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“Nungesser to the Rescue!” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on October 12, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the July 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Lieutenant Charles Nungesser surprises a flight of German Hell hawks!

Nungesser to the Rescue!

th_FA_3207IT WAS a hazy morning in December of ’16. The sun struggled to break through the heavy fog which had for days now hung close to the sodden landscape. Here and there were patches of snow, but in general the land was all half-frozen mud. The armies of the Allies and the Germans had dug themselves in for the winter, satisfied, except for an occasional almost individual effort, merely to hold what they had, fortify themselves against attack, and await spring for offensive movements.

On a French airdrome just a few kilometers back of the lines several ships were being groomed to take off. Motors were warmed up and impatient pilots looked constantly up at the sky, waiting for the fog to clear away. Finally a small Nieuport took off, circling the field and climbing away rapidly, soon to be lost in the mist. On the wings was the tri-color cocarde of the French. On the fuselage was painted a curious insignia. On a black heart was imposed a white skull and crossbones, above which was a coffin with a lighted candle at either end, and to one side was featured in large figures the number 13.

This was the plane of Lieutenant Charles Nungesser, a pilot who, even at this early date in the war, was already an ace, and whose daring and aggressiveness were to lead him into numberless air battles, gain for him the credit of forty-five victories against his adversaries, and leave him, at the end of the war, with more wounds than any living aviator. He fought always for the glory of France, with a recklessness and abandon that did not take into consideration any thought of personal safety. To him days that he could not fly were days wasted. He chafed with impatience when bad weather or wounds kept him from the skies and his eager search for the enemy.

For days now Nungesser had been held down to earth by the bad weather and restlessly he had waited for the sun to break through, until, when telephonic advices from up and down the line told him that the weather was clearing, he took off into the mist rather than wait longer for it to lift.

He was not a thousand feet up when he went into a cloud bank, and, nosing the little machine up slightly, he headed in the general direction of Metz, flying solely by his compass and instinct. All around was gray mist. There was no top, no bottom, just one moist, gray evenness all around. Only the “feel” of his seat told him whether he was climbing, level, or banked over.

Steadily he gained altitude, his windshield running little streams of water, his whole plane glistening wet from the gray mist. Ten, fifteen minutes he climbed; his altimeter now showed twelve thousand feet when suddenly he burst from the grayness into the blazing sunlight. Above him, now, was only the limitless blue, below the great billowy clouds formed an irregular floor, dazzling white in the sunshine, with brilliant blup shadows.

IT WAS some seconds before he could adjust his eyes to the sudden brilliance. Then, off to the left, he made out four planes, mere specks against the horizon. Placing the sun behind him, and still climbing, slowly he gained on them, and before long made them out to be four German Halberstadt scouts. He was now fifty miles north of his airdrome, and the cloud formations were beginning to break up. Great holes in them showed, far below, the woods of Valluber, splotched with sunlight and shadow.

Just east of Lechelle he saw the four scouts suddenly turn over on their noses and go diving through one of these openings. His first thought was that they were simply diving to get below the clouds, but a second glance showed him the reason of their plunge. A British Caudron artillery observation plane was flying calmly below, unaware of the death and destruction hurtling toward it.

A push forward on the wheel and the little Nieuport nosed over, motor full on, roaring in pursuit of the diving Germans. The British pilot, now aware of his danger, banked around sharply, avoiding the first German plane, which flashed by and turned in a wide spiral to renew the attack. The second German, diving with guns blazing, was forced to change his course to avoid the deadly fire that the British observer poured out on him.

Nungesser, as yet unobserved, banked over to keep “in the sun” and be ready for the first German as he turned back to dive at the Caudron. Easing back on his wheel to hold his elevation, he got himself directly in position, counting on the fact that because of the sun at his back he would be unseen by the German, now up on his wingtip, twisting as he turned for his second attack. Over again went the Nieuport’s nose, on went the motor full, and carefully Nungesser guided his headlong flight until at last he saw the German’s tail creep between his sights. A little more and the Boche pilot himself was full in line with the Frenchman’s guns. A squeeze of the trigger and a tracer bullet proved the aim was true. Then a full burst. The German, caught unawares, half-turned in his seat as the bullets spat around him. His arm jerked up sharply as he was hit. Helplessly he attempted to evade the diving Frenchman. He veered off to the left, but his move was anticipated by Nungesser, and another burst, this time into his gas tank, finished the show.

A puff of smoke, then a burst of flame, and the doomed Halberstadt plunged downward, twisting and turning, leaving a trail of smoke behind.

A sharp renversement and Nungesser was back to the defense of the slow-moving Caudron. The Germans, however, seeing their leader go down in flames, had had enough, and were already streaking it for home.

