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“Collishaw’s Black Hawks” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on September 3, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present “Collishaw’s Black Hawks”—The story behind the cover of Paul Bissell’s March 1933 cover for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the March 1933 cover Bissell put us right in the action on that June day in 1917 as Canadian Ace Raymond Collishaw and his Black Flight tangle in a deadly dogfight with Richthofen’s Flying Circus—now lead by his deputy, German Ace Karl Allmenroeder who already had 30 victories to his name!

Collishaw’s Black Hawks

th_FA_3303 DOWN from the blue sky like four black hawks they dropped, diving recklessly into the rant midst of the famous red squadron of Richthofen himself. Sopwith tripes they were, all black, and one red ship went down before the fury of their first attack. Then, an instant later, all eleven planes were in a mad dogfight.

To the watching Tommies below this was now almost a daily occurrence for, though this British flight had for the first time appeared over the Ypres sector less than ten days before, it was already famous. Those ten days had been crowded with battles. With the other flights in Squadron 10, this one had been ordered to clear the sky of German planes so that the British troops might be concentrated for the final drive on Messines Ridge. In seven days twenty-four German planes had been accounted for.

The Black Flight had done its full share, and in weeks to come was to hang up a record unchallenged by any other flight in the squadrons of any air force. In two months this all-Canadian flight brought down 87 enemy aircraft, and lost but one of its own members.

The leader, Lieutenant Collishaw, was a naval flyer who had found time to become an ace outside of his routine duty of protecting warships. When help was needed over Ypres, he was selected by the high command and formed his own squadron, choosing four other Canadians as pilots, and Sopwith tripes as their ships. These they painted all black. Collishaw flew “Black Maria”—Reid, sub flight commander, flew “Black Roger”—Shaman, “Black Death”—Nash, “Black Sheep”—and Alexander, “Black Prince.”

These five ships were soon known to the Tommies of this whole sector, and it was with a feeling of consternation that the watching lads in the trenches saw that on this day only four flew to the attack. One must have gone West. Perhaps that was why the attack seemed fiercer than usual, and a cheer rose from the trenches as another German, caught at the top of a loop by the deadly fire of Reid, slipped off on a wing and crashed in flames.

But from the main dogfight two planes had pulled off to one side, and were fighting each other with that relentlessness that would end only in death for one or both. One was an Albatross scout, red with green stripes and black crosses—the other, a Sop tripe, all black with British circles.

In the former was a German ace, Allmenroeder, striving to add o»e more name to his already long list of victims—a list which had only the day before been increased by the name of the missing member of the Black Flight. In the other was Collishaw, whose face, usually ready with a bright winning smile, was today grim, his jaw set. Today he was an ace who sought not just a victory, but a victory which might help to erase the memory of yesterday, when he had seen this same green-striped Albatross send Nash in “Black Sheep” crashing to earth.

Furiously, yet with caution, they fought for an advantage, a caution not apparent to the watching Tommies because of the dexterity, sureness and ease with which these two masters of air fighting executed breath-taking maneuvers. Banking, looping, and sideslipping, they doubled and twisted high up in the sky. One instant the red plane seemed to be chasing the black one, and the next the black would seem to have the advantage. Burst after burst came from their guns as for a brief instant a near chance offered itself, but not until they were over Lille did the break come.

HERE the powerfully engined Albatross, coming out of a steep climbing vrille, found itself in that one deadly position above and over the black tripe’s tail. With motor on, Allmenroeder dived for the kill. His guns spat, and for an instant death was less than half a hand’s breadth from the young Canadian.

But Collishaw had one more trick in his bag. A push of his stick sent his little tripe square up on her wing tips where, with nose down and slipping violently off to the side, he offered small target for the German’s fire.

For a brief eternity they hung thus. Bullets spattered around Collishaw, and then the terrific power-dive of the German took his Albatross beyond and below the British plane. In a split second the little tripe had righted itself, and now it was the black plane that rode like death behind and above the red Albatross. Tracers shot out from the twin Vickers. They were to the left. Another burst was nearer in, and then came the steady rat-a-tat as the two guns pulsed to the grip of the young Canuck.

A strut splintered as a bullet cut through. Then the windshield shattered. The red ship staggered; its tail shot straight up, then kicked around violently, and the “green-striper” started on its last spin.

And so Nash was avenged, though months later it was learned that he had not been killed, but was a prisoner in Germany.

The Black Flight went on to pile up its astounding score, while Collishaw was made a squadron commander, gaining sixty official victories before he was recalled to London to help in the formation of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and made a Lieutenant-Colonel.

