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How the War Crates Flew: The Constaninesco Interrupter Gear

Link - Posted by David on January 12, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the July 1932 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing R. Sidney Bowen to conduct a technical department each month. It is Mr. Bowen’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Mr. Bowen is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot of the Royal Air Force, but also because he has been the editor of one of the foremost technical journals of aviation.

The Constaninesco Interrupter Gear

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters, July 1932)

ALEC WATSON, leading Hun getter of the 23rd Pursuits, crouched over the stick, glued his eye to the ring-sight, and tripped the triggers. . . .

Now just a second, Alec old sky eagle! What do you mean, tripped the triggers? Generally speaking, that is correct. But technically speaking it is not so correct. You, personally, Alec, do not trip the triggers. Of course, being an A1 Hun getter, you realize that. But there are a lot of fledglings around here who don’t. So I think it would be a pretty good idea if we went into this question of tripping triggers, and found out just what it was all about.

Alright, fledglings, gather ’round, and let’s go!

The pilot of any pursuit plane used in the great war, could only shoot in one direction . . . that was forward. Sometimes he had one Vickers gun mounted on the engine cowling, and one Lewis mounted on the top center section. Sometimes he had two Vickers and one Lewis. And sometimes he had just two Vickers. But regardless of what he had in the way of guns, they were always mounted on something and pointing straight forward. We’ll just forget about the Lewis gun because that was mounted on the top center section and therefore was able to fire clear of the top peak of the propeller disc. Now when I say propeller disc I simply mean the circle inscribed by the revolving propeller.

But, the Vickers gun being mounted on the engine cowling, just forward of the pilot’s cockpit, must fire through the prop disc, if it’s going to fire at all.

I just heard some one ask: “What about hitting the revolving propeller blades?”

Well, fledgling, that’s just what I’m getting at. We don’t want to hit the prop blades, do we? I’ll say we don’t! So some way we’ve got to work things so that the shots from our gun will pass between the prop blades on their way to that Hun johnnie sitting up there in the sky.

And here is how we do that little thing.

As a matter of fact, it has already been done for us. A gentleman by the name of Constaninesco invented what was known as the Constaninesco Interrupter Gear. It was composed of four parts. 1. The generator. 2. The trigger motor. 3. The reservoir with Bowden control. 4. Pipe lines, main and secondary.

The generator is simply a small* cylinder affair with plunger attached, which is mounted forward on the engine, and in a vertical position. The drive for the generator is generally taken (on stationary engines) from the boss of the propeller by means of gears which engage with a cam shaft leading to the vertical generator. To put it another way, the generator is just a small cylinder with a plunger at the top which is forced down every time the revolving cam on the cam shaft strikes it. And that cam shaft is not the cam shaft of the engine itself, but a separate cam shaft which is revolved by means of gears which attach it to the boss of the propeller. And, of course, when I say boss, I mean the metal plates and bolts which hold the propeller on the crankshaft of the engine.

Now, the next thing is the trigger motor, as it was called. As you all probably know, the Vickers gun operates (briefly) by, what is cabled, the lock moving forward and backward inside the gun. The lock is about three inches by four inches and maybe an inch or so thick, and contains all the trigger mechanism of the gun. Now, one of its actions as it moves forward in the gun is to cock the trigger which is a part of it. Then as it rides back again in the gun the trigger, which projects up out of the top a bit hits against a movable pin fitted at the rear of the gun casing. And of course that action trips the trigger and the gun fires.

IT IS that movable pin that I’m yarning about now. It is simply a round slender piece of metal which projects out of the rear end of the gun and is fastened to a thumb lever. In other words, when firing a Vickers on the ground you simply grip the spade handles of the gun and press your thumbs against the thumb levers. That forces the pin forward so that the end of it trips the trigger as the lock slides back. Now, when you don’t press the gun naturally doesn’t fire because the pin, which is really like a plunger on a spring, is forced back by the spring action so that the trigger doesn’t touch it as the lock slides back.

Now, what we’ve got to do is attach something to the rear end of that pin to take the place of the thumb levers. The reason being, that running from our generator up front to the pin at the rear of the gun is a length of quarter inch copper tubing which is filled with oil. Ah, you’re guessing it already. That’s right . . . as the cam rotates and strikes the plunger in the generator it sends a pulsation back along the copper pipe full of oil and forces forward the pin in the rear of the gun so that it trips the trigger of the lock. So what we really do is fit another plunger to the rear of the gun to take the place of the pin with its thumb levers.

Now, so far, we have a plunger at the forward end of the copper tubing, and another plunger at the rear end. The forward plunger is set so that the revolving cam will hit it. And the rear plunger is set so that as a pulsation of oil forces it forward it will trip the trigger lock.

