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“Sky Fighters, July 1937″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 12, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the July 1937 cover, It’s the Sopwith Dolphin!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3707WITH four guns up front capable of shooting at two angles, the Sopwith Dolphin was an opponent to keep from in front of! Its stubby businesslike nose and short fuselage gave it the appearance of a heavily-weighted projectile racing through the air. Built in a distinctly unorthodox design, at first glance, it seemed to be something made to crawl on the ground which had suddenly sprouted wings, but once in the air it could twist and squirm in and out of maneuvers with such rapidity that it made one “OH” and “AH” with high-pressure exultation.

Of course Mr. T.O.M. Sopwith, the versatile designer of a dozen of more airplanes, most of which had quite similar wing construction as to dihedral, was probably sick of the same old thing over and over. So he deliberately pulled a fast one at the designing table. After the bugs were chased out of the experimental model it was found that this radically different job of stick and wire had clicked beyond the designer and manufacturer’s wildest hopes. It went into production and started rolling off the line.

Hitherto Sopwith had stuck to rotary motors, mostly Clergets, but in the Dolphin a 200 h.p. Hispano-Suiza was installed in the nose. The nose was now streamlined, which gave it a radically different appearance from former Sopwiths with their round cowling ring to fit around the whirling rotaries. Of course the heavier, more powerful motor was necessary because the Dolphin was a heavier and larger ship than the famous Camel. The speed of these two was about the same, the Dolphin having only about six or seven miles advantage of the Camel.

The Gun Arrangement

The two Lewis guns sticking up at a 45-degree angle were primarily for blasting the underside of an enemy plane, as the front guns were reserved to deliver a barrage of fire through the prop at any instant. This arrangement of guns made a hit with most pilots and some of them in 1918 made a practice of harassing German troops in their trenches and on roads by diving on them and having two separate angles of fire with which to mow down their opponents.

Later in the war the Sopwith Salamander, a single-seater with a rotary motor and armored belly and sides, came out just for such infantry strafing. Perhaps it was the occasional strafing of trenches with the Dolphin, and the many holes which appeared in its underside, and the wounds and casualties of the daring Dolphin pilots, that inspired this later Salamander.

Picking Up an Espionage Man

On the cover the Dolphin has taken on another trick job, that of picking up one of the Allied espionage men from behind the enemy lines. Usually a rendezvous was decided upon and the Allied plane sat down at this spot. If all went well the agent climbed aboard and was whisked out of danger quickly, but plenty of times valuable information was lost along with pilot and plane.

To most men the sense of balance and timing are fickle tilings of which they know little, and in which they lack experience and confidence. Not so with the agent catching the dangling rope from the swaying low-flying Dolphin. That man’s life had been spent dangling from ropes and scaffolds at dizzy heights. He had been foreman of a gang of bridge painters who year after year dangle from ropes and flimsy scaffolds high over the East River in New York Harbor. A rope overhead, a body of water underneath, a sure death if he slipped, was what he considered just another job of work-one that had been done before and one he was sure he could do at any time again when the emergency arose.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, July 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, May 1937″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on March 29, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the May 1937 cover, It’s the ever-popular Sopwith “Camel”!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3705THE Sopwith “Camel” was a name to be proud of back in 1917. This “Camel” of the air did not do without a drink nor was it slow and ungainly like its earthly namesake but it was tricky and uncomfortable to fly. It was similar to its predecessor, the Sop “Pup,” which was an airman’s delight to fly. The Camel’s superiority as a fighting craft was due to those modifications which transformed it into a devilish steed in the hands of its masters.

It could climb a thousand feet a minute and speed through the air in pursuit of an enemy ship until Camel squadrons were both feared by the enemy and envied by the other Allied squadrons equipped with inferior craft.

Whenever possible Allied nations got hold of Camels and bolstered up their own side with this popular fighting ship. Americans who flew them are still talking of their little temperamental job which gave them heart failure on landings and takeoffs but got them out of some mighty tight situations, which other ships of the time could not have accomplished, The 130 h.p. Clerget motor was extensively used to power the Camel.

Later most Camels were equipped with Bentley motors which gave them added pep and brought the Camel out of oblivion very much into the limelight for a glorious new era of fighting life. There was hardly a British ace who did not sometime in his career as a flyer sit in the compact cockpit of a Sop Camel and feel the exultation which comes from flying a hair-trigger ship.

Richthofen’s Defeat

Germany’s ace of aces, Richthofen, got in front of a Camel on April 21, 1918. That Camel was piloted by a young Canadian in the R.F.C. named Roy Brown. Capt. Brown’s Camel seemed to be a live thing as it screamed down on the tail of the Baron’s ship which was racing after one of Brown’s comrades. The Vickers guns leaped and bucked in the Camel’s hump.

The sturdy ship seemed to hold its breath helping its pilot’s aim. The Fokker triplane ahead staggered. Richthofen, mortally wounded, slumped in his pit. It was the end for him. and he, like so many other Germans, ended the war with a wraith-like flitting flying thing of wood and fabric with spitting guns forward blasting death to all who dared challenge its rule.

