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“Aid to the Lost Battalion” by Paul Bissell

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

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the September 1933 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Lt’s Goettler and Bleckley try to get …

Aid to the Lost Battalion

th_FA_3309THE Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest decoration the United States can bestow upon its military heroes. Only four airmen of the World War received it — Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker, Lieutenant Frank Luke, and Lieutenants Harold Ernest Goettler and Erwin R. Bleckley. The first two, both aces, are well known, and most people know that Congress so honored them, even if a bit tardily in Rickenbacker’s case. But few know of Goettler and Bleckley and the glorious story of how they gave their lives, going “above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy” in an effort to save some of their countrymen.

On October 2, 1918, the 77th Division in the Argonne sector was ordered to advance, with directions to reach their objective, regardless of cost. In this movement was included the Second Battalion of the 308th Infantry, under command of Major Charles Whittlesey. The advance was made late in the afternoon. At the end of hours of terrific hand-to-hand fighting the battalion had advanced to its objective, the old Charlevaux Mill, near Binarville.

The troops on both sides of them, however, had been unable to hold their positions. This allowed the Germans to filter in from both ends and completely surround the Americans. For the next five days, this battalion of about 550 men, without food, supplies or ammunition, with scant water, and subjected to the most terrific fire, dug themselves in as best they could and refused repeated demands of the Germans to surrender.

They held a narrow ravine, the general location of which was known to our headquarters, but the exact location and the conditions existing among these men was unknown, since repeated efforts from both the battalion and the main division to establish contact had been unsuccessful. It was, however, definitely known that some of the battalion were still alive, and so, on October 6th, an order came over the wires which snapped every airdrome on that front to instant alertness. “Locate the battalion and get it food and supplies at any cost.”

Every available ship of Squadron 50 was soon on the line. The powerful Liberty motors roared and the propellers bit into the heavy fog. This was no flying weather, but somewhere out there where the incessant bark of the big guns could be heard, were Americans surrounded and trapped by the enemy, suffering and dying, waiting for help from their comrades.

There was no small talk among the airmen. A dirty job lay ahead of them—a job that none of them wished for, yet none of them thought of shirking. The planes were loaded with iron rations—chocolate, bully beef, coffee, hard tack—bandages and official messages. Quietly the men climbed into their ships—an observer and pilot to each of the D.H.4s, and with Flight Commander Lieutenant Goettler leading, one after another the big planes took off into the mist.

An hour had passed when a ship came sliding out of the fog to a rough landing on the tarmac of Squadron 50. The mechanics rushed out, to find it was Goettler and Bleckley, his observer, returned from their search. The plane was riddled with bullet holes, and large pieces of fabric were missing from the fuselage.

The faces of the two airmen were grim. Goettler’s orders were curt. “Refuel the plane and put in another set of rations. Patch it up as best you can. We have found the Lost Battalion, and we’re going back in another fifteen minutes.”

THE mechanics did not know until later all the details of the first flight—of how the battalion had at last been located at “Charleyvoo” Mill—how the big D.H.4 had waded through a storm of fire from the ground to get in a position to drop the much needed rations to the entrapped doughboys; how, although the two airmen had gone as near the ground as they dared, the lines of the Germans were so close to the Americans that when they had dropped the rations and messages overboard, the Germans had come out and seized them. All of this the mechanics later learned from their squadron commander, to whom Goettler had given a brief account of his effort while the plane was being refuelled.

All they now saw were the two grim-faced youngsters gravely shake hands and climb into their respective cockpits, and, in a ship already shot half to pieces, take off to carry aid to their fighting comrades.

Only too well the two lads knew what lay ahead of them. After their first unsuccessful trip it was evident to both of them that there was but one chance for success—to wing down through the terrific hail of lead from the ground, so low that with their wing tips almost touching the torn tree trunks of what had once been a forest, they could with accuracy drop the supplies to the doughboys dug in below.

Yes, this was possible if they could live through the terrific barrage they would meet. Anyway, it was their one chance, and there was no hesitation on the part of the two lads as Goettler piloted his plane directly to Charlevaux Mill. Soon it was below them, a pile of gray ruins, and Bleckley pointed out to “Dad” Goettler a khaki-clad figure waving feebly to attract their attention.

The big plane nosed over, swinging down in a spiral. The fire from below was now appalling. Machine-gun bullets were riddling the plane, while the impact from high explosives at short range tossed the ship around almost like a small boat in a rough sea.

Completely oblivious to this terrific punishment, the two airmen concentrated their entire attention on the job to be done. Goettler piloted his plane skilfully, while Bleckley leaned far over the side, holding a bag of rations ready to drop at the right instant. The trees were not fifty feet below them when Goettler leveled off slightly. Then, banking up, he let his wing tip almost touch the hillside to give Bleckley a better chance in his work.

Below, the doughboys crouched behind what shelter they had made for themselves, looking anxiously upward, waiting for the food and ammunition that they needed so desperately. They saw Bleckley release the bag and then lean over the side to see if his aim had been true. But this time the two aviators were never to know, for at that moment, up from the ground, death, in the shape of leaden bullets, reached for them.

The nose of the big D.H. yanked up suddenly, then dropped as if the hand that held the control had suddenly lost its strength. There was a sickening instant as the plane slipped off on a wing, then crashed, burying her heavy nose deep in the hillside over near the German trenches.

The next day, in an irresistible advance, the 77th Division pushed the Germans back and reached the “Lost Battalion.” Only 107 of them were left; and on the hillside were the remains of the D.H.4. Goettler had apparently been killed instantly, and Bleckley, hopelessly wounded, died before reaching a hospital. But their deed will live forever.

The Ships on The Cover
“Aid to the Lost Battalion”
Flying Aces, September 1933 by Paul J. Bissell

“The Youngest V.C. Flyer” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on March 28, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the August 1933 cover Bissell put us right in the action with…

The Youngest V.C. Flyer

th_FA_3308SOME wise man has said that to every man, once in life, comes his big moment. Then he must make a quick decision or choice and, whether he be king or peasant, the real man is judged by how he meets this test.

Such a moment came to Alan McLeod, the young Canadian flyer. Always he was in the thick of it, eagerly taking chances, thumbing his nose at death until that day in March, 1918, when he came face to face with his big moment, made his choice and, himself wounded, gambled his life a thousand times over to save a comrade already wounded almost past saving—gambled and won, and took his place among the “Incredibles” of the World War.

McLeod was just fifteen years old when the war began. Twice rejected because of his youth, he enlisted on his eighteenth birthday, in April, 1917. By July he had qualified as a pilot, and by September he was in England. When his squadron, the 82nd, was ordered to the Front, his Commanding Officer refused to take him along—again on account of his youth.

However, on Home Defense in England with the 51st, during a bitter duel with a Gotha over London, he displayed such heroism, although shot down, that Headquarters posted him to France with the 2nd Squadron, in November, 1917. This squadron boasted no fast pursuit ships, but was engaged principally in observation, bombing, and artillery spotting, and flew the Armstrong-Whitworth, a good ship for these purposes, but slow.

It was with this ship that McLeod went “a-hunting” beyond and outside of his daily routine, strafing the trenches, attacking troops in movement, machine-gun emplacements and batteries. No one had ever thought to attack a sausage in one of the old crates. Nevertheless McLeod coolly destroyed a German balloon and then, when attacked by a flight of Albatross pursuit planes, shot one of them down and held the others off, returning safely to his airdrome. Soon none but the most daring observers would fly with him, but there were always enough of these so that he did not lack for companions. Besides, he always brought them back—and how!

The morning of March 22, 1918, seemed to McLeod much like any other day. With Lieutenant A.W. Hammond in the observer’s cockpit, he had started out on a patrol to Bray sur Somme. He got lost in the heavy, low clouds but, at last finding a hole, he had dropped down to let his bombs go when a Fokker tripe rode his tail down from the same clouds. A half-roll saved him from the Fokker’s burst, and a zoom put Hammond in position to prevent that particular German from ever firing another burst.

But seven other tripes had come down after their leader and were now bent on revenge. Like red hawks they darted around the two Canadians, raking them with machine-gun fire from every direction until one, more daring than the others, dived in from the front.