Just oil (nine parts parafine and one part BB vacuum oil in the copper tubing isn’t going to do us any good unless we put that oil under pressure. So we use what is called the reservoir. The reservoir is something like a double bicycle pump. In other words, a plunger and chamber inside of a larger chamber. At the end of the inner chamber there is a copper pipe-line running to the one we’ve just been talking about. Just so we won’t get too mixed up, the copper tube running from the generator to the trigger motor is called the main pipe-line. And the tube running from the reservoir to the main pipe-line is called the secondary pipeline.

Now, the plunger in the inner chamber of the reservoir is attached to a handle at the top, and there is a strong spring around the stem of the plunger to keep it forced down. In other words, when the handle of the plunger is pulled up and released the spring tries to force it down. And of course the reservoir is attached to the inner right side of the cockpit, at an angle of forty-five degrees, so that the pilot can grab it when he wants to put the oil under pressure.

So now let’s see just how we work the thing.

OF COURSE we assume that there is oil in the main pipe-line, in the secondary pipe-line and in the outer chamber (low pressure chamber) of the reservoir. There isn’t oil in the center chamber (high pressure) because the plunger is down at the bottom. But all of this oil is under atmospheric pressure. In other words, not enough pressure to force the generator plunger up so that the revolving cam will strike it.

Okay, let’s go. We pull up the handle of the reservoir. In doing that we suck oil from the low pressure chamber into the high pressure chamber. Then we let go the handle and the spring tries to force the plunger down, and that action puts the oil under a pressure of 150 lbs. per square inch. Now the oil in the high pressure chamber and the oil in the secondary pipe-line is under pressure. The oil in the main pipe-line is not, because where the two pipe-lines join is a three-way valve. To get pressure in the main pipe-line we have got to open that three-way valve.

We do it this way. From the joy stick to that valve is a movable wire in a metal casing. (Something like the choke wire on your car.) On the joy stick that wire, called the Bowden control, is attached to a clamp you can press. Oftentimes it is attached to a thumb lever you push forward. But squeezing the clamp, or pushing the thumb lever, pulls the Bowden control wire and opens the three-way valve. Of course then the oil in the main line is put under pressure. And in being under pressure the plunger in the generator is forced up so that the revolving cam will strike it.

Alright, the cam strikes the plunger and forces it down. A pulsation, traveling at the rate of 4,000 ft. per second, starts back along the main pipeline. It reaches the point where the main pipe-line is joined to the secondary line. But because of the three-way valve it can’t shoot up the secondary line and hit against the reservoir plunger. So it carries right on along the main pipe-line and hits against the plunger in the trigger motor, and of course shoves it forward. And when the trigger motor plunger is forced forward, it of course trips the trigger of the lock and the gun is fired. Now, that pulsation after it has hit the trigger motor plunger naturally wants to bounce back along the main pipe-line. But we stop that by putting a check valve in the trigger motor. Then, of course, the pulsation can’t bounce back and interfere with pulsation coming forward.

We have yarned about this step by step. But of course you understand that these pulsations are traveling at the rate of 4,000 ft. per second, and things happen fast. And whenever the lock slides back again with its trigger cocked there are always pulsations to slap the trigger motor plunger forward and trip the trigger again.

IN CASE you’ve forgotten, all this is happening because we are still pressing the Bowden controls. Once we let go, the three-way valve closes and the main pipe-line goes back to ordinary pressure and the generator plunger sinks down where the revolving cam doesn’t hit it. To fire again we simply press the Bowden control and that opens the valve again. The 150 lbs. per square inch pressure is maintained for about ten bursts of any length. And then we have to pull up the handle again and renew the pressure. In order to get it clear in your minds about those pulsations, the oil being under pressure, a single pulsation is like a solid rod moving through the main pipe-line. And the number of pulsations is determined on how the cam shaft is geared to the prop boss. In other words, according to the speed of the revolving cam shaft.

And there you are.

No, we’re not. That young fledgling is checking on me again. “How about hitting the prop blades?” he asks.

Alright, it’s like this. The cam is set so that it strikes the generator plunger when the trailing edge of the prop blade (two-bladed prop) is one inch past the bore of the gun. In the case of a four-bladed prop the cam should be set when the center of the blade is right opposite the bore of the gun. That is, of course, assuming that the muzzle of the gun is four feet from the revolving prop blades. The nearer the gun is to the prop the nearer you set the cam to the trailing edge.

The Editor of this mag of yours has just looked over my shoulder and reminded me that I’m not writing a book, so I’d better quit.

And so, you fledglings, when these leading Hun getters trip triggers again, don’t let ’em kid you. They are just pressing the old Bowden control to open that three-way valve to put the main pipe-line under pressure so that the oil pulsation will trip the triggers. Can you beat it? . . . These sky birds are just a bunch of oil pumpers!

From the Scrapbooks: Cover Cut-Outs

Link - Posted by David on December 27, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items. Robert was also fond of including cut-outs from covers of all kinds of aviation themed magazines.

