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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Capt. Allan R. Kingsford

Link - Posted by David on March 7, 2018 @ 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 Australian flyer—Capt. Allan R. Kingsford!

Captain Kingsford enlisted as a simple private in the Australian Army. The troop ship carrying his contingent was torpedoed by a German submarine and he was cast adrift in a heaving sea at midnight with only a frail spar to buoy him up. He served for over a year as a Lance Corporal of Infantry in Mesopotamia, he determined upon obtaining a transfer to the Hying corps, and after many setbacks he finally was ordered for flight training and sent to England, He became pilot of the Zeppelin night patrol guarding London, later joining that strange organization, the British Independent Air Force, as a bombing pilot attached to 100 Squadron. As a member of that group which served under no army, but roved about from point to point, he took part in 270 night bombing raids and became known as the Ace of night bombers. This account of his most thrilling flight is taken from his private memoirs.

 

DESTROYING THE BOULAY AIRDROME

by Captain Allan R. Kingsford • Sky Fighters, November 1936

BOULAY! That is a name to conjure up grim thoughts. Boulay Airdrome … the home nest of the Hun Gothas that rained so much terror on Paris and London! When our C.O. told us Intelligence had discovered that the Hun Gothas were planning to put on a massive parade over Paris that bright August night and that 100 Bombing Squadron had been ordered to forestall their show, Bourdegay (my observer) and I danced with glee.

We had tried to destroy Boulay before but something had always been against us . . . bad weather, tricky engines, faulty bombs or too many enemy planes and archies for protection, that we had failed in our efforts. Still Bourdegay and I thought it could be done.

Loaded with sixteen bombs I took off with my flight at midnight and flew over the valley of the Moselle River toward Boulay 90 kilometers behind the front lines. Because of the great distance there and back (180 kilometers) I knew it would have to be a short show on a hot spot. We would have no time to waste when we got there, and we would have to go down through hell fire and brimstone to lay our iron eggs.

Lights Flash on!

Flying at a great height, masked by a convenient layer of clouds that hid our approach from the enemy, I managed to guide the formation intact right over Boulay. Our “Fees” (slang for F.F. 2B’s, the type of bomber they flew) were running perfectly that night.

Just as we appeared over the airdrome the take-off lights on the field flashed on. There were the flights of Gothas running across the field in take-off just below us! And all lit up conveniently like churches for us to pepper at!

Bourdegay hooped and yelled at me to dive down on the nearest one. I threw the Fee into a steep dive. A searchlight flashed on, another and another. The landing field went suddenly dark! The wind whined through the brace wires and struts of my diving plane like shrieking demons, A searchlight beam caught us full. Archie puffs blazed clear as Christmas lights around us. I slipped the Fee, tried to get out of that dazzling light, but the searchlight crew held us in their beam. “I’m going for them!” Bourdegay yelled, swinging his Lewis around and spewing out a long burst.

There was a dazzling flash. The searchlight seemed to explode, spread apart like a pinwheel in a million dazzling fragments. The Gotha ahead of us showed its red exhausts. I was down to three hundred feet now and almost over it. Other “Fees” were following behind me. I could hear the snort of the motors above the roar of my own. Machine-guns on the ground opened up in murderous volley, their tracer streams shooting up like light rays from a setting sun. “Pull her up!” Bourdegay yelled, bending over his bomb sights while his fingers tensed on the trips. I pulled back and he let go. A direct hit! The Gotha exploded in red flames.

I zoomed for the ceiling with all the sauce I had, managed to get up to a thousand feet before another probing finger of light caught up. Bourdegay had dropped two more pills on the way up. One set a hangar on fire. Another exploded on the field and hurled up a geyser of earth which a running Gotha tore into and up-ended on its nose.

Crashing Bullets

I slid the Fee again, but couldn’t escape the beam. Bullets crashed through my wings. Archie blasts rocked us mercilessly. I banked and zig-zagged, stood on my wingtips and dropped three hundred feet, but I couldn’t shake that light; so I determined on a ruse. I dropped a landing flare through the tube, cutting my engines at the same time. It exploded in flame beneath the plane. The Hun gunners thought they had made a direct hit on my ship. They ceased firing and the searchlight beam swung away seeking my mates.

All was bedlam now below on the earth and in the skies above. Boulay Airdrome was in flames. Fed by a fitful wind the flames leaped this way and that, igniting one hangar after another. Several of the Gothas, however, had succeeded in getting into the air.

Bourdegay spied one of these and yelled at me to go for it. He still had two bombs left.

A Fountain of Flame

I sent the Fee around in a split air turn, straightened out and streaked for the running Gotha. Just as I got over it a fountain of flame blossomed under my wings—flaming onions! Up they came like luminous dumbbells in their crazy, erratic trajectory. I lifted the nose and leaped over them, then piqued for the Gotha. Bourdegay tripped his first bomb. It missed.

But the second made a direct hit. The Gotha fell apart in the flame-ridden sky. And just in time—for a formation of night flying enemy fighters thundered in from the east, swarming around my flight like bees and attempting to cut off our return.

Boulay was destroyed, however! We had accomplished our mission. Not a Gotha reached Paris that night, nor any night thereafter. We had scotched that last parade before it began.

How Bourdegay and me got back, I don’t know. I guess we were just lucky, for most of the boys with us did not return.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Sergeant Kiffin Rockwell

Link - Posted by David on February 21, 2018 @ 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 member of the LaFayette Escadrille—Sergeant Kiffin Rockwell!

Kiffin Rockwell was a true soldier of fortune. Born and raised In Aaheville, N. Carolina, young Rockwell got the wanderlust soon after graduating from the University of Virginia. When the Germans made their surprise move on the forts of Liege, Rockwell was serving in the ranks of the Foreign Legion. For a heroic exploit in hand to hand bayonet fighting, he was awarded the Medaille Militaire. For a whole year he served with the Foreign Legion in the trenches, then transferred to the aviation and went into training at Avord. When Norman Prince formed the first American Flying Squadron in Paris, Rockwell was one of those invited to join. He proved out to be one of the best and most daring pilots of that original band. His career was cut short by his untimely death on September 23rd, 1916.

Rockwell ran up a score of three official victories before being killed in action and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with additional citation for his Medaille Militaire. The following is taken from a letter to his brother in Asheville.

 

WHY WE CALL THEM LES BOCHES

by Sergeant Kiffin Rockwell • Sky Fighters, August 1936

YOU asked why we call the Germans les Boches, or butchers, in our language. There are many reasons. I shall relate a recent experience so you can determine for yourself.

Captain Thenault, Prince and I had taken young Balsley out for his second trip over the front. We were cruising along behind the Boche lines when we suddenly found ourselves face to face with about 40 Boches. They were grouped together in a close formation but at different altitudes. On our level there were about 12 or 15 Aviatiks.

These Aviatiks had about the same speed as our Nieuports, but they carried a gunner behind the pilot. The pilot shoots as we do, but the gunner has a movable gun which enables him to fire in all directions.