Although the Camel on the cover is not fighting another ship, it is fighting its most important battle of the war. The complete plans for a major offensive of the Allies disappeared suddenly from close-guarded headquarters offices. A half hour after they were missed intelligence officers were on the track. They traced them to a nearby hangar. They saw a plane sweeping into the skies. One of the intelligence men, a flyer, leaped into a Camel whose motor was ticking over. The enemy spy was almost out of sight, but in a slower ship.

Blazing Battle

The Camel gained, it overtook the spy. Guns blazed. Down slithered the front ship to crash near a road in German territory. The pilot crawled out, hailed a driver of a captured British motorcycle and gave the side car’s passenger the valuable papers. As the spy crumpled to the ground the motorcycle roared toward German headquarters. Down screamed the Camel. Its pilot disregarded the peppering from the motorcycle passenger’s rifle fire.

When the little Camel was about to hit the ground machine, its Vickers guns opened up. A deadly blast of bullets raked both Germans. A slug tore into the overheated motorcycle engine. A roaring explosion enveloped the whole ground machine. The stolen papers in the passenger’s dead hand flared up and curled into blackened bits that fluttered and faded into dust. The Camel wheeled, streaked toward home. Another job well done!

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, May 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“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!

“Famous Sky Fighters, July 1938″ by Terry Gilkison

Link - Posted by David on January 13, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

STARTING in the October 1933 issue of Sky Fighters and running almost 5 years, Terry Gilkison’s “Famous Sky Fighters” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Gilkison would illustrate in a two page spread different Aces that rose to fame during the Great War.

Although Gilkison was probably better known for his syndicated newspaper work, he also provided black and white story interior illustrations for pulp magazines. His work appeared in Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Gilkison provided similar features in a few other Thrilling Publications—there was “Famous Soldiers of Fortune” and later “Adventure Thrills” in Thrilling Adventures, Famous Crimes” in Thrilling Detective, and the fully illustrated air adventure stories of Buck Barton “The Flying Devil” in The Lone Eagle! He signed most of this work with only his initials “T.G.” to maintain a low profile and preserve his reputation as a syndicated newspaper cartoon artist.

The July 1938 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, features Georges Thenault, Lt. Jimmy Bach, Mario Galderara, and Captain John H. Towers!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters”, Terry Gilkison features Major Jimmie Doolittle, Armand Pinsard, and Captain Bruno Loerzer! Don’t miss it!

“Von Satan’s Lair” by Harold F. Cruickshank

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ALTHOUGH we just gave you twelve stories last month instead of just four or five, it’s Friday, so let’s make it a baker’s dozen. And who better to feature that our old pal Harold F. Cruickshank. We have three good reasons for this: First, Harold F. Cruickshank was not represented last month among our twelve tales of Christmas 1931; Second, this is kind of a teaser for next month when we’ll be featuring Canada’s favorite son and looking at his trio of Aces—The Sky Devil, The Red Eagle and The Sky Wolf, as well as his Pioneer Folk tales; and last, but by no means least, It’s just a darn good story to get the year going!

Jack Malone’s flight has been dwindling down at the hands of the evil Baron von Satan! When his former deputy leader returns badly injured, his face surgically altered, and fighting off some kind of mind control—Malone believes there’s still hope to find other members of his flight, and that he can save them before they too go under the sinister knife of von Satan!

From the pages of the April 1934 issue of Sky Fighters, it’s Harold F. Cruickshank’s “Von Satan’s Lair!”

Corporal Jack Malone Sails the Sky Lanes Grimly in this Gripping Drama of Sinister Secrets of Hun Hate!

“Sky Fighters, March 1937″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on November 23, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the March 1937 cover, It’s the S.I.A. Type 9B!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3703ANY Italian or Austrian soldier who served during the World War on the Italian front could, without any trouble at all, pass the scaling ladder tests of any fire department in the world. Those combatants climbed perpendicular, glacial surfaces which, at first glance, seemed insurmountable. Metal hooks, somewhat resembling half of an iceman’s tongs, were heaved up against the icy sides of snowladen cliffs or ice formations.

When the hook held, the climbers inched their way up knotted ropes or ropes with loops for footholds. Sometimes they left an anchored rope hanging for others to follow, sometimes they pulled up the rope and pitched the hook farther up.

“Get there,” was the command. It was up to the soldier to climb till he reached his objective. There, exhausted, with aching muscles shrieking for relief, he probably was met by the foe with a fixed bayonet, or the defenders might cut his rope far above, sending him tumbling grotesquely into space.

An All Purpose Job

The S.I.A. (Societa Italiana Aviazione) Type 9B two seater fighter was one of those ships that was called an all purpose job. It hung up records in climbing, speed, lifting power and endurance. Its engine was the 700 h.p. Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino).

