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Arch Whitehouse: An Early Bird Looks Back

Link - Posted by David on December 11, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

WE’RE celebrating Christmas with The Coffin Crew this year. So why not get to know the author a little better? And what better time than his birthday! Arthur George Joseph “Arch” Whitehouse was born on this day, December 11th, in 1895 in England. To Celebrate the genius behind The Coffin Crew, here’s a great feature on Whitehouse from the Sunday magazine for the Hackensack, New Jersey Record.

Arch Whitehouse: An Early Bird Looks Back

The Record Magazine, Hackensack, New Jersey • 17 April 1965, p38-39

MONTVALE’S MAGNOLIA AVENUE is a rural, winding road, and the modest yellow house at No.63 looks like many other suburban homes.

So it’s not surprising that when Arch Whitehouse, the owner, steps into the brisk air for an afternoon constitutional that his neighbors may look up and say:

“Well, there goes that nice Mr. Whitehouse out for his afternoon walk. Retired gentleman, I guess. It’s nice that he can still get around so well.

When the mailman leaves a 2-foot pile of books on the Whitehouse doorstep, a neighbor may shake his head and silently question, “I wonder if he reads all those books?”

Possibly a few people in Montvale know the answer to the Whitehouse mystery, but the man himself is quite certain that the majority of those who have made note of his presence are content with the thought that he’s no more than a retired businessman.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Though now in his 70th year, Arch Whitehouse is busier than many men half his age. In the past 10 years he has written 25 books. Before that, he authored more than a thousand short stories and articles.

A flier with the British Royal Flying Corps in World War I, Whitehouse ranks today as probably the leading aviation writer in the world. He is regarded as THE expert on World War I flying.

But his writing has run the gamut of the military field.

He went on a North Atlantic cruise aboard the atomic submarine Skipjack while writing “Subs and Submariners”.

He made two trips to the Mediterranean with the Sixth Fleet, and made 11 catapult takeoffs from, and arrester-gear landings on aircraft carriers to write “Squadrons of the Sea”.

He inspected every type of tank that has ever been built, and rode in many of the modern tank tests to write “TANK — History of Armored Warfare”.

He flew on practically every type plane available in the U.S. Air Force, including 2-seater jet fighters, to tell the story of the Tactical Air Command. He also went to McMurdo Sound, Antartica, to cover T.A.C. cargo operations at the South Pole.

He went to Puerto Rico with the Navy and Marines to write his recent “Amphibious Operations”.

Some years Whitehouse averages 60,000 miles of flying to get material for his books.

In addition to his technical books, short stories, and articles, Whitehouse has written juvenile and motion-picture scripts. Two of his stories — “Spitfire Squadron” and “‘H’ For Arry” were sold to the movies. He has illustrated some of his own volumes, also.

Among Whitehouse’s recent books — he contracts for several at a time — is “The Fledgling,” an autobiography.

Whitehouse was born in England in 1895. He was brought to the United States when he was 9 years old. He attended grade schools in Newark and Livingston. He was taken out of school, however, and worked in a Newark bookshop, a shoe factory, and in the Edison Laboratory before the outbreak of World War I.

In 1914, he worked his way to England on a cattleboat and enlisted in the British army. After a spell in the infantry, be requested and received a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps, and served as an aerial gunner with No. 22 squadron from March 1917 to Jan. 18, 1918. He then became the pilot of a Sopwith Camel with the home-defense squadron until the Armistice.

During his days as a gunner, he flew more than 1,300 hours over enemy lines. He destroyed 16 enemy planes and six kite balloons, but since he was not the pilot he received no personal credit. His kills were chalked up to his squadron.

During those clays. Whitehouse swapped bullets with many of the German aces, including the best of them all, Baron von Richthofen. The Red Knight, as von Richthofen was to become known, claimed 80 victories. One of these, No.42 to be exact, is disputed by Whitehouse.

In his “Years of the Sky Kings”, Whitehouse writes:

“Let us consider victory No.42, scored on April 13, 1917. In his report, von Richthofen stated that this flight took place at 12:45 P.M. betwen Monchy and Feuchy. The plane, a Vickers 2-seater, was downed behind British lines. In this report, we have at least one example of a Richthofen victory that was no victory at all.

“I was the gunner aboard that 2-seater. It was a F.E.2b, not a Vickers, but the Germans often made this mistake since both planes were almost identical. We were not shot down by Baron von Richthofen.”

Whitehouse went on to explain that his plane, piloted by Captain Bush, was returning from a photography patrol, when attacked by German planes over German lines. The propeller of the British plane was eventually shot away by antiaircraft fire. As the plane dove for a crash landing behind British lines, Whitehouse noted that they were pursued by two German planes, one of them red, and piloted, as he was learn later, by the Baron.

After returning to the United States in October, 1919, Whitehouse found the competition for work rather stiff. He tried his hand at selling rat poison, magazine advertising space, and automobiles. He spent some time in an insurance office.

In 1920 he married Ruth Terhune of Rutherford. Today they have a son and two grandchildren.

In 1922, he applied for a job as sports cartoonist on a Passaic newspaper. He was hired, though he had no prior experience. A year later, he moved to the Elizabeth Daily Journal as sports editor.

When Charles Lindbergh made his solo flight to Paris in 1927, Whitehouse wrote a column about it. A friend who read it suggested he try writing for one of the aviation pulp magazines. He submitted a story, and received a check for $100. The editor was impressed by the authenticity of the story, and hired Whitehouse to check the facts in other stories being submitted.

At the same time, he found a waiting market for his own fiction, and eventually quit the newspaper job to devote his full time to this work.

The start of World War II signaled a new phase in Whitehouse’s career. He became an accredited war correspondent, and served in the North Atlantic and Great Britain. He was also in on the Normandy invasion.

He returned to the States in 1945, and spent 2 years as a film writer before tearing up a 7-year contract, and returning East.

His first book, a juvenile, “The Real Book of Airplanes”, appeared in 1955. He has written juveniles also on General Pershing, Billy Mitchell, and wartime courier pigeons, and has agreed to do a long series of books fictionalizing the exploits of the Lafayette Escadrille.

Five volumes of his aviation short stories have appeared so far. Other recent or forthcoming books are “Adventures in Military Intelligence”, “The Early Birds—Wonders and History of Early Flight”, “Frank Luke—The Arizona Balloon Buster”, and a novel, “Squadron 44”.

Commenting on the continued popularity of World War I books, Arch credits much of it to nostalgia. “You’ll find a similar nostalgia catching up with the veterans of World War II,” he said. “For a few years they just want to forget it all. Then one day there seems to be that urge to recapture the past.”

And when they do, you can be sure Arch Whitehouse will be around to help them.

Be sure to drop by Friday for another mad cap romp through hell skies with Whitehouse’s Coffin Crew!