McLeod beat him to the shot and Fokker No. 2 joined his leader far below. At that instant, however, McLeod felt his first bullet. One of the tripes, attacking from below, had put a full burst into the British machine. Hammond was hit twice, and the entire bottom of his cockpit collapsed. Then the gas tank burst into flames. The Armstrong-Whitworth plunged down, out of control, with McLeod dazed in the front seat, and Hammond clinging desperately to the rim of what had been his cockpit.

THE flames licked up, burning McLeod back to consciousness. To stay in the front seat was no longer possible. McLeod stepped out on the wing, reaching back into the burning cockpit for the controls and sideslipping the plane so that the flames were blown away from Hammond. Although two more bullets had found him by now, he succeeded in keeping the ship in fair control and getting rid of his bombs. The Germans were following the helpless Canadians down, pouring burst after burst into them.

Hammond now had three bullets in his body, while one arm hung limp. Almost unconscious, with his feet braced against the sides of the fuselage to keep from falling through the bottomless cockpit, he still had strength enough for one last burst at the Boche. Almost point-blank he emptied his drum into the nearest tripe. A burst of smoke and screaming wires told that Fokker No. 3 had joined the other two victims, crashing below almost at the same instant that McLeod, leveling off his blazing ship as best he could, piled up in No-Man’s-Land.

The crash threw them both clear of the wreckage, about ten yards apart in the middle of No-Man’s-Land, three hundred yards from the British trenches. For an instant they lay there, unconscious, but the Germans were already sniping at them and McLeod, who lay in a more exposed position, was roused to consciousness by a bullet nipping his leg. Rolling into a shallow hole, his senses returned, and with them came his “big moment.”

To stay where he was was impossible. The whole area was too much exposed. He must make the trenches. But outside lay Hammond, wounded, perhaps dead. Should he leave him and try for the trenches alone? In another instant he was out of the hole and at Hammond’s side. The poor observer was alive but completely unconscious, with six wounds.

How McLeod dragged and carried Hammond those three hundred yards he himself never knew. But the Tommies in the trenches saw him coming. They watched him as, inch by inch, he dragged himself and his observer across the torn earth, with the enemy raking him with bullets. They watched and helped all they could by laying down a deadly fire on the German trenches.

With just six yards to go, another bullet got McLeod, and the Tommies went over the top and dragged the two unconscious flyers in, still breathing—but not much more. All day they lay in those exposed trenches without medical aid. But the gods must have smiled, for they both got well eventually—Hammond to get a D.S.O., and McLeod the V.C.

The Ships on The Cover
“The Youngest V.C. Flyer”
Flying Aces, August 1933 by Paul J. Bissell

“The Invulnerable Dormé” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on February 14, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the January 1933 cover Bissell put us right in the action with

The Invulnerable Dormé

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Luke Downs Three Balloons” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on July 17, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the January 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as—

Luke Downs Three Balloons

th_FA_3201“MEIN Gott! It is Herr Luke! Quick—down with the Drachen!”

In an instant all was confusion. Machine guns rattled and archies barked. Winches ground and turned as the Germans strove desperately to save their balloon, swaying gently in the dusk, two thousand feet above Milly.

The two balloon observers were already overboard. They knew that pilot! Thirteen balloons and five planes had fallen to Frank Luke’s attack in less than three weeks. Only ten days before, he had destroyed two balloons and three planes in less than fifteen minutes. And this afternoon, September 29, 1918, they had seen him destroy the balloon over Dun, fight his way through a squadron of Fokkers, destroy a second balloon over Brière Farm, and dive headlong at their own helpless bag—all in less than three minutes! Their bag was doomed—and overboard they went.

On came Luke’s Spad, through a hell of shrapnel and machine-gun fire, its motor wide open, and both guns spitting flame. Another instant and Luke would have crashed into the balloon, head on, but with a sudden zoom and bank, he pulled clear of the now fiercely burning Drachen. His third balloon was going down! That day—which proved to be his last, for a wound forced Luke down and he was found dead the next morning—was a fitting end to a glorious career, the career of one of America’s greatest airmen.

The Ships on The Cover
“Luke Downs Three Balloons”
Flying Aces, January 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Coppens, Belgium’s Greatest Ace” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on March 15, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the November 1932 cover Bissell paints one of Belgium’s greatest Aces in action—Lt. Willi Coppens trying to take down a balloon!

Coppens, Belgium’s Greatest Ace

th_FA_3211THE sun had set, and soon night for a few short hours would throw her peaceful blanket of darkness over the gaping wounds of war that now scarred the once beautiful fields of Flanders.

Above, where the sun’s rays still shone from beyond the far horizon, a tiny speck could be seen. Below, on the shell-torn earth, a crew was slowly hauling down a huge yellow sausage with black crosses painted on its sides. Anxiously the officers in charge watched the sky above until sudden recognition of the tiny speck brought hurried orders from their lips. Coppens, the little black devil of the Belgians, was on the wing!

Since the outbreak of the war, Willi Coppens had been in the service of his country. He had enlisted on the 28th of July, serving first as a despatch rider for the 6th Division, and then in other positions of both danger and trust but always with his eyes to the sky, his heart set on the “chasse.”

Three long years of this, then six months of observation, reconnaissance and artillery fire direction, until, in April, 1918, his great ambition was gratified at last. In the past six months he had made himself the terror of the Huns and the idol of his nation. Thirty-three balloons and two planes had fallen to his attack. He was premier ace of the Belgians and premier balloon-buster of the world.

NOW, October 14, 1918, his .small, dark-blue plane with the red, yellow and black circles of Belgium on its wings was once again bringing death and destruction to the invaders of his beloved country.

Down he swooped through the hail of shrapnel and machine-gun fire, his gun spitting incendiary bullets into the great yellow bag below. . . . At the last moment he veered off, banked up on one wing, then as quickly reversed, executing a tight S, his nose down and hugging the balloon as closely as he dared, to gain what little protection might be had through the enemy’s fear of hitting their own observers.

His throttle shot forward as he gave his little Nieuport the gun and dived down under the balloon with terrific speed. Back came the stick—the tiny blue plane shot upward—higher—higher—up into a stall when another instant would have sent it crashing into the swinging balloon.

Now a shift of the release lever, and from the chute on either side six flaming rockets, like meteors against the late afternoon sky, soared through the air with deadly accuracy toward the sausage. In their wake a trail of sparks showered downward, and the plane hung for an instant on the prop. Then its nose flopped down through the drifting sparks. A quick kick of the rudder avoided collision with the big cable by which the Germans were desperately trying to haul the clumsy bag to the ground.

The plane dropped like a plummet. Coppens eased up on his throttle slightly, then leveled off, at last clear of the balloon—and none too soon. The rockets buried themselves in the bulging silk and then, an instant later, there was a terrific burst of flame and smoke. Great fiery tongues leaped hundreds of feet into the air, and the big bag collapsed, falling to the ground and burning fiercely.

Machine guns clattered madly while high explosives and shrapnel once again rent the air in their effort to find the tiny plane. He was almost away, a tiny speck against the darkening sky, when a shrapnel burst squarely in his path. His left leg went numb. The Nieuport shivered as he almost lost control. The little black devil was winged at last!

THE war was over. The invader had been driven out and peace once again reigned. In the warm July afternoon, on one of Belgium’s great air fields, a small army had drawn up in battalion formation. To one side, an area roped off was filled to overflowing by a crowd in holiday attire. Flags were flying and bands playing. On the line a row of planes stood ready, their wings and bodies shining from careful grooming. For on this day a grateful nation was honoring one of its heroes.

A large plane could be seen in the distance. Quickly it approached, circled the field, then landed easily and taxied down near to wrhere a small group was standing in front of the battalions.

The crowd surged restlessly, then broke into tumultuous acclaim as a tall figure stepped from the plane and the bands crashed into the national anthem of the Belgians.

“—And a grateful nation and King salute you, Captain Coppens, Officer of the Order of Leopold.”

The King stepped forward to pin a small ribbon on the breast of the slim aviator in front of him, an aviator whose face was still pale from recent illness and whose left trouser leg flapped loosely against wood instead of bone and flesh. This lad supported himself with two canes, but one of these fell to the ground when he held out his hand to His Majesty.

Several officers started forward to recover the stick, but the King was first. He retrieved the stick quickly and with a gracious, “Permit me, mon Capitaine,” he handed it to Coppens. The crowd roared. A king had stooped to serve a humble subject—and a monarch had proved himself regal.

