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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Ritter von Schleich

Link - Posted by David on July 12, 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 German Flyer Ritter von Schleich’s most thrilling sky fight!

Hauptmann Ritter von Schleich was one of the least known, but nevertheless, one of the greatest and most successful of the German war birds. A nobleman by birth, he was educated for service in the army beginning with his early childhood. When the war broke out he was an officer in the Uhlans, the most aristocratic branch of the German Army. After transferring to the flying corps, he served some time as an observer, before learning to become a pilot himself; paralleling in that respect the career of Baron Manfred von Richthofen, who preceeded him as an officer of Uhlans.

War has its humorous moments as well as its many tragic ones. At least it would seem so after reading the account of the German flying captain, who took a captured Allied plane and rode the battle skies in company with an enemy patrol, the only instance upon record when it was known to be done.

 

A SKY TRICK

by Captain Ritter von Schleich, Imperial Flying Corps • Sky Fighters, July 1934

THE DAY before this, my most thrilling day in the air took place. My staffel had forced a young, inexperienced French pilot to land his latest model Spad pursuit plane intact behind our own lines.

After painting a black cross on it in the place of the circular cocarde of the Allies I decided it would be great fun to take it on a flight over the enemy lines. Fortunately, my staffel had forced it to land with almost a full supply of ammunition, so I had plenty of bullets for the Vickers guns. I phoned our anti-aircraft batteries and informed them of my plans so they would not bother me.

After taking off, I headed for Verdun. Our own Archies let me pass unmolested. When I slid across the lines, the Allied Archies did the same thing. I encountered a single enemy aircraft on patrol over Verdun, but he waved at me and passed on. I laughed and waved back, then swung about and headed for the Argonne. Over the Argonne I ran into the tail end of a formation of five Spads who were sweeping along parallel with the lines at 10,000 feet.

I goosed up my engine and took my place at their rear, flying along behind them and following the leader’s signals as well as I could. Suddenly they banked and flew over my own lines. I went in with them, still keeping my place in the formation.

As I flew along I wondered what would have happened if the leader really knew who it was tailing along at the rear of his flight. It was a sad thought, though. It certainly would have been curtains for me if those Spad pilots had suddenly turned and charged me.

We had gone about five miles behind our own lines when I decided that I was not
giving our Archie gunners any breaks at all. They had been directed not to fire at my plane, hence could not fire at the others in the formation without danger of getting me.

I banked off suddenly, went into a half roll, then dived to 6,000 feet. Our Archie gunners opened up then with a terrific barrage. The Spad pilots maneuvered then to escape it. The leader wheeled, saw me going down, caught sight of the black cross on my Spad for the first time, I guess, and came tearing down after me.

At 3,000 feet he let me have it—a heavy burst that forced me to duck swiftly. Now, that he had attacked me, I felt that I would not be taking advantage of my trick, so I maneuvered into shooting position and fired back.

We went at it hammer and tongs. I swept by him so close one time that I could see the angry expression on his face. We went round and round. Bullets nicked my Spad, but they did not come close to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his mates up above come streaking down to join the fun. I knew I had to do something quick or be in an awful pickle. I zoomed, half rolled, came down at my opponent with both Vickers blazing. The burst was effective. He sagged in his pit. The Spad went floating down in an uneven spiral.

I followed down until it crashed, then went hedge hopping over the field for my staffel drome, with all of the speed I could get from my captured Spad. Our Archie gunners kept my pursuers so high they could not reach me.

It was my twentieth victory. I got official credit for it later. Yes, under the circumstances I am sure it was my most thrilling sky fight.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 14: Lieutenant Werner Voss” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on October 26, 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 one of Germany’s greatest Aces—Lieutenant Werner Voss!


Voss infront of his prototype Fokker DR.I Triplane with a face painted on the engine cowling.

Werner Voss began his military career as a Hussar in November 1914 while still 17 years old. Turning to aviation, he proved to be a natural pilot and after flight school he spent six months in a bomber unit. Moving on he joined a newly formed fighter squadron—Jagdstaffel 2 on 21 November 1916. It was here he became friends with Manfred von Richthofen.

