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The Story Behind The Cover


“Flying Aces, June 1935″ by C.B. Mayshark

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THIS May we are once again celebrating the genius that is C.B. Mayshark! Mayshark took over the covers duties on Flying Aces from Paul Bissell with the December 1934 issue and would continue to provide covers for the next year and a half until the June 1936 issue. While Bissell’s covers were frequently depictions of great moments in combat aviation from the Great War, Mayshark’s covers were often depictions of future aviation battles and planes—like the June 1935 cover where Mayshark gives us a glimpse into a raid on the Panama Canal!

Raid on the Panama Canal

th_FA_3506DEATH and destruction in the Canal Zone! Great masses of concrete and steel scattered to the four winds as if they were paper boxes! Ships and men reduced to fragments with equal abandon! A monument to human progress that took years to construct, a shipping and transportation facility which is absolutely essential to modern needs—all wrecked within the space of a few minutes!

Could it be done? Well, it could be attempted, at any rate. Success would depend upon the precision and the deftness with which the whole maneuver was carried out. Failure would be certain only if the United States air defense arm was of sufficient strength.

The prime reason for such an attack would be, of course, the move to cut off the two main fleets of the United States Navy. If the Atlantic Fleet were in home waters, it would take weeks to concentrate both fleets in the Pacific in case of an emergency. The reverse would be the case, should the national first line of defense be required in the Atlantic.

The Panama Canal is presumed to be international property under certain nautical laws, but it is primarily United States property. After all, it was built by this country, and the problem of defending it lies in the hands of the country that built it.

As is well known, the defensive measures adopted by the United States consists mainly of heavy naval batteries at strategic points. Some of these batteries are hidden, and some mounted on points of material advantage. There are also many troops stationed there—troops well versed in garrison artillery work—who are on duty twenty-four hours a day.

Shipping is carefully watched, and all vessels using the canal are under thorough observation at all times. One of the great dangers is the possibility of an enemy power’s sending through the locks a gigantic floating torpedo in the form of a ship loaded with explosive, which is blown up by means of a time bomb, once the vessel is within the lock walls. Such an explosion would destroy the work of years in a few seconds, and it would take even more time to replace it.

This may sound sensational and melodramatic to conservative readers, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility. Far stranger heroics have been displayed in the heat of war, particularly where national reverence and strange religious fanaticisms are exploited.

But while this method may be the most effective in the long run, there are many reasons why it could not be carried out with any assurance of secrecy. Too many people have to be considered where the crew of a vessel is concerned, and the loading of sufficient explosive necessary to do the job thoroughly presents too many opportunities for leakage of information.

The problem of gathering a crew willing to take this risk is, of course, the most outstanding. Only men fired with deep national pride can be imagined in such an heroic role.

How, then, can the Panama Canal be destroyed, or at least shut off?

The possibility of hostile landing parties who would make a night attack from surface craft is out of the picture when one considers the ground defenses already there. No landing party carrying sufficient demolition equipment could get through the first line, and have enough men left alive to carry out the plan.

Another possibility is the prospect of long-range shelling from naval craft. While the true facts of the Panama defenses are not known to the general public, it is very likely, however, that the guns mounted at Panama can far outrange the 16-inchers of an enemy dreadnaught. They would have a steadier fire platform and, by a system of prearranged charts, could get their ranges set and salvos blanketed over any area long before any enemy battery could score a hit.

The only prospect offering any promise of success is the new air arm involving high-speed bombing planes carrying the proper projectiles. Mere bombs will not do in a case like this. They must be shells with special high tensile nose caps and delayed action fuses. Otherwise, they would simply drop on the surfaces and do nothing but superficial damage. The concrete and steel at Panama calls for special bombs and special explosives.

In all this, we are considering the attack of an enemy power from the Pacific side, but it could be staged from either end of the canal. We must accept the fact that Japan is unusually strong in first-line submarines which have unusual range of action and carry folding-wing planes in their water-tight hatches. There is also the possibility of an air attack being staged from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier or from the discharge catapults of the cruisers. It is for this reason that we show a Japan«se Navy Nakajima shipboard fighter carrying out such a raid.

This machine is one of the finest shipboard fighters in any naval service. It is an all-metal, single-bay biplane, powered with a Japanese-built British Bristol Jupiter radial engine of 450 h.p. It has a top speed of 192 m.p.h., is fitted for day and night work, and can he used for light bombing.

This is an important feature of the bombs. They must he small, light and yet have the penetrating power of larger projectiles. It is known now that Japan has made recent purchases of several new metal formulas which combine unusual lightness with tensile strength. It is no secret, either, that the Japanese have long been experimenting with new explosives designed for special demolition work.

So here we have the sudden attack, by day or night, from the air. The raiders take off and, instead of attacking in formation, they attempt to cross up the defenders and “scramble” their microphone detectors, by appearing over the canal singly, three or four minutes apart. One or two will stand by to take care of defending ships, and the raid is on.

The defense ships, presumably brought into action from one of the near-by air bases, are Curtiss P-6-E Hawks, a standard pursuit fighter of the Air Service. This ship is a good old stand-by—rough, tough and nasty in a scrap. It is armed with the new high-speed Browning gun and can throw a thousand rounds a minute from each muzzle. It has a top speed of 198, with the 675 Curtiss “Conqueror” Prestone-cooled engine.

The point involved now—and one that could be decided only if such an occasion should arise, is whether the 192-m.p.h. Nakajima, with its pilot harried with the orders to drop bombs on particular and important points of the Canal, could withstand the defensive tactics and heavy gun-power of the Curtiss Hawk. It may be the old story of the attacker always suffering the heaviest losses, even though he gains his objective. Who can tell? Perhaps the question will never have to be settled.

The Story of The Cover
Flying Aces, June 1935 by C.B. Mayshark
Raid on the Panama Canal: Thrilling Story Behind This Month’s Cover

“Sky Fighters, July 1937″ 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 July 1937 cover, It’s the Sopwith Dolphin!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3707WITH four guns up front capable of shooting at two angles, the Sopwith Dolphin was an opponent to keep from in front of! Its stubby businesslike nose and short fuselage gave it the appearance of a heavily-weighted projectile racing through the air. Built in a distinctly unorthodox design, at first glance, it seemed to be something made to crawl on the ground which had suddenly sprouted wings, but once in the air it could twist and squirm in and out of maneuvers with such rapidity that it made one “OH” and “AH” with high-pressure exultation.

Of course Mr. T.O.M. Sopwith, the versatile designer of a dozen of more airplanes, most of which had quite similar wing construction as to dihedral, was probably sick of the same old thing over and over. So he deliberately pulled a fast one at the designing table. After the bugs were chased out of the experimental model it was found that this radically different job of stick and wire had clicked beyond the designer and manufacturer’s wildest hopes. It went into production and started rolling off the line.

Hitherto Sopwith had stuck to rotary motors, mostly Clergets, but in the Dolphin a 200 h.p. Hispano-Suiza was installed in the nose. The nose was now streamlined, which gave it a radically different appearance from former Sopwiths with their round cowling ring to fit around the whirling rotaries. Of course the heavier, more powerful motor was necessary because the Dolphin was a heavier and larger ship than the famous Camel. The speed of these two was about the same, the Dolphin having only about six or seven miles advantage of the Camel.

The Gun Arrangement

The two Lewis guns sticking up at a 45-degree angle were primarily for blasting the underside of an enemy plane, as the front guns were reserved to deliver a barrage of fire through the prop at any instant. This arrangement of guns made a hit with most pilots and some of them in 1918 made a practice of harassing German troops in their trenches and on roads by diving on them and having two separate angles of fire with which to mow down their opponents.

