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How the War Crates Flew: Guns and Howitzers

Link - Posted by David on August 8, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the February 1934 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.

Guns and Howitzers

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters, February 1934)

BY THIS time, you yeggs—excuse me, my error. I’ll start all over again. By this time, you buzzards must be convinced that we war pilots were very wonderful fellows.

Of course, being a modest old sparrow I can do nothing else but agree with you. However, to be serious for a few moments, the object of this little get-together is to point out that the pilot who was sent to the Front during the last war had to know quite a bit about war activities other than just the flying end.

When you enlisted there was really no way of determining whether you would be okay on pursuit ships, observation ships, or bombers. That being the case, the training you received was more general than specialized.

By that I mean, you were taught at ground school the various duties of all three types of pilots. And upon your flying depended what kind of a squadron you’d be sent to—if any!

For instance, it might so happen that once you had been sent solo you proved yourself to be a knockout on artillery co-operation work. In that case you’d be shipped to an observation squadron. And then again, perhaps, you might be a dead shot. In that case, out you’d go to a pursuit unit.

Get the Idea?

Why waste a swell shot by sticking him at the controls of a bomber? Get the idea?

Naturally, war being just as mixed up as anything else, the right men were not sent to the right squadrons all the time. There were plenty of misfits floating around—birds pushing bombers around when they should be at the controls of a pursuit or an observation ship, and vice versa. However, that sort of stuff was not the fault of the pilot in question.

Just One of Those Things

It was just one of the many, many things that can happen in war. In other words, you were sent where the big shots sent you, and that was that. You couldn’t do anything about it, except weep in your own soup.

I remember a case in particular. There were two friends of mine, one a big bruiser and the other a little half pint portion of man—but plenty scrappy, nevertheless. Well, we all trained together, and when it came time for us to be assigned to squadrons, the big fellow was sent out to a Camel squadron and the little fellow was shipped out to fly Handley-Page bombers.

The funny part of it was that I met them both about six months later, and the big fellow had to have his Camel cockpit made bigger so he could get into it, and the little fellow had to pile leather cushions in his Handley-Page cockpit in order to see over the top of the cowling.

They both came through the war with flying colors, so maybe the big shots guessed right after all.

However, whether they did or not, isn’t any skin off our noses today. What I’m trying to get over to you chipmunks is, that while you were training for the Front you were learning lots of things about war besides flying. In other words, you had to be able to fill any gap at a moment’s notice.

And so, I’m going to yell about one of the extra items we had to get through our heads before they let us go. And that item is ordnance.

Or—what? You heard me, ordnance! And being as how you don’t know what that means, I suppose I’ll have to tell you. The correct definition of ordnance is, the general name for all kinds of weapons and their appliances used in war; especially, artillery.

What’s a Gun—Huh?

That last is what I’m going to talk about—artillery.

There were, generally speaking, three types of artillery used. The first was guns, the second was howitzers, and the third was mortars.

Now wait a minute, keep your shirt on and stop asking questions so soon. I know what’s on your mind. What do I mean by guns? Well, just listen.

A gun was a piece of ordnance, cannon or pieces of artillery that was used foe, long-range fire, or in other words, line fire. A howitzer was a piece of ordnance, cannon or pieces of artillery used for short range destructive fire. And a mortar was a piece of ordnance, cannon or artillery that was used for short range, very high angle of fire bombardment work.

The Long and the Short of It

Now, let’s go into detail one at a time. First, the gun.

Of course, there were various sizes of guns. The smallest being the eighteen-pounder and the largest being the twelve-inch gun. And even bigger than that if you want to count the navel guns they sometimes mounted on mobile platforms. However, regardless of the size of the gun, the bores were all rifled to give the desired twist to the shell as it left the muzzle, so that it would travel through the air the right way.

Naturally, the driving band that circled the shell made it possible for the rifling of the bore of the gun to give a twist to the shell.

