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How the War Crates Flew: Night Flying

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FROM the pages of the January 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.

Night Flying

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters, January 1934)

WELL, I note that both of you sparrows are here again. And I suppose that means I’ve got to do some talking and improve your knowledge as to the activities of myself, and other world renowned heroes, during the late unpleasantness.

This time I’ll gabfest on the advantages, disadvantages, and ups and downs of night flying in the days when girls used to marry uniforms.

A Mean Job

To begin with, let me say that next to daylight bomb raids, night flying was about the meanest and toughest job that the C.O. could pass out to you. You seldom saw what you were banging away at, and the other guy wasn’t any better off.

How-the-some-ever, night flying was not originated with the idea of giving pursuit pilots something else to do. As a matter of fact, pursuit ships didn’t begin to take much part in night flying work until along about the last year of the war.

Generally speaking, night flying, simply meant bombing raids at night. Long range assignments with destinations far behind the enemy lines.

The Germans Started It

To get at the idea from a historical viewpoint, night flying in the world war was really first started by the Germans. How, you ask? With their Zeppelins, stupid. Why certainly! The Zeppelin raids on London and Paris were made under cover of darkness.

The reason for that is, of course, quite obvious. A Zeppelin raid in the daytime would be just too bad for the Zeppelin. It would be spotted long before it reached its objective.

No, Alice, this is not going to be a discourse on Zeppelin raids. So tuck in your bib and pay attention.

I spoke of Zeppelins being first used in night flying work to point out the fact that night flying was fundamentally an offensive maneuver.

How come?

Home Defense Squadrons

VERY well, let me explain the difference. In the daylight your air force raids enemy territory, repels enemy raids into your territory, and also reconnoiters enemy territory. In short there is a definite object for every patrol. But at night there were no scheduled patrols for planes on the receiving end. And by the receiving end, I mean territory that was being raided. To make it a bit more clear than that, flights of ships whose job it was to repel night invaders or raiders, didn’t take to the air until the raiders made the first move. Such squadrons were known as Home Defense Squadrons. And that’s just what they did—defended the fireside against invaders. In other words, in the daytime you flew patrols whether the enemy was there or not. But at night you only flew when the enemy came to call.

Rather than frighten the French and English populace, Zeppelin warfare made them all the more determined to defeat Germany.

Not favoring the construction of Zeppelins, or I should say, lighter-than-air-aircraft, the Allies started to hit back with long range bombing raids (Fig. 1) on German strongholds behind the lines. Most of these raids were conducted by the English, and to them should go everlasting praise for their accomplishments.

Not tor the Chicken-Hearted

A bomb raid at night is not a job for chicken-hearted men. To begin with, you’ve got to have a clear night to see things on the ground. Nowadays with blind flying developed as it is, with airway beacons, and all the rest of it, a pilot can fly from here to there and back again in almost any old kind of weather. But in war days a clear night was very essential.

But as even you two nitwits can see, what was a break for the raiders was also a break for the defenders. In other words, if you could see them, they could also see you.

There were no special hours of the night for bomb raids. The time of take-off really depended upon how far you had to fly before you could let the old “eggs” go whanging down. But the dangers of night bombing raids began just as soon as you opened up the throttle.

Today when a ship takes off at night, the runway is bathed in flood lights, and it’s just about as easy as a daytime take-off. But in war days, you did the best you could and trusted to luck for the rest. There were no flood lights, or any of the other fancy gadgets that you have today. The “runway” was simply the best part of your drome, and it was lighted by parallel rows of oil pots (Fig. 2). The ship simply took off between the two rows.

What They Looked Like

And speaking of oil pots, next time you’re out driving with the girl friend at night (you do, don’t you?) and you come to a spot where they’re digging up the road, take a look at those ball-like things that rim the ditch. They look like a bomb full of oil, and burning at the top. Well, those things are what oil pot flares used to look like during the war.

WELL, as soon as you’ve taken off, the oil pots are doused, because it’s not any help to advertise the location of your drome to any enemy ships that might be upstairs. And after those oil pots go out, the rest is up to you. If there is more than one ship in the raid, each pilot has got to make sure he doesn’t ram into the other guy. To avoid that they usually flew in follow-the-leader-style. Not only did that permit the pilot to see the exhaust flames of the ship ahead, and thus keep his distance, but it also permitted more effective bombing of the objective. When the objective was reached the first plane would drop its bombs and then bank wide and swing for home. The second ship would do the same thing, and after it, the third ship, and so on.