Later in the war the Sopwith Salamander, a single-seater with a rotary motor and armored belly and sides, came out just for such infantry strafing. Perhaps it was the occasional strafing of trenches with the Dolphin, and the many holes which appeared in its underside, and the wounds and casualties of the daring Dolphin pilots, that inspired this later Salamander.

Picking Up an Espionage Man

On the cover the Dolphin has taken on another trick job, that of picking up one of the Allied espionage men from behind the enemy lines. Usually a rendezvous was decided upon and the Allied plane sat down at this spot. If all went well the agent climbed aboard and was whisked out of danger quickly, but plenty of times valuable information was lost along with pilot and plane.

To most men the sense of balance and timing are fickle tilings of which they know little, and in which they lack experience and confidence. Not so with the agent catching the dangling rope from the swaying low-flying Dolphin. That man’s life had been spent dangling from ropes and scaffolds at dizzy heights. He had been foreman of a gang of bridge painters who year after year dangle from ropes and flimsy scaffolds high over the East River in New York Harbor. A rope overhead, a body of water underneath, a sure death if he slipped, was what he considered just another job of work-one that had been done before and one he was sure he could do at any time again when the emergency arose.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, July 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, May 1937″ 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 May 1937 cover, It’s the ever-popular Sopwith “Camel”!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3705THE Sopwith “Camel” was a name to be proud of back in 1917. This “Camel” of the air did not do without a drink nor was it slow and ungainly like its earthly namesake but it was tricky and uncomfortable to fly. It was similar to its predecessor, the Sop “Pup,” which was an airman’s delight to fly. The Camel’s superiority as a fighting craft was due to those modifications which transformed it into a devilish steed in the hands of its masters.

It could climb a thousand feet a minute and speed through the air in pursuit of an enemy ship until Camel squadrons were both feared by the enemy and envied by the other Allied squadrons equipped with inferior craft.

Whenever possible Allied nations got hold of Camels and bolstered up their own side with this popular fighting ship. Americans who flew them are still talking of their little temperamental job which gave them heart failure on landings and takeoffs but got them out of some mighty tight situations, which other ships of the time could not have accomplished, The 130 h.p. Clerget motor was extensively used to power the Camel.

Later most Camels were equipped with Bentley motors which gave them added pep and brought the Camel out of oblivion very much into the limelight for a glorious new era of fighting life. There was hardly a British ace who did not sometime in his career as a flyer sit in the compact cockpit of a Sop Camel and feel the exultation which comes from flying a hair-trigger ship.

Richthofen’s Defeat

Germany’s ace of aces, Richthofen, got in front of a Camel on April 21, 1918. That Camel was piloted by a young Canadian in the R.F.C. named Roy Brown. Capt. Brown’s Camel seemed to be a live thing as it screamed down on the tail of the Baron’s ship which was racing after one of Brown’s comrades. The Vickers guns leaped and bucked in the Camel’s hump.

The sturdy ship seemed to hold its breath helping its pilot’s aim. The Fokker triplane ahead staggered. Richthofen, mortally wounded, slumped in his pit. It was the end for him. and he, like so many other Germans, ended the war with a wraith-like flitting flying thing of wood and fabric with spitting guns forward blasting death to all who dared challenge its rule.

Although the Camel on the cover is not fighting another ship, it is fighting its most important battle of the war. The complete plans for a major offensive of the Allies disappeared suddenly from close-guarded headquarters offices. A half hour after they were missed intelligence officers were on the track. They traced them to a nearby hangar. They saw a plane sweeping into the skies. One of the intelligence men, a flyer, leaped into a Camel whose motor was ticking over. The enemy spy was almost out of sight, but in a slower ship.

Blazing Battle

The Camel gained, it overtook the spy. Guns blazed. Down slithered the front ship to crash near a road in German territory. The pilot crawled out, hailed a driver of a captured British motorcycle and gave the side car’s passenger the valuable papers. As the spy crumpled to the ground the motorcycle roared toward German headquarters. Down screamed the Camel. Its pilot disregarded the peppering from the motorcycle passenger’s rifle fire.

When the little Camel was about to hit the ground machine, its Vickers guns opened up. A deadly blast of bullets raked both Germans. A slug tore into the overheated motorcycle engine. A roaring explosion enveloped the whole ground machine. The stolen papers in the passenger’s dead hand flared up and curled into blackened bits that fluttered and faded into dust. The Camel wheeled, streaked toward home. Another job well done!

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, May 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Coppens, Belgium’s Greatest Ace” by Paul Bissell

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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 November 1932 cover Bissell paints one of Belgium’s greatest Aces in action—Lt. Willi Coppens trying to take down a balloon!

Coppens, Belgium’s Greatest Ace

th_FA_3211THE sun had set, and soon night for a few short hours would throw her peaceful blanket of darkness over the gaping wounds of war that now scarred the once beautiful fields of Flanders.

Above, where the sun’s rays still shone from beyond the far horizon, a tiny speck could be seen. Below, on the shell-torn earth, a crew was slowly hauling down a huge yellow sausage with black crosses painted on its sides. Anxiously the officers in charge watched the sky above until sudden recognition of the tiny speck brought hurried orders from their lips. Coppens, the little black devil of the Belgians, was on the wing!

Since the outbreak of the war, Willi Coppens had been in the service of his country. He had enlisted on the 28th of July, serving first as a despatch rider for the 6th Division, and then in other positions of both danger and trust but always with his eyes to the sky, his heart set on the “chasse.”

Three long years of this, then six months of observation, reconnaissance and artillery fire direction, until, in April, 1918, his great ambition was gratified at last. In the past six months he had made himself the terror of the Huns and the idol of his nation. Thirty-three balloons and two planes had fallen to his attack. He was premier ace of the Belgians and premier balloon-buster of the world.

NOW, October 14, 1918, his .small, dark-blue plane with the red, yellow and black circles of Belgium on its wings was once again bringing death and destruction to the invaders of his beloved country.

Down he swooped through the hail of shrapnel and machine-gun fire, his gun spitting incendiary bullets into the great yellow bag below. . . . At the last moment he veered off, banked up on one wing, then as quickly reversed, executing a tight S, his nose down and hugging the balloon as closely as he dared, to gain what little protection might be had through the enemy’s fear of hitting their own observers.

His throttle shot forward as he gave his little Nieuport the gun and dived down under the balloon with terrific speed. Back came the stick—the tiny blue plane shot upward—higher—higher—up into a stall when another instant would have sent it crashing into the swinging balloon.

Now a shift of the release lever, and from the chute on either side six flaming rockets, like meteors against the late afternoon sky, soared through the air with deadly accuracy toward the sausage. In their wake a trail of sparks showered downward, and the plane hung for an instant on the prop. Then its nose flopped down through the drifting sparks. A quick kick of the rudder avoided collision with the big cable by which the Germans were desperately trying to haul the clumsy bag to the ground.

The plane dropped like a plummet. Coppens eased up on his throttle slightly, then leveled off, at last clear of the balloon—and none too soon. The rockets buried themselves in the bulging silk and then, an instant later, there was a terrific burst of flame and smoke. Great fiery tongues leaped hundreds of feet into the air, and the big bag collapsed, falling to the ground and burning fiercely.

Machine guns clattered madly while high explosives and shrapnel once again rent the air in their effort to find the tiny plane. He was almost away, a tiny speck against the darkening sky, when a shrapnel burst squarely in his path. His left leg went numb. The Nieuport shivered as he almost lost control. The little black devil was winged at last!

THE war was over. The invader had been driven out and peace once again reigned. In the warm July afternoon, on one of Belgium’s great air fields, a small army had drawn up in battalion formation. To one side, an area roped off was filled to overflowing by a crowd in holiday attire. Flags were flying and bands playing. On the line a row of planes stood ready, their wings and bodies shining from careful grooming. For on this day a grateful nation was honoring one of its heroes.