The Ships on The Cover
“Coppens, Belgium’s Greatest Ace”
Flying Aces, November 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Mannock, The Mad Major!” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on March 1, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the December 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Major Edward Mannock gives his all

Mannock, the Mad Major!

th_FA_3212FROM the war have come many nicknames which have since been applied rather freely to others besides those who originally earned them. “Crashing Colonels,” “Red Barons,” etc., are now commonplace, and to definitely determine the originals of these titles is almost impossible. However, there is one man, who, if we judge by the consensus of opinion in those places where airmen gather, enjoys his soubriquet without argument or question.

He was a man who started the war as a prisoner of the enemy, was repatriated because of defective eyesight, and lived to prove his eyes the most deadly, searching, and accurate of those of all the airmen who flew for the British, while his irrepressible humor and daredevil recklessness earned for him the name of the “Mad Major.”

On May 7, 1917, the failure of Captain Ball to return from a patrol held the attention of the Allied world. On the same day, unnoticed, the reports show the destruction of an enemy balloon by a Lieutenant Edward Mannock of Squadron 40. No one cried, “The King is dead, long live the King!” Yet well they might have, for this was the first victory of “Micky” Mannock, the “Mad Major,” one of the mysteries of the World War.

Micky, who was to tear through the skies of France like a thunderbolt, leaving a trail of victories surpassing even Captain Ball’s. Micky, who was to become Britain’s ace of aces, with 73 planes to his official credit, and who was to die, known only to his comrades, unfeted and unsung, with only an M.C. as a decoration from his country.

To be sure, the D.S.O. was going through at the time, and posthumously two bars and the V.C. were finally awarded, but even to this day this great ace is little known to the public at large, and it is difficult to learn a great deal about him.

Mannock’s comrades knew that he had been imprisoned by the Turks at the beginning of the war. He had been repatriated, and enlisted at once with the British, serving first with the R.A.M.C., then with the engineers in France, and coming finally to Squadron 40 in April, 1917.

It was soon evident that he was a Hun-hater, one of the few among all the aces. He was not the sportsman type, to whom war was just a game with death as the stake. Nor was he the hunter type, seeking only the joy of the kill. To him the war was “open season” on Germans, and he was out to exterminate them as he would rats or other vermin. He asked no quarter nor gave any, and yet his irrepressible sense of humor and love of a joke was constantly bobbing up.

He it was who, after failing for several days to get the Germans to engage him in battle, dropped a pair of boots on their airdrome with the note attached, “If you won’t come up and fight, maybe you can use these on the ground.”

With his M.C. came his captaincy, and he was made squadron commander. He was older than most aces, being thirty at his death, and he was noted for the care he took of his “new” men. He watched over them carefully, and tried to arrange it so that they would get a victory the first time over. Failing this, he would take them out alone and, finding their victim, he would maneuver the German into a good position for the new pilot’s fire. Then, making sure by a few bursts from his own guns, he would return to the drome, where he would enthusiastically congratulate the fledgling on getting his first German. It is said, in fact, that more than one ace-to-be had his first victory handed him by Micky.

IT IS told, also—and this story is pictured on this month’s cover—that on one of these excursions he gave the mud-covered Tommies in the trenches the thrill of their lives. He and his fledgling had spotted their victim and after some maneuvering Micky had finally forced the German into a position for his youngster to make the kill.

At this instant from the clouds dropped a red Albatross—motors on, and its-tracers already reaching hungrily for the new pilot below. A yank of the stick and Micky had thrown himself square into the line of the Albatross’ fire to save his companion. Bullets crashed through his cockpit and seared holes in his wings, but the German’s dive had been headed off, and a moment later, coming out of a mad vrille, the little S.E.5’s nose was square on the red tail with the black cross.

The Vickers rattled, and the German sped on down to pile up in a trench, while Micky turned back to the battle above. The youngster had failed to get his opponent at the first burst, and the more experienced German by clever flying had gotten himself into a good position for attacking the kid pilots.

However, seeing Micky return to the fray, the German decided to run for it, and turned toward Germany, but little did he know his opponent. The Irishman seemed to go wild. He flung his little S.E.5 after the fleeing Boche and quickly overtook him. Then, to the astonishment of those who watched below, Micky held his fire. Steeply he dived in from the side, forcing the German to turn. But again the Vickers were silent. Apparently the German decided that Micky’s guns were jammed, for he made a desperate attempt to turn to the attack.

Immediately, however, the twin Vickers spoke, spitting hot lead, and forcing him to swing back around. Then to the watching Tommies the game became evident. Like a cat with a mouse the Irishman was playing with the German. Slowly he was forcing the Albatross down.

Lower and lower they came. They were scarcely 100 feet up, and below them was the wrecked remains of the first plane, when suddenly the twin Vickers began chattering. The desperate Jerry swung right and left, only to be met by the deadly hail of bullets from the S.E.’s gun. Then one last burst and those below saw the German jerk from his seat, clawing the air madly in his death agony as his plane crashed, its wings touching the wreckage of the first Albatross.

Two more for Micky! No wonder they called him the Mad Major! And so it went, until, on a similar expedition in July, a machine-gun bullet from the ground found him. At least that’s one version. A second story says that he crashed a German to save one of his fledglings. It was another mystery, but the fact remains that no more would his comrades see him tuck his violin under his chin, and while they sat enthralled, play, “Where My Caravan Has Rested.” For the Mad Major had led his last caravan home.

The Ships on The Cover
“Mannock, The Mad Major!”
Flying Aces, December 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Rickenbacker Downs Two” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on February 28, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the February 1933 cover Bissell put us right in the action as

Rickenbacker Downs Two

th_FA_3302“Sure he can fly, I’ll hand him that. But what’s the idea of making us hang around on the ground? We don’t come to this flyin’ school nowadays to watch exhibition flyin’.”

“Oh, well, some guys get all the gravy,” and the speaker petulantly kicked a hole in the turf of the flying field. “Probably he’s somebody’s bright boy whose daddy gave him his own plane. Pretty soft, I call it. What do you say, Sarge?”

The man thus addressed was much older than the students and was evidently in charge of them. He was a hard-bitten mechanician and evidently an ex-army man.

“Soft!” he exclaimed scornfully. “You damned babies make me sick. Say, don’t you know who that guy was?”

“I don’t see that it matters a damn who he was,” spoke up one youngster. “We’re here to learn to fly and—”

“Oh, you don’t, don’t you?” and this time the sergeant’s voice was hard. “Well, get this, youngster. There are certain men who’ve done things for their country that you can’t pay for in dollars and cents, see? You—and I mean everybody in the country—can just try to give them a little courtesy and special treatment whenever you get a chance to, and be damned glad for the chance.

“If we was in the army, you know what I’d ’a’ done, don’t you? I’d ‘a’ marched every damned one of you out on that field and kept you at attention the whole time he was here so that the next time you’d know a good man when you saw him. Say, don’t you guys know who that feller was?” The sergeant’s tone was one of complete exasperation that such ignorance could exist.

“No? Then listen, buzzards. I’m goin’ to tell you a true bedtime story. Once upon a time when you babies were still wearing didies there was a war. Maybe you never heard of it, what with peace societies and all those sort of things these days, but, everything considered, it was quite a little war at that. Now I was sort of young and foolish about then, and seeing a nice poster displayed ’bout how you could join the air service and learn to fly, I goes in and lets them take my fingerprints. I guess that was a mistake. They must’ve read my palm or something at the same time and decided I was an advance model of you birds and never would learn to fly, so they didn’t even try to teach me. But anyway, they sent me over with a squadron to see that the Frogs didn’t get any vin rouge by mistake into the gas tanks ’stead o’ gas.

“The outfit I finally pulls up with was the 94th Squadron. I s’pose you ain’t never heard of the 94th, eh? Guess they just omitted mentionin’ that at your schools. Well, believe me, the Germans knew about the 94th, and when they saw a ship with old Uncle Sam’s hat with a ring around it painted on the sides, they knew that hell was going to be poppin’ loose in just about a minute. That was the first real Yank squadron to cross the Front. Ninety-one Germans they got before the show was over. Americans, every damned one in the 94th. And the guy that just went off in that limousine was the boy that led them through the last lap.

