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Robert J. Hogan’s Characters On a Historical Timeline

Link - Posted by Bill on February 18, 2010 @ 7:59 pm in

G-8 The Flames of HellRobert J. Hogan was one of the most prolific pulp writers of the 30’s and early 40’s. His best stories were built around World War I aviators. G-8 and his Battle Aces flew and fought for 110 issues in their magazine. Barry Rand as the Red Falcon appeared over 50 times in Dare-Devil Aces and G-8 and His Battle Aces. As fictional characters, they seemed to fight the war forever. But I decided to see how Hogan’s stories stacked up against a historical timeline of the war.

World War I went on for five long years before ending on November 11, 1918. It made a pretty big canvas for pulp writers to paint their word pictures on. But the U.S. didn’t start fighting until June of 1917. Because his characters were American, Hogan had a much smaller window for his stories. Further shrinking of that window is necessary because of references he uses throughout the tales.

One important point in regards to the timing of the G-8 stories is the airplanes being flown. G-8, Bull, and Nippy all fly the SPAD XIII which was built by the French. They were first flown in combat by the French in September 1917, but it wasn’t until March of 1918 that the U.S. Air Service purchased 800 of them for its’ pilots. Because so many Americans had flown for France before the U.S. joined the war, it is possible that some of them would have had SPAD XIII’s before March 1918. The famous flying spy G-8 would almost certainly have had one before the rest of the American pilots. Thus September 1917 is the first possible date for the beginning of the G-8 adventures. There is another important piece of data that points to a later date though.

Hogan often has the Germans flying the incomparable Fokker D VII. It was widely considered the best fighter plane of it’s time. Unfortunately for Hogan, the D VII didn’t enter combat until April 1918. I would consider this as the most probable beginning of the recorded G-8 stories. Historically, we have to squeeze all 110 of them into the period between April and November of 1918. Thus G-8 was facing off about every other day against the worst the Germans could throw at him.

The Red Falcon 4The Red Falcon’s place on the timeline is governed by many of these same factors. He built his famous red fighter using parts from planes that had crashed near his Vosges Mountain hideaway. The fuselage was from a Fokker D VII, the wings were from a SPAD XIII. This would indicate a date no earlier than April 1918. However, Barry Rand also equipped his plane with a Liberty engine.

The American built Liberty made its’ combat debut powering the British DH4 in May 1918, but Hogan states that the Red Falcon’s engine came from a DH9. This plane was not equipped with Liberty engines until August. Furthermore, only one DH9 made it to the front in time for combat duty. Assuming this single plane was shot down over the Vosges, the Red Falcon could not have gotten his engine before August 1918. His 53 recorded adventures took place between August and November of 1918.

Having a historical start for the Red Falcon also provides a bookmark for the G-8 stories. The March 1937 issue of G-8 and His Battle Aces features a brief appearance by Barry Rand. This means that August 1918 is the earliest possible date for this story titled Fangs of the Sky Leopards. It was the 42nd issue which means that the last 68 of G-8’s adventures had to have occurred in the 4 months between August and November 1918, while the first 41 took place in the 4 months from April to July 1918.

I’m sure the pressures of monthly deadlines far outweighed Hogan’s need for historical accuracy. His great knowledge of the machines flown in WWI is one of the factors that made his fiction so appealing, but it would have been interesting to read these stories with a more careful historical placement of the characters.

“Don’t Shoot” by Robert J. Hogan

Link - Posted by Bill on September 16, 2009 @ 11:16 pm in

Sammy Stein joined the grease-monkey squad to be safe; but after the first bombing raid, he struck a bargain with the C.O. and hocked his safety for his life, collecting a net profit of Spandau lead and glory.

“Framed Wings” by Robert J. Hogan

Link - Posted by Bill on March 20, 2009 @ 4:57 pm in

This is the last Smoke Wade story that appeared in a Street and Smith pulp. In the August 1932 Battle Aces, Smoke Wade began his long run in the Popular Publication air pulps. Smoke Wade was a rough and tumble Arizona cowpoke, who left the range and became the skipper of the American 66th Pursuit Squadron in WWI France. Flying a Pinto colored Spad he called Jake, after his favorite Pinto ranch horse, Smoke always wore a six-shooter strapped to his leg and made frequent use of it during his aerial battles. He would often get in trouble with his superiors because of his penchant for placing bets on just about anything that seemed like a long-shot. But Smoke would most always win these bets, and everyone from generals to mechanics would be left owing him money.

“Aces in Dutch” by Robert J. Hogan

Link - Posted by Bill on February 27, 2009 @ 4:29 pm in

This is the third and last Smoke Wade story that appeared in Street and Smith’s “Air Trails”. Smoke Wade was a rough and tumble Arizona cowpoke, who left the range and became the skipper of the American 66th Pursuit Squadron in WWI France.
Flying a Pinto colored Spad he called Jake, after his favorite Pinto ranch horse, Smoke always wore a six-shooter strapped to his leg and made frequent use of it during his aerial battles. He would often get in trouble with his superiors because of his penchant for placing bets on just about anything that seemed like a long-shot. But Smoke would most always win these bets, and everyone from generals to mechanics would be left owing him money.

“Wager Flight” by Robert J. Hogan

Link - Posted by Bill on February 20, 2009 @ 4:33 pm in

In the August 1931 issue of Street and Smith’s “Air Trails”, Robert J. Hogan introduced us to a rough and tumble Arizona cowpoke named Smoke Wade, who left the range and became the skipper of the American 66th Pursuit Squadron in WWI France. Flying a Pinto colored Spad he called Jake, after his favorite Pinto ranch horse, Smoke always wore a six-shooter strapped to his leg and made frequent use of it during his aerial battles. He would often get in trouble with his superiors because of his penchant for placing bets on just about anything that seemed like a long-shot. But Smoke would most always win these bets, and everyone from generals to mechanics would be left owing him money.

“The Other Cockpit” by Robert J. Hogan

Link - Posted by Bill on May 16, 2008 @ 12:00 am in

While Robert J. Hogan is best known as the author of long running air war series like G-8, The Red Falcon, and Smoke Wade, he wrote plenty of non-series fiction. Here is a little gem that tells the tale of Bat Benson, a bomber pilot who has a habit of mistreating his rear cockpit observers. But his newest observer is not someone who will be pushed around.

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