A large plane could be seen in the distance. Quickly it approached, circled the field, then landed easily and taxied down near to wrhere a small group was standing in front of the battalions.

The crowd surged restlessly, then broke into tumultuous acclaim as a tall figure stepped from the plane and the bands crashed into the national anthem of the Belgians.

“—And a grateful nation and King salute you, Captain Coppens, Officer of the Order of Leopold.”

The King stepped forward to pin a small ribbon on the breast of the slim aviator in front of him, an aviator whose face was still pale from recent illness and whose left trouser leg flapped loosely against wood instead of bone and flesh. This lad supported himself with two canes, but one of these fell to the ground when he held out his hand to His Majesty.

Several officers started forward to recover the stick, but the King was first. He retrieved the stick quickly and with a gracious, “Permit me, mon Capitaine,” he handed it to Coppens. The crowd roared. A king had stooped to serve a humble subject—and a monarch had proved himself regal.

The Ships on The Cover
“Coppens, Belgium’s Greatest Ace”
Flying Aces, November 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Mannock, The Mad Major!” by Paul Bissell

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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 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Major Edward Mannock gives his all

Mannock, the Mad Major!

th_FA_3212FROM the war have come many nicknames which have since been applied rather freely to others besides those who originally earned them. “Crashing Colonels,” “Red Barons,” etc., are now commonplace, and to definitely determine the originals of these titles is almost impossible. However, there is one man, who, if we judge by the consensus of opinion in those places where airmen gather, enjoys his soubriquet without argument or question.

He was a man who started the war as a prisoner of the enemy, was repatriated because of defective eyesight, and lived to prove his eyes the most deadly, searching, and accurate of those of all the airmen who flew for the British, while his irrepressible humor and daredevil recklessness earned for him the name of the “Mad Major.”

On May 7, 1917, the failure of Captain Ball to return from a patrol held the attention of the Allied world. On the same day, unnoticed, the reports show the destruction of an enemy balloon by a Lieutenant Edward Mannock of Squadron 40. No one cried, “The King is dead, long live the King!” Yet well they might have, for this was the first victory of “Micky” Mannock, the “Mad Major,” one of the mysteries of the World War.

Micky, who was to tear through the skies of France like a thunderbolt, leaving a trail of victories surpassing even Captain Ball’s. Micky, who was to become Britain’s ace of aces, with 73 planes to his official credit, and who was to die, known only to his comrades, unfeted and unsung, with only an M.C. as a decoration from his country.

To be sure, the D.S.O. was going through at the time, and posthumously two bars and the V.C. were finally awarded, but even to this day this great ace is little known to the public at large, and it is difficult to learn a great deal about him.

Mannock’s comrades knew that he had been imprisoned by the Turks at the beginning of the war. He had been repatriated, and enlisted at once with the British, serving first with the R.A.M.C., then with the engineers in France, and coming finally to Squadron 40 in April, 1917.

It was soon evident that he was a Hun-hater, one of the few among all the aces. He was not the sportsman type, to whom war was just a game with death as the stake. Nor was he the hunter type, seeking only the joy of the kill. To him the war was “open season” on Germans, and he was out to exterminate them as he would rats or other vermin. He asked no quarter nor gave any, and yet his irrepressible sense of humor and love of a joke was constantly bobbing up.

He it was who, after failing for several days to get the Germans to engage him in battle, dropped a pair of boots on their airdrome with the note attached, “If you won’t come up and fight, maybe you can use these on the ground.”

With his M.C. came his captaincy, and he was made squadron commander. He was older than most aces, being thirty at his death, and he was noted for the care he took of his “new” men. He watched over them carefully, and tried to arrange it so that they would get a victory the first time over. Failing this, he would take them out alone and, finding their victim, he would maneuver the German into a good position for the new pilot’s fire. Then, making sure by a few bursts from his own guns, he would return to the drome, where he would enthusiastically congratulate the fledgling on getting his first German. It is said, in fact, that more than one ace-to-be had his first victory handed him by Micky.

IT IS told, also—and this story is pictured on this month’s cover—that on one of these excursions he gave the mud-covered Tommies in the trenches the thrill of their lives. He and his fledgling had spotted their victim and after some maneuvering Micky had finally forced the German into a position for his youngster to make the kill.

At this instant from the clouds dropped a red Albatross—motors on, and its-tracers already reaching hungrily for the new pilot below. A yank of the stick and Micky had thrown himself square into the line of the Albatross’ fire to save his companion. Bullets crashed through his cockpit and seared holes in his wings, but the German’s dive had been headed off, and a moment later, coming out of a mad vrille, the little S.E.5’s nose was square on the red tail with the black cross.

The Vickers rattled, and the German sped on down to pile up in a trench, while Micky turned back to the battle above. The youngster had failed to get his opponent at the first burst, and the more experienced German by clever flying had gotten himself into a good position for attacking the kid pilots.

However, seeing Micky return to the fray, the German decided to run for it, and turned toward Germany, but little did he know his opponent. The Irishman seemed to go wild. He flung his little S.E.5 after the fleeing Boche and quickly overtook him. Then, to the astonishment of those who watched below, Micky held his fire. Steeply he dived in from the side, forcing the German to turn. But again the Vickers were silent. Apparently the German decided that Micky’s guns were jammed, for he made a desperate attempt to turn to the attack.

Immediately, however, the twin Vickers spoke, spitting hot lead, and forcing him to swing back around. Then to the watching Tommies the game became evident. Like a cat with a mouse the Irishman was playing with the German. Slowly he was forcing the Albatross down.

Lower and lower they came. They were scarcely 100 feet up, and below them was the wrecked remains of the first plane, when suddenly the twin Vickers began chattering. The desperate Jerry swung right and left, only to be met by the deadly hail of bullets from the S.E.’s gun. Then one last burst and those below saw the German jerk from his seat, clawing the air madly in his death agony as his plane crashed, its wings touching the wreckage of the first Albatross.

Two more for Micky! No wonder they called him the Mad Major! And so it went, until, on a similar expedition in July, a machine-gun bullet from the ground found him. At least that’s one version. A second story says that he crashed a German to save one of his fledglings. It was another mystery, but the fact remains that no more would his comrades see him tuck his violin under his chin, and while they sat enthralled, play, “Where My Caravan Has Rested.” For the Mad Major had led his last caravan home.

The Ships on The Cover
“Mannock, The Mad Major!”
Flying Aces, December 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“War’s Youngest Ace Downs Voss” by Paul Bissell

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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 October 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Rhys-Davids downs Werner Voss!

War’s Youngest Ace Downs Voss

th_FA_3210YOUTH, winged youth. Youth, flying to meet death.

In all the strange chapters that came from the war there is nothing more incredible than the youthfulness of its air heroes.

23 years old—a major. Officially credited with seventy-five victories in individual combat.

22 years old—a captain. Internationally known for aggressive bravery, the idol of his nation, and a price on his head, dead or alive.

21 years old—a lieutenant. With more than twoscore victories to his credit. Decorated by nations and feted by kings.

And so it went, on down—20 years—19 years—18 years—and there it stops—officially! But listen:

“And you,” said the recruiting sergeant to a glad-faced youngster who stood, bright-eyed, in front of him. “What do you wish?”

“I’ve come to enlist, sir,” replied the boy.

“Enlist, is it? And do you think it’s a kindergarten in France we be asending the lads to?”

“No, sir. I mean to fight,” was the quiet answer.

For an instant the sergeant studied the serious eyes before him. “And your age, my boy?”

“Fift—I mean eighteen, sir.”

“Eighteen, eh,” growled the sergeant, shaking his head as he reached for an enlistment blank. “Do you know what you’re doing, sonny?”

