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How the War Crates Flew: Personal Gear

Link - Posted by David on February 20, 2024 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the July 1934 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing Lt. Edward McCrae to conduct a technical department each month. It is Lt. Mcrae’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. Lt. MaCrae is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot, but also because he is the editor of this fine magazine.

Personal Gear

by Lt. Edward McCrae (Sky Fighters, July 1934)

DO YOUSE boys and youse goils remember the little ditty which goes:

      The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things,
      Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.

Anyway, I was sitting back in my study and looking at all the souvenirs hanging around on the walls and my mind got to wandering back to the days when we collected those scalps. Did you ever sit and let your mind wander and see just how it jumps from one unrelated subject to another? That’s the way I was doing.

More Than Cold Facts

I took a notion to jot down the things as they came to me, and when I got through I looked at what I had written and it just occurred to me that though they were interesting, most of them were in themselves of such little importance that people hadn’t written about them, but that on the other hand they were bits that go to fill in the chinks of war-air history. A kind of seasoning that makes the whole stew more intimate.

They make you feel like you have a more personal knowledge of flying than just the cold facts of airplanes.

Differences in Headgear

They’re the little personal touches. Like this:

Look at those helmets hanging on the tips of that propeller. Who has ever thought to mention little differences in headgear? Look at Fig. 1. First, there’s an old crash helmet. That is a German one. It looks like a mixing bowl. It is padded inside and has a padded rim around it. The leather is heavy—sole leather. You got plenty of crashes in those days and that old inverted bowl probably saved its wearer getting many a bump. It may have saved his life a few times.

And look at that “Gosport,” the one with the rubber tubing which runs from one helmet to the other. That was invented by an instructor who took the tubing from his air speed indicator and rigged up the helmet so he could give orders to his pupil. They’ve been standard training equipment ever since.

And look at that funny looking little gadget. Know what that is? It’s the upper end of a silk stocking belonging to the flyer’s best girl. It’s made into a skull cap to wear under the helmet at the right. It keeps your hair from getting soaked with motor oil and keeps your hair from whipping into tangled knots, keeps your head warm and brings you luck—if your girl’s true to you. If she’s not—better get another one from some other gal.

And the rag that’s tied to the top of the helmet in the left and stands out backward like a knight’s plume serves the purpose of wiping the grease off your goggles when they get blurred. Oil pipes are always cracking from vibration or being shot in two, and it’s handy to wipe hot oil off so you can see where you’re going.

Some Uniforms!

And that reminds me of the time when Ross came back to the field spattered with oil after a dog-fight and landed just in time to stand inspection by a visiting brass hat. Although we were attached to the British we had to wear the American type uniform at that time.

You had to wear a starched collar and the tunic had a stand-up collar. They jumped on Ross for having his collar unbuttoned. And Ross was plenty hot under the collar, anyway. So he risked a court-martial, and did he tell off that big bug about making men fly while being choked to death by a uniform.

It may be a coincidence, but Ross didn’t get into trouble for sassing a big shot, and it wasn’t long before we wore soft shirts, and still later the whole uniform was changed. A man can wear one now and not have his jugular vein sawed in two. See the difference in Fig. 2.

Ross just blew up and got off his chest a lot of things we were all griping about. We were Americans and proud of it, but we took an awful licking from the Brass Hats. The British were teaching us to fly and treated us like gentlemen. But our own big bosses figured we rated lower than dishwashers, apparently.

Them Was the Days—Nix!

They were against giving us commissions, and even took our flight pay away from us. That’s the way the army feels about flying. They object to there being a separate Flying Corps like the other major countries have. They want to run the flying show, but they want to handle it like they do the ground forces. That’s like trying to make a man a good swordsman by making him take pistol practice. You can’t make a good flyer by teaching him to march and stand at attention in a choker collar while the big shots strut in front of him.

But we made out in spite of our handicaps. We had to figure out a lot of tricks and do things the books don’t teach. Like the time Sprague had the magneto shot to pieces in his Camel.

We were in a bad way; couldn’t get replacements. And we didn’t have an extra magneto on the field. Sprague knew that a mag on a certain type German ship would do the work, so he went out and found a German and crashed him inside our lines and got himself a German and a magneto.

