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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Corporal Edmond C. Genet

Link - Posted by David on May 17, 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 Corporal Edmond C. Genet’s most thrilling sky fight!

The great-great-grandson of Citizen Genet, who served as the revolutionary ambassador from France during George Washington’s term as president, Edmond C. Genet had a distinguished heritage. Mild-mannered and handsome he was a typical soldier of fortune at heart, possessing an astonishing courage. At 10 he missed an appointment to Annapolis and immediately enlisted in the navy where he participated in the taking of Vera Cruz. A year later he was in battle in Haiti. Later on after the war in Europe broke out, he sailed for France to enlist in the Foreign Legion. He served for some years in the trenches as a simple poilu, then was transferred to aviation and assigned to Escadrille N-124, better known as the Lafayette, where he was the youngest American in a company of famous men. Genet’s flying time on the front was short. He was one of the few airplane pilots to be killed in the air by enemy shrapnel. He was the first American to die in action under the stars and stripes, his death occurring just ten days after America entered the war. The account below is from one of his letters home.

 

HOLDING THE HUNS AT BAY

by Corporal Edmond C. Genet • Sky Fighters, December 1934

I WAS flying along with McConnell at a very low altitude behind the German lines. Mac and I were making a survey of the enemy troop concentration. Intelligence had brought word that the Germans were preparing for a push in our area. We were to check on this, and as the country was hilly and wooded, we had to fly low to make the proper observations.

Being so engrossed with our ground work, both of us had neglected to watch the sky lanes. Suddenly we were jumped by a whole flight of Huns who took us completely by surprise! A burst of Spandau lead crackled through my plane from the rear! I glanced back, saw three Huns on me, throwing lead! At the same instant my right cheek began to sting and something scorched across my hip.

I swept up on one wing tip, whirled around. Two other Hun planes confronted me there. Their Spandaus were smoking. I looked over at McConnell, waved at him to go on with the mission while I attempted to hold off the Huns. I thought I could hold them off by making a bold, dashing frontal attack at first one, then the other. Mac banked off and swept down lower toward the ground.

I charged my first Hun with Vickers chattering. He turned aside and I plunged for the next. The second Hun clung to me and we began going round and round ineffectively. But a third Hun from above dived down, raked my turtleback with tracer. I was forced to pull out, but did not run away. I sneaked further inside the German lines drawing the Hun planes with me.

They had apparently forgotten Mac. Our strategy had been successful so far, but I wasn’t so sure that I was going to figure in the picture much longer. For the Huns had the speed on me and it was only a matter of minutes before I was entirely surrounded again. Bullets came from all directions at once. I was cornered. There was nothing to do but fight my way out boldly.

I dived for speed, then zoomed at my nearest antagonist. My tracer raked across his nose, puffed holes in his upper wing. He rolled off to one side to let me pass, for I was determined I would not turn out for him. That gave me an opening and I streaked through with the whole flight of Huns after me.

Presently I was rejoined by Mac, and what a relief! He was smiling, so I knew he had finished his mission successfully. We fought clear back to our lines where the Huns left us. I had just enough strength left to set down on the squadron drome safely, but my squadron mates had to lift me from my seat. It was a hot fight, but Mac and I got what we went out after—information that enabled our corps commander to forestall the German push!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Willy Coppens

Link - Posted by David on May 3, 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 Ace, Lt. Willy Coppens’ most thrilling sky fight!

Willy Coppens was the Belgian Ace of Aces. He got his initial training as a soldier and officer in the cavalry division of the army. He transferred later on to the Flying Corps and began immediately to compile the record of victories that gained him top ranking among sky fighters.

Because the German armies had overrun all but a narrow strip of his own country, he did all of his flying from foreign bases, usually being stationed in the sectors in Flanders occupied by the British forces. Flying foreign machines from foreign bases, he nevertheless built up a remarkable record of successful combats. When his time on the front was ended, unhappily but gloriously, he was officially credited with 32 victories. The account below is from his diary.

 

TRUSTING TO FATE

by Lieutenant Willy Coppens • Sky Fighters, November 1934

FIGHTING great odds is not an uncommon thing. But today I felt for a time that, at last, I had run into a situation where the odds were too great for me.

I was cruising alone over La Chapelle on solo patrol at a very low altitude because of the low hanging clouds.

A full flight of Fokkers, six in all, came down at me like a lightning bolt. I was bottled up before I fully recovered from my first surprise.

I decided to open the attack myself and fight it out if I could. I dived for speed with throttle wide open, then banked swiftly, aiming for the Fokker below. I pressed both trigger trips, sent out a vicious double burst the instant I lined him. But he had pulled back and swept into a swirling vertical bank at the same instant. My burst passed harmlessly beneath the Fokker’s trucks. And instantly bullets began to clatter and zing through my instrument board. I glanced back up, saw one Fokker bearing down on me not more than 10 meters off my tail.

I jerked into a desperate loop, whined out with my attacker just ahead of me. Again I pressed my triggers. This time my bursts literally tore the Fokker to pieces. The vertical rudder shattered, sheared away. Only a quick maneuver on my part saved me from being hit by it. Next the whole tail seemed to disintegrate, and the following moment the Fokker nosed abruptly earthward. First blood was mine. It gave me confidence. But too soon!

When I looked up again, another Fokker was charging at me head on, both Spandaus yammering. The smoke streams parted my wings. Then a second stream of tracer rattled in from the rear. I was getting it fore and aft. I decided to plunge straight ahead.

I did so, gripping both trigger trips and sending out twin streams of tracer as I roared in toward the first Hun. Bullets from the following Hun still rattled around me. But I knew that if I held my ground, the oncoming Hun would have to swerve to escape being rammed in midair. But my senses would not stand the sight. I could not look at the Fokker charging at me, so I closed my eyes and decided to keep them closed until I counted off ten seconds. I kept my guns firing all the time, for the Fokker was centered directly in my sights.

