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Silent Orth Returns in “Sunset Song” by Lt. Frank Johnson

Link - Posted by David on April 14, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

SILENT ORTH—ironically named for his penchant to boast, but blessed with the skills to carry out his promises—comes up against a trio of skilled acrobatic flyers that manage to elude the most skilled flyers while downing three enemy planes in every encounter, but Orth asks for one day to do the impossible and take down the trio! From the May 1934 issue of Sky Fighters it’s Silent Orth in “Sunset Song!”

Three Acrobatic Fokkers Work Havoc in the Air In This Zooming Yarn Packed With Thrills and Action!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Charles J. Biddle

Link - Posted by David on February 22, 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 Major Charles J. Biddle’s most thrilling sky fight!

Major Biddle was one of that small number of American aviators who had actually had front line battle experience when his own country entered the war. Even before there were any indication* of his own country taking part, he sailed for France and enlisted in the French Army, where he was eventually transferred for aviation tralning. When the La Fayette Escadrille was formed, he wan invited to become a member. In that organization he won his commission as a Lieutenant in recognition of his ability and courage.

When General Pershing formed the American Air Service and put Colonel William Mitchell in command of the air squadrons on the front, the able Colonel promoted Biddle to major and save him command of the 13th Pursuit Squadron, which he formed, organized and took to the front to make a distinguished record.

Though not supposed to lead his men in battle, he always did so. Just before the armistice, he left the 13th Squadron to become commander of the 4th Pursuit Group. The account below is taken from one of his letters when he was in command of the 13th Squadron at Toul.

 

MY FOURTH VICTORY

by Major Charles J. Biddle • Sky Fighters, May 1934

A GERMAN plane had been coming over our airdrome every morning just about daybreak. I decided to set a trap for him one night.

I took off at 3:30 A.M. I had cruised around idly for almost an hour and a half before I saw my friend, Mr. Boche.

I circled around behind him. He was flying at about 4,500 meters and I had plenty of ceiling on him.

I let him go until he got almost over Toul. Then with the sun at my back, my plane intervening between his and the sun, I went at him in a long power dive. Getting closer I saw it was a two-place Rumpler, so I dived under his tail and came up beneath, letting go with a burst, then pulling off to one side to see what happened. The observer swung his guns around, aimed them at me. I dived again, got my guns on him from beneath, withheld my fire until I was at a 10 yard range and let go. My tracer tore through the bottom of the pit.

The pilot dived for some seconds, went down to 2,000 meters, then straightened out, headed for home. I headed him off, trying to get in a burst from in front, but the Boche fooled me, giving me a burst, then banking out of my range, and diving again. I renversed and got behind him, my guns leveled on his back. I sent in a burst that splintered through his upper wing. He ducked. We were down to a thousand meters now. He tried once more to shake me off, but didn’t succeed. I sent out another burst, purposely high. I didn’t want to kill him, now, I wanted to force him down, and capture his plane. Finally a green field alongside a river showed beneath and he dipped down.

I kept close on his tail, fearing a trick. But he drifted down nicely, landing light as a feather alongside the river. I circled around him and fired my guns some more to attract attention in a near-by village. French poilus came running out and surrounded the plane. I set down then in a field next to him, hit the only rough place in it, and nosed over in a crash. I ran over, however, and captured my prisoner. He seemed glad it was all over, smiling when I shook his hand. Blood soaked one of his sleeves. One of my bullets had nicked him in the shoulder. The observer was Fatally wounded by bullets through his chest. He died as we were laying him out on the ground. I tell you at such moments, when you see your opponent die before your eyes, war becomes far from a glorious thing. It is different in the air.

It was my fourth victory. We got much information from both plane and pilot.

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

Link - Posted by David on February 22, 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 May 1934 cover, Frandzen featured the Sopwith Snipe and the Halberstadt C-4!

ON THIS month’s cover th_SF_3405the two types of ships shown are the Sopwith Snipe and the Halberstadt C-4.

The Sopwith Snipe was considered by many to be the finest job turned out by the Sopwith Company. The 1918 Snipe knocked the Germans out of the skies with system and precision. In four days a single Snipe squadron accounted for thirty-six enemy planes. In one day alone they smacked down thirteen.

Major Barker, of Canada, pulled the outstanding feat of his career in a Snipe. Attacked by fifty Boche planes he fought back, downed four and lived to tell the tale. He gave lots of credit to his Snipe.

The Halberstadt C-4 was a good all round fighter-reconnaissance plane. Its bulky forward fuselage and its thin, tapering short section behind the cockpits gave it a nose-heavy appearance. Despite its awkward proportions it had good flying characteristics and was a dependable ship when not forced beyond the limits of its class.