A Mêlée of Battle

We were but four and on the German side of the lines, but none of us turned and ran away. For ten or fifteen minutes we flew over and around the Aviatiks, being fired at constantly, some of their bursts being at very close range. Finally we saw an opening. One of their machines raced toward our lines. The rest were behind us.

We plunged after this isolated Boche. A general mêlée resulted, for the whole swarm of Boches pounced on us, coming from above and all sides.

One of our planes dived and fell as though streaking to death. I wondered if it were Prince or Balsley. Tough in either case, I thought. Then in the mêlée I lost sight of another of our little Nieuports. Now both Prince and Balsley were gone. Only Captain Thenault and myself remained and the Boches were giving us plenty.

Thenault signalled to draw away and we ran for our lines, confident that both Balsley and Prince had been shot down.

An Exploding Bullet

We managed to run the gauntlet. Later Prince showed up. He had followed down after Balsley when he saw the youngster falling. It appeared that poor Balsley had darted in on a Boche and just as he pressed his Bowden to fire his gun, it jammed.

He swerved off to clear and just at that instant a bullet struck him in the stomach and exploded against his backbone!

Balsley’s machine went into a dive as he fainted over the stick. But the rush of air in the dive revived him. And as he had kept his feet on the rudder he was enabled to redress and land right side up. The machine, however, smashed to bits. Prince got Balsley out. Twelve pieces of the exploded bullet were removed from Balsley’s interior. Balsley will live but he will never fly again.

So, you see why they are called les Boches? This is the second time we have run into explosive bullets. First it was me, and I am not entirely recovered yet, now it is poor Balsley.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Norman Prince

Link - Posted by David on January 24, 2018 @ 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 the founder of the LaFayette Escadrille—Lieutenant Norman Prince!

Born to the purple on August 31, 1887, scion of one of the blue-blooded families In old Boston, was Norman Pslnce, the founder of the famous LaFayette Escadrille. Educated at Groton and Harvard for a career in business with his wealthy family, he hazarded his promising future and used his wealth and family prestige in overcoming obstacle’s to form a squadron of American aviators for battle at the front. With him in the beginning were Thaw, Chapman, Rockwell, McConnell, Hall and Cowdin. These Americans with Prince made up the roster of the original squadron sent up to the front at Luxeuil in May, 1910.

Later on it became known as the Escadrille de Lafayette and 325 fighting pilots flew under its proud banner before the war came to an end. Prince’s career on the front was short but meteoric. Before he was killed, however, on October 15, of the same year, he had engaged in 122 aerial combats and won every award possible for his many acts of bravery and heroism. The story below is taken from the records of a French war correspondent.

 

SOLO TO DOUAI

by Sous-Lieutenant Norman Prince • Sky Fighters, May 1936

A HIDDEN Boche artillery emplacement was holding up the French advance on the captured fortress of Douai. The General des Armees became frantic. His cavalry scouts had failed. Infantry patrols had learned nothing. The Boches had command of the air. But locating the hidden emplacement was imperative. Though the weather was far from auspicious, the General demanded that the avions de chasse break through the Boche net and discover the hidden guns so that our 75s could destroy them.

It was a grim, desperate order. The sky was on the ground in spots. It was rain and sunshine alternately, and the wind blew in whirling tempests across our front . . . very bad weather for flying. And much, more worse for reconnaissance. Twenty-four avions took off on that desperate mission, 4 from our squadron; the rest from other squadrons nearby, including the famous Storks.

Little Hope of Returning

I had few hopes of returning when I lifted wings into the air on that bleak day. But one thing I vowed: no Boche in the sky or on the earth was going to force me to turn back until I had won through to Douai. I did not fear death. I feared only that I would not be able to accomplish the mission; that no one of us would.

The first half hour it was a battle against wind and weather. My frail avion tossed up and down like a cork. For a few minutes I saw my comrades on either side of me, then they gradually faded into the dismal sky and I found myself alone in a dripping, grey-black void. My thoughts were somber and the whirling rotary engine seemed to sob out a sinister cadence: “Solo to Douai! Solo to Douai!”

I caught myself mouthing it aloud in rhythm with the moaning exhausts where I was rudely awakened from my lethargy by the stitching, ripping sound of Boche bullets tearing into the fuselage at my back. Instinctively I whirled off in an abrupt virage and saw black spots that were enemy planes dotting the grey sky all around me . . . and the fortress of Douai was immediately beneath!

Enemy Avions

I took in everything with a single, darting glance. My Lewis coughed sharply as I spiraled down through the converging black specks. Some of those black specks puffed and mushroomed . . . shrapnel bursts! Others grew wings and blue smoke spouted over engine nacelles . . . enemy avions!

How many I did not know. There was not time to count. I circled, dived, zoomed; firing my piece when Boche shapes slid by in my sights. I got one I know, for I saw the avion sway and fall away in a lazy zig-zag glide with black smoke pluming from the cockpit.

But that was not important. More important was the blinding flash of firing guns just below me . . . the hidden gun emplacement! There it was in a wooded copse beyond and to one side of the fortress of Douai.

There was no need of me tarrying longer over Douai! Back I whirled with my avion not more than 500 meters off the ground. Bullets from sky and earth rained around me like hail.

Ages passed, it seemed, before our trench lines loomed beneath me. But finally they showed, then my own airdrome, the green turf glistening like an emerald in the sudden sunshine.

I set down safely to find that of the 24 who tried to reach Douai, I was the only one to succeed. And I had returned with what the General ordered. Fate had favored me, but I know that she shan’t always do so. Some day I shall not return.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Paul Marchal

Link - Posted by David on January 10, 2018 @ 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 Lieutenant Paul Marchal of the French Flying Corps!

Paul Marchal joined the colors on the first day war was declared, and it was he that answered the challenge of that bold German, lieutenant Max Immelmann, when the latter bombed Paris with leaflets calling for surrender. Immelmann had to fly a matter of but a hundred kilometers, or less, to get over the city of Paris. But when Marchal answered his challenge with an identical flight to Berlin, he had to fly 8QO kilometers.

The fact that Marchal succeeded in bombing Berlin with leaflets proves his unusual courage and daring. Marchal was the first sky fighter to be captured by the Germans. Likewise he was the first to make his escape from a German prison camp and rejoin his squadron after a trek through hostile Germany that reads like a page from epic literature. Before his flaming career on the front was inadvertently halted, young Paul Marchal was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the Medal Militaire, and the Cross of the Legion d’Honneur. He told the story below upon his return to France after escaping from Germany.

 

BOMBING BERLIN

by Lieutenant Paul Marchal • Sky Fighters, April 1936

THE idea of a flight over Berlin bloomed suddenly in my dumb brain. Of course, if my motor should fail, or the avion falter, or should I run into contrary winds and had weather, I was doomed to failure. But I was willing and anxious to try.