The Wonder Boy

Which reminds me of Sprague, the wonder boy. He was very young, but he’d been everywhere in the world and he made a specialty of being able to look out for himself. Earlier in the war he’d been shot down by a famous German ace, but that German, popularly credited with being a great sportsman, followed him down and kept pouring lead into him. The result was that he lost a leg just below the knee.

You’d think that would stop a man—but not Sprague. He pulled the wires some way and was back flying a ship with only one good leg. He had a gear rigged up on the rudder pedal so he could control it with one foot. Then while he was at it he went one better. He fixed up a little harness that attached to the stump of his leg and from that to the stick, and that boy could steer a ship with both hands free! He always carried a few hand grenades with him when he went out to fight.

Mystery Leg

But that wooden leg was the thing that had the whole western front puzzled. I knew him and got to find out about the mystery. It was just the length of his service boot which he had had built around it. When he got into his ship he would unstrap it and rig his leg to the steering apparatus. He ran up a lot of notches on his joystick in about this way. Germans, like the Allies, would try to get between the enemy and the sun, and then dive down on you while you couldn’t sec them for the glare.

However, you can hold your thumb up between your eye and the sun, so the sun is hidden by your thumbnail and you can see anything in the sky except it is directly in that small blind spot in front of the sun. But you can’t fly all day with your fist up in the air and staring at the sun.

What a Trick!

So Sprague painted a tiny black spot on one eye of his goggles, a spot just big enough to hide the sun itself, and with it he could keep a close lookout in the direction of the sun. Then he’d fly along in dangerous territory, but keep a sharp watch into the sun. A Heinie would dart down, figuring that Sprague would be unable to see him, and Sprague would fly along as though he didn’t know the German was coming—until the very last minute.

The German would be so confident of his kill that he wouldn’t be quite as alert as he should be. Poor Germans. More than twenty made that mistake before one of them downed Sprague, and made him a prisoner.

He Thought of Everything

And now back to the prison camp where they marched Sprague. And next morning Sprague was back with us! That boy thought of everything in advance. He couldn’t see any use in wasting all that space in that wooden leg of his.

The result was that it was a regular kit bag, fitted out for all purposes. When he showed me how he had hollowed it out and packed it, I saw, among other things, a small pair of wire clippers; a map of the sector we were flying in; some Swiss money in bills (Swiss because of their neutrality, and useful in case he had to escape from the interior of Germany and work his way back to French soil); a bottle of malted milk tablets; a flint and steel to light a fire; a tiny bottle of poison tablets; a package of Bull Durham smoking tobacco and papers, and a hand grenade!

That might sound to you youngsters—wipe your nose, Charlie—like a silly collection of things. But, as I said, Sprague was captured by a German—and was back home before morning.

Take a look at the list. See Fig. 3. He didn’t have to use everything in it, but you can see where he might have needed them. As it was, they threw him into a barbed wire enclosure with other prisoners to await transportation back into the main prison concentration camps. He cut his way out with the wire clippers under cover of darkness.

Swiss Money Useful

The map would have come in handy if they had carried him farther back of the lines. If they had carried him all the way to Germany and he had been able to escape, he would have tried to make his way to neutral Switzerland. He could have kept concealed, have built a fire with his flint and steel, to keep from freezing, he had emergency rations and even the makings of cigarettes. Having Swiss money, he could have bought things in places where they weren’t neutral because they all recognized Swiss neutrality.

And the bottle of poison? You never can tell in a war when perhaps death would be better than some of the things you have to go through—particularly if the enemy is trying to get information out of you that would spell disaster to your friends and your country.

Not Junk At All

And the hand grenade! You could blast your way out of a prison with one of those pineapples, or you could stop half a dozen men pursuing you. Sprague was partial to those little handfuls of explosive, and he managed to get them someway wherever he was, even though they weren’t issued to flyers. One time he did a loop over a man in a dog-fight and dropped one of the nuggets into the German’s cockpit. It rained tiny bits of Albatross and Hun for several minutes after that.

So, you see, you knot heads, that leg didn’t contain a junk shop after all. Most of us carried as much of that kind of gear as we thought we could hide—but we didn’t all have wooden legs. And so, sometimes, we were caught without some of these handy, all but essential, objects.

