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“Famous Sky Fighters, September 1934″ by Terry Gilkison

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STARTING in the October 1933 issue of Sky Fighters and running almost 5 years, Terry Gilkison’s “Famous Sky Fighters” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Gilkison would illustrate in a two page spread different Aces that rose to fame during the Great War.

Although Gilkison was probably better known for his syndicated newspaper work, he also provided black and white story interior illustrations for pulp magazines. His work appeared in Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Gilkison provided similar features in a few other Thrilling Publications—there was “Famous Soldiers of Fortune” and later “Adventure Thrills” in Thrilling Adventures, Famous Crimes” in Thrilling Detective, and the fully illustrated air adventure stories of Buck Barton “The Flying Devil” in The Lone Eagle! He signed most of this work with only his initials “T.G.” to maintain a low profile and preserve his reputation as a syndicated newspaper cartoon artist.

The September 1934 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, Features Lt. Frank Baylies, Lieut.Charles Nungesser, and Capt. Bruno Loezer—”The Swordsman Ace”!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters,” Terry Gilkison features Capt. Hamilton Coolidge, Lieut. Constant Soulier, and the evil genius who thought up the Zeppelin air raid—Baron von Buttlar Brandenfels! Don’t miss it!

“Sky Birds, September 1934″ by C.B. Mayshark

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THIS May we’re celebrating the genius that is C.B. Mayshark! Mayshark took over the covers duties for Sky Birds with the July 1934 and would paint all the remaining covers until it’s last issue in December 1935. At the start of his run, Sky Birds started featuring a different combat maneuver of the war-time pilots. The lower corner presenting a play-by-play of that month’s maneuver with the remainder of the cover illustrating it. For September 1934 issue Mayshark gives us “Death For The Decoy!”

Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots:
Death For The Decoy

THIS month our cover depicts a th_SB_3408 maneuver used many times during the latter months of the war, but not greatly exploited in story or illustration. It is not known who originated the decoy idea, but a defense for it was perfected by the British.

The painting shows two unusual ships, a German L.V.G. scout and the British Austin “Greyhound” two-seater fighter. It is improbable that either of these ships ever reached the Front and saw squadron service, but it is known that two or three were sent out and tried by the service-test pilots, whose duties were to flight-test new machines in actual combat, after they had been passed on construction, maneuverability and performance. The faults that lie hidden while ships are undergoing tests over friendly soil are usually brought out in the heat and flame of aerial warfare.

So, in order to give you new models to study, we show the British Austin “Greyhound” getting the D-type L.V.G. scout. We know of no better way of giving you accurate detail pictures, and at the same time explaining some of the intricate maneuvers used on the battlefront.

In this case, we have the original move of the German Staffel commander in sending down the unfortunate decoy. This ship was usually flown by a smart pilot who not only knew how to fake a “greenie” in the air, but was expected to be able to entice the Allied ships down and keep them occupied until the Staffel above could get down and come to his “rescue.” He not only had to be a game pilot, but he had to know every trick in the game. It was necessary that he know every inch of his Front, too, so that if his ship was damaged and he had to make a forced landing, he could cut into the bend in the line and be certain he was well inside his own territory.

This time, the British two-seater leader spots the move. It is possible that the lurking German scouts above have not made full use of the sun, or else they have been spotted as they tore through a hole in their cloud hideout. At any rate, the British commander gives his sub-leader a signal, and the pilot fires a red light, indicating that he is having engine trouble and wants to go back.

Instead of cutting into Allied territory, however, the decoy-destroyer cuts back at the first opportunity, slides into the L.V.G.’s blind spot and works his way into a position where the gunner can get in a terrible burst. If all goes well, the decoy is caught napping, or at least is made to fight, thus drawing the attention of the lurking Germans above.

Down they come, to protect their bait, not noticing the other two-seaters that have withdrawn to a suitable position beneath the Staffel. Once the big formation is on its way down, the British two-seater dives and reverses the role of decoy. The Germans go after him, but put themselves where the British can chop down on them before they have an opportunity to win back a better position. And, in 1918, two sets of guns against one was bad medicine.

The “Greyhound” is really an adaptation of the S.E.5 or the Nieuport Night-hawk in two-seater form. It had an A.B.C. Dragonfly radial engine of 320 h.p. and could do 130 m.p.h. at 10,000 feet. It landed at 45 m.p.h. and climbed to 10,000 feet in 11 minutes.

Little is known of the L.V.G. except that it used the 230-h.p. Benz, and had unusually clean lines. It probably had a speed of about 118 m.p.h.

The Story of The Cover
Sky Birds, September 1934 by C.B. Mayshark
(Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots: The Story Behind This Month’s Cover)

Silent Orth returns in “Shooting Star” by Lt. Frank Johnson

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ORTH is back! Silent Orth—ironically named for his penchant to boast, but blessed with the skills to carry out his promises—takes on four of Germany’s greatest Aces! Hauptmann Kruger, Weisskopf, Buchstabe and Braunstein. Their insignia are, in the order named, a crimson splash on the sides of the fuselage, representing blood; a hooded figure carrying an enemy’s head in his hands; the opened Book of Life with blank lines, presumably to hold the names of condemned enemies; and a comet with a tail of fire! From the pages of the September 1934 issue of Sky Fighters, it’s Silent Orth in “Shooting Star!”

One man against four—and those four among the mightiest Aces of Germany—in a rip-roaring sky yarn that packs a mighty punch!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Sergeant Norman Prince

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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

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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

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“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

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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.