This ship was used extensively by the Italians. Their aviators liked its reliable engine and its sure fire reaction to the stick. It became the eyes of the Italian army. Spotting for the artillery attacking enemy positions and even rescuing Italian troops from surprise Austrian attacks.

A mountain has two major sides. That side facing the enemy which is watched continually for any advances. The other side behind the defenders, that side up which they have come, down which they may possibly have to retreat. It is so safe from enemy attack that its defense is completely neglected, for what enemy can come in from the rear without being annihilated?

But in the picture on the cover just this situation has occurred. An Austrian commander with vision and initiative penetrated the rear lines at night, sentries were captured without firing a shot. The way was clear. The Austrians commenced climbing before dawn. As the sun threw its yellow glaze over the cold sky the icy cliffs were alive with silent climbing figures in pot helmets. Nearer and nearer they approached their goal where the small group of Italian Alpinis manned mountain guns facing the enemy.

In ten minutes the Austrian climbers could annihilate that group of defenders, pull the guns back, swing them around and blast the Italians below from their positions, allowing the Austrian hordes to sweep through passes and on to a major victory.

A Speck in the Sky

Far in the distance a speck stood out in dark silhouette against the brightening sky. It gained size, its wings glinted as it banked and swooped down toward the cliff. The rear gunner stood in his pit tense with huge binoculars pressed to his unbelieving eyes. He looked a second time and then yelled to his pilot. The throttle was jammed full ahead, the motor roared an ominous shriek as the husky S.I.A. dove and leveled off.

The front guns spattered two long bursts into the Austrians. Ropes were severed, bodies jerked and twisted as men screamed and clawed for a footing. Like a landslide the figures above toppled, they caught others below in their death plunge. Only a few remaining pot-helmeted figures rocked in terror on the slippery ice surfaces of the ragged mountain side. The rear gun of the S.I.A. took up the attack as the front guns ceased to find a target. More Austrians fell from their icy footholds.

Above, the Italian mountain troops looked down, amazed and jittery from the realization of their close call. Far in the distance the receding S.I.A. dipped its wings in friendly salute to the massed group of Alpini troops on the lofty mountain peak who screamed their cheering thanks across the bleak crags of the perpendicular battlefields.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, March 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Sky Fighters, February 1937″ 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 February 1937 cover, It’s the Pfalz D13 attacking a balloon!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3702THE elongated type of captive balloons were of French origin but the Germans were the first to put them to practical use in the World War. They called them “drachens,” or kite balloons. They are flown in exactly the same way as a boy’s kite, the force of the wind holding them aloft. In the earlier spherical-shaped balloons the wind spun them and had a tendency to force them down.

Theoretically any balloon was obsolete on account of the airplane, dirigible and anti-aircraft gun, but the big bags usually stayed up, did their work, were hawled down and tucked in for the night and sent aloft the next day to act as the eyes for our artillery.

Of course lots of balloons were eventually shot down, but so were airplanes and dirigibles. The number of balloons lost by the U.S. in action was forty-eight and our airmen flattened seventy-three of the Kaiser’s drachens.

A Poor Risk

To service one of these cumbersome bags took the combined muscle and brains of a considerable group of men; even motorcycle messengers, a furrier, shoemaker, tailor, barber, orderlies, etc., were necessary. Around the bag on the ground was spotted a ring of machine-guns and antiaircraft guns. That ring of shooting irons kept most airplanes away. When an ambitious airman did attack a balloon his greeting from the ground took on the aspect of a major attack. His chance of coming out of the scrap the victor and in one piece was so low that any insurance company would consider him a poor risk.

The Pfalz D 13 was one of the last ships put out by the German manufacturer of that name. Its design seems to have been influenced by the Bristol Fighter, one of Britain’s finest fighting ships. Both have the fuselage suspended between the upper and lower wings and the bracing from the fuselage to the lower wing and the undercarriage is very similar. This D 13 was a fast, maneuverable job with a powerful water-cooled motor to pull it. It had to be fast to hop an Allied balloon and down it.

The pilot in the Pfalz was not just a prowler who happened to spot the balloon and look a long chance in attacking. That Pfalz in downing the balloon hoped to save his side a major calamity. The balloon observer has for days been up in his basket with his glasses glued to his eyes; his face to the east and his mouth close to the small telephone transmitter. His words have been actuating receiving diaphrams on the portable receiving station on the ground. Concise information has then been transmitted to battery commanders stationed behind their smoking heavy guns. Those guns have been sighted on enemy troops rushing up to reenforce Hun front line positions. In sighting the guns dozens of artillery officers have used only one pair of eyes, those keen, searching eyes of the balloon observers high in the air whose only life line is a steel cable hooked to a drum winch on the ground.

Stern Orders

Therefore to silence dozens of batteries tearing German troops to pieces it is necessary to blind the Allies lookout. The order the German pilot got was: “Do not come back unless you explode the balloon.” The Pfalz pilot dove on his quarry. Incendiary bullets from his Spandaus ripped into highly explosive hydrogen gas. Poof, the balloon is through! Out bails the observer. The Pfalz pilot yanks at his stick, there is no response from his elevators. Shrapnel from the ground batteries has made a sieve of his plane. All control wires are gone; so is the Pfalz and its pilot.

