly and wooded, we had to fly low to make the proper observations.

Being so engrossed with our ground work, both of us had neglected to watch the sky lanes. Suddenly we were jumped by a whole flight of Huns who took us completely by surprise! A burst of Spandau lead crackled through my plane from the rear! I glanced back, saw three Huns on me, throwing lead! At the same instant my right cheek began to sting and something scorched across my hip.

I swept up on one wing tip, whirled around. Two other Hun planes confronted me there. Their Spandaus were smoking. I looked over at McConnell, waved at him to go on with the mission while I attempted to hold off the Huns. I thought I could hold them off by making a bold, dashing frontal attack at first one, then the other. Mac banked off and swept down lower toward the ground.

I charged my first Hun with Vickers chattering. He turned aside and I plunged for the next. The second Hun clung to me and we began going round and round ineffectively. But a third Hun from above dived down, raked my turtleback with tracer. I was forced to pull out, but did not run away. I sneaked further inside the German lines drawing the Hun planes with me.

They had apparently forgotten Mac. Our strategy had been successful so far, but I wasn’t so sure that I was going to figure in the picture much longer. For the Huns had the speed on me and it was only a matter of minutes before I was entirely surrounded again. Bullets came from all directions at once. I was cornered. There was nothing to do but fight my way out boldly.

I dived for speed, then zoomed at my nearest antagonist. My tracer raked across his nose, puffed holes in his upper wing. He rolled off to one side to let me pass, for I was determined I would not turn out for him. That gave me an opening and I streaked through with the whole flight of Huns after me.

Presently I was rejoined by Mac, and what a relief! He was smiling, so I knew he had finished his mission successfully. We fought clear back to our lines where the Huns left us. I had just enough strength left to set down on the squadron drome safely, but my squadron mates had to lift me from my seat. It was a hot fight, but Mac and I got what we went out after—information that enabled our corps commander to forestall the German push!