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“Sky Fighters, November 1937″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on July 5, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the November 1937 cover, It’s the deadly Gotha!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3711GOTHA! An ominous word during the World War days. Gothas over London raining steel-cased loads of high explosive, inflammable liquid, shrapnel. Gothas over Paris dropping bombs and hundreds of pounds of propaganda leaflets proclaiming: “We are at your gates. Surrender!” No wonder that millions of civilians far behind the actual fighting lines shuddered in terror as warning sirens blared their screeching blasts across the roof tops.

Defending planes seemed helpless against huge raiders whose pilots were so bold that they flew over England in daylight.

Shattering Morale

The Germans knew that more actual harm could be done to the Allied cause by shattering the nerves and morale of the great masses of humanity in the crowded cities than battering holes in the Allies’ front lines. It brought the war right into the living room. Even if casualties were comparatively small, the damage done to buildings and streets vividly kept before a jittery populace’s eyes the devastating results of war, kept their sleep broken, kept them forever wondering where the next bomb would strike, if they would be torn, bleeding things smashed and broken in an avalanche of falling masonry and flying hunks of smoking steel fragments.

The name Gotha came from the first word of the manufacturing company’s name, Gothaer Waggonfabrik A. G. Aircraft Department. Their most famous job was the twin-engined pusher carrying a pilot, a front gunner and a rear gunner. This ship is pictured on the cover.

Successful Fighting Ships

The Morane-Saulnier Company rendered great service to the Allies by producing a series of highly successful fighting ships. The Parasol or high wing monoplanes were their specialty, but they made biplanes and early in the fracas put out different types of wire-braced low-winged jobs which although fragile things were speedy and dependable except in a hard dive.

Roland Garros, the famous French airman, used one of these ships in his experiments with the front gun firing through the propeller arc. This was not a synchronized firing gun, that is, the gun was not mechanically timed to fire so it missed the propeller blade. Any machine-gun could be used and was fired by hand. The slugs bashed against the whirling prop nearly as often as they slipped through but no appreciable harm was done as a pair of steel deflecting flanges were bolted around the propeller blades just outside of the hub. When the bullets hit the gentle angle of the flanges they were deflected harmlessly into space. But those bullets which got through were just as deadly and accurate as bullets from later synchronized guns.

The Gotha crew felt absolutely safe from this wasplike single seater as it rushed up at them. They feared it just as much as a great Dane would a yipping poodle. And just because of their lack of respect they were caught flat-footed. It was unheard of that a tractor plane could shoot forward. The front gunner of the Gotha nonchalantly started to swing his gun forward toward the tiny plane.

Death Dive

He never knew what hit him. He swayed, lost his balance and fell over the side. The pilot became panic stricken, started to release his bombs to gain altitude and possibly crash a missile through the spindly wings of the French plane. The back gunner forgot himself and fired through his left hand propeller in hopes of hitting the foe. But that propeller had no deflecting flanges. A slug tore into the laminated, whirling blade. It splintered into bits.

The Gotha shuddered, gently listed and then lurched into its death dive. Germany’s threat collapsed. Millions of people behind the lines threw back their shoulders and went confidently again at that very important job of winning the war.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, November 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

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

Link - Posted by David on February 8, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the April 1934 cover, Frandzen featured the Nieuport 17 and the giant Gotha bomber!

ON THE COVER this month th_SF_3404you will find two ships as radically different in design as you could wish for. The fleet little scrapper, the Nieuport 17 and the cumbersome engine of destruction, the Gotha bomber. The Nieuport was one of the most effective scouts that the French turned out. Owing to its high speed and maneuverability it was very popular with the French flyers. It was really a parasol in that the lower wing was so small that its chief function was to give girder strength to the upper wing. The Nieuports of this type were commonly called “one-and-a-half-planes.”

The big Gotha smacking the ground was just the last word in bombers as far as Germany was concerned. She built some bigger ones and stuck more engines on them than this 77 ft. twin-engined job, but in the case of the larger bombers they had plenty of trouble lifting them off the ground.

Slip back a few hours and take off with this broken Gotha as it leaves its home drome with a half a ton of bombs snuggled against its belly. With its two 160 horse power Mercedes churning the two pusher props more than four tons of ship and load are eased into the air. Two other giant bombers follow. The field is circled twice and then the three ships with their motors blasting orange streaks of flame from six exhaust stacks point their noses westward, toward the English Channel. The vibrating motors are laboring like mogul locomotives pulling a heavy train over a steep mountain grade—they are climbing. At last they reach twelve thousand feet, level off and throttle down to about sixty-five miles per hour. It is a clear night with high clouds scudding just below. Finally the nose of the leading Gotha is pointed downward. The other two follow. They slip down through the clouds. The Channel is below, now it has been passed. Again the bombers level off, wing slightly to the left. Scattered houses, the outskirts of London are below. Now the dwellings are bunched together. The gunner in the front pit has his eye glued to a Georz bomb-dropper’s sight. The pilot is watching his galvanometer, his left hand is on his bomb releases. Government buildings are now below at an angle of about twelve degrees.

Two giant bombs drop flatly from beneath the Gotha, lazily point their noses downward, then gathering momentum they go streaking down at their target. Buildings rock, flames spurt from shattered windows. Sirens from tops of buildings wail their eerie warnings through the chill before dawn air. AIR RAID. Again the bombs go racing toward the sleeping city. A ton and a half of high explosive has been released.

The British home defense planes are in the air, sweeping up to engage the giant destroyers, but already those dark shapes have slunk off into the blackness and are well out over the Channel.

The British were taken by surprise. They had not adequate speed in their protection planes. The advantage of the raiders was too great, they escaped across the Channel. But did they get back to their hangars behind the German lines? They did not! One was forced down with a balky engine. The two others ran into a dawn patrol of French airmen out looking for big game. Spandaus and Vickers snarled and spat lead as the eastern sky burst gloriously into color as the sun rose over the torn and twisted battle fields. A Vickers’ bullet found a vulnerable spot in the left engine of the Gotha pictured on the cover. Another killed the pilot. Flames, a dive, oblivion for the raiders. The Nieuport pilot circles the flamer once, salutes his fallen foe. It’s all in the day’s work.

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