“Righto, sir.”

“Righto, it is then. And eighteen years ye be, though if you’re eighteen, Mister Methusaleh is my name. What’s your name, youngster?”

“Rhys-Davids, sir,” he replied, and a school lad had started on the road to glory, death and fame.

It was early autumn of seventeen, and the 56th Squadron, R.F.C., was in the thick of it. This famous squadron almost daily battled Richthofen and the best of his “gentlemen.” Fought them through the entire war to a credit of 411 planes downed—but not without themselves adding many famous names to the already long list of those who died for England. Included in this list was the name of their famous commander, McCudden, with fifty-eight victories to his personal credit.

Here, with this outfit, was the lad who had come to France “meaning to fight.” And fight he had. Never was there a pilot more willing or eager for a scrap. He would attack recklessly, even though outnumbered, and in a dogfight he became a madman—a madman dealing death to the enemy. And then he would return to his drome to become all boy again. A happy boy, with pets—birds that sang to him—pups that “Waited each day for his return—and tame rabbits that nipped off the shoots in the little garden behind his shack and nibbled greens, from his hand.

Already more than a score of German. had fallen before his fire. Schaffer, of “Richthofen’s Own,” had fought his last fight against this youngster. But it was on September 23, 1917, that he gained his most famous victory.

THE squadron was on patrol, protecting some bombers, when off to one side were seen two German planes. It did not seem likely that they would attack, as the English squadron numbered more than a dozen of Bristols, Camels and S.E.Ss. That is, it did not seem likely until, by the black-and-white-checkered fuselage it was seen that one of the Germans was Lieutenant Werner Voss.

This was one adversary that the Allies held in the greatest respect. Already both his plane and name were known all up and down the Front. He was always looking for combats, and fought generally over Allied territory, which could not be said of Richthofen. And with forty-eight victories over the Allies, Voss, himself of most humble origin, was a serious rival of the noble-born baron.

Indeed, records seem to show that Voss, feeling himself in every way the equal of his rival as an ace, had refused to be the tail protector to Richthofen and, on at least one occasion, when the victories of Voss had reached a number almost equal to those of the Rittmeister himself, the High Command had seen fit to transfer the mere “Lieutenant” to a less active sector, where opportunities for combat were fewer.

With such an opponent as this, the Britishers knew that attack might be expected, and when, a moment later, a patrol of Albatrosses appeared, no one was surprised to see the checkered triplane dive in headlong. Voss’ companion, flying to one side and slightly behind, was almost immediately shot down. And when the Albatrosses refused to accept battle, Voss was left to his fate.

It was an unequal fight, though after the German had winged his way through the first terrific rain of fire from all the other ships, it was Rhys-Davids who engaged him in a duel. Around and around they tore, with Voss, hemmed in on all sides, hoping only to sell his life as dearly as possible. The Fokker tripe, with its German pilot, had met its equal in the little S.E.5 flown by the English boy!

The British plane turned and twisted, meeting maneuver with maneuver, until at last the looked-for opening came and the checkered fuselage for a moment was full in the sights. Just for an instant—but an instant that was filled with spitting lead, an instant that began that mad, twisting dive that ended near Poelcapelle for the triplane with the black crosses on its wings, and ended in eternity for the brave German ace.

Rhys-Davids followed him down to the ground. It was the game—there must be no slip. Then, with motor full on, himself untouched, he raced back to his pets.

The lad—his comrades thought he must be now almost seventeen years old—had thirty-two unofficial victories to his credit, and those gods that be must have laughed as they wrote his name on a shell. No German airman carried it. But an Archie battery, a month later, shot it from the ground. Ten thousand feet up it found him.

Back in his shack the birds still sang in their cages and the rabbits still nibbled in the garden. But the puppies waited the return of their boy master in vain, for the war’s youngest ace had gone West.

The Ships on The Cover
“War’s Youngest Ace Downs Voss”
Flying Aces, October 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Major Vaughn Wins the D.S.C.” by Paul Bissell

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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 September 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action that lead to Major George Vaughn winning a D.S.C.!

Vaughn Wins the D.S.C.

th_FA_3209“FOR extraordinary heroism in action near Cambrai, France. On September 22, 1918, Lieutenant Vaughn, while leading an offensive patrol, sighted 18 enemy Fokkers about to attack a group of five Allied planes which were flying at a low level. Although outnumbered nearly five to one, he attacked the enemy group and personally shot down two of the enemy planes, the remaining three pilots of his flight shooting down two more. His daring and courage enabled the group of Allied planes to escape ….”

So reads the American army citation on which the D.S.C. was awarded to Lieutenant George A. Vaughn. But between the lines is even more of a story—the story of a youth who left school to serve his country, first with the British and then under his own colors, with the 17th Aero Squadron—the story of a lad who came victorious through many air battles and who, that morning in September, 1918, seeing some of his comrades trapped by the enemy, went unhesitatingly to their aid. He knew he was outnumbered five to one by the Boche, yet he deliberately accepted the desperate odds. He calmly watched the chill hand of death reach for him; coolly he evaded its annihilating clutch and saw its grim fingers close on two of his enemies.

He fought many times after this, wresting victory after victory from the Boche until the war’s end found him one of America’s leading aces, with the rank of major.

It was 8:45 a.m. on a clear sunny morning. Big cumulus clouds about seven thousand feet up floated slowly across No-Man’s-Land, casting great blue shadows on the shell-pocked surface, and themselves affording excellent hiding places for enemy airplanes.

Vaughn, with three companions, was flying just under the clouds, protecting another flight of five Camels about three thousand feet below and slightly in advance of him. From the east fifteen Fokkers came in at about Vaughn’s level. They turned and flew parallel with him, all the time watching the lower flight. Then suddenly they tipped over on their noses and went down in a body on the planes below.

Suspecting a trap, Vaughn immediately searched the skies overhead. Sure enough, there they were—another batch of Germans ready to swoop down like hawks on him and his companions. Instantly he saw the one chance—to lead his flight down into the fight below, and do what damage they could diving in—at the same time giving the five Allied planes a chance to break away-and then try to get out of it before the enemy from above could surround them.

DOWN the four Camels tore, into the twisting dogfight below them—tracer bullets reaching out ahead, searching their red targets. In an instant it was every man for himself. Vaughn saw one of the Camels go down in flames and cursed the damned Boche as his sights picked up a black cross squarely. His fingers squeezed the trips. A wild answering throb as his guns spit flame, and he saw the red machine fall off out of control.

He swung in a tight turn to the left. The whole world now seemed nothing to him but white streaks of smoke cutting the sky in every direction, while red, yellow, green ships— ships with huge black crosses or ships with the tricolored circles of the Allies—seemed to come suddenly from nowhere.

The upper flight was now on him. He could see their tracers swish by him as they came down.

The red belly of a Fokker stood squarely in front of him. A quick burst, and he saw the red tail kick up as the Boche started on his last dive. Number Two—but a burst of bullets came through the cockpit just over his knees. Too close! They had him hemmed in, so he took his only chance, and threw himself into a spin.

Down he went, his tail whipping around and around. In this way he afforded no easy target. But the Germans followed him down, firing burst after burst into him, diving past, zooming back and diving again, their guns blazing. That spin seemed endless.

Luckily, most of the Germans had given him up as finished, and turned back. One last persistent Boche fired a long burst, and then he, too. turned, leaving Vaughn, as he supposed, to crash. Just in time the little Camel answered the controls.

THEN came the greatest blow of the battle. He was out of gas. There was no answering roar from the motor, and with a sinking heart and a vision of German prison camps, he sought a place to set her down. Lower he came. Now scarcely fifty feet was between him and the torn earth, the idling prop was slowing perceptibly, when suddenly it came to him—-the emergency tank! Quickly he switched it on. There was a sputter; then with a full-throated roar the engine took hold and the little machine climbed rapidly up again.

