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“High Explosives” by Lt. Frank Johnson

Link - Posted by David on January 13, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

This time around we have a tale from the anonymous pen of Lt. Frank Johnson—a house pseudonym. Sky Fighters ran a series of stories by Johnson featuring a pilot who who was God’s gift to the Ninth Pursuit Fighter Squadron and although he says he’s a doer and not a talker, he wasn’t to shy to tell them all about it. Which earned him the nickname “Silent” Orth.

In this, the second of the Silent Orth stories from the pages of March 1934 number of Sky Fighters, Orth doesn’t quite understand why the other pilots of the Ninth Pursuit Fighter Squadron are giving him such a hard time. The C.O. doesn’t mind as long as Orth keeps shooting down the untouchable Boche Aces. In the process Orth comes to realize that you don’t always have to crow about your accomplishments.

Chattering Vickers and Screaming Spandaus in A Gripping Story of a Hell-Busting Pilot’s Savage Determination to Down Death-Dealing Sky Foes!

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.



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.


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!

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

Link - Posted by David on January 25, 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 March 1934 cover, Frandzen featured the Morane-Saulnier Parasol (type P)!

THE PLANES on this th_SF_3403month’s cover are all manufactured by the same firm. The leading plane, the red two-seater, is a Morane-Saulnier Parasol (type P). The two smaller planes are single-seater Morane-Saulnier (type 27 C1), fighting scouts of the French air force which did fine service at the front during 1916.

The two-seater was used extensively during the same period by the French and the British for general reconnaissance and for artillery spotting. The Morane-Saulnier firm also turned out a twin engined job which saw plenty of active service.

On a Prowl of Their Own

Artillery spotting was really spotting the bursts of our own artillery and by radio adjusting the fire for the batteries. But in the picture on the cover the Moranes have finished their job of adjusting fire and gone on a prowl of their own. Instead of turning back toward their own lines and safety they have gone deeper into enemy territory and have done some artillery spotting which is not in the instruction books for what the well-trained observer shall spot.

For days the Allies have been harassed by a mobile battery of German guns which has changed its position so quickly after laying down a blanket of shells on some strategic point that the Allied counter batteries have been unable to blast them out.

One of the scouts in the background had seen a battery digging in when on his dawn patrol and mentioned it to the pilot of the two-seater Morane and to his pardner in the other single-seater Morane. A few extra belts of ammo were pitched into the pockets in the cockpits and after the thankless little job of ranging the artillerymen’s guns has been accomplished they streak along on business of their own.

And from the action depicted on the cover it looks as though they arc causing plenty of trouble to the Boche servicing those fast firing field guns. But they are not getting away with their surprise attack without some reply from the men on the ground.

That Maxim machine-gun in the foreground is trained in a pretty dangerous way on our friends in the first plane, trained so it is raking the whole ship; but those hands clutching the gun handles won’t function for more than a split second if that second Morane, the little red scout with the purple wing, continues to hold its bead on that ground machine-gunner.

Two Planes Roar In

Suddenly the alert observer in the front ship swings his Lewis gun away from the battery on the ground. Two enemy planes arc roaring in from the side with gun3 blazing. The more or less one-sided scrap will turn into a free for all in about two flips of an aileron.

And just to make it all the more interesting for the raiding Allied aviators, one of the cannons sprays fire from its recoiling muzzle and hurtles a twisting shell fall of high explosive at the leading two-seater. The explosion rocks the ship and pitches its nose toward the ground. It is yanked back into level flight in the nick o£ time and the three Moranes go roaring toward home. The two-seater brings up the rear and the observer has plenty of work for his Lewis gun. The German planes pursue, but are just a shade slower than the Allied ones.

Score for the Allied pilots: one disabled German battery put out of commission long enough for the radio-equipped Morane to transmit the map coordinates to his artillery buddies. Ten minutes later there is no German battery; it has been knocked to pieces by concentrated demolition fire by a brigade of Allied heavy guns.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Nieuport 17 and giant Gotha bomber!

“Hell On Wings” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on June 1, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. . . .

th_DDA_3403THE cover this month shows an S.E.5 diving on the tail of a Fokker which is on the tail of another S.E. A split second later—

Early in 1918 there appeared at a British squadron a group of replacements, among them a youngster whom we shall call Jones. After several practice flights near the lines, Jones eventually took his place in a formation that was out for real trouble. As they crossed the Front, archie was particularly active and very accurate. Shells burst close to the formation, too close for comfort, and Jones proceeded to zigzag madly. The patrol leader turned about to pick him up, but Jones was headed for home at full speed.