Finally mon-commandant reluctantly consented. Then began the period of preparation. I had charted my course over Germany, intending to fly down the valley of the Moselle into the Rhine, then along the Rhine until it veered off suddenly to the left. After reaching Berlin, and dropping my leaflets, I was going to bend off to the right and make a try for Poland, the terrain of our Russian allies.

To lessen weight, I dispensed with all guns except a small pistol with a single full cylinder of ammunition. The day was just dawning, when my avion was wheeled from the hangar and faced toward the east. I shook hands all around, then took my place in the cockpit. After a long run I got into the air, and headed straight for the trenches, waving back over my shoulder as I left my comrades behind. Would I ever see them again? I did not know.

Over the trenches I was fired at. Some of the bullets made holes in my wings. One or two enemy avions I spied, or thought I did. But in the half light they did not see me. When it was fully light, I was far behind the enemy lines.

Over Unknown Terrain

The winding Moselle heaves into view. I course along it until it empties into the Rhine, then I follow up the Rhine. It is a splendid day.

I have been hours in the air it seems when I must leave the Rhine and strike out over terrain unknown to me. But I have studied my carte Taride well, and I recognize the cities as I fly over them.

Finally Berlin looms beneath me. I am very high now. Over the Unter den Linden I fly, tossing my leaflets out on both sides. They flutter down like snowflakes.

But I am not to get out of Berlin without being shot at, and enemy avions come up, too. But I am so high that I run far from Berlin before they can reach my elevation . . . and they give up the chase.

Flight Toward Poland

Kilometer after kilometer, I fly in a straight line for Poland. I think I am going to make it when I see the Polish villages across the border line far ahead of me. But no, I am still 30 kilometers or so away, when my engine starts to spit.

I am still 20 kilometers from the Polish border when I am forced to spiral down and light on a plowed field. Being so near the border, there are many soldiers, and they run towards my avion as it volplanes down. I consider if I should use my pistol and make a fight of it. But I decide not to. There are too many against me.

That is all there is to it. I was taken prisoner and sent to a prison camp in Silesia, but I have made the longest flight in the war. And I have scattered French leaflets over the German capital. I had delivered my answer, France’s answer to Max Immelmann and the Imperial Army. The people of Berlin knew now that they were no longer safe from attacks by air.

Next Time: LIEUTENANT NORMAN PRINCE

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Jan Thieffry

Link - Posted by David on December 27, 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 Belgian Air Ace Lieutenant Jan Thieffry!

Little Belgium played as heroic a part in the war of the air as she did in the war on the ground, when her brave soldiers held up the advance of the German hordes at the gates of Liege until the British and French armies could mobilize and get to the front to begin their counter-offensive. Corporal Jan Thieffry was a motorcycle despatch rider at that time. He was taken prisoner by a flying squadron of German Uhlans, but after some months made his escape.

He was later assigned for aviation training, and after graduation served as a bomber pilot for a brief period, In December, 1916, he was transferred to a chasse squadron, and on March the next year got his first official victory while flying a Nieuport Scout.

Before long his score of victories had grown to five. Thus he became the first Belgian Ace, and held that position as Belgian Ace of Aces until he was killed behind the German lines on February 23rd, 1918. His final total of victories mounted to 10. The story below is taken from his diary.

 

AN UNUSUAL VICTORY

by Lieutenant Jan Thieffry • Sky Fighters, March 1936

THERE are many ways to down les Boches when on the wing. I have used many ways, but today I discovered something new—and quite by accident. A machine-gun, I find, is not always necessary. Always, when going out on patrols, it has been my habit to carry along a half dozen or so hand grenades. If I am forced down behind the enemy lines, I figure they will serve me in destroying my machine before it falls into their hands.

It was over Passchendale that I encountered a patrol of three Boche avions. For several minutes we flew along together, waiting for the other to make the first move, I guess. As for me, I forced a show of bravery to show them I was not scared. The Boches were probably waiting for me to turn my tail, so they would have a better target. I cocked my gun and waited, wary. I was going to make them fire first.

Defiant Battle

The shot was not long coming. The leader wheeled suddenly and came at me from the side, shooting as he came. I dropped my nose and piqued, then swiftly pulled up again and trained my gun on the other’s belly. The two other Boches circled around me from different directions.

I had the first Boche in my sights so I pressed the trigger. But the pilot must have anticipated my fire. He banked off just ahead of my bullets, and the burst went wide past his lower wing. I fell off on a wing and slid into a spiral that brought me in range of the second Boche who opened fire at me from in front. I pressed my trigger again. Two-three, bullets stuttered out, then my gun went silent.

I reached up and tried to clear, but the bullet was stuck tight in the breech. “C’est fini pour moi!” I gasped with a sudden feeling of panic. For one without guns to battle three with guns, I knew was impossible. And les Boches had my range-now. Their bullets sieved through my wings and fuselage. Then a sudden light struck my befuddled brain!

The Fateful Grenade

I reached for a grenade, looked back over my shoulder, saw the Boche kiting behind me, right on my tail. I turned around again, pulled the firing pin on the grenade, then tossed it back over my shoulder. Then I counted silently and prayed that my aim would be true. But nothing happened!

I glanced back again. The Boche was nearer and it seemed that I could see the bullets streaming from the muzzle of his rapid firer. I pulled the pins and tossed two more grenades back at him.

And le Bon Dieu flew on my side. I heard a sharp explosion—a shearing, crashing noise that sounded even above the roar of my motor. I glanced back. The Boche plane was wobbling. The propeller had shattered, and the engine was tearing loose from its base, because of the uneven torque and terrific vibration. My grenade had scored a clean hit!

I banked sharply, and the stricken Boche plane wobbled past me and into a spinning nose dive, then it up-ended suddenly and fluttered down like a falling leaf. Before the two other Boches could pick up where their leader had left off, I was on my way home—and they were not quick enough to catch me.

Next Time: LIEUTENANT PAUL MARCHAL

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Andrew McKeever

Link - Posted by David on December 13, 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 Canadian Air Ace Major Andrew McKeever!

Andrew Edward McKeever was one of the many daring young sky fighters that came from Canada to add fame and lustre to the deeds and exploits of the Royal Air Force, He put in almost a full year in the infantry before he was transferred for flying training. He joined the R.F.C. in December, 1916, was commissioned a lieutenant and sent over to the 11th Observation Squadron in France on May 16th, 1917.

As a two-seater fighter he was without a peer. Beginning his career of victories just as he turned 19, this brilliant young man brought down his first enemy aircraft a month after he went to the front. When the war ended he was credited with 30 official victories, more than any other two-seater pilot in any other army.

He won the British D.S.O. and M.C, and the French conferred upon him the Croix de Guerre. He survived the war without ever receiving so much as a scratch in sky battles, only to be killed in an automobile accident in his home town on Christmas Day in 1918. The story below is his own account of a battle with 9 Huns 60 miles behind the enemy lines.