As I said, guns were used for long range work or line fire. By line fire I mean just that—the shells exploding in a line area that extended from a point on the near side of the target to a point on the far side of the target. In other words, an oblong target area. To get an exact idea of what I mean, take a squint at Fig. 1.

As the shell of a gun has to travel a long way, it follows that the muzzle velocity (speed of shell as it leaves muzzle of gun) is very high. However, on the other hand, the trajectory and angle of descent are very low. To explain them there big words: trajectory means angle of flight. And angle of descent, of course, means the angle in relation to the ground at which the shell descends.

Effective Range Fire

Guns were more effective on infantry movements. By that I mean, infantry columns moving along roads, field batteries moving into position, trains, railroad stations, ammo dumps, etc. In other words, targets that were either moving or stationary, but were quite a ways behind the enemy lines. See Fig. 2.

Now, I’ll get on with howitzers and you’ll be able to see just what I mean about the effective range fire of guns.

Howitzers ranged in size from four and a half inches to around sixteen inches.

Howitzers Were Accurate!

And, by the way, when I speak of size I mean the diameter of the bore of the gun or howitzer, such as the case may be.

Okay, let’s go! Howitzers were used for short-range destructive work. By that I mean, they were supposed to wipe the target right off the old map. Their range being shorter, they were far more accurate than guns. The main reason being that their area of fire was more square in shape than the area of gun-fire.

To get the point, rest your lamps on Fig. 3.

The range of howitzers being shorter the idea was to drop a shell down on it as perpendicular as possible. To do this, required low muzzle velocity, high trajectory and high angle of descent. The advantage of howitzers was that hills didn’t bother them. Their shells went up high and came down at a steep angle. So if your target was behind a hill range, you didn’t have to worry.

A gun shell that would clear the top of the hill would, of course, go beyond the target. But a howitzer shell would sneak right up over the hill and plop straight down, on the target. Take a peep at Fig. 4 and you get an idea how a howitzer shell went through the air.

Now, when I say that howitzers were for destructive work, don’t get the idea that guns didn’t destroy things. They sure did, and don’t let your cousin Alice tell you otherwise. However, perhaps you noted that howitzers pushed out bigger shells than guns, and that those shells came down straighter on the target.

Well, there you are—howitzer fire was more evenly concentrated than gun-fire, it covered a more even area about the target, and it could nail a target (within its range) regardless of ground formations. Because of its high trajectory and short range it was the bunk for moving targets.
But take an established enemy target, a field battery in position, for instance, or a troop concentration depot, and the old howitzer would give you the best results every time.

The Howitzer’s Kid Brother

A mortar was for trench to trench work. The most famous of all mortars was the Stokes trench mortar. It popped one- or two-pound shells out of your trench and down into the enemy trench. As its range of fire was nothing to write home about, a couple of hundred yards or so, the bore was not rifled, nor was there any driving band on the shell. I suppose that you could really call a trench mortar, a small edition of a howitzer without bore rifling.

Believe it or not, they were fired by dropping the shell into the muzzle. It simply slid down, detonated and came popping out again and on its way over to the enemy trench. Yes, Clarence, you had to get your hand out of the way fast. That is, of course, if you didn’t want to present the enemy with a perfectly good hand. Personally, I never met a soldier yet who didn’t want to hang onto his hands.

And there you have a general idea of artillery used in the last mix-up. Don’t forget there were all kinds of guns and all kinds of howitzers and each kind had a special use in defensive or offensive work.

However, a gun was just as different from a howitzer as a revolver is from a rifle. But both were hot stuff for their own particular type of work.

And now, just a couple of words about artillery work in general and its relation to aircraft. The work can be tabulated as follows—registration on the target for future bombardment, the bombardment itself, wire cutting and trench destruction before an infantry attack, barrage fire during an attack and emergency target work. Registration on a target (range finding) and bombardment of target work were carried out in co-operation with aircraft.

