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“The Mail Must Go Through!” By Arch Whitehouse

Link - Posted by David on December 9, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Here it is—the first of a thrilling series of True Air Adventures—amazing yarns based on the real adventures of airmen all over the world today! This month, read the true story of what happened to a pilot who stuck to the motto of the Air Mail—”The Mail Must Go Through!”

The Mail Must Go Through

By Arch Whitehouse (Sky Birds, March 1933)

OVER the facade of the New York Post Office building runs a word motto reading to the effect that, in spite of wind and weather, the postal department must remain true to its trust and carry out the business of the Postal Department. But the Air Mail pilot has chopped it all down to a few words: “The Mail Must Go Through!”

It is upon this motto that an almost unbelievable esprit de corps has been founded by the men who carry Uncle Sam’s mail over the skyways.
Things have changed a lot in the past few years, as far as flying the mail goes. The ships are better and faster. The motors are more reliable.

The routes are carefully marked with flashing beacons every ten miles. The airports are no longer cleared cow pastures with a shed at one end. Radio has come to guide the knights of the muzzle-mike. An efficient meteorological system has been worked out, and pilots are warned every few minutes what weather they can expect ten miles ahead.

Above all, every pilot is provided with the airman’s life-preserver—the parachute. If things go wrong, all he has to do is to cut the switch and step off. A billowing canopy of silk blossoms out above him, and he descends slowly to the ground.

But there are airmen in the Air Mail who balk at stepping off and letting the mail go down to a splintering crash—perhaps to a flaming finish. There may be valuable papers in those bags. There may be some widow’s pension stowed away. A love-letter, perhaps, reconciling two youngsters who have been parted by a petty quarrel. There may be the evidence that will save an innocent man from the chair. Or, perhaps, just a letter to some old lady who waits patiently for a happy word from her boy, who has gone away to try his fortunes in some other part of the country. One never knows what’s in the mail bag.

John Wolf, an Air Mail pilot, took off from Cleveland one night for Newark, 390 miles away. In the back pit of his Douglas mail ship lay 900 pounds of Uncle Sam’s choicest postal cargo. Pilot Wolf had often wondered what was in this mail. He’d pondered over it many times as he pounded his way across “the hump” of the Allegheny Mountains.

The airmen have named the hump the Mail Pilots’ Graveyard, for the whole trail is scored and marked with the numberless crashes that have occurred there. Pilot Wolf often wondered whether it was worth it. Then he’d stare at the insignia on the side of his ship—”U. S. Mail”—make an imaginary salute, and climb into the cockpit.

But on this night in question—about a year ago, to be exact—Pilot Wolf would have had all the excuse in the world for saying, “Bad weather upstairs. No use risking a crash tonight.” For there was a welter of fog and rain sweeping across the Cleveland field when he went out to the throbbing Douglas. He had been inside the operations office to look at the weather report coming through from Newark—and it was none too encouraging.

But Wolf took off. The mail had to go through!

Fifteen minutes after he took off, his radio set went dead. This would have been sufficient for most people, but Wolf kept on. There might be a break near Newark. After all, there were 900 pounds of mail in the back pit. He climbed to 12,000 feet to make sure that he’d clear the hump, but ice began to form on his wings, changing the camber and choking the controls. He had to go down lower and risk a crash in the Mail Pilots’ Graveyard.

For four hours he flew, averaging about 115 miles per hour, but no sign of Newark could he find. He was above a fog blanket that shrouded everything. On eastward he continued to push—hoping for a break. His ship bounced and pounded against the icy winds. New and amazing things happened to his instruments, and at times he found himself flying on his back. He kept fighting the Douglas, got back on the course and peered down again. No sight of Newark—or of anything else.

“Look here, John,” Pilot Wolf must have argued with himself. “You only have so much gas in this boiler. How about going down and taking a chance? Or how about slipping off and taking to the silk? Why risk your neck for 900 pounds of mail that is probably only bills, advertisements or dunning letters?”

But he glared at himself in the reflections cast by the dials of the in struments and shook his head. He had to go on.

He finally realized that there was none too much fuel left, however, and common sense prevailed.

