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The Battle Birds Club

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JUST as Popular Publications shut down their original air magazine Battle Aces in December 1932, leaving Dare-Devil Aces to shoulder the hopes and dreams of the air-minded reader, it launched a new magazine that same month—Battle Birds. Although neither Dare-Devil Aces or Battle Aces had a club associated with it, when Battle Birds started, the letters pages were already buzzing with talk of a Battle Birds Club to provide a forum for air-minded readers to share their hopes, dreams and knowledge with similar minded individuals. (Popular was quick to start a club for G-8 when Battle Aces was relaunched as G-8 and his Battle Aces in October 1933.)

The Battle Birds Club was open to all air-minded readers. Anyone could join by simply stating they wanted to and they would be sent a blue membership card. This card would display the members group-squadron-flight number, derived as follows: The country would be broken down into three regions—these three being the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Pursuit Groups—and a fourth, FL, for foreign readers classified in the ‘Foreign Legion’; each state a squadron number; and every 8 members within said state a lettered flight as they are recorded.

Several months in to the magazine’s publication, a wings pin fashioned after the letters page header was on offer. To obtain the wings pin, a member needed only to answer the question presented in the issue and send along 25¢.

a BATTLE BIRDS CLUB timeline

DECEMBER 1932

  • Application for membership starts in first issue—wanting to know how air-minded the reader is and what he’d like to read about in the club pages

JANUARY 1933

  • Discusses the division of the country into three groups—1st, 2nd and 3rd Pursuit groups. Your group number will be on your card.
  • Foreign readers who join will be in the “Foreign Legion” and their cards will be marked with “F.L.” Each state a squadron number and every 8 members within said state a lettered flight as they are recorded.

FEBRUARY 1933

  • First names of members are listed with addresses.

MARCH 1933

  • The membership cards have all been printed and many have been sent out.
  • More names in the honor roll of new selected members.
  • Talk of figuring out a way whereby members can earn their wings!

APRIL 1933

  • Membership cards are mentioned as being blue!
  • A list of applicants who failed to include the town they’re from.
  • More names for the honor roll.
  • Still working on a way to earn your wings.

MAY 1933

  • Asking the readers to write in yes or no if they’d be interested in a club pin.
  • The usual listing of new members.

JUNE 1933

  • Listing of new members—mostly from Cincinnati.
  • Mentioned there are a lot of foreign readers from all parts of the world!

JULY 1933

  • Listing of more new members.

AUGUST 1933

  • The Pins are ready! They will be in the design of the club emblem (a shield with BB emblazed on it with wings) and cast from sterling silver. To earn the pin you must send in the correct answer to the question that issue along with 25¢. You can still earn your wings even if you haven’t recieved your card yet.
  • First up: “What makes an airplane stay up?”
  • More names on the Honor Roll of New Members.

SEPTEMBER 1933

  • Earn your Wings question: “What are the principle parts of a plane and what are they used for?
  • More names on the Honor Roll of New Members.

OCTOBER 1933

  • Earn your Wings question: “What would be the first thing to do, and why, if your motor quit just after taking off?”
  • More names on the Honor Roll of New Members.

NOVEMBER 1933

  • Earn your Wings question: “What are the three axes of a plane and where are they?”
  • More names on the Honor Roll of New Members.

DECEMBER 1933

  • The pins are in the same design as that appearing at the top of the membership card and include a safety latch to prevent being lost.
  • Earn your Wings question: “Why are superchargers used on altitude flights?”
  • More names on the Honor Roll of New Members.

JANUARY 1934

  • A lot of membership cards sent out have been returned due to incorrect addresses.
  • Earn your Wings question: “What is the advantage of an adjustable pitch ‘prop’?”
  • More names on the Honor Roll of New Members.

FEBRUARY 1934

  • Still harping on the large number of returned cards due to incorrect addresses.
  • Earn your Wings question: “If a man jumps from a plane going three hundred miles an hour and does not open his chute ’til he has fallen a mile (5,280 feet) how fast will he be going when he opens his chute?”
  • More names on the Honor Roll of New Members.