The Ships on The Cover
“Nungesser to the Rescue!”
Flying Aces, July 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

IT WAS ten years later, and again the day was gray. Again a ship stood impatiently at a French airdrome. It was a larger ship this time, a ship carrying untold gallons of gasoline to enable it in one flight to span an ocean. A ship all white, but on its fuselage was again painted that strange insignia, a white skull and crossbones on a black heart. It was scarcely daybreak, but a crowd had collected. Word had gone around that Nungesser and Coli were about to start.

For days and weeks they had waited impatiently on the ground for conditions which would give them at least a chance of success. On the other side of the Atlantic, groomed and ready, other planes were waiting to make this same attempt from the west. No time could be lost if Nungesser was to.gain for his beloved country the honor of the first successful flight between France and America. The telegraph clicked, word was flashed that the weather over the Atlantic seemed favorable, or at least as favorable as they might hope for. The chance must be taken.

Quick orders were given. The motor, already warmed, was again tested. Last-minute directions and dispatches were given, and farewells spoken. Two men climbed into the cockpit. All was ready. A face leaned out of the cabin, a hand went up in a waved farewell to the crowd. The chocks were pulled, and the plane started down the runway. A moment later, and the great White Bird, staggering under its weight of gasoline, rose into the air, and Nungesser, one of France’s great air heroes, had started on his last flight.

Twenty hours had passed. Once again a plane struggled in the dense nothingness of the fog. A pilot who had come victorious through many air battles against the Germans was now at death grips with the elements themselves. A missing motor, wings heavily laden with ice, fuel low, and a storm-whipped sea beneath. The last grim secrets of that brave flight have been hidden forever.

On the night of Nungesser’s fateful flight there was on the west shore of the Atlantic a British ex-war pilot who owed his life to the French ace, a pilot who waited anxiously for word of the White Bird’s safe arrival, waited anxiously and waited in vain. And there is a legend that on a high cliff of the bleak Newfoundland coast there is a small stone that looks ever out toward sea. It has no name, and bears but two words, “In Memory.” And carved deep in the solid granite slab is once again that strange insignia—a skull and crossbones on a heart.

“High Boomerang” by Arthur J. Burks

Link - Posted by David on August 23, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story by prolific pulpster—Arthur J. Burks! Burks was a Marine during WWI and went on to become a prolific writer for the pulps in the 20’s and 30’s. He was a frequent contributor to War Aces.

Meet Hank Flynn, second lieutenant in the air service, was six feet two in his stocking feet and could whip any German that flew. His friends had told him so, and he modestly admitted when pressed, or even when not pressed, that they probably underestimated his abilities. He wasn’t a braggart, a bluff or an ass; he was just too young for his job and too full of the spirits of life. To others the war might be an excuse to discuss deep questions of psychology; to Hank it was a grand chance to have a hell of a good time and be decorated for it.

He had flaming red hair and a hawk nose smothered in freckles, and a grin that reached from here to there. But when, out of a clear sky, he was ordered to join that peculiar outfit in the woods across the lines from Masmunster known as “The Boomerangs,” something whispered to him that maybe there mightn’t be so much to smile about after he reported. From the pages of the July 1932 War Aces, it’s Arthur J. Burks’ “High Boomerang!”

Hank Flynn thought that a bag of ten gave him the right to give the skipper a few points, but he didn’t know that the best boomerangs always fly in a curve!

“100 Minutes of Gas” by O.B. Myers

Link - Posted by David on December 7, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from the pen of a prolific pulp author O.B. Myers! Myers was a pilot himself, flying with the 147th Aero Squadron and carrying two credited victories and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The Plan was a simple one: Strip down a Nieuport to it’s barest essentials in order to nip across the lines and get the low down on Germany’s latest plane—the Pfalz. The plane was stripped so down that it was filled with only 100 minutes of gas, which left only ten extra minutes for trouble. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned! From the July 1932 issue of War Aces, it’s O.B. Myers’ “100 Minutes of Gas!”

It took a crazy man to fly into that trap; but when be found that he was the bait, Speck had them singing, “—and we learned about flying from him”

“The Night Eagle” by William E. Barrett

Link - Posted by David on November 16, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS November we’re celebrating William E. Barrett’s Birthday with four of his pulp stories—one each Friday.

Before he became renown for such classics as The Left Hand of God and Lilies of The Field, Barrett honed his craft across the pages of the pulp magazines—and nowhere more so than in War Birds and it’s companion magazine War Aces where he contributed smashing novels and novelettes, True tales of the Aces of the Great War, encyclopedic articles on the great war planes as well as other factual features. Here at Age of Aces Books he’s best known for his nine Iron Ace stories which ran in Sky Birds in the mid ’30s!