Here are a few along with the full covers Robert excised them from:


AIR TRAILS
August 1931


POPULAR AVIATION
September 1931


MODEL AIRPLANE NEWS
OCTOBER 1931


SKY BIRDS
August 1931


SKY BIRDS
MARCH 1932


SKY BIRDS
APRIL 1932


NATIONAL GLIDER
and AIRPLANE NEWS

July 1931


BATTLE STORIES
August 1931


FLYING ACES
August 1931


BATTLE STORIES
May 1931


ACES
August 1931

 

From the Scrapbooks: A Seasonal Mystery

Link - Posted by David on December 24, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items.

Turning the page, we find a Happy New Years greeting from George Bruce scrapbooked in. . .

Measuring 5″ x 5¾”, it’s a cartoon by Jonny Pike of two soldiers from opposing countries ambling down the street, arm-in-arm, with several bottles.

The first couple times I looked through the scrapbooks, I thought this was just some festive image taken from a page in a pulp magazine, probably from one of the many George Bruce magazines that seemed to proliferate in the early ’30’s. It wasn’t until I was going through the scrapbooks and scanning things for these posts that I realized I was totally mistaken. It wasn’t a page from a pulp, it couldn’t have been—the image is printed on card stock.

Unfortunately, the card stock is too heavy to shine a light through to pick up what’s on the other side—if there is anything on the other side. There is a bit of creasing and ware down the two sides—a little more on the left than right if that means anything.

And to compound the mystery, Robert has written on the top corner of the page, “xmas – 32 Sky Fighters” as if to say that this came with Sky Fighters magazine. I combed through the issues of Sky Fighters from around that time and saw no mention of it in any of the issues.

Bruce could have sent these out on his own to those who had written in or were involved in the “Win Your Wings” contest that had just ended—Robert had both written in and placed in the second month of the contest. Who knows. Hopefully someone does. If you know, please, by all means, leave a comment below.

From the Scrapbooks: Battle Birds Covers

Link - Posted by David on December 13, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. In addition to Flying Aces’ “War Planes Album” and Sky Birds’ “Model Planes of All Nations”, Robert also featured Frederick Blakeslee’s magnificent Battle Aces covers.


The section features it’s own introductory page

Although the first scrapbook featured the cover of the premiere issue of Battle Birds on its cover, Robert’s scrapbooked covers from Battle Birds were in the second book along with the Battle Aces covers. Unlike the scrapbooked Battle Aces covers, Robert trimmed off the text portions of the covers and just included Blakeslee’s great arial combat illustration portion.

When possible, he made note of the planes Blakeslee portrayed on the covers!



May 33


Dare-Devil Aces
Jan ‘33


Feb ‘33


Jan ‘33


Dec ‘32


Apr ‘33


Jul ‘33


Jun ‘33


Aug ‘33


Dare-Devil Aces
Jun ‘33


Mar ‘33


Sep ‘33

 

From the Scrapbooks: Blakeslee’s Plane Plans

Link - Posted by David on December 10, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes.

Another great feature from the pulps Robert chose to include in his scrapbooks were Frederick Blakeslee’s 3 plan views of planes that he rendered for Battle Aces.

Rather than giving each its own page, Robert chose to glue one down along the top edge and then slot a few others beneath it, loose on the page. He had the first four on the first page, three on the second and just two on the third, although he appears to have gotten the September issue as well.



German
Fokker D-7
Dec ‘32


British
S.E.5-A
Jan ‘33


Pfalz Scout
type DXII
Feb ‘33


Bristol Fighter
type F2B
Mar ‘33


German
Friedrichshafen Bomber
Apr ‘33


Sopwith
“Snipe”
May ‘33


Halberstadt C4
Jun ‘33


Westland Wagtail
Jul ‘33


Halberstadt C2
Aug ‘33

 

From the Scrapbooks: A Letter from George Bruce

Link - Posted by David on December 8, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items.

Turning the page, is what looks like a letter, folded into thirds like it had just been pulled out of an envelope and pasted to the page. . .

Unfolding the sheet of paper reveals a letter from George Bruce on his own letterhead addressed to Robert from July 28th, 1932!

George Bruce was a prolific pulp writer and heavily involved with the initial year of Sky Fighters Magazine. He not only has a story in each of the first year’s issues, but also his own column in the back, “George Bruce Says” in which he answer any questions which the reader may have about the how, where or whens of flying, past, present or future. He even listed those readers whose letters he would reply to personally—and the list was quite long for those who had written in for the first issue (and whose letters had arrived by July 15th)!

Writing from Provincetown, Massachusetts, Bruce says:

Dear Bob:

    I am sorry I have not had an earlier opportunity to reply to your letter. I spent the first part of this month in a hospital in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where a group of surgeons could not resist a curiosity as to what was contained in the Bruce belly. In otner words I underwent an emergency operation caused by acute appendicitis, and was out of the picture for a few days. Please let me offer my thanks and gratitude for your letter. You may be sure it was appreciated and read with much interest and it reached me at a time when I needed all of the friendliness and interest you expressed, I’m quite sure that the mail carrier who delivers to St. Luke Hospital will never forgive George Bruce and will be permanently round-shouldered because of carrying into the hospital hundreds of letters from all over the country from fellows who had been readers, but who, in writing those letters, became friends.