MARCH 1934

  • A mention of the price of silver has jumped up from 30¢ an ounce to over a $1.25. They DID buy quite a few of the sterling pins a few months ago when silver was a lot less than it is now so they can still give out pins for about what they cost them.
  • Earn your Wings question: “Why is glider flying the ideal preliminary step to power plane piloting?”
  • More names on the Honor Roll of New Members.

APRIL 1934

  • “The Skipper” says he has to sign a couple thousand more membership cards for new members.
  • Earn your Wings question: “How do dirigibles make up the weight lost by the gasoline being burned away in the engines?”
  • More names on the Honor Roll of New Members.

MAY 1934

  • The pins are described as such: “These pins are exact duplicates of the insignia that appears at the head of the department and upon your membership cards. Fitted with a safety clasp to prevent loss, and finished in the new dull manner, they are about the best looking club pins we have ever seen.”
  • Earn your Wings question: “Does the breeze behind a propeller increase with its speed, no matter how fast it travels?”
  • More names on the Honor Roll of New Members.

JUNE 1934

  • (FINAL ISSUE) Still taking applications for membership!
  • Earn your Wings question: “When, where and by whom was the first balloon used in warfare?”
  • More names on the Honor Roll of New Members.

 

WITH the July Issue, BATTLE BIRDS changes it’s name to DUSTY AYRES and his BATTLE BIRDS and it’s focus. The lead story will now feature the exploits of Dusty Ayres and his Battle Birds and what could happen in a possible future war. The Battle Bird Club continues, but will now be known as the Hanger Flying Club although new pins will not be produced. All previous members of the Battle Birds Club are automatically members of this new club. The new club’s focus is on being prepared for any future wars that may arise. New members can still aquire a Battle Birds wings pin for 25¢ if so desired—but the feeling in your heart is more important than a pin on your chest!

JULY 1934

  • The letters page now run by The Skipper (Sid Bowen) is titled HANGER FLYING (also the name of the new club)
  • The first column discusses the “war in the future” which is the setting for the Dusty Ayres tales. All readers should be prepared if and when this war should come.
  • “Of course, all the fellows who are members of the old Battle Birds club, automatically become members of this new club that is dedicated to national preparedness for the safety of our country If you have a B.B. pin, be sure to wear it, because it signifies that you’re a real American and ready to do all you can to preserve all the things that we Americans hold closest tour hearts. Those of you who haven’t a pin and want one, just send in your request and twenty-five cents to the skipper, and I’ll make darn sure that you’ll get one by return mail. But listen fellows, just one more thing before I close up; a pin is a pin and it doesn’t mean a thing if there isn’t the thought behind it. It’s the true feeling in your heart that counts, wether you wear the club pin or not.

AUGUST 1934

  • No mention of the club or pin in the HANGER FLYING column.
  • You can get the previous issue for 20¢ (with 5¢ for postage)

SEPTEMBER 1934

  • Readers have been sending in requests for Mr. Blakeslee and the skipper to dope out three-view drawings of the Silver Flash and the Dart, but the request is turned back on the readers to send in their own three-view drawings of Dusty’s ships.
  • Some readers have already crafted models of said planes—if you have, by all means send in a photo of your model.
  • reiterates that members of the old club are definitely members of the new club. To join just let the skipper know you want to join, and if you want a club pin just send in 25¢ in cash or stamps.
  • The skipper says: “Very soon I’m going to have some new HANGER FLYING CLUB membership cards printed. They will be free to whoever wants one. When they’re ready I’ll let you know, and you can then let me know if you want one.
  • “But as I said at the very beginning of these meetings, a pin or a membership card does not mean a thing if the spirit isn’t right there in the old heart. We are pledging ourselves to do everything possible for ever-lasting peace, happiness and prosperity for the peoples of this wonderful country of ours—the greatest in all the wide world. And if we keep that thought close to our hearts every minute of the day, it doesn’t matter how many pins we wear, or how many membership cards we carry around.”