When the patrol returned an hour later, the leader proceeded to read the riot act to Jones. He was told that it was a pilot’s duty to keep formation, not only for his own sake, but for the sake of the rest of the flight. If the patrol got into a scrap, one machine missing would be serious— perhaps fatal. He was also told what became of stragglers, who were the Boche’s favorite dish. He was threatened with all manner of unpleasant things if he broke formation again. The lad promised to do his best.

That same day he was again a member of the flight. He kept formation despite archie—which was not as severe as earlier—and completed the patrol.

The next day, however, when archie plastered the sky a little more vigorously, Jones again broke formation and sped for home. This time the lack of one ship missing had serious consequences for the flight. They ran into seven Boches and the battle raged for half an hour. When the flight drew off for home, one of their number had gone to the happy hunting ground.

The straffing Jones received from the entire squadron is history. After long deliberation, the youngster was given one last chance to save himself from disgrace.

The flight left the field with Jones the next day. He had been moved in position to give him confidence and he stayed in place during the usual archie. Some half hour later the flight leader saw several Pfalz scouts 8,000 feet below. After a look around he gave the signal and down they went, Jones with them. During the fight two of the Germans were shot down, one in flames.

Them from above dove three Fokkers. One of these got on the tail of the flight leader, and before he realized what had happened he received a burst of Boche lead that put his Vickers out of action. He put his plane through every maneuver he could think of—and some he didn’t think of—but one of the Fokkers always clung to his tail.

There was nothing he could do but spin down and try to hedge hop home.

Down he went in a spin. At fifty feet he flattened out and with throttle wide open, streaked for home. But he was not alone. The Fokker still rode his tail, pumping steel into his S.E.

Nothing, apparently, could save the Yank. His Vickers were out of action and his Lewis drum was empty. Gas was getting low, also. As he turned, a burst went through the fairing back of his head just missing his shoulder. In desperation he swung in a steep right turn. Just as the Fokker turned to follow, out of the sky hurtled an S.E. The flight leader recognized the number—Jones . . . .

—the S.E. crashed into the Fokker; the wreckage dove deep into the ground. And so Jones died, that a comrade might live.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Hell On Wings: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (March 1934)

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

“Jinxed Joysticks” by Harold F. Cruickshank

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

Today we a have a high-flying tale through war skies by Harold F. Cruickshank. Captain Bill Kelly tries to break the grip a jinx has on his best fighter ace by taking him on a trip straight down into Hell and back (hopefully). It’s “Jinxed Joysticks” from the March 1934 number of Flying Aces Magazine!

On any other day Tom Dillon would have thrilled at the yammer of those Spandaus—would have leaped to his guns as the pair of green-trimmed Fokkers dived by. But on this one day, when death came nearer than ever before, his hands froze on the Lewis grips—and he could not fire.

“Hans Up!” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on October 28, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Haw-w-w-w! It’s another Phineas Pinkham howl. We present another humerous tale of Phileas Pinkham from the prolific pen of Joe Archibald. Pinkham appeared in almost every issue of Flying Aces from November 1930 through November 1943! As if Archibald didn’t have enough to do, he also supplied the artwork for the story.

It was a nice trip. It began with Phineas knocked out cold after a crack-up. It continued with a couple of doughboys loading him onto an ambulance bound for the hospital. And it ended with a couple of doughboys knocked out cold in an ambulance. What do you expect?

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 22: Major Reed G. Landis” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on September 30, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

From May 1932 through March 1936, Flying Aces ran a pictorial feature illustrated by Eugene Frandzen on the ” Each month they featured a different ace from The Great War—telling his story. Very similar to Alden McWilliams’ “They Had What It Takes” which would run in the magazine after LOTAIP had run it’s course. When Flying Aces was a traditional pulp magazine size of 7×10″, it was a two page feature, but when they changed formats and went with a bedsheet size, the feature became one page.

This week we have the twenty-second installment featuring the American aviation Ace, Major Reed Gresham Landis! Landis was flying with the RFC when he scored his dozen victories, all from an S.E.5. Landis was awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross and the American Distinguished Service Cross. He would survive the war and go on to become chairman of the American Legion during the 1920’s, but returned to service in 1942 where he rose to the rank of colonel—stationed in Washington, D.C.

He passed away May 30th, 1975, aged 78 near Hot Springs, Arkansas.

“The Other Cockpit” by Robert J. Hogan

Link - Posted by Bill on May 16, 2008 @ 12:00 am in

While Robert J. Hogan is best known as the author of long running air war series like G-8, The Red Falcon, and Smoke Wade, he wrote plenty of non-series fiction. Here is a little gem that tells the tale of Bat Benson, a bomber pilot who has a habit of mistreating his rear cockpit observers. But his newest observer is not someone who will be pushed around.