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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Sergeant Kiffin Rockwell

Link - Posted by David on February 21, 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 member of the LaFayette Escadrille—Sergeant Kiffin Rockwell!

Kiffin Rockwell was a true soldier of fortune. Born and raised In Aaheville, N. Carolina, young Rockwell got the wanderlust soon after graduating from the University of Virginia. When the Germans made their surprise move on the forts of Liege, Rockwell was serving in the ranks of the Foreign Legion. For a heroic exploit in hand to hand bayonet fighting, he was awarded the Medaille Militaire. For a whole year he served with the Foreign Legion in the trenches, then transferred to the aviation and went into training at Avord. When Norman Prince formed the first American Flying Squadron in Paris, Rockwell was one of those invited to join. He proved out to be one of the best and most daring pilots of that original band. His career was cut short by his untimely death on September 23rd, 1916.

Rockwell ran up a score of three official victories before being killed in action and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with additional citation for his Medaille Militaire. The following is taken from a letter to his brother in Asheville.

 

WHY WE CALL THEM LES BOCHES

by Sergeant Kiffin Rockwell • Sky Fighters, August 1936

YOU asked why we call the Germans les Boches, or butchers, in our language. There are many reasons. I shall relate a recent experience so you can determine for yourself.

Captain Thenault, Prince and I had taken young Balsley out for his second trip over the front. We were cruising along behind the Boche lines when we suddenly found ourselves face to face with about 40 Boches. They were grouped together in a close formation but at different altitudes. On our level there were about 12 or 15 Aviatiks.

These Aviatiks had about the same speed as our Nieuports, but they carried a gunner behind the pilot. The pilot shoots as we do, but the gunner has a movable gun which enables him to fire in all directions.

A Mêlée of Battle

We were but four and on the German side of the lines, but none of us turned and ran away. For ten or fifteen minutes we flew over and around the Aviatiks, being fired at constantly, some of their bursts being at very close range. Finally we saw an opening. One of their machines raced toward our lines. The rest were behind us.

We plunged after this isolated Boche. A general mêlée resulted, for the whole swarm of Boches pounced on us, coming from above and all sides.

One of our planes dived and fell as though streaking to death. I wondered if it were Prince or Balsley. Tough in either case, I thought. Then in the mêlée I lost sight of another of our little Nieuports. Now both Prince and Balsley were gone. Only Captain Thenault and myself remained and the Boches were giving us plenty.

Thenault signalled to draw away and we ran for our lines, confident that both Balsley and Prince had been shot down.

An Exploding Bullet

We managed to run the gauntlet. Later Prince showed up. He had followed down after Balsley when he saw the youngster falling. It appeared that poor Balsley had darted in on a Boche and just as he pressed his Bowden to fire his gun, it jammed.

He swerved off to clear and just at that instant a bullet struck him in the stomach and exploded against his backbone!

Balsley’s machine went into a dive as he fainted over the stick. But the rush of air in the dive revived him. And as he had kept his feet on the rudder he was enabled to redress and land right side up. The machine, however, smashed to bits. Prince got Balsley out. Twelve pieces of the exploded bullet were removed from Balsley’s interior. Balsley will live but he will never fly again.

So, you see why they are called les Boches? This is the second time we have run into explosive bullets. First it was me, and I am not entirely recovered yet, now it is poor Balsley.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Sergeant Norman Prince

Link - Posted by David on April 5, 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 Norman Prince’s most thrilling sky fight!

Norman Prince lived in France when the World War began. Being immensely wealthy in his own right, he offered to furnish and equip an entire squadron of planes and pilots. The French Army would not accept this generous offer, but Prince, acting in co-operation with William Thaw of Pittsburgh, convinced the officials that they could muster enough Americans to man an entire squadron. Their offer was accepted, and the LaFayette Escadrille was born. A French officer was put in command. All the rest of the pilots were American. Prince’s death was tragic. Though wounded in an air battle, he managed to fly his crippled plane homeward, and was about to land on his own airdrome in the gathering darkness when his plane ran into a telephone pole and crashed. In his weakened condition he did not have strength enough to guide his plane over or around the obstacle. So perished one of the bravest and most courageous of the early American pilots who gave their lives for France. The story below was told to a French reporter.

 

ONE SHOT, ONE HUN!

by Sergeant Norman Prince • Sky Fighters, September 1934

I HAVE had many thrilling brushes with the enemy, so many that I scarcely know which is the most thrilling. All air fights are more or less of the same nature, and the actual thrills are usually delayed until the bottle is passed in mess several hours after the fight took place. No one has time to feel thrilled when the actual fighting takes place. One’s mind is then concentrated on how to defeat the enemy pilot and escape death.

My hardest fight happened over St. Menehold. With two squadron mates I chased five Boche fighters far back behind their own lines. Ten kilometers in, the Boche divided, flying in three different directions. One swung to the left, two to the right, and two continued straight ahead. I kited after those ahead. They waited just long enough to separate me from my companions, then banked suddenly, swinging around at me from opposite directions. One zoomed above me. The other dived under my belly; perfect team work on their part. Almost before I realized it the bullets from their guns came clicking through my plane.

I dived, went into a swift loop, saw when I was coming out of it that they had anticipated this maneuver; so I shifted controls quickly, half rolled and came out flying in the opposite direction. An instant vertical bank got me on the tail of the first Boche. I pressed my stick trigger. Nothing happened! The Vickers had jammed without spewing a single shot. Panic seized me momentarily.

But another burst of bullets clicking through my fuselage brought me out of that daze. I crossed controls, fell off on one wing; then stood up in the cockpit and leaned over the gun breech. I saw what the trouble was. The webbed bandolier had been raked with machine-gun bullets. It was useless. The Boche bullets still rained about me. I had to do something quickly.

I ripped the bandolier from the breech feeder, shoved a single shell in the chamber and pulled the cocking handle. I had then what was equivalent to a single shot rifle. One bullet against two Boches with perfectly functioning Spandaus! It was ridiculous, but war plays strange pranks. Sometimes you are favored, sometimes not.

I managed to shed the Boche bursts in their next attack. Then as one swept past me, I swung in line with him, dived, came up under his belly. As my plane poised in air almost vertical, my sights centered the pilot’s pit. I uttered a silent prayer, pressed the stick trigger, expended my single shot.

It was effective. The Boche plane wobbled, one wing-tip upended, then it began to spin, uncontrollably. I reached up again, cleared the shell and jammed in another, then went sailing after the second Boche. But he had seen enough, I guess. He went scuttling homeward with his tail between his legs.

I did not have gas or—nerve enough—to chase him any further inside his own lines. Believe me I was glad to set down on my own drome safely fifteen minutes later. It was my narrowest escape, the tightest moment I ever want to experience.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 6: Raoul Lufbery” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on January 20, 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 the leading Ace of the Lafayette Escadrille—Major Raoul Lufbery!


Lufbery playing with Whiskey.

Raoul Lufbery was already famous when America entered the War. For some time he was the mechanic of Marc Pourpe, famous French flyer. Pourpe was killed in aerial combat. Lufbery who was with the Foreign Legion, asked to take his place in order to avenge his death. The French army, defying usual procedure sent him to join Escadrille de Bombardmente V. 102, where he made a distinguished record.

When the La Fayette Escadrille was formed, he became one of the seven original members of that famous air squadron—and, as it proved ultimately, became the most distinguished, winning his commission as a sous-lieutenant.

When America entered the War he was transferred to the American Air Service and made a major, refusing, however, to take command of a squadron. When he was killed at Toul. Lufbery was officially credited with 17 victories.

(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.)