The other classes of work were carried out in co-operation with ground observation or on the initiative of the officer commanding the battery. But no matter what type of work it was, the thing that counted with G.H.Q. was results. And, now that I think of it, the only thing that ever counted with G.H.Q. was results. Nix on explanations—you had to give those big pumpkins results if you wanted to stay out of hot water.

And so there you have one non-flying item that we pilots had to learn by heart. Maybe, if you are all good little children, I’ll tell you about something else that we had to absorb before they let us become Fokker fodder. Goombye!

“Famous Sky Fighters, February 1934″ by Terry Gilkison

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Starting in the October 1933 issue of Sky Fighters and running almost 5 years, Terry Gilkison’s “Famous Sky Fighters” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Gilkison would illustrate in a two page spread different Aces that rose to fame during the Great War.

Although Gilkison was probably better known for his syndicated newspaper work, he also provided black and white story interior illustrations for pulp magazines. His work appeared in Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Gilkison provided similar features in a few other Thrilling Publications—there was “Famous Soldiers of Fortune” and later “Adventure Thrills” in Thrilling Adventures, Famous Crimes” in Thrilling Detective, and the fully illustrated air adventure stories of Buck Barton “The Flying Devil” in The Lone Eagle! He signed most of this work with only his initials “T.G.” to maintain a low profile and preserve his reputation as a syndicated newspaper cartoon artist.

The February 1934 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, features American Ace Major George Vaughn, the R.F.C.’s Lt. Malloch, and the great Major Oswald Boelcke!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters,” Terry Gilkison features “Fighting Dave” himself—David Sinton Ingalls, Lt. Frank Luke, and Germany’s Lt. Werner Voss. Don’t miss it!

“The Lone Eagle, February 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

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Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of The Lone Eagle from its first issue in September 1933 until the June 1937 issue when Rudolph Belarski took over with the August issue of that year. At the start of the run, Frandzen painted covers of general air action much like his Sky Fighters covers. Here, for the February 1934 issue, Frandzen has a British Bristol monoplane taking on a cornered German L.V.G.!

The Story of the Cover

THE planes pictured on this th_LE_3402month’s cover are the Bristol monoplane, one of the prettiest little jobs turned out by the famous British and Colonial Aeroplane Co. The German ship is an L.V.G. type C.V.

High above the ground, against a background of blue, these two planes have met. The German pilot was heading back into German territory when the prowling Bristol pilot hopped the German. The Bristol, only rating one gun, was outclassed in armament at the start of the scrap by the L.V.G. which had two guns in perfect working order; one Spandau up front and a Parabellum at the back pit.

For ten or fifteen minutes the two guns on the L.V.G. have kept the Bristol at bay, but the L.V.G. being the slower and bulkier of the two has been more or less driven into maneuvers by the Bristol. And after each maneuver the German has found himself closer to the Allied lines. Also he has been forced to allow his ship to lose considerable altitude.

Over No Man’s Land

They have passed over No Man’s Land with its writhing lines of battered trenches and shell-torn fields. The Allied pilot signals the German to land—gives him to understand that he will be given a safe passage to the ground. The reply from Fritz and his observer is an assorted spray of slugs.

“O.K.,” the Allied pilot yells. And slamming the gas into the hungry carburetor he starts to really do his stuff.

The Bristol slashes back and forth across the back of the L.V.G. like a fighting shepherd dog ripping the hide from a bulldog’s back. In and out of ring-sights— short bursts—few of them, but effective. The German observer shudders, claws at his chest and stiffens, then slumps against the ring of his pit, mortally wounded.

Little Chance of Escape

The German pilot knows now that his tail is unprotected; his chances of escape amount to very little. Still, that small chance is better than nothing. He kicks his ship around and blasts at his enemy, his Spandau hammering out sizzling slugs.

Far below, carefully hidden from keen-eyed Boche airmen, a battery of Yank anti-aircraft guns have been trained on the aerial combatants.