One of the pastimes indulged in by the retreating Germans during 1918 was blowing up bridges they had crossed. And one of the best little things our hard-worked engineers did was to smack down pontoon bridges to replace them.

Of course then the Boche artillerymen came out of their dugouts and popped over a few tons of steel-cased shells, which, if nicely directed had the nasty habit of destroying the engineers floating road. Now the obszrvers in the two-seaters had to direct this demolition fire by wireless. They were usually protected by several scout plinos flying above and capable of giving even battle to anyone asking for an argument.

A little mix-up of this sort is happening in the picture on the cover. The Halberstadt has spotted the pontoon bridge. He gets his wireless going. The German artillerymen start ranging their shells. Above are his protecting planes, Fokkers. Hardly had the German observer warmed up his dot-dash key than two Sopwith Snipes swooped down on the Fokkers, sent two of them down. One Fokker remained. One Snipe started after him while the other Snipe tore in at the Halberstadt.

The German reeled in his aerial and un-limbered his Parabellum gun. He signalled his pilot to fight his way out. Above he saw the lone Fokker coming down to his assistance.

The Snipe roared in on the two-seater, guns blazing. The Halberstadt pilot flipped his ship up and over. His gunner all set for this maneuver pressed his trigger as the plane started up. He kept the gun chattering as the Halberstadt started over on its back. He hoped to catch the Snipe in his spraying arc of fire.

Twin Vickers bucking in their mounts on the Snipe; the Parabellum vibrating in the hands of the German observer. Three streams of lead slicing through the air, perforating fabric, ricocheting off metal parts.

The diving Fokker abruptly disintegrates in mid-air. A ranging German Shell hunting the pontoon bridge hits his ship, explodes; blows the ship to bits.

The odds are now too great for any two-seater, no matter how good it, or its crew, may be. A matter of minutes remain till it will be all over. Trucks, cannon and infantry will continue to pass over the pontoon bridge, shelled of course, but not as accurately as would have been the case had the artillery-directing Halberstadt been allowed to remain on tha job five minutes longer.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the German Junkers and D.H.4!

“Green Horn Wings” by Frederick Blakeslee

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

Frederick Blakeslee painted the covers for Dare-Devil Aces‘ entire fourteen year run. He also painted all 17 covers of the first run of Battle Birds. When you’re doing all the covers, it’s easy to have a continuing story. As a special treat this week we have a three part story told over two months and two different magazines. We start with the May 1934 cover of Dare-Devil Aces and continue the story on the following month’s cover and on over to the same month’s issue of Battle Birds!

th_DDA_3405THE COVER this month illustrates one of three exciting encounters described by a German flyer in answer to the question, “What do you consider your most exciting flight?” The author’s name is withheld by request. The other two encounters will be shown on the covers of BATTLE BIRDS and DARE-DEVIL ACES for June. The following has been translated by Mr. J.J. Hermann.

“My most exciting flight? That is very easy to answer—my first front-line patrol.

“Just a word about my plane before I go on. All the ships in our staffel were painted in combinations of red, white and green, except the commander’s, which was all blue. My Albatros had red-tipped upper wings, black crosses on a white field, and the rest of the wing, fuselage and lower wing, was green. A red band encircled the fuselage, on which were black crosses. The fin and rudder were green and the elevator white. It was a beauty and I was immensely proud of it.

“Our commander, like Richthofen, was very severe with anyone who returned to the field with bullet holes in the tail of his machine. Every pilot in the staffel would rather be shot down then come home with holes in his tail.

“I received my instructions, which were to stick in formation and to follow the commander no matter what happened, unless we ran into an enemy formation. In that case, the leader was to rock his ship if he went to the attack, and I was to fly for home at once. They considered me too ‘air-blind’ to be of any use in combat. Of course, I couldn’t understand why any one should be ‘air-blind’, for certainly it would be easy enough to see an enemy plane. But I soon learned.

“I was flying close on the left of the leader, and was so engrossed with watching him that the whole enemy air force could have surrounded us without my knowing it. It was all I could do to keep my place in formation. I would throttle down when I seemed too close and then I’d get too far away and have to speed up only to get too close again. It was probably nervousness, for I had had no trouble in this respect in practice flights.

“I had been making heavy weather of it for perhaps twenty minutes when the leader suddenly dove. Ha, thought I, he is testing me. Down I went only to find that I was last in the formation. The three other planes were bunched directly in front of me. Turning to the left, I frantically tried to regain my position—and lost sight of the staffel at once. There I was as far as I could see, completely alone. The only thing was to go home, but that wasn’t so easy for I was absolutely lost. I was flying around in circles trying to locate the flight when to my surprise I found that I was again following my leader.