 

TWO HUNS WITH ONE BURST

by Major Andrew McKeever • Sky Fighters, February 1936

IT WAS soupy weather when my observer and I took off. There was a drizzling rain and the clouds over the trenches were almost on the ground. But H.Q. had ordered a picture of an ammunition dump 60 miles behind the lines. I volunteered to get it, and took advantage of the soupy weather in sneaking into Hunland. All the way in we saw no Huns. And we saw none at the dump. I flew above the clouds all the way by compass, and nearing what I thought should be my destination I dropped down through a hole in the clouds to get my picture. Odd as it sounds, I was right over the ammunition dump. Flying without sight of the ground I had hit the target of my flight right on the bull’s-eye.

The pictures were easy to get. My observer snapped them at 500 feet altitude, then we turned back for the long trip home, only to be met by 9 Huns, who had apparently been waiting for us. Two of them were painted a brilliant red. The other seven were black. They lost no time attacking when we turned for our own lines.

“Shall I run for it, or shall we try to fight them off?” I yelled back through the phones at my observer. “They’ve got the speed on us,” he shot back. “We can’t run. We have got to fight!”

His own guns were stuttering even before he finished, and tracer from the leading Hun attacker, a red Pfalz, was clipping through my upper center section. I lifted the Bristol’s nose and aimed for the Hun’s belly as he shot over me. I had time for just one short burst. But it was enough for that Pfalz. It went over and nosed into the ground, bursting in flames when it crashed. Gilbert, my observer, kept the Huns from sitting on my tail as I split-aired and dove for the other red Pfalz. A black Fokker cut across behind the Pfalz just as I fired. The Pfalz pilot wilted if his seat. My burst almost tore his head off. His ship went down, spinning erratically.

But the strangest thing was that the Fokker behind him fell apart in the sky at the same instant. One wing came off and fluttered down slowly. The fuselage and other wing sank like a plummet. That single burst of mine had passed through the Pfalz pilot’s head and sheared the Fokker’s wing off.

Gilbert, meanwhile had got one of the Fokkers, trying to attack from the rear. But two more pounced in on him, while I dived for one below me. There was terrific clatter and I looked over my shoulder toward the back pit. I couldn’t see Gilbert. I turned back again to get my sights on the Fokker and spray out a burst. It never came out of the nose dive it was in, just hurled on into the ground. I looked back again, and was relieved to see Gilbert standing in the back pit. But he was pointing at his Lewis guns. They were useless. A Spandau burst had wrecked them completely.

I swung around again and went for a persistent Fokker who was trying to get at me from below. I got my sights on him and pressed the trips. But it was no go! My guns didn’t answer. I reached up to clear what I thought was a jam. But it was worse than a jam. The whole breech had been shot away. My own gun had been rendered useless while I was staring at Gilbert’s.

We couldn’t fight any longer, so I ran for it. We hedge hopped in and out of the clouds all the 60 miles back, with those four Fokkers hi-tailing after us. But the clouds served in good stead. The Fokkers followed me right to the drome, and didn’t leave until I sat down.

Death whispered in our ears all the way back, but my old Bristol had just enough speed to keep one jump ahead of the grim spectre. It was my hardest and longest fight . . . and closest shave. I don’t want any more like it. And for once Gilbert agreed with me.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Joe Wehner

Link - Posted by David on November 29, 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 Frank Luke’s tail gunner, Lieutenant Joe Wehner!

Lieutenant Frank Luke was the most daring sky fighter in the American Air Service. But it is hard to say whether he would have established the record he did without the aid of Joe Wehner, his constant and steadfast companion and buddy in the 27th Squadron. He was Luke’s alter ego.

When war was declared by the United States, Joe Wehner hitch-hiked his way from Boston, Massachusetts to Kelly Field, Texas, to join the flying service. Wehner was finally dropped from his squadron when it left Kelly for overseas because he was suspected of being a German spy. He managed, however, to get reinstated at the point of debarkation. His fellow officers, however, never ceased to look upon him with suspicion. That is, all except Luke. Luke stood up for Wehner and this made him an outcast in the 27th until he began to compile his flaming and meteoric record. Flying with Luke on those record-making flights was Joe Wehner, and Luke himself admitted after Wehner was killed in action, that if it hadn’t been for Joe Wehner, who served as his protection when he went Drachen hunting, he doubted if he would have been able to down the number of Drachens credited to him.

Wehner shot down three enemy planes while flying this rear guard duty for Luke. As a protection flyer, there was none better in the American Air Service than Joe Wehner.

From on of Wehner’s letters to his boyhood friend in Boston, the following account is taken.

 

STALKING THE DRACHEN

by Lieutenant Joseph Wehner • Sky Fighters, January 1936

FRANK and I have developed a specialty. We are sausage hunters. Sausages, you know, are anchored observation balloons. The Boche call them Drachens. One day when I was flying rear guard for Luke, he shot down two of them within two min-

In addition to the Drachens he got two Bocke planes, and I was lucky enough to down one myself. In one swift, hectic fight, we accounted for five Boche, and we were outnumbered three to one. But Luke never takes account of odds.

We went out just at twilight, saw two Hun Drachens straining against their cables and weaving in the wind near Vieux. Frank held up his arm and signaled me that he was going down to get them, one after the other. I saw a patrol of Boche Fokkers further back across the lines, so I began to climb for ceiling as Frank started down toward the balloons. I aimed to get between him and the Fokkers to keep them off his tail when he started firing at the balloons.

Frank got the first Drachen before I could get between him and the Boche. He split-aired through the enfilade of machine-gun and anti-aircraft fire, and made a bee line for the second Drachen less than a kilometer distant. He scooted along at terrific speed not more than a hundred feet off the ground. But the Fokkers having height streaked even faster for him. There was a full Staffel of them. I piqued to head them off. The Staffel separated then into three flights. One went to my right, the other to my left and the center flight came at me hell for leather.

I picked the first Fokker and gave him the works. My aim was true. It wobbled for an instant. Then the pilot slumped down in the pit, and the Fokker slid off in a spin. I was watching it fall when a clatter of leaden hail rattled through my upper wing tank. The gas began pouring out in a blinding spray. Then black smoke enveloped me. For an instant I thought my Spad was aflame. The fumes were choking. But the smoke instantly cleared, and I realized it was the smoke of the second Drachen which I had winged through. Luke had made swift work of that sausage and was going round and round now with a Boche, while two more were darting in on him from different angles above.

I went down for the Boche on Frank’s tail, and we went at it hot and heavy. The whole sky seemed to be a kaleidoscopic whirl of diving, zooming, shooting black-crossed planes. Then one of the black-crossed ships burst into flame. Luke had ridden it almost to earth, firing with both guns. Zooming up when it crashed, he made for another Hun’s blind belly, and brought it down before the pilot knew what had happened.

The wind had drifted us across our own lines now, and the Boche Staffel leader called it enough, I guess, for all of a sudden they beat it for their own lines. Frank chased them until he ran out of ammo, and I coursed along on top of him. But we got in no more licks.