Suddenly the commanding officer sees the Bristol dive away from the spurting gun of the German plane.

“Fire!” barks the artillery officer.

The drone and roar of the fighting planes is drowned by the sharp bark of the “75s.”

The Bristol pilot coming out at the top of a loop sees two blossoms suddenly burst on either side of the L.V.G. He pours a steady stream of lead into the German plane.

An Exciting Moment

That is the spot in the fight pictured on the cover; just that one moment when the unlucky German is beautifully bracketed by a couple of archie bursts and is getting a broadside from the Allied Vickers gun. One second later the German raises his hands above his head. The Bristol closes in on his tail. The anti-aircraft guns cease firing.

“Just in time for lunch, Fritz,” chuckles the victor. He points toward a cleared space flanked by tent hangars far below. The German nods solemnly, shrugs his shoulders—and obeys orders.

The Story of The Cover
The Lone Eagle, February 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Story of The Cover Page)

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 21: Willy Coppens” by Eugene Frandzen

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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 Belgian balloon buster—Lt. Willy Coppens!

Willy Omer François Jean Coppens de Houthulst was the Belgian Ace of Aces. He got his initial training as a soldier and officer in the cavalry division of the army. He transferred later on to the Flying Corps and began immediately to compile the record of victories that gained him top ranking among sky fighters. (a YouTube video exists that shows footage of Coopens demonstrating downing a balloon and talking about it years later.)

Because the German armies had overrun all but a narrow strip of his own country, he did all of his flying from foreign bases, usually being stationed in the sectors in Flanders occupied by the British forces. Flying foreign machines from foreign bases, he nevertheless built up a remarkable record of successful combats. When his time on the front was ended, unhappily but gloriously, he was officially credited with 32 victories and awarded practically every medal under the sun, chiefly among there were the Order of Leopold II with swords, Order of the Crown, Belgian Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 with 27 Palms and 13 Bronze Lions, French Legion d’Honneur, Serbian Order of the White Eagle, British Distinguished Service Order, British Military Cross, and French Croix de Guerre with 2 Palms!

After the war, Coppens served as a military attaché to France, Britain, Italy and Switzerland. He retired in 1940 to Switzerland, where he spent his time organising resistance work and marrying. His war memoirs, Days on the Wing was published in 1931 and was subsequently revised and re-issued in paperback forty years later in 1971 with the title Flying in Flanders.

In the late 1960s he returned to Belgium and lived his last five years with fellow Belgian ace Jan Olieslagers’s only daughter until his death in 1986. He was 94.

“Coventry” by Lt. Frank Johnson

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This time around we have a tale from the anonymous pen of Lt. Frank Johnson—a house pseudonym. Sky Fighters ran a series of stories by Johnson featuring a pilot who who was God’s gift to the Ninth Pursuit Fighter Squadron and although he says he’s a doer and not a talker, he wasn’t to shy to tell them all about it. Which earned him the nickname “Silent” Orth.

In the first of the Silent Orth stories, Orth arrives at the Ninth Pursuit as a replacement and sets about to eliminate their pesky boche problem—seems a Baron Schmidt has been hammering their sector and the Ninth has been making little headway. In trying to do so, Orth finds out what happens when the new guy doesn’t stay in line—he ends up in “Coventry,” from the pages of the February 1934 Sky Fighters.

His wingmates couldn’t stand Jason Orth’s opinion of himself—But he certainly knew his stuff in the air!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Alan Winslow

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Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s American Lieutenant Alan Winslow’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Alan Winslow first went oyer to France as a member of tho American Ambulance Section serving with the French Army. After America entered the war he was transferred to the American Army. When the American Air Service under command of Colonel Mitchell began definite duties on the Western Front, Alan Winslow had won his commission as a First Lieutenant and was assigned as a pilot in the 94th Aero Squadron, the famous “Hat in the Ring” outfit later made famous by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker.

