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How the War Crates Flew: Aerial Armament

Link - Posted by David on November 7, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the May 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.

Aerial Armament

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

NOW if you featherless kiwis will perch yourselves on the back of those chairs across the room, I’ll tell you some things you didn’t know about how all of this aerial warfare started. It would almost make you laugh, but don’t try it while I’m talking.

A few pre-war aviators had been preaching the virtues of the flying machine as a weapon of war, but the lawmakers with their customary brilliance laughed at the idea and dismissed it. However, they got wise to themselves pretty quickly when the guns started booming.

Airplanes, even though they were winged box-cars, proved invaluable for scouting, dropping bombs by hand, and dropping propaganda literature in enemy territory. And during the first months of the war you couldn’t knock down one of these machines either from the ground or from other airplanes! You dodged ’em and liked it.

He Thumbed His Nose At ’Em

You’ll remember that the German, Immelmann, flew low over Paris every afternoon at cocktail time during a certain period early in the war, and dropped small bombs on the Frenchmen’s conks. People in the street fired millions of shots at him with rifles and pistols. Even taxi drivers stopped their machines while they and their passengers got out and peppered away at the old boy, but he just thumbed his nose at them and showed them his tail.

That’s what we had to buck up against. And then Roland Garros got mad and changed the whole show. Here’s how:

Now if your brains aren’t too dusty you’ll remember that old-time French aviator Garros had already become a hero. But the Germans in the air were interfering with his business of diving down upon enemy factories and bridges, etc., so he decided to interfere with them for a change.

Some InventionI

Up until that time the nose of an airplane was the safest blind spot of all, for if any solid substance touched the whirling propeller, the blade was more than likely done for.

But that old pal of mine, Garros, made it about as safe as the action end of a mule. He invented a machine-gun that would fire through the propeller, and on that day on the nose of a ship ceased being a blind spot and became its business end—the opposite one from that of a hornet.

Before the Germans could realize what had happened, little Roland had tickled five of them in the ribs with bullets.

The Boche Took It Over

And while we’re on the subject of mules—the Germans got the horse laugh on him. While Garros was on one of his famous raids his motor conked, and he and his machine fell into the hands of the Germans before he could destroy it. Thus he delivered to his enemy the very device he had perfected for the purpose of destroying them.

They took over his invention and put it to good use, as you will see.

Now stay awake a little longer, sister, and see why this most famous of French flyers made the greatest of all single contributions to aerial warfare.

When the war broke out in 1914 we heroes were armed with a short rifle. Some of us even carried shotguns!

This sounds rather silly, but they were better than no weapons at all. And don’t I know it! They were of very little value, however, because you couldn’t hit the side of a barn with them. The wind blew against the extended barrel when you aimed them and the ship vibrated so much that you couldn’t have hit your own wing with them from your cockpit.

Did you say that carrying a shotgun was silly, Mabel? Well, listen to this:

Why, you dumb chicks—we carried brick-bats—and that’s no kidding.

Silly? The French brought down two German airplanes with these alley apples!

A Brick-Bat Hero

The idea was to get close enough to the other ship to drop or hurl a piece of this Irish confetti through the other man’s propeller and shove his nose in the mud. Your Uncle Dudley was a brick-bat hero.

Then just a month before Garros invented his gun, the French armed their fighting Nieuports with twenty-pound Lewis guns on their upper wings. Take a squint at Figure 1. The gun was mounted parallel with the line of flight and fired over the top of the propeller. It was aimed by pointing the airplane itself, and was fired by the flyer in the cockpit pulling a string. It was a great improvement over brick-bats, and the Germans quickly adopted it. But a magazine held only forty-seven cartridges and when the flyer had used them up he had to make a landing to reload.

Then up pops our hero Mr. Garros! He mounted his new invention on the engine hood so you could get your hands on it. The gun shot through the arc of the propeller blade. He learned by experimenting that only seven per cent of his bullets would hit his propeller. So he protected the propeller blades with steel bands and let ’em hit.

What a Gun!

The bands reduced the efficiency of his propeller but, “Voila!” He had a gun that was a gun. And he sighted it much to the misery of the Germans, until they got their hands on him.

Six months later the Germans, using the Frenchman’s invention, improved it by synchronizing the action of the trigger with the propeller shaft. From that day to this there hasn’t been much picnicking in the air. Now, my little hollow-heads, take out your slates and listen to some arithmetic. You ought to know this without being told.