“Hell’s Skyway” by Ralph Oppenheim

Link - Posted by David on March 25, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

TO ROUND off Mosquito Month we have a non-Mosquitoes story from the pen of Ralph Oppenheim. In the mid thirties, Oppenheim wrote a half dozen stories for Sky Fighters featuring Lt. “Streak” Davis. Davis was a fighter, and the speed with which he hurled his plane to the attack, straight and true as an arrow, had won him his soubriquet. And time is of the essence when Streak is sent on a bombing mission. He must destroy the Krupp Machine works at Luennes before they unleash German’s newest secret weapon at noon! From the July 1934 issue of Sky Fighters it’s “Hell’s Skyway!”

The Fate of the Allies Depends on a done American Flyers Speed and Skill in this Rip-Roaring Novel of Whirling Props and Screaming Struts!

“The Rodneys” by F.E. Rechnitzer

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

THIS week we have a story from the pen of a prolific pulp author—F.E. Rechnitzer.

Luke Rodney was the Crack flyer of the squadron. Everything was going his way until he returned form a patrol to find his father working as an Ack Emma! It was a secret he tried to keep. But when his brother who is stationed with another squadron stops by just as Luke has failed to return from a dangerous mission—it’s his brother and father who fly to his rescue! From the pages of the July 1934 issue of The Lone Eagle, it’s F.E. Rechnitzer’s “The Rodneys!”

Luke Was the Crack Flyer of His Squadron—And His Dad Was Just an Ack Emma, But Nobody Knew It Until—

“Famous Sky Fighters, July 1934″ by Terry Gilkison

Link - Posted by David on August 15, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

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 July 1934 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, Features Lt. Rene Fonck, Brigadier General William Mitchell, and Lt. Ernst Udet!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters,” Terry Gilkison features Lt. Quentin Roosevelt and Capt. Albert Heurteaux! Don’t miss it!

“Sky Birds, July 1934″ by C.B. Mayshark

Link - Posted by David on April 30, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

THIS May we’re celebrating the genius that is C.B. Mayshark and we’re getting things rolling a day early! Mayshark took over the covers duties for Sky Birds with the July 1934 and would paint all the remaining covers until it’s last issue in December 1935. At the start of his run, Sky Birds started featuring a different combat maneuver of the war-time pilots. The lower corner presenting a play-by-play of that month’s maneuver with the remainder of the cover illustrating it. For his inaugural issue Mayshark gives us “The Barrel-Roll Death Trap!”

Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots:
The Barrel-Roll Death Trap

THE rear gunner—aerial th_SB_3407gunner to the trade—was a much misunderstood figure. Few people today realize that the R.F.C. used many noncommissioned men on their fighting ships. As a matter of fact, the R.F.C. gunner was an important figure in the victorv that the Allied aerial arm scored over the enemy.

Take this month’s fighting maneuver, for instance. Here’s a case where the rear gunner was the real brains of the action. The D.H.9 in the foreground is being piloted by an officer, but he is, at the moment, under the direct guidance of the N.C.O. gunner, who might be anything from a second-class air mechanic to a sergeant.

The case in question is the matter of maneuvers while being attacked by single-seaters. The D.H.9’s are coming home from a bombing show. They have already dropped their load on Manheim, Ghent, Gontrode, or perhaps even the submarine bases above Ostend. All they have to do now is return to the back area, where they will be picked up by the advance scouts—Camels, S.E.G’s, or Spads-who will escort them over the lines.

But in the meantime, twenty or thirty miles have to be negotiated before they can expect such protection, and from their objective back to this point, the bombers have to rely on their own ability. So far, they have managed to hold formation, but at a point about fifteen miles from the line they run into a bank of cumulus clouds and are forced to break up for safety. You can’t fly formation in cloud banks.

This break-up gives the enemy scouts their chance. They pick on the lame ducks, the ships that stray too far away from the original line of flight.

That’s where the rear gunner comes in. As the Siemens-Schuckert monoplane sweeps in for the kill, the rear gunner taps the pilot on either side of the shoulder to indicate which way he should turn. Then, when things get too hot, he feigns being wounded and holds his fire.

