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“The Invulnerable Dormé” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on February 14, 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 January 1933 cover Bissell put us right in the action with

The Invulnerable Dormé

th_FA_3301“AND, Adjutant, get that request of transfer off to headquarters today, s’il vous plait?”

“Certainement, mon Capitaine, but why so vite? There is not an aviator in all France who does not desire to be one of Les Cigognes. So with all the aviators to choose from, why do you ask for Dormé? He has had but little experience in le Chasse.”

“Mon ami,” said the captain affectionately, “when a lad stationed at Paris flies an old Caudron up so close to the Front that he runs into a German squadron of six planes, he shows himself an ambitious and aggressive aviator. But when he then attacks them single-handed, brings one of them down and puts the rest to flight, he shows he has the stuff we want in Squadron 3. Don’t let’s lose him.” And the captain’s tone left no room for further argument.

So, early in July, 1916, René Dormé came to Squadron 3, better known as the Flying Storks, from the insignia painted on the side of their ships. This squadron had been formed by Captain Brocard and was already well known at the Front. It was destined later to enjoy a fame greater, perhaps, than that of any other French flying unit, and Dormé was to play no small part in helping to earn that fame.

In fact, he had been with the squadron but a few weeks when it was very evident that he was, as the French said, “un pilot extraordinaire.” He was quiet and gracious in manner, and was soon affectionately dubbed “Père” by his comrades, not because of his age—he was only 21—but because of the esteem and affection in which they held him.

Though he became one of the nation’s heroes, he remained always modest and unassuming. Twenty-three official victories were finally credited to him, but this was by no means his complete score. He often fought alone, far in the enemy’s territory, and his comrades knew that he had gained many a victory which went unrecorded. Once when a superior officer mentioned this fact in front of Dormé, Père quietly replied, “But the Germans know, mon Capitaine, and that is all that really matters.”

Guynemer considered Dormé the greatest flyer of the war. The ability with which he maneuvered his little Nieuport was nothing short of miraculous. He helped develop air fighting tactics and is credited with being the first to make use of the great defensive stunt, the wing slip.

Battle after battle he would carry through to victory and emerge untouched. To the poilus he was known as “Dormé the Unpuncturable.” They said he could see the bullets and dodge between them. Certain it is that after his tenth victory his mechanics, going carefully over his plane, could not find one single bullet hole. Yet it was this ability to quickly maneuver which almost cost him his life, one morning in the summer of ’16.

JULY was almost over and Dormé was up early to bag himself a Boche to add to his record before the month’s end. He soon spotted a Fokker and swung around in a circle to prevent the black-crossed plane from turning back toward the German lines, at the same time tipping the nose of his little Nieuport up to gain altitude for the attack.

He reached his desired position, and with that quickness which marked all of his maneuvers in the air, swooped down in a power dive, his guns blazing. But here Fate took a hand to save the hapless German from Dormé’s deadly fire.

Completely absorbed in his maneuvers on the tail of the Fokker, Père had not noticed an Aviatic that had swung in from the left and been steadily creeping up under his tail. Evidently the pilot of this ship had just gotten himself in a position to fire on the unsuspecting Dormé when the Frenchman’s quick dive caught him so completely unawares that he was unable to twist his own ship out of the way and avoid a crash. The wheels of the little Nieuport struck the leading edge of the upper wing of the big Aviatic just where it joined the center section.

Luckily for Dormé, the Nieuport, ordinarily considered rather frail in its construction, this time proved the sturdier of the two planes. Though one wheel and part of the landing gear were crushed, a quick jerk of the stick on Dormé’s part yanked the little Nieuport out of danger while the Aviatic’s upper wing, broken at the midsection, swung away, carrying the lower wing with it, and the plane started in its mad dive earthward, the pilot finally jumping to avoid death by flames, the dread of all aviators.

Through the many months that followed, Dormé kept steadily gaining victories over the enemy. He ran neck and neck for many weeks in friendly rivalry with his fellow Cigogne, Captain Heurteaux, for the distinction of the premiere place of the squadron, until at last, when Heurteaux had gained a lead of a few victories, Dormé in a tremendous spurt shot down eight of the enemy in one short week and took a lead that he maintained until that day in May which was ever remembered as a black day for the Storks—the day when Dormé took off in the early morning light, never to be seen or heard from again.

