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“Rickenbacker: Ace in War and Peace” by C.B. Mayshark

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THIS May we are once again celebrating the genius that is C.B. Mayshark! Mayshark took over the covers duties for Sky Birds with the July 1934 and would paint all the remaining covers until it’s last issue in December 1935. At the start of his run, Sky Birds started featuring a different combat maneuver of the war-time pilots. Mayshaerk changed things up for the final four covers. Sky Birds last four covers each featured a different aviation legend. For the first of these covers on the July 1935 issue, Mayshark goes right for the top, featuring America’s greatest Ace of the Great War—Eddie Rickenbacker!

Rickenbacker: Ace in War and Peace
The Story Behind This Month’s Cover

th_SB_3507ON THE cover this month, you see Eddie Rickenbacker, one of aviation’s greatest aces—both in war and peace. The premier airman of America’s war-time fighting pilots practically dropped out of sight for twelve years after the World War. He was nothing but a mysterious legendary hero until President Hoover pinned the Congressional Medal of Honor on his civilian coat in 1930, but since then, he has leaped into the aviation spotlight as the new guiding spirit of commercial aviation.

The hand that guided a speeding Spad in 1918 directs the destinies of one of America’s greatest aviation organizations from behind a chairman’s desk and, upon demand, climbs into a 200-mile-an-hour Douglas and pilots it across the United States in twelve hours.

Americans had almost forgotten about Captain Rickenbacker in 1930. They had forgotten about many such heroes of the war days. The first thud of the great depression had left the country reeling, unable to think of anything so romantic as a knight of the air. Minds were on banks, stock markets and ticker tape.

It is significant that the man who came to the aid of his country in 1918 with his skill as an auto driver, his knowledge of engines and, later, with his ability as a pursuit pilot, should be the first to take up the gauntlet again in the defense of commercial aviation.

The depression hit first at the infant industry of air travel. Aeronautical stocks fell, factories had to close up that had been organized during the boom following the surge of interest when a young air mail pilot named Charles A. Lindbergh flew solo from New York to Paris in 1927. Many air lines, enjoying their first profits in a legitimate transportation organization, felt the terrific shock of nationwide poverty. Some went under, others retrenched, and even those backed by plenty of money realized that something had to be done to prevent complete ruin and the wiping out of the gains that had been made in the aeronautical field. They began looking about for a MAN who could be a leader.

There were hundreds of pilots. There were scores of crack pilots. There were a few, a mere handful, who had won world renown for their flights. But none had business instinct along with their skill with tho joy stick.

Then the publicity resulting from the belated award of the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Hoover brought the almost forgotten Captain Eddie Rickenbacker back into the limelight. Here was the MAN for aviation!

The men who directed the financial destinies of our big commercial firms looked up Rickenbacker’s background. A few learned for the first time that he was America’s Ace of Aces. He had destroyed twenty-six enemy planes on the Western Front. They studied his war career and discovered that against the worst possible obstacles, he had climbed out of an easy berth as private chauffeur to General John J. Pershing and had worked his way up to be a flight commander in the top-ranking fighter squadron of the A.E.F.

They discovered that in this long climb, Rickenbacker had once been waylaid at a motor repair depot because of his knowledge of engines, and it looked as if he would have to stay there. But “Rick” proved that he was not indispensable by faking an illness and getting himself placed in hospital for two weeks. When he came out, he said, “You see, I’ve been away from the depot for fourteen days. During that time, things went on just as though I had been there. Now, why can’t I go up to the Front and fight?”

There was no argument to that, so Eddie went up to the Front.

Next, these financial wizards discovered that, once up at the Front, Rickenbacker did not go mad and try to win the war on his own. He took his time and studied the problems before him. He flew his daily patrols and developed his technique. He finally went into action—but after he had his battle plans laid hours before he left the ground.

He studied enemy ships in the air and checked captured ships for their blind spots and weaknesses. He was pretty colorless at first, but he plugged away, and before anyone knew just who this quiet, methodical young man was, he was top pilot of the A.E.F.—and he lived to come home to his reward.

“This is our man,” the aviation magnates said. “He’s the one to save commercial aviation. Let’s get him.”