He went down—down—down until he felt that he must crash into some buildings. Then he steadied himself and released a parachute flare. The big flaming ball of fire seeped away and went down farther and then, Pilot Wolf saw the cruel, reaching whitecaps of the Atlantic Ocean!
“Whew! Where am I?” he growled yanking back on his stick and pulling the Douglas out of the glide.

Turning westward, he tore back toward land, expecting any minute to find himself impaled on the lofty masts of some fog-bound transatlantic liner. He sat tense for nearly half an hour and raced westward peering over the cowling into the blanket of fog.

Then, a light! A dim but heaven sent gleam twinkled ahead. Pilot Wolf shot his Douglas for it with every ounce of power in the big Liberty engine. It was a lighthouse, he could tell by the time of the flashes. He tore up toward it and recognized it as Montauk Light on Long Island. Evidently he had passed over Newark without seeing it.

Now should he bail out? He was over ground, he was certain of that. There was not much gas left, so it would be wise to get out while the getting was good. No, the mail must go through!
He circled the village twice, seeking a place to land. He couldn’t get back to Newark now. He dropped more flares in an effort to find a level space to set the big mail ship down. There was nothing in sight.

Then one of those things happened that people think can happen only in fiction. Some one—a member of the village fire department—was air-minded enough to realize what was the matter. He probably had been a reader of a good aviation magazine—like Sky Birds, for instance. The pounding of the big Liberty up there in the soup and the trickling pathetic flares coming down through the fog told their story.

A fire alarm was sounded, and all the volunteer firemen were sent to the widest fairway of the North Fork Country Club. The air-minded fireman, who goes nameless, superintended the placing of the cars so that their headlights lit up a wide swath of level turf.

Wolf, amazed at the sudden appearance of this uncharted landing field, took a chance. He cut his motor and glided down to a perfect landing—just as the idling Liberty spluttered its last gasp. The tanks were dry.

Wolf slept at the firehouse that night, after seeing the mail safely aboard a train for New York. The next morning he calmly told his story to the air-minded fireman who had unconsciously adopted the Air Mail motto, “The Mail Must Go Through!”

“The Sky Raider Pt5″ by Donald E. Keyhoe

Link - Posted by David on December 8, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Continuing with Donald E. Keyhoe’s The Sky Raider, a serialized novel from 1929. A lot has happened. The story so far. . .

    Dick Trent, young aviator, has just joined the Air Mail Service. On his first trip he carries an important letter from the owner of the field, Old Man Rand, to his son, Tommy. Through a blinding snowstorm he negotiates a narrow pass in the Rockies, locates young Rand drinking in a gambling resort and flies him back to his own field to save him from dismissal. The superintendent, Carmichael, warns Dick he has violated regulations, but Old Man Rand thanks him for the service.
    Dick falls in love with lovely Mary Rand and saves her from fatality by flying to her disabled plane in mid-air.
    Dick tells Lawson, a fellow aviator, of his invention for a skywriting signal code. Lawson informs Dick he is leaving the service to get married. On his last trip Lawson goes missing. Dick finds his plane burned and Lawson murdered. A package containing $250,000 is missing. Lawson’s skull is crushed in and after a careful search, Dick finds a clumsy Luger pistol.
    Returning to Rand Field he meets Carmichael nad Mary Rand. Thoroughly shaken by the discovery, Mary identifies the pistol as one her father carries! She asks Dick to drive home with her. On the way he tells her of his love and is happy when she sys she loves him. A moment later there is silence between them when she says her father has been away all morning. . . .

Where has Old Man Rand been all morning? And how did his gun come to be at the scene of the murder? Find out in the fifth installment of Donald E. Keyhoe’s The Sky Raider!


And come back on Wednesday for the next installment!

“The Sky Raider Pt4″ by Donald E. Keyhoe

Link - Posted by David on December 5, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Continuing with Donald E. Keyhoe’s The Sky Raider, a serialized novel from 1929. A lot has happened so far. On Wednesday’s installment a lot went down…

    At the field, Dick tells Lawson of his night-time sky-writing invention. He sees Mary go up in her plane. In doing so she loses a landing wheel. Dick saves her life by flying straight for her in the air to prevent a fatal crash. Back on the ground, Lawson informs Dick he is leaving the service to get married. On his last trip Lawson goes missing. Dick finds his plane burned and Lawson laying on the ground murdered. A package containing $250,000 is missing!