Lieutenant Winslow and Douglas Campbell were both inexperienced battle flyers, but it fell to their lot to be the first American flyers in an American Squadron under American command, to engage the enemy in actual combat. Winslow and Campbell downed their respective enemies within two minutes of one another in the same dogfight. Wlnslow’s opponent fell first, hence he is credited with the first American air victory.

The account below was taken down by one of Winslow’s squadron mates.



by Lieutenant Alan Winslow • Sky Fighters, February 1934

I DON’T know yet just how it happened. Our Spads were lined up on the deadline ready for a practice flight over the lines when the field sirens began to scream raucously. All of us rushed out to see what was the matter, looking naturally towards the front lines. Then the anti-aircraft guns began to pop and I saw white mushroom puffs just over the northern border of the field.

Right in the midst of the archie bursts were two black winged planes flying towards our field. They weren’t more than 2,500 feet high. Campbell and I both rushed for our planes.

When I got in the air I kited off towards the front in a climbing turn to get the Boche between me and their home lines.

The Boche didn’t appear to be at all disturbed about us taking off after them. They flew serenely on towards Toul, snapping their pictures, I suppose, while Campbell and I clawed for the ceiling behind them. The archies kept up a continual fire, and only ceased when Campbell and I swung about and pointed our Spads for the two Rumplers. I picked one, Campbell
took the other. I fired a short burst from my guns to make sure they were clear, then dived in to the attack.

The Boche gunner in the rear seat calmly swung his guns on me and opened up with a stream of tracer.

I don’t know just what I did, but I ducked that burst somehow by agile maneuvering. When I redressed he was out of my sights, so I nosed up, renverscd and went back again with my fingers trembling over the Bow-dens, ready to fire the instant I lined him.

Again the Boche tracer stream came and I ducked, but not without sending out a few of my own. I nosed down and slid under Mm; zooming up on the other side. Banking quickly to line the Rumpler again, I was surprised to see it go tumbling down the sky. My first nervous burst had been effective,

But fearing a trick, I followed down after it until it crashed. Only then did I think about Campbell and the other Boche. I banked and climbed back to go to his assistance, and saw his Boche going down just like mine.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Col. William Bishop

Link - Posted by David on January 27, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time it’s Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop’s Most Thrilling Sky Fight!

Colonel William Bishop is one of the few great war Aces still living. And he probably owes his life to the fact that the British General Staff ordered him to Instruction duty in London while the war was still on. Bishop first served in the Second Canadian Army as an officer of cavalry, but tiring of the continuous Flanders mud, he made application for transfer to the Royal Flying Corps. He was first sent up front as an observer. When he went up later as a pilot he immediately began to compile the record which established him as the British Ace of Aces. He won every honor and medal possible. He was an excellent flyer, but attributed most of his success to his wizardry with the machine-gun. When the war ended he was officially credited with downing 72 enemy planes and balloons. The account below is from material he gathered for a book.



by Lieut. Col. William Bishop • Sky Fighters, February 1934

OUR WING received orders to take some pictures seven miles inside the enemy lines. This was a hazardous mission, and the Major in command of Wing volunteered to do it alone, but his superiors ordered that he be given protection. My patrol was assigned to furnish that protection. We were to meet the Major in his photo plane just east of Arras at the 6,000 foot level.

The rendezvous came off like clockwork. I brought my patrol to the spot at 9:28 and cruised lazily about. Two minutes later we spied a single Nieuport coming towards us. I fired a red signal flare and the Nieuport answered. It was the Major.

I climbed slightly then, leading my patrol about 1,000 feet above the Major’s Nieuport, protecting him from attack from above as we kited over the lines. The formation kept just high enough to avoid the German archies.

We got to the area to be photographed without too much trouble, flying through a sea of big white clouds which made it difficult for the archie gunners to reach us. We circled round and round the Major while he tried to snap his pictures.

But the clouds made it as difficult for him as for the archie gunners.

