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“High Diving” by Ralph Oppenheim

Link - Posted by David on March 5, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

MARCH is Mosquito Month! We’re celebrating Ralph Oppenheim and his greatest creation—The Three Mosquitoes! We’ll be featuring three early tales of the Mosquitoes over the next few Fridays, so let’s get things rolling. As the Mosquitoes like to say as they fly into action—“Let’s Go!”

The greatest fighting war-birds on the Western Front are once again roaring into action. The three Spads flying in a V formation so precise that they seemed as one. On their trim khaki fuselages, were three identical insignias—each a huge, black-painted picture of a grim-looking mosquito. In the cockpits sat the reckless, inseparable trio known as the “Three Mosquitoes.” Kirby, the D’Artagnan of the group, led the formation. Though the youngest, his amazing skill in handling a plane, especially when it came to diving (he could dive upon an enemy with a speed and precision which made him feared and envied by the whole German air force), had won him the position of flight commander of the trio. On his right flew “Shorty” Carn, bald, stocky, and mild of eye, but nevertheless a dead shot with the machine gun. On his left flew Travis, the oldest and wisest of the trio, whose lanky legs made it difficult for him to adjust himself in the little cockpit.

Let’s get things off the ground with what was believed to have been the first flight of the Three Mosquitoes. I say believed because according to both Robbin’s Index and the online FictionMags Index run by Contento and Stephensen-Payne, “High Diving” is listed as the first appearance of Oppenheim’s inseparable trio. However, a letter in “The Dugout” section of the August 19th, 1927 issue of War Stories features a letter about a previously published Oppenheim story in the July 1927 War Stories which apparently features a character named Kirby. Now I don’t know for certain since I haven’t seen the issue, but it seems highly likely that that story, “Aces Down,” may be the first Three Mosquitoes story, and not “High Diving.”

Exhibit A: The letter by Captain N.R. Raine, C.E.F. in the letters column of the August 19th, 1927 issue of War Stories.

And the response from Mr. Oppenheim himself!

With that cleared up, It’s on with this week’s adventure—When Kirby answers the C.O.’s phone, he neglects to tell him of big Hun doings over towards Dubonne. He’s hoping to keep this info to himself in hopes the “Black Devil” would be there and the Three Mosquitoes would hopefully put an end to his reign of sky tyranny. Who is the Black Devil you ask? Nobody knew just who the Black Devil was. The mystery which shrouded his name made him all the more impressive. They only knew that he was a lone scout flier, who sat in a black Fokker and, appearing in the midst of a dog-fight out of God knows where, picked off the Allied pilots one after another, like flies. This alone would have been enough to make Kirby want to get him, but he had an even more personal reason. The Black Devil was the only man, though Kirby wouldn’t openly admit it, who had ever shot him down!

From the pages of the August 5th, 1927 War Stories, it’s Ralph Oppenheim’s The Three Mosquitoes in “High Diving!”

It was against orders, but Kirby and his pals weren’t worrying about that. They wanted to meet that big German formation—and Kirby wanted to give battle to the “Black Devil,” the famous German Ace. A splendid flying story.

And check back next Friday when the inseparable trio will be back with another exciting adventure!

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