Next Time: MAJOR ANDREW McKEEVER

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Jules Vedrines

Link - Posted by David on November 15, 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 French Flyer Lieutenant Jules Vedrines’ most thrilling sky fight!

In the year before the great war broke out Jules Vcdrines was the most famous flyer of France. He had twice won the Gordon Bennett speed trophy, and held both distance and altitude records. It was through his efforts that France wrested supremacy of the air from the United States and Great Britain. Along with Garros, Pegoud, Marechal, Le Blanc, Audemars, and other famous French flyers of his day, he enlisted in the French Flying Corps the day after war was declared.

The war was in its last stages before the nature of Vedrine’s work was revealed to his admirers. He had been engaged in doing special missions, and had established his reputation as being the Ace of Aces in that specialty, which consisted in leaving and picking up French spies behind the enemy lines. He received every decoration possible . . . but had to wait until the war’s end before he could bask in the glory of his achievements, for only then were his many honors divulged. The account below is from an interview with Jacques Mortane, great French war correspondent and flyer extraordinary himself.

 

SPECIAL AIR MISSIONS

by Lieut. Jules Vedrines • Sky Fighters, December 1935

THESE special missions are sometimes exciting. There was that time when I flew behind the enemy lines to pick up Sous-Lieutenant Huard. Three times before I had landed in this same meadow and picked up agents of the intelligence in full daylight. I thought our secret field was safe from German eyes. But I was to be surprised! I crossed the lines at a great altitude, over 6,000 meters. Then high over the meadow I cut the motor and sneaked down silently. I circled the meadow once at low altitude. Everything looked all right, so I volplaned in.

It was only when I got down to ten feet above the grass that I saw what the Germans had done. They intended to trap me. They had stretched wires across the meadow just high enough above the ground to make my avion nose over when the wheels touched earth. But I saw the wires just in time. I fed all essence to the motor and jerked the stick, zooming upwards.

At the same instant machine-guns hidden in the woods surrounding the meadow opened up at me at point blank range. Bullets splattered into my avion like hail from two sides, and German soldiers came from the woods firing rifles!

In another meadow several hundred yards away, I saw a man garbed in peasant attire running and waving his arms over his head. I looked close, saw that it was Huard waving me in to land on the next meadow. It appeared like certain suicide for both of us, but what was I to do? I cut off and nosed down. Bullets still hailed all around me, and I could see them kicking up patches of turf at Huard’s feet.

My wheels touched the meadow. Huard stumbled and fell on his face. When he struggled up, his leg folded beneath him and he fell again. He had been wounded. I shouted to Huard to grab the outer wing strut as I passed over him. He struggled up on his knees, reached out his hands. I could see his face. It was white and contorted with pain.

But he succeeded in grabbing the wing edge with one hand, and the forward strut with the other. I shot on the motor then and coursed along the ground to get away from the German bullets. Huard was dragging by the heels. A barb wire fence loomed ahead. I had to cut the motor. Before the avion stopped rolling, I leaped out and grabbed the strut Huard was holding. Together we swung the avion around in the opposite direction.

We would run into the fire again, I knew. But Huard only smiled when I mentioned that to him as I helped him in the rear seat. “C’est la guerre!” he replied lightly.

We escaped through that gauntlet of German fire. Neither of us even got scratched. An exciting mission, yes, but I wouldn’t say my job was one half as hazardous as Huard’s.

A brave man, Huard. And isn’t it preposterous? For that flight I was awarded the Medal Militaire. And Sous-Lieutenant Huard, he was not even mentioned in the day’s orders.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Edward Mannock

Link - Posted by David on November 1, 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 British Flyer Major Edward Mannock’s most thrilling sky fight!

Edward “Micky” Mannock was serving the British postal department, Turkey, when the war broke out. He was immediately made a prisoner by the Turks, and spent almost a year in an enemy camp before he was repatriated to England in 1915. He first served in the Royal Engineers, was commissioned as a lieutenant and transferred to the flying Corps in August, 1916. Major McCudden, the great British Ace, was his first instructor.

At the end of the war Mannock ranked as the British Ace of Aces, with 76 victories to his credit, more than Bishop, Ball, or McCudden himself. Flying a Nieuport Scout he downed his first Hun June 7th, 1917. On July 25th, 1918, he got his 76th victory in an S.E.5. The next day he was seen to fall in flames behind the enemy lines. Before he was killed he was awarded the D.S.O. and the M.C, and was swiftly promoted to to the rank of Major. He was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. The following account of his fight with do enemy aircraft is taken from the report of a British journalist.

 

ONE AGAINST FORTY

by Major Edward Mannock • Sky Fighters, November 1935

I HAVE seldom been taken by surprise in the air. “Jimmy” McCudden schooled me well on that score in my early flight training. But one time I did get caught good and plenty. Forty Huns plopped in on me at once. I was flying solo over Villers-Bretteneux. It was a bad day for flying. There was rain and low-hanging clouds. The Huns had a big landing field at Villers, but our bombers had played it hot and heavy, and word came through to us that the Huns had abandoned it.

Right over the field there was a big hole in the clouds, so I dropped down for a look-see to ascertain the truth of the report. The field and hangars looked deserted. There was not an E.A. in sight. I dived low, got beneath the cloud layer. Then I saw why the field looked deserted. I had had the ill luck to drop down through that hole in the clouds just as the Hun staffels were leaving. Four flights of Huns had just left the ground, and were circling just beneath the clouds. The intervening clouds had hidden them from my view. When I did see them, it was too late for me to make my escape into the protecting clouds, for the Huns slid over on top of me.

There was nothing else for me to do but fight my way out of the trap.

Lead was rattling into my turtleback before I had a chance to shift into a climbing turn and bring my guns to bear upon any of the enemy. And one burst of slugs knocked my helmet askew so that my goggle glasses were wrenched across my eyes, blurring my vision.

When I did get them in place again, a purple-nosed Hun was diving at me head-on, both his Spandaus spewing out blue white streams. I maneuvered, pressed my trigger trips, then went up on one wing and slid down in an abrupt sideslip. The Hun ship shattered above me, exploded in flames. The blazing ship just missed mine as I nosed out of the slip. By now all the Hun planes had closed in tight on me.

But the Huns made one error. They hemmed me in so tight on all sides, above and below, that they couldn’t use their guns advantageously. I got two more of my attackers. But cheered as I was when I saw the E.A.5s fall, I knew that I couldn’t hold out against them for long. If I could pull up into the clouds, I knew I could lose them. Getting there was the problem. I went into a steep power dive, letting all that wanted to get on my tail. After a thousand foot dive, I pulled back on the stick and shot straight for the clouds.