They had a hard time finding Rickenbacker at first, for he had a very ordinary routine job with the old Fokker Aircraft Company, acting as a salesman for the ships of the man whose war-time products had given him so much trouble. Eddie also eked out his meager pay by writing sane and sound articles in a few of the aviation magazines. But the general public did not read those magazines in those days. They were still buying thrills, world flights, refuelling stunts and mad Roman Holiday air races that featured crazy acrobatics and lengthy death rolls.

They took him out of there when Fokker packed up and went back to Holland. They sent him to the General Aviation Corporation, the General Motors aviation branch, and let him go to work. For months, nothing much was heard of Rickenbacker, but he was working hard, building up a new and solid foundation for America’s commercial air program.

Gradually, Rickenbacker’s work began to tell, and he appeared in the headlines again. There was a sure climb in air line patronage, and demands came for faster and more comfortable ships. The big companies went to work and, with keen competition driving them on, they soon began to revolutionize the air liner. There were the new Boeings and the Vultees. Then came the Lockheeds, Stinsons and G.A. ships. But soon all these were to be outclassed by the Douglas that had a top speed of 234 m.p.h. With its showing in the great London-to-Melbourne race last year, when it finished second only to an out-and-out racing plane, America finally learned that it had the finest air transportation system in the world.

But there was one point to be cleared up, and this is where Captain Eddie Rickenbacker came in. America knew the Douglas had done well in the England-to-Australia flight, but then it had been flown by a team of Dutch pilots who knew that route like the lines in the palms of their hands. How would it fare in the hands of an American crew over the complete route from coast to coast in this country?

The air lines were asking this. The prospective passengers were asking this. The operators were asking the same question.

Rickenbacker, the Man, answered them.

On November 8th, 1934, a few weeks after the great Melbourne race, he directed the flight of a twin-motored Douglas from Los Angeles to New York in the commercial record time of twelve hours and four minutes. Again, he flew it from New York to New Orleans in record time, and he completed a round trip from New York to Miami within the limitations of breakfast and supper time.

America was satisfied. Rickenbacker, the Man, had showed them, just as he had showed them with his Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron in 1918. Within twenty-four hours of his record flight across the country, the air line offices were swamped with reservations for the Douglas-equipped lines all over the country.

But it will not end there. Rickenbacker is still at work, planning and plotting for the future. His pilots will get most of the credit, but commercial aviation will go on, a glorious monument to the man who quietly tackles his problems without benefit of publicity. Rickenbacker, the MAN—the ace of war and peace!

The Story of The Cover
“Rickenbacker: Ace in War and Peace” by C.B. Mayshark
Sky Birds, July 1935

“Famous Sky Fighters, July 1935″ by Terry Gilkison

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STARTING in the October 1933 issue of Sky Fighters and running almost 5 years, Terry Gilkison’s “Famous Sky Fighters” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Gilkison would illustrate in a two page spread different Aces that rose to fame during the Great War.

Although Gilkison was probably better known for his syndicated newspaper work, he also provided black and white story interior illustrations for pulp magazines. His work appeared in Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Gilkison provided similar features in a few other Thrilling Publications—there was “Famous Soldiers of Fortune” and later “Adventure Thrills” in Thrilling Adventures, Famous Crimes” in Thrilling Detective, and the fully illustrated air adventure stories of Buck Barton “The Flying Devil” in The Lone Eagle! He signed most of this work with only his initials “T.G.” to maintain a low profile and preserve his reputation as a syndicated newspaper cartoon artist.

The July 1935 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, features Lt. Col Armand Pinsard, Capt. Roy Brown, Lt. Harold Nevins, and Major Edward Mannock!

Next time “Famous Sky Fighters” is jam packed! Terry Gilkison features Lt. Col Bill Thaw, Billy Bishop, Lt. Max Immelmann, and East Indian prince turned R.A.F. sky hellion—Sidor Malloc Singh! Don’t miss it!

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

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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 Spad 22 and Spad 13 C1!

The Ships on the Cover

THE cannon ship used during th_SF_3507 the World War did not necessarily have to be one type of plane. Any ship having a “V” type engine with a geared propeller could do the trick. The geared prop was above the crank shaft at the front of the engine, therefore above the center of the round radiator in the Spad. The hub of the propeller was made hollow just large enough to clear the sides of the muzzle of the 37 millimeter cannon which protruded about two inches. In the accompanying drawing this is clearly shown.