During one of our sweeping circles I suddenly saw four enemy scouts climbing between two immense clouds some distance off. I knew they would see us soon, so I got the brilliant idea of making the enemy scouts think that there was only one British machine by taking my patrol up into the clouds.

I knew the Huns would dive to attack on the Major the instant they spotted him, then the rest of us could swoop down and surprise them. I did not want to make it hard on the Major, but I couldn’t resist the chance of using him as a decoy.

The enemy scouts saw the Major and made for him in a concerted dive. He didn’t see them until one of them opened fire prematurely at a long range of over 200 yards.

His thoughts then—he told me afterwards—immediately flew to the patrol. He glanced back over his shoulder to see where we were—and saw nothing! He pulled up and poured a burst at a German who came down on his right. Then he banked to the left for a burst at another German. The two Huns flew off, then returned.

I dived with my patrol now. One Hun fired at the Major as I flashed by. I opened both my guns on him at a ten-yard range, then passed on to the second enemy scout, firing all the while, and passing within five feet of his wing tip. I turned quickly to get the other two, but they dived out of range and escaped.

When I looked back over my shoulder the first two were floundering down through the clouds out of control. Ten seconds of firing had accounted for both of them in a single dive. The Major finished his photo job in fifteen minutes without further interruption, and we made our way home through heavy aircraft fire.

Later, I apologized to him for using him as a decoy. “Don’t worry about me,” he said. “Carry on.”

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Baron Manfred von Richthofen

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Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This week we have the legend that is Baron Manfred von Richthofen!

Captain Manfred von Richthofen was the greatest of all the German flyers. He had more victories to his credit than any other battle flyer. He began in the Imperial Flying Corps, on the Russian Front. Soon afterwards he was transferred to the German North Seas station at Ostend, where he served as a bomber. Backseat flying never appealed to him, so he took training, soon won his wings, and was sent to join the jagdstaffel commanded by Oswald Boelke. After his sixteenth victory, he was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to command a squadron. This became the Flying Circus, the most famous of all the German squadrons, the scourge of the western skies.

The account below, in which he describes his flight with Major Hawker, the famous British Ace, on November 3, 1916, is from Richthofen’s personal memoirs. For this victory he was awarded the order of Pour le Merite. Only Immelmann and Boelke before him had gained this honor, and no air fighter following him over received it. In his scarlet red battle plane he coursed the Western Front from end to end, strewing death and destruction in his wake—until that fatal day when bullets from a British flyer’s gun brought him to his end, as he had brought upwards of a hundred others.



by Baron Manfred von Richthofen • Sky Fighters, February 1934

I WAS flying along with my patrol of three wing-mates when I noticed three Englishmen. They looked me over keenly in the manner of stalkers looking for cold meat. I was far below the rest of my patrol flying above, so I sensed that they had only spied me and not the others. I let them think I was flying alone and boldly flaunted my wings in challenge.

They had the ceiling, so I had to wait until one of them dropped on me before shifting for attack myself. Down one came presently, streaking in a line for my tail. At a close range, he opened up. But I banked swiftly and escaped the burst, intending to nose back and get in one of my own as he swooped past. But he banked, too, sticking on my tail. Round and round we circled like madmen, each trying to catch up with the other at an altitude of 10,000 feet.

First we circled about twenty times to the left. Then reversed and circled thirty times to the right, each trying to tighten the circle sufficiently to line in a burst—but without success. I knew then this fellow I had so boldly tackled wasn’t any beginner. He had no intentions of breaking or running. And his machine was a marvelous stunter (D.H.2 with 100 h.p. mono-soupape motor—Editor). However, mine climbed better than his, so I succeeded finally in getting above and behind my dancing partner.

When we had settled down to 6,000 feet with the battle still a draw, my opponent should have had sense enough to leave, for we were fighting over my own territory. But he held on like a leech.