But the battle was over, and now not a plane was to be seen. So, turning toward his airdrome, some twenty minutes away, Vaughn for the first time had an opportunity to think about himself. It was then he was conscious of a burning sensation across his back. His flying suit was soaking wet just below his right shoulder. Wounded, he thought, and to use his own words, “Fine! Now I’ll get a month in the hospital. Or perhaps they’ll send me to Blighty.”

He could feel no pain, so decided it was slight, and landed with a broad smile, feeling he had rather put it over on the boys. Then came the second blow of the day, as the mechanics pointed to where the corner of his gas tank had been shot away. His clothes were soaked, not with blood, but with gasoline. No wound! No Blighty! Well, what the hell! It had been a good scrap, anyway. Six Fokkers had been accounted for, and only two Camels lost.

All Vaughn got then was a new ship. But later, with bands playing and flags flying and a lot of soldiers standing round to see how it was done, they pinned a bit of ribbon on him. Not much for a man who had played with death daily, but just the Army’s way of saying, “This guy’s damn good!”

The Ships on The Cover
“Major Vaughn Wins the D.S.C”
Flying Aces, September 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Torpedoes for Trouble” by Colcord Heurlin

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THIS week we present a cover by Colcord Heurlin! Heurlin worked in the pulps primarily over a ten year period from 1923 to 1933. His work appeared on Adventure, Aces, Complete Stories, Everybody’s Combined with Romance, North-West Stories, The Popular, Short Stories, Flying Aces, Sea Stories, Top-Notch, War Stories, Western Story, and here, the cover of the December 1931 Sky Birds!

Torpedoes for Trouble

th_SB_3112IT WAS a far cry from the early days of the war, when aviators were asked to drop bombs on hurriedly constructed Zeppelin hangars in northern Belgium, to the 1918 bomber with its aerial torpedo. In the early days airmen often made their own bombs of petrol cans wrapped with tarred rope which was designed to blast out hangars and then set fire to the remains. From those days bombing went through the 20-pounder stage, automatic racks, and eventually blossomed out with ships carrying single 550-pound missiles designed to fang their way through many feet of solid concrete before exploding. These were known as delayed detonation bombs.

On this month’s cover we show a two-seater bomber of this type. It has just released a 550-pound torpedo over a German airdrome. As in this picture, the pilot usually dived his ship on the target as though he were going to fire his fixed guns, and then released the torpedo-bomb. The spinning projectile did the rest.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Torpedoes for Trouble”
Sky Birds, December 1931 by Colcord Heurlin

“Sky Fighters, March 1937″ 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 March 1937 cover, It’s the S.I.A. Type 9B!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3703ANY Italian or Austrian soldier who served during the World War on the Italian front could, without any trouble at all, pass the scaling ladder tests of any fire department in the world. Those combatants climbed perpendicular, glacial surfaces which, at first glance, seemed insurmountable. Metal hooks, somewhat resembling half of an iceman’s tongs, were heaved up against the icy sides of snowladen cliffs or ice formations.

When the hook held, the climbers inched their way up knotted ropes or ropes with loops for footholds. Sometimes they left an anchored rope hanging for others to follow, sometimes they pulled up the rope and pitched the hook farther up.

“Get there,” was the command. It was up to the soldier to climb till he reached his objective. There, exhausted, with aching muscles shrieking for relief, he probably was met by the foe with a fixed bayonet, or the defenders might cut his rope far above, sending him tumbling grotesquely into space.

An All Purpose Job

The S.I.A. (Societa Italiana Aviazione) Type 9B two seater fighter was one of those ships that was called an all purpose job. It hung up records in climbing, speed, lifting power and endurance. Its engine was the 700 h.p. Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino).

This ship was used extensively by the Italians. Their aviators liked its reliable engine and its sure fire reaction to the stick. It became the eyes of the Italian army. Spotting for the artillery attacking enemy positions and even rescuing Italian troops from surprise Austrian attacks.

A mountain has two major sides. That side facing the enemy which is watched continually for any advances. The other side behind the defenders, that side up which they have come, down which they may possibly have to retreat. It is so safe from enemy attack that its defense is completely neglected, for what enemy can come in from the rear without being annihilated?

But in the picture on the cover just this situation has occurred. An Austrian commander with vision and initiative penetrated the rear lines at night, sentries were captured without firing a shot. The way was clear. The Austrians commenced climbing before dawn. As the sun threw its yellow glaze over the cold sky the icy cliffs were alive with silent climbing figures in pot helmets. Nearer and nearer they approached their goal where the small group of Italian Alpinis manned mountain guns facing the enemy.

In ten minutes the Austrian climbers could annihilate that group of defenders, pull the guns back, swing them around and blast the Italians below from their positions, allowing the Austrian hordes to sweep through passes and on to a major victory.

A Speck in the Sky

Far in the distance a speck stood out in dark silhouette against the brightening sky. It gained size, its wings glinted as it banked and swooped down toward the cliff. The rear gunner stood in his pit tense with huge binoculars pressed to his unbelieving eyes. He looked a second time and then yelled to his pilot. The throttle was jammed full ahead, the motor roared an ominous shriek as the husky S.I.A. dove and leveled off.

The front guns spattered two long bursts into the Austrians. Ropes were severed, bodies jerked and twisted as men screamed and clawed for a footing. Like a landslide the figures above toppled, they caught others below in their death plunge. Only a few remaining pot-helmeted figures rocked in terror on the slippery ice surfaces of the ragged mountain side. The rear gun of the S.I.A. took up the attack as the front guns ceased to find a target. More Austrians fell from their icy footholds.

Above, the Italian mountain troops looked down, amazed and jittery from the realization of their close call. Far in the distance the receding S.I.A. dipped its wings in friendly salute to the massed group of Alpini troops on the lofty mountain peak who screamed their cheering thanks across the bleak crags of the perpendicular battlefields.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, March 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, February 1937″ 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 February 1937 cover, It’s the Pfalz D13 attacking a balloon!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3702THE elongated type of captive balloons were of French origin but the Germans were the first to put them to practical use in the World War. They called them “drachens,” or kite balloons. They are flown in exactly the same way as a boy’s kite, the force of the wind holding them aloft. In the earlier spherical-shaped balloons the wind spun them and had a tendency to force them down.

Theoretically any balloon was obsolete on account of the airplane, dirigible and anti-aircraft gun, but the big bags usually stayed up, did their work, were hawled down and tucked in for the night and sent aloft the next day to act as the eyes for our artillery.

Of course lots of balloons were eventually shot down, but so were airplanes and dirigibles. The number of balloons lost by the U.S. in action was forty-eight and our airmen flattened seventy-three of the Kaiser’s drachens.

A Poor Risk

To service one of these cumbersome bags took the combined muscle and brains of a considerable group of men; even motorcycle messengers, a furrier, shoemaker, tailor, barber, orderlies, etc., were necessary. Around the bag on the ground was spotted a ring of machine-guns and antiaircraft guns. That ring of shooting irons kept most airplanes away. When an ambitious airman did attack a balloon his greeting from the ground took on the aspect of a major attack. His chance of coming out of the scrap the victor and in one piece was so low that any insurance company would consider him a poor risk.

The Pfalz D 13 was one of the last ships put out by the German manufacturer of that name. Its design seems to have been influenced by the Bristol Fighter, one of Britain’s finest fighting ships. Both have the fuselage suspended between the upper and lower wings and the bracing from the fuselage to the lower wing and the undercarriage is very similar. This D 13 was a fast, maneuverable job with a powerful water-cooled motor to pull it. It had to be fast to hop an Allied balloon and down it.

