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“Junkers–C.O.D.” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on November 24, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

“HAW-W-W-W-W!” That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back to vex not only the Germans, but the Americans—the Ninth Pursuit Squadron in particular—as well. Yes it’s the marvel from Boonetown, Iowa himself—Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham!

For almost three weeks now the welfare of Butch McGinty had been a matter of great concern to the war birds of the Ninth Pursuit. For on the shoulders of this one hundred and seventy-five pound greaseball, once a prelim boxer in cauliflower alley across the pond, rested enough squadron pay to buy out every estaminet in Bar-le-Duc. In just two days Butch was going into the ring to battle Sergeant “ ’Arry Hingleside,” pride of the British Air Force and runner-up for the British light-heavyweight title. The problem—Butch’s training was under the guidance of one Phineas Pinkham! From the pages of the November 1931 Flying Aces, it’s Joe Archibald’s “Junkers—C.O.D.!”

King George offered five hundred pounds in good British currency to the peelot who brought down Mannheim, the famous German Ace. Oh well, business before pleasure had always been the motto of Phineas “Carbuncle” Pinkham.

“Fonck Gets Guynemer’s Slayer” by Paul J. Bissell

Link - Posted by David on November 20, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the December 1931 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Fonck gets the pilot who shot down Guynemer!

Fonck Gets Guynemer’s Slayer

th_FA_3112FIVE miles below lies the earth. Above floating white clouds, two planes maneuver, silhouetted dark against the sky. One, a Spad, is piloted by the famous French ace, Rene Fonck; the other, a Rumpler, has in its cockpit Captain Wissemann, who just three weeks before had downed France’s beloved airman—Guynemer.

A dive puts the Spad under the Rumpler’s tail, and Fonck maintains his position there where the enemy bullets cannot reach him. Now back on his stick! Carefully he brings the red machine in line with his Vickers. Then one short burst—just six shots, but six shots from France’s super-marksman of the air. And the German pilot is dead at the stick, a bullet through his head!

Three of the other five bullets have found their mark in the observer. A fourth has punctured the gas tank. The Rumpler’s tail kicks up, the whole plane twisting as it goes over, throwing the observer out of the cockpit and clear of the machine. For an instant he hangs, twisting and clutching, before he starts his plunge, racing the already burning plane to earth.

The Rumpler, a mass of twisting flame, spins crazily downward. Its wings fall away, and now, three miles straight down it plunges, a smoking meteor, carrying in its fiery cockpit the body of Captain Wissemann, brought down by Rene Fonck. Guynemer’s death is avenged!

The Ships on The Cover
“Fonck Gets Guynemer’s Slayer”
Flying Aces, December 1931 by Paul j. Bissell

“The Devil’s Ray” by Donald E. Keyhoe

Link - Posted by David on November 17, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from the pen of Donald E. Keyhoe—his first in the pages of Flying Aces magazine, which ran a story by Keyhoe in most of their issue from January 1930 through September 1942, featuring characters like Richard Knight, Eric Trent or Captain Philip Strange! Before Keyhoe started up the series characters, he wrote other stories of then present day aviation situations—especially situations in the Far East.

Sandwiched inbetween two early Philip Strange adventures was Keyhoe’s “The Devil’s Ray” in the December 1931 Flying Aces. The story acts as the introduction to a new series for a couple of characters—Mike Doyle and Dusty Rhoades—that never came to be. This didn’t stop Keyhoe from throwing all his best stuff into the mix. There’s a presumed dead German scientist, von Kurtz; he’s developed a diabolical radium ray—one second of the ray’s beams is enough to soften the tissues of your brain and start you on the road to madness; it’s set in Macao where anything and everything could and most likely did happen; add in an opium den, hell-bent zombie pilots, and a dwarf for good measure. What you get is pure Keyhoe genius!

“Stop those planes—before it is too late!” gasped the dying man on the deck of that huge plane-carrier. “Tell the captain Hoi Kiang’s—Macao—the dwarf—” Ten feet away a shadowy figure swiftly moved his hand—a shot rang out—and the dying man fell back as a bullet found his heart. And Mike Doyle looked up from the dead man’s side and saw six planes taking off—racing madly to the peril that was yet unknown!

Heroes of the Air: Sergt. Thomas Mottershead

Link - Posted by David on November 13, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

WHEN Flying, the new weekly paper of all things aviation, started up in England in 1938, amongst the articles and stories and photo features was an illustrative feature called “Heroes of the Air.” It was a full page illustration by S. Drigin of the events surrounding how the pictured Ace got their Victoria Cross along with a brief explanatory note.