    I hope through the medium of SKY FIGHTERS and your continued interest in George Bruce this friendship will extend inflefinitely.

                    Sincerely yours,

                                                George Bruce.

   

Editor’s note: Robert also got his name listed in the following issue as one of the runner-ups for the second round of the “Win Your Wings” Contest. The Sky Fighters “Win Your Wings” contest was not a contest to win actual wings, but rather cash prizes and foster continued readership of their new magazine. Each month for the first six months of the magazine, they posed a question. The reader with the best response would win $5 while 20 runners up would win $1. Robert was one of the runner-ups for the second round. At the end, the reader with the best record over the six questions would win the grand prize of $100!

From the Scrapbooks: Battle Aces Covers

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

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. In addition to Flying Aces’ “War Planes Album” and Sky Birds’ “Model Planes of All Nations”, Robert also featured Frederick Blakeslee’s magnificent Battle Aces covers.

The second scrapbook which features the March 1932 Battle Aces cover as it’s cover, starts off with a collection of Blakeslee’s covers. each speed features a full fresh-off-the-newsstand cover and the story behind the cover lovingly typed on the facing page. I don’t know why he didn’t just clip out the story page from the issue instead, although he did clip out Blakeslee’s pen and ink rendering of the featured cover plane on several pages of those images collaged together.

He does not have all the Blakeslee Battle Aces covers, but he does have a majority of them.


He included the picture of O.B. Myers with the write-up for the November 1931 cover which tells how O.B. got his D.S.C.


Similarly, he includes Wilbert Wallace White’s picture with Blakeslee’s cover about White. (January 1932)

Covers he includes are:



Jan ‘32


Feb ‘32


Mar ‘32


Apr ‘32


May ‘31


Jun ‘31


Jun ‘32


Jul ‘32


Jul ‘31


Aug ‘31


Sep ‘31


Oct ‘31


Nov ‘31


Dec ‘31


Dec ‘32

From the Scrapbooks: Aces of Note

Link - Posted by David on December 3, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and not just the planes, but also some of the men who made a name for themselves flying them in The Great War.

Chronicled within the pages of the scrapbooks are such Aces the likes of:


Billy Bishop

and The Red Baron himself––


Baron Manfred von Richthofen

He has a page devoted to Rickenbacker’s Victories

And includes the four installments of Flying Aces’ “Lives of the Aces in Pictures”. Here, he’s taken the images from the two page feature (as they were in the pulp-sized issues), pasted them on a page with the accompanying captions, typed out on the facing page.


Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s Ace

He gave the same treatment for the Lives of Bert Hall, Soldier of Fortune (Flying Aces, June 1932), Georges Guynemer, Falcon of France (July 1932), and Lt. Werner Voss, German Ace (July 1933) as illustrated in pictures.

Scattered throughout are various mentions of aces from the pulps or the newspapers or other magazines.

“Luke Downs Three Balloons” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on July 17, 2021 @ 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 January 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as—

Luke Downs Three Balloons

th_FA_3201“MEIN Gott! It is Herr Luke! Quick—down with the Drachen!”

In an instant all was confusion. Machine guns rattled and archies barked. Winches ground and turned as the Germans strove desperately to save their balloon, swaying gently in the dusk, two thousand feet above Milly.

The two balloon observers were already overboard. They knew that pilot! Thirteen balloons and five planes had fallen to Frank Luke’s attack in less than three weeks. Only ten days before, he had destroyed two balloons and three planes in less than fifteen minutes. And this afternoon, September 29, 1918, they had seen him destroy the balloon over Dun, fight his way through a squadron of Fokkers, destroy a second balloon over Brière Farm, and dive headlong at their own helpless bag—all in less than three minutes! Their bag was doomed—and overboard they went.

On came Luke’s Spad, through a hell of shrapnel and machine-gun fire, its motor wide open, and both guns spitting flame. Another instant and Luke would have crashed into the balloon, head on, but with a sudden zoom and bank, he pulled clear of the now fiercely burning Drachen. His third balloon was going down! That day—which proved to be his last, for a wound forced Luke down and he was found dead the next morning—was a fitting end to a glorious career, the career of one of America’s greatest airmen.

The Ships on The Cover
“Luke Downs Three Balloons”
Flying Aces, January 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

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

Link - Posted by David on March 15, 2021 @ 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 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

Link - Posted by David on March 1, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the December 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

“The Red Eagle” 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. With stories appearing in such titles as War Birds, War Aces, Sky Birds, Airplane Stories, Flying Aces, and Sky Fighters.

For Harry Steeger’s trio of Popular Publication’s titles—Battle Aces, Dare-Devil Aces and Battle Birds—Mr. Cruickshank developed continuing characters that ran generally in short novelettes each month. Although the final issue of Battle Aces had just hit the stands in November of 1932, Cruickshank created a brand new series when asked to for the new companion magazine to Dare-Devil Aces—Battle Birds in December 1932.