OCTOBER 1934

  • The skipper says the lads write all the time inquiring after the club—it’s just 25¢ cash or stamps (to cover the cost of the pin) to Skipper Sid Bowen, Popular Publications, Inc., 205 East 2nd Street, New York, New York
  • Says the Battle Birds club has been thriving for a long time, and anyone who joined it before Dusty Ayres yarns appeared is still a member
  • Skipper says, “I’ve got swell plans for the club, that I hope to get underway tan early date.”

NOVEMBER 1934

  • No real mention of the club aside from a reference to the silver wings. A reader writes in: “Why not have cloth wings of red, white and blue? Make them out of the material that high school letters are made of. Make them three inches long and two inches wide.”
  • The Skipper (Sid Bowen) writes: “There it is. Do you agree with Ed, or are the silver wings we have now, okay? Mull it over and let’s hear what you think.”
  • Also a mention to send in your plane designs and the Skipper and Mr Blakeslee will look them over and use one in the story—maybe even on the cover. Design credit will be given!

DECEMBER 1934

  • Asks readers if they’d like to see some female characters added to the stories.
  • Apologizes for the club membership cards not being ready yet!
  • “It has been suggested that since the old Battle Birds club was divided up into squadrons, the same should be done with the Dusty Ayres gang. If chaps in your neighborhood want to form a Dusty Ayres Group, just send in your names, and I’ll put them in the very next Hanger Flying Department. To each Group can be attached the name of the city or town where you lads live. Or if you wish you can have a number instead of a name. Work it out thought, you lads who were in the old club—in squadrons, etc—can just simply make it a Dusty Ayres Group.”
  • Reader’s three view plans of the Silver Flash

JANUARY 1935

  • Some readers have expressed a desire to have a model company make models of the Silver Flash to sell. The Skipper doesn’t mind, but thinks readers would want to make their own. But he’ll look into getting it done if there’s enough interest.
  • A reader inquires about a flying course in the magazine. The Skippers says he did that once (Sky Fighters) and it was even published as a book.
  • Reader’s three view plans of the Silver Flash

FEBRUARY 1935

  • Several lads have had their 25¢ club pins returned by the post office due to bad addresses.
  • A list of readers who’d like to hear from other Dusty Ayres fans. (Pen Pals)
  • The Skipper (Sid Bowen) addresses the matter of club pins and membership cards: “The membership card is free to anybody who wants to join. Simply let me know and I’ll send you one. If you want the club pin you can have one by sending in twenty-five cents in cash or stamps. But—and get this—owning a club pin does not mean you are a better member than a chap with simply the membership card. The Skipper writes Dusty yarns—he’s not in the pin business. We have pins only because a lot of the fellows wanted one to wear.”
  • Reader’s three view plans of the Ships of the Future (2 pgs)

MARCH 1935

  • Fred Blakeslee has just returned from a swell vacation and will resume his art duties next month.
  • Please ink your plane designs for better reproduction.
  • A list of readers who’d like to hear from other Dusty Ayres fans (Pen Pals)
  • Reader’s three view plans of the Ships of the Future (2pgs)

APRIL 1935

  • Be sure to send in your plane designs in ink—Fred Blakeslee doesn’t have the time to do it for you
  • A list of readers who’d like to hear from other Dusty Ayres fans (Pen Pals)
  • Reader’s three view plans of the Ships of the Future (3pgs)

MAY/JUNE 1935

  • The skipper suggests writing to your local radio station if you’d like to hear Dusty in yarns written for the radio.
  • A list of readers who’d like to hear from other Dusty Ayres fans (Pen Pals)
  • Reader’s three view plans of the Ships of the Future (4pgs)
  • a ”certificate of truth” is printed on the letters page to send in with your drawings stating you are the artist.

JULY/AUGUST 1935

  • No mention of the club, cards or pins.
  • A list of readers who’d like to hear from other Dusty Ayres fans (Pen Pals)
  • Reader’s three view plans of the Ships of the Future (5pgs)
  • The Skipper acknowledges that this is the last issue but keep those Dusty clubs going!

The club does not pick up when the magazine resumes publication as BATTLE BIRDS in 1940.