Voss was chalking up the victories one after another until that fateful day in September 1917. On the 23rd, Leutnant Werner Voss, commanding officer of Jagdstaffel 10 and flying his prototype Fokker DR.I Triplane, encountered the renowned ‘B’ Flight of British 56 Squadron in the skies north of Frezenberg. B Flight was comprised of some of britain’s finest Aces—James McCudden and Arthur Rhys Davids among them.

The odds stacked against him—Voss managed to hold his own against the seven S.E.5s of B Flight. Somehow hitting each plane in a dogfight that lasted ten minutes before his own was hit by fire from at least two of the British airplanes. Voss himself, was struck by three bullets. His plane went into a steep dive and crashed north of Frezenberg, Belgium. Voss was killed. He was 20 years old.

In the ten short months Voss was in the air he was confirmed to have 48 victories (which practically matched the great von Richtofen plane for plane during the same time) and was awarded the Pour le Mérite, House Order of Hohenzollern and the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class.

(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.)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 11: Ernst Udet” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on September 28, 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 German Ace—Ernst Udet!

Ernst Udet was one of the highest scoring Aces in the German airforce—second only to the great Manfred von Richtofen with 62 victories to his 80! He entered the German Army in 1914 before becoming a fighter pilot serving in Jastas 4, 11, 15, 37 and eventually commanding the 37th and 4th fighter squadrons. However, injuries he had sustained forced the Ace out of active combat in late September 1918—which may have helped him survive the war, unlike Richtofen.

Udet was a young man of 22 at the end of the war. Following Germany’s defeat, Udet post-war career in the 1920s and early 1930s saw him work as a stunt pilot and in movies, international barnstormer, light aircraft manufacturer, and all around playboy before joining the Nazi party in 1933 and working to recreate the Luftwaffe that would play such a pivotal role in the coming Second World War.

Udet’s wartime success came to an abrupt end however in 1941. Accused by General Erhard Milch of bringing about the Luftwaffe’s shortcomings as demonstrated during the Battle of Britain, and under fire from Goring himself, Udet—who had become critical of the Nazi regime—’chose’ to commit suicide. His suicide was concealed from the public at the time and he was lauded a hero who had died in flight while testing a new weapon. Udet was buried next to Richtofen. He was 45.

(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.)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 12: Major Hawker” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 13, 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 English Ace—Major Lanoe G. Hawker!

Lanoe George Hawker joined the Royal Flying Corps and quickly developed a reputation as an aggressive pilot. In April 1915, armed with just a few bombs and some hand gernades, he successfully attacked a Zeppelin plant at Gontrobe while flying a BE-2. This earned him the Distinguished Service Order.

A few months later, on 25th July 1915 Hawker became the first fighter pilot to win the Victoria Cross for air combat. Flying a single-seater Bristol Scout and armed with a single-shot cavalry carbine mounted on the starboard side of the fuselage, Hawker attacked an enemy two-seater over Ypres. He managed to not only bring that plane down, but two others as well—and all three had been armed with machine guns!

Promoted to the rank of major, Hawker died after taking part in one of the longest dogfights of the war. Flying an Airco DH-2 over Bapaume on 23rd November, 1916, Hawker was eventually shot down and killed by Manfred von Richthofen.

(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.)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 36: Lt. Col. Harold E Hartney” by Eugene Frandzen

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

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 June 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of Rickenbacker’s Commander—Lt. Col. Harold E. Hartney!

Harold Evans Hartney was born in Ontario, Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Militia serving with the Saskatoon 105th Fusiliers before requesting a transfer to the Royal Flying Corp after a chance meeting with William Bishop. He flew with No. 20 Squadron RFC and scored six confirmed victories before being shot down in February of 1917—he claims by Manfred von Richtofen. After he recovered he ws promoted to the rank of Major and assumed the command of the American 27th Aero Squadron.

Hartney became an American citizen in 1923 and penned a number of books, foremost of which was the autobiographical Up and At ‘Em.

He passed away from heart disease October 5th, 1947 in Washington, DC. at the age of 57. Lt. Col. Harold E. Hartney is buried in Arlington National Cemetary.