A Simple Principle

The principle of the synchronising of the machine-gun is very simple. If a single two-blade propeller revolves before the nose of a gun at the rate of 1,500 revolutions a minute, a blade of the propeller will pass the muzzle 3,000 times. But there are also 3,000 empty spaces where there is no propeller blade in front of the gun. Now, if the gun fires 500 shots a minute it is a simple mechanical problem to operate the weapon mechanically from the motor, so that the gun fires once through every sixth of those empty spaces.

The Germans’ well known Fokker was the first ship to blossom out with one of these new-fangled weapons. But the same thing happened to one of Tony’s ships that happened to Garros’. A Fokker sat down to rest among the Allies, and very soon Spads, Camels and all manners of Allied planes adorned themselves with this new decoration. And today it is more in style than ever.

A New Toy For Peelots

It was more than two years before anybody could think of a new toy for the flyers to play with. Again it was a French Ace, who was later to die with fifty-three victories to his credit, second in France only to Rene Fonck, who thought up this cute little gadget.

Georges Guynemer converted the front end of his crank shaft into a hundred-and-fifty-pound cannon! It fired one-pound shells of several types.

Guynemer worked a long time on this gun and did much to perfect it. With it he brought down his forty-ninth, fiftieth, fifty-first and fifty-second antagonists. The shell was too large to be safely fired between the propeller blades, so it was designed to shoot through the hub itself. Look out for it in Figure 2.

The gun was built into the crank case, and its breech and shootingmechanism were within easy reach, while the muzzle of the gun protruded through the hollow propeller shaft for a distance of two inches beyond.


To begin with, it was semi-automatic, the gun ejecting the empty shell, but the pilot reloading. This work required several seconds, and an airplane traveling at 150 miles an hour could be hopping out of tne range at the rate of 220 feet a second. By the time a flyer got his gun loaded he might find positions reversed and his enemy in charge of the situation.

So they worked this out and eventually developed an arm that would fire 120 shells a minute, each weighing a pound and a half. The catch in the use of this gun, however, was that it would shoot 180 pounds of ammunition a minute and itself weighed 150 pounds. It would take a flying freight train to carry enough ammunition to last it very long. Also, all this weight naturally slowed down the machine. A man with a light ship, a twelve-pound gun shooting rifle cartridges could fly circles around him. But when you hit a ship with your cannon that ship stayed hit.

So it was that as soon as the airplane had established itself as a supreme weapon of war, more attention was given to the effectiveness of its guns.

The Hague Convention had agreed that no explosive projectiles of size less than one-pounders should be used in civilized warfare in order to avoid unnecessary human suffering. But very early in the fighting, two American boys in the famous Lafayette Escadrille were shot with explosive machine-gun bullets! The Germans claim that the British first started breaking the rule and that they used them in retaliation. Naturally!

A Strange Weapon

Thus it was that there was a constant search for the best and most destructive weapon. I once tried out the strangest gun that ever perched on a war crate. It was a one-pounder for seaplanes, and it shot a charge out of both ends of the barrel at the same time! And my name is not Ripley! Nor Baron Munchausen!

The barrel was extremely long (see Figure 3) and the shell was inserted in the side at the middle of its length. The regular projectile was aimed downward at an angle while the other one was discharged backward over the ship. The latter consisted of a mixture of heavy grease and very small shot and was for the sole purpose of offsetting the recoil of the gun. On its flight through the air the grease caught fire and destroyed the tiny shot.

Now you kiwis can hop down off your perches and go out and chirp about your knowledge of gunnery. And try to get through talking before I get back next month.

P.S.—You might be interested to know that the Germans had such a hard time holding Roland Garros prisoner that they made him sign a book in the prison office every thirty minutes for two years. But he finally escaped and went back to fight some more.

“Ghost Guns” by Ace Williams

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THIS week we have a brief tale by Ace Williams

THIS week we have a brief story by “Ace Williams.” I put his name in quotes because Galactic Central believes Ace to be a house pseudonym. Either way, what we have is a ripping good yarn.

Squadron morale was falling in an alarming degree. The Roaring Hellcats had established command of the air in the sector in which they were assigned to duty. But Baron von Grunz and his Red Circus flyers had come along to make a hollow mockery of that reputation so long held by Tobey Taylor and his flying mates. Enough was enough and the C.O. declared, “We’re blasting von Grunz and his Red Circus from the skies before the sun sets this day!”