As the Pfalz tore head on into the ground a second reserve balloon slowly eased itself out of a fake group of trees. A figure disentangled itself from a jumble of ropes, sped toward the anchored basket of the new balloon. He tore away pieces of scorched clothing, leaped into the basket, yelled, “Up ship!” and was slithering up into sky again.

A battery commander miles distant saw the new balloon mounting. He smiled grimly, “I thought they had blinded us, but it was just a cinder in our eye.”

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, February 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“Famous Sky Fighters, March 1938″ by Terry Gilkison

Link - Posted by David on November 4, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

STARTING in the October 1933 issue of Sky Fighters and running almost 5 years, Terry Gilkison’s “Famous Sky Fighters” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Gilkison would illustrate in a two page spread different Aces that rose to fame during the Great War.

Although Gilkison was probably better known for his syndicated newspaper work, he also provided black and white story interior illustrations for pulp magazines. His work appeared in Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Gilkison provided similar features in a few other Thrilling Publications—there was “Famous Soldiers of Fortune” and later “Adventure Thrills” in Thrilling Adventures, Famous Crimes” in Thrilling Detective, and the fully illustrated air adventure stories of Buck Barton “The Flying Devil” in The Lone Eagle! He signed most of this work with only his initials “T.G.” to maintain a low profile and preserve his reputation as a syndicated newspaper cartoon artist.

The March 1938 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, features Col. William A. Bishop, Lt. Elliott Cowden, Captaincies. J.A. Bellinger, Lt. Kiffen Rockwell and the Zeppelin L59!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters”, Terry Gilkison features Georges Thenault, Lt. Jimmy Bach, Mario Galderara, and Captain John H. Towers! Don’t miss it!

“War Eagle” by George Bruce

Link - Posted by David on October 16, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from the highly prolific George Bruce. Bruce, a former pilot, began writing in the 1920’s and became noted for his aerial war stories—several publications even bore his name. In the 1930’s and ’40’s he transitioned into screenwriting for Hollywood action films and then into tv in the 1950’s and ’60’s.

The blurb below explains the whole story:

John Wolfe, Crow Indian, Rides a Sky War-Pony and Comes to Grips With a White-Man’s Scourge Over French Battlefields!

From the November 1937 issue of Sky Fighters, it’s “War Eagle” by George Bruce!

“Famous Sky Fighters, January 1938″ by Terry Gilkison

Link - Posted by David on October 7, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

STARTING in the October 1933 issue of Sky Fighters and running almost 5 years, Terry Gilkison’s “Famous Sky Fighters” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Gilkison would illustrate in a two page spread different Aces that rose to fame during the Great War.

Although Gilkison was probably better known for his syndicated newspaper work, he also provided black and white story interior illustrations for pulp magazines. His work appeared in Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Gilkison provided similar features in a few other Thrilling Publications—there was “Famous Soldiers of Fortune” and later “Adventure Thrills” in Thrilling Adventures, Famous Crimes” in Thrilling Detective, and the fully illustrated air adventure stories of Buck Barton “The Flying Devil” in The Lone Eagle! He signed most of this work with only his initials “T.G.” to maintain a low profile and preserve his reputation as a syndicated newspaper cartoon artist.

The January 1938 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, features Lt. Paul Pavelka, Captain Georges Madon, General Italo Balboas and famous American adventurer Walter Wellman!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters”, Terry Gilkison features Col. William A. Bishop, Lt. Elliott Cowden, Captaincies. J.A. Bellinger, Lt. Kiffen Rockwell and the Zeppelin L59! Don’t miss it!

“Wings of the Lancer” by Arch Whitehouse

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THIS week we have a short, but gripping tale from the prolific pen of Arch Whitehouse! The pilots of No. 17 Squadron, A.E.F., were doing swell until “The Lancer” appeared on the scene. They were flying Spads, which were fair and reasonably effective against anything Jerry had—until the Lancer turned up flying that damned black triplane. There is a law of compensation somewhere in the book, and eventually it worked; for after six Yanks of No. 17 went west, Bob Shawn came up from the Pilot’s Pool. After that, while he never knew it, the Lancer was a marked man. From the March 1937 issue of Sky Fighters, it’s Arch Whitehouse’s “Wings of the Lancer”

Through Flaming Skies, Bob Shawn and Butts Brian Trail a Boche Butcher!

“Sky Fighters, January 1937″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on September 28, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the January 1937 cover, It’s the Morane-Saulnier Parasol type monoplane!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3701THE Morane-Saulnier Parasol type monoplane was used back in 1914 by the French Army for artillery spotting. As the war continued the Parasols were improved each year but they were still doing their work mainly on reconnaissance missions. These sleek little ships were too speedy targets for most opponents, very unlike the majority of two seaters. They could climb well but they had tricks to play on their own pilot if he didn’t know their temperamental shortcomings.