“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)

“Plane Jane” by Frederick C. Davis

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THIS week we have a short story by renowned pulp author Frederick C. Davis. Davis is probably best remembered for his work on Operator 5 where he penned the first 20 stories, as well as the Moon Man series for Ten Detective Aces and several other continuing series for various Popular Publications. He also wrote a number of aviation stories that appeared in Aces, Wings and Air Stories.

It all rested on winning the Air Derby for Ned Knight and Alton Airlines whose plane he was piloting. Alton hoped to dispel the bad rumors swirling around their planes and secure lucrative business deals at various airports; and Ned, he hoped to win the $5,000 purse so he could get a nice place and some furniture and ask his girl to marry him. Only problem is, their biggest competition, Stormbird, will do whatever it takes to win—whatever it takes. From the August 1928 issue of Air Stories it’s Frederick C. Davis’ “Plane Jane!”

“When you fly tomorrow—you fly to win!”—Ned Knight, pilot of the racing plane, climbed into the cockpit with those words ringing in his ears—but when the finish line neared, his hand faltered, and his ears shut out everything save the roar of another motor, beckoning him to destruction.

“Hoots and Headlights” by Joe Archibald

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THERE’S no fool like an April fool, and there’s no bigger April fool than that Bachelor of Artifice, the Knight of Calamity, an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors himself—Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham, the marvel from Boonetown, Iowa!

In the pit of a sinister Kraut Albatros slumped a grim, squat-bodied Kaiser hocher whose greenish eyes boded ill for a certain Yankee flyer who had knocked him for a row of Nisson huts six weeks before. “The Owl” was on the prowl again, and his feathers were ruffled from his high dudgeon. It was said across the Rhine that Herr Hauptmann von Heinz was so closely related to the owl species that the nocturnal birds were in complete harmony with him. Unfortunately for The Owl, Lieutenant Pinkham had a his own peculiar way of shining light on these matters!

More than one person on the Western Front was bent! Having prepared a succulent dish of stuffed owl, Chef Pinkham was bent on giving the bird to one Hauptmann von Heinz. Meanwhile, one Oscar Frump, of Waterloo, Iowa, was bent on giving the bird to Phineas. And before things went much further, one Francois LeBouche was busy sharpening his shiv. He was bent, too—bent on cutting himself a piece of throat.

“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)

“Streaking Vickers” by Ralph Oppenheim

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TO ROUND off Mosquito Month we have a non-Mosquitoes story from the pen of Ralph Oppenheim. In the mid thirties, Oppenheim wrote a half dozen stories for Sky Fighters featuring Lt. “Streak” Davis. Davis was a fighter, and the speed with which he hurled his plane to the attack, straight and true as an arrow, had won him his soubriquet. Operating out of the 34th Pursuit Squadron, his C.O. sends him out to range the big guns to take out the enemy’s supply dump before the Hindenburg Push. From the May 1934 issue of Sky Fighters it’s “Streaking Vickers!”

Follow Lieutenant “Streak” Davis As He Sails the Sky Lanes on the Perilous Trail of Hun Horror!

“Sky Writers, December 1938″ by Terry Gilkison

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FREQUENT visitors to this site know that we’ve been featuring Terry Gilkison’s Famous Sky Fighters feature from the pages of Sky Fighters. Gilkison had a number of these features in various pulp magazines—Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Starting in the February 1936 issue of Lone Eagle, Gilkison started the war-air quiz feature Sky Writers. Each month there would be four questions based on the Aces and events of The Great War. If you’ve been following his Famous Sky Fighters, these questions should be a snap!

Here’s the quiz from the December 1938 issue of Lone Eagle.

If you get stumped or just want to check your answers, click here!

“The Flying Spider” by Ralph Oppenheim

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THROUGH the dark night sky, streaking swiftly with their Hisso engines thundering, is the greatest trio of aces on the Western Front—the famous and inseparable “Three Mosquitoes,” the mightiest flying combination that had ever blazed its way through overwhelming odds and laughed to tell of it! Flying in a V formation—at point was Captain Kirby, impetuous young leader of the great trio; on his right was little Lieutenant “Shorty” Carn, the mild-eyed, corpulent little Mosquito and lanky Lieutenant Travis, eldest and wisest of the Mosquitoes on his left!