The pilot in the Pfalz was not just a prowler who happened to spot the balloon and look a long chance in attacking. That Pfalz in downing the balloon hoped to save his side a major calamity. The balloon observer has for days been up in his basket with his glasses glued to his eyes; his face to the east and his mouth close to the small telephone transmitter. His words have been actuating receiving diaphrams on the portable receiving station on the ground. Concise information has then been transmitted to battery commanders stationed behind their smoking heavy guns. Those guns have been sighted on enemy troops rushing up to reenforce Hun front line positions. In sighting the guns dozens of artillery officers have used only one pair of eyes, those keen, searching eyes of the balloon observers high in the air whose only life line is a steel cable hooked to a drum winch on the ground.

Stern Orders

Therefore to silence dozens of batteries tearing German troops to pieces it is necessary to blind the Allies lookout. The order the German pilot got was: “Do not come back unless you explode the balloon.” The Pfalz pilot dove on his quarry. Incendiary bullets from his Spandaus ripped into highly explosive hydrogen gas. Poof, the balloon is through! Out bails the observer. The Pfalz pilot yanks at his stick, there is no response from his elevators. Shrapnel from the ground batteries has made a sieve of his plane. All control wires are gone; so is the Pfalz and its pilot.

As the Pfalz tore head on into the ground a second reserve balloon slowly eased itself out of a fake group of trees. A figure disentangled itself from a jumble of ropes, sped toward the anchored basket of the new balloon. He tore away pieces of scorched clothing, leaped into the basket, yelled, “Up ship!” and was slithering up into sky again.

A battery commander miles distant saw the new balloon mounting. He smiled grimly, “I thought they had blinded us, but it was just a cinder in our eye.”

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, February 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians” by Paul Bissell

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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 August 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the cockpit with Baracca as his squadron bombs the Austrian Naval at Pola!

Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians

th_FA_3208“ALL ships are on the line, sir. Bombs are in racks, and they are ready to take off.” The general’s aide saluted smartly, and the general turned ^o a major at his side, who wore his boots like a cavalryman, but whose silver wings showed him to be an aviator.

“You know your orders, major. You will lead the squadron and be guided across by the boats. The planes will follow you at four-minute intervals. When you have found your objective, you will drop your bombs. Captain Barrechi will release his parachute light on the target you designate. After dropping their explosives, all ships will return directly to this airdrome. That is all.”

And instead of the usual salute he held out his hand, which was eagerly grasped by the major.

The field was an Italian airdrome on the west coast of the Adriatic. The major, unlike most aviators of the war, was not a young man. He had entered the Italian army almost fifteen years before, serving in the cavalry, and rising to the rank of captain. In the first days after Italy had cast her fate with that of the Allies and it became necessary to build up an Italian air force, he had, in spite of his “advanced age,” obtained a transfer to this branch of the service, and had quickly become an ace.

Now he was Major Baracca, the Italian ace of aces. All up and down. the entire front he was known not only as a great pilot, but as one of the great air fighters of the world. With a more matured mind than the younger men, he, though ever searching and participating in personal battles with the enemy, was constantly planning and scheming larger offensive movements—movements using whole groups and squadrons, and inflicting severe damage along the Austrian front. More than seventy successful bombing raids were under his personal leadership. More than a thousand times he crossed the enemy line, seeking battle. In thirty-six of these individual combats he had come away victorious, before finally, on June 21, 1918, fighting against tremendous odds, the bullet bearing his name found its mark, and he fell from the skies, a flaming sacrifice to war.

Tonight, in the late summer of 1917, he was leading one of the largest and most daring of his raids. Over to the east the Austrians, in their naval base at Pola, felt themselves safe from attack in the knowledge that the broad Adriatic lay between them and their Italian foes.

At nine-thirty sharp, the first huge ship took the air. One thousand pounds of high explosives were fastened beneath its wings. Below, stretched out across the Adriatic, was a fleet of power boats, speeding across the dark waters, a hooded light shining from each stern to guide the big planes to their destination. Four minutes later, with huge engines roaring, the second plane took off, and so on at four-minute intervals until the entire force was in the air. Twenty planes were in the first squadron, and twenty-six in the second. Long before the last ship had left the field, the first ship had already dropped its missiles and was on its way back home.

The night was deathly still. Not even a light breeze fanned the smooth surface of the sea below. From three thousand feet up Major Baracca could see the tiny light guiding him—a light which he soon overtook, only to pick up another immediately a few miles farther along and speeding in the same direction. And so he passed from one to another of these moving beacons, until he made out the lights of a city on the dim horizon.

Now the tiny light he had been following flashed brightly twice, then swung out in a wide circle and vanished. It was the signal. In front and below him lay the naval base and arsenal of Pola. The moment had arrived. Carefully he made his calculations and peered searchingly into the darkness below. His must be a direct hit. The naval base itself must be spotted, so that Captain Barrechi might drop his parachute flare directly over their objective.

He signaled to his pilot, who nosed the big plane over into an easy glide, motors throttled down and wires singing. He had made almost a complete circle over the town when his eyes picked up the marks he was looking for. A quick order to the pilot, and the plane flattened out, gliding squarely over the target. The bomber leaned tensely over the side, his arm raised, his eyes carefully lining through the sights on the lights below. A quick signal, a click of levers, a slight waver, and two dark masses detached themselves from below the wings and hurtled downward.

One tense instant, and then, far below, two blinding flashes followed by the sharp, terrific intonation of high explosives. Immediately the night was stabbed by beams of light. Major Baracca gazed, eagerly over the sides to mark his hit. The blinding light of one of the beams caught his ship full in its glare, and shells began to burst around him. But below a sudden burst of flame, as a small store of munitions went off, showed that his bombs had landed in the arsenal area.

THE archies were now bombing him heavily. Machine guns spattered, and flaming onions swept through the night. His motors roared as the pilot gave her the gun, and with a wild feeling of exultation Baracca signaled to swing in a wide circle so as to give Barrechi a chance to drop his light, and give himself the benefit of this light, in dropping his other bombs.

As Barrechi glided down and dropped his flare, there was a sharp explosion, followed by a bright downward rush as of a falling meteor. Then a sharp snap as the parachute opened, and the light floated easily in space, swaying gently and lighting up the scene below. With no breeze, the light hung in the air as if anchored.

This came as a complete surprise to the Austrians, and for some minutes there was panic. Men could be seen dashing madly around; the guns actually ceased firing, and even the searchlights snapped off as if trying to hide from the merciless glare above.

Quickly Baracca saw his advantage, and undisturbed by fire from below, he calmly glided his plane lower and directly over a spot marked with a red X on the map held on his knees. Leisurely and with deadly certainty the bomber sighted; his arm flashed downward, and the levers clicked. Tensely they waited, leaning over the side to watch the two bombs drop straight down, their white fins clearly seen in the brilliant light.

For a split second they seemed to disappear as they landed. Then there was a terrific upheaval. A whole section of the surface below seemed to lift itself up in an attempt to reach the plane above—then, giving up its vain effort, to split into a thousand weird shapes and tongues of flame. Explosion after explosion followed, as one building set off another. Again Baracca’s lever worked, and the giant plane dealt another hand of death from the sky.

Now Barrechi was also releasing his bombs. And plane number three was just entering the circle of light. The archies had commenced their fire again, but their aim was wild, for terror had struck the hearts of the Austrians.

For five hours this bombardment continued. One after another the big Capronis, heedless of the shell-fire from below, coolly dropped their eggs. Forty-six ships came over, carrying death and destruction to the Austrians, and forty-six ships returned safely to Italy, with their bomb-racks empty.

The Ships on The Cover
“Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians”
Flying Aces, August 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Nungesser to the Rescue!” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on October 12, 2020 @ 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 July 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Lieutenant Charles Nungesser surprises a flight of German Hell hawks!

