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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Jules Vedrines

Link - Posted by David on November 15, 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 French Flyer Lieutenant Jules Vedrines’ most thrilling sky fight!

In the year before the great war broke out Jules Vcdrines was the most famous flyer of France. He had twice won the Gordon Bennett speed trophy, and held both distance and altitude records. It was through his efforts that France wrested supremacy of the air from the United States and Great Britain. Along with Garros, Pegoud, Marechal, Le Blanc, Audemars, and other famous French flyers of his day, he enlisted in the French Flying Corps the day after war was declared.

The war was in its last stages before the nature of Vedrine’s work was revealed to his admirers. He had been engaged in doing special missions, and had established his reputation as being the Ace of Aces in that specialty, which consisted in leaving and picking up French spies behind the enemy lines. He received every decoration possible . . . but had to wait until the war’s end before he could bask in the glory of his achievements, for only then were his many honors divulged. The account below is from an interview with Jacques Mortane, great French war correspondent and flyer extraordinary himself.

 

SPECIAL AIR MISSIONS

by Lieut. Jules Vedrines • Sky Fighters, December 1935

THESE special missions are sometimes exciting. There was that time when I flew behind the enemy lines to pick up Sous-Lieutenant Huard. Three times before I had landed in this same meadow and picked up agents of the intelligence in full daylight. I thought our secret field was safe from German eyes. But I was to be surprised! I crossed the lines at a great altitude, over 6,000 meters. Then high over the meadow I cut the motor and sneaked down silently. I circled the meadow once at low altitude. Everything looked all right, so I volplaned in.

It was only when I got down to ten feet above the grass that I saw what the Germans had done. They intended to trap me. They had stretched wires across the meadow just high enough above the ground to make my avion nose over when the wheels touched earth. But I saw the wires just in time. I fed all essence to the motor and jerked the stick, zooming upwards.

At the same instant machine-guns hidden in the woods surrounding the meadow opened up at me at point blank range. Bullets splattered into my avion like hail from two sides, and German soldiers came from the woods firing rifles!

In another meadow several hundred yards away, I saw a man garbed in peasant attire running and waving his arms over his head. I looked close, saw that it was Huard waving me in to land on the next meadow. It appeared like certain suicide for both of us, but what was I to do? I cut off and nosed down. Bullets still hailed all around me, and I could see them kicking up patches of turf at Huard’s feet.

My wheels touched the meadow. Huard stumbled and fell on his face. When he struggled up, his leg folded beneath him and he fell again. He had been wounded. I shouted to Huard to grab the outer wing strut as I passed over him. He struggled up on his knees, reached out his hands. I could see his face. It was white and contorted with pain.

But he succeeded in grabbing the wing edge with one hand, and the forward strut with the other. I shot on the motor then and coursed along the ground to get away from the German bullets. Huard was dragging by the heels. A barb wire fence loomed ahead. I had to cut the motor. Before the avion stopped rolling, I leaped out and grabbed the strut Huard was holding. Together we swung the avion around in the opposite direction.

We would run into the fire again, I knew. But Huard only smiled when I mentioned that to him as I helped him in the rear seat. “C’est la guerre!” he replied lightly.

We escaped through that gauntlet of German fire. Neither of us even got scratched. An exciting mission, yes, but I wouldn’t say my job was one half as hazardous as Huard’s.

A brave man, Huard. And isn’t it preposterous? For that flight I was awarded the Medal Militaire. And Sous-Lieutenant Huard, he was not even mentioned in the day’s orders.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Adolphe Pegoud

Link - Posted by David on April 19, 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 Lt. Adolphe Pegoud of the French Flying Corp’s most thrilling sky fight!

Adolphe Pegoud was a famous flyer before the war began. In 1913, flying a tiny Bleriot monoplane, he astonished the world by doing a series of intricate air maneuvers. Later, he made an upside down landing, the first and to this day the only aviator deliberately to perform such a stunt.

With Pourpe, Garros, Vedrines, and several others, he made up the first French air squadron to see action in the World War. In those days planes, frail contraptions of wood, linen and wires, were not armed. The pilots usually carried a rifle or shotgun when going aloft, and sometimes darts and hand grenades. Plane to plane fighting was unknown. The crafts were used for scouting. Pegoud changed all this when ho initiated the first air battle. He tells about it in the account below.

 

THE FIRST AIR BATTLE

by Lieutenant Adolphe Pegoud • Sky Fighters, October 1934

WHILE I had always carried arms while on my trips over the Boche lines and many times had passed within fifty or a hundred meters of Taube pilots, I had never thought to try out my marksmanship on the flying targets. But on this day when I was ordered aloft, I decided that I would allow no more Taube pilots to pass me by so nonchalantly. At least, I was going to let them know that there was a war taking place.

And lucky for me, I encountered my first Taube the same day I was filled with that resolve. I met him just beyond the Fortress of Verdun. He was just a speck when I first glimpsed him off to my right, but I ruddered toward him, flying as fast as my machine would carry me. At one hundred meters distance, the Taube pilot stood up in his seat and waved at me. That fact made me mad. Here I had come to kill him (if possible) and he greeted me with that friendly gesture. I waved my Lebel in the air over my head and shouted at him in French to beware. Of course, he could not hear because of the noise of the engines.

He continued on past me and I swung around and followed him. This maneuver seemed to surprise him. I continued on, coaxing my machine to its greatest speed. Finally I was not more than ten meters to the rear of his. I shouted again, made faces, then put the rifle to my shoulder and fired a bullet over his head to let him know my intentions. Though I had firmly resolved to shoot at the pilot, I realized now that I could not, for he wan apparently unarmed and had been so friendly.

When I fired at him, he must have seen the smoke from my Lebel or saw it flash. He knew then that I was not fooling and tried to escape from my plane by streaking down toward the earth. But I followed intently, my mind occupied now, not on shooting the pilot, but damaging his machine so it would have to land, thus ha would be unable to accomplish his mission.

I stood up in the pit and fired two shots at his gas tank, but nothing happened. Then I had to sit down and maneuver my plane again. The Taube pilot was zigzagging. I got closer and stood up again. This time, he too, stood up, and hurled a hand grenade back at me. But his aim was wild. It hit on the ground far below and exploded there sending up a puff of blue smoke. I aimed my rifle and rapidly fired all my remaining shells at the gas tank again.

Now I saw that something had happened. The Taube began to wobble crazily. The Boche pilot seemed frantic. Finally the motor stopped turning. Then I saw what had happened. One of my bullets had cracked the propeller, and it had shattered, throwing the Taube into terrific vibration and forcing the pilot to cut his engine.

He had to go down. I wished then that I had not been so hasty, for as it was he landed inside his own lines. If I had waited, I could have captured him by forcing his landing on our side. A fresh Taube and its Boche pilot would have been a great trophy to take home and show my mates.