Lieutenant Tobey Taylor of the Roaring Hellcats Was Tired of Coming Out Second in Air Combat with Baron von Grunz of the Red Circus!

“Streaking Vickers” by Ralph Oppenheim

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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. Operating out of the 34th Pursuit Squadron, his C.O. sends him out to range the big guns to take out the enemy’s supply dump before the Hindenburg Push. From the May 1934 issue of Sky Fighters it’s “Streaking Vickers!”

Follow Lieutenant “Streak” Davis As He Sails the Sky Lanes on the Perilous Trail of Hun Horror!

“The Lone Eagle, May 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 May 1934 cover, Frandzen has a couple British S.E.5As in a battle of wits with a pair of German Fokker D.8s!

The Story of the Cover

FEATURED on this month’s cover are two th_LE_3405 types of ships that were swapping lead during the last year of the war. The ship in the foreground and the one in the background losing its right wing are Fokker D.8s. The British planes, the one skidding over the Fokker with the cracked wing and the one coming up to attack the leading Fokker, are S.E.5As.

The Fokker D.8 was Mr. Fokker’s last contribution to the numerous fighting and experimental line of ships he designed for the Central Powers during the little argument “Over There.” This parasol monoplane was a sleek stream-lined Job of pretty proportions. In its flying tests it went through every stunting maneuver with speed and precision. It outflew all competitive planes submitted by other manufacturers and the Aces from the front who tried out the plane all clamored for one to use against the Allies.

Why They Shed Their Wings

As the D.8 had withstood all the flying tests and sand bag tests Fokker knew that he had a good plane: but the German scientific testing organization discovered that Fokker had omitted certain bracing of the rear spar near the wing tirs which they always specified for a biplane. Fokker argued that the monoplane wing did not need this bracing. The scientific boys were not to be swayed from their decision so the extra bracing was installed, and thereby lies the reason for several of these speedy ships which actually saw service at the front shedding their wings in a dogfight. It caused the wing to take more load at its wing tips than in the middle part, torsion causing the wing to collapse when unduly strained.

Although the D.8 didn’t show up at the front till 1918 you would have heard plenty about it if the ships had not been grounded during the controversy between Fokker and the Big Bugs of the German testing division. When Fokker was finally allowed to build the wing as in his original design the plane withstood all strains, but by the time delivery was made at the front the war was over.

The British S.E.5A was also a product of the last year of the World War, It was speedy and could be depended on to give a good account of itself against any of the German scouts, including the Fokker D.8.

Those two S.E.5’s on the cover have tangled with two D.8’s that have attacked two Allied sausage balloons, successfully igniting one. The archie guns opened up from the ground but the flitting monoplanes seem to anticipate the arrival of the bursting shells and are not harmed. The shells from the ground did not get them, but two prowling S.E.5A’s swooped down and the fight was on. The British pilots had never swapped lead with the fleet little monoplanes of this type and were at a disadvantage as the German pilots knew most of the S.E.5A’s tricks.

A Burst of Vickers Lead

The planes howl down the sky lanes, twisting, writhing in and out of each others ring-sights. Suddenly a burst of Vickers lead laces the foremost Fokker.

The German pilot stiffens, slumps. His stick is pulled back and his left foot shoved forward on the rudder bar, A dead man is driving his plane up into the heavens on his last ride. Unnerved at seeing his partner killed the second German pilot goes haywire with his sticks, skids under an S.E.5A and touches his wing tip against a speeding wheel. The Englishman’s axle sheers off the pi op on the sleek monoplane. Horrified the Allied pilot sees his left wings buckling, cracking. If that back strut holds till he can nurse his ship into a favorable glide he may get down. But the Fokker D.8 is doomed. Its ticket reads: One way. To earth. No stopovers.

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

“Famous Sky Fighters, May 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 May 1934 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, features Capt. Elliott White Springs, Major Edward Mannock and the three flying McCudden brothers!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters,” Terry Gilkison features Captain Albert Ball and Lieutenant Jan Thieffry! Don’t miss it!

Silent Orth Returns in “Sunset Song” by Lt. Frank Johnson

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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 skilled acrobatic flyers that manage to elude the most skilled flyers while downing three enemy planes in every encounter, but Orth asks for one day to do the impossible and take down the trio! From the May 1934 issue of Sky Fighters it’s Silent Orth in “Sunset Song!”