The German single-seater darts in for the final burst. Then, watching closely, the gunner signals a fake loop. The D.H.9 starts the loop and the S-S follows. But the D.H.9, gaining speed in the dive, suddenly goes into a fast barrel roll. The S-S ship continues the loop, and when her belly is shown, the rear gunner comes suddenly into action with his Lewis gun. In the loop, the single-seater is slow and offers a rare target. The gunner lets drive with all his might and plants a beautiful row in her dirty belly. A tracer finds the tank and sets her afire. The poor German, wondering where the D.H.9 went to, suddenly finds himself sitting in a blazing cockpit. The rest is history. It was the maneuvering of the gunner that brought this about—but the officer will probably get credit for the kill!

The Siemens-Schuckert shown in the picture is an unusual ship. It is a monoplane with the old Oburursal rotary, a copy of the Le Rhone, but it was fast in maneuvers. Few were flown on the Western Front, but a number were sent to Austria to combat the fast Italian Fiat chasers.

The D.H.9, one of the best two-seater bombers of the war, was powered with the B.H.P. 240-h.p. motor, a plane that was unusually suitable for fine streamlining, as seen in the nose detail. At 10,000 feet, it had a speed of 110 m.p.h. and was one of the important units of the R.F.C. in the late months of the war.

The Story of The Cover
Sky Birds, July 1934 by C.B. Mayshark
(Combat Maneuvers of War-Time Pilots: The Story Behind This Month’s Cover)

Silent Orth Returns in “Single Action” by Lt. Frank Johnson

Link - Posted by David on August 11, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

IT’S been a few months, but Silent Orth is back! Silent Orth—ironically named for his penchant to boast, but blessed with the skills to carry out his promises—comes up against a trio of deadly marksmen who manage to take down their victims with but a single bullet! Orth must take down all three before fresh new recruits arrive the next day—The problem is, Orth has vowed to take each of them out with a single shot. From the July 1934 issue of Sky Fighters it’s Silent Orth in “Single Action!”

Silent Orth Goes Gunning for Three German Flyers Whose Diabolical Tactics Call for Quick Reprisal!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Captain Ritter von Schleich

Link - Posted by David on July 12, 2017 @ 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 we have German Flyer Ritter von Schleich’s most thrilling sky fight!

Hauptmann Ritter von Schleich was one of the least known, but nevertheless, one of the greatest and most successful of the German war birds. A nobleman by birth, he was educated for service in the army beginning with his early childhood. When the war broke out he was an officer in the Uhlans, the most aristocratic branch of the German Army. After transferring to the flying corps, he served some time as an observer, before learning to become a pilot himself; paralleling in that respect the career of Baron Manfred von Richthofen, who preceeded him as an officer of Uhlans.

War has its humorous moments as well as its many tragic ones. At least it would seem so after reading the account of the German flying captain, who took a captured Allied plane and rode the battle skies in company with an enemy patrol, the only instance upon record when it was known to be done.



by Captain Ritter von Schleich, Imperial Flying Corps • Sky Fighters, July 1934

THE DAY before this, my most thrilling day in the air took place. My staffel had forced a young, inexperienced French pilot to land his latest model Spad pursuit plane intact behind our own lines.

After painting a black cross on it in the place of the circular cocarde of the Allies I decided it would be great fun to take it on a flight over the enemy lines. Fortunately, my staffel had forced it to land with almost a full supply of ammunition, so I had plenty of bullets for the Vickers guns. I phoned our anti-aircraft batteries and informed them of my plans so they would not bother me.

After taking off, I headed for Verdun. Our own Archies let me pass unmolested. When I slid across the lines, the Allied Archies did the same thing. I encountered a single enemy aircraft on patrol over Verdun, but he waved at me and passed on. I laughed and waved back, then swung about and headed for the Argonne. Over the Argonne I ran into the tail end of a formation of five Spads who were sweeping along parallel with the lines at 10,000 feet.

I goosed up my engine and took my place at their rear, flying along behind them and following the leader’s signals as well as I could. Suddenly they banked and flew over my own lines. I went in with them, still keeping my place in the formation.

As I flew along I wondered what would have happened if the leader really knew who it was tailing along at the rear of his flight. It was a sad thought, though. It certainly would have been curtains for me if those Spad pilots had suddenly turned and charged me.