We’re back with the third and final of three Ralph Oppenheim’s Three Mosquitoes stories we’re featuring this March for Mosquito Month! And this one’s a doozy! Who had not heard of that grim nickname—”The Spider”? It was the nickname of Germany’s most notorious spy—the plague and dread of the Allied powers. The whole Allied intelligence system was after this man, but they had never been able to catch him; he seemed to bear a charmed life. Kirby and his comrades had heard many rumors of his wild, hairbreadth escapades, but they had not known how truly deadly he was! And now the Three Mosquitoes found themselves caught in The Spider’s web! From the pages of the June 15th, 1929 issue of War Novels it’s Ralph Oppenheim’s “The Flying Spider!”

Here it is, gang—the greatest flying yarn of the year! Kirby, Travis and Carn, that famous trio of war birds, thought they were going to have a rest. They flew that important visiting Limey, Colonel Haley-Shaw, to England—and then all hell busted loose, for they had landed in the web of the infamous and powerful “Spider.”

“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

“Flaming Cockpits” by Ralph Oppenheim

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“LET’S GO!” Once more, The Three Mosquitoes familiar battle cry rings out over the western front and the three khaki Spads take to the air, each sporting the famous Mosquito insignia. In the cockpits sat three warriors who were known wherever men flew as the greatest and most hell raising trio of aces ever to blaze their way through overwhelming odds—always in front was Kirby, their impetuous young leader. Flanking him on either side were the mild-eyed and corpulent Shorty Carn, and lanky Travis, the eldest and wisest Mosquito.

We’re back with the second of three exciting tales of Ralph Oppenheim’s Three Mosquitoes we’re featuring this March for Mosquito Month! This week, The Three Mosquitoes past comes back to haunt them when the brother of the Black Devil, whom they dispatched in last week’s story, sends a challenge to Kirby in hopes of avenging his death!

Dear Captain Kirby:
    One month ago you shot to death a German flyer known as the “Black Devil.” You killed him in fair, clean combat, and he died a worthy death. But I am his brother, and in accordance with a family code dating back to feudal times, it is my duty and desire to avenge his death.
    I am going to shoot you down in flames just as you shot down my brother.
    I have transferred from two-seaters to fighting single- seaters since my brother’s death, and am considered an ace—so we will be fairly matched. I cannot disclose my identity for fear this letter will fall into the wrong hands, and a trap will be set for me. I know, however, that if it falls in your hands you will act like a true sportsman. Therefore, if you will fly over Rois Forest, within your own lines, at five o’clock this afternoon—alone—I shall be waiting in the clouds. If I see that it is you, I will come out. Otherwise, I shall bide my time until we meet elsewhere—which, pray God, will be soon, before either of us gets killed.
    You will know my plane, a Fokker, by the skull painted on its fuselage—similar to my brother’s insignia.
                                            Respectfully,
                                        The Black Devil’s Brother.

From the November 11th, 1927 issue of War Stories—It’s The Three Mosquitoes in “Flaming Cockpits!”

The Black Devil’s brother was seeking revenge. He was after Kirby, the famous leader of the “Three Mosquitoes,” and for the first time in his great career, though he fought on frantically, Kirby was losing his nerve. Oppenheim at his best in a splendid, breath-taking flying story.

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

“High Diving” by Ralph Oppenheim

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

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

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

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

And the response from Mr. Oppenheim himself!

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

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

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

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

“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

Harold Fraser Cruickshank (1893-1979)

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THIS month we’re spotlighting the work of Canada’s favorite son, Harold F. Cruickshank. We’ve had some good stories the past couple weeks spanning his pulp career. Unfortunately, like all great things, it must come to an end. And we’re ending our month devoted to Harold F. Cruickshank with his obituary.

In finding his obituary, we discovered that his lifespan as listed around the internet is wrong. He did not pass in 1965, but fourteen years later on March 31st, 1979—ten days after his 86th birthday!