Three Acrobatic Fokkers Work Havoc in the Air In This Zooming Yarn Packed With Thrills and Action!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Charles J. Biddle

Link - Posted by David on February 22, 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 Major Charles J. Biddle’s most thrilling sky fight!

Major Biddle was one of that small number of American aviators who had actually had front line battle experience when his own country entered the war. Even before there were any indication* of his own country taking part, he sailed for France and enlisted in the French Army, where he was eventually transferred for aviation tralning. When the La Fayette Escadrille was formed, he wan invited to become a member. In that organization he won his commission as a Lieutenant in recognition of his ability and courage.

When General Pershing formed the American Air Service and put Colonel William Mitchell in command of the air squadrons on the front, the able Colonel promoted Biddle to major and save him command of the 13th Pursuit Squadron, which he formed, organized and took to the front to make a distinguished record.

Though not supposed to lead his men in battle, he always did so. Just before the armistice, he left the 13th Squadron to become commander of the 4th Pursuit Group. The account below is taken from one of his letters when he was in command of the 13th Squadron at Toul.



by Major Charles J. Biddle • Sky Fighters, May 1934

A GERMAN plane had been coming over our airdrome every morning just about daybreak. I decided to set a trap for him one night.

I took off at 3:30 A.M. I had cruised around idly for almost an hour and a half before I saw my friend, Mr. Boche.

I circled around behind him. He was flying at about 4,500 meters and I had plenty of ceiling on him.

I let him go until he got almost over Toul. Then with the sun at my back, my plane intervening between his and the sun, I went at him in a long power dive. Getting closer I saw it was a two-place Rumpler, so I dived under his tail and came up beneath, letting go with a burst, then pulling off to one side to see what happened. The observer swung his guns around, aimed them at me. I dived again, got my guns on him from beneath, withheld my fire until I was at a 10 yard range and let go. My tracer tore through the bottom of the pit.

The pilot dived for some seconds, went down to 2,000 meters, then straightened out, headed for home. I headed him off, trying to get in a burst from in front, but the Boche fooled me, giving me a burst, then banking out of my range, and diving again. I renversed and got behind him, my guns leveled on his back. I sent in a burst that splintered through his upper wing. He ducked. We were down to a thousand meters now. He tried once more to shake me off, but didn’t succeed. I sent out another burst, purposely high. I didn’t want to kill him, now, I wanted to force him down, and capture his plane. Finally a green field alongside a river showed beneath and he dipped down.

I kept close on his tail, fearing a trick. But he drifted down nicely, landing light as a feather alongside the river. I circled around him and fired my guns some more to attract attention in a near-by village. French poilus came running out and surrounded the plane. I set down then in a field next to him, hit the only rough place in it, and nosed over in a crash. I ran over, however, and captured my prisoner. He seemed glad it was all over, smiling when I shook his hand. Blood soaked one of his sleeves. One of my bullets had nicked him in the shoulder. The observer was Fatally wounded by bullets through his chest. He died as we were laying him out on the ground. I tell you at such moments, when you see your opponent die before your eyes, war becomes far from a glorious thing. It is different in the air.

It was my fourth victory. We got much information from both plane and pilot.

“Sky Fighters, May 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 May 1934 cover, Frandzen featured the Sopwith Snipe and the Halberstadt C-4!

ON THIS month’s cover th_SF_3405the two types of ships shown are the Sopwith Snipe and the Halberstadt C-4.

The Sopwith Snipe was considered by many to be the finest job turned out by the Sopwith Company. The 1918 Snipe knocked the Germans out of the skies with system and precision. In four days a single Snipe squadron accounted for thirty-six enemy planes. In one day alone they smacked down thirteen.

Major Barker, of Canada, pulled the outstanding feat of his career in a Snipe. Attacked by fifty Boche planes he fought back, downed four and lived to tell the tale. He gave lots of credit to his Snipe.

The Halberstadt C-4 was a good all round fighter-reconnaissance plane. Its bulky forward fuselage and its thin, tapering short section behind the cockpits gave it a nose-heavy appearance. Despite its awkward proportions it had good flying characteristics and was a dependable ship when not forced beyond the limits of its class.

One of the pastimes indulged in by the retreating Germans during 1918 was blowing up bridges they had crossed. And one of the best little things our hard-worked engineers did was to smack down pontoon bridges to replace them.