In “The Red Eagle,” Cruickshank gives us Ted Blair—a Yank Eagle who excelled more than any other with fighting guts and his ability to maneuver in tight loops and slip-offs which amazed and baffled his opponents. His eye was quick, as quick as the flash of greased lightning, and his Vickers twins were deadly accurate. In the dive he was merciless; he struck like a hungry, angered eagle, hence his nom de guerre, Red Eagle. That, and because of his flaming red hair and freckled spotted face.

Cruickshank gave him a brood much like the Sky Devil’s—formed from his old B Flight of the 44th, Blair had played with, fought with, nursed, and built up those members of the Brood—Lieutenant Sam Martin, the tall, blond deputy leader; Lieutenant Pete Monty Rider, the hard-egg scrapper from America’s ranch country; Lieutenant Frank “Spud” Fallon, the Irish-Yank, whose wit was no less appreciated than his fighting quality, and his flair for fixing things mechanical; and Lieutenant Dave “Babe” Deakin, the big-framed ex-fullback of Yale, a good-natured fighting hellcat, whose piano playing and singing, though of secondary importance, brought a big hand from his intrepid pals. They were all men of guts. Each wore a single decoration. Each packed an unswerving brand of loyalty and a fighting heart. These were the Red Eagle’s Brood—big-chested, rollicking sky scrappers, who feared nothing, save the tongue of their leader.

The Red Eagle and his Brood were established as an semi-independent flight under the command of Major Bruce Grove. Unfortunately, Grove had his own problems—a splendid fellow in every way, he had jeopardized his position some months back by taking the rap for a wrong done by one of his former flights. He knew that if he rode just once over a Wing order, his term of command was done. Bruce Grove was, literally, on the spot and Wing was ready to get him. Bill Mond, the surgeon, knew this. Ted Blair, the Eagle skipper knew it too.

With all that in mind, we present The Red Eagle’s self-titled premier outing from the December 1932 issue of Battle Birds!

Zeps stalked above; from below a flight of super-Fokkers zoomed, Spandaus snarling. But the Red Eagle led his devil’s brood straight on; like monster bird killers they dived straight for the staffle of Death, determined to slash a gap through this hell trap—or meet their doom fighting!

A listing of Harold F. Cruickshank’s RED EAGLE stories.

title magazine date vol no
1932
The Red Eagle Battle Birds Dec 1 1
1933
The Iron Eagle Battle Birds Jan 1 2
The Phantom Staffel Battle Birds Feb 1 3
The Masked Buzzard Battle Birds Mar 1 4
The Gray Phantom Battle Birds Apr 2 1
The Black Skull Staffel Battle Birds May 2 2
The Red Death Battle Birds Jun 2 3
Hellion’s Brood Battle Birds Jul 2 4
The Coffin Ace Battle Birds Aug 3 1
The Buccaneer Flight Battle Birds Sep 3 2
The Hell Busters Battle Birds Oct 3 3
Dodoes from Hell Battle Birds Nov 3 4
The One-Eyed Squadron Battle Birds Dec 4 1
1934
Storm Eagles Battle Birds Jan 4 2
Mad Shark of Prussia Battle Birds Feb 4 3
Staffel of Skulls Battle Birds Mar 4 4
Squadron of Lost Men Battle Birds Apr 5 1
The Bloodhound Patrol Battle Birds May 5 2
Tiger Patrol Battle Birds Jun 5 3
Dynamite Busters Dare-Devil Aces Oct 8 3
The Bloodhound Flight Dare-Devil Aces Dec 9 1
1935
The Black Comet Dare-Devil Aces Apr 10 1
Gunpowder Eagles Dare-Devil Aces Jul 10 4
The Vampire Flight Dare-Devil Aces Dec 12 1

 

“Sky Devil’s Trap” 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. With stories appearing in such titles as War Birds, War Aces, Sky Birds, Airplane Stories, Flying Aces, and Sky Fighters.

For Harry Steeger’s trio of Popular Publication’s titles—Battle Aces, Dare-Devil Aces and Battle Birds—Mr. Cruickshank developed continuing characters that ran generally in short novelettes each month. Following on from the success of The Sky Wolf in Battle Aces, Cruickshank was asked to develop a series for the newly premiered sister magazine, Dare-Devil Aces. For Dare-Devil Aces, Cruickshank developed his best known war hero—the rough and tumble Captain Bill Dawe—The Sky Devil! Cruickshank based Bill Dawe on his own infantry commander from WWI.

There was no better flight in France than the Sky Devil and his Brood. Led by Captain Bill Dawe, the famous Yank ace known to all of France as the Sky Devil, the brood consisted of Chuck Verne, Mart Bevin, Slim Skitch and Slug Walton. The crimson devil insignia on their silver Spads brought fear to any German pilot unlucky enough to meet them in the air. But the Sky Devil’s greatest enemy might just be his own C.O., Major Petrie, who had been railroaded into command of 120 Squadron over Dawe’s head. Jealous of Dawe’s popularity, Petrie will do anything to bring down the Sky Devil and his Brood!”