Collishaw still lives. After the World War he fought with the “White” troops of the old Czarist cause against the Bolshevists—then in Poland, Persia, Mesopotamia, and against the Arabs in Palestine. He has risen to Flight Commander. Besides his D.S.O. and bar, D.S.C., and D.F.C., he has been awarded the order of “Commander of the British Empire.”

He was a sailor, and as he himself once said, after coming out unhurt from a crash in No-Man’s Land, “Sailors die at sea.” May he stay always on land—or in the air!

The Ships on The Cover
“Collishaw’s Black Hawks”
Flying Aces, March 1933 by Paul Bissell

“Ginsberg’s War: Excess Braggage” by Robert J. Hogan

Link - Posted by David on December 15, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

    “Geeve a look,” he chirped. “I’m here, already. Abe Ginsberg’s de name.”

A HUNDRED years ago, the United States declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire. To mark the occasion, we’re posting Robert J. Hogan’s series of Abe Ginsberg stories that ran in the pages or War Birds magazine from 1932-1933.

Lieutenant Abe Ginsberg was very proud. He wasn’t very tall, but he made the most of his stature as he squared his narrow shoulders. His small feet and spindling legs were encased in the best pair of cut-rate boots careful money could buy. The new whipcord officer’s uniform hung loosely about him, not a perfect fit, but what of it? Hadn’t Abe saved almost a hundred francs on that suit after an hour’s haggling?

They told Abe to brag of the might of his wings and it would win him the C.O.’s job. Abe bragged. But what it won him was something else again.

“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.)

“The Mail Must Go Through!” By Arch Whitehouse

Link - Posted by David on December 9, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Here it is—the first of a thrilling series of True Air Adventures—amazing yarns based on the real adventures of airmen all over the world today! This month, read the true story of what happened to a pilot who stuck to the motto of the Air Mail—”The Mail Must Go Through!”

The Mail Must Go Through

By Arch Whitehouse (Sky Birds, March 1933)

OVER the facade of the New York Post Office building runs a word motto reading to the effect that, in spite of wind and weather, the postal department must remain true to its trust and carry out the business of the Postal Department. But the Air Mail pilot has chopped it all down to a few words: “The Mail Must Go Through!”

It is upon this motto that an almost unbelievable esprit de corps has been founded by the men who carry Uncle Sam’s mail over the skyways.
Things have changed a lot in the past few years, as far as flying the mail goes. The ships are better and faster. The motors are more reliable.

The routes are carefully marked with flashing beacons every ten miles. The airports are no longer cleared cow pastures with a shed at one end. Radio has come to guide the knights of the muzzle-mike. An efficient meteorological system has been worked out, and pilots are warned every few minutes what weather they can expect ten miles ahead.

Above all, every pilot is provided with the airman’s life-preserver—the parachute. If things go wrong, all he has to do is to cut the switch and step off. A billowing canopy of silk blossoms out above him, and he descends slowly to the ground.

But there are airmen in the Air Mail who balk at stepping off and letting the mail go down to a splintering crash—perhaps to a flaming finish. There may be valuable papers in those bags. There may be some widow’s pension stowed away. A love-letter, perhaps, reconciling two youngsters who have been parted by a petty quarrel. There may be the evidence that will save an innocent man from the chair. Or, perhaps, just a letter to some old lady who waits patiently for a happy word from her boy, who has gone away to try his fortunes in some other part of the country. One never knows what’s in the mail bag.

John Wolf, an Air Mail pilot, took off from Cleveland one night for Newark, 390 miles away. In the back pit of his Douglas mail ship lay 900 pounds of Uncle Sam’s choicest postal cargo. Pilot Wolf had often wondered what was in this mail. He’d pondered over it many times as he pounded his way across “the hump” of the Allegheny Mountains.

The airmen have named the hump the Mail Pilots’ Graveyard, for the whole trail is scored and marked with the numberless crashes that have occurred there. Pilot Wolf often wondered whether it was worth it. Then he’d stare at the insignia on the side of his ship—”U. S. Mail”—make an imaginary salute, and climb into the cockpit.

But on this night in question—about a year ago, to be exact—Pilot Wolf would have had all the excuse in the world for saying, “Bad weather upstairs. No use risking a crash tonight.” For there was a welter of fog and rain sweeping across the Cleveland field when he went out to the throbbing Douglas. He had been inside the operations office to look at the weather report coming through from Newark—and it was none too encouraging.

But Wolf took off. The mail had to go through!

Fifteen minutes after he took off, his radio set went dead. This would have been sufficient for most people, but Wolf kept on. There might be a break near Newark. After all, there were 900 pounds of mail in the back pit. He climbed to 12,000 feet to make sure that he’d clear the hump, but ice began to form on his wings, changing the camber and choking the controls. He had to go down lower and risk a crash in the Mail Pilots’ Graveyard.