What clues can Dick find to point towards Lawson’s murderer? And what has happened to the money? Find out in the fourth installment of Donald E. Keyhoe’s The Sky Raider!


And come back on Monday for the next installment!

Another Letter from Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on December 4, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Were Frederick Blakeslee still alive, today would be his 116th birthday! In honor of his birthday, today we have another letter from Blakeslee to Jess Yeager. The other day we had a letter Blakeslee sent to Jess in 1935—knee deep in his pulp career. At that time he was doing covers for Dare-Devil Aces and G-8 and his Battle Aces ever month as well as interiors for each issue of Dare-Devil Aces.

This time we find an older Blakeslee. Now 60, he has left the pulps behind and is Senior Designer at Sperry Gyroscope Co working on Countermeasures—”the missles that knock out the missles” as Blakeslee writes. He updates Jess, a father now, on his life since the demise of the pulps. From August 1st, 1959:

Dear Jess:

    We have just returned from Cape Cod where we had a glorious time visiting an author friend. The weather was perfact but it is far from perfact here on Long Island-hot and humid.

    As I said in my card, I am always tickled pink (what an expression!), to hear from any of the “Old gang”.

    I have not had contact with the publishers now for almost nine years. Harry Steeger, the President of Popular Publications and myself went into the service together, Navy also. He became a Leut. J.G. and I became a Combat Artist. After the war the magazines folded – every one of them. I did covers for Railroad Nagazine and soon the Editor left and another took his place. That ment that I was out of a job because all Editors have their own artists. Well, I had a pretty rough time until I got a job in Engineering at the Sperry Gyroscope Co. I am now a Senior Designer there and I love the work although it is a far cry from art. As you may know, Sperry is a defence plant and my real boss is the Air Force. I am working on Countermeasures, that is the missels that knock out the missels, if you know what I mean.

    Now you may wonder how an artist could become an engineer, well, I’m wondering myself since in math. I had to count on my fingers to add two and two. But as I progressed, I picked up math, and to make a long story short, I went from draftsman to designer.

    I was going to look up Harry Steeger during this vacation but just couldn’t bring myself to go to N.Y., Sperry is only a 10 minute drive from here and I pity the poor guys who have to commute to the hot city while I go through country all the way.

    Now as for the covers I painted – thank you for the compliment but I’ll tell you a secret. I HATED those covers! They started out to be a “pot boiler” but they kept me so busy that I could do nothing else. Now I wish I had never signed my name to them. I haven’t seen one for years and I hope I never will. As for knowing where any of the stuff is, I don’t know and frankly I don’t want to know. During the war I did what I wanted
to do, so called “Art for art’s sake. I hasten to add that I never saw combat. I was to go out to the Pacific but the war ended before ny orders came through. I did however paint the DANMARK. She was the Coast Guard training ahip. She was a square rigger and I spent a week aboard on a trip. During the trip a “tin fish” almost got us. It was a dud otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. Our escort closed in and we scramed back to port.

    I don’t remember the cover I dedicated to you but I do remember where the photo was taken. What ever the cover is, it is awful. You may think that I am a “Modern” artist. I am not and the fact that I didn’t get onto the band wagon is one of the reasons I got a steady job.

    So you are a Father! Well, about three years ago another W.W.I fan called me up from N.Y. and came out to visit me. He is from W. Virginia and is the Father of a 19 year old daughter. Brother, what does that make me? Ancient as hell. I was going down to see him this vacation but it was too hot here so what must it have been there?

    I have no children although we love them. My wife once had T.B., then heart trouble and a year ago Aug. 8th she underwent heart surgery and was paralyzed from it. The surgery was a success but the this thing had to happen as if she didn’t have enough suffering. She is recouveriiag slowly and can now do anything she wants to although she has to wear a leg brace.

    Well, I guess that about winds up this session. Write again when you have time.