So, without further ado—

War-era author dies after lengthy illness

Edmonton Journal, Edmonton, Canada • Tuesday, 3 April 1979, pD8

One of Edmonton’s most prolific authors, Harold Cruickshank, is dead at 86.

The writer of numerous action-adventure stories, Mr. Cruickshank died Saturday in the Misericordia Hospital. He had been in failing health for several months.

His early wartime stories appeared regularly in American, Canadian and British ‘pulp’ magazines, so named because they were printed on newsprint rather than fine paper. They were often looked upon as being too racy.

Mr. Cruickshank’s career began in the early 1920s and continued almost to his death, though he actually began writing while fighting in Belgium in 1915.

Soldiers in his battalion, the 7th Canadian Infantry, were asked to write something to keep them busy. For his piece he received first prize. It was later sold and published in a British magazine.

After being wounded in the Battle of the Somme, he was discharged in 1918.

Bom in Wales of Scottish parents, he emigrated to Alberta with his father and brother in 1905 settling near Barrhead. But because of his health he was unable to return to homesteading and settled in Edmonton where he worked for the education department.

In his spare time he became one of the more popular pulp authors. He began writing full-time, selling his first major story in 1923 to Western Home Monthly, forerunner of Chatelaine.

He often produced and sold up to eight 6,000-word stories a month published under various pseudonyms, the most well-known being Bert Fraser.

Stories ran in such famous magazines of the day as Battle Stories, Battle Birds, Battling Aces, Dare-devil Aces, Air War and Sky Fighters, under titles like “The Village of The Living Dead,” “Judgment of The War Gods” and “Where Death Lurks Deep.”

Drawing on his own war experiences as background, his characters were often involved in war exploits. He created heroes like Captain Bill Dawe the Sky Devil, a First World War flying ace, whose escapades were run in serials. Dawe was patterned after Mr. Cruickshank’s own infantry commander.

As the demand for war stories began to fade he turned to writing wilderness adventure stories based on his early homesteading experiences.

In addition to changing times, he also found himself competing with other popular pulp writers of the day — Erie Stanley Gardner, Luke Short, James Warner Bellah and George Fielding Eliot.

The emergence of modem magazines, paperbacks and television eventually killed the pulp magazines, a situation which Mr. Cruickshank, according to son-in-law Bert Nightingale, found disturbing.

“He worried about its effects on young people,” said Mr. Nightingale. “While he did not have a simon pure attitude, he felt his writing as it used to be was more suitable.”

Mr. Cruickshank was also a frequent contributor to Liberty and Maclean’s magazines, as well as to the old Edmonton Journal feature Third Column.

Recent works were published in Heritage Magazine and other government publications. Tie received an Alberta Achievement Award for writings on pioneer life.

Mr. Cruickshank lived at 10925 126th St. for almost 40 years. He is survived by his wife, Dolly; a daughter, Edith (Scotty) Nightingale; two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A son, John, died in 1945.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Foster and McGarvey Chapel.

“Wild King Savagery” by Harold F. Cruickshank

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WE’RE celebrating the works of Canada’s very own Harold F. Cruickshank this month. Mr. Cruickshank launched his career writing stories based loosely on his war experiences. As tastes turned from straight out battle field stories to air war stories, Cruickshank shifted his setting from the trenches to the cockpit. After the Second World War, taste again shifted toward westerns, Cruickshank was right there cranking them out for magazines like 10 Story Western Magazine, Western Short Stories, Texas Rangers, Dime Western, Popular Western, Thrilling Western, New Western Magazine, Wild West Weekly, North-West Romances, Thrilling Ranch Stories, Big Book Western, Rodeo Romances, .44 Western, West, Exciting Western, and Range Riders Western!

Cruickshank wrote 35 stories chronicling the trials and tribulations of Dal and Mary Baldwin carving out their piece of the Wild West in Sun-Bear Valley, Wyoming. Cruickshank was born in Wales and emigrated to Alberta with his father and brother in 1905, establishing a homestead when they settled near Barrhead. Ill health would drive him off the farm when he returned and into Edmonton where he worked for the education department and wrote in his spare time. Cruickshank drew on those years on the farm for his Pioneer Folk stories for Range Riders Western.