Of course then the Boche artillerymen came out of their dugouts and popped over a few tons of steel-cased shells, which, if nicely directed had the nasty habit of destroying the engineers floating road. Now the obszrvers in the two-seaters had to direct this demolition fire by wireless. They were usually protected by several scout plinos flying above and capable of giving even battle to anyone asking for an argument.

A little mix-up of this sort is happening in the picture on the cover. The Halberstadt has spotted the pontoon bridge. He gets his wireless going. The German artillerymen start ranging their shells. Above are his protecting planes, Fokkers. Hardly had the German observer warmed up his dot-dash key than two Sopwith Snipes swooped down on the Fokkers, sent two of them down. One Fokker remained. One Snipe started after him while the other Snipe tore in at the Halberstadt.

The German reeled in his aerial and un-limbered his Parabellum gun. He signalled his pilot to fight his way out. Above he saw the lone Fokker coming down to his assistance.

The Snipe roared in on the two-seater, guns blazing. The Halberstadt pilot flipped his ship up and over. His gunner all set for this maneuver pressed his trigger as the plane started up. He kept the gun chattering as the Halberstadt started over on its back. He hoped to catch the Snipe in his spraying arc of fire.

Twin Vickers bucking in their mounts on the Snipe; the Parabellum vibrating in the hands of the German observer. Three streams of lead slicing through the air, perforating fabric, ricocheting off metal parts.

The diving Fokker abruptly disintegrates in mid-air. A ranging German Shell hunting the pontoon bridge hits his ship, explodes; blows the ship to bits.

The odds are now too great for any two-seater, no matter how good it, or its crew, may be. A matter of minutes remain till it will be all over. Trucks, cannon and infantry will continue to pass over the pontoon bridge, shelled of course, but not as accurately as would have been the case had the artillery-directing Halberstadt been allowed to remain on tha job five minutes longer.

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

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the German Junkers and D.H.4!

“Green Horn Wings” by Frederick Blakeslee

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Frederick Blakeslee painted the covers for Dare-Devil Aces‘ entire fourteen year run. He also painted all 17 covers of the first run of Battle Birds. When you’re doing all the covers, it’s easy to have a continuing story. As a special treat this week we have a three part story told over two months and two different magazines. We start with the May 1934 cover of Dare-Devil Aces and continue the story on the following month’s cover and on over to the same month’s issue of Battle Birds!

th_DDA_3405THE COVER this month illustrates one of three exciting encounters described by a German flyer in answer to the question, “What do you consider your most exciting flight?” The author’s name is withheld by request. The other two encounters will be shown on the covers of BATTLE BIRDS and DARE-DEVIL ACES for June. The following has been translated by Mr. J.J. Hermann.

“My most exciting flight? That is very easy to answer—my first front-line patrol.

“Just a word about my plane before I go on. All the ships in our staffel were painted in combinations of red, white and green, except the commander’s, which was all blue. My Albatros had red-tipped upper wings, black crosses on a white field, and the rest of the wing, fuselage and lower wing, was green. A red band encircled the fuselage, on which were black crosses. The fin and rudder were green and the elevator white. It was a beauty and I was immensely proud of it.

“Our commander, like Richthofen, was very severe with anyone who returned to the field with bullet holes in the tail of his machine. Every pilot in the staffel would rather be shot down then come home with holes in his tail.

“I received my instructions, which were to stick in formation and to follow the commander no matter what happened, unless we ran into an enemy formation. In that case, the leader was to rock his ship if he went to the attack, and I was to fly for home at once. They considered me too ‘air-blind’ to be of any use in combat. Of course, I couldn’t understand why any one should be ‘air-blind’, for certainly it would be easy enough to see an enemy plane. But I soon learned.

“I was flying close on the left of the leader, and was so engrossed with watching him that the whole enemy air force could have surrounded us without my knowing it. It was all I could do to keep my place in formation. I would throttle down when I seemed too close and then I’d get too far away and have to speed up only to get too close again. It was probably nervousness, for I had had no trouble in this respect in practice flights.

“I had been making heavy weather of it for perhaps twenty minutes when the leader suddenly dove. Ha, thought I, he is testing me. Down I went only to find that I was last in the formation. The three other planes were bunched directly in front of me. Turning to the left, I frantically tried to regain my position—and lost sight of the staffel at once. There I was as far as I could see, completely alone. The only thing was to go home, but that wasn’t so easy for I was absolutely lost. I was flying around in circles trying to locate the flight when to my surprise I found that I was again following my leader.