The ship with the complicated bracing in the foreground of the cover is the Spad 22, one of the little known crates of the war. It rated a 220 h.p. Hispano-Suiza motor with a geared prop which could accommodate the cannon. The Spad zooming up in the lower background is the Spad 13 C1 with geared prop. There were plenty of these “cannon ships” tried out from time to time and words flew hot and heavy from pilots who used this new gun arrangement for and against the stunt.

The Original Cannon

The original 37 millimeter cannon, the type the great French ace Guynemer used to down his forty-ninth to fifty-second victims, had to be fed by hand. Each seven-inch shell weighing about one pound had to be dropped into the breach of the gun. This took about three seconds in which time a pair of Vickers guns could churn out around fifty slugs, one of which might find a vulnerable spot in the enemy or his ship. But said enemy ship in three seconds could vary its position about 600 feet which is about equal to a shooting gallery target being reduced from the size of a wash tub to an aspirin tablet, a comparison which you fans with air guns or .22 caliber rifles Will appreciate.

On the other hand a Vickers slug might smack into a strut longeron, engine or even the gas tank, if it was rubber housed and not cause any serious damage; but let one of the one-pounder shells which explodes on impact connect with about any part of the enemy plane and the fight is over. The non-explosive one-pounder shell will knock a plane down in from one to three hits. Then there was a “fireworks” shell which was designed to set the target on fire, also a shell similar to a shotgun shell, which when loaded with buckshot would tear a wing to pieces.

A versatile gun, that cannon, and one which certainly did plenty of damage to the Germans.

Later Models Weighed More

The later cannon was semi-automatic, using the recoil, which was eight inches or more, depending on the muzzle velocity, to eject the used shell and slide a new one into the gun chamber. Guynemer’s cannon weighed about 100 pounds. The later models, 150 pounds or more. So put this added weight into a plane with a given speed and load, is to cut down its speed and put it at a disadvantage in a fight. To overcome this, the ammunition supply was limited or the fuel supply cut down which naturally decreased the cruising range. There were plenty of arguments for this weapon but also a few plain and fancy arguments against it.

Those two Albatross D5s zipping down on the foremost Spad are churning out four streams of slugs at a range which only amateurs would fire. The Spad 13 C1 coming up under them has a better range at a good angle. Not only are the bets on the Spads to come out with flying colors but when those explosive shells from the one pounder connect with the German ships, only one shell is necessary for blasting each one, where dozens of Spandau bullets may whistle through the Spads without harming them.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Nieuport 27 and Junkers C.L.1!

“Errant Flight” by F.E. Rechnitzer

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THIS week we have a story from the pen of a prolific pulp author—F.E. Rechnitzer. In “Errant Flight” from July 1935 Sky Fighters, Rechnitzer presents a tale of a pilot who feels he’s washed up and going to be sent stateside any day until fate intervenes and a mistaken order sends him to a British bombing squadron—only problem is Lt. P.T. Garner who can barely land a Spad without cracking up, must now pilot a large Handley-Page Bomber!

Washed Up, the Instructors Said He Was, Because Garner Couldn’t Land a Spad—and Then Fate Gave Him Something Worth While to Play With!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain William Erwin

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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 Captain William Erwin’s most thrilling sky fight!

Captain William Erwin holds a unique record. He was the only accredited American observation ace, and piled up a string of 9 official victories while flying slow ungainly two-seaters. A Texan, William Erwin enlisted for training the day after war was declared. He received his commission as a Lieutenant after a bare forty hours of flight and was immediately sent overseas and assigned to the First Aero Squadron which he joined on its first day at the front. Before his first week he had downed an enemy plane and the French awarded him the Croix de Guerre. He was awarded additional recognition by the French and also received the American Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaves. Through the war safely, without ever having been wounded despite his rare courage and daring, he came to an untimely end while flying the Pacific in a futile search for the missing Dole flyers in 1923. Erwin, himself, recounted the following experience to the compiler of these records on a grey day in the Argonne many years ago.