We had gone about five miles behind our own lines when I decided that I was not
giving our Archie gunners any breaks at all. They had been directed not to fire at my plane, hence could not fire at the others in the formation without danger of getting me.

I banked off suddenly, went into a half roll, then dived to 6,000 feet. Our Archie gunners opened up then with a terrific barrage. The Spad pilots maneuvered then to escape it. The leader wheeled, saw me going down, caught sight of the black cross on my Spad for the first time, I guess, and came tearing down after me.

At 3,000 feet he let me have it—a heavy burst that forced me to duck swiftly. Now, that he had attacked me, I felt that I would not be taking advantage of my trick, so I maneuvered into shooting position and fired back.

We went at it hammer and tongs. I swept by him so close one time that I could see the angry expression on his face. We went round and round. Bullets nicked my Spad, but they did not come close to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his mates up above come streaking down to join the fun. I knew I had to do something quick or be in an awful pickle. I zoomed, half rolled, came down at my opponent with both Vickers blazing. The burst was effective. He sagged in his pit. The Spad went floating down in an uneven spiral.

I followed down until it crashed, then went hedge hopping over the field for my staffel drome, with all of the speed I could get from my captured Spad. Our Archie gunners kept my pursuers so high they could not reach me.

It was my twentieth victory. I got official credit for it later. Yes, under the circumstances I am sure it was my most thrilling sky fight.

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

Link - Posted by David on January 9, 2017 @ 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 July 1934 cover, It’s a battle of David and Goliath—a Belgian Hanriot 3 C.2 going after a L70 Class Zeppelin!

The Ships on the Cover

THIS month on the cover th_SF_3407 is shown one of the type of planes used during the World War by Belgium, that tiny country sandwiched in between France, Germany and Holland.

The plane with the Belgian insignia (red, yellow and blue) is the Hanriot 3 C.2, a French job powered by a Salmson radial motor.

Belgium’s refusal to let the German hordes pass through her country is probably the most important single event of the whole scrap. And while the ground troops of the plucky little country were holding back the rolling waves of German shock troops the Belgian airmen were doing things up in the clouds.

Real Fighting Spirit

The Belgians had observation machines spotting strategic points behind the German lines. But as the war progressed and machine-guns appeared on airplanes Belgium’s air fighters drove their machines, usually of French construction, into the teeth of the Boche ships. Odds seemed nothing to them. The fighting spirit of their beloved king and leader, King Albert, seemed to burn in the breast of every Belgian flyer.

The Belgians repeatedly bombed the Boche Zeppelin hangars. The hangars were moved beyond the range of the Belgian planes. But the Belgian flyers continued to hunt the Zeppelins slipping through the high clouds on raiding expeditions.

On the cover the Hanriot prowling alone in search of trouble roars through the scudding clouds thousands of feet above the crash of artillery fire and the rattle of rifles. Two guns with cartridge-filled belts poke wickedly from under the top wing. The rear gunner is ready for action with his Lewis gun. At one moment the sky is deserted except for the Hanriot. Then a great shape, with straining engines forcing its ominous bulk forward, breaks through the clouds. It is heading eastward, returning from a bomb dropping raid on the English seacoast towns; returning after releasing an avalanche of death and destruction.

A Matter of Seconds

A flip of the rudder and the Hanriot tears in at the bloated raider like an angry wasp. Vickers blasting sizzling incendiaries at the hydrogen-filled airship. The range shortens, the Hanriot’s Salmson motor labors as it climbs. The Zeppelin points its nose up fighting for altitude; altitude which means safety. The Hanriot’s greater speed shortens the gap. The Belgian rear gunner swings his Lewis into position. They are not to be denied—it is only a matter of seconds.

A roaring blue meteor slams down out of the clouds with guns spitting. It is between the climbing Zeppelin and the attacking Hanriot. Its wings are black-crossed. It is a matter of minutes before the Zeppelin will be above the altitude the Hanriot is capable of reaching. It will escape.

