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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 Flight: Lt. Waldo Heinrichs

Link - Posted by David on July 26, 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 First Lieutenant Waldo Heinrichs’ most thrilling sky fight!

First Lieutenant Waldo Heinrichs was among the first contingent of flying cadets to be graduated from the air combat school at Issoudun, France, the great flying field established by the American Air Service on foreign soil after the United States entered the war. He was one of tho original members of the famous 95th Pursuit Squadron, the first American squadron to do actual front line duty with the American Army. Among his squadron mates in the 95th were Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt and Lieutenant Sumner Sewell.

No other American flyer ever fought through the hail of bullet fire absorbed by Lieutenant Heinrichs and lived long enough afterward to tell about it in his own words. The account of his last flight as written in his diary is one of the most amazing records of the war. He was shot down and captured by the enemy soldiers on the 17th of September, 1918, after compiling a record of sheer courage second to none.

 

THE BULLET ABSORBER

by Lieutenant Waldo Heinrichs • Sky Fighters, April 1935

WITH six other pilots from the 95th, I encountered an enemy patrol of nine planes flying at 2,500 meters. Lieutenant Mitchell, the flight commander, signalled for an immediate attack and went down in a dive for the tail of the first German. His guns jammed in the first dive. I followed on the same Fokker he had picked, one of seven which had remained to fight after our attack.

But my guns jammed also, at the first burst!

While zooming up, trying to clear, I fell into a spin. All seven attacked me in my spinning Nieuport. I straightened, hurdled a burst from a forward attacking plane. But the Fokker behind me got in a burst at close range. An explosive bullet hit me in the left cheek, then shattered my windshield. I spit out teeth and blood (16 teeth, I found out afterward). I pulled into a swift renversement, came out beneath the attacker behind.

Two more explosive bullets hit me in the left arm, tearing through, breaking the elbow. Two more broke in my right hand, nearly tore off my little finger. Another hit in the left thigh. One in the left ankle. One in the right heel. Two more hit my leg.

I tried to yank the throttle wide to get more speed. No go! It would not work. The motor died. I saw my arm hanging broken at my side. The blood I spat out
splattered my goggles, blinded me, so I threw them up over my helmet, and dove for the ground. Pulled out just before I crashed into a wood, found a field in front of me, telephone poles. I dove under the wires, fearing they would crash me with a dead motor. The right wing crashed a telephone pole, broke it in two. The Nieuport landed, stopped five feet shy of the field’s edge—in enemy territory!

I broke the gas feed from the wing tank purposely. The gasoline filled the cockpit, sprayed over me. I reached for my matches in the side pocket, to fire the plane. But I was unable to hold anything. I tried to hold the box in my teeth, while I scratched the match, but my whole mouth was blown away.

I did not think to grasp the match box between my knees.

Sixty soldiers with rifles lined on me came running out of the woods. I loosed my belt. As I climbed over the cockpit I saw a pool of blood, my blood, swishing around in the bottom of the pit. I couldn’t run. I had no strength.

I surrendered, holding my right arm up with my left. The German soldiers gave me first aid, applying tourniquets to my left arm and left thigh. But they left me lying there on the field for two hours. Two stretcher bearers came along then and gathered me up. The war was over for me!