At 3,000 feet we were still battling for position with guns silent, neither of us having been able to line the other in his sights. My opponent looked up from his pit, smiled. He was a good sportsman.

We made twenty or thirty more circles, getting lower and lower. Looking down in my opponent’s pit I sized him up carefully, expecting some trick. He had to do something, for I was continually pressing him down, and he had to decide between landing in German territory or making a run for his own lines.

He looped suddenly trying to get on my tail. His guns blasted simultaneously. Bullets flew around me, crackling and whining. Coming out of the loop just off the ground he darted off in a zig-zag course. That was my most favorable moment.

I pounced on his tail, firing with all I had from a distance between 150 and 250 feet away. His machine simply could not help falling. My bullets poured through it in a steady stream.

At that the jamming of my guns almost robbed me of victory, but just at that moment his plane toppled off on one wing and slid into the ground just 150 feet behind our lines.

When I landed, I found that one of my bullets had passed through his head. How he managed to duck all but that one was more than I could understand—until I learned later that my victim was the famous Major Hawker!

“Sky Fighters, February 1934″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

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This week we have the cover of Sky Fighters from February 1934 by our old friend Eugene Frandzen. Franzen 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.

THE SHIPS pictured th_SF_3402on this month’s cover are the German Rumpler type C5 and the French Spad type 13.

The Rumpler was one of Germany’s most successful war planes. As far back as 1908 Herr E. Rumpler was working on airplane designs. At first his ships followed closely the Eitrich “Taube” design, that queer birdlike swept-back wing construction. In a Rumpler biplane an eighteen-hour record was established just before the war by Herr Basser who flew from Berlin to Constantinople, making only three stops.

This flight was phenomenal for those days and it was only natural that when the World War flared and burst over nearly all Europe that the German High Command would do plenty of concentrating on their prize-winning Rumpler. It eventually lost its swept-back wings but the general appearance of the fuselage and nose remained the same up to the end of the war.

The two Rumpler C5s pictured on the cover are equipped for light bombing. Their speed was around 105 to 110 m.p.h.

From the blast of the explosion coming from the bottom of the picture it looks as though they have caused plenty of trouble. When we consider that the bill for the World War amounted to about 186 billion dollars and that plenty of that sweet little amount went into explosives of assorted shapes and potency one little ammunition dump valued at a few hundred thousand dollars doesn’t amount to much on the books, but add a few of these dumps together along a front that is causing the opposing power plenty of headaches and you’ll easily see how extremely important a little bomb-dropping party really is.

That in exactly what is happening in the picture—an ammo dump has gone blooey. One bomb beautifully spotted by the leading Rumpler pilot has done the trick. His pardner in the background is shedding his load of eggs in a businesslike manner too. The odds are against the Allies in this particular instance. They will have to rush some fresh ammunition to this particular sector if they want to have sufficient food for their hungry cannons.

But don’t overlook that Spad coming in with both guns blazing at the Rumpler. It didn’t get there quite in time to drive the Fritz away before he could shed his bombs but if a stray hunk of exploding shell from the dump doesn’t get one of the Spad pilots it will just be too bad for the men in the German ships.

This Spad 13 could kick off about 130 to 135 miles per hour. It carried plenty of horsepower up front in its nose, 220 to be exact. The ambitious pilots of the bomb-dropping Rumplers are quite some distance behind the Allied lines. Their protection planes are far behind the German lines. And those two Spads will either herd the Germans down to the ground or blow them out of the sky.

Bombing ammunition dumps during the World War was done extensively by both sides. Many times the pilot and observer of a two-seater plane went on a special ammunition-bombing expedition from which they knew they would never return.

They had specific jobs to accomplish and they grinned, smoked a last cigarette and flew their ships to the spot indicated on their maps. Usually a one-way trip, but if the mission was successful thousands of lives were saved.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, February 1934 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Morane-Saulnier Parasol (type P)!