Today is Barrett’s birthday, so we have a different kind of story from Mr. Barrett. It’s the story of Philip Law—a young man who’s blind who longs to fight in the Great War when he hears about it. By chance a German doctor arrives at the asylum for the blind looking for willing participants for an experimental procedure he’s developed that could restore sight to the blind!

What meant blind ruin to other men was salvation to Philip Law—for in the pitiless glare of war-torn skies he alone could wrest the secret from the eyes that could not see.

From the July 1932 War Aces, it’s William E. Barrett’s “The Night Eagle!”

“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 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.)

“A.E.G. Bomber” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on March 23, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Editor’s Note: This month’s cover is the fourteenth of the actual war-combat pictures’ which Mr. Blakeslee, well-known artist and authority on aircraft, is painting exclusively for BATTLE ACES. The series was started to give our readers authentic pictures of war planes in color. It also enables you to follow famous airmen on many of their amazing adventures and feel the same thrills of battle they felt. Be sure to save these covers if you want your collection of, this fine series to be complete.

th_BA_3207BECAUSE of a promise not to reveal his identity, the hero of this combat will be called Jim. He was a British war pilot and has a great fund of experiences, some of which he has been good enough to relate for use in this magazine.

This month’s cover story is a most unusual one. Of the seven men involved in the fight only one survived and he, as a result of the battle, spent long months in the hospitals in both France and England. As for the three planes, all were totally wrecked; in fact only portions of the German ships were ever found.

The combat took place toward the end of the war, not long after the exploit of Jim’s which was related in last month’s issue of Battle Aces. On this occasion Jim started out with his patrol early one morning and flew toward the German lines. As the planes advanced the weather suddenly changed. The earth disappeared and the sun burned red through the haze which rapidly gathered. Flying conditions fast became impossible in the face of the gathering storm, so Jim, who was leading the patrol, gave the signal to turn about for home.

The weather changed from bad to worse and soon Jim discovered that he was flying alone. He knew that his patrol had been forced to separate and to fly each man for himself. He decided to head due south in the hope of flying out of the storm, for he could not find his own field and it was suicide to land where he was. Suddenly the form of an immense bomber loomed up ahead, rushing directly at him out of the haze.

It was not until nearly a year later that Jim was able to recall what happened from that moment on.

Let me tell you the story from the ground.

At about 11:30 A.M. two dark objects whirled out of the haze. One landed in a street and proved to be the body of a man, his clothes in shreds and too mutilated for identification. The other object hit the roof of a building in Châlons-sur-Marne, and was followed by splinters of wood, metal and scraps of red fabric. When dug out of the basement this proved to be the wreck of a Mercedes engine.

A few moments later the tip of an airplane wing fell in the outskirts of the same town, preceded by several explosions. It was also reported that at about the same time two Mercedes engines, with separate bits of metal and parts of the wings of an airplane, fell near the road between Châlon and Chepy. Then reports came in of a rain of wreckage falling all over the district. To cap the climax, another Mercedes engine, with more wreckage, fell at Marson, three and a half miles from Chepy. What could be the cause of this deluge of Mercedes engines? All came down at approximately the same time at widely separated points. The bodies of five more men and wreckage were found near Châlon and Chepy.

To add to the interest of the day, at Sommesons, nearly twenty miles from Châlons, an S.E.-5 suddenly shot out of the haze, barely missed a farm house, and spread itself out over the adjacent landscape. The pilot was sent to a hospital unconscious, where he stayed in that condition for several clays. As he was the only one who seemed at all connected with the affair, the matter remained a mystery until a year later when his memory had fully returned. The following is what happened.

As the bomber loomed up ahead, Jim recognized it as a German A.E.G. Contrary to general practice, it was not camouflaged but was painted a bright red. Jim pulled up to pass over. As he zoomed up he saw another bomber almost directly overhead. The nose of his ship pointed directly at it and with an instinctive movement, he pulled his trigger. Almost instantly there was a terrific explosion. The wreckage of the bomber was thrown in all directions. Jim was so close that parts of the Boche ship shattered his propeller and damaged his right wing. The bomber dropped, shearing off the left wing of the A.E.G. underneath close to the fuselage. Jim does not yet know how he escaped the tangle of flying wreckage and ships. The next moment they had vanished and Jim began a long glide earthward; because of the thick haze, his ship crashed, as has been related. (For purposes of design the scene on the cover has been painted in bright sunlight, but in reality the haze was extremely dense.)

The A.E.G. bomber was powered by two 260 h.p. Mercedes engines and carried two guns. At 5,000 feet its speed was 90 m.p.h. and its landing speed about 75 m.p.h. It had one fault. Its elevators did not function well when landing. It was also found advisable not to fly the machine without a passenger in the front seat.

A.E.G. Bomber
“A.E.G. Bomber” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (July 1932)