Nungesser to the Rescue!

th_FA_3207IT WAS a hazy morning in December of ’16. The sun struggled to break through the heavy fog which had for days now hung close to the sodden landscape. Here and there were patches of snow, but in general the land was all half-frozen mud. The armies of the Allies and the Germans had dug themselves in for the winter, satisfied, except for an occasional almost individual effort, merely to hold what they had, fortify themselves against attack, and await spring for offensive movements.

On a French airdrome just a few kilometers back of the lines several ships were being groomed to take off. Motors were warmed up and impatient pilots looked constantly up at the sky, waiting for the fog to clear away. Finally a small Nieuport took off, circling the field and climbing away rapidly, soon to be lost in the mist. On the wings was the tri-color cocarde of the French. On the fuselage was painted a curious insignia. On a black heart was imposed a white skull and crossbones, above which was a coffin with a lighted candle at either end, and to one side was featured in large figures the number 13.

This was the plane of Lieutenant Charles Nungesser, a pilot who, even at this early date in the war, was already an ace, and whose daring and aggressiveness were to lead him into numberless air battles, gain for him the credit of forty-five victories against his adversaries, and leave him, at the end of the war, with more wounds than any living aviator. He fought always for the glory of France, with a recklessness and abandon that did not take into consideration any thought of personal safety. To him days that he could not fly were days wasted. He chafed with impatience when bad weather or wounds kept him from the skies and his eager search for the enemy.

For days now Nungesser had been held down to earth by the bad weather and restlessly he had waited for the sun to break through, until, when telephonic advices from up and down the line told him that the weather was clearing, he took off into the mist rather than wait longer for it to lift.

He was not a thousand feet up when he went into a cloud bank, and, nosing the little machine up slightly, he headed in the general direction of Metz, flying solely by his compass and instinct. All around was gray mist. There was no top, no bottom, just one moist, gray evenness all around. Only the “feel” of his seat told him whether he was climbing, level, or banked over.

Steadily he gained altitude, his windshield running little streams of water, his whole plane glistening wet from the gray mist. Ten, fifteen minutes he climbed; his altimeter now showed twelve thousand feet when suddenly he burst from the grayness into the blazing sunlight. Above him, now, was only the limitless blue, below the great billowy clouds formed an irregular floor, dazzling white in the sunshine, with brilliant blup shadows.

IT WAS some seconds before he could adjust his eyes to the sudden brilliance. Then, off to the left, he made out four planes, mere specks against the horizon. Placing the sun behind him, and still climbing, slowly he gained on them, and before long made them out to be four German Halberstadt scouts. He was now fifty miles north of his airdrome, and the cloud formations were beginning to break up. Great holes in them showed, far below, the woods of Valluber, splotched with sunlight and shadow.

Just east of Lechelle he saw the four scouts suddenly turn over on their noses and go diving through one of these openings. His first thought was that they were simply diving to get below the clouds, but a second glance showed him the reason of their plunge. A British Caudron artillery observation plane was flying calmly below, unaware of the death and destruction hurtling toward it.

A push forward on the wheel and the little Nieuport nosed over, motor full on, roaring in pursuit of the diving Germans. The British pilot, now aware of his danger, banked around sharply, avoiding the first German plane, which flashed by and turned in a wide spiral to renew the attack. The second German, diving with guns blazing, was forced to change his course to avoid the deadly fire that the British observer poured out on him.

Nungesser, as yet unobserved, banked over to keep “in the sun” and be ready for the first German as he turned back to dive at the Caudron. Easing back on his wheel to hold his elevation, he got himself directly in position, counting on the fact that because of the sun at his back he would be unseen by the German, now up on his wingtip, twisting as he turned for his second attack. Over again went the Nieuport’s nose, on went the motor full, and carefully Nungesser guided his headlong flight until at last he saw the German’s tail creep between his sights. A little more and the Boche pilot himself was full in line with the Frenchman’s guns. A squeeze of the trigger and a tracer bullet proved the aim was true. Then a full burst. The German, caught unawares, half-turned in his seat as the bullets spat around him. His arm jerked up sharply as he was hit. Helplessly he attempted to evade the diving Frenchman. He veered off to the left, but his move was anticipated by Nungesser, and another burst, this time into his gas tank, finished the show.

A puff of smoke, then a burst of flame, and the doomed Halberstadt plunged downward, twisting and turning, leaving a trail of smoke behind.

A sharp renversement and Nungesser was back to the defense of the slow-moving Caudron. The Germans, however, seeing their leader go down in flames, had had enough, and were already streaking it for home.

The Ships on The Cover
“Nungesser to the Rescue!”
Flying Aces, July 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

IT WAS ten years later, and again the day was gray. Again a ship stood impatiently at a French airdrome. It was a larger ship this time, a ship carrying untold gallons of gasoline to enable it in one flight to span an ocean. A ship all white, but on its fuselage was again painted that strange insignia, a white skull and crossbones on a black heart. It was scarcely daybreak, but a crowd had collected. Word had gone around that Nungesser and Coli were about to start.

For days and weeks they had waited impatiently on the ground for conditions which would give them at least a chance of success. On the other side of the Atlantic, groomed and ready, other planes were waiting to make this same attempt from the west. No time could be lost if Nungesser was to.gain for his beloved country the honor of the first successful flight between France and America. The telegraph clicked, word was flashed that the weather over the Atlantic seemed favorable, or at least as favorable as they might hope for. The chance must be taken.

Quick orders were given. The motor, already warmed, was again tested. Last-minute directions and dispatches were given, and farewells spoken. Two men climbed into the cockpit. All was ready. A face leaned out of the cabin, a hand went up in a waved farewell to the crowd. The chocks were pulled, and the plane started down the runway. A moment later, and the great White Bird, staggering under its weight of gasoline, rose into the air, and Nungesser, one of France’s great air heroes, had started on his last flight.

Twenty hours had passed. Once again a plane struggled in the dense nothingness of the fog. A pilot who had come victorious through many air battles against the Germans was now at death grips with the elements themselves. A missing motor, wings heavily laden with ice, fuel low, and a storm-whipped sea beneath. The last grim secrets of that brave flight have been hidden forever.

On the night of Nungesser’s fateful flight there was on the west shore of the Atlantic a British ex-war pilot who owed his life to the French ace, a pilot who waited anxiously for word of the White Bird’s safe arrival, waited anxiously and waited in vain. And there is a legend that on a high cliff of the bleak Newfoundland coast there is a small stone that looks ever out toward sea. It has no name, and bears but two words, “In Memory.” And carved deep in the solid granite slab is once again that strange insignia—a skull and crossbones on a heart.

“Sky Fighters, January 1937″ 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 January 1937 cover, It’s the Morane-Saulnier Parasol type monoplane!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3701THE Morane-Saulnier Parasol type monoplane was used back in 1914 by the French Army for artillery spotting. As the war continued the Parasols were improved each year but they were still doing their work mainly on reconnaissance missions. These sleek little ships were too speedy targets for most opponents, very unlike the majority of two seaters. They could climb well but they had tricks to play on their own pilot if he didn’t know their temperamental shortcomings.

To be taken prisoner by the enemy was usually not such a harassing experience as would be expected. The airmen of both sides were usually gallant foes. If an opponent was knocked out of the skies he was in for a long siege in prison and concentration camps. If he was wounded he got good medical attention before being jailed. Even if he set fire to his crashed plane so that the enemy couldn’t salvage parts he still got a break. Both Germans and Allies did this so it was even Steven.