Here are the first two in the series:

First we have “Wild King Savagery” from the Spring of 1945 issue in which Dal and his wife find the ideal place to start their life in the wilds of Sun Bear Valley. A perfect spot with everything they could want including the most magnificent wild stallion Dal had ever seen—and a half-breed horse thief who wants to catch it.

Dal Baldwin and His Young Wife Face Bitter Hardships as They Strive to Carve a Home for Themselves Out of the Wilderness!

Cruickshank followed this up with “Challenge of the Wilds” from the Summer issue. Dal and Mary try to get everything in order at their homestead before winter comes when tragedy strikes!

Dal and Mary Baldwin Face Disaster When Their Horse Dies and Their Traps Are Robbed —but Their Courage Lives on!

A listing of Harold F Cruickshank’s PIONEER FOLK stories.

title magazine date vol no
1945
Wild King Savagery Range Riders Western Spr 13 1
Challenge of the Wilds Range Riders Western Sum 13 2
Spring Borning Range Riders Western Fal 13 3
Red Harvest Range Riders Western Dec 14 1
1946
Terror Neighbors Range Riders Western Feb 14 2
Wilderness Justice Range Riders Western Apr 14 3
Squatter’s Law Range Riders Western Jun 15 1
Wild Hoof Justice Range Riders Western Aug 15 2
The Valley Beyond Range Riders Western Nov 15 3
1947
Stampede Conquest Range Riders Western Jan 16 1
Frontier Courage Range Riders Western Mar 16 2
Wild King Savagery Range Riders Western May 16 3
Death Loops a Widelooper Range Riders Western Jul 17 1
Satan Tugs the Jerkline Range Riders Western Sep 17 2
Hell and High Water Range Riders Western Nov 17 3
1948
Good Neighbor Gunfire Range Riders Western Jan 18 1
Frontier Timber Wolves Range Riders Western Mar 18 2
The Devil’s Eye Range Riders Western May 18 3
Courage in the Craglands Range Riders Western Jul 19 1
Death Rides the Freight Trail Range Riders Western Sep 19 2
Satan Dabs a Wide Loop Range Riders Western Nov 19 3
1949
Drum Thunder Range Riders Western Jan 20 1
Showdown Range Riders Western Mar 20 2
Satan’s a Bad Neighbor Range Riders Western May 20 3
Wild Hoof Battle Loot Range Riders Western Jul 21 1
Satan’s Shroud of Death Range Riders Western Sep 21 2
Tough Test Range Riders Western Nov 21 3
1950
According to Colt Range Riders Western Mar 22 2
Rescue Range Riders Western May 22 3
The Scars of Victory Range Riders Western Aug 23 1
Backfire Range Riders Western Oct 23 2
Cupid Packs a Gun Range Riders Western Dec 23 3
1951
Buckaroo Bridge Gang Range Riders Western Feb 24 1
Dauntless the Pioneer Range Riders Western Apr 24 2
1952
Phantom Hoofbeats Range Riders Western Jan 25 3

 

“Wolf Worship” by Harold F. Cruickshank

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WE’RE celebrating the works of Canada’s very own Harold F. Cruickshank this month. One of the most successful series of animal wilderness stories Cruickshank produced was the “White Phantom” series which primarily ran in the pages of Thrilling Adventures and West magazines.

Olak, the White Phantom, is an extraordinary wolf. He is large, handsome and is an albino. Because of his unusual coloring, the superstitious natives, Indians, think of him as allied with the spirit world and as such influences their hunting, the weather elements, famine conditions and so forth.

In the January 1940 issue of Thrilling Adventures, Tuc Cramer’s brother-in-law Tan goes searching for his lost friend Sa, son of Olak, the great White Phantom wolf king of Nahanni. Along the way he finds himself in the next valley over where the strange tribe there worships Olak-Achak—and about to be sacrificed to the spirit of the White Phantom!

Tan, the Indian Youth, Follows the Trail of the Son of the White Phantom!

As a bonus, here’s an article Cruickshank wrote about writing his animal stories that ran in the pages of the October 1944 issue of Writer’s Digest!

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