Russian born Serge Drigin became a successful illustrator in the UK in the 1920s with his work regularly appearing in such British magazines as The Detective Magazine, Modern Boy and Chums. He is probably best known for his startling covers for Scoops, Air Stories, War Stories, Fantasy and others in the 30s.

From the 2 July 1938 issue of Flying:


SERGEANT THOMAS MOTTERSHEAD had the distinction of being the only noncommissioned officer in the Royal Air Force to win the Victoria Cross. On January 7, 1917, he was on patrol with Lieutenant W.E. Gower, his observer, when they were engaged by several enemy scouts. Mottershead, flying an F.E.2D, at once manoeuvred his machine so as to enable Lieutenant Gower to use his gun to the best advantage. After a short but courageous fight an incendiary bullet penetrated their petrol tank, which burst into flames. Although almost overcome by the heat Sergeant Mottershead brought his machine slowly to earth, and choosing an open space where he would not injure anyone on the ground, managed to make a successful landing. Unhappily Sergeant Mottershead succumbed to his injuries the following day. Notification of the award was made in the London Gazette of February 12, 1917, with the following words: “For conspicuous bravery, endurance and skill. . . . Though suffering extreme torture from burns, Sergeant Mottershead showed the most conspicuous presence of mind in the selection of a landing place, and his wonderful endurance and fortitude undoubtedly saved the life of his observer.”

“Flying Ghosts” by Franklin M. Ritchie

Link - Posted by David on November 10, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another story by Franklin M. Ritchie. Ritchie only wrote aviation yarns and his entire output—roughly three dozen stories—was between 1927 and 1930. Today we have another one from the lawyer who wrote pulp stories on the side to satisfy his yen for flying. From the premier issue of the short lived Eagle of the Air, Ritchie tells the story of rookie pilot Eric Folsom and his rise to responsible squadron veteran.

From the October 1929 issue of Eagles of the Air, it’s Franklin M. Ritchie’s “Flying Ghosts!”

Battle on battle surged in the clouds—men leaped to death through tracer-scorched skies—but when the squadron leaders went down, Eric Folsom just had to find his wings!

How the War Crates Flew: Aerial Armament

Link - Posted by David on November 7, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the May 1934 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing Lt. Edward McCrae to conduct a technical department each month. It is Lt. Mcrae’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Lt. MaCrae is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot, but also because he is the editor of this fine magazine.

Aerial Armament

by Lt. Edward McCrae (Sky Fighters, May 1934)

NOW if you featherless kiwis will perch yourselves on the back of those chairs across the room, I’ll tell you some things you didn’t know about how all of this aerial warfare started. It would almost make you laugh, but don’t try it while I’m talking.

A few pre-war aviators had been preaching the virtues of the flying machine as a weapon of war, but the lawmakers with their customary brilliance laughed at the idea and dismissed it. However, they got wise to themselves pretty quickly when the guns started booming.

Airplanes, even though they were winged box-cars, proved invaluable for scouting, dropping bombs by hand, and dropping propaganda literature in enemy territory. And during the first months of the war you couldn’t knock down one of these machines either from the ground or from other airplanes! You dodged ’em and liked it.

He Thumbed His Nose At ’Em

You’ll remember that the German, Immelmann, flew low over Paris every afternoon at cocktail time during a certain period early in the war, and dropped small bombs on the Frenchmen’s conks. People in the street fired millions of shots at him with rifles and pistols. Even taxi drivers stopped their machines while they and their passengers got out and peppered away at the old boy, but he just thumbed his nose at them and showed them his tail.

That’s what we had to buck up against. And then Roland Garros got mad and changed the whole show. Here’s how:

Now if your brains aren’t too dusty you’ll remember that old-time French aviator Garros had already become a hero. But the Germans in the air were interfering with his business of diving down upon enemy factories and bridges, etc., so he decided to interfere with them for a change.

Some InventionI

Up until that time the nose of an airplane was the safest blind spot of all, for if any solid substance touched the whirling propeller, the blade was more than likely done for.

But that old pal of mine, Garros, made it about as safe as the action end of a mule. He invented a machine-gun that would fire through the propeller, and on that day on the nose of a ship ceased being a blind spot and became its business end—the opposite one from that of a hornet.

Before the Germans could realize what had happened, little Roland had tickled five of them in the ribs with bullets.

The Boche Took It Over

And while we’re on the subject of mules—the Germans got the horse laugh on him. While Garros was on one of his famous raids his motor conked, and he and his machine fell into the hands of the Germans before he could destroy it. Thus he delivered to his enemy the very device he had perfected for the purpose of destroying them.