“Hell Divers” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on December 18, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. This time the story is self evident Blakeslee tells us, but then turns around to tell us the story behind his cover for the prvious December’s issue of Battle Birds and ties our old pal, French Ace Georges Guynemer. All this in February’s cover form 1934—”Hell Divers!”

th_DDA_3402WE ARE not going to write a story behind the cover this month. It seems to us that the story is told right there on the cover. You see three Spads doing what Spads did best, and you can visualize the mix-up that followed at the end of their dive. The Fokkers have spotted the Spads and are breaking formation to meet the onrush. Who got the best of the scrap? Well, we’ll let you figure that one out. The Spads all belong to the Lafayette Escadrille, and as that was a hard fighting outfit, its safe to say that they did some damage and then escaped. Note the markings on the ships. The Spad in the foreground carries the mark of the 97th squadron, that on the left the 112th, and on the right the 77th.

Now that we have told you that, perhaps it would be a good time to discuss another Spad, not only because of its unusual history (which we think will interest you) but also to correct some impressions of it.

th_BB_3312It appeared on the cover of the December issue of BATTLE BIRDS. The scene is a close-up of a Spad looking forward from just behind the cockpit. We have been told that it should have had two machine guns, that—well anyway, it was all wrong! Now it may surprise our critics to know that the Spad on the cover was painted from an actual ship. The ship is right here in America and has been seen by thousands, so ten chances to one you have seen it too.

The ship is a Spad 7, one of the earliest types put out under the Spad name and made famous by Guynemer. Guynemer’s ship, which is in the Invalides in Paris, and which we have examined, is a Spad 7, These ships were the first to get the synchronizing attachments added to them; at that time only one gun was being put on a ship. It was not until later that French ships began using the twin mounting.

Now for the history of the ship shown on Dec. Battle Birds. Thousands saw it do a spectacular crack-up some years back—in the movies! Its war-time history has not been handed down, but Paramount purchased it in 1924 for the then proposed picture “Wings.” It was one of several purchased and it was in A-l flying condition.

If you remember the picture, you can not fail to recall the scene of the memorable crash, when Armstrong’s plane (Richard Arlen) was shot down by a German and landed in German wire. Dick Grace, doubling for Richard Arlcn, flew the ship and was supposed to crack-up the plane in the wire. The wire had been cleverly faked by using ordinary knitting wool with balsa wood posts. The spot was marked so Dick Grace would land there. But he overshot and landed in the real wire, causing the broken neck from which he suffered for many months.

The Spad landed upside-down and was a complete wash-out. Only the badly damaged fuselage remained. Since then, time and souvenir hunters have done their work, but at last it has been rescued from oblivion and is being restored. It will eventually have a resting place in the Jarrett War Museum, where, if you are in Atlantic City, you may see it.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Hell Divers: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (February 1934)

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

“The Varnishing Americans” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by Bill on October 22, 2009 @ 12:33 pm in

If you thought Elmer Hubbard and Pokey Cook were a couple of wild Indians before, just wait until you see them with their war paint and feathers on! Even C.O. Mulligan had to listen to their war whoops with a smile.

“The Nippon Nightmare” by Arch Whitehouse

Link - Posted by Bill on November 14, 2008 @ 4:01 pm in

The moment Buzz Benson flew over that landing field near the Mississippi River, he knew that something strange, something ghastly, had happened. A weird glow filled the air, and a white dust coated the field like snow. And on that tarmac, where men lay huddled and telephone bells remained unanswered, nothing moved— nothing stirred. Yet it was not death that had claimed them.

“Hell’s Hack” by Arch Whitehouse

Link - Posted by Bill on May 23, 2008 @ 11:57 pm in

Handley-Page No. 13 was just an old hack, battered by months of night flying for the Independent Air Force. Her sides were patched, her wings weary from too many foldings. The crew of Handley-Page No. 13 was just an ordinary bomber gang, as battered and bruised as their plane. But see what happens when these scrappers are accused of bombing their own troops.