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“The Youngest V.C. Flyer” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on March 28, 2022 @ 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 August 1933 cover Bissell put us right in the action with…

The Youngest V.C. Flyer

th_FA_3308SOME wise man has said that to every man, once in life, comes his big moment. Then he must make a quick decision or choice and, whether he be king or peasant, the real man is judged by how he meets this test.

Such a moment came to Alan McLeod, the young Canadian flyer. Always he was in the thick of it, eagerly taking chances, thumbing his nose at death until that day in March, 1918, when he came face to face with his big moment, made his choice and, himself wounded, gambled his life a thousand times over to save a comrade already wounded almost past saving—gambled and won, and took his place among the “Incredibles” of the World War.

McLeod was just fifteen years old when the war began. Twice rejected because of his youth, he enlisted on his eighteenth birthday, in April, 1917. By July he had qualified as a pilot, and by September he was in England. When his squadron, the 82nd, was ordered to the Front, his Commanding Officer refused to take him along—again on account of his youth.

However, on Home Defense in England with the 51st, during a bitter duel with a Gotha over London, he displayed such heroism, although shot down, that Headquarters posted him to France with the 2nd Squadron, in November, 1917. This squadron boasted no fast pursuit ships, but was engaged principally in observation, bombing, and artillery spotting, and flew the Armstrong-Whitworth, a good ship for these purposes, but slow.

It was with this ship that McLeod went “a-hunting” beyond and outside of his daily routine, strafing the trenches, attacking troops in movement, machine-gun emplacements and batteries. No one had ever thought to attack a sausage in one of the old crates. Nevertheless McLeod coolly destroyed a German balloon and then, when attacked by a flight of Albatross pursuit planes, shot one of them down and held the others off, returning safely to his airdrome. Soon none but the most daring observers would fly with him, but there were always enough of these so that he did not lack for companions. Besides, he always brought them back—and how!

The morning of March 22, 1918, seemed to McLeod much like any other day. With Lieutenant A.W. Hammond in the observer’s cockpit, he had started out on a patrol to Bray sur Somme. He got lost in the heavy, low clouds but, at last finding a hole, he had dropped down to let his bombs go when a Fokker tripe rode his tail down from the same clouds. A half-roll saved him from the Fokker’s burst, and a zoom put Hammond in position to prevent that particular German from ever firing another burst.

But seven other tripes had come down after their leader and were now bent on revenge. Like red hawks they darted around the two Canadians, raking them with machine-gun fire from every direction until one, more daring than the others, dived in from the front.

McLeod beat him to the shot and Fokker No. 2 joined his leader far below. At that instant, however, McLeod felt his first bullet. One of the tripes, attacking from below, had put a full burst into the British machine. Hammond was hit twice, and the entire bottom of his cockpit collapsed. Then the gas tank burst into flames. The Armstrong-Whitworth plunged down, out of control, with McLeod dazed in the front seat, and Hammond clinging desperately to the rim of what had been his cockpit.

THE flames licked up, burning McLeod back to consciousness. To stay in the front seat was no longer possible. McLeod stepped out on the wing, reaching back into the burning cockpit for the controls and sideslipping the plane so that the flames were blown away from Hammond. Although two more bullets had found him by now, he succeeded in keeping the ship in fair control and getting rid of his bombs. The Germans were following the helpless Canadians down, pouring burst after burst into them.

Hammond now had three bullets in his body, while one arm hung limp. Almost unconscious, with his feet braced against the sides of the fuselage to keep from falling through the bottomless cockpit, he still had strength enough for one last burst at the Boche. Almost point-blank he emptied his drum into the nearest tripe. A burst of smoke and screaming wires told that Fokker No. 3 had joined the other two victims, crashing below almost at the same instant that McLeod, leveling off his blazing ship as best he could, piled up in No-Man’s-Land.

The crash threw them both clear of the wreckage, about ten yards apart in the middle of No-Man’s-Land, three hundred yards from the British trenches. For an instant they lay there, unconscious, but the Germans were already sniping at them and McLeod, who lay in a more exposed position, was roused to consciousness by a bullet nipping his leg. Rolling into a shallow hole, his senses returned, and with them came his “big moment.”

To stay where he was was impossible. The whole area was too much exposed. He must make the trenches. But outside lay Hammond, wounded, perhaps dead. Should he leave him and try for the trenches alone? In another instant he was out of the hole and at Hammond’s side. The poor observer was alive but completely unconscious, with six wounds.

How McLeod dragged and carried Hammond those three hundred yards he himself never knew. But the Tommies in the trenches saw him coming. They watched him as, inch by inch, he dragged himself and his observer across the torn earth, with the enemy raking him with bullets. They watched and helped all they could by laying down a deadly fire on the German trenches.

With just six yards to go, another bullet got McLeod, and the Tommies went over the top and dragged the two unconscious flyers in, still breathing—but not much more. All day they lay in those exposed trenches without medical aid. But the gods must have smiled, for they both got well eventually—Hammond to get a D.S.O., and McLeod the V.C.