“PRETTY soft, you said, didn’t you, Buck?” And he spat scornfully to one side as he squinted at the embarrassed youngster in front of him. “Well, it wasn’t always soft. Once before I saw him come out on the field, sort of like today, only dif’rent. He was a captain then, and it wasn’t a limousine, but a damned poor motorcycle and side-car, with the corporal sittin’ in the side-car, holding on like he was in a rollercoaster, and the captain tearin’ across the field like he was tryin’ to hang up another speed record.

“It was the day he took charge of the squadron, and he was just hell bent to get up and get himself a Boche. We were just outside of Toul then, and the Germans were damned fresh in that sector, so he didn’t have to look very hard before he located two observation crates quietly gettin’ in their work with five Fokkers playin’ nurse to ’em up in the clouds. Right then the captain started climbin’. The old game—up into the sun.

“Maybe they would see him, and then maybe—well, anyway they didn’t. And he got just where he wanted to, sittin’ up on the last German’s tail with the sun square behind him.

“You ain’t ever seen a Spad dive, buddies, have you? Well, we used to call them the ‘flyin’ bricks’ over there, and when you turn one over on its nose and give her the gun, she moves so fast she damn near catches up with the bullets out of her own guns. And that’s the way the captain went down at that first German. The poor Fritzie didn’t have a chance. Here was the captain lettin’ both guns go, and comin’ down right behind the bullets themselves.

“The bullets must’ve beat the Spad a little, at that, ’cause the Fokker started spoutin’ smoke and slipped off sort of cockeyed, headin’ for the ground, just as the captain and his Spad dived by and right through the whole formation. Then a zoom, and he was back above them again, hangin’ on his prop, lookin’ them over. Fritzie must’ve thought there was another dozen or two comin’ behind him, because they got their wind up and broke.

“Quick as a flash the captain kicked his rudder over, shot his stick to neutral, and down he dropped like God’s judgment on the two L.V.G.s below. They saw him comin’, and the gunners were plenty ready for him, too. Hell’s bells, how they peppered him! I know, ’cause I helped to put the patches on when he got back. But none of those pills landed where it hurt, and before those Fritzies could turn or twist, he was past them, and zooming back for another crack at them.

“The other Jerries had got their nerve back by now and were divin’ in. It had to be a quick job, and the captain knew it. He slipped the bus off on a wing, and, holding her in the slip, slowly eased his nose around until he had both the two-seaters in range at the same instant. Then he cut loose, both guns pumpin’. You could see the tracers zippin’ through the air and buryin’ themselves in the Jerry machines.

“It was a queer spot the captain was in, and a couple of seconds was all he could hold it. But he had the Boche dead on the spot, and these seconds were plenty. The nearest ship tailed up and a couple of German aviators were just German heroes. The other Jerries seemed sort of discouraged, too. They weren’t crowdin’ any more, but had gone into a huddle around the photo-bus, and all were headin’ for the Vaterland.

“Gas and ammo were about out, so the captain came on in. Two minutes—two Germans. Not bad, eh? Well, he got twenty-five before that mess was over, and waded through a hundred bits of hell to get them.

“Soft!” The sergeant spat disgustedly into the dust again. “You birds weren’t close to him, were you? You didn’t see that little blue bar he wears with the silver stars on it? Well, you probably wouldn’t have recognized it, anyway. They ain’t many of them around. Maybe you don’t even know what it means—maybe you don’t know yet who the captain is. Well, remember this, ’cause after all, you’ve got to get over some o’ your dumbness and not be forever shootin’ off your mouth and showin’ your ignorance. That little blue bar is the Congressional Medal of Honor. Only two aviators in the whole war won it. One was Luke, the Balloon Buster. He’s dead, and can’t wear his. But the other man can, and he’s the guy that you birds called soft. He’s Eddie Rickenbacker, ex-captain of the Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron, and America’s ace of aces!”

The Ships on The Cover
“Rickenbacker Downs Two”
Flying Aces, February 1933 by Paul J. Bissell

“First Official Yank Victory” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on January 31, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the March 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action of the

First Official Yank Victory

th_FA_3203LIEUTENANTS Alan Winslow and Douglas Campbell of the 95th Squadron, U.S. Air Service, were on alerte duty, Toul Airdrome, April 14, 1918. American squadrons at the Front were new, and no German had yet been marked up to the credit of the Yanks. These two aces-to-be thought it pretty tough to be kicking their heels on the home airdrome while “Rick” and others were patrolling the lines with a chance of a scrap at any moment, and a chance to bring credit to the 95th for the first Boche.

Suddenly the phone rang. “Yes, Squadron 95 . . . . What? . . . . Deux Boches?
. . . . Oui! Quel direction?
. . . . Pont-a-Mousson! . . . . Bien. Merci.”

In an instant motors already warmed up were roaring, chucks pulled out, and Winslow and Campbell had taken off in a steep climbing spiral, heading back in the direction of two tiny specks now appearing just under the low-hanging clouds. Hugging the ceiling, the two Americans swung to the east, hoping to gain unobserved a position on the tail of their enemy. A cloud, hanging low out of the otherwise fairly level ceiling, helped them in this for a moment. Coming out of this, however, they found themselves flying in the opposite direction, parallel to and about a quarter of a mile to the east of the two Germans, who immediately turned to attack. One was an Albatros D-5, and the other a Pfalz D-3.

The desperate tail chasing game began. Twisting and turning, the battle drifted slowly back until it was actually over the Americans’ own airdrome. Here the clouds drove them down scarcely five hundred feet from the ground. Burst after burst from both sides had as yet done no serious harm to any of the combatants.

Campbell, scrapping it out with the Pfalz, had drifted slightly to the west. Winslow, diving at the Albatros from the side, banked up steeply, kicked his plane over, slipped off on a wing, nosing down until he was under the German plane, then quick back, hard on his stick, and he saw the belly of the red machine come slowly into line with his sights. His chance at last!

Tight he squeezed his trigger, and a wild joy swept over him as he felt the answering throb of his gun. At the last instant he banked over to avoid collision—and just in time, for the red ship, spurting smoke, slipped unevenly off, wing down and tail up. The German pilot strove to gain control, partially righting the wounded ship just before it piled up almost at the door of Winslow’s own hangar.

Just a moment later Campbell brought his man down in a nearby field to the west. It was America’s first air victory. Two to the credit of the Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron, and the Germans knew that the Eagles were in the air!

The Ships on The Cover
“First Official Yank Victory”
Flying Aces, March 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“War’s Youngest Ace Downs Voss” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on January 18, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the October 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Rhys-Davids downs Werner Voss!

War’s Youngest Ace Downs Voss

th_FA_3210YOUTH, winged youth. Youth, flying to meet death.

In all the strange chapters that came from the war there is nothing more incredible than the youthfulness of its air heroes.

23 years old—a major. Officially credited with seventy-five victories in individual combat.

22 years old—a captain. Internationally known for aggressive bravery, the idol of his nation, and a price on his head, dead or alive.

21 years old—a lieutenant. With more than twoscore victories to his credit. Decorated by nations and feted by kings.

And so it went, on down—20 years—19 years—18 years—and there it stops—officially! But listen:

“And you,” said the recruiting sergeant to a glad-faced youngster who stood, bright-eyed, in front of him. “What do you wish?”

“I’ve come to enlist, sir,” replied the boy.

“Enlist, is it? And do you think it’s a kindergarten in France we be asending the lads to?”

“No, sir. I mean to fight,” was the quiet answer.

For an instant the sergeant studied the serious eyes before him. “And your age, my boy?”

“Fift—I mean eighteen, sir.”

“Eighteen, eh,” growled the sergeant, shaking his head as he reached for an enlistment blank. “Do you know what you’re doing, sonny?”

“Righto, sir.”

“Righto, it is then. And eighteen years ye be, though if you’re eighteen, Mister Methusaleh is my name. What’s your name, youngster?”

“Rhys-Davids, sir,” he replied, and a school lad had started on the road to glory, death and fame.

It was early autumn of seventeen, and the 56th Squadron, R.F.C., was in the thick of it. This famous squadron almost daily battled Richthofen and the best of his “gentlemen.” Fought them through the entire war to a credit of 411 planes downed—but not without themselves adding many famous names to the already long list of those who died for England. Included in this list was the name of their famous commander, McCudden, with fifty-eight victories to his personal credit.