I expected in be killed, and trusted only to fate. The seconds passed interminably in the darkness I had willed. Still I lived! At the count of ten I opened my eyes. The Hun who had been flying at me from in front was spiralling down toward the ground, his plane a mass of red flame and black smoke trails.

God had been with me I knew then. I had got that Hun with my eyes closed. My bullets had exploded his gas tank. Charged now with a renewed vigor and desire to live, I wheeled and attacked my pursuer. But the three remaining Fokker pilots did not stay to fight any longer. They ran for home. I would have chased them, but when I looked at my ammo supply, I saw that I had none, so I went home myself.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Adolphe Pegoud

Link - Posted by David on April 19, 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 Lt. Adolphe Pegoud of the French Flying Corp’s most thrilling sky fight!

Adolphe Pegoud was a famous flyer before the war began. In 1913, flying a tiny Bleriot monoplane, he astonished the world by doing a series of intricate air maneuvers. Later, he made an upside down landing, the first and to this day the only aviator deliberately to perform such a stunt.

With Pourpe, Garros, Vedrines, and several others, he made up the first French air squadron to see action in the World War. In those days planes, frail contraptions of wood, linen and wires, were not armed. The pilots usually carried a rifle or shotgun when going aloft, and sometimes darts and hand grenades. Plane to plane fighting was unknown. The crafts were used for scouting. Pegoud changed all this when ho initiated the first air battle. He tells about it in the account below.

 

THE FIRST AIR BATTLE

by Lieutenant Adolphe Pegoud • Sky Fighters, October 1934

WHILE I had always carried arms while on my trips over the Boche lines and many times had passed within fifty or a hundred meters of Taube pilots, I had never thought to try out my marksmanship on the flying targets. But on this day when I was ordered aloft, I decided that I would allow no more Taube pilots to pass me by so nonchalantly. At least, I was going to let them know that there was a war taking place.

And lucky for me, I encountered my first Taube the same day I was filled with that resolve. I met him just beyond the Fortress of Verdun. He was just a speck when I first glimpsed him off to my right, but I ruddered toward him, flying as fast as my machine would carry me. At one hundred meters distance, the Taube pilot stood up in his seat and waved at me. That fact made me mad. Here I had come to kill him (if possible) and he greeted me with that friendly gesture. I waved my Lebel in the air over my head and shouted at him in French to beware. Of course, he could not hear because of the noise of the engines.

He continued on past me and I swung around and followed him. This maneuver seemed to surprise him. I continued on, coaxing my machine to its greatest speed. Finally I was not more than ten meters to the rear of his. I shouted again, made faces, then put the rifle to my shoulder and fired a bullet over his head to let him know my intentions. Though I had firmly resolved to shoot at the pilot, I realized now that I could not, for he wan apparently unarmed and had been so friendly.

When I fired at him, he must have seen the smoke from my Lebel or saw it flash. He knew then that I was not fooling and tried to escape from my plane by streaking down toward the earth. But I followed intently, my mind occupied now, not on shooting the pilot, but damaging his machine so it would have to land, thus ha would be unable to accomplish his mission.

I stood up in the pit and fired two shots at his gas tank, but nothing happened. Then I had to sit down and maneuver my plane again. The Taube pilot was zigzagging. I got closer and stood up again. This time, he too, stood up, and hurled a hand grenade back at me. But his aim was wild. It hit on the ground far below and exploded there sending up a puff of blue smoke. I aimed my rifle and rapidly fired all my remaining shells at the gas tank again.

Now I saw that something had happened. The Taube began to wobble crazily. The Boche pilot seemed frantic. Finally the motor stopped turning. Then I saw what had happened. One of my bullets had cracked the propeller, and it had shattered, throwing the Taube into terrific vibration and forcing the pilot to cut his engine.

He had to go down. I wished then that I had not been so hasty, for as it was he landed inside his own lines. If I had waited, I could have captured him by forcing his landing on our side. A fresh Taube and its Boche pilot would have been a great trophy to take home and show my mates.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Sergeant Norman Prince

Link - Posted by David on April 5, 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 Norman Prince’s most thrilling sky fight!

Norman Prince lived in France when the World War began. Being immensely wealthy in his own right, he offered to furnish and equip an entire squadron of planes and pilots. The French Army would not accept this generous offer, but Prince, acting in co-operation with William Thaw of Pittsburgh, convinced the officials that they could muster enough Americans to man an entire squadron. Their offer was accepted, and the LaFayette Escadrille was born. A French officer was put in command. All the rest of the pilots were American. Prince’s death was tragic. Though wounded in an air battle, he managed to fly his crippled plane homeward, and was about to land on his own airdrome in the gathering darkness when his plane ran into a telephone pole and crashed. In his weakened condition he did not have strength enough to guide his plane over or around the obstacle. So perished one of the bravest and most courageous of the early American pilots who gave their lives for France. The story below was told to a French reporter.

 

ONE SHOT, ONE HUN!

by Sergeant Norman Prince • Sky Fighters, September 1934

I HAVE had many thrilling brushes with the enemy, so many that I scarcely know which is the most thrilling. All air fights are more or less of the same nature, and the actual thrills are usually delayed until the bottle is passed in mess several hours after the fight took place. No one has time to feel thrilled when the actual fighting takes place. One’s mind is then concentrated on how to defeat the enemy pilot and escape death.

My hardest fight happened over St. Menehold. With two squadron mates I chased five Boche fighters far back behind their own lines. Ten kilometers in, the Boche divided, flying in three different directions. One swung to the left, two to the right, and two continued straight ahead. I kited after those ahead. They waited just long enough to separate me from my companions, then banked suddenly, swinging around at me from opposite directions. One zoomed above me. The other dived under my belly; perfect team work on their part. Almost before I realized it the bullets from their guns came clicking through my plane.