To be taken prisoner by the enemy was usually not such a harassing experience as would be expected. The airmen of both sides were usually gallant foes. If an opponent was knocked out of the skies he was in for a long siege in prison and concentration camps. If he was wounded he got good medical attention before being jailed. Even if he set fire to his crashed plane so that the enemy couldn’t salvage parts he still got a break. Both Germans and Allies did this so it was even Steven.

The New Prop-Firing Gun

Roland Garros, the famous French aviator who first rigged a machine-gun to fire through the whirling propeller arc, was ignominiously forced down behind the German lines. That was a calamity for the Allies, because on the Morane-Saulnier Garros was flying was fixed his new prop-firing gun. He tried desperately to destroy his plane and gun but the German foot soldiers swarmed down on him, put out the fire he had started and discovered his secret gun. The Germans were elated. They considered this prisoner one to be guarded with extra care. They confined him and insisted he sign a record book every half hour. Even with these precautions he escaped.

If an aviator was forced down and showed fight it was just too bad, for after all he was an enemy. Frank Luke, our famous balloon buster, didn’t know what the word surrender meant. He was in the war to fight. He didn’t expect to come out alive. He didn’t like his flying mates. They didn’t like him. His job was to kill Germans, which he did to his last gasping breath. After downing several balloons he was forced down in enemy territory where he was given a chance to give himself up peaceably. He scoffed at the idea, unlimbered his .45 and staged a running fight with infantry. He was killed.

Lieut. W.B. Wanamaker of the 27th Squadron was shot down by Ernst Udet, the now famous German stunt flyer. His plane was badly wrecked and he was badly injured. The German foot soldiers would not help him until Udet landed, took personal charge and saw that Wanamaker was given medical attention and treated like an honorable enemy.

It was not unusual on our side of the lines to bring in a captured Germany flying officer and give him a royal reception at the home tarmac before he was sent back to prison.

An enemy is dangerous as long as he is armed and on his own territory. When one lone opponent is surrounded by the other side and surrenders he ceases to be the foe you’ve been looking for. You’ve got him. Congress, the Kaiser, the King and other tops have made all officers gentlemen, therefore they usually acted as such,

Shrapnel Finds Its Mark

The Morane-Saulnier on the cover was ranging back and forth over German targets when the pilot was hit by a tiny pellet of shrapnel from a German A.A. gun. The Morane with an A-No.1 pilot at the stick was a temperamental gal at its best, but with a pilot badly wounded it took the shortest path to the ground and pancaked behind the German lines. The observer could not burn his plane because the pilot was still alive. He saw two German soldiers rushing towards him. He motioned that he was giving up without a fight by raising his hands. One German soldier came closer. Suddenly he yanked out a Luger and blazed away at the Allied Observer. Down came the Yank’s hands, the Lewis gun snapped to the right. It smashed the German to the ground, unconscious. Back swung the Lewis to the left. A stream of slugs whistled from it at the other German who had now opened fire. One of the slugs smashed the blazing Luger from the enemy’s hand. The Yank ceased firing and brought his sights to bear on an approaching German air officer. The German officer raised his hands and continued to advance. “You are right,” he informed the Yank, “I saw the whole thing. I will not trick you as the soldiers did.”

The Yank climbed out. The two airmen from different sides of the line lifted the unconscious Allied pilot from the front pit. The German officer ordered first aid treatment given to the Allied pilot before the German soldiers who had showed such poor sportsmanship could have their wounds dressed.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, January 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

F.E. Rechnitzer’s “Three Tough Days”

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The Courier-News, Bridgewater, NJ, Friday, 15 November 1918, page 11.

F.E. RECHNITZER tells of his harrowing encounter with a Boche prison camp after his plane was forced to land on the wrong side of the lines. A prisoner of the Germans, this war aviator was given a strange third degree—and made the victim of a Boche Colonel’s grim joke!

