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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.

“Sky Fighters, November 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on May 16, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

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. On the November 1934 cover, It’s a battle of the wire jobs as the Fokker Eindecker 1 takes on the Farman Experimental 2!

The Ships on the Cover

THE airmen in the early th_SF_3411 months of the war were gallant knights who took their frail, slow-moving craft into the air for observation purposes only. Occasionally a bomb or two was pitched over the side just to make it interesting for the opposing ground troops. But when fliers from different sides of the line met each other above the war fields they usually nodded, waved their hands, or if they stirred up a little hate they thumbed their noses at each other.

Then one day a German pilot with a perverted sense of humor threw a few bricks down at an Allied aviator, which of course was unsportsmanlike. The next day the Allied flier took a shotgun into the clouds and blammed both barrels at a German plane. The handwaving and friendly nods ceased.

Next to break the peace of the sky lanes was Roland Garros, the French flier, who mounted a Hotchkiss machine-gun on the cowl of his fragile little Morane, put steel triangular plates on his propeller and let the Germans have the works. He did plenty of damage to the Germans until he had to make a forced landing in enemy territory with his precious gun. He was captured before he could destroy his gun and plane. The secret was out.

Fokker’s Synchronized Gun

Anthony Fokker got busy on a synchronized gun. He rigged up a system of mechanical gears connected to his prop shaft and was able to send a steady stream of lead through the propeller arc.

That invention really started the fireworks in the air. Garros’ gun was a makeshift arrangement worked with a hand-trigger not synchronized. The Fokker gun was synchronized and was a weapon of death and destruction.

Boelke and Immelmann were two of the first to flame through the skies with the new gun. Allied plane after plane went crashing to earth. The Germans were mopping up, blasting their opponents from the air.

And then when things looked the darkest, up soared the British pusher type planes. One of these, the F.E.2 (Farman Experimental) barged into the fight with a Lewis gun blazing from its front observer’s pit. And did those old flying bathtubs bust hell out of the Fokker menace? They certainly did!

Take a look at this month’s cover and you will get in on the last stanza of a fight between a Fokker E.1 and the famous old stick and wire job, the F.E.2.

Strange—But True!

Down below three British two-seaters are lumbering along. The Fokker Eindecker has been hidden above the clouds and spots the three foes. He carefully tests his one synchronized gun and tips his square-winged monoplane down. His Oberursel engine bellows as it yanks the plane down in a power dive. The German pilot suddenly glances to his right. Out of a cloud bank breaks an F.E.2. The German yanks his ship out of its dive, kicks it up to come around and down on this newest enemy before polishing off the two-seaters.

But an expert is behind the Lewis gun in the flying bathtub. The German’s body jerks in his pit as the British gunner’s slugs find their mark. A pained expression of surprise marks the German’s face. It is against all reason that such an awkward-looking contraption could fly, let alone down his sleek streamlined Fokker.

It might be against all reason, but facts fill the history books that tell us that it was the good old F.E.2’s that stopped the sky slaughter of the Fokker Eindeckers.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, November 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features a sea battle as Phönix seaplane is attacked by a Sea Tank!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Roland Garros

Link - Posted by David on February 24, 2016 @ 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 it’s France’s Lieutenant Roland Garros’ Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Roland Garros was one of the world’s foremost airmen before the World War began. When the French army was mobilized, Garros joined his squadron, the Morane-Saulnier 23, just as it was leaving for the front. He built up a wonderful record for himself in respect to scouting.

Garros was an inventor as well as an aviator, and from the beginning of the war he set about improving the airplane as a fighting machine. On February 5th, 1915, he mounted a machine-gun on his airplane in such a manner that it fired through the whirring blades of the propeller, and thus changed the whole course of aerial warfare. His gun was not arranged to fire in synchronism with the propeller, so to save it from being shot through with holes, he armored it with steel tips. The bullets hitting it would thus be deflected harmlessly.

Improvements came later, but Garros, with his crude invention, shot down the first enemy airplane to be winged from the air. And from February 5th to April 19th, 1915, he succeeded in shooting down four others, becoming the first flying Ace.

The Germans learned his secret and equipped their planes in the same manner as his.

The account below is taken from an interview he gave the day after he shot down his first victim.

 

WINGS OF DEATH

by Lieutenant Roland Garros • Sky Fighters, March 1934

NATURALLY, the question in my mind was whether it would work in the air or not. I had tried it on the ground, and the gun functioned perfectly. I was able to hit a small target at a range of 100 meters. That success made me anxious to take off immediately. But mon commandant, Capitaine de Beauchamp, restrained me until the next morning.

Then he patted me on the shoulder and smiled: “Come back, mon enfant and tell the rest of us how it worked.” I waved and shot down the field, taking off lightly as a feather, despite the added weight of machine-gun and ammunition.

I flew towards Germany, until I came to a German drome. Three ships were on the ground getting ready to take off. I slanted off when I saw them, knowing that they saw me. too. But I wanted them to come up and fly after me.

I would let them chase me until they got close, then I would turn suddenly and fire on the leader.

I knew I could duck their bombs and rifle fire, then would come the surprise. All three Taubes came up and started in my direction. I slowed down. They circled trying to herd me back towards my own trenches. I let them get closer. The leading Taube was less than a hundred meters behind. “Now is the time!” I said, and threw my little ship around swiftly. The German darted past. I had banked so swiftly he couldn’t follow. I banked again, lowered my nose, until it sighted right on the German pilot’s back. I pressed the gun trigger.

Clackety-clack—clack-clack!

The gun stuttered, shook. The bullets spewed out. Linen stripped from the Taube, blasting back in the wind stream. I moved my controls slightly, pulled the trigger again. The pilot wilted. The Taube went up on one wing, began slipping sideways. Then it nose-dived and plunged into the ground.

I wheeled then to attack the others. But one had been forced down with motor trouble. The other was running away towards his own drome. I chased him clear to the ground, and fired my last rounds as it landed. I had no more bullets, so rushed home to make my report to Captain de Beauchamp. I was breathless! My invention had worked in the air!