I dived, went into a swift loop, saw when I was coming out of it that they had anticipated this maneuver; so I shifted controls quickly, half rolled and came out flying in the opposite direction. An instant vertical bank got me on the tail of the first Boche. I pressed my stick trigger. Nothing happened! The Vickers had jammed without spewing a single shot. Panic seized me momentarily.

But another burst of bullets clicking through my fuselage brought me out of that daze. I crossed controls, fell off on one wing; then stood up in the cockpit and leaned over the gun breech. I saw what the trouble was. The webbed bandolier had been raked with machine-gun bullets. It was useless. The Boche bullets still rained about me. I had to do something quickly.

I ripped the bandolier from the breech feeder, shoved a single shell in the chamber and pulled the cocking handle. I had then what was equivalent to a single shot rifle. One bullet against two Boches with perfectly functioning Spandaus! It was ridiculous, but war plays strange pranks. Sometimes you are favored, sometimes not.

I managed to shed the Boche bursts in their next attack. Then as one swept past me, I swung in line with him, dived, came up under his belly. As my plane poised in air almost vertical, my sights centered the pilot’s pit. I uttered a silent prayer, pressed the stick trigger, expended my single shot.

It was effective. The Boche plane wobbled, one wing-tip upended, then it began to spin, uncontrollably. I reached up again, cleared the shell and jammed in another, then went sailing after the second Boche. But he had seen enough, I guess. He went scuttling homeward with his tail between his legs.

I did not have gas or—nerve enough—to chase him any further inside his own lines. Believe me I was glad to set down on my own drome safely fifteen minutes later. It was my narrowest escape, the tightest moment I ever want to experience.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Giuseppe Barracca

Link - Posted by David on March 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 Italian Ace of Aces Major Giuseppe Barracca’s most thrilling sky fight!

Quite in contrast with Alan McLeod of the Royal Flying Corps, who was one of the youngest of the famous flying aces. Major Giuseppe Barracca, Ace of Aces of the Italian Flying Corps, was one of the oldest, being 34 years of age when he was killed in the desperate air fighting above the Piave. Like Captain Ritter von Schleich, he entered the war a cavalry officer, but soon was transferred to the more romantic, yet more hazardous branch of the army, the flying corps.

He took part in more than 1,000 flights over the enemy lines, 70 of which were long distance bombing raids. He disappeared during a night flight when he took to the air to fight off German and Austrian bombers which had been reported bombing Red Cross hospitals. His body and the crashed ship was found two days later when the heroic Italians won back the ground the Austrians and Germans had taken from them six months before. A single stray bullet had snuffed out the life of this greatest of Italian aces, who, like von Schleich, had disappeared after running his score to 36 victories. The account below is taken from his diary.

 

TWO IN THE NIGHT

by Major Giuseppe Barracca • Sky Fighters, August 1934

JUMPING into my single-seater, I took off immediately. Not waiting for the rest of the squadron to form I headed for the front to intercept the enemy without circling for ceiling.

The night was bright with much moonlight bathing the scraggy battlefield beneath in an eerie, silvery glow. “What an ideal night for raiding!” I thought, but, “I must stop them before they reach their objective!”

I had my little single-seater climbing steeply. All the time I was peering ahead, trying to pierce the starry skies and spy my enemies. Finally they showed, an extended line of blinking red lights—the flames from their exhausts.

As I was above them, I throttled my own motor, so my own exhausts would not show and give my location away. Then down I went in a steady glide, headed directly for the leader, aiming directly between the fluttering exhausts of the two motors on either side of the pilot’s pit. At two hundred yards I pressed my triggers. Two livid streaks of flame marked the path of my tracers in the sky—but they were high!

I lowered my nose, pressed the trigger again. I saw my tracer cut luminous paths through the wings of the leading bomber. I ruddered back and forth, spraying the lead in a slow traverse.

Then all Hades bloomed in the night sky. Every gunner in the formation must have turned his guns on me at once. Tracers stream spewed from everywhere. Still, I held my own gun steady.

But the big bomber did not fall. We were approaching head-on at terrific speed, bullets still splattering. I had to dive under to keep from being rammed. I pulled up in a loop behind, half rolled, dived at it again, let go with my guns when in range. This time my shots were good. My explosive bullets must have penetrated the petrol tank.

Red flames shot out, fanwise, lighting the whole sky.

In the glare of light from the burning plane, I got my sights on the bomber at the left of the falling funeral torch. Bullets clattered into my little ship, but hit nothing vital. I let go with a burst at very close range, then dived underneath. The upper gunner swung his tracer on me, but I side-slipped, went into a dive, then zoomed up under another. It was just a vague black shape above me. But my tracer etched flaming holes in it. It slid off on one wing, went flailing down, to burst in fire when it crashed.

By this time my squadron mates had got up to help me.

I did not knock down any more, but the bombing armada was turned from its course. They never reached the cities. Their bombs exploded harmlessly in the open fields.

A very successful fight. I have heard of no other pilot who has brought down two enemy planea in a single night flight. Naturally, I am elated, but I wish it had been two more.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Alan McLeod, R.F.C.

Link - Posted by David on March 8, 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 Canada’s Lieutenant Alan McLeod’s most thrilling sky fight!

Alan McLeod was one of the three Canadian airmen winning the coveted award of the Victoria Cross, the highest honor bestowed on its fighting heroes by the British Empire, He was the youngest flyer ever to receive the honor, having it pinned on his chest in appropriate ceremonies at Buckingham Palace a few months before his nineteenth birthday.