The Hanriot’s pilot opens fire on the German plane as Spandau bullets tear past his ears. Behind him the Lewis gun jerks on its scarf mounting. Incendiary bullets scream into the side of the Zeppelin. A thin tongue of flame licks at the torn fabric; a tiny spot of flame which will spread rapidly from bow to stern and will send the Goliath of the skies hurtling down toward the poppy fields of Flanders.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Morane-Saulnier and Fokker Triplane!

“Hunbugs” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on January 29, 2016 @ 6:00 am in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back and this time he’s fighting the war on two fronts—there’s a Boche Bat Patrol running riot in the Moselles and at the Ninth there’s a new recruit who wins every bet—that is until he comes up against the marvel from Boonetown, Iowa. From the July 1934 number of Flying Aces it’s “Hunbugs!”

Meet Lieutenant Ignatius Moots, newest member of the famous Ninth Pursuit. You may like him or you may not, but let us give you a tip—don’t ever bet with him. Phineas did!

“Suicide Buzzards” by Eliot Todd

Link - Posted by David on June 15, 2015 @ 6:00 am 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, Eliot Todd recounts the story behind Blakeslee’s July 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3407MOTORS thundering, four giant Handley-Pages trundled across the 89th’s field at St. Contay. They were off to do the impossible—bomb the enemy rail center at Harvencourt.

For months a thorn in the side of G.H.Q., Harvencourt was now the mainspring in the Germans’ last stab at victory. Every other attempt to destroy it had ended in disaster. Now G.H.Q. was pinning their faith on a bold daylight raid.

Thirty minutes later the rail center slid into view. The air became charged with flying steel as German batteries came to life. Jagged chunks of shrapnel and Maxim slugs crashed through wings, shredding fabric, smashing struts and ribs to splinters. Grimly the H.P.’s held their course through the maelstrom of lead and steel, laying egg after egg.

By now the ground was a blazing inferno, the network of tracks a mass of twisted junk. But the dump, the all important store of ammunition, was untouched.

A gunner snatched the release and the last bomb spun true to its mark. Magically a solid sheet of flame leaped upward as hundreds of tons of H.E. ignited. When the smoke and debris cleared there was nothing to mark the dump but a tremendous crater.

During the early years of the war, bombing was more or less haphazard and unreliable. Equipment was crude. Bombs consisted mainly of hand grenades, and bomb sights were nothing more than a couple of nails and a few pieces of wire.

But with the rapid strides made in aviation during 1917-18, bombing leaped from the hit or miss, hope-we-get-there-stage, into a powerful weapon of offense. Very few things got more respect than the bombers as they droned overhead with a cargo of eggs along about two ack emma.

When objectives were deep in enemy territory, as happened in the story depicted on this month’s cover, the bombers were forced to leave their escorts after crossing the lines, and, because of the shorter cruising range of the smaller ships, penetrate miles behind the lines alone. As early as 1916 one R.F.C. outfit flew more than ninety miles to reach its objective.

And if the objective happened to be an important one they were usually met with a hot reception. Batteries of ground defences flung up shrapnel, flaming onions and Maxim slugs until the air was literally charged with flying steel. In many instances the crews were trapped in the pits of their lumbering busses and blasted out of the sky by Fokkers.

Even if they sucecded in reaching their objective, escaping anti-aircraft fire and the savage attacks of Fokkers, they were still faced with many minutes of flying over hostile territory that was by tins time fully aroused to their presence.

Crouched in the pits of their clumsy, sometimes crippled crates, the crews fought their way mile after mile back to the Front until they contacted their escort over the lines.

In that case the escort went into action, driving off the Boche planes. But when they missed the escort, as they sometimes did, the entire job was up to them.

The odds against them and the difficulties that faced them were all in the day’s—or night’s—work to the men who flew in those giant crates. They were real airmen and they did a real job.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Suicide Buzzards: The Story Behind The Cover” by Eliot Todd (July 1934)

Check back again. We will be presenting more Stories behind the Covers.

“Devildog Breed” by Donald E. Keyhoe

Link - Posted by Bill on August 19, 2009 @ 4:37 pm in

Here they are again—that bunch of flying, fighting Devildogs—Lucky Lane and the Three Lunatics, Cyclone Bill Garrity, and the rest of the mad Marines. And fighting against them is a silent, unseen menace—a strange, black shadow that shrouds whole formations in its sable cloak of death, and sends them reeling down—to doom.