Bullets raked my S.E. all the way down and up, but none of them had my name and address. I was just plain lucky, I guess, for I managed to make the clouds without getting popped. Once in them, I straightened out for my lines with all the sauce on. Believe me, my own airdrome looked good when I sat down there. I had got three of the full forty I had tangled with, but I didn’t regret not staying for more.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Hamilton Coolidge

Link - Posted by David on October 18, 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 American Flyer Captain Hamilton Coolidge’s most thrilling sky fight!

As a famous athlete at Harvard, Hamilton Coolidge was well known throughout the land even before the war began. He enlisted in the aviation section of the Signal Corps and got his primary flight training at Mineola along with Quentln Roosevelt, his hoy-hood friend.

They went up to the front together on the same day. Coolidge was assigned to the 94th Squadron and Roosevelt to the 95th. Coolidge was killed when a German Archie scored a direct hit on his plane, something of which war time figures prove happened only once in every 20,000 attempts.

He had established an enviable record, soon becoming a recognized ace with 5 victories. He was promoted to a Squadron Commander, and succeeded in downing 3 more enemy planes. He was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and the Distinguished Service Cross. This account of his fight with the famous Flying Circus of Baron von Richthofen is taken from an interview he gave a war correspondent.

 

FIGHTING THE FLYING CIRCUS

by Captain Hamilton Coolidge • Sky Fighters, October 1935

THOUGH I had been expecting to encounter the Flying Circus, my first meeting with one of their patrols took me quite by surprise. With five of my mates I was cruising high above Lagny in a sky that was empty and void as a lonesome ocean.

I didn’t catch sight of the gaudily painted ships until they were almost upon us— they had come up from our own side of the lines, while I was probing the sky reaches in the opposite direction. Twelve ships there were, flying in layer formation.

I had to do some quick thinking. My patrol was outnumbered 2 to 1. And they had us cut off from our rear! I waggled my wings, whined up in vertical virage and went streaking for Germany, climbing for the ceiling as I ran.

We Gained an Even Ceiling

Luckily, the Fokkers didn’t catch us until we had gained an even ceiling with their topmost flight. Then the fighting began. It seemed that the bullets whined in from all directions at once. And the sky was just a kaleidoscopic whirl.

Finally the wild dog-fighting settled down to a man to man duel. I didn’t have to pick my quarry. He picked me with a ripping invitation in Spandau tracer that stitched a grim streak down my turtle-back. I jammed full throttle and roared into a loop, rolled out on top and got out of range. But only to run smack into a stream of tracer coming from another Hun’s gun. I ducked beneath that, pulled up and banked quickly, my sights on the checkerboard belly of my first antagonist. I had time for just a short burst before he slid out of my sights.

First Meat for Our Side

But that was enough. The Fokker tipped up on a wing, hung in the air momentarily, then went sliding down, turning over on its back finally and fluttering off in a spin.

It was first meat for our side against odds of two to one. It gave me renewed courage. Two more of the Fokkers fell before one of the Spad pilots got caught with a bad jam. While trying to clear it he was killed.

All the time we had been fighting we had drifted further over the German lines, so I concluded that now was the time for a risky maneuver. We would have to turn our tails to the Huns, give them a momentary bull’s-eye as we streaked for the earth straight down—but with the Spad’s diving speed with full power on, I figured we could leave the Fokkers behind, and take our chances with the Archies and groundfire from below. So I signalled and dived, the rest of the boys following.

I took plenty of lead in the rear, but by shaking my stick, I managed to dodge a vital burst, and finally got out of range.

We hedge-hopped for home then right over the German trenches, running the gauntlet of a terrific machine-gun fire from the ground. But when we had run through and zoomed up to the ceiling and reformed on our own side of the line, waiting, the famed Flying Circus didn’t accept the challenge.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Quentin Roosevelt

Link - Posted by David on October 4, 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 American Flyer Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt’s most thrilling sky fight!

Quentin Roosevelt was born at Oyster Bay, N.Y., the fourth and last son of a famous fighting family, November 19th, 1897, six weeks after his illustrious father, Theodore Roosevelt, had left to fight for the freedom of Cuba. Although handicapped by a permanently injured back, he succeeded by dint of cunning and painful effort in fooling the medical examiners and being accepted for training as an aviator.

He was sent overseas July 13th, 1917, and assigned to the 95th Squadron of the First Pursuit Group. From the beginning he gave great promise of becoming a famous Ace—but his promising career was snuffed out before it really began when Sergeant Greber, famous German flyer, conquered him after a terrific battle.

Young Roosevelt died 15,000 feet up in the air. His tiny Nieuport turned over its back, streaked to earth and crashed on a hillside near the little French town of Chamery. He was buried where he fell with high military honors by the Germans. The account below is taken from one of the letters written to his mother.

 

MY FIRST VICTORY

by Lieut. Quentin Roosevelt • Sky Fighters, September 1935

I WAS cruising on high patrol with my flight when I spied far in the rear of the German lines a formation of seven enemy fighters. Though we were only three I though I might pull up a little and take a crack at them.

I had the altitude and advantage of the sun, and was sure they hadn’t seen me.

I pulled up, got within range, put my sights on the last man and let go. My tracer stream spewed all around him. I saw it distinctly. But for some strange reason he never even turned nor appeared to notice. It was like shooting through a ghost.

By that time the enemy formation began whirling up and down like dervishes. Spandau smoke trails snaked the sky around me and bullets clipped through my wings.

A Web of Fokkers

I stuck with my man, let go again. All of a sudden his tail went up and his ship went down in a vrille, spinning toward the cloud floor 3,000 meters below. I wanted to follow down after him, but his mates had cut me off from my flight and were making it hot on all sides.

I was so far within the enemy lines that I didn’t dare to tarry too long in a drawn-out fight because of my short gas supply, so I fought my way out of the web the Fokkers were spinning about me and ran for home.

Looking back over my shoulder I saw my victim spinning, and he was still spinning when he hit the cloud floor and disappeared. I do not expect to get credit for the victory (my first) because the fight took place too far behind the lines for it to be confirmed.

But, even so, I know now that I am able to hold my place as a pursuit pilot over the front lines.

The Grim War Game

At first I was doubtful, and the first time I was attacked I’ll confess I was scared. But in the heat of the battle I forgot that feeling. It becomes then a sort of grim game, a duel for points, with a victory scored when the opponent dies or is shot down out of control. But one doesn’t have time to think of death when the shooting starts. In the excitement of the moment there is no other thought but getting your sights on the other fellow and letting go with your guns.

I am glad we three took a crack at those German planes—even though we were outnumbered, for it certainly taught me many things. It is experiences of this sort that give one a real thrill.

Yes, to date this has been my most thrilling sky fight. Who knows what will come? In the frenzy of fighting, one never thinks of anything but the battle itself—and a fierce determination to do one’s best predominates over one’s thoughts!

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lieut. Roosevelt’s victory was officially confirmed two days after he was shot down.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Silvio Scaroni

Link - Posted by David on September 20, 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 Italian Fighter Ace Lieutenant Silvio Scaroni’s most thrilling sky fight!