The Ships on The Cover
“The Youngest V.C. Flyer”
Flying Aces, August 1933 by Paul J. Bissell

“Ginsberg’s War: Pfalz Alarm” by Robert J. Hogan

Link - Posted by David on December 22, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

    “Geeve a look,” he chirped. “I’m here, already. Abe Ginsberg’s de name.”

A HUNDRED years ago this month, the United States declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire. To mark the occasion, we’re posting Robert J. Hogan’s series of Abe Ginsberg stories that ran in the pages or War Birds magazine from 1932-1933. Although Ginsberg’s always first to stand up and volunteer, he’s often overlooked due to his short stature. This time he’s excluded from the mission as the French want to pin a medal on his chest. A muddy ride, a drunken celebration, and a dark hanger all lead to Ginsberg finding himself behind enemy lines attacking the Boche defenses from the inside!

Abe Ginsberg knew a bargain when he saw one. When it turned out to be a Pfalz alarm, he had to ask them “Catch On?”

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 15: Major Vaughn” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on January 18, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Starting in the May 1932 issue of Flying Aces and running almost 4 years, Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Frandzen would feature a different Ace that rose to fame during the Great War. This time around we have American Ace—Major George Vaughn!

Major George A. Vaughn is credited with 13 victories—12 German planes and one balloon—and awarded the American Distinguished Service Cross, the British Distinguished Flying Cross and Silver Star with two citations. He was shot down twice, but managed to escape uninjured both times.

A student at Princeton when the war broke out, Vaughn returned and finished his degree after the war. He became a reearch engineer for Western Electric and later a slea engineer for Westinghouse.

Vaughn was asked by the Governor of New York, Franklin Roosevelt, to help organize the New York Air National Guard—the 102nd Observation Squadron—in the early 1920s. He served as it’s commander for nine years. In 1933 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned to the 27th Division Staff as Air Officer until he retired in 1939.

Vaughn was on of the organizers of the Casey Jones School of Aeronautics along with Lee D. Warrender and Casey Jones in 1932. The School, based at La Guardia Airport, would become the College of Aeronautics. In 2004, the name was changed to the Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology.

George Vaughn passed away in 1989 at the age of 92 of a brain tumor.

(Editor’s Note: These early installments of Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” that were published in the pulp-sized issues have been reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)

“Wolves of the Sky” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on October 30, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

We’re back with another of Frederick Blakeslee’s “The Story Behind The Cover”—this week the spotlight’s on the July 1933 cover of Dare-Devil Aces. Blakeslee presents the story of an attack on a flight of German planes that was the result of a toothache! Without further ado, Blakeslee’s “The Yellow Hornet”…

th_DDA_3308TWO ALBATROSSES had become the special terror of Allied two-seaters. Known as the “Wolves of The Sky,” unlike wolves they were not cowardly. They fought viciously but fairly. They seemed to love a fight against odds. Although they did not hesitate to attack a two-seater that was weakly protected, they seemed to take special interest in those which had strong escorts.

One day however, they met their match in a numerically weak combination—a two-seater Bristol and a single Nieuport. The former was flown by an English crew, the latter by a Frenchman. The Germans sighted this pair over Boche lines, and went to the attack. The Nieuport was flying a little above and behind the Bristol, and kept this position apparently unaware of the enemy’s approach, until the Germans had approached within range. Then suddenly both Allied ships turned and charged at the startled Boches, guns blazing. The Germans swerved aside only to find that each one had an enemy on his tail. Then two separate combats developed.

The German who found himself in combat with the heavier and slower Bristol could not, despite his superior speed, get that ship in his sights. Finally in desperation, he looped, dove and came up under—where the Bristol should have been. But the British plane had executed a sudden skid, dove and passed the Alba-tros as it shot up. The British gunner’s deadly aim did the rest. With a wrecked motor the Albatros stalled, then dropped away out of sight.

In its first dive on the other German, the Nieuport had so badly damaged the tail assembly of the Albatros that it, too, was compelled to dive away, unable to turn either to right or to left.

Thus began a series of fights between these four ships, extending over a period of five or six weeks. Neither gained a victory—then, just before Armistice Day. the luck broke for both sides.

The two Germans, by using a cloud formation, surprised the Frenchman. In one burst the propeller of the Nieuport was shattered and the fabric on the tip of one wing was chewed to ribbons by flaming slugs. The Frenchman turned and dove, with the Germans strung out behind. There was purpose in that dive, for the Nieuport passed under the Bristol who met the Germans with a blistering broadside. The leading Boche joined the Frenchman in his glide to earth.

The battle between the remaining Albatros and the Bristol was short but savage. Suddenly the German was seen trying to correct a jam in his guns; he was forced to stop firing. Almost at the same time the Englishman discovered that he had used his last drum of ammo.

He looked toward the German who threw up his hands to indicate he was through; the Englishman did the same. They waved to each other and both went home, with their planes in bad shape.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Wolves of the Sky: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (August 1933)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.