Here, with this outfit, was the lad who had come to France “meaning to fight.” And fight he had. Never was there a pilot more willing or eager for a scrap. He would attack recklessly, even though outnumbered, and in a dogfight he became a madman—a madman dealing death to the enemy. And then he would return to his drome to become all boy again. A happy boy, with pets—birds that sang to him—pups that “Waited each day for his return—and tame rabbits that nipped off the shoots in the little garden behind his shack and nibbled greens, from his hand.

Already more than a score of German. had fallen before his fire. Schaffer, of “Richthofen’s Own,” had fought his last fight against this youngster. But it was on September 23, 1917, that he gained his most famous victory.

THE squadron was on patrol, protecting some bombers, when off to one side were seen two German planes. It did not seem likely that they would attack, as the English squadron numbered more than a dozen of Bristols, Camels and S.E.Ss. That is, it did not seem likely until, by the black-and-white-checkered fuselage it was seen that one of the Germans was Lieutenant Werner Voss.

This was one adversary that the Allies held in the greatest respect. Already both his plane and name were known all up and down the Front. He was always looking for combats, and fought generally over Allied territory, which could not be said of Richthofen. And with forty-eight victories over the Allies, Voss, himself of most humble origin, was a serious rival of the noble-born baron.

Indeed, records seem to show that Voss, feeling himself in every way the equal of his rival as an ace, had refused to be the tail protector to Richthofen and, on at least one occasion, when the victories of Voss had reached a number almost equal to those of the Rittmeister himself, the High Command had seen fit to transfer the mere “Lieutenant” to a less active sector, where opportunities for combat were fewer.

With such an opponent as this, the Britishers knew that attack might be expected, and when, a moment later, a patrol of Albatrosses appeared, no one was surprised to see the checkered triplane dive in headlong. Voss’ companion, flying to one side and slightly behind, was almost immediately shot down. And when the Albatrosses refused to accept battle, Voss was left to his fate.

It was an unequal fight, though after the German had winged his way through the first terrific rain of fire from all the other ships, it was Rhys-Davids who engaged him in a duel. Around and around they tore, with Voss, hemmed in on all sides, hoping only to sell his life as dearly as possible. The Fokker tripe, with its German pilot, had met its equal in the little S.E.5 flown by the English boy!

The British plane turned and twisted, meeting maneuver with maneuver, until at last the looked-for opening came and the checkered fuselage for a moment was full in the sights. Just for an instant—but an instant that was filled with spitting lead, an instant that began that mad, twisting dive that ended near Poelcapelle for the triplane with the black crosses on its wings, and ended in eternity for the brave German ace.

Rhys-Davids followed him down to the ground. It was the game—there must be no slip. Then, with motor full on, himself untouched, he raced back to his pets.

The lad—his comrades thought he must be now almost seventeen years old—had thirty-two unofficial victories to his credit, and those gods that be must have laughed as they wrote his name on a shell. No German airman carried it. But an Archie battery, a month later, shot it from the ground. Ten thousand feet up it found him.

Back in his shack the birds still sang in their cages and the rabbits still nibbled in the garden. But the puppies waited the return of their boy master in vain, for the war’s youngest ace had gone West.

The Ships on The Cover
“War’s Youngest Ace Downs Voss”
Flying Aces, October 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Major Vaughn Wins the D.S.C.” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on January 4, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the September 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action that lead to Major George Vaughn winning a D.S.C.!

Vaughn Wins the D.S.C.

th_FA_3209“FOR extraordinary heroism in action near Cambrai, France. On September 22, 1918, Lieutenant Vaughn, while leading an offensive patrol, sighted 18 enemy Fokkers about to attack a group of five Allied planes which were flying at a low level. Although outnumbered nearly five to one, he attacked the enemy group and personally shot down two of the enemy planes, the remaining three pilots of his flight shooting down two more. His daring and courage enabled the group of Allied planes to escape ….”

So reads the American army citation on which the D.S.C. was awarded to Lieutenant George A. Vaughn. But between the lines is even more of a story—the story of a youth who left school to serve his country, first with the British and then under his own colors, with the 17th Aero Squadron—the story of a lad who came victorious through many air battles and who, that morning in September, 1918, seeing some of his comrades trapped by the enemy, went unhesitatingly to their aid. He knew he was outnumbered five to one by the Boche, yet he deliberately accepted the desperate odds. He calmly watched the chill hand of death reach for him; coolly he evaded its annihilating clutch and saw its grim fingers close on two of his enemies.

He fought many times after this, wresting victory after victory from the Boche until the war’s end found him one of America’s leading aces, with the rank of major.

It was 8:45 a.m. on a clear sunny morning. Big cumulus clouds about seven thousand feet up floated slowly across No-Man’s-Land, casting great blue shadows on the shell-pocked surface, and themselves affording excellent hiding places for enemy airplanes.

Vaughn, with three companions, was flying just under the clouds, protecting another flight of five Camels about three thousand feet below and slightly in advance of him. From the east fifteen Fokkers came in at about Vaughn’s level. They turned and flew parallel with him, all the time watching the lower flight. Then suddenly they tipped over on their noses and went down in a body on the planes below.

Suspecting a trap, Vaughn immediately searched the skies overhead. Sure enough, there they were—another batch of Germans ready to swoop down like hawks on him and his companions. Instantly he saw the one chance—to lead his flight down into the fight below, and do what damage they could diving in—at the same time giving the five Allied planes a chance to break away-and then try to get out of it before the enemy from above could surround them.

DOWN the four Camels tore, into the twisting dogfight below them—tracer bullets reaching out ahead, searching their red targets. In an instant it was every man for himself. Vaughn saw one of the Camels go down in flames and cursed the damned Boche as his sights picked up a black cross squarely. His fingers squeezed the trips. A wild answering throb as his guns spit flame, and he saw the red machine fall off out of control.

He swung in a tight turn to the left. The whole world now seemed nothing to him but white streaks of smoke cutting the sky in every direction, while red, yellow, green ships— ships with huge black crosses or ships with the tricolored circles of the Allies—seemed to come suddenly from nowhere.

The upper flight was now on him. He could see their tracers swish by him as they came down.

The red belly of a Fokker stood squarely in front of him. A quick burst, and he saw the red tail kick up as the Boche started on his last dive. Number Two—but a burst of bullets came through the cockpit just over his knees. Too close! They had him hemmed in, so he took his only chance, and threw himself into a spin.

Down he went, his tail whipping around and around. In this way he afforded no easy target. But the Germans followed him down, firing burst after burst into him, diving past, zooming back and diving again, their guns blazing. That spin seemed endless.

Luckily, most of the Germans had given him up as finished, and turned back. One last persistent Boche fired a long burst, and then he, too. turned, leaving Vaughn, as he supposed, to crash. Just in time the little Camel answered the controls.

THEN came the greatest blow of the battle. He was out of gas. There was no answering roar from the motor, and with a sinking heart and a vision of German prison camps, he sought a place to set her down. Lower he came. Now scarcely fifty feet was between him and the torn earth, the idling prop was slowing perceptibly, when suddenly it came to him—-the emergency tank! Quickly he switched it on. There was a sputter; then with a full-throated roar the engine took hold and the little machine climbed rapidly up again.

But the battle was over, and now not a plane was to be seen. So, turning toward his airdrome, some twenty minutes away, Vaughn for the first time had an opportunity to think about himself. It was then he was conscious of a burning sensation across his back. His flying suit was soaking wet just below his right shoulder. Wounded, he thought, and to use his own words, “Fine! Now I’ll get a month in the hospital. Or perhaps they’ll send me to Blighty.”

He could feel no pain, so decided it was slight, and landed with a broad smile, feeling he had rather put it over on the boys. Then came the second blow of the day, as the mechanics pointed to where the corner of his gas tank had been shot away. His clothes were soaked, not with blood, but with gasoline. No wound! No Blighty! Well, what the hell! It had been a good scrap, anyway. Six Fokkers had been accounted for, and only two Camels lost.

All Vaughn got then was a new ship. But later, with bands playing and flags flying and a lot of soldiers standing round to see how it was done, they pinned a bit of ribbon on him. Not much for a man who had played with death daily, but just the Army’s way of saying, “This guy’s damn good!”

The Ships on The Cover
“Major Vaughn Wins the D.S.C”
Flying Aces, September 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on October 26, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the August 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the cockpit with Baracca as his squadron bombs the Austrian Naval at Pola!

Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians

th_FA_3208“ALL ships are on the line, sir. Bombs are in racks, and they are ready to take off.” The general’s aide saluted smartly, and the general turned ^o a major at his side, who wore his boots like a cavalryman, but whose silver wings showed him to be an aviator.

“You know your orders, major. You will lead the squadron and be guided across by the boats. The planes will follow you at four-minute intervals. When you have found your objective, you will drop your bombs. Captain Barrechi will release his parachute light on the target you designate. After dropping their explosives, all ships will return directly to this airdrome. That is all.”

And instead of the usual salute he held out his hand, which was eagerly grasped by the major.

The field was an Italian airdrome on the west coast of the Adriatic. The major, unlike most aviators of the war, was not a young man. He had entered the Italian army almost fifteen years before, serving in the cavalry, and rising to the rank of captain. In the first days after Italy had cast her fate with that of the Allies and it became necessary to build up an Italian air force, he had, in spite of his “advanced age,” obtained a transfer to this branch of the service, and had quickly become an ace.

Now he was Major Baracca, the Italian ace of aces. All up and down. the entire front he was known not only as a great pilot, but as one of the great air fighters of the world. With a more matured mind than the younger men, he, though ever searching and participating in personal battles with the enemy, was constantly planning and scheming larger offensive movements—movements using whole groups and squadrons, and inflicting severe damage along the Austrian front. More than seventy successful bombing raids were under his personal leadership. More than a thousand times he crossed the enemy line, seeking battle. In thirty-six of these individual combats he had come away victorious, before finally, on June 21, 1918, fighting against tremendous odds, the bullet bearing his name found its mark, and he fell from the skies, a flaming sacrifice to war.

Tonight, in the late summer of 1917, he was leading one of the largest and most daring of his raids. Over to the east the Austrians, in their naval base at Pola, felt themselves safe from attack in the knowledge that the broad Adriatic lay between them and their Italian foes.

At nine-thirty sharp, the first huge ship took the air. One thousand pounds of high explosives were fastened beneath its wings. Below, stretched out across the Adriatic, was a fleet of power boats, speeding across the dark waters, a hooded light shining from each stern to guide the big planes to their destination. Four minutes later, with huge engines roaring, the second plane took off, and so on at four-minute intervals until the entire force was in the air. Twenty planes were in the first squadron, and twenty-six in the second. Long before the last ship had left the field, the first ship had already dropped its missiles and was on its way back home.

The night was deathly still. Not even a light breeze fanned the smooth surface of the sea below. From three thousand feet up Major Baracca could see the tiny light guiding him—a light which he soon overtook, only to pick up another immediately a few miles farther along and speeding in the same direction. And so he passed from one to another of these moving beacons, until he made out the lights of a city on the dim horizon.

Now the tiny light he had been following flashed brightly twice, then swung out in a wide circle and vanished. It was the signal. In front and below him lay the naval base and arsenal of Pola. The moment had arrived. Carefully he made his calculations and peered searchingly into the darkness below. His must be a direct hit. The naval base itself must be spotted, so that Captain Barrechi might drop his parachute flare directly over their objective.

He signaled to his pilot, who nosed the big plane over into an easy glide, motors throttled down and wires singing. He had made almost a complete circle over the town when his eyes picked up the marks he was looking for. A quick order to the pilot, and the plane flattened out, gliding squarely over the target. The bomber leaned tensely over the side, his arm raised, his eyes carefully lining through the sights on the lights below. A quick signal, a click of levers, a slight waver, and two dark masses detached themselves from below the wings and hurtled downward.

One tense instant, and then, far below, two blinding flashes followed by the sharp, terrific intonation of high explosives. Immediately the night was stabbed by beams of light. Major Baracca gazed, eagerly over the sides to mark his hit. The blinding light of one of the beams caught his ship full in its glare, and shells began to burst around him. But below a sudden burst of flame, as a small store of munitions went off, showed that his bombs had landed in the arsenal area.

THE archies were now bombing him heavily. Machine guns spattered, and flaming onions swept through the night. His motors roared as the pilot gave her the gun, and with a wild feeling of exultation Baracca signaled to swing in a wide circle so as to give Barrechi a chance to drop his light, and give himself the benefit of this light, in dropping his other bombs.

As Barrechi glided down and dropped his flare, there was a sharp explosion, followed by a bright downward rush as of a falling meteor. Then a sharp snap as the parachute opened, and the light floated easily in space, swaying gently and lighting up the scene below. With no breeze, the light hung in the air as if anchored.

This came as a complete surprise to the Austrians, and for some minutes there was panic. Men could be seen dashing madly around; the guns actually ceased firing, and even the searchlights snapped off as if trying to hide from the merciless glare above.

Quickly Baracca saw his advantage, and undisturbed by fire from below, he calmly glided his plane lower and directly over a spot marked with a red X on the map held on his knees. Leisurely and with deadly certainty the bomber sighted; his arm flashed downward, and the levers clicked. Tensely they waited, leaning over the side to watch the two bombs drop straight down, their white fins clearly seen in the brilliant light.

For a split second they seemed to disappear as they landed. Then there was a terrific upheaval. A whole section of the surface below seemed to lift itself up in an attempt to reach the plane above—then, giving up its vain effort, to split into a thousand weird shapes and tongues of flame. Explosion after explosion followed, as one building set off another. Again Baracca’s lever worked, and the giant plane dealt another hand of death from the sky.

Now Barrechi was also releasing his bombs. And plane number three was just entering the circle of light. The archies had commenced their fire again, but their aim was wild, for terror had struck the hearts of the Austrians.

For five hours this bombardment continued. One after another the big Capronis, heedless of the shell-fire from below, coolly dropped their eggs. Forty-six ships came over, carrying death and destruction to the Austrians, and forty-six ships returned safely to Italy, with their bomb-racks empty.

The Ships on The Cover
“Baracca Leads Raid on Austrians”
Flying Aces, August 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“Nungesser to the Rescue!” by Paul Bissell

Link - Posted by David on October 12, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the July 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Lieutenant Charles Nungesser surprises a flight of German Hell hawks!

Nungesser to the Rescue!

th_FA_3207IT WAS a hazy morning in December of ’16. The sun struggled to break through the heavy fog which had for days now hung close to the sodden landscape. Here and there were patches of snow, but in general the land was all half-frozen mud. The armies of the Allies and the Germans had dug themselves in for the winter, satisfied, except for an occasional almost individual effort, merely to hold what they had, fortify themselves against attack, and await spring for offensive movements.

On a French airdrome just a few kilometers back of the lines several ships were being groomed to take off. Motors were warmed up and impatient pilots looked constantly up at the sky, waiting for the fog to clear away. Finally a small Nieuport took off, circling the field and climbing away rapidly, soon to be lost in the mist. On the wings was the tri-color cocarde of the French. On the fuselage was painted a curious insignia. On a black heart was imposed a white skull and crossbones, above which was a coffin with a lighted candle at either end, and to one side was featured in large figures the number 13.

This was the plane of Lieutenant Charles Nungesser, a pilot who, even at this early date in the war, was already an ace, and whose daring and aggressiveness were to lead him into numberless air battles, gain for him the credit of forty-five victories against his adversaries, and leave him, at the end of the war, with more wounds than any living aviator. He fought always for the glory of France, with a recklessness and abandon that did not take into consideration any thought of personal safety. To him days that he could not fly were days wasted. He chafed with impatience when bad weather or wounds kept him from the skies and his eager search for the enemy.

For days now Nungesser had been held down to earth by the bad weather and restlessly he had waited for the sun to break through, until, when telephonic advices from up and down the line told him that the weather was clearing, he took off into the mist rather than wait longer for it to lift.

He was not a thousand feet up when he went into a cloud bank, and, nosing the little machine up slightly, he headed in the general direction of Metz, flying solely by his compass and instinct. All around was gray mist. There was no top, no bottom, just one moist, gray evenness all around. Only the “feel” of his seat told him whether he was climbing, level, or banked over.

Steadily he gained altitude, his windshield running little streams of water, his whole plane glistening wet from the gray mist. Ten, fifteen minutes he climbed; his altimeter now showed twelve thousand feet when suddenly he burst from the grayness into the blazing sunlight. Above him, now, was only the limitless blue, below the great billowy clouds formed an irregular floor, dazzling white in the sunshine, with brilliant blup shadows.