Whereas most of the other British airmen who received this coveted honor accomplished their deeds of heroic valor in fast, single-seater fighting machines, young McLeod used a heavy, unwieldy, Armstrong-Whitworth two-seater which was poorly equipped for air combat. But Alan McLeod used it just as though it were a pursuit ship, never running from a possible chance lo shoot it out with enemy planes in the air, no matter how heavy the odds were against him. The fight he tells about below is one of the great epics of the air. McLeod was wounded six times, but recovered, only to succumb to influenza five days before the armistice was signed.

 

DOWN IN FLAMES

by Lieut. Alan McLeod, R.F.C. • Sky Fighters, June 1934

WHEN zooming up after dropping my last bomb, I saw a Hun Fokker, coming at me from the rear. I swung my machine up on one wing, gave my observer, Hammond, in the back seat, a chance at it. His first burst of Lewis fire was effective. It went fluttering down like a falling leaf, swaying from side to side.

I climbed for altitude then. At 5,000 feet the sun broke through the clouds. A flight of eight scarlet-painted Fokker tripes burst through with the sun. One dived, then zoomed up under my tail. I banked steeply. Hammond got his guns on it just as the Hun let go with a burst that crackled through the lower wing just beyond my head. It went spiralling down, a black smoke trail pluming behind it.

The seven other Fokker tripes dived in with a vengeance then, attacking from all sides, and simultaneously! The air was full of German tracer. My wings were sieved. Flying wires snapped, coiled up like watch springs. I felt something like a hot knife slide across my stomach. A red shape flashed down in front of me. I pressed my gun triggers, sent in a withering burst of lead that seemed to splatter like a pinwheel as it hit. More struts on my plane cracked, shattered, sheared in two from Spandau bursts. A sharp pain stabbed me in the groin. But the red Fokker went to pieces in the air, tumbled down beneath me.

I glanced back. Tracer streams from two Fokkers were pouring at Hammond. One of his arms was hanging limply. Blood saturated his mitten. He was aiming his Lewis’ with the other hand. I went around in a sweeping, climbing turn, to get him above the attackers. Our plane groaned, crackled some more. More holes appeared like lightning in the upper wing, the lower. Another sharp pain stabbed through my lower right leg. A burst of German tracer found my petrol tank, it puffed into flames. I got in a final shot at a red Hun who swept across my path. He went down, out of control.

The heat from the burning tank lashed back in my face. Flames, choking smoke swirled in the cockpit. I loosened my belt, stepped out on the lower left wing. Holding on with my left hand, moving the stick with my right, I threw the machine into a steep side-slip, blowing the flames and smoke away from us.

Two Fokkers slid down with us, firing as they came.

Hammond, weak and reeling in the back pit, got one of them just before we hit the ground, then climbed up on the top wing. The machine crashed, thudded, bounced, throwing me off. Hammond was swept back into his pit. Flames and smoke enveloped him, the whole machine.

I raced back, pulled him out, carried him away from the fire. Bullets thudded around us, machine-gun and rifle bullets from the Huns in their trenches, not two hundred yards away,

I kept going away from them until a deep blackness descended. That is all I remember.

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.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major J.T. McCudden, R.F.C.

Link - Posted by David on February 8, 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 J.T. McCudden’s most thrilling sky fight!

MAJOR James T. McCudden was one of the most modest and unassuming of the great flying aces. When the war began he was an engine mechanic with the then recently formed Royal Flying Corps. After flying training he became a Sergeant pilot, and began, piling up the string of victories which eventually placed him at the top of all the British aces. He was progressively promoted to Lieutenant, Captain and Major, and won every medal possible, including the Victoria Cross.

In the air he was absolutely fearless and could handle a plane as well as the best of his fellows. But his ability in using the machine-gun made him superior to all others. He was a crack gunner. He was killed in an accident when taking off to fly back to the front after one of his infrequent leaves. The account below is taken from his book, “Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps.”

 

ONE AGAINST FIVE

by Major J. T. McCudden, R.F.C. • Sky Fighters, January 1934

I WAS out stalking alone at a 19,000 foot level over Cambrai when I caught sight of five Hun scouts over Bourlon Wood. They were cruising several thousand feet below me. I sized up the situation for a moment, then went down swiftly in a screeching dive, aiming right through the middle of the formation.

After driving through the formation, I pulled up abruptly directly behind and beneath the leader, in his blind spot. I withheld my fire as long as possible, then let go with a short burst at very close range. His ship, an Albatross, went streaking down with plywood strips shredding and crackling from the fuselage. My tracers had almost ripped his fuselage in two. I didn’t have time to watch him crash for the four other scouts jumped me from behind.

I maneuvered quickly, however, and managed to get behind one of them, a Pfalz. One short burst took care of him. He went down in a spiral dive. The other three now began to show signs of alarm. They spread in all directions. I got my guns on an Albatross, pumped a long burst at him, but he spun and got away. I had been so intent firing at him, I didn’t notice the Albatross that slid in behind me pumping lead, until I heard the bullets crackling through the fuselage at my back.

I reversed more quickly than I ever had. Got my sights in line again, and was feeding him a lovely burst from Vickers and Lewis when both my guns stopped. On looking, I saw that the Lewis drum on the top gun was empty, the Vickers belt below was broken.

So there I was with no guns. But my two quick victories had given me confidence. I felt awfully brave, so went chasing after them with no guns. The two Albatross pilots weren’t very lively on either the stick or trigger, and I almost ran into the tail of the remaining Pfalz. I got so close that I could have popped the pilot in the eye with a rotten egg—if I had had any.

I chased those two fellows as far in as Cambrai, then growing cautious because of my failing petrol supply, I turned back and left them. I had got two of the formation and chased the other three away without any bullets. Of course, if the Huns had known that, it wouldn’t have been so easy, the three of them might have ganged on me.

When I got home and made my report my flying mates kidded me about not having a ready supply of rotten eggs handy in the pit.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Max Immelmann

Link - Posted by David on January 25, 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 Lieutenant Max Immelmann’s most thrilling sky fight!