Sky Devil flew through the Hell Skies of 29 adventures in the pages of Dare-Devil Aces from 1932-1935. Cruickshank returned to the savior of the Western Front in six subsequent stories several years later. The first two were in the pages of Sky Devils (June 1939) and Fighting Aces (March 1940). The other four ran in Sky Fighters (1943-1946) where he was aged up and moved to the Second World War where Bill Dawe changes his name to get into the air service and flys along side his son!

Here we present The Sky Devil’s premier outing from the April 1932 issue of Dare-Devil Aces, it’s “Sky Devil’s Trap!”

Swiftly those Yank bombers ripped in, blasting that fake staffel to hell. They didn’t see the Fokkers swinging down from above; didn’t guess they were cold meat—snared in a blood trap from which only the yammering guns of one doomed sky devil could hope to snatch them.

Here is a listing of Harold F. Cruickshank’s SKY DEVIL stories.

title magazine date vol no
1932
Sky Devil’s Trap Dare-Devil Aces Apr 01 02
The Green Devils Dare-Devil Aces Jul 02 01
Hell’s Skipper Dare-Devil Aces Sep 02 03
The Sky Devil’s Brood Dare-Devil Aces Oct 02 04
Killer’s Drome Dare-Devil Aces Nov 03 01
The Sky Tiger Dare-Devil Aces Dec 03 02
1933
Captain von Death Dare-Devil Aces Jan 03 03
The Flaming Ace Dare-Devil Aces Feb 03 04
Sky Devil’s Trap Dare-Devil Aces Mar 04 01
The Haunted Fokker Dare-Devil Aces Apr 04 02
Buzzards’ Brand Dare-Devil Aces May 04 03
Torpedo Buzzards Dare-Devil Aces Jun 04 04
The Bat Patrol Dare-Devil Aces Jul 05 01
Hell Buzzards Nest Dare-Devil Aces Aug 05 02
The Sky Cobra Dare-Devil Aces Sep 05 03
The Outlaw Ace Dare-Devil Aces Oct 05 04
Ace of Devils Dare-Devil Aces Nov 06 01
Skeleton’s Drome Dare-Devil Aces Dec 06 02
1934
The Sky Pirates Dare-Devil Aces Jan 06 03
Staffel of Hate Dare-Devil Aces Feb 06 04
The Flaming Vulture Dare-Devil Aces Mar 07 01
No-Man’s Squadron Dare-Devil Aces Apr 07 02
The Storm Buzzard Dare-Devil Aces May 07 03
The Derelict Patrol Dare-Devil Aces Jun 07 04
Staffel of Skeletons Dare-Devil Aces Jul 08 01
Graveyard Staffel Dare-Devil Aces Sep 08 02
1935
The Stratosphere Patrol Dare-Devil Aces Feb 09 03
The Undersea Buzzard Dare-Devil Aces Jun 10 03
Staffel of Dead Men Dare-Devil Aces Sep 11 02
1939
Wings of the Brave Sky Devils Jun 01 06
1940
A Torch for the Damned Fighting Aces Mar 01 01

 

When Cruickshank brought The Sky Devil back in the 40’s for Sky Fighters, he moved his theater of operations from the First World War to the Second World War. Older, more reckless and enlisted under false pretenses, he’s fighting the good fight and watching out for his son as well!

 

1943
Sky Devil and Son Sky Fighters Jan 28 02
Return of the Sky Devil Sky Fighters Mar 28 03
1946
Settlement in Full Sky Fighters Win 33 01
Sky Route to Hell Sky Fighters Spr 33 02

 

We’ve collected and published all 29 of The Sky Devil’s stories from Dare-Devil Aces into two volumes—Hell’s Skipperand Ace of Devils! In addition, we’ve posted many of the post-Popular stories on the site here (just click on the “Sky Devil” tag below). The books can be picked up through the usual sources—Adventure House, Mike Chomko Books and Amazon!

How the War Crates Flew: Airplane Cooperation with the Artilary

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FROM the pages of the August 1932 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing R. Sidney Bowen to conduct a technical department each month. It is Mr. Bowen’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Mr. Bowen is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot of the Royal Air Force, but also because he has been the editor of one of the foremost technical journals of aviation.

Airplane Cooperation With the Artillery

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters,August 1932)

COLONEL BOWERS leveled calm gray eyes at the pilots of the 42nd Pursuit Squadron.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “The Seventh Field Battery will start its shoot of the German rail-head, back of Issy, tomorrow morning at nine sharp. The Fiftieth Observation Squadron will conduct the shoot, and it will be your job to see that they are protected from German patrols. I know I can depend upon you to do a damn fine job.”