IT WAS some seconds before he could adjust his eyes to the sudden brilliance. Then, off to the left, he made out four planes, mere specks against the horizon. Placing the sun behind him, and still climbing, slowly he gained on them, and before long made them out to be four German Halberstadt scouts. He was now fifty miles north of his airdrome, and the cloud formations were beginning to break up. Great holes in them showed, far below, the woods of Valluber, splotched with sunlight and shadow.

Just east of Lechelle he saw the four scouts suddenly turn over on their noses and go diving through one of these openings. His first thought was that they were simply diving to get below the clouds, but a second glance showed him the reason of their plunge. A British Caudron artillery observation plane was flying calmly below, unaware of the death and destruction hurtling toward it.

A push forward on the wheel and the little Nieuport nosed over, motor full on, roaring in pursuit of the diving Germans. The British pilot, now aware of his danger, banked around sharply, avoiding the first German plane, which flashed by and turned in a wide spiral to renew the attack. The second German, diving with guns blazing, was forced to change his course to avoid the deadly fire that the British observer poured out on him.

Nungesser, as yet unobserved, banked over to keep “in the sun” and be ready for the first German as he turned back to dive at the Caudron. Easing back on his wheel to hold his elevation, he got himself directly in position, counting on the fact that because of the sun at his back he would be unseen by the German, now up on his wingtip, twisting as he turned for his second attack. Over again went the Nieuport’s nose, on went the motor full, and carefully Nungesser guided his headlong flight until at last he saw the German’s tail creep between his sights. A little more and the Boche pilot himself was full in line with the Frenchman’s guns. A squeeze of the trigger and a tracer bullet proved the aim was true. Then a full burst. The German, caught unawares, half-turned in his seat as the bullets spat around him. His arm jerked up sharply as he was hit. Helplessly he attempted to evade the diving Frenchman. He veered off to the left, but his move was anticipated by Nungesser, and another burst, this time into his gas tank, finished the show.

A puff of smoke, then a burst of flame, and the doomed Halberstadt plunged downward, twisting and turning, leaving a trail of smoke behind.

A sharp renversement and Nungesser was back to the defense of the slow-moving Caudron. The Germans, however, seeing their leader go down in flames, had had enough, and were already streaking it for home.

The Ships on The Cover
“Nungesser to the Rescue!”
Flying Aces, July 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

IT WAS ten years later, and again the day was gray. Again a ship stood impatiently at a French airdrome. It was a larger ship this time, a ship carrying untold gallons of gasoline to enable it in one flight to span an ocean. A ship all white, but on its fuselage was again painted that strange insignia, a white skull and crossbones on a black heart. It was scarcely daybreak, but a crowd had collected. Word had gone around that Nungesser and Coli were about to start.

For days and weeks they had waited impatiently on the ground for conditions which would give them at least a chance of success. On the other side of the Atlantic, groomed and ready, other planes were waiting to make this same attempt from the west. No time could be lost if Nungesser was to.gain for his beloved country the honor of the first successful flight between France and America. The telegraph clicked, word was flashed that the weather over the Atlantic seemed favorable, or at least as favorable as they might hope for. The chance must be taken.

Quick orders were given. The motor, already warmed, was again tested. Last-minute directions and dispatches were given, and farewells spoken. Two men climbed into the cockpit. All was ready. A face leaned out of the cabin, a hand went up in a waved farewell to the crowd. The chocks were pulled, and the plane started down the runway. A moment later, and the great White Bird, staggering under its weight of gasoline, rose into the air, and Nungesser, one of France’s great air heroes, had started on his last flight.

Twenty hours had passed. Once again a plane struggled in the dense nothingness of the fog. A pilot who had come victorious through many air battles against the Germans was now at death grips with the elements themselves. A missing motor, wings heavily laden with ice, fuel low, and a storm-whipped sea beneath. The last grim secrets of that brave flight have been hidden forever.

On the night of Nungesser’s fateful flight there was on the west shore of the Atlantic a British ex-war pilot who owed his life to the French ace, a pilot who waited anxiously for word of the White Bird’s safe arrival, waited anxiously and waited in vain. And there is a legend that on a high cliff of the bleak Newfoundland coast there is a small stone that looks ever out toward sea. It has no name, and bears but two words, “In Memory.” And carved deep in the solid granite slab is once again that strange insignia—a skull and crossbones on a heart.

“How Barker Won the V.C.” by Paul J. Bissell

Link - Posted by David on December 23, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the February 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Major Barker fights his way through Hell skies to down five German planes in a single day!

How Barker Won the V.C.

th_FA_3202JUST four years before, it had been Barker. W.G. Private 106074, First Canadian Rifles. Today, October 17, 1918, it was Major Barker, D.S.C., M.C., with forty-six Germans to his credit, who was waving good-bye to his squadron mates as in his Snipe machine he took off for England. The day was clear, and those on the ground smiled as they saw the little machine climb higher and higher. Yes, Billy Barker was obeying orders and “proceeding to England,” but via Germany, and one last scrap.

He was four and a half miles up when he met his first enemy, a double-seater machine, with a good pilot and a scrappy observer. Twice Barker attacked before he sent this plane down. Then, when the machine burst into flames, he pulled out of his dive, leveling off just as a burst from above caught him completely unawares.

He slipped away on a wing, but not soon enough to avoid an explosive bullet which completely shattered his left thigh. Turning to the attack, his fast-maneuvering Snipe quickly got him into a position where, with deadly coolness, he finished his second German of the day.

Dizzy from loss of blood, he suddenly found the sky around him literally black with German pjanes. The watching Tommies on the ground estimated that the planes numbered no less than sixty.

Without hesitation Barker dived at the nearest enemy. Number three went down.

Now the Germans were firing at him from every direction. His machine was hit repeatedly and he himself was wounded again, this time in the right thigh. His machine out of control, he fell into a spin, followed down by the whole German circus. After a few thousand feet, however, the rush of air revived Barker, and savagely he returned to the attack.

A quick tight loop—his favorite maneuver—one short burst, and the fourth German went down in flames. But again Barker pays dearly. This time another explosive bullet takes away his entire left elbow joint. Once again he goes into a spin, down he twists, the Boche diving after and riddling his machine. The gas tank is demolished. Fighting desperately to maintain consciousness, he switches his engine to his auxiliary tank, and once again turns on his foes.

But the battle is over. Faint from loss of blood, scarcely conscious, Barker, with one last effort, turns his plane toward the west, and dives headlong toward the shell-pocked earth, piling up in a barbed wire entanglement just inside the British lines.

Downed at last, but still alive and smiling. Sixty to one were the odds. Five German planes was the toll he took.

The best that England could give in medical attention was his. Slowly they nursed him back to health, and Major Barker became Colonel William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O., M.C., with fifty-one official air victories to his credit—and he was less than twenty-four years old!

The Ships on The Cover
“How Barker Won the V.C.”
Flying Aces, February 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“When Bishop Fought Richthofen” by Paul J. Bissell

Link - Posted by David on September 2, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

CONTINUING with the Richthofen themed covers, this week we present “When Bishop Fought Richthofen”—The story behind the cover of Paul Bissell’s June 1932 cover for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the June 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as the planes of Bishop and Richthofen square off!

When Bishop Fought Richthofen

th_FA_3206THE early spring of ‘17 saw Richthofen, the Red Knight of Germany, with almost two-score victories to his credit. For months now, hunter that he was, he had carefully searched the skies for his victims, and steadily built up a record that had already made him leading ace of the German Air Force and air idol of the German public. He had seen several months of duty as an observer at the Front, but it was under the guidance of the famous Boelcke that he started his career as a fighting pilot.

Now at last he was able to satisfy the impulse of the hunter which had always been a part of him. A deadly shot, and an expert flyer, he would climb into the clouds and there stalk his prey as carefully as he did the wild game on his own estate, waiting patiently his opportunity to dive headlong at some unsuspecting “bit of cold meat.”

This same spring there landed in a British airdrome on the Western Front a young pilot fresh from the training fields of England. He, too, had already done some four months of duty at the Front as an observer, but without getting the opportunity even to fire a shot. This lad of twenty-three was Lieutenant William Bishop, R.F.C., without a fight to his record, though he was destined in the next few months to pack in more air scraps than any other pilot in a similar length of time. He was, in these same few months, to became the dread of the Germans, the ranking ace of the R.F.C.—to barely escape death time after time, and rise to the rank of major.