LIEUTENANT Max Franz Immelmann was the first of the great German Aces. Immelmann scored victory after victory over the Allied flyers until his total score mounted higher than that of any of the Allied Aces.

He was an excellent gunner and as a flyer had no peer during his time. He was the first to use the quick Climbing reverse turn, which was the fastest method of changing direction while in full flight. The maneuver first demonstrated by Immelmann in his sky battles over the Western front has since been named after him, the Immelmann turn. It was a very effective maneuver and enabled him to gain many victories. He and Oswald Boelke served in the same Squadron. When he was killed Boelke went on to surpass his records, only to be surpassed himself after he was killed, by Baron von Richthofen.

None of the American flyers, except those flying with the French, ever encountered Immelmann in the air. He was killed in 1918 before America entered the war. The account below was told to a newspaper correspondent.

 

TWO OUT OF THREE

by Lieutenant Max Immelmann • Sky Fighters, January 1934

AIR fighting is like any other kind of fighting. Victory goes usually to the strongest and best prepared. The French have tried to make it more romantic, like the fighting of the knights of old, man to man in bold, open fighting on mounted chargers. That is spectacular and picturesque. I do not believe it the best method. The object in war is to down as many of the enemy planes as is possible without losing any of your own. Thus you may obtain the mastery of the air, which is necessary in this modern war, if the ground troops are going to win success.

For that reason I have adopted tactics which seem on the surface prudent. I aim to destroy the enemy without letting them destroy me. My methods are best explained by giving an example. Three days ago, I was out cruising the lines with my patrol. We were in layer formation. One was far below, leading. Two others were further back of him and higher up, one on either side. I brought up the rear, directly behind the leader, and higher up than any of them.

While flying in that formation, the leader encountered a patrol of three Frenchmen. His instructions were to fly on until attacked, which he did. My patrol never even let on that they saw the approaching formation. They flew along parallel with the lines in steady flight without changing elevation. I throttled down my machine and dropped back, until the rest of my patrol was just mere specks. Then I shoved on full throttle and climbed for the sun.

The Frenchmen drove in for the attack on the three German planes below. My men kept their formation until the bullets began to get too close, then they returned the fire and adopted defensive tactics. At the same time, they retreated back over our lines, to draw the enemy over our territory. They were making a running fight of it, according to instructions, diverting the attackers’ intentions all to themselves; but knowing all the time that I would be diving down unawares from the disc of the sun behind to pounce upon the enemy in surprise.

And I did. I dived straight down from the well of the sun, my fingers poised over the gun trips. At one hundred yards I opened up on the first Frenchman. My tracers bored through his cockpit and he went spinning down. But not before I had dived underneath him to zoom up again with my guns pointed at his nearest comrade.

I opened up on him, saw my tracers eating into his belly. One plane was down now. I had the position on the second, and the first shots in. My comrades then, all banked and raced in for attack on the third Frenchman. He fought them bravely, I must admit, returning burst for burst. But he was doomed from the first with three against one.

My opponent slipped from my tracer stream, and nosed down towards his own lines. I zoomed up, half-rolled (Immelmanned—Ed.), changed direction and went streaking after him, still pouring tracer. Glancing back over my shoulder I saw the second enemy break apart beneath the guns of my mates. His plane fell to pieces and went fluttering down.

When I looked forward again, my opponent had dived and won away from me. I nosed down and went after him, but he went even faster for a forced landing just on the other side of his own lines where his ship upended in a shell crater and smashed one wing.

That was the end of the fight. Two French ships had been destroyed in our own territory. The other had been forced down to a crash landing just out of our reach. That was poor strategy on my part. I should have headed him off, making him land on our side. However, my patrol was still intact. Next time, I vowed I would not make such a slip. With perfect strategy and tactics properly executed, we would have accounted for all three enemy ships over our own territory.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Frank Baylies

Link - Posted by David on January 11, 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 Lieutenant Frank Baylies’ most thrilling sky fight!

FRANK BAYLIES volunteered in the American Ambulance section, serving in that unit attached to the French armies from February 26th, 1916, to May 11th, 1918. In the early spring of ‘18 he transferred to the aviation. He became a member of the famous Stork squadron of the French Flying Corps.

He made an exceptional record there which he carried on to the Lafayettes.

After a short blasting meteoric career he disappeared in action on June 17th, 1918. He and Edwin C. Parsons, his American flying mate in the Storks, went out on a late afternoon patrol that day.

Soon after they took off at 5 p.m. Parsons lost sight of Baylies who was flying a much swifter machine. But he caught up with him later when it was almost dark. Baylies was far back in Germany in a dog fight with four Huns. Parsons saw his plane go down with smoke issuing from it.

Baylies never returned. Afterwards a German plane flew low over the French lines and dropped a weighted Streamer, carrying a simple message from the Germans: “Pilot Baylies killed in action. Burled with military honors.” Thus he died after marking up a record of over 20 Victories, 13 of which were officially observed. The account below is taken from one of his letters home.

 

STOPPING A PHOTO MISSION

by Lieutenant Frank Baylies • Sky Fighters, January 1934

I WAS out on solo patrol looking for Hun scouts who were supposed to clear the skies for a following photo mission. I had been zigzagging across the lines for some time when I got a glimpse of my prey, spewing down from a cloud formation.

I turned and started climbing. Number One passed me overhead. Number Two was vertical, standing on a wing-tip and heading me off. I pulled back on my stick, stood my Spad on its tail, and pressed my trigger trips, letting Number One Hun have it from both guns. He didn’t have much to say in reply—his ship went spinning down without a moment’s hesitation. His plane hit the ground with a terrific smash, flattened out there a crumpled mass of debris.

“Poor devil,” I thought. “That’s his last ride!” Still I had the consolation of knowing that he’d have got ten men if he could. I wheeled around to attack the second, but both my guns jammed on the first burst.