They took over his invention and put it to good use, as you will see.

Now stay awake a little longer, sister, and see why this most famous of French flyers made the greatest of all single contributions to aerial warfare.

When the war broke out in 1914 we heroes were armed with a short rifle. Some of us even carried shotguns!

This sounds rather silly, but they were better than no weapons at all. And don’t I know it! They were of very little value, however, because you couldn’t hit the side of a barn with them. The wind blew against the extended barrel when you aimed them and the ship vibrated so much that you couldn’t have hit your own wing with them from your cockpit.

Did you say that carrying a shotgun was silly, Mabel? Well, listen to this:

Why, you dumb chicks—we carried brick-bats—and that’s no kidding.

Silly? The French brought down two German airplanes with these alley apples!

A Brick-Bat Hero

The idea was to get close enough to the other ship to drop or hurl a piece of this Irish confetti through the other man’s propeller and shove his nose in the mud. Your Uncle Dudley was a brick-bat hero.

Then just a month before Garros invented his gun, the French armed their fighting Nieuports with twenty-pound Lewis guns on their upper wings. Take a squint at Figure 1. The gun was mounted parallel with the line of flight and fired over the top of the propeller. It was aimed by pointing the airplane itself, and was fired by the flyer in the cockpit pulling a string. It was a great improvement over brick-bats, and the Germans quickly adopted it. But a magazine held only forty-seven cartridges and when the flyer had used them up he had to make a landing to reload.

Then up pops our hero Mr. Garros! He mounted his new invention on the engine hood so you could get your hands on it. The gun shot through the arc of the propeller blade. He learned by experimenting that only seven per cent of his bullets would hit his propeller. So he protected the propeller blades with steel bands and let ’em hit.

What a Gun!

The bands reduced the efficiency of his propeller but, “Voila!” He had a gun that was a gun. And he sighted it much to the misery of the Germans, until they got their hands on him.

Six months later the Germans, using the Frenchman’s invention, improved it by synchronizing the action of the trigger with the propeller shaft. From that day to this there hasn’t been much picnicking in the air. Now, my little hollow-heads, take out your slates and listen to some arithmetic. You ought to know this without being told.

A Simple Principle

The principle of the synchronising of the machine-gun is very simple. If a single two-blade propeller revolves before the nose of a gun at the rate of 1,500 revolutions a minute, a blade of the propeller will pass the muzzle 3,000 times. But there are also 3,000 empty spaces where there is no propeller blade in front of the gun. Now, if the gun fires 500 shots a minute it is a simple mechanical problem to operate the weapon mechanically from the motor, so that the gun fires once through every sixth of those empty spaces.

The Germans’ well known Fokker was the first ship to blossom out with one of these new-fangled weapons. But the same thing happened to one of Tony’s ships that happened to Garros’. A Fokker sat down to rest among the Allies, and very soon Spads, Camels and all manners of Allied planes adorned themselves with this new decoration. And today it is more in style than ever.

A New Toy For Peelots

It was more than two years before anybody could think of a new toy for the flyers to play with. Again it was a French Ace, who was later to die with fifty-three victories to his credit, second in France only to Rene Fonck, who thought up this cute little gadget.

Georges Guynemer converted the front end of his crank shaft into a hundred-and-fifty-pound cannon! It fired one-pound shells of several types.

Guynemer worked a long time on this gun and did much to perfect it. With it he brought down his forty-ninth, fiftieth, fifty-first and fifty-second antagonists. The shell was too large to be safely fired between the propeller blades, so it was designed to shoot through the hub itself. Look out for it in Figure 2.

The gun was built into the crank case, and its breech and shootingmechanism were within easy reach, while the muzzle of the gun protruded through the hollow propeller shaft for a distance of two inches beyond.


To begin with, it was semi-automatic, the gun ejecting the empty shell, but the pilot reloading. This work required several seconds, and an airplane traveling at 150 miles an hour could be hopping out of tne range at the rate of 220 feet a second. By the time a flyer got his gun loaded he might find positions reversed and his enemy in charge of the situation.

So they worked this out and eventually developed an arm that would fire 120 shells a minute, each weighing a pound and a half. The catch in the use of this gun, however, was that it would shoot 180 pounds of ammunition a minute and itself weighed 150 pounds. It would take a flying freight train to carry enough ammunition to last it very long. Also, all this weight naturally slowed down the machine. A man with a light ship, a twelve-pound gun shooting rifle cartridges could fly circles around him. But when you hit a ship with your cannon that ship stayed hit.

So it was that as soon as the airplane had established itself as a supreme weapon of war, more attention was given to the effectiveness of its guns.