OF COURSE you can, Colonel. The 42nd boys will go over and knock the pin feathers off any Huns who get nasty. But there happens to be a couple of fledglings around here who are piping up with questions about what those observation ships have got to do. Now, you and I both know that during the late war the observation ship boys missed a lot of praise and credit that they rightly deserved. So I think it would be a good idea if we gathered ’round and chinned about observation ships and shoots for awhile.

Okay, then let’s gather.

Naturally the main idea of observation ships was to observe. And of course, what they observed was anything going on below on the ground. So in order that these question-asking fledglings won’t interrupt us, we will start with the ground and work our way up.

The map of France was divided into a number of sheets that were key-numbered so that you could easily find the adjacent sheets if you wanted to. Each sheet was 36,000 yards by 22.000 yards. And each of those sheets was divided into twenty-four lettered squares, lettered from A to X. (Fig 1)

You’ll note that there are four rows of six squares. And of course you want to understand that the top represents the northerly direction, the bottom the southerly, and the two sides east and west respectively. Well, so much for that. Now, the squares in the top and bottom rows were 6,000 by 5,000 yards. And the squares in the two middle rows were 6,000 by 6.000 yards.

Alright, now the top and bottom rows were again divided into thirty squares numbered from one to thirty. And the squares in the two middle rows were divided into thirty-six squares, numbered from one to thirty-six. To show just what we mean let us take Square A and Square K of Fig. 1, and what do we have? Well, take a look at Fig. 2. Get the idea?

Okay. Now as Square A is 6,000 by 5,000 yards and divided up into thirty numbered squares, it makes each of those squares 1,000 yards square. And as Square K is 6,000 by 6.000 yards and divided up into thirty-six numbered squares, it makes each of those squares 1,000 yards square also.

Now to check back for a moment, we started with a map sheet representing one section of land 36,000 by 22.000. We divided it up so that we got twenty-four sections of land, twelve of them 6,000 yards by 5.000 yards, and twelve of them 6,000 by 6,000 yards. And then we took those twenty-four squares and divided each of them into squares 1,000 yards by 1,000 yards. So you see we are now able to pick out any area of 1.000 yards by 1,000 yards on a section of land that was 36,000 by 22,000 yards when we started.

But we want to get it down smaller than that, so we take each one of these 1000 yards by 1000 yards squares and divide them again into four squares each and letter them A, B, C and D. And of course you can figure that each of these new squares is 500 yards by 500 yards. And just so’s you won’t forget look at Fig. 3.

However, 500 yards by 500 yards is still a pretty big area, so we will get it down smaller yet by starting with the lower left hand corner of each of the lettered squares and marking off ten equal points to the right and ten equal points straight up. Now, if we continued out those lines we would have 100 more squares with each square being 50 yards by 50 yards. Or if necessary we could divide each lettered square of Fig. 3 into 1,000 squares, each of which be five yards by five yards. But 100 squares, 50 yards by 50 yards each is small enough.

NOW all of these squares I’ve been talking about are all printed on the map sheet and lettered and numbered accordingly. That is, all except the last four lettered squares (A, B, C, D). They aren’t marked off in 100 squares usually. They are just left blank and you imagine where the ten equal spaced lines are going to the right, and going from the bottom up, beginning at the left side. Of course, though, if that particular observer was fussy he’d mark in the lines. Fig. 4.

I knew it. … I knew it! That fledgling sitting over there has just got to ask questions, hasn’t he!

He pipes up with: “What’s all these squares got to do with an artillery shoot?”

Alright, I’m getting to that right now. The Colonel has told the boys that the Seventh Artillery is going to let drive on the rail-head back of Issy. Well, does the artillery know the exact location of that rail-head? Perhaps they’ve never shot at it before.

Sure they know it . . . because the observation planes have already spotted it for them.

But to make everything clear for this question-asking fledgling we’ve got here, let’s say that instead of a rail-head it’s an ammunition dump that sprang up over-night, and that the observer notes it for the first time while out on patrol. Call it anything you want . . . but at least something that’s important and must be fired upon right away.

The leader of the observation flight sees it, and immediately starts to locate it on his map so that he can wireless the news (with the small sending sets carried) back to the gunners. Naturally he knows it’s on the map sheet he has, because he took off with the correct key numbered map sheet for the area he was going to patrol.

So by comparing the map with things on the ground (rivers, woods, towns, etc.) he finds that the ammo dump is in Square K. He looks closer and notes that it is in Square 15 of Square K. He keeps on looking and notes that it is in Square D of Square 15. And by figuring still closer he notes that the ammo dump is right where line 7, running from left to right in Square D, crosses perpendicular line 5. In other words he has pin-pointed the ammo dump, or whatever the target is, in an area of 50 yards by 50 yards.

Then he calls the battery on the wireless key by sending down a prearranged code number and the battery number. He does that three times at intervals of one minute each. Then he sends the pin-point map reading of where the target is. You’ve guessed it! Sure, he sends down the map sheet key-number, and then sends K—15—D—7—5. The gunners receive that and know just where to find the target on their map. And when they find that, they can set their guns for the range required.