I went home to clear them, then I tried out again. I was nearly five miles in when I spied the four Hun two-seaters out after photos, flying very low in perfect formation, with rear guns elevated for perfect cross fire. I dove at the last ship, shooting as I passed, but my burst missed.

The gunners in the rear seats swung their guns down, opened up full blast. But I pulled up through the fire, swiftly, hung right under the Hun’s belly and let him have it. Tac-tac-tac! My tracer streams scorched through the pilot’s seat. He crumpled. I pulled back further on the stick, still firing. The slugs stitched up the fuselage to the gunner’s pit. Then the two-seater slid off on a wing, went sliding down. That Hun would fight no more!

By that time the others figured they had enough, I guess. I chased them clear back to their field, dodging archies all the way. Then calling it a day, I wheeled about and went racing for home, landing just in time to douse my face and hands with water, change my shirt and dash into the mess. Happy as hell, but famished with hunger. You know I have an appetite like a bear, I eat more, and more often, than any of the other boys in the squadron.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant David Putnam

Link - Posted by David on November 30, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Lieutenant David Putnam’s most thrilling sky fight when he scored five victories in one flight!

Lieutenant Putnam was one of the American flying aces who saw service under two flags. He began his career with the French before America entered the war. At first he served with the Ambulance Corps, but was later transferred to aviation, where he established a reputation as one of the most daring flyers on the front.

As late as July, 19I8, he was still flying with the French, but transferred to the American Forces in August. He was officially credited with 10 victories, but his actual record was over twice that number. Confirmations for his victories were hard to get, for he always flew alone and operated far within the German lines. But flyers who flow in the same squadron with him acknowledged his ability and superiority. The account, given below was secured from him when he was still a Sergeant with the French Flying Corps.

 

FIVE VICTORIES IN ONE FIGHT

by Lieutenant David Putnam • Sky Fighters, November 1933

My most thrilling air fight is hard to pick. All of them are thrilling in one way or another. Some maybe more than others. I hesitate to choose the most thrilling, so I shall give an account of my most successful flight.

That is the time I knocked down five Boches in a single fight. It was during the big push of the Germans on the Marne on June 5th, 1918. I was still flying with the French, and was cruising alone far behind the enemy lines in the region of Fere-en-Tardenois, when I glimpsed five, six, seven—yes, ten black specks slightly above the horizon line four or five kilometers farther in.

I circled slowly and watched the specks while they grew and took shape. As they approached closer to me I saw that they were German Albatrosses flying in layer formation. For an instant I debated with myself whether to run for home or stay and attack. The odds of ten to one were against me. I came to a snap decision, poured on all throttle, and raced right for their midst.

I figured that my sheer audacity would momentarily disrupt them. In that moment I might have a chance to get in some telling blows.

I kited right for the middle of the formation, aiming to get my plane between the ten enemy ships in such a position that they couldn’t shoot at me without danger of shooting down their own comrades.

My tactics were successful.

The Albatrosses spread and let me in their net; then they all turned as one and came in at me with guns blazing. It was what I wanted. I banked tightly, letting the bullets spray around me until the Albatrosses came in very close. The German guns suddenly stilled, however, when they saw their tracers streaming perilously close to their own comrades’ planes.

That was the moment I was awaiting. I opened up with both guns. One Albatross fell immediately. It was my seventh victory. I banked quickly and lined on another. It burst into flames.

The Germans began to scatter now, darting every way, up and down and to both sides, to get out of their own lines of fire. I followed two who wheeled away from me, got my sights on one, pressed the Bowdains. It fell off quickly. I lined the other instantaneously, still holding my triggers down. The plane burst into flames. Both went down together.

My slugs couldn’t seem to miss. I was just lucky, I guess. I felt a crackle behind my back. I turned my head quickly, saw a Boche hanging on my tail and peppering me with lead. His tracer was close, too close!

I dived, then reversed.

Again I was lucky. I came out right under his belly and gave him both guns. He fell off in a slow spin. It was my fifth victory in that single dog-fight. The Germans must have had enough. The five Albatrosses turned and ran away.

I let them go, certain that I couldn’t rely on sheer luck any longer; for sheer luck it most surely was. I looked at the clock on my dash as I kited for home. The whole flight had lasted only about eighteen or twenty minutes!

But when I got back, I found that only one of my victories had been observed. It was the only one I got credit for—officially. Yet, what did it matter? Actual results are what count. Whether it is a matter of record or not is unimportant.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Capitaine Georges Madon

Link - Posted by David on November 16, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This week we have Capitaine Georges Madon, another great French Ace, telling of his most thrilling sky fight!

Capitaine Georges Madon was one of the most famous of the French flying aces. Along with Guynemer, Navarro and Nungesser, he furnished the spectacular flying news that filled the newspapers in the early days of the World War. He was credited with over forty victories and only the great Guynemer topped him in the list of French aces during his time on the battle front.

Cool, courageous and audacious, he kited the battle skies, making short shrift of all the enemy flyers who were unfortunate enough to encounter his specially gunned Nieuport fighter. Yet, when asked to describe his most thrilling air battle, he hesitated some moments before giving an account of the air collision described below. Such a collision three miles above the earth was something that was feared by every front line pilot.

 

AN EIGHTEEN THOUSAND FOOT FALL

by Capitaine Georges Madon • Sky Fighters, November 1933

I was flying high over the front lines. The altimeter showed 6,000 meters to be exact. I looked down over one side of my lower left wing and saw a Boche. I dived down to attack him immediately. He didn’t see me until my tracer began to crackle through his fuselage. Then he maneuvered quickly to avoid my charge. But he must have been a new pilot for he did the wrong thing. He zoomed right up into the path of my Nieuport.