For days the Cigognes kept secret the fact that he had failed to return, hoping against hope that Dormé would yet come back safely. It was more than a fortnight later when the Germans dropped a message on his field saying that Pilot Dormé had been killed in combat.

No data or particulars were given, and to this day there are thousands who refuse to believe that Dormé was brought down by the enemy. Père Dormé, the Beloved, the Unpuncturable, brought down by a German bullet? No! To the French this is unthinkable. But the fact remains that Dormé never came back.

The Ships on The Cover
“The Invulnerable Dormé”
Flying Aces, January 1933 by Paul J. Bissell

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 9: David Putnam” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on March 2, 2016 @ 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—Lt. David Putnam!

David Endicott Putnam, a descendant of Revolutionary War General Israel Putnam, was a Harvard student before running off to join the French Foreign Legion in may 1917. From there he transferred to the air service. Putnam has thirteen confirmed victories, but his unconfirmed totals could range as high as twenty-six or thirty—he’s known for shooting down five planes in one day (although only three were confirmed).

Putnam was awarded the Croix de Guerre, with palms and stars, The Medaille militaire, the Cross of the Legion of Honor, the American Areo Club Medal and the Distinguished Service Cross—the last posthumously. Putnam was shot down in September 1918 by German Ace Georg von Hantelmann and laid to rest in Toul beside Luftbury, Blair and Thaw.

(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.)

“The Broken Parole” by William E. Barrett

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

William E. Barrett is an excellent author. Known for such classics as The Left Hand of God, Lillies of the Field, and our own The Iron Ace! In honor of William E. Barrett’s birthday this past weekend, we have for you a tale of broken wings from the January 1933 issue of Sky Birds. The brothers Cord, one stripped of his honor while the other was honor bound not to fly!

Flying high in a blood-red sky, von Sternberg had taken toll of the lives of many men. Over the brothers Cord he had thrown an even grimmer shadow, for he had robbed one of his honor, the other of the right to fly. But wings can be built that are too strong to be broken.

Blakeslee’s “Death Bomber”

Link - Posted by David on September 11, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Frederick Blakeslee painted the covers for Dare-Devil Aces‘ entire fourteen year run. Every one of those covers told a story, and Blakeslee had a page with which to do so. We present Blakeslee’s cover for the January 1933 issue of Dare-Devil Aces and the story of R.F.C. pilot Lt. J.R. Gilbert as he happened upon the “Death Bomber”…

th_DDA_3301THIS story happened to an R.F.C. pilot, Lt. J.R. Gilbert. He was flying alone and was a considerable distance in enemy territory, when he sighted a speck ahead to the right. On investigation it proved to be a Gotha, alone and unescorted, with a load of bombs and headed toward France. Although Gilbert was alone he went to the attack, not knowing that he had been observed by the crew of the bomber.

In the fight that followed the Englishman sustained a damaging fire and used up his ammunition. Withdrawing, he flew at top speed to his drome. Here he landed, changed ships and returned. He sighted the bomber, just over the lines, but this time planned a surprise attack. He scudded under a layer of clouds and in so doing did not see that the Gotha had been joined by a Fokker. He took the bomber completely unaware, coming up under its bow. His guns ripped the Gotha’s nose to ribbons, killing the gunner and wounding the pilot.

Gilbert then dove away to escape the falling plane but was surprised to see tracers flash by his head, shattering his instrument board. Turning, he saw the Fokker on his tail. Then began a tremendous power dive—his only means of escape for he knew that in combat the Fokker could have flown circles around his Spad. Gilbert held the Spad in the dive until it semed that the terrific speed would strip the fabric off. The Fokker was unequal to a Spad in a dive but the Boche’s desire for vengeance was so great that he stayed on his enemy’s tail until it was too late. The Spad recovered from the dive but the Fokker roared by and a second later was ripped apart by the tremendous friction.

In the meantime Gilbert was having troubles of his own. His instrument board was shattered, his ship had been badly shot and the fabric of the wings had been loosened by the dive. He had to land immediately. Picking out a clearing, he brought his ship to the ground where it collapsed. But his trials were not yet over, for the approaching soldiers were not clad in khaki but in field-gray. He had landed in Germany! He managed to escape however, and three days later crossed the lines into safety.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Death Bomber: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee (January 1933)

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