Naturally, while you are heading for your objective the enemy hears you, and he tries to spot you with his searchlights. And when he does, look out, because you’re going to get a shower bath of archie in the next few seconds. When one searchlight gets you, two or three others swing right over with the idea of “boxing” you—fixing you so’s you can’t dodge either way into the darkness, and escape. At such times, good piloting counts plenty, and how.

Of course, most of the time defending ships don’t wait for searchlights to nail you. They come streaking up, using your exhaust flames as a guide to where you are. And in turn your gunners use their exhaust flames as a guide to where the attacking pursuits are.

The Return Trip

Once you’ve let your eggs go, you can bet your shirt that the enemy is going to try his damnedest to get you. And so the return trip is really worse than the journey out. Besides, you’ve got to get the ship down okay.

When the home drome mechanics hear you, they set out landing marks on the drome. These are oil pots set out in a way that will indicate the direction of the ground wind. There were two signs generally used. One was in the shape of a big L, (Fig. 3) the bottom of the L being at the leeward side of the drome. In other words, you landed along the upright part of the L, toward the bottom piece. The idea being that the area formed by the angle was the smoothest part of the field.’
The other sign were lights in the form of a T, (Fig. 4) with the crosspiece being toward the leeward side of the field. And so you simply landed along either side of the leg of the T, toward the cross piece.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well don’t kid yourself, sweetheart. Those oil pots never did blind you with their light, and it took wonderful pilots (like me) to get down without jarring the other guy’s teeth.

Night Pursuit Flying

To get the idea of pursuit flying at night, just reverse what I’ve been telling you about a night bombing raid. The night pursuit ships (or, bats, as your favorite authors like to call them) simply took the air when enemy bombers were announced. Their job consisted of two things. One, to get the bombers.

And the other, to avoid smacking into one of their own men. I never could decide just which job gave me the most gray hair.

Just one more thing, and I’m gone. It’s about sighting landmarks at night. One tough job, children, unless there’s a moon. About the only thing you can really see clearly, is water—rivers, lakes, etc. The rest you guess at. And here’s an interesting item lots of folks don’t know. It was a cinch for German Zeppelins to find either London or Paris at night. Why? Because both cities are on a river, and their metropolitan areas are exactly between two islands in each river, both the Thames and the Seine. They simply hovered over either of those areas and let go. And speaking of “go,” that means me. too! Good evening.

“Famous Sky Fighters, January 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 January 1934 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, features America’s first Ace Lt. Douglas Campbell of the 94th Aero Squadron, observer Captain J.H. Hedley, and the incomparable Baron Manfred von Richthofen!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters,” Terry Gilkison features American Ace Major George Vaughn, the R.F.C.’s Lt. Malloch, and the great Major Oswald Boelcke. Don’t miss it!

“The Lone Eagle, January 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 fourth issue from January 1934, Frandzen has a German Halberstadt smashing into the undercarriage of a French Breguet—with dire consequences.

The Story of the Cover

SMASH! A crackup in the air! th_LE_3401 That is the picture on this month’s cover.

A shaved second before the collision there were two trim ships battling each other high above the war-torn fields—two ships piloted by airmen intent on blasting each other into oblivion. Vickers, Lewis, and Spandau slugs have slashed back and forth across the heavens.

The big Breguet with its wing span of forty-seven feet is not as maneuverable as the small Halberstadt scout with a span of only twenty-eight feet. But the Breguet’s handicap is offset by its rear gunner, who has an office unequalled for visibility. On either side of his pit he has Cellon windows.

There is a hole in the floor that he can see through and fire through if necessary. Therefore the blind spot under his tail is not as vulnerable as in ordinary two-seaters.

A Dangerous Opponent

The small Halberstadt has had a taste of the observer’s fire when sneaking in from behind to make the hoped for kill. The ship the German pilot thought was an easy victim has turned out to be a dangerous opponent.

Twice the German pilot has barged in from in front. Each time a stream of Vickers’ slugs drenched his ship. One of those hot, whistling messengers of death has slashed into his shoulder. Not a fatal wound, but a painful one. A wound that causes his flying to become jerky and erratic.

Another Angle of Attack

Mad clear through from being bested in a sky duel with a lumbering two-seater the German pushes the nose of his ship down. He starts to slither out of the fight, then he suddenly changes his mind. There is one angle of attack he has not tried; that one is coming up under the blunt nose of the Breguet. Coming up with a brace of Spandaus churning out hot steel.