Lieutenant Silvio Scaroni was born at Brescia, Italy, and entered the aviation corps at the beginning of the war. As a bomber he was recognized as one of the best in the Italian Flying Corps and he was very adopt in handling big three-engined Capronis. But the big ships were too slow to satisfy Lieutenant Scaroni. He wanted to fly single Heaters and eventually managed to secure his transfer to a combat squadron on the morning of November 14, 1917.

That same day he registered his first victory. Within three months he had accounted for 18 enemy planes. His untimely end came in an accidental crash. He was decorated with all the honors Italy could confer, and in Brescia a magnificent monument has been erected to his memory. His story, below is one of the most remarkable of all war experiences.

 

THE FLAMING COFFIN

by Lieut. Silvio Scaroni • Sky Fighters, August 1935

I HAVE had many dangerous moments in the air, in observation, bombardment and combat planes. But there is no doubt in my mind as to the most dangerous I ever experienced. It was that night over the Adriatic when I was flying a big three-engined Caproni as part of a bombing formation headed for the Austrian coast. Night flying enemy planes attacked us when we were utterly unprepared.

The brigadier out front had just called for me to come up and take the forward guns as we were approaching the coast line, when I heard a rattle, like rolling thunder, above the roar of the engines. Then there was what seemed like a flash of lightning and I felt myself spinning in the forward nacelle under the impetus of a terrific blow on my shoulder. I picked myself up from the floor of the pit and staggered erect. The big plane was diving straight down, and two lurid streams of fiery tracers splashed on the gangway.

The night attacker was less than fifty meters off our tail. I yelled to the brigadier to pull back on the wheel and yank the ship out of its dive. Then in the phosphorous glare of the tracer I saw that was not possible. The pilot was dead at the wheel, his head almost severed from his body. As I groped toward the control pit, I wondered why Captain Ercle, in the back gunner’s pit, had not come up to take over the controls. The ship was spinning violently and surging downward abruptly now. The Austrian pilot remained fastened to the falling ship like a leech, pumping hundreds of rounds into us. The other planes had disappeared in the blackness.

I managed finally to gain the pit. I stumbled over something and almost fell. When I looked down I saw why Captain Ercle had not been able to take over from the brigadier. It was his dead body I had stumbled over. I yanked the wheel from the dead brigadier’s hand, pushed him from the seat and got his feet off the rudder bar. It was only then I realized that I had only one good hand. My right hung limply at my side.

I gave the wheel a twist and ruddered against pressure, looking overside as I did so. There was a bare, rocky headland beneath, a small black shadow jutting into the sea. The bursts from the attacking plane were still clattering into the Caproni. One engine went dead, then another. I had only one left. Luckily it was the one in the rear, for I would never have been able to maneuver the plane if it had been one of the wing motors. I was weak.

With the rough rock just beneath, I dropped a landing flare. It hit the ground and exploded all at once, blinding me in its dazzling light. The ensuing darkness was blacker than Hades. I could see absolutely nothing, not even the glow lights on my instrument board. But I heard the wheels crunch. I pulled up swiftly, staggered crazily, bumped and rolled still.

Oncoming soldiers shouted at me to throw my hands up. I laughed in their faces and carefully set fire to the big plane. The rifle shots did not get me. Two weeks later I stole across the border and regained our own lines.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain William Erwin

Link - Posted by David on September 6, 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 American Flyer Captain William Erwin’s most thrilling sky fight!

Captain William Erwin holds a unique record. He was the only accredited American observation ace, and piled up a string of 9 official victories while flying slow ungainly two-seaters. A Texan, William Erwin enlisted for training the day after war was declared. He received his commission as a Lieutenant after a bare forty hours of flight and was immediately sent overseas and assigned to the First Aero Squadron which he joined on its first day at the front. Before his first week he had downed an enemy plane and the French awarded him the Croix de Guerre. He was awarded additional recognition by the French and also received the American Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaves. Through the war safely, without ever having been wounded despite his rare courage and daring, he came to an untimely end while flying the Pacific in a futile search for the missing Dole flyers in 1923. Erwin, himself, recounted the following experience to the compiler of these records on a grey day in the Argonne many years ago.

 

ONE AGAINST THREE

by Captain William Erwin • Sky Fighters, July 1935

I HAVE had plenty of tough moments, but the toughest time I ever had was that day we (Erwin and his observer) were sent out to regulate fire on a Hun ‘77 emplacement that was holding up the advance of the whole 26th Division. Orders came through from G.H.Q. that that emplacement must be destroyed. Our squadron got the order, and the C.O. passed the job on to us. “Three Spads from the 95th will be waiting over Somme-Sous to pick you up and furnish protection.”

Well, we got over Somme-Sous all right. But instead of finding three Spads, we found a soupy sky chock full of wildly flying crates. The three Spads were all mixed up with about a dozen Fokkers, and I saw right away if we were going to regulate fire on that Hun target we would have to do it alone—without any protection.

I managed to duck the Huns in the soupy dripping sky and find the ‘77 emplacement. My observer reeled out his wireless antenna and got in contact with the battery. The first salvo came over—wide. Along with it came three Fokkers. I kept circling. The leader dived and sieved the turtleback behind me with a hot Spandau burst, then swept underneath and poked at my belly with snaky tracer. His mates up above were bent on making a mince-meat sandwich out of us. Bursts came from above and below.

Finally my observer got his corrections wirelessed to the battery and went to work with his Lewis on the top Huns. I split-haired and dived for the Fokker beneath. The second salvo came over—still wide! I could hear a sharp oath from the observer, even above the clatter of his guns. With one hand holding the Lewis, he pounded out corrections with the other. The Spandau pellets rattled like hail through my wings and fuselage.

A quick turn and abrupt stall gave me a chance for a burst at the leader of the Huns, who had zoomed up above when one of the others dived below. I pressed the trigger-trip, saw my tracer eat up the fuselage and bore into the pilot’s back. He maneuvered, cartwheeled into a cloud.

The battery meanwhile had got the range and the next salvo did plenty of damage, but a Hun coming head-on at me with both Spandaus flaming, took my mind off that matter. I replied in kind, without budging the stick, then closed my eyes waiting for the bullet with my name on it.

To my surprise, the other plane exploded in flames and went sliding down, leaving a black smoke trail behind. At the same moment a black shadow loomed above me. I glanced up, stick-handled my crate just in time to get out from underneath. The Fokker of the Hun leader was spinning erratically down. The pilot hung out of the cockpit, dead, held in the pit only by his safety belt. Whether he had died after taking that first burst of mine, or whether my observer had got him, I don’t know. That left only one Fokker. He dallied for a little while, until the battery had completely destroyed the ‘77 emplacement, then turned tail and beat it for safety.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Charles Nungesser

Link - Posted by David on August 23, 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 French Flyer Captain Charles Nungesser’s most thrilling sky fight!