Three Tough Days
by F.E. RECHNITZER

FLYING a Sopwith Camel in good weather was a job which kept a pilot on his toes every minute of the time. But in bad weather, with visibility almost zero, and rain driving in over the cowling—well, that was just plain hell.
    And that was just the sort of thing I faced on the morning of September 28th, 1918—the day the Belgians started their drive to rid their country of the grey-clad army of the Kaiser.
    We’d lined up earlier in the morning for patrol duty only to be called back by our C.O., who said that it was murder to send men into the air in that sort of weather. But no sooner had we changed into dry outfits than we were ordered into the air again by the Wing commander.
    So off we hopped at intervals to ground-strafe the enemy from the air while the Belgians hammered away from the ground.
    The first thing I did on reaching the storm-curtained battle in the muck was to look for a target on which to unload my four twenty pounders. For those four bombs nestling under the fuselage didn’t help the flying qualities of my Camel a bit.
    I finally spotted a cluster of transport trucks bogged down in the mud. I circled above them and pulled the bomb toggles. I saw the muck fly, but when the smoke settled the transport was still there. An Aldis sight wasn’t so hot as a bomb aimer even in clear weather.
    I circled over the battlefield again, hiding my head behind the low windshield to escape the impact of the rain.
    Among the things the brass hat had lectured us on back in the mess was the activities of the R.A.F. during the coming drive. We were to take notes on them when the different outfits were to take off—bombers, fighters, ground strafers, photography jobs and the balloon burners.
    I made notes and took the paper back to the hut in an effort to memorize them. Some of the fellows got theirs down pat and burned the paper according to instructions. But I was slow and by bedtime I still wasn’t sure of them, so I put the paper in my pocket, meaning to review it before breakfast, just before shoving off. I hadn’t had a chance, however, and the piece of paper was still in my pocket.
    I thought of it now as I flew along in the storm, fighting the stick every minute of the time to keep my little Camel right side up. I tried to find a target for my machine guns on the ground, but I couldn’t tell a Belgian from a German. Everything was covered with mud. The men I saw traveling northeast might be Huns retreating, and then again they might be Belgians advancing.

THEN suddenly the storm slackened. The driving rain changed to a drifting mist and the ceiling dropped another hundred feet or so.
    Diving lower, I found myself welcomed by a crew of Hun machine-gunners. They poured it into me plenty, so back into the soup I ducked.
vHow long that ducking business kept up I don’t know. But I soon discovered that I was well lost, muddled, befuddled and all the rest of it. My compass was spinning like a top and everything on the ground looked alike. And every time I went down below the ceiling to take a look around, the Germans on the ground made it hot for me. At least I knew I was still over enemy-held territory.
    I tried my best to get straightened out, but it was no go. I might as well have been flying in China for all I could recognize on the plastered terrain below.
    Presently I swept low, and much to my relief not a shot was fired at me. Not a single tracer steamed through the swirling mist. Right then my old heart settled back to normal revs. That would mean that I was back within my own lines.
    But where? I didn’t hanker to get caught in another grey wall of mist and then find myself out over the North Sea. So I decided to set down in one of the fields below and ask where I was, locate some landmark and dig for home.
    I picked out a field, slid in for a landing and glanced around as I unfastened my belt. Somebody shouted. I looked over my shoulder to see three grey-clad figures break out of the bushes alongside the road bordering the field.

THEY were Huns!
    I slammed the throttle up against the post. The Clerget picked up the beat and dragged the Camel over the far hedge.
    Wham! Something hit the ship with a crash. The Clerget coughed, and I had a hunch I knew what had happened. Soon my nose told me I was right. A lucky shot from one of those Hun rifles had smacked my fuel tank.
    In a flash I reached for the valve of my reserve tank. Wonder of miraculous wonders, it began to feed right away. I heard another volley as the Camel dug for the low-hanging mists, while I wiped the sweat off my forehead with my sleeve. What a story I’d have to tell!
    Then it dawned on me that I still had to find my way back to the squadron before I could tell anybody anything.
    I tried blind flying, but it was no go—not with just a compass, an airspeed indicator and a tachometer to help me. Well, to save time—I mean in telling what happened—I ran out of gas. My reserve tank, holding a half hour’s supply, went dry and I had to land.
    Snapping off the switch, I headed for a beet field, set my trucks down in the mud. I was about to congratulate myself on making a good landing when the wheels dropped into a ditch and the Camel stood up on its nose. I jumped to the ground—and turned to face three civilians.

THEY all started to talk at once in a language that didn’t mean a thing to me. I soon decided that they were Belgians talking Flemish. But it might as well have been Arabic for all it meant to me.
    So I went into a pantomime act, trying my best to inform them that I wanted to reach a telephone. At last one of them nodded that he understood and pointed across the field to a road.
    I grinned and sighed with relief. Evidently, I thought, I had landed on my own side of the lines.
    Just as we reached the road we met a girl and two youngsters who were evidently hurrying to see the plane which had landed on its nose.
    The girl, a kid of about seventeen, stopped and spoke to me. I recognized a German word or two, but couldn’t quite get what she said. Then she tried French. I shrugged my shoulders, and muttered something in English. She laughed and replied in well-accented English.
    “You are an English aviator?” she asked, apparently surprised. “What are you doing here on the road?”
    “Going to telephone my squadron an’ tell them to send a tender for me,” I replied. “But I’m American, not English.”
    “Do you not know that this is Boche territory?” she said.
    “Boche!” I yelped. “You—you mean that I’m down on the wrong side of the lines?”
    She nodded and the rest of them shook their heads in agreement, and began to point in all directions.
    I was finally convinced and started back to perform the rite of burning my ship before it fell into the hands of the enemy. To do this, I had to lug some sheaves of wheat from a bordering field. I refused to allow the willing Belgians to help me for fear of getting them into a jam.
    Now a bus will catch fire quite easily when you don’t want it to burn. But try to get one perking on purpose. That’s a different story. I had to break open my oil tank with my Very light pistol, finally pounding for dear life with the heavy barrel, and then smear oil over the fuselage, before I finally managed to get the fabric to curling merrily.
    Then we hustled away from there, with the girl in the lead.