“It wasn’t until several hours later that I learned what had happened. When my leader dove it was to attack a lone Bre-guet. My awkward attempts to follow him disrupted the formation and spoiled his surprise move. He received a blast of fire from the French gunner, one bullet passing through his cheek and knocking out a few teeth. Then he saw me floundering around where I wasn’t supposed to be at all; breaking off the flight he picked me up and started for home.

“He looked at me to see if I saw him. I waved—I was determined not to lose him this time—and he began to climb, passing through clouds that covered what had been a cloudless sky. A minute later, he seemed to vanish again. Again I was alone and lost. . . .”

th_DDA_3406“I THOUGHT I knew what had happened. My leader had executed these sudden maneuvers to test me—and I had failed. I determined to be on the alert next time.

“When I saw him go into another dive, therefore, I followed—and a split second later found myself alone again! Finally, after a frantic search, I spotted his Alba-tros high above me. Wondering how he got so high while I was flying so low, I climbed up and took my old position in the formation. This time my leader did not look at me, and a few minutes later we landed at our drome.

“To my surprise no other ships were on the tarmac. We were the first to return. With a sigh of relief at being safely home, but dreading the lecture on formation flying which I knew I deserved, I jumped out of my Albatros. It was then I realized that several men were lifting my leader out of his cockpit. Rushing over I was amazed to see that his face was covered with blood!

“The whole flight had been one surprise after another; but two more were still to come. One occurred a few minutes later when I discovered that the tail of my ship was full of bullet holes! How had they gotten there? While I was trying to figure that puzzle out, one of my missing patrol mates landed and handed me the second surprise by explaining what had happened during the short time I was in the air.

“After describing our encounter with the Breguet (pictured on last month’s cover) he went on. It seemed that my leader, seeing me floundering around instead of flying home and realizing I was a cold meat shot, broke off the flight, picked me up and started for home.

“A minute later an S.E. 5 hurtled straight through our formation. This was when I lost sight of my leader for the second time. The S.E.5 shot through like a mad comet, neither turning right or left, but blazing away with its guns. It is this amazing act of daring that Mr. Blakeslee has painted for the present issue of DARE-DEVIL ACES.

“One of our patrol was shot down th_BB_3406in control and another started in pursuit. The three of us that remained were almost home when we ran into a formation of Salmsons (see June BATTLE BIRDS cover). The leader of this flight shot down another one of our planes—also in control, luckily. The pilot returned two days later. The man shot down by the S.E.5 had to land in enemy territory and was taken prisoner.

“Did I escape a lecture for getting my tail shot full of holes? By the time my leader was out of the hospital I had brought down my third enemy ship—but I got the lecture just the same!”

The Story Behind The Cover
“Green Horn Wings: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (May 1934)

The Story Behind The Cover
“S.E.5 Hell: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (June 1934)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations. This feature will move to Mondays starting in the new year when we will be featuring some of Mr. Blakeslee’s covers for Battle Aces!

“Hose de Combat” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on December 23, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” You can almost hear his insane gaffaw echo through your skull while you read it. Yes, we’re back with another of Joe Archibald’s Phineas “Carbuncle” Pinkham mirthquakes to lighten your holidays. This time from the May 1934 issue of Flying Aces. As always, Phineas gets himself in a tight pickle and once again manages to get out of it and get the upper hand on the “Vons.”

Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham was in a sling. Oh, yes, we know that’s nothing new—but wait a minute. This time he’d dropped a couple of bombs right on the domes of the A.E.F. on his own side of the lines—and it didn’t look like an accident.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 23: William P. Erwin” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on October 7, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s Lives of the Aces in Pictures from Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This week it’s Lt. William Portwood Erwin, featured in the May 1934 issue.

Erwin was assigned to the 1st Observation Squadron in July of 1918. Flying Salmson 2A2s, he and his observers are credited with eight victories! He was awarded the Distinguished Service Crossfor extrodinary heroism in action in the Chateau-Thierry and St Mihiel Salients theaters. And for a dangerous infantry liaison mission at night that he had volunteered for—on his third day with the 1st Observation, he recieved the French Croix de Guerre!

He continued in aviation after the war, conducting a flying school at Love Field, Dallas.

The Dole Air Race of 1927—a race from California to Hawaii. While searching for two lost air race planes and their passengers, he was last heard radio that his plane went into a tail spin and he called for help about 592 miles out in the Pacific Ocean. His plane, “Dallas Spirit” and its occupants were never found.