So, that’s how an observation plane spots a target and sends its exact location back to the “blind” gunners.

Now, let’s say that the guns are ready to fire. The observation pilot has sent down the code-call three times, and he also sends down the pin-point location three times. And then he sends down the order to fire.

INCIDENTALLY, whenever the observer sends wireless messages to the battery he does so when he is flying from the target toward the battery.

Okay, the Fire! is sent down, and the plane banks around and flies back toward the target. At the end of three minutes the battery fires a shell over. The observer notes where it falls in relation to the target and then when the plane banks around and flies toward the battery again he sends down the correction.

Now for the corrections the observer sends down.

The target being fired upon is the center of a clock, with 12 o’clock being due north and the remaining hours accordingly. Around the target are imaginary circles at radial distances of 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400 yards, etc. And these circles are lettered from the center Y, Z, A, B, C, D, E, F, etc.

So let us say that the first shell lands 200 yards north of the target. The correction would then be, C at 12 o’clock. And if the second shell lands 50 yards to the east of the target, the correction sent down would be, A at 3 o’clock. Of course I’ve been speaking of corrections. The observer simply tells the gunners where each shell lands so that they can make the correction on their gun sights. Of course there is no correction when a hit is made and the observer signals down that a hit has been made. And when the target is destroyed the signal to Cease Fire is sent down.

And now a little story before I put on my hat and call it a day with you fledglings.

It has to do with sending back new pin-point locations. There was in France, what was known as the S.O.S. call from plane to gunners. It was never supposed to be sent down unless the target was of great importance. A couple of thousand marching troops, or three or four field batteries on the road, or fifty or more motor lorries. In other words . . . mighty worthwhile shooting up. The reason being that when the S. O. S. signal came down, every gun within range of the target fired three shots. And during the latter part of the war, that usually meant 10,000 guns!

Well, it seems that an Allied pilot was one day straffing a German staff car, and he couldn’t seem to do much about it. So he ups and gets sore and sends down the S. O. S. Now, there’s no need of my describing what happened to that staff car and all the Hun brass-hats sitting in it. But, as for the pilot . . . he was yanked off the Front and grounded for the rest of the war. Now, take that funny look off your faces, because I’m telling you right from the shoulder, that poor peelot was not yours truly!

“First Official Yank Victory” 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 March 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action of the

First Official Yank Victory

th_FA_3203LIEUTENANTS Alan Winslow and Douglas Campbell of the 95th Squadron, U.S. Air Service, were on alerte duty, Toul Airdrome, April 14, 1918. American squadrons at the Front were new, and no German had yet been marked up to the credit of the Yanks. These two aces-to-be thought it pretty tough to be kicking their heels on the home airdrome while “Rick” and others were patrolling the lines with a chance of a scrap at any moment, and a chance to bring credit to the 95th for the first Boche.

Suddenly the phone rang. “Yes, Squadron 95 . . . . What? . . . . Deux Boches?
. . . . Oui! Quel direction?
. . . . Pont-a-Mousson! . . . . Bien. Merci.”

In an instant motors already warmed up were roaring, chucks pulled out, and Winslow and Campbell had taken off in a steep climbing spiral, heading back in the direction of two tiny specks now appearing just under the low-hanging clouds. Hugging the ceiling, the two Americans swung to the east, hoping to gain unobserved a position on the tail of their enemy. A cloud, hanging low out of the otherwise fairly level ceiling, helped them in this for a moment. Coming out of this, however, they found themselves flying in the opposite direction, parallel to and about a quarter of a mile to the east of the two Germans, who immediately turned to attack. One was an Albatros D-5, and the other a Pfalz D-3.

The desperate tail chasing game began. Twisting and turning, the battle drifted slowly back until it was actually over the Americans’ own airdrome. Here the clouds drove them down scarcely five hundred feet from the ground. Burst after burst from both sides had as yet done no serious harm to any of the combatants.

Campbell, scrapping it out with the Pfalz, had drifted slightly to the west. Winslow, diving at the Albatros from the side, banked up steeply, kicked his plane over, slipped off on a wing, nosing down until he was under the German plane, then quick back, hard on his stick, and he saw the belly of the red machine come slowly into line with his sights. His chance at last!

Tight he squeezed his trigger, and a wild joy swept over him as he felt the answering throb of his gun. At the last instant he banked over to avoid collision—and just in time, for the red ship, spurting smoke, slipped unevenly off, wing down and tail up. The German pilot strove to gain control, partially righting the wounded ship just before it piled up almost at the door of Winslow’s own hangar.

Just a moment later Campbell brought his man down in a nearby field to the west. It was America’s first air victory. Two to the credit of the Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron, and the Germans knew that the Eagles were in the air!

The Ships on The Cover
“First Official Yank Victory”
Flying Aces, March 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

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