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“Sky Fighters, September 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on February 19, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. For the September 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the Nieuport 17 taking on a Albatross D1!

The Ships on the Cover

PLANES kicked through the air at th_SF_3509 the first of the war and were laughed at by the ground troops and their commanders. Toys, things to wonder at and possibly admire; but to be taken seriously as an offensive weapon. Never!

Weapon? That’s exactly the right word that keys the whole advance of the airplane from a trick war sideline to a major cog in the wheels of war. On the Nieuport in the foreground the weapon blazing from the top wing is the Lewis gun with a revolving metal drum which fed shells into the gun breech. But let’s slide back to the first part of the war when machine-guns were not thought possible. In August, 1914, cavalry carbines were occasionally tucked into a cockpit and the observer or even a pilot of a single seater optimistically pushed the snout out over the side of the fuselage and took a pot shot at a Boche flying parallel to his plane. With the vibration from the engine, the bumpy air and the back pressure from the slipstream it was all the would-be assassin could do to hold the rifle from jerking out of his hands and barging back into the empennage, let alone draw a bead on the enemy who had ideas of his own about remaining in focus.

Bags of Bricks

Finding this method useless the sharpshooters of the air dragged out, believe it or not, good old bags of bricks. The trick was to get above your opponent, mentally calculate the trajectory of a brick from your shaking hand to the whirling prop of the enemy plane. Of course there was always the chance of ringing the bell by a super-lucky throw if the falling brick made direct contact with the enemy’s head. About the only casualty from this duck on the rock technique was a direct hit on a high official’s private cow. Orders went out immediately: No more bricks.

Small steel darts, diminutive bombs and hand grenades were hurled down at ground troops and supply trains but the damage was small. Then came the machine-gun firing from the back pit or from the front nacelle of the pusher type.

In January, 1915, the Lewis gun was first mounted on the top wing of a Nieuport firing over the top of the propeller in the line of flight. A few months later the Roland Garros gun appeared, shooting through the propeller arc, but not synchronized. Triangular steel plates deflected bullets that would otherwise have shattered the wooden propeller.

Finally the Fokker synchronized guns blazed a devastating hail of bullets through the prop arc. The Allied airmen were battered and smashed from the skies. Fast pusher type planes were thrown against the German’s super gun. And then a German plane crashed behind the Allied lines. The interrupter gear secret was out. Synchronized Vickers guns were mounted on Allied cowlings. The Germans’ advantage had been lost. The war in the skies blazed forth with accelerated tempo. Toy ships of a few months past had blossomed into major weapons of war.

An Old Stunt

However, the top gun firing forward was not discarded by many Allied aviators. Nieuports and S.E.5s used it, up until the Armistice. The Nieuport on the cover has its top gun and a synchronized Vickers which has jammed hopelessly. Only a few shells remain in the pancake drum above. The French pilot is wounded and attacked by two German Albatross D1s. He knows he cannot get them with front gun fire, but he remembers an old trick. Painfully he reaches up, yanks back the Lewis butt, jams the Bowden wire on the trigger as he zips under the belly of one German plane. A direct engine hit. Down goes the enemy. The remaining German sees the tricky gun work of the wounded Frenchman and feels the wind from the bullets of a second Nieuport coming to the rescue. He veers off and streaks for home allowing the Frenchman to get away, land and become a confirmed booster for the old top gun Lewis.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, September 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

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

Link - Posted by David on February 8, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the April 1934 cover, Frandzen featured the Nieuport 17 and the giant Gotha bomber!

ON THE COVER this month th_SF_3404you will find two ships as radically different in design as you could wish for. The fleet little scrapper, the Nieuport 17 and the cumbersome engine of destruction, the Gotha bomber. The Nieuport was one of the most effective scouts that the French turned out. Owing to its high speed and maneuverability it was very popular with the French flyers. It was really a parasol in that the lower wing was so small that its chief function was to give girder strength to the upper wing. The Nieuports of this type were commonly called “one-and-a-half-planes.”

The big Gotha smacking the ground was just the last word in bombers as far as Germany was concerned. She built some bigger ones and stuck more engines on them than this 77 ft. twin-engined job, but in the case of the larger bombers they had plenty of trouble lifting them off the ground.

Slip back a few hours and take off with this broken Gotha as it leaves its home drome with a half a ton of bombs snuggled against its belly. With its two 160 horse power Mercedes churning the two pusher props more than four tons of ship and load are eased into the air. Two other giant bombers follow. The field is circled twice and then the three ships with their motors blasting orange streaks of flame from six exhaust stacks point their noses westward, toward the English Channel. The vibrating motors are laboring like mogul locomotives pulling a heavy train over a steep mountain gradeā€”they are climbing. At last they reach twelve thousand feet, level off and throttle down to about sixty-five miles per hour. It is a clear night with high clouds scudding just below. Finally the nose of the leading Gotha is pointed downward. The other two follow. They slip down through the clouds. The Channel is below, now it has been passed. Again the bombers level off, wing slightly to the left. Scattered houses, the outskirts of London are below. Now the dwellings are bunched together. The gunner in the front pit has his eye glued to a Georz bomb-dropper’s sight. The pilot is watching his galvanometer, his left hand is on his bomb releases. Government buildings are now below at an angle of about twelve degrees.

Two giant bombs drop flatly from beneath the Gotha, lazily point their noses downward, then gathering momentum they go streaking down at their target. Buildings rock, flames spurt from shattered windows. Sirens from tops of buildings wail their eerie warnings through the chill before dawn air. AIR RAID. Again the bombs go racing toward the sleeping city. A ton and a half of high explosive has been released.

The British home defense planes are in the air, sweeping up to engage the giant destroyers, but already those dark shapes have slunk off into the blackness and are well out over the Channel.

The British were taken by surprise. They had not adequate speed in their protection planes. The advantage of the raiders was too great, they escaped across the Channel. But did they get back to their hangars behind the German lines? They did not! One was forced down with a balky engine. The two others ran into a dawn patrol of French airmen out looking for big game. Spandaus and Vickers snarled and spat lead as the eastern sky burst gloriously into color as the sun rose over the torn and twisted battle fields. A Vickers’ bullet found a vulnerable spot in the left engine of the Gotha pictured on the cover. Another killed the pilot. Flames, a dive, oblivion for the raiders. The Nieuport pilot circles the flamer once, salutes his fallen foe. It’s all in the day’s work.

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