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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.

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

Link - Posted by David on April 18, 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 September 1934 cover, It’s the Pfalz Triplane vs the indomitable S.E.5!

The Ships on the Cover

THE Pfalz Triplane was th_SF_3409 one of the neatest looking jobs among the number of multi-wing planes which all European countries experimented with during the late fracas Over There. The fuselage was exceptionally slick in proportion and line. If you can imagine the two top wings removed and the bottom wing having a much greater chord you will see a strong resemblance between this tripe of bygone war days and the Lockheed Sirius of modern times.

Those designers of a sixth of a century ago did some sweet visualizing far in advance of their time. If they’d have had engines as efficient as those of today to yank their stick and wire jobs through the clouds there’s no telling what the outcome of the air campaigns might have been.

Three Winged Crates

But we’re not as interested in the fuselage as in those three wings which make our Pfalz a Triplane or Dreideckcr. In building this type of ship the hope was for greater efficiency in all ways. They got it in some and lost it in others. In using three instead of one or two wings the chord and span could be reduced. Then the tail assembly could be pushed up closer to the wings, giving compactness and maneuverability. A single interplane strut could be used on each side, instead of the conventional double struts. The Pfalz used a combination of V strut and straight single strut. The top wing did most of the lifting work as the lower wings had a very narrow chord.

The Nieuport, Sopwith, Albatross and Fokker firms experimented with the triplane idea. Fokker undoubtedly was influenced by the Sopwith “tripe.” Some other manufacturers even went in for quadraplanes, and not to be outdone, one stuck on five planes which made the crate look like a flying stepladder.

On the cover the Pfalz tripe in the foreground with the red belly has been tearing in and out of the ring-sights of the S.E.5. That fight started down low and gained altitude as the two ships circled and sparred with left and right guns.

Even Steven

The famous S.E.5 of British origin, one of their outstanding successes, has the edge on the tripe in many of their in and out maneuvers, but a triplane has a much reduced period of inertia in the horizontal plane; so therefore is able to slip from one dodging tactic to another quicker than the S.E.5. So it was about “even Steven” in this climbing fight.

Suddenly another Pfalz tripe hove into the scrap with spitting Spandaus. Just about the time it looked like curtains for the S.E.5 her pilot flopped his ship into a trick skidding turn and sprayed a drizzle of slugs into the second ship. Down it went smoking, out of control. Not contented with his one victory he repeated his maneuver on the surprised Boche in the foreground Pfalz. One quick burst from the Vickers sent bullets thudding into the German pilot. He died instantly with his nerveless hands and feet still holding his plane in a climbing circle.

The S.E.5 pilot followed for a moment then eased his plane aside and headed for home. Once he turned, raised his right hand in salute as he watched the triplane, now a tiny speck far above, still gracefully climbing into the blue dome of heaven.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Halberstadt C.L.2 and the Avro Spider!

“Scrappy Birthday” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on January 1, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” That sound can only mean one thing—it’s time to ring out the old year and ring in the new with that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors—Phineas Pinkham. And it’s a festive one—It’s Major Rufus Garrity’s birthday and he’d like to keep it a secret, but it’s impossible to keep a secret from the Boonetown marvel!

It was a big anniversary for Major Garrity, and Phineas Pinkham wanted to wish him a happy birthday. Well, it wasn’t entirely Phineas’ fault that what he wished him was a Scrappy Birthday!

“The Bourges Bomber” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on June 22, 2015 @ 6:30 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. This time, Blakeslee presents us with more of the approach he used for the covers he painted for Battle Aces—telling us about the ship on cover of the September 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3409THERE is no story behind the cover this month. The scene is simply a background to display the Boulton & Paul “Bourges” bomber. You can easily pick it out, for it is the only British ship on the cover.

The “Bourges” was produced late in the war as a fighter bomber, and had it arrived at the Front in time would have given the Germans the surprise of their lives. Not only did it have the fuel and load capacity expected of a large bomber, but the speed, climb, and maneuvering qualities usually associated with a small single-seater combat ship. It not only could carry nearly a thousand pounds of bombs, but if necessary, whip into an Immelmann, a loop or any other intricate maneuver impossible for a machine of its size in those days.

The specifications for the ship follow. It had a span of 54 ft. a gap, maximum and minimum of 6 ft. 6 in. The total overall length was 37 ft. The chord of the top wing was 8 ft. while the bottom wing was 6 ft. 6 in. Span of the tail was 16 ft.

It had two 320 h.p. A. B. C. “Dragonfly” motors turning a 9 ft. 6 in. dia. prop. 1650 r.p.m. The weight of the machine empty was 3420 lbs. and its load per sq. ft. was 8 lbs. It carried 190 gallons of gas, enough to keep it aloft nine and a quarter hours. Its speed at 10,000 ft. was 124 m.p.h. and it could climb to this height in 11 minutes. At 15,000 ft. its speed was 118 m.p.h. and it took 21 minutes to climb to this height. Its landing speed was 50 m.p.h.

In our cover painting, two bombs are making a direct hit on the bridge. Had that painting been based on fact, the two hits would have been exceptional, for the art of bomb dropping was not as easy as it may sound.

For instance, a falling bomb will have an initial speed equal to and in the same direction as the airplane from which it is dropped. This force is compounded with two other forces which are constant, the resistance of the air and the acceleration due to gravity. The result will be a curved trajectory, the trajectory being the path the bomb follows from the point of discharge to the striking point. A head wind or a tail wind will cause the bomb to drift which modifies the value of the trajectory, which is again modified by the type and weight of the bomb used.

To successfully hit a target a bomber must know the normal speed of the particular airplane in which he flies; the height of the airplane from the target; the velocity of the head or tail wind and the weight and type of the bomb to be dropped.

If all this is known, it is reasonable to suppose that the bomb would hit the target, and it would if it wasn’t for the fact that perhaps a thousand feet lower from the height of the bomber, the wind may be blowing ten miles faster or change its direction. Add to this bursting “archie” and enemy ships and you will see why bombing was, and is, difficult. In fact, some authorities during the war despaired of ever being able to get results in aerial bombing comparable to the efforts made.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Bourges Bomber: The Ship on the Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(September 1934, Dare-Devil Aces)

Next time, Eliot Todd returns with the story of “T.N.T. Wings” on the October 1934 cover. Be sure not to miss it.