THE Belgians and the kids disappeared after we left the field, but the girl stayed, and motioned me toward a house just at the edge of the village which was now in sight.
    We entered the house and I took off my fur-lined flying suit which I had put on in place of the one that had gotten wet earlier in the day. Just as I handed it to the young chap who seemed to be the man of the house, a steady rattle of shots reached our ears.
    The boy and girl turned pale and glanced at each other fearfully. For a moment I could picture the house being raided by half the German army. Then I realized what had happened. In my hurry to burn the Camel and get away I had forgotten all about the ammunition left in my Vickers belts. Now they were popping way in the fire just a few fields away. Those Belgians were plenty scared and they had a right to be. Helping Allied soldiers to escape was a serious offense. The noise of those shots would surely attract attention. I cursed myself bitterly for my forgetfulness.
    Through the window of the steamy little kitchen we saw a group of Germans hustle by in a few minutes.
    “I’ve got to get away from here before they begin to search,” I said to the girl. “How far is it to Holland?”
    “About ten kilometers,” she said, pointing toward the north. The man interrupted. She spoke to him a moment and then continued. “He says you must be careful of the electric wire if you plan to make an attempt to get into Holland.”
    I’d heard plenty about that hellish wire, but I was determined to try.
    The old lady of the house fixed me up a cup of strong black stuff that passed for coffee and gave me a couple of slices of black bread smeared with lard.
    “I’ll save that for later,” I said, pocketing the bread. “I’m going to try and make the Border tonight, and slip through the wire at dawn. I’ll be hungry by then.”
    The young fellow went upstairs and came back down with a coat and a pair of trousers in his hand. The clothes weren’t new but fitted fairly well.
    As I slipped the coat on the girl handed me a half dozen lumps of sugar. “Smuggled from Holland,” she smiled.
    I thanked her and slipped the sugar into the pocket of my Bedford Cords, little realizing the part that sugar would play before the day was over. Then I put on the trousers, wrapped my scarf around my neck and put on an old cap the young fellow had taken from a nail. I transferred the two slices of bread to my coat pocket, and turned to the girl.
    “If you can,” I said, “notify my folks that I’m all right.” I gave her the address, which she wrote down.
    “The Burgomaster will see that your people get word,” she said as she folded the paper and slipped it into her dress.
    I thanked the people in whose house I had rested, through the girl, and then started out, hoping to get to the Dutch Border by dark.
    The boy had informed me that a brook about a kilometer west of the village ran due north to the Border and that if I followed that I would have little trouble keeping my direction. I found the brook and turned my face toward Holland and freedom.

I DON’T think I had traveled three miles before I was startled out of my wits by a man stepping out from a clump of bushes. He didn’t say a word as he handed me three raw eggs. I was a little suspicious as I took the eggs, but when I saw the light in the old man’s eyes I knew that he was trying to do his bit toward helping the cause. He had recognized me as a stranger and evidently guessed the rest.
    Putting the eggs in my coat pocket I hustled on, keeping to the brook and crossing under roads by walking in the water under the low bridges.
    Presently I came to a bridge with a wire across it which forced me to cross the road. I crawled up the bank, and just as I started across I saw an old woman come out from behind the walls of a barnyard. Now I hate to think that that old Belgian woman had anything to do with what occurred a couple of minutes later. But this is what happened: She looked me over from the other side of the bridge. Her eyes took in the thick flying boots I had partly covered with my tattered trousers. Then she turned around and went back into the barnyard.
    By the time I was across the road I heard a shout. I looked back to see two Germans wearing brass breast plates dangling by a chain on their chests. These plates, I found out later, denoted that the men were military police.
    One of them fired a shot as I jumped into the brook and started to splash through the water. Another shot and they were in the brook too. I jumped up on the bank and then back into the brook as I ran trying to duck the slugs cutting through the bushes. As I went I ripped the two slices of bread from my pocket and threw them into the bushes, hoping to shield the Belgians if I were caught.
    I came to a wall. I thought of jumping over, running along the wall on the other side, then popping back again. I’d seen that done once in the movies. But, as usual, things didn’t happen the way they happen in the movies. For as I jumped over I dropped right into the arms of a German who was walking along the path inside the wall.
    He said something which I did not understand, but I did understand the language of the gun he held against my belly. I reached for the clouds, which were beginning to lift, by the way, but a couple of hours too late.
    The only funny feature of my capture was the eggs. One of the other Huns began to frisk me the minute he came over the wall. When his hands touched the eggs he jumped, and began to point with lots of excited words at my pocket. I was sure he was saying something about grenades, so I reached in and took out the eggs. He looked so sheepish I had to laugh.
    After a little discussion they took me to a village, got a two wheeled cart and loaded me on. There I sat, a guard on either side with ready rifles and two following along on bicycles. I was feeling low and pretty desperate by now.
    It was almost dark when we reached the next village. I wouldn’t have known where I was if it hadn’t been for the girl. I saw her standing beside the road as we passed. As she saw me her face paled and she turned hurriedly away.
    “You know this town?” asked one of my guards in broken English.
    I shook my head.
    He asked me that same question in a dozen different ways while the cart stood in the village square, and each time I insisted that it might be any one of the hundreds of villages in Belgium as far as I was concerned.
    At last an automobile appeared on the scene and in a few minutes I was being whisked away to headquarters in Eecloo. It was here that the fireworks really started.