He had been at the Front scarcely two weeks when he got his first German, while another two weeks saw him the proud possessor of a bright blue propeller hub-cap, presented to him by his mechanics upon his becoming an ace.

April the thirtieth was a red-letter day for both Bishop and Richthofen, though other days showed larger scores against the enemy for each of them. On this day, Bishop, in one hour and forty-five minutes, before lunch, had the distinction of engaging, single-handed, in nine separate aerial combats, bringing down a two-seater to add to his score, while Richthofen, before his noonday meal, by shooting down two of the enemy, had raised his score to fifty-two planes.

Seated as they were in their respective messes, it is questionable if either Bishop or Richthofen gave a thought one to the other, in fact, it is almost certain that Richthofen had never even heard the name of Bishop. However, fate that afternoon was to bring these two against each other.

It was about two in the afternoon, when Bishop, accompanied by his major, who was flying in another Nieuport, took off from his airport. For almost half an hour they flew steadily eastward without seeing any signs of the enemy; then, noticing some archie fire off to the left, they turned to investigate. Off some distance and below them they saw a German reconnaissance plane, and started the attack, when suddenly, darting in from their right, came four scarlet-nosed Albatross scouts.

SWINGING to avoid the first dive of the enemy, the two Britishers turned back into the battle. The major, with guns blazing, bore down upon the leader of the Germans, who, reversing quickly, avoided the direct fire of the major, and in turn attacked Bishop. It was then that Bishop realized that this plane was solid red, crimson from nose to tail save only for the black crosses standing out strongly in contrast on the wings. It was Richthofen, diving at him, trying to get him full in line with those deadly guns which had meant death to so many Englishmen. Well Bishop knew that only a split second now separated him from death.

Automatically he threw his stick over, and the plane banked up just in time, as Richthofen’s tracers went wild. Then began the tail-chasing. Around and around they swung, striving desperately to gain that deadly position behind the other’s flippers. Moments came when one or the other, by some quick maneuver, would, for the fraction of a second, find his target in line with his sights.

A burst of flames as the guns spat, but to no avail, and the chase began again.

The major had drifted off to the left, scrapping it out with one of the other Germans. This left two others, beside Richthofen, in this mad fight with Bishop. They, too, fought for a position from which they might fire upon the Britisher without endangering their own comrade and leader.

The circles were now getting tighter and tighter. The pace was terrific, and the other planes, unable to help their comrade, and fearing collision, had withdrawn to the side. Alone, the two masters of the air fought on. Each, finding himself unable to obtain the desired dead spot, was now firing with more abandon, hoping that one stray bullet might find its mark and bring this whirling dance of death to an end. For those two, time had ceased. The world was just themselves, rushing through endless space, madly circling, instinctively using every maneuver, every bit of skill at their command, to gain the desired opening.

They flew now as part of their own machines, and their guns, as part of themselves, spoke, when, for even the barest fraction of a second, their target flashed by.

Suddenly Bishop realized that he was near the end of his ammunition. He could not be sure that his opponent faced the same situation, and decided that he must conserve the few bullets that he had left. His feeling of desperation turned almost to despair, when, at this instant, he discovered three planes diving steeply at him.

Back he pulled on his stick, climbing sharply out of the mad circle, expecting every instant to feel the German bullets begin to spatter his plane, but knowing that he must take this hazard to get away from the new attack.

However, to his surprise, the planes dived past him, and down after the Red Knight, who had headed toward his two companions and Germany. Then Bishop discovered to his relief that the three planes were not Germans, as he had thought, but were three British naval planes which had come up opportunely at this moment.

The fight was over. One of the great air battles of the war was a thing of the past. The sportsman and the hunter had fought to a draw and retired with honor, each to fight many times again for his country, but never again against each other. For yet another year Richthofen continued his victories until he fell with an enemy bullet through his heart, to be buried with full military honors by his admiring foes.

Bishop fought steadily for six more months until, with forty-nine victories, he returned to his homeland, to receive every honor that a grateful king and country could bestow. He survived the war and is today the only living man with a V.C., D.S.O. twice awarded, and M.C.

The Ships on The Cover
“When Bishop Fought Richthofen”
Flying Aces, June 1932 by Paul Bissell

“Bombing Richthofen’s Drome” by Paul J. Bissell

Link - Posted by David on August 19, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present “Bombing Richthofen’s Drome”—The story behind the cover of Paul Bissell’s April 1932 cover for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the April 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as the planes of Squadron 100 circle over Richthofen’s drome, bombs exploding down below!

Bombing Richthofen’s Drome

th_FA_3204IT IS April of ‘17. Above, a full moon shines from an almost cloudless sky. Below, the landscape spreads away to the east—dark, except where a faint glimmer traces the twisting course of a river. To the west, against the horizon, continuous flashes show the progress of the battle of Arras, raging in its full fury.

There men lie in trenches, waiting in mud and slime for the signal which, at dawn, will send them from their meagre protection into that hail of bullets sweeping across No-Man’s-Land. Here, high in the air, all seems peaceful. Only the droning of many motors tells that death is on the wing. Death in the form of a dozen or more planes, each bearing the blue, white and red circles of the British Air Service on its wings; each carrying its little bunch of “bouquets” slung carefully in their racks underneath—”bouquets” to be presented to Richthofen’s Jagdstaffel II at its home airdrome at Izel le Hameau.

Suddenly the squadron leader, sensing rather than actually seeing what he knows to be his objective, cuts his motor and, tipping up one wing, descends in a wide, easy spiral so that he may more carefully check against his map the few faintly visible landmarks below. The other pilots, too, have cut their motors, hoping that there is a chance of getting down a bit before their singing wires will give them away. They do not know that already word of their approach has been given, that the searchlights and defenses are already manned by tense and eager foes waiting for that signal which will turn the quiet night into an inferno.

ONE thousand—two thousand—three thousand feet the leader drops, spiraling slowly. His companions, maintaining a much flatter glide, circle about the airdrome, holding their elevation until the leader can find his objective and drop his phosphorus bombs to light up their target.

Now, when he is scarcely a thousand feet up, a siren screams from the ground; a brilliant beam of light stabs the night—another, then still others, all sweeping the sky searchingly until one, finding its prey, stops suddenly, and the others quickly focus with it on the old British F.E. 2B. Instantly the sharp bark of archies shatters the stillness. On the ground, men dash from barracks and hangars. Hoarse orders are sharply given, and though the range is still too great, machine guns are already rattling nervously.

On, with never a waver, comes the old British crate—slowly gliding in, as surely and quietly as if she were coming down to land in her own airdrome. Down, down—five hundred feet. Now she is directly over the airdrome. The observer can be seen clearly in the white, merciless gleam of the searchlights, peering over the side—awaiting his moment.

They level off, one hundred and fifty feet up, and from the under wing of the plane comes a dark rush earthward. Men dive for shelter, and an instant later all hell breaks loose. The whole field is lighted up with the flaming brilliance of the burning bomb. Two hangars are ablaze. Shrapnel and flaming onions scream through the night. Other bombs crash, and the machine-gun fire is incessant.

NOW the other planes can be seen, diving straight in, or swinging in a wide circle to take their places in the parade of terror and death. One after another they come through the terrific barrage, and with deadly aim drop their bombs into the German quarters. One terrific explosion follows another. Hoarse screams echo as some poor devil is blown to bits.

Above, the motors are roaring full on, as the planes circle again and again to drop the last of their deadly missiles.

After all, it is only a matter of minutes. Destruction has come and passed, leaving in its wake burning hangars, dead and maimed bodies, and huge gaping holes in the formerly smooth carpet of the airdrome.

Already the hum of the motors can scarce be heard, as the squadron wings its way back home. Back over the front line, through another baptism of shell-fire, and then to their own field. Dawn is just graying the east as the last plane glides in safely. Not a machine but is torn by shrapnel. Wings are riddled with bullet holes. But Squadron 100, of the R.F.C., has bombed Richthofen and come back without the loss of a ship or a man!

The Ships on The Cover
“Bombing Richthofen’s Drome”
Flying Aces, April 1932 by Paul Bissell

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