“It wasn’t until several hours later that I learned what had happened. When my leader dove it was to attack a lone Bre-guet. My awkward attempts to follow him disrupted the formation and spoiled his surprise move. He received a blast of fire from the French gunner, one bullet passing through his cheek and knocking out a few teeth. Then he saw me floundering around where I wasn’t supposed to be at all; breaking off the flight he picked me up and started for home.

“He looked at me to see if I saw him. I waved—I was determined not to lose him this time—and he began to climb, passing through clouds that covered what had been a cloudless sky. A minute later, he seemed to vanish again. Again I was alone and lost. . . .”

th_DDA_3406“I THOUGHT I knew what had happened. My leader had executed these sudden maneuvers to test me—and I had failed. I determined to be on the alert next time.

“When I saw him go into another dive, therefore, I followed—and a split second later found myself alone again! Finally, after a frantic search, I spotted his Alba-tros high above me. Wondering how he got so high while I was flying so low, I climbed up and took my old position in the formation. This time my leader did not look at me, and a few minutes later we landed at our drome.

“To my surprise no other ships were on the tarmac. We were the first to return. With a sigh of relief at being safely home, but dreading the lecture on formation flying which I knew I deserved, I jumped out of my Albatros. It was then I realized that several men were lifting my leader out of his cockpit. Rushing over I was amazed to see that his face was covered with blood!

“The whole flight had been one surprise after another; but two more were still to come. One occurred a few minutes later when I discovered that the tail of my ship was full of bullet holes! How had they gotten there? While I was trying to figure that puzzle out, one of my missing patrol mates landed and handed me the second surprise by explaining what had happened during the short time I was in the air.

“After describing our encounter with the Breguet (pictured on last month’s cover) he went on. It seemed that my leader, seeing me floundering around instead of flying home and realizing I was a cold meat shot, broke off the flight, picked me up and started for home.

“A minute later an S.E. 5 hurtled straight through our formation. This was when I lost sight of my leader for the second time. The S.E.5 shot through like a mad comet, neither turning right or left, but blazing away with its guns. It is this amazing act of daring that Mr. Blakeslee has painted for the present issue of DARE-DEVIL ACES.

“One of our patrol was shot down th_BB_3406in control and another started in pursuit. The three of us that remained were almost home when we ran into a formation of Salmsons (see June BATTLE BIRDS cover). The leader of this flight shot down another one of our planes—also in control, luckily. The pilot returned two days later. The man shot down by the S.E.5 had to land in enemy territory and was taken prisoner.

“Did I escape a lecture for getting my tail shot full of holes? By the time my leader was out of the hospital I had brought down my third enemy ship—but I got the lecture just the same!”

The Story Behind The Cover
“Green Horn Wings: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (May 1934)

The Story Behind The Cover
“S.E.5 Hell: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (June 1934)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations. This feature will move to Mondays starting in the new year when we will be featuring some of Mr. Blakeslee’s covers for Battle Aces!

“Hose de Combat” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on December 23, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” You can almost hear his insane gaffaw echo through your skull while you read it. Yes, we’re back with another of Joe Archibald’s Phineas “Carbuncle” Pinkham mirthquakes to lighten your holidays. This time from the May 1934 issue of Flying Aces. As always, Phineas gets himself in a tight pickle and once again manages to get out of it and get the upper hand on the “Vons.”

Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham was in a sling. Oh, yes, we know that’s nothing new—but wait a minute. This time he’d dropped a couple of bombs right on the domes of the A.E.F. on his own side of the lines—and it didn’t look like an accident.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 23: William P. Erwin” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on October 7, 2014 @ 12:00 pm in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s Lives of the Aces in Pictures from Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This week it’s Lt. William Portwood Erwin, featured in the May 1934 issue.

Erwin was assigned to the 1st Observation Squadron in July of 1918. Flying Salmson 2A2s, he and his observers are credited with eight victories! He was awarded the Distinguished Service Crossfor extrodinary heroism in action in the Chateau-Thierry and St Mihiel Salients theaters. And for a dangerous infantry liaison mission at night that he had volunteered for—on his third day with the 1st Observation, he recieved the French Croix de Guerre!

He continued in aviation after the war, conducting a flying school at Love Field, Dallas.

The Dole Air Race of 1927—a race from California to Hawaii. While searching for two lost air race planes and their passengers, he was last heard radio that his plane went into a tail spin and he called for help about 592 miles out in the Pacific Ocean. His plane, “Dallas Spirit” and its occupants were never found.