 

ONE AGAINST THREE

by Captain William Erwin • Sky Fighters, July 1935

I HAVE had plenty of tough moments, but the toughest time I ever had was that day we (Erwin and his observer) were sent out to regulate fire on a Hun ‘77 emplacement that was holding up the advance of the whole 26th Division. Orders came through from G.H.Q. that that emplacement must be destroyed. Our squadron got the order, and the C.O. passed the job on to us. “Three Spads from the 95th will be waiting over Somme-Sous to pick you up and furnish protection.”

Well, we got over Somme-Sous all right. But instead of finding three Spads, we found a soupy sky chock full of wildly flying crates. The three Spads were all mixed up with about a dozen Fokkers, and I saw right away if we were going to regulate fire on that Hun target we would have to do it alone—without any protection.

I managed to duck the Huns in the soupy dripping sky and find the ‘77 emplacement. My observer reeled out his wireless antenna and got in contact with the battery. The first salvo came over—wide. Along with it came three Fokkers. I kept circling. The leader dived and sieved the turtleback behind me with a hot Spandau burst, then swept underneath and poked at my belly with snaky tracer. His mates up above were bent on making a mince-meat sandwich out of us. Bursts came from above and below.

Finally my observer got his corrections wirelessed to the battery and went to work with his Lewis on the top Huns. I split-haired and dived for the Fokker beneath. The second salvo came over—still wide! I could hear a sharp oath from the observer, even above the clatter of his guns. With one hand holding the Lewis, he pounded out corrections with the other. The Spandau pellets rattled like hail through my wings and fuselage.

A quick turn and abrupt stall gave me a chance for a burst at the leader of the Huns, who had zoomed up above when one of the others dived below. I pressed the trigger-trip, saw my tracer eat up the fuselage and bore into the pilot’s back. He maneuvered, cartwheeled into a cloud.

The battery meanwhile had got the range and the next salvo did plenty of damage, but a Hun coming head-on at me with both Spandaus flaming, took my mind off that matter. I replied in kind, without budging the stick, then closed my eyes waiting for the bullet with my name on it.

To my surprise, the other plane exploded in flames and went sliding down, leaving a black smoke trail behind. At the same moment a black shadow loomed above me. I glanced up, stick-handled my crate just in time to get out from underneath. The Fokker of the Hun leader was spinning erratically down. The pilot hung out of the cockpit, dead, held in the pit only by his safety belt. Whether he had died after taking that first burst of mine, or whether my observer had got him, I don’t know. That left only one Fokker. He dallied for a little while, until the battery had completely destroyed the ‘77 emplacement, then turned tail and beat it for safety.

“Rice and Shine” by Joe Archibald

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“Haw-w-w-w-w!” That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back and this time the marvel from Boonetown is suffering from “yeller jaundice” as he puts it and makes the most of his condition by assuming the coolie guise of Flew Man Hooey in order to bring down RIttmeister von Beerbohm and his Flying Circus.

It was a red-letter day for Garrity. The Ninth Pursuit had bagged a Gotha, and Phineas had been shipped off to the hospital. The major lit a cigar and relaxed—but he should have known better. You would, wouldn’t you?

“The Sopwith Triplane” by Robert H. Rankin

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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, we have more of the approach he used for the covers he painted for Battle Aces—telling us about the ship on cover. But, instead of Mr Blakeslee telling us about the ship on the cover, we have Mr. Robert H. Rankin, formerly a draughtsman for the Fokker Aircraft Corp telling the story of the Sopwith Triplane—featured on the cover of the July 1935 cover of Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3507Editor’s Note: This month’s cover shows what would happen if a certain invention, had been perfected during the War. The rear-pit man in the all metal Junkers is operating a huge, highly magnified tense, so constructed as to concentrate a powerful percentage of the sun’s rays. When focused on the fabric covering of an airplane, this sunlight beam would cause a tiny burn. It is based on the same principle as that of lighting a fire by focusing sunlight on a small glass dial. The Allied ships on the cover are Sopwith triplanes.

The Sopwith Triplane
By ROBERT H. RANKIN
Formerly draughtsman, Fokker Aircraft Corporation

OF THE various Sopwith planes, all of which attained great fame, none is more interesting and characteristic than the Triplane—or as it was better known by the German and British pursuit pilots, the “Tripe” or “Tripe-hound.”