Of all the great French Aces, none is more poignantly remembered than Charles Nungesser, who began his flaming war career as a Lieutenant of Hussars and was one of that famous lighting band of cavalrymen that stopped the German Uhlans at the gates of Paris. For his exploits in this heroic stand he was awarded the Medal Militaire, the highest combat award.

But horses were too slow for this daring, dashing young officer. He transferred to aviation and was trained as a bombardment pilot, after which he took part in thirty-eight bombing raids across the German lines, before his unusual flying ability was recognized and he was sent on to a chasse squadron—Nieuport 65.

Nungesser was wounded seventeen different times, but in between times in the hospital managed to run up a score of forty-one victories and was awarded every decoration possible.

Ten years after the war’s end, Nungesser, with a colleague, Major Coli, took off from Paris on an attempted non-stop flight to New York. His plane disappeared into the blue and no trace of either Nungesser, his colleague, or the wreckage of the plane has ever been found. Thus ended the flaming career of one of the greatest of all sky fighters. His own story of a thrilling battle as recorded by a French journalist, follows.

 

A STRANGE VICTORY

by Captain Charles Nungesser • Sky Fighters, June 1935

ALL duels du ciel are thrilling—some in one way, others in another. It is thrilling to down an enemy after pouring burst after burst into his avion. Many times I have done that, but I think it is even more thrilling, more exciting, and certainly more unique when one downs an enemy avion without firing a single shot. I have done that—in fact, I didn’t even have guns on my avion, let alone bullets. I shall tell you about that.

The motor of my avion had been acting up. The mechanic came to me when he had repaired it, and I said I would take it off for a test flight. I did, went way up into the blue above the clouds to 5,000 meters. The motor was splendid. I sailed around absent-mindedly enjoying the beautiful view, when lo and behold, a Boche avion breaks into the clear space beneath me.

Ready for Battle

It is a two-seater, less than thousand meters away. I dip and go for him, but he sees me before I reach firing range. The gunner in back stands up and swings his mitrailleuse on me. Tack-tack! He puffs a short burst. I slip under it and dive faster, my own fingers poised on the trigger trip—ready to give it to him when I get closer.

I get closer, close enough! The Boche is clear in my sight. I press the trigger— but nothing happens! Another burst from the Boche gunner flicks through my wings. My own gun is jammed, I think. I reach up to clear it, still holding on the Boche’s tail.

But Mon Dieu—I have no gun! The cradle is empty!

I am almost about to crash the other’s tail now. He has to dive to get away. I see the rear gunner standing up in his seat. He is fumbling with his gun. It has jammed. Terror is on his face. The Boche pilot dives and zig-zags to get out of my range. I keep pressing close on top, pushing him down in a long steep spiral.

Waiting for the End

The rear gunner gives up, folds his hands complacently and waits for my bursts to snuff his life out. Down and down we spiral, through the clouds, out underneath. The gunner fumbles at his mitrailleuse again, I decide to run my bluff, hoping that I can force them to land before the gunner clears.

Voila! I do. The Boche pilot spies a clear space and sets down. I circle and land beside them, but I am helpless when they set fire to their machine. I have no guns to prevent it.

Poilus surrounded the burning avion and took the two Boches prisoners. Both were very mad and swore profanely when they found out I had no guns on my avion. But it was another victory for me, the most unusual one! The armorer had removed my gun to clean, when my avion was laid up for repairs. I had neglected to see that it was in place before I took off.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Sergeant Take Engmann

Link - Posted by David on August 9, 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 Flying Corp Sergeant Take Engmann’s most thrilling sky fight!

All the great heroes of the war in the air did not fly single-seater fighting planes, and all of the heroes did not accomplish their missions single handed. Some of the great feats were accomplised by the pilots of the bigger, bulkier, clumsier, two and three-seater observation and bombing planes. Sergeant Engmann was one of the heroes of this latter class. Obscure, reticent, retiring by nature, his own part in the many successful missions accomplished by the greatest of all German observation aces, Captain Heydemarck, whose pilot he was, marks him as one of the outstanding flyers of the war.

Between them, flying together, they accounted for over a dozen Allied Planes, despite the fact that destroying enemy aircraft was not their primary duty. The account below is from one of the few written records Engmann left.

 

AGAINST DESPERATE ODDS

by Sergeant Take Engmann • Sky Fighters, May 1935

CAPTAIN HEYDEMARCK was given the initial mission of photographing a Russian concentration camp in France and plotting it on our maps of the enemy terrain, so that our night bombers might attack it later. But we decided to do a little bombing of our own, so I loaded our plane to the limit with forty kilo bombs. The morning mists still lay on the hills and valleys of the Marne when we flew over the lines at 6 a.m.

By using the rising clouds as a mask for our entry, I managed to skip from one to another and keep concealed from enemy patrols. When we got over Mailly, the clouds had broken some, and the morning sun began to break through. The Russian camp lay beneath us.

I idled the motor and nosed down, leveled off when about 300 meters over the camp. Heydemarck snapped his pictures as I circled around. As soon as he had finished, I began dropping the bombs; one, two, three. They hit squarely in the center of the camp and set the barracks on fire. I headed for home.

But I had not gone far when I decided that the whole of the Allied air forces had been called on to intercept us. One after another French ships, Nieuports, Caudrons, Breguets, poked their noses through the rising mists to come hurtling at my Rumpler. I decided to make a bold show, so headed abruptly for the first Nieuport. Just as it commenced firing, I pulled into a swift turn, letting Heydemarck in the back seat take care of it, while I nosed up for the belly of another Nieuport.

Heydemarck’s guns and mine spoke at the same instant, two short bursts! My Nieuport slid off on one wing, turned over, and went spinning down through the clouds. Heydemarck had managed to set fire to the other’s gas tank.

More enemy planes pounced on me swiftly. Heydemarck got his guns in action, but an enemy burst clicked a right strut. Another snapped a flying wire. My left wing dragged. I zigzagged, plunged into a cloud. Saw ten more enemy planes in a group when I came out. They attacked from all sides.

I don’t know what happened for several seconds. We went around and around. Heydemarck kept firing. I fired short bursts, wary of using all my ammunition.

Back and forth, over and up. Then a fast dive, a quick turn. Somehow I found myself in another cloud. The enemy guns were silent. Heydemarck was smiling.

In another moment the enemy formation met us again, guns blazing. I wheeled swiftly, darted back into the cloud. When I broke free of the mists, I had lost the enemy far off to my left. I banked again, raced in a straight line for the trenches. I could see them below. The Nieuports raced after me.

When I skirted over the trenches I was not more than 100 feet off the ground and traveling with the speed of light. Our Archies and machine-guns protected me.

We landed safely at Attigny, our pictures still intact. Not a bullet had touched them! Heydemarck pointed at our one remaining bomb: “What if one of their bullets had hit that detonator?” he said.

I had forgotten to drop it in the excitement of the fight. “Yes, what if one had?” I replied.

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