His Halberstadt shudders as he pulls it out of its dive into a loop. Up swings the nose. He presses his gun trips. A short stutter from one gun, then it jams.

The other gun is silent—its ammo exhausted. Then directly in front of his blazing eyes looms the undercarriage of the Breguet; six husky steel members holding the axle and wheels—the strongest under construction of any Allied two-seater. Too late the German yanks on the stick to pull out of danger.

And This Is What Happens

Smash—his prop chews into the tough steel struts. His top left wing snaps—rips off—his prop flies to pieces, as does the undercarriage of the Breguet.

Both ships will get to earth; but one will be a wingless fuselage holding a doomed German pilot. The Breguet, minus wheels, can come down under its own power, flatten out and take the ground on its chest. It will be a rough landing but it is a ten to one chance that those two Yanks will be in the air again in a few days. They will be on the job—looking for trouble and overconfident Boche pilots.

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

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 20: Captain Elliot White Springs” 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 American Ace—Captain Elliot White Springs!

Captain Elliot White Springs was one of the first to enlist in the flying school established at Princeton when the United States entered the World War. He was sent to England, where he had varied training in British aviation schools. And on to France in May 1918 in Billy Bishop’s 85 Squadron, RFC! After recoving from wounds recieved at the end of June 1918 he was reassigned to the 148th Aero Squadron—although an American Squadron, it was still under the operational control of the RFC.

Springs is credited with 16 victories and was awarded both the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Cross. After the war, Springs returned home to work in the family textile mill—Springs Cotton Mills and wrote nine books that were mainly on his flying and war experiences. Most notable among them are Warbirds: The Diary of an Unknown Aviator, Nocturne Militaire and Warbirds and Ladybirds.

His post war life is excellently covered at Mike Culpepper’s The Shrine of Dreams.

Springs returned to service in the U.S. Army Air Corp during the Second World War, after which he came home and continued to run Springs Cotton Mills until shortly before his death of pancreatic cancer in August 1959. Springs was 63.

(Editor’s Note: Although Flying Aces has gone to a bedsheet sized publication with this issue, the feature is still being done in the two page format of the pulp-sized issues. As such, we have reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major J.T. McCudden, R.F.C.

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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 we have Major J.T. McCudden’s most thrilling sky fight!

MAJOR James T. McCudden was one of the most modest and unassuming of the great flying aces. When the war began he was an engine mechanic with the then recently formed Royal Flying Corps. After flying training he became a Sergeant pilot, and began, piling up the string of victories which eventually placed him at the top of all the British aces. He was progressively promoted to Lieutenant, Captain and Major, and won every medal possible, including the Victoria Cross.

In the air he was absolutely fearless and could handle a plane as well as the best of his fellows. But his ability in using the machine-gun made him superior to all others. He was a crack gunner. He was killed in an accident when taking off to fly back to the front after one of his infrequent leaves. The account below is taken from his book, “Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps.”



by Major J. T. McCudden, R.F.C. • Sky Fighters, January 1934

I WAS out stalking alone at a 19,000 foot level over Cambrai when I caught sight of five Hun scouts over Bourlon Wood. They were cruising several thousand feet below me. I sized up the situation for a moment, then went down swiftly in a screeching dive, aiming right through the middle of the formation.

After driving through the formation, I pulled up abruptly directly behind and beneath the leader, in his blind spot. I withheld my fire as long as possible, then let go with a short burst at very close range. His ship, an Albatross, went streaking down with plywood strips shredding and crackling from the fuselage. My tracers had almost ripped his fuselage in two. I didn’t have time to watch him crash for the four other scouts jumped me from behind.

I maneuvered quickly, however, and managed to get behind one of them, a Pfalz. One short burst took care of him. He went down in a spiral dive. The other three now began to show signs of alarm. They spread in all directions. I got my guns on an Albatross, pumped a long burst at him, but he spun and got away. I had been so intent firing at him, I didn’t notice the Albatross that slid in behind me pumping lead, until I heard the bullets crackling through the fuselage at my back.

I reversed more quickly than I ever had. Got my sights in line again, and was feeding him a lovely burst from Vickers and Lewis when both my guns stopped. On looking, I saw that the Lewis drum on the top gun was empty, the Vickers belt below was broken.

So there I was with no guns. But my two quick victories had given me confidence. I felt awfully brave, so went chasing after them with no guns. The two Albatross pilots weren’t very lively on either the stick or trigger, and I almost ran into the tail of the remaining Pfalz. I got so close that I could have popped the pilot in the eye with a rotten egg—if I had had any.