For four hours he flew, averaging about 115 miles per hour, but no sign of Newark could he find. He was above a fog blanket that shrouded everything. On eastward he continued to push—hoping for a break. His ship bounced and pounded against the icy winds. New and amazing things happened to his instruments, and at times he found himself flying on his back. He kept fighting the Douglas, got back on the course and peered down again. No sight of Newark—or of anything else.

“Look here, John,” Pilot Wolf must have argued with himself. “You only have so much gas in this boiler. How about going down and taking a chance? Or how about slipping off and taking to the silk? Why risk your neck for 900 pounds of mail that is probably only bills, advertisements or dunning letters?”

But he glared at himself in the reflections cast by the dials of the in struments and shook his head. He had to go on.

He finally realized that there was none too much fuel left, however, and common sense prevailed.

He went down—down—down until he felt that he must crash into some buildings. Then he steadied himself and released a parachute flare. The big flaming ball of fire seeped away and went down farther and then, Pilot Wolf saw the cruel, reaching whitecaps of the Atlantic Ocean!
“Whew! Where am I?” he growled yanking back on his stick and pulling the Douglas out of the glide.

Turning westward, he tore back toward land, expecting any minute to find himself impaled on the lofty masts of some fog-bound transatlantic liner. He sat tense for nearly half an hour and raced westward peering over the cowling into the blanket of fog.

Then, a light! A dim but heaven sent gleam twinkled ahead. Pilot Wolf shot his Douglas for it with every ounce of power in the big Liberty engine. It was a lighthouse, he could tell by the time of the flashes. He tore up toward it and recognized it as Montauk Light on Long Island. Evidently he had passed over Newark without seeing it.

Now should he bail out? He was over ground, he was certain of that. There was not much gas left, so it would be wise to get out while the getting was good. No, the mail must go through!
He circled the village twice, seeking a place to land. He couldn’t get back to Newark now. He dropped more flares in an effort to find a level space to set the big mail ship down. There was nothing in sight.

Then one of those things happened that people think can happen only in fiction. Some one—a member of the village fire department—was air-minded enough to realize what was the matter. He probably had been a reader of a good aviation magazine—like Sky Birds, for instance. The pounding of the big Liberty up there in the soup and the trickling pathetic flares coming down through the fog told their story.

A fire alarm was sounded, and all the volunteer firemen were sent to the widest fairway of the North Fork Country Club. The air-minded fireman, who goes nameless, superintended the placing of the cars so that their headlights lit up a wide swath of level turf.

Wolf, amazed at the sudden appearance of this uncharted landing field, took a chance. He cut his motor and glided down to a perfect landing—just as the idling Liberty spluttered its last gasp. The tanks were dry.

Wolf slept at the firehouse that night, after seeing the mail safely aboard a train for New York. The next morning he calmly told his story to the air-minded fireman who had unconsciously adopted the Air Mail motto, “The Mail Must Go Through!”

“Death Wings!” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on September 25, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Frederick Blakeslee painted the covers for Dare-Devil Aces‘ entire fourteen year run. Every one of those covers told a story, and Blakeslee had a page with which to do so. We present Blakeslee’s cover for the March 1933 issue of Dare-Devil Aces—”Death Wings!”

th_DDA_3303THE EXPRESSION, “ignorance is bliss,” is well illustrated in this incident. A patrol of S.E.5’s took off for the purpose of giving a new member his first glimpse of the lines. They spotted three Albatrosses scudding along beneath them, so signaling the new member to streak for home, they dove.

The new member however, did not see the signal and a moment later realized with a start that he was alone. He dove and coming comparatively close to the ground, took his leisurely way home, enjoying the country as he went. While he was thus employed a grim tragedy enacted itself close above him, and although he was the cause of it, he was in complete ignorance that an enemy ship was within miles of him. The whole thing was an excellent example of air-blindness, experienced by new pilots. It took a great deal of talk and corroboration to convince the new pilot that death had been so close to him.

When the S.E.5’s dove, the Germans spotted them and there began a game of hide and seek among the clouds. At first the British chased the Germans, but when the Germans turned on them they sped away into a cloud. This kept up for some time before the Bodies speeding in V formation out of a cloud, crossed the path of the lone new member, apparently not seeing it until they had passed.

Then the tragedy occured. The Boche leader made a sudden turn toward the S.E.—but the German flying on his left evidently did not notice him and started a wider turn on his own account. He tipped up just as his leader flashed by and the wings hit and sheared away. Both planes began the swift plunge to destruction, while the third Jerry, turning with the leader, went right through the path of flying debris which smashed his propellor, causing him to land, when he was taken prisoner.

The above drawing, at the moment of impact, shows how it was done. The scene on the cover is a split second later.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Death Wings: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (March 1933)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.