The Hague Convention had agreed that no explosive projectiles of size less than one-pounders should be used in civilized warfare in order to avoid unnecessary human suffering. But very early in the fighting, two American boys in the famous Lafayette Escadrille were shot with explosive machine-gun bullets! The Germans claim that the British first started breaking the rule and that they used them in retaliation. Naturally!

A Strange Weapon

Thus it was that there was a constant search for the best and most destructive weapon. I once tried out the strangest gun that ever perched on a war crate. It was a one-pounder for seaplanes, and it shot a charge out of both ends of the barrel at the same time! And my name is not Ripley! Nor Baron Munchausen!

The barrel was extremely long (see Figure 3) and the shell was inserted in the side at the middle of its length. The regular projectile was aimed downward at an angle while the other one was discharged backward over the ship. The latter consisted of a mixture of heavy grease and very small shot and was for the sole purpose of offsetting the recoil of the gun. On its flight through the air the grease caught fire and destroyed the tiny shot.

Now you kiwis can hop down off your perches and go out and chirp about your knowledge of gunnery. And try to get through talking before I get back next month.

P.S.—You might be interested to know that the Germans had such a hard time holding Roland Garros prisoner that they made him sign a book in the prison office every thirty minutes for two years. But he finally escaped and went back to fight some more.

“Over Skull Hill” by Curtis Mitchell

Link - Posted by David on November 3, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from Curtis Mitchell. Mitchell was born in Mexico, MO in 1902. He started his career as a newspaper man working for both the hometown papers—The Daily Ledger and The Intelligencer—even becoming the city editor for the former before heading east to New York in 1922 to become the publicity director for the Charity Organization Society of New York City. From there he worked his way back in to publishing becoming the youngest editor and vice president of a publishing house, Dell. He edited a variety of magazines, most dealing with entertainment like Film Fun and Film Humor and latter Modern Screen Magazine and Radio Stars. From 1928 to 1934, Mitchell was a frequent contributor to the aviation pulps like Wings, Sky Riders, Flying Aces, Air Trails, Air Stories, Sky Birds and War Birds.

Mitchell went on a world tour in 1924 and a tour through Europe and South Africa in 1929 for Story ideas!

from The Intelligencer, Mexico, Missouri, June 4, 1929

It’s hard to say whether this particular story was inspired by anything Mitchell gleaned from that trip. For the November 1931 number of Flying Aces, Mitchell tells the story of Sergeant -Rigger Eddie Weed. He’s developed a new kind of observation camera, unfortunately the squadron is on lockdown with no planes allowed to take off. So Eddie must steal his own plane and risk a court-martial in order to test out his new camera “Over Skull Hill!”

The C.O. had just posted a notice forbidding enlisted men to fly—and that was just the moment for Sergeant-Rigger Eddie Weed to steal one of the squadron’s crates and crack it up! But read on—and learn about a new kind of court-martial!


As a bonus, here are some further biographical notes on Curtis’ career that ran in the November 3, 1945 Showmen’s Trade Review, announcing his new job with Paramount Pictures:

Curtis Mitchell New Paramount Adv Chief

Colonel Curtis Mitchell, recently pictorial chief for the War Department Bureau of Public Relations and now on terminal leave after four and one-half years of active service, assumed the duties of director of advertising and publicity for Paramount Pictures on November 1, it was announced Wednesday by Charles M. Reagan, Paramount vice-president in charge of distribution. He succeeds to the post vacated by R.H. Gillham, who resigned.

Prior to entering the Army, Mitchell was vice-president and editorial supervisor for Triangle Publications, the magazine subsidiary of the Anenberg publishing interests. His experience and background in newspaper, magazine and public relations activities covers a wide range of associations which began when Mitchell became a reporter for the Mexico (Mo.) Daily Ledger, with which he later served as city editor.

After serving in various capacities in the public relations branch of the Army and having risen from the rank of Major to Colonel, Mitchell became head of the pictorial division of the department. In that office he was in charge of the pictorial coverage of Army activities throughout the war on all fronts including the furnishing of material for feature motion pictures, shorts and newsreels and of still photographs of newspapers and magazines everywhere. The system that resulted in the first official radiophotos and the transmission of colored stills by air was inaugurated by Mitchell. The original Hollywood Caravan of Stars’ tour for the benefit of Army Emergency Relief was his idea and he worked with Irving Berlin on the stage play “This Is the Army” and on the War Department’s own military circus “Here’s Your Army.”

Mitchell returned to publishing in 1950. He lived a long life, passing away in 1998 at the age of 97.