I chased those two fellows as far in as Cambrai, then growing cautious because of my failing petrol supply, I turned back and left them. I had got two of the formation and chased the other three away without any bullets. Of course, if the Huns had known that, it wouldn’t have been so easy, the three of them might have ganged on me.

When I got home and made my report my flying mates kidded me about not having a ready supply of rotten eggs handy in the pit.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Max Immelmann

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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 we have Lieutenant Max Immelmann’s most thrilling sky fight!

LIEUTENANT Max Franz Immelmann was the first of the great German Aces. Immelmann scored victory after victory over the Allied flyers until his total score mounted higher than that of any of the Allied Aces.

He was an excellent gunner and as a flyer had no peer during his time. He was the first to use the quick Climbing reverse turn, which was the fastest method of changing direction while in full flight. The maneuver first demonstrated by Immelmann in his sky battles over the Western front has since been named after him, the Immelmann turn. It was a very effective maneuver and enabled him to gain many victories. He and Oswald Boelke served in the same Squadron. When he was killed Boelke went on to surpass his records, only to be surpassed himself after he was killed, by Baron von Richthofen.

None of the American flyers, except those flying with the French, ever encountered Immelmann in the air. He was killed in 1918 before America entered the war. The account below was told to a newspaper correspondent.



by Lieutenant Max Immelmann • Sky Fighters, January 1934

AIR fighting is like any other kind of fighting. Victory goes usually to the strongest and best prepared. The French have tried to make it more romantic, like the fighting of the knights of old, man to man in bold, open fighting on mounted chargers. That is spectacular and picturesque. I do not believe it the best method. The object in war is to down as many of the enemy planes as is possible without losing any of your own. Thus you may obtain the mastery of the air, which is necessary in this modern war, if the ground troops are going to win success.

For that reason I have adopted tactics which seem on the surface prudent. I aim to destroy the enemy without letting them destroy me. My methods are best explained by giving an example. Three days ago, I was out cruising the lines with my patrol. We were in layer formation. One was far below, leading. Two others were further back of him and higher up, one on either side. I brought up the rear, directly behind the leader, and higher up than any of them.

While flying in that formation, the leader encountered a patrol of three Frenchmen. His instructions were to fly on until attacked, which he did. My patrol never even let on that they saw the approaching formation. They flew along parallel with the lines in steady flight without changing elevation. I throttled down my machine and dropped back, until the rest of my patrol was just mere specks. Then I shoved on full throttle and climbed for the sun.

The Frenchmen drove in for the attack on the three German planes below. My men kept their formation until the bullets began to get too close, then they returned the fire and adopted defensive tactics. At the same time, they retreated back over our lines, to draw the enemy over our territory. They were making a running fight of it, according to instructions, diverting the attackers’ intentions all to themselves; but knowing all the time that I would be diving down unawares from the disc of the sun behind to pounce upon the enemy in surprise.

And I did. I dived straight down from the well of the sun, my fingers poised over the gun trips. At one hundred yards I opened up on the first Frenchman. My tracers bored through his cockpit and he went spinning down. But not before I had dived underneath him to zoom up again with my guns pointed at his nearest comrade.

I opened up on him, saw my tracers eating into his belly. One plane was down now. I had the position on the second, and the first shots in. My comrades then, all banked and raced in for attack on the third Frenchman. He fought them bravely, I must admit, returning burst for burst. But he was doomed from the first with three against one.

My opponent slipped from my tracer stream, and nosed down towards his own lines. I zoomed up, half-rolled (Immelmanned—Ed.), changed direction and went streaking after him, still pouring tracer. Glancing back over my shoulder I saw the second enemy break apart beneath the guns of my mates. His plane fell to pieces and went fluttering down.

When I looked forward again, my opponent had dived and won away from me. I nosed down and went after him, but he went even faster for a forced landing just on the other side of his own lines where his ship upended in a shell crater and smashed one wing.

That was the end of the fight. Two French ships had been destroyed in our own territory. The other had been forced down to a crash landing just out of our reach. That was poor strategy on my part. I should have headed him off, making him land on our side. However, my patrol was still intact. Next time, I vowed I would not make such a slip. With perfect strategy and tactics properly executed, we would have accounted for all three enemy ships over our own territory.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Frank Baylies

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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 we have Lieutenant Frank Baylies’ most thrilling sky fight!