There was a thunderous crash, then all went still as death. My right lower wing was torn off. The enemy plane was completely pulverized. In some manner we fell apart as we started to drop. The minutes that followed gave me some thrills, I tell you. I looked at my sick plane. The propeller was broken. Struts were torn out. Guy wires fluttered back in the growing air stream. The wing that had torn off fluttered down beside me. All was in ruins, I saw that.

But it was the atrocious, horrid thought of the fall, which was bound to end soon with a smash on the ground, that set my nerves tingling and put my mind to work.

The wreck of my plane dropped nose down for several hundred meters. Then it went into a slow spin that lasted for about 4,000 meters.

I moved my control stick, convulsively, frantically, but uselessly. The control wires had sheared away. A sickening sensation gripped me. My mind went aflame with multiple thoughts. In turn, I seemed to review in my memory, scenes of my family, of my duty in the chasse squadrons, of my captivity in Germany, of my escape, and a thousand other things. One’s memory works fast at such moments. But what was co-existent with these scenes and towered above all else was my fear of falling among the Boches.

Suddenly, by some miracle of fate, the spinning ceased. I had done nothing with my controls. Nevertheless, my sick plane slowly but surely righted itself. And miracle of miracles! It headed right toward our own lines.

I ponder with my heart still in my chest. Perhaps I shall escape death? I’ll fracture my legs! I’ll break my back! I shall surely become an invalid—but I shall live!

I shall live! Words of hope, divine words that often were, alas, the last ones faintly uttered by so many of my comrades. A shadow crosses my vision. I look, barely see some poplar trees. I try to steer through them, hit them in order to break the impact of my fall. But the stick dangles loosely in my grip. The rudder bar is pressureless beneath my feet.
I shoot beyond the poplar trees. A darker shadow looms. It is the ground!

There is a terrific crackling. A sinister thud. Flying debris. A rude jolt and jar. It is the end!

But no! From the tangled heap I succeed in extricating myself. And I had only broken my finger!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Gabrielle d’Annunzio

Link - Posted by David on November 2, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it the Italian Ace, Captain Gabrielle d’Annunzio.

Captain Gabrielle d’Annunzio, famous Italian poet and dramatist and enthusiastic patriot, was one of the most colorful and forceful of Italian flyers in the early days of the World War. He enlisted early in the most spectacular branch of the army, the Italian Air Corps. Soon after completing his training he was assigned to a bombardment squadron which was charged with harassing the then fast-advancing Austro-German armies, which threatened to overwhelm the brave Italian defenders and take the capitol at Home. By exerting superhuman efforts the Italians prevented that.

The following is taken from reports of newspaper correspondents at the scene of battle.

 

MY FIRST NIGHT FLIGHT

by Captain Gabrielle d’Annunzio • Sky Fighters, October 1933

I was nervous on that night. It was to be my first night bombardment flight. I was detailed to blow up an ammunition dump. It was necessary that this dump be destroyed to halt the advance of the victorious Austro-German armies. I was not sure of myself, but my heart bled for my country. I must succeed, I vowed. It was not fear of death that made me nervous, but fear of not being able to accomplish my mission.

We took off shortly after midnight. The moon was shining brilliantly on the beautiful Italian hill country over which we were flying. Soon we were across the lines, and the Austrian anti-aircraft batteries opened up. I thought I was high enough to be out of range, but a dazzling red mushroom flare that burst above me made me realize I was mistaken.

I tried to climb, then, and nosed up. But my bomber was too heavily loaded and the controls wouldn’t answer. For an instant I was panicky, I swung right and left when the shell began to burst nearer and nearer to me.

After a few minutes of that, I saw that I could dodge the shrapnel. The feeling of panic left me. I grew confident and headed directly for my target, which was easily recognized in the shower of moonlight. I sent the bomber down low, through a hail of shrapnel and machine-gun bullets. But I didn’t worry about them. I was over the dump and knew I could destroy it the moment I dropped my bombs.

I went down lower and lower to make sure I wouldn’t miss. Finally I let go and zoomed up. There was a brilliant flare that filled the whole sky. Then a terrific concussion that shook my bomber like it was fragile cardboard. But I didn’t care. I was happy. I had accomplished my mission. Whether I returned or not was inconsequential.

But I did get back, and safely. I knew then that I could handle a night bomber. I was never nervous about night bombardment any more and I hadn’t failed my country.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Frank Luke

Link - Posted by David on October 19, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! The man considered America’s second greatest Ace, Frank Luke tells us about his most thrilling sky fight.

Frank Luke! How much the name means to those few who knew how he fought and died. His front line career was short, hectic and dynamic. He blazed across the war-torn skies of France like a flaming meteor. Very few people ever heard of Luke during his short but Sensational career on the Western Front. His fame and name came after he died. He is recognized now as the most courageous, the most audacious war bird that ever handled a control stick and pressed the Bowden triggers mounted on it. Only Eddie Rickenbacker topped him in the final list of American Aces after the War was ended. Rickenbacker was officially credited with 26 victories. Frank Luke had 21. But the comparison is hardly fair to Luke, for Rickenbacker was on the front for almost six months, while Luke’s front line career lasted only a little over two weeks. Even in that short space of time he had worked up to the top and was the American Ace of Aces when he died. There is no telling what, score he would have run up, if fortune had been more in his favor. The story below he told to Sergeant John Monroe, who was a favorite of his.

 

VENGEANCE FLIGHT

by Lieutenant Frank Luke • Sky Fighters, October 1933

Which was my most satisfactory fight? Well, all of them that ended with the other fellow going down to his death were pretty satisfactory. But there is one that stands out above all my victories so far.

That’s the fight in which I got the Hun who knocked down the Englishmen in the crippled De Haviland. I didn’t like the way that Hun waited for the Limey’s motor to go bad before pouncing on them. They didn’t have a chance. One burst was all the Hun needed. Being on the ground myself at the time, I didn’t think I had time to get in my ship and get up there in time to get in on the fight.

