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“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 1: Eddie Rickenbacker” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 11, 2015 @ 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 the inaugral installment featuring America’s Ace of Aces—Eddie Rickenbacker!

Rickenbacker is credited with 26 victories—the most of any American flyer. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, Legion of Honor, Croix de Guerre and the Distinguished Service Cross with 8 oak leaf clusters (1 silver & 3 bronze).

Before the war, Rickenbacker had become one of the most successful race car drivers, and, with the war’s end, Rickenbacker went back to what he knew. He elected to leave the air service and established his own automotive company that ultimately went out of business. Not detoured, he bought the Indianapolis Speedway—turning it around and making it profitable. From there he went into General Motors. When GM aquired North American Aviation in 1935, RIckenbacker was asked to manage one of their holdongs—Eastern Air Transport which Rickenbacker merged with Florida Airways to form Eastern Air Lines—taking a little airline flying a few thousand miles a week to major airline!

(Somehow during all this he found the time to also script two popular comic strip from 1935 to 1940—Ace Drummond and Hall of Fame of the Air.)

The advent of World War II brought Rickenbacker back to service—but as a civilian Representative to the Secretary of War in the survey of aircraft installations. Resuming his role at Eastern Air Lines after the war. With Eastern’s financial losses in the 1950’s, Rickenbacker was forced out of his position as CEO in 1959 and resigned as Chairman of the Board on December 31st, 1963.

Rickenbacker spent his remaining years lecturing, writing his autobiography and traveling with his wife. He suffered a stroke while in Switzerland and contracted pneumonia—dying on July 23rd, 1972.

(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 Westland Wagtail” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on March 9, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Editor’s Note: This month’s cover is the twelfth of the actual war-combat pictures which Mr. Blakeslee, well-known artist and authority on aircraft, is painting exclusively for BATTLE ACES. The series was started to give our readers authentic pictures of war plwves in color. It also enables you to follow famous airmen on many of their amazing adventures and feel the same thrills of battle they felt. Be sure to save these covers if you want your collection of this fine series to be complete.

th_BA_3205THE PAINTING on the cover this month lacks two things—movement and noise. The only way to show movement is by the speed lines which stream out behind the planes. As for the noise, you will just have to imagine it. The three diving Germans with motors wide open are sending forth a deafening roar which gives the effect of a musical note when heard at a distance. The American ship, upside down as it zooms over, is emitting a high-pitched, reverberating and ear-splitting shriek. It drowns the bark of two Vicker machine guns which are pouring a stream of hot lead into the nearest Boche. Now that you have stuffed cotton in your ears we’ll go on with the story.

The action took place near Chateau-Thierry on July 2, 1918. The pilot of the American ship was First Lieutenant Alfred A. Grant of the 27th aero squadron. He was out on a patrol with several other officers when he encountered an enemy formation of nine planes. During the combat which followed, Lt. Grant became separated from the others and was immediately set upon by three of the Jerries.

He led these three Boches all over the sky, his comrades having vanished. Whenever opportunity presented itself he would turn and pour hot fire into a German ship. By skilful maneuvering he managed to keep out of serious trouble.

He kept the three Germans on the qui-vive however, and they found it impossible to corner him. Suddenly Lt. Grant broke off the fight and started on a bee-line for home. This was what the Germans wanted and hoped for. They gathered together in a group and dove after him.

On the other hand this was what Lt. Grant had hoped they would do. He allowed them to approach to within range and then zooming up and over he let go a withering blast of machine-gun fire straight into the Jerry ships as they streaked by under him.
One Boche continued his dive into eternity and the others turned and fled for home. For this action Lt. Grant was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

At first glance you may th_BA_3109think the German ships are Pfalz scouts of the type shown on the cover last September. If you have that cover compare the two and you will see how and where they differ. The machines illustrated on this cover are Albatros D.V.’s.

The Albatros biplanes were largely used in the War, at first as rather slow two-seater fighting machines, and as reconnaissance types. At the end of 1916 there came a very small Albatros single-seater with a Benz or Mercedes engine of some 175 h.p. This little ship did much damage to the Allies’ airplanes, until it was met and defeated by still faster British and French machines.

The speed of this ship was between 120 and 130 m.p.h. at its best height. This was the type known as the DIII. The DV was essentially the same as the DIII with no outward difference in appearance. There was, however, an improvement in speed and maneuverability. The DIII and DV were speedy looking ships and beautifully stream-lined. They have two Spandau machine guns firing through the propellers.

There was also an Albatros DXI, quite radical in design. The body instead of being rounded was box-shaped and for no apparent reason the rudder and fin were advanced. Between the wings it had a single instead of the V strut. As the bottom wing was much shorter than the upper, this strut inclined outward, and did away with all wiring. There was also a two-seater Albatros and a two-engined bomber.

But this month we concern ourselves with the blue ship flown by the American which is a new and seldom heard of type, the Westland “Wagtail.”

It was designed in answer to a general demand for a fast, quick-climbing single-seater fighter, and its purpose was for high altitude fighting. It met the demand, for it could climb to its service ceiling of 17,000 ft. in 17 minutes—a thousand feet a minute, which was fast climbing in those days and hardly surpassed even today.

The pilot’s view upward and downward, was very good, as more than half the center section was left open. The engine cowling differs from the accepted type of the day and has more or less of a modern appearance. It had a span of 23′ 2″ and an overall length of 18′ 11″.

The Westland Wagtail
“The Westland Wagtail” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (May 1932)