FRANK BAYLIES volunteered in the American Ambulance section, serving in that unit attached to the French armies from February 26th, 1916, to May 11th, 1918. In the early spring of ‘18 he transferred to the aviation. He became a member of the famous Stork squadron of the French Flying Corps.

He made an exceptional record there which he carried on to the Lafayettes.

After a short blasting meteoric career he disappeared in action on June 17th, 1918. He and Edwin C. Parsons, his American flying mate in the Storks, went out on a late afternoon patrol that day.

Soon after they took off at 5 p.m. Parsons lost sight of Baylies who was flying a much swifter machine. But he caught up with him later when it was almost dark. Baylies was far back in Germany in a dog fight with four Huns. Parsons saw his plane go down with smoke issuing from it.

Baylies never returned. Afterwards a German plane flew low over the French lines and dropped a weighted Streamer, carrying a simple message from the Germans: “Pilot Baylies killed in action. Burled with military honors.” Thus he died after marking up a record of over 20 Victories, 13 of which were officially observed. The account below is taken from one of his letters home.



by Lieutenant Frank Baylies • Sky Fighters, January 1934

I WAS out on solo patrol looking for Hun scouts who were supposed to clear the skies for a following photo mission. I had been zigzagging across the lines for some time when I got a glimpse of my prey, spewing down from a cloud formation.

I turned and started climbing. Number One passed me overhead. Number Two was vertical, standing on a wing-tip and heading me off. I pulled back on my stick, stood my Spad on its tail, and pressed my trigger trips, letting Number One Hun have it from both guns. He didn’t have much to say in reply—his ship went spinning down without a moment’s hesitation. His plane hit the ground with a terrific smash, flattened out there a crumpled mass of debris.

“Poor devil,” I thought. “That’s his last ride!” Still I had the consolation of knowing that he’d have got ten men if he could. I wheeled around to attack the second, but both my guns jammed on the first burst.

I went home to clear them, then I tried out again. I was nearly five miles in when I spied the four Hun two-seaters out after photos, flying very low in perfect formation, with rear guns elevated for perfect cross fire. I dove at the last ship, shooting as I passed, but my burst missed.

The gunners in the rear seats swung their guns down, opened up full blast. But I pulled up through the fire, swiftly, hung right under the Hun’s belly and let him have it. Tac-tac-tac! My tracer streams scorched through the pilot’s seat. He crumpled. I pulled back further on the stick, still firing. The slugs stitched up the fuselage to the gunner’s pit. Then the two-seater slid off on a wing, went sliding down. That Hun would fight no more!

By that time the others figured they had enough, I guess. I chased them clear back to their field, dodging archies all the way. Then calling it a day, I wheeled about and went racing for home, landing just in time to douse my face and hands with water, change my shirt and dash into the mess. Happy as hell, but famished with hunger. You know I have an appetite like a bear, I eat more, and more often, than any of the other boys in the squadron.

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

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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 January 1934 cover, It’s a battle of the Allied piloted Sopwith Camels against the German Albatross DVs!

The Ships on the Cover

THE SHIPS on this th_SF_3401 month’s cover are the Sopwith Camel and the Albatross D.V. Both were outstanding in their class during the World War.

The Sopwith Camel was a single-seater tractor biplane which had such fine fighting qualities that the pilots of the Royal Air Force gave this ship credit for the successful end of the war in the air. Many of the best known British aces flew Camels at some time in their careers.

A Tricky Little Scout

Collishaw alone brought down over twenty enemy aircraft in this ship out of his sixty confirmed victories. Barker flew a Camel over the Alps at the head of a British squadron which utterly routed the Austrian air forces. Many American squadrons were equipped with Sop Camels. George Vaughn and Elliott White Springs ran up their victories in them. Despite the effectual qualities this little scout possessed, it had plenty of tricks. It was the doom of many novices, but in the hands of an experienced pilot its trickiness could be turned to an advantage.

It had a tendency to rotate the plane instead of the propeller. However, there wasn’t a ship at the front which could out-maneuver it below ten thousand feet. At that height it made 113 m.p.h. It was equipped with a Clerget motor of 130 h.p. The maximum height was 9 feet, length 18 feet 9 inches and the span 28 feet. It could climb to 10,000 feet in twelve minutes.

Two Albatross D-5’s pitted against two Sopwith Camels is a fight in which either side may win. Much depends on the pilot.