The Triplane was the ninth type produced by the Sopwith works, being accepted by the Experimental Board about four months after the Sopwith Pup. The principal object aimed at in the design of the Triplane was the attainment of an extra high degree of visibility, or in other words, the reduction to minimum of the pilot’s blind angle.

With his eyes on a level with the intermediate plane the pilot had practically an junrestricted arc of vision through some 120 degrees, while a section cut out of the intermediate wing enabled him to have a rather good view of the ground while landing the ship, the position of the cockpit being such that the bottom wing had no restricting effect on the vision.

The narrowness of the chord made possible by the use of three main planes also enabled the pilot to have an exceptional view upward and to either side—a most important consideration in any pursuit ship. Another object aimed at in the “Tripehound” was an increase in maneuverbility.

It will be seen that due to the narrow; chord the shifts in the center of pressure with varying angles of incidence is smaller than in a biplane, and consequently a much shorter fuselage can be used to suport the tail surfaces. In addition to this, the small span of the triplane reduces the moments of inertia in the horizontal plane and an airplane is thus obtained which is very sensitive to its controls, which fact adds to its ability to dodge to various strategic positions in a fight.

The factor of the movement of the center of pressure enabled single I-struts to be used instead of the usual pairs, one springing from each spar. This simplified construction by permitting a simplification of inter-plane wire bracing system. Ailerons of the unbalanced type were fitted to each of the three wings.

The “Tripehound” was armed with a single machine gun mounted on the forward top side of the fuselage. In the hands of experienced pilots the ship gave a splendid account of itself and coped favorably with the Fokkers then in use on the Western Front.

The dimensions of the Triplane follow:

Sweepback None
Stagger 1 ft. 6 in.
Dihedral (same for each wing) 2.5 degrees
Total wing area 231 sq.ft.
Length over all 18 ft. 10 in.
Overall span 26 ft. 6 in.
Wing span (same for each wing) 26 ft. 6 in.
Chord (same for each wing) 3 ft. 3in.
Wing areas—
    Top 84 sq. ft.
    Intermediate 72 sq. ft.
    Bottom 75 sq. ft.
    Gap 3 ft.
Areas—
    Aileron 34 sq. ft.
    Tail plane 14.0 sq. ft.
    Elevators 9.6 sq. ft.
    Total 23.6 sq.ft.
    Fin 2.5 sq. ft.
    Rudder 4.5 sq. ft.
    Total 6.5 sq. ft.

 

Powered with a 130 h.p. Clerget engine the Sopwith Triplane had a high speed of 112.5 miles an hour (at 6,500 feet). The landing speed was 35 m.p.h. and it would climb to 6,500 feet in 6.5 minutes and to 15,000 feet in 22.3 minutes.

The plane had a fuel capacity of 180 pounds and a flight range of 310 miles. The ceiling was 20,500 feet. The “Tripehound” weighed 1,103 pounds empty and 1,543 pounds loaded which made a loading of 6 pounds per square foot or 12.4 pounds per horse power.

Although judged by present standards the Triplane was low-powered and rather slow, its speed, ease of handling and general performance were outstanding at the time of its introduction into the Royal Flying Corps.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Sopwith Triplane” by Frederick Blakeslee (July 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 37: Lt. Col. Barker” by Eugene Frandzen

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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 July 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of the most decorated Canadian Ace—Lt. Col. William Barker, V.C., D.S.O. M.C.!

William George “Billy” Barker was a fighter pilot credited with 53 aerial victories during WWI, but is mostly remembered for the epic, single-handed combat on October 27th 1918 against some 60 German aircraft that won him the Victoria Cross.

After the war he joined Canada’s other Ace named Billy—William Bishop in an ill-conceived commercial aviation venture in Toronto, but in June 1922 he accepted a commission in the Canadian Air Force and was briefly the acting director of the RCAF.

Barker was fatally injured when his new two-seater Fairchild aircraft he was demonstrating crashed at Rockcliffe air station, Ottawa. He was 35.

As a bonus—here is the feature on Lt. Col. William Barker from Clayton Knight’s newspaper feature Hall of Fame of the Air which ran Sundays from 1935 to 1940. This strip is courtesy of Stephen Sherman’s acepilots.com which has a large collection of HFA strips that his father had clipped and saved at the time.

Great stuff!