                                                Fred Blakeslee

Happy Birthday Frederick Blakeslee!

“The Sky Raider Pt3″ by Donald E. Keyhoe

Link - Posted by David on December 3, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Continuing with Donald E. Keyhoe’s The Sky Raider, a serialized novel from 1929. A lot has happened so far and the plot’s about to thicken as murder is thrown into the mix! On Monday we saw…

    By a ruse, Dick Trent enters the Gambling house to find young Tommy Rand drinking and induces him to leave after reading the important letter his old man had entrusted Dick to deliver. The letter was a Government report of censure for intoxication. Dick, disobeying regulations, flies Tommy back to save him from dismissal. Carmichael see them land. He threatens Dick with dismissal. However, when he is called to Rand’s house, Dick hears praise for his work from Old Man Rand and finds he is in love with Mary. . . .

What could possibly go wrong when Mary comes down to the field to practice landing a plane? Find out in the third installment of Donald E. Keyhoe’s The Sky Raider!


And come back on Friday for the next installment!

A Letter from Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on December 2, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

With Frederick Blakeslee’s birthday on Thursday this week, we thought we’d present a little something different that the usual “The Story Behind The Cover.” Today we have a letter from the man himself! Yes, we have a responce to a letter to Mr. Blakeslee from a fan in Pennsylvania who has saved all the Blakeslee covers he can get ahold of—unfortunately he’s having trouble getting back issues of Battle Aces (aren’t we all). However, Blakeslee himself doesn’t seem to hold his old cover work in high reguard.

At the time of the letter, Blakeslee was at the top of his form. He was producing cover paintings for Dare-Devil Aces and G-8 and his Battle Aces every month as well as the headers for the stories in each issue of Dare-Devil Aces. From November 14th, 1935:

Dear Mr. Yeager:

    Thank you. for your very interesting letter and I hope you will write again. Of course it is very gatifying to know that you like my work and have saved the covers for so long. I am sorry to say that the covers for the old BATTLE ACES have absolutely disappeared, as a matter of face I haven’t seen one of the magazines for years. I’m sure I don’t know where you can get any of those covers. However, you are not missing much, none of those covers were what I would call good or even fair, some of them were just rotten, I am rather glad they HAVE disappeared,

    Your sketch of the airplane is very good. I’m glad you like the S.E.5 as she happens to be one of my favorites too.

    Well, old man, I hope you will pardon me if this is short, but I must stop now and get to work.

He signed off with “Cheerio,” and signed it “Frederick Blakeslee.”

Since the letter’s so short, we have a bonus for you—a vacation snapshot Blakeslee had sent to Jesse at some point in their correspondance. Taken by some castle ruins somewhere between Cambridge & Oxford while on vacation in England in 1936. . .

And be sure to come back on Thursday for another letter to Jesse. This one’s longer and from 1959 after his pulp illustrating career has ended and he’s moved on to other things!

“The Sky Raider Pt2″ by Donald E. Keyhoe

Link - Posted by David on December 1, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Continuing with Donald E. Keyhoe’s The Sky Raider, a serialized novel from 1929. A lot has happened so far and we’re only on Chapter three. The story so far:

    On his first day in the Air Mail Service Dick Trent seems doomed to disappointment. A heavy snow storm causes Carmichael, the station superinten- dent, to cancel arrangements for Dick’s first flight alone across the Rocky Mountains. Suddenly the door opens. Old Man Rand, owner of the service, and his daughter, Mary, enter. He has an important letter for his son. Dick offers to fly through with it. As the old man hesitates, the daughter says she believes Dick can get through the dangerous pass in the blinding snow storm. Thrilled by her show of confidence Dick soars into the storm still hearing the soft voice of the beautiful fur-clad girl.
    By a miracle, Dick negotiates the narrow pass through the Rockies. Arrived at his destination he seeks Tommy Rand. The address given him turns out to be a gambling house but Dick is refused entrance. . . .

What will Dick do? How will he get in to the Gambling house to deliver Old Man Rand’s important letter to his son? Find out in the second installment of Donald E. Keyhoe’s The Sky Raider!


And come back on Wednesday for the next installment!

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