An Exciting Fight

In the fight pictured on this month’s cover the Albatross scouts are in a bad way. One is a smoker trying vainly to shed the persistent Camel on his tail. The other has his guns blazing down at an enemy machine-gun nest. The broadside he is receiving from the Camel barging in from his side is dangerously close. Theoretically those two Albatross’ should have the bulge on the slower Camels. But the Boche ships are heavier, harder to jerk around. Those little Camels have been flashing in and out, lashing the Germans with Vickers slugs; completing a dangerous maneuver and being set for another before the foe could get organized.

Family Tree of the Albatross

The Albatross D-5 brought to the front in 1918 had a long line of ancestors. The beginning of its family tree was in the dim past—the days of the “Taube” school of airplane design in 1911. From those Taube-like types of monoplanes through the slow moving biplanes of early war days, mostly two-seaters, to the trim ship on the cover was a big jump. The Albatross scout of 1915 had a speed of 80 m.p.h. with its Mercedes 130 h.p. engine. The Albatross D-5 pushed along at from 135 to 140 m.p.h. without any trouble at all. Its Mercedes motor was stepped up to 220 h.p. by that time.

When any of these husky German ships were attacked the Allied aviators treated them with plenty of respect.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Hanriot 3 C.2 and the giant L70 Class Zeppelin!

“The Green Devil” by Frederick Blakeslee

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Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. For the January 1934 issue Blakeslee paints a confrontation between Richthofen’s Circus and a couple of English Camels in “The Green Devil”…

th_DDA_3401TO MEET the Richthofen Circus in combat was not a matter to be taken lightly, even when the number of ships on both sides were equal. But to meet them on a basis of two to six was no less than suicidal—yet this month’s cover shows a thrilling incident that actually occurred in a dogfight of similar proportion.

On a day early in 1918, an English pilot, Lt. Alderson, was ordered to report at his squadron office. There the C.O. told him that the Richthofen Circus was out looking for trouble and that his squadron (No. 3 R.F.C.) had been selected to provide it. Most of the squadron was out on patrol and only four pilots were available—but orders were orders. So Lt. Alderson and three others took off without delay.

They knew that the Circus numbered six. Four Camels against six Fokkers was not too bad. However, when one of the Camels dropped out of formation with engine trouble, that was something-else again. Three against six! Not so good, damn bad in fact. However, the three Camels kept on.

They sighted the six brilliantly painted Albatrosses almost as soon as they had crossed the lines. Realizing that surprise was their best bet, they charged immediately.

But the Germans had also seen the Englishmen—and they too charged. With the very lirst shots fired, one of the Camels dove out of the fight with a badly damaged tail plane.

The battle that then took place was one ol the fiercest of the whole war. Such a one-sided combat could only end in one way, and the two Englishmen knew it. But before they went West they were determined to do as much damage as possible.

The fight had been on less than a minute when an Albatros went plunging earthward, a mass of flames. Score one for the Camels! A second later another Albatros hurled out of the scrap and, trailing fire and black smoke, went plunging in its turn to destruction. Score two Eor the Camels!

But now the tide began to turn. Observers on the ground saw a Camel fall, completely out of control; it disappeared far over into German territory. A moment later the remaining Camel dove down—a roaring inferno. The fight was over. But only three Germans returned.

The Camel going down out of control was Alderson’s ship. An explosive bullet had shattered his right leg, and he lost consciousness.

From 13,000 feet—a two and a half mile fall—he plunged to earth.

How the ship landed upright has never been told; at any event Alderson survived the crash. When he opened his eyes, a week later, it was to find himself a prisoner of war.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Green Devil: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (January 1934)

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

“Smell-Shocked” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by Bill on April 20, 2010 @ 10:59 am in

That great German ace, the Mad Butcher from Hamburg, wants some Limburger and can’t find it. Phineas, the mad Pinkham from Boonetown, Iowa, has some Limburger and doesn’t know it. Oh, yes. Fate brings them together. The big cheese!

“Channel Skimmers” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by Bill on September 5, 2008 @ 3:38 pm in

This story features the wacky duo of Elmer Hubbard and Pokey Cook. See how they manage to get themselves into and out of hot water once again.

“Brigand Beacons” by Arch Whitehouse

Link - Posted by Bill on July 4, 2008 @ 2:27 pm in

By day he is a flying reporter for the Los Angeles Mercury newspaper, but Billy “Buzz” Benson’s real job is much more dangerous. He is a secret agent and pilot extraordinaire for the U.S. military. And his chief mission is keeping the emerging Japanese threat in the Pacific at bay. In this tale he is on hunt for “The Fiends of Fujiyama” and some stolen experimental weapons.