The New Prop-Firing Gun

Roland Garros, the famous French aviator who first rigged a machine-gun to fire through the whirling propeller arc, was ignominiously forced down behind the German lines. That was a calamity for the Allies, because on the Morane-Saulnier Garros was flying was fixed his new prop-firing gun. He tried desperately to destroy his plane and gun but the German foot soldiers swarmed down on him, put out the fire he had started and discovered his secret gun. The Germans were elated. They considered this prisoner one to be guarded with extra care. They confined him and insisted he sign a record book every half hour. Even with these precautions he escaped.

If an aviator was forced down and showed fight it was just too bad, for after all he was an enemy. Frank Luke, our famous balloon buster, didn’t know what the word surrender meant. He was in the war to fight. He didn’t expect to come out alive. He didn’t like his flying mates. They didn’t like him. His job was to kill Germans, which he did to his last gasping breath. After downing several balloons he was forced down in enemy territory where he was given a chance to give himself up peaceably. He scoffed at the idea, unlimbered his .45 and staged a running fight with infantry. He was killed.

Lieut. W.B. Wanamaker of the 27th Squadron was shot down by Ernst Udet, the now famous German stunt flyer. His plane was badly wrecked and he was badly injured. The German foot soldiers would not help him until Udet landed, took personal charge and saw that Wanamaker was given medical attention and treated like an honorable enemy.

It was not unusual on our side of the lines to bring in a captured Germany flying officer and give him a royal reception at the home tarmac before he was sent back to prison.

An enemy is dangerous as long as he is armed and on his own territory. When one lone opponent is surrounded by the other side and surrenders he ceases to be the foe you’ve been looking for. You’ve got him. Congress, the Kaiser, the King and other tops have made all officers gentlemen, therefore they usually acted as such,

Shrapnel Finds Its Mark

The Morane-Saulnier on the cover was ranging back and forth over German targets when the pilot was hit by a tiny pellet of shrapnel from a German A.A. gun. The Morane with an A-No.1 pilot at the stick was a temperamental gal at its best, but with a pilot badly wounded it took the shortest path to the ground and pancaked behind the German lines. The observer could not burn his plane because the pilot was still alive. He saw two German soldiers rushing towards him. He motioned that he was giving up without a fight by raising his hands. One German soldier came closer. Suddenly he yanked out a Luger and blazed away at the Allied Observer. Down came the Yank’s hands, the Lewis gun snapped to the right. It smashed the German to the ground, unconscious. Back swung the Lewis to the left. A stream of slugs whistled from it at the other German who had now opened fire. One of the slugs smashed the blazing Luger from the enemy’s hand. The Yank ceased firing and brought his sights to bear on an approaching German air officer. The German officer raised his hands and continued to advance. “You are right,” he informed the Yank, “I saw the whole thing. I will not trick you as the soldiers did.”

The Yank climbed out. The two airmen from different sides of the line lifted the unconscious Allied pilot from the front pit. The German officer ordered first aid treatment given to the Allied pilot before the German soldiers who had showed such poor sportsmanship could have their wounds dressed.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, January 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

The Lone Eagle, December 1938 by Eugene M. Frandzen

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Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of The Lone Eagle from its first issue in September 1933 until the June 1937 issue when he would share duties with Rudolph Belarski. At the start of the run, Frandzen painted covers of general air action much like his Sky Fighters covers, shifting to covers featuring famous aces at the end of 1935. For the December 1938 issue, Frandzen gives us a throwback cover with the Pfalz D3 vs the Nieuport 17!

The Story of the Cover

SLEEK, lithe bodies shaped like th_LE_3812 bullets and colored with hues of the rainbow, ripped across the battle-scarred sky. New to each other, these strange creatures of prey flew at each other’s throats in an effort to find a vulnerable spot by which the destruction of either might be meted out to the other.

Cautious maneuvering; a burst of machine-gun spray to warm a death dealing firing arm; a loop; a roll in position; a burst of fire that achieved nothing for either; all these in an effort to prove that each new and strange sky bird was the master of the situation—the new hellkite that would clear the skies of the enemy.

Jerry in his new skyfighter, the Pfalz D3, has a job to perform. The Oberst is warned of French troop concentration in the sector and is ordered to send a man aloft to ascertain the exact position and extent of the movement.

A careful search over the camouflaged terrain five thousand feet below achieves his objective.

Ten kilometers behind the French lines he sees blue-uniformed troops massing to enter the Front lines. Fresh reinforcements are readied to relieve a much battered, half-starved, sleep-wearied line of men; men who are so tired and worn out from the ceaseless barrages of German gun-fire, that they have little left with which to fight back.

The Nieuport 17

Jerry is satisfied that he has the information German Intelligence requires. He turns toward his own lines—but finds his way cut off. The French had seen him, guessed his mission and sent their newest, sleekest contribution to Allied Air fighters into the sky, the Nieuport 17.

Carefully Frenchy maneuvers for he knows the ship under him. Desperately Jerry makes a bold dash for his lines for his orders are not to engage in combat but to bring his information back.

A burst of Vickers fire rips into the vitals of the Pfalz and it quivers frantically from the shock. Jerry is forced to fight to save himself—and his information. A lunge at the Pfalz and more Nieuport gun-slugs tear at the tail section of the German plane. This time the Jerry turns and fights. But too late. There is a blind spot in his dive. For a moment he cannot see the Nieuport just in front of him, but that moment spells eternity for the desperate man.

A right side slip brings the fast Nieuport into position; a pressure on the thumb grips, and both guns answer with a rocking, flaming spurt of steel that rips into the German plane—and the engine and pilot are silenced—forever. Slowly, in a flat spin, it drops to earth. Once again Nieuport has sent a victor into the skies—and the French troop movement remains a secret.

Light, Fast Planes

Both the Nieuport 17 and the German Pfalz D3 were light, fast, sturdy little planes that had what it takes to give any enemy a real fight. Born of a long line of grand fighting ships, the Nieuport 17 was a single-seater with the parasol idea of construction so sought after by French designers; large upper wing, with very little lower wing. It could out-maneuver many of the Allied and German ships used at the Front at that time.

Powered by a 120 horsepower Le Rhone, its straightaway speed was remarkable. It was similar in design to others of the Nieuport family in its V strut and general construction characteristic of earlier Nieuports.

The Pfalz D3 was a single-seater scout, meticulously streamlined, and sleek as a greyhound. It answered well to the controls, but a downward glide was bad for forward visibility as the top wing obstructed the view when the pilot sought to fire his Spandaus straight ahead.

The Mercedes 160 horsepower engine, gave it a speed of well over 100 miles an hour. German aces became attached to this plane and used it to advantage in their battles against Allied airmen.

The Story of The Cover
The Lone Eagle, December 1938 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Story of The Cover Page)

“The High Sign” by Colcord Heurlin

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THIS week we present another cover by Colcord Heurlin! Heurlin worked in the pulps primarily over a ten year period from 1923 to 1933. His work appeared on Adventure, Aces, Complete Stories, Everybody’s Combined with Romance, North-West Stories, The Popular, Short Stories, Sky Birds, Sea Stories, Top-Notch, War Stories, Western Story, and here, the cover of the September 1931 Flying Aces!

The High Sign

th_FA_3109SURRENDER in the air! It often happened when some one got the breaks. And often it was planned for when the Allies wanted a special type of German machine.
On the occasion depicted on our cover this month, a German two-seater of new design has had its prop shattered and its crew is helpless over Allied territory. It would have been easy for the man in the Allied scout plane to shoot them down, but he preferred to take them whole.
He signaled to the enemy airmen to land and the observer indicated that he had seen, by holding his hands high and well away from his gun. The rest was easy—a complete German ship to study and a clear confirmation for the victorious pilot.
This cover is a reproduction of an actual incident. A photograph owned by one of our authors will confirm it.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The High Sign”
Flying Aces, September 1931 by Colcord Heurlin

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