But when I saw the D.H.’s wing fall off and the ship go down in a spin, I felt a peculiar feeling inside me. My Spad was ready on the line. I hopped into it and took off. By the time I had gained altitude the Hun was streaking for home. But I was determined to get him. It was a long rear-end chase and getting dark fast.

No matter, I caught the bird about five kilometers inside his own lines and piqued down on his tail with blood in my eye. I held my fire until I was about a hundred meters behind his streaking Fokker, then I let go with both guns.

But the Hun had been watching me, I guess. He jerked up in a screaming zoom and my shots went low. I got mad, threw my Spad into an abrupt chandelle right on his tail. He Immelmanned away. I followed. We went round and round.

He didn’t shoot at me, but was damn successful in keeping away from my bursts. I was getting madder and madder every second, and threw a lot of slugs, uselessly. After a few moments of that going round and round, I got wise to myself. The Hun was making a monkey of me, just playing me out.

Understand, I was plenty far back in the enemy lines and it was getting dark fast. He knew he would get me if he just strung out the fight a little. Within a few more minutes there was bound to be a whole sky full of his mates come to his assistance. He knew that and was just marking time. I sensed that after a while.

It made me mad again, to think I had been such a fool. But I didn’t go off my nut. I kept my head, and circled round and round with him some more, watching from the corner of my eye for other Huns, and keeping my thumbs off the Bowden trips. I didn’t intend wasting any more slugs until I had a sure shot.

That chance came before I expected it. He showed his tail surfaces just momentarily. I pressed the trips. The tracer bored through the fuselage behind his back. That was all there was to it. The Fokker plunged over in an abrupt dive and went roaring into the earth with the motor full on.

I beat it for our advance landing field then with my motor wide open. And good thing they had thrown some gasoline in the sand barrels and lighted it. With the light from those flares I was able to sit down without cracking up.

I won’t get any credit for that victory, though. There weren’t any observers. But what the h—! I got him after he got the crippled Englishmen. That’s reward enough!

It was my most satisfactory fight.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Georges Guynemer

Link - Posted by David on October 5, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s Georges Guynemer, France’s national treasure!

Captain Guynemer, French flier, was the moat spectacular and colorful of all the flying Aces. Young, tall, slender, but in very poor physical health, he was a veritable demon in the air, He had absolutely no regard for his own personal safety. Time after time be attacked single-handed whole squadrons of enemy planes. On the ground he was shy, reserved, and spoke very few words to anyone. Whenever he came to Paris on his very infrequent leaves from the front to secure medical aid, the whole city was decorated in festive attire in his honor. He was the toast of the boulevards, the darling of the French populace. And the whole world mourned his passing when he died, shot down by a comparatively obscure German pilot, who got in a chance shot from exceedingly long range. The German pilot, Wisseman, never knew until afterward that it was the great Guynemer that he had shot down. When Guynemer passed mysteriously into the blue, he was officially credited with 57 enemy aircraft and universally recognized as the Ace of Aces of all the armies.

When asked by a newspaper correspondent to tell of his most thrilling air battle, he brought out a little black notebook from his tunic pocket and translated from it very matter-of-factly the account that follows below.

 

FOUR VICTORIES IN A SINGLE DAY

by Captain Georges Guynemer • Sky Fighters, October 1933

My most thrilling air battle! Let me think. Ah, I have it! It was the day I won four victories, a spring day in May, 1917. Two days before my closest rival, Lieutenant Nungesser, had downed three Boches. I was determined to beat his record.

I went out alone on solo patrol early in the morning. While cruising high behind the Boche lines, I see a lone enemy plane and make for it. A good start, I say to myself, I must not fail. I throw my Spad down in a power dive and approach very close. The enemy pilot does not see me. I press my gun trips and get in a burst. It is a good one. A wing shears from the other plane and it crashes in the woods near Corbeny. That was at 8:30 in the morning. I am elated. It was so easy. But I was foolish. I forgot to watch out of the corner of my eye.

A moment later I bank around lazily and run smack into the tracer of another Boche who has piqued down from the clouds to avenge the death of his comrade. The bullets crackle through my wings. I maneuver swiftly and escape the pilot’s hail of fire. But then the gunner in the rear seat has his guns on me. I remain calm, though, I slip off on one wing, go into a dive, then zoom up beneath. On my back I see that I have the other plane lined. I press the trips for a quick burst. It is enough. The two-seater goes down in flames toward Jusancourt.

Captain Auger comes along then, and we fly together towards another two-seater about a kilometer off, behind the enemy trenches. The enemy sees us and flees for home. I speed up and catch him, press my trips again. But sad thing! Nothing happens. My cartridge bandolier is empty. Then I realize my first flight must not have been so easy. I expended more cartridges than I thought. I turn and fly back to my own airdrome.

At 2 o’clock in the afternoon I go out again, hunting around by myself, I encounter soon a D.F.W. Ah, another chance, I say. I leap in with pulses throbbing, The other pilot shoots first, at long range. I dodge his bullets and press in closer. At close range I open up with both guns at a vital spot. I am rewarded for my patience. The D.F.W. bursts into flames. I watch it until it crashes, then go cruising around again.

I meet up with another two-seater between Guignicourt and Condesur-Snippes. If I make a record, I must get him, I think. So I am wary. I do not attack immediately. I pretend I do not see him and circle back behind the enemy lines, getting his machine between me and my own lines. Then I race back to attack from the rear. He wiggles out of my burst, and shoots back at me. We exchange bursts tit for tat. I vow I will press in with guns flaming until he falls. I do not fear he will get me first. I have confidence. My next bursts are effective. The pilot wilts in his seat. His plane goes spinning down.

Voila! I am happy.

It was my best day, four victories.

At 3:40, when my gas is low, I turn about and fly home.

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