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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 Handly-Page Heyford” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on April 17, 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 another of his “scrambled time” covers pitting planes of the great war against modern day planes (those from the 1930’s), from the January 1936 issue of Dare-Devil Aces it’s The Handly-Page Heyford!

th_DDA_3601ANOTHER scrambled time cover. As you see, it is an impossible situation. We mean, a war-time Albatross and a modern bomber! But in order to show the comparison between the ship used during the World War and the ship of today, we have taken liberties with Father Time. The Albatross seems to be on the top of a loop, how he got there we’ll let you figure out. And of course, the Albatross could never have overtaken the bomber from the rear. Note the size of the pilot in the bomber, it is a huge ship, the little Albatross (big on the cover because it is nearer) could almost land on the wing of the bomber. Huge as this ship is, it could have flown circles around the Albatross. As a matter of fact, there are few pursuit ships even today that could overtake it, which fact, at the time of writing, seems to be worrying a few countries. If a modem pursuit ship cannot overtake a modern bomber, what chance would the war-time ship have? How can these big bombers be intercepted? Well, that remains to be seen, we may be finding out by the time this magazine is in your hands, what with all this war talk.

But to return to the cover, I suppose you have recognized the bomber, but who would ever guess that it is the offspring of the war-time Handly-Page? It no more resembles its “parent” then the first Handly-Page resembled the war-time Handly-Page. If you want a laugh some day, look up pictures of the first Handly-Page.

This ship is the Handly-Page “Heyford” previously known as type 38. It appeared on the scene in 1933 and is still being produced. Its most striking characteristic is the way the fuselage is slung immediately beneath the upper wing. This arrangement gives an unrestricted field of view to the pilot. Machine gunners are located in the nose of the ship and behind the top wing. To protect the ship underneath there is an ingenious device, a retractable and rotatable gun turret, directly under the rear gunner. The machine is thus completely protected and the chances are that should the Albatross be so unfortunate as to get within range, it would be just too bad.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Handly-Page Heyford: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(January 1936, Dare-Devil Aces)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 43: Capt. John Mitchell” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on January 3, 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 American Ace—Captain John Mitchell!

John Mitchell, a Harvard graduate, enlisted on March 1, 1917 and trained at Miami, Fla., Essington, Pa., and at M.I.T. He was commissioned 1st Lieut. June 27, 1917, and went overseas Sept. 1, 1917, continuing his training at Issoudun and Cazaux, France, and joined the 95th Squadron.

At Toul he was credited with helping members of his squadron to bring down two Boches, and at Chateau-Thierry he did excellent work in patrolling and strafing infantry formations. He tangled with Richthofen’s circus—dividing the honors with Lieut. Heinrichs in bringing down one of the circus.

On Aug. 1, 1918, Lieut. Mitchell was commissioned Captain, and on Oct. 13, 1918, he was placed in command of the 95th Squadron.

The Squadron was demobilized Dec. 10. Mitchell arrived back in the U.S. Feb. 14, and was discharged Feb. 16, 1919. He received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, and the American Distinguished Service Cross–both for engagement in the Toul sector in May 1918. Mitchell is credited with the destruction of four enemy planes in combat according to official credits in the A.E.F. at the close of the war.