AFTER a few preliminary questions by a major, the coat and trousers which I had put on over my flying togs were taken away from me, together with the cap. Then I was led in to a high ceilinged office, to face a square-faced old colonel “Sit down,” he growled. For a few moments he looked me over. “So,” he finally went on, “we catch a British flyer behind our lines wearing civilian clothes over his uniform.”
    Right then the dumb trick I had pulled hit me right between the eyes, and he knew what I was thinking. He took off his glasses and sat playing with them as he looked at me. I felt like a cornered rat looking at a cat.
    “You have had help on this side,” he finally snapped.
    I shook my head.
    “Then where did you get these?”
    He motioned toward the coat and trousers.
    I had my story ready. I’d been thinking about those clothes on the way. So I looked him straight in the eye and went to it.
    “Why,” I said, “I went into an old barn this morning to get out of the rain. They were hanging on a peg so I stole them. Thought they would make it easier for me to get into Holland.”
    The old fellow glared. “And the eggs?” he barked.
    “Got them in the same place,” I bluffed. “Just as I was leaving I saw a hen on a nest and kicked her off and there were those eggs. If I’d waited a couple of minutes I might have had four.”
    The colonel’s eyes glowered at me across the desk. “That’s a lie,” he thundered. “These Belgians must be taught a lesson and I mean to find out who aided you.”
    I shrugged my shoulders. “Who would help a flyer to escape, especially give him clothes?” I argued.
    The colonel leaned back in his chair. I can see him yet in that dimly lighted room, his stubby fingers touching together under his chin. I can see the sly smile steal across his face as he leaned forward suddenly.
    “How can you prove that you are an aviator who was trying to escape?” He pointed toward the coat and trousers. “Remember, you were caught wearing these.”
    “But you found my plane, didn’t you?” I asked.
    “My dear fellow,” he grinned. “A dozen or more of your planes came down in our territory today. Have you any particular plane in mind?”
    I sighed in relief at this bit of news. I said:
    “I burned the ship I came down in; that’s orders, you know. It was a Camel.”
    He picked up a slip of paper, glanced over it for a moment, then turned to me. “We have three burned Sopwith Camels on our list. Could you by any chance name a town near which you came down? Surely you know the country well.” I shook my head and settled lower in my chair. His questions were getting awkward.
    “You realize that if you cannot prove that you are a pilot there is a severe penalty for being found behind our lines in civilian clothes?” he said steadily.
    I couldn’t think of an answer to that one. I was pretty worried by now.

HE BEGAN to write on a paper he had before him. For a while there wasn’t a sound except the scratching of the pen. He seemed to have either forgotten me or was giving the words he had just spoken a chance to sink in. And believe me they were sinking. So was my heart.
    I slumped lower in the chair, and stretched my tired legs and put my hands in my pockets. My fingers touched the sugar, then something else that made my heart flop over. It was paper! I knew in a flash that it was the notes I had taken down as the brass hat outlined the air activities for the first two days of the push. One day had passed, but there was another to come. And the information on that slip of paper would be very clear to this German officer.
    The information would not have much bearing on the outcome of the war. But it did mean that with that information in their possession the German airmen might be at the right place at the right time, and some Allied pilot might go west because of my negligence.
    Now I was glad that they had been so busy asking me questions which they hoped would allow them to vent their spleen on some unfortunate Belgian or two, that they had overlooked searching me.
    I had to get rid of that paper before somebody thought of going through my uniform!
    Then I got an idea. Taking a piece of sugar from my pocket I sat toying with it, tossing it into the air and catching it.
    “What is that?” snapped the colonel looking up,
    I tried to be casual as I held it out to him, and more casual as I said, “Just a lump of sugar. Always carry it with me. Fond of sweets.”
    He took it, examined it and then handed it back with a growl, I slipped it into my mouth and began to chew, making as much noise as possible.
    While I ate the first lump I squirmed around in my chair restlessly. While I wriggled I tore off a fair sized piece of the paper and wrapped it around a lump of sugar.
    I slipped it quickly into my mouth and went on with my crunching, and at the same time wrapped up another lump in the precious notes. Once or twice the colonel looked up in annoyance as I ground the sugar between my teeth. But I remained impervious to his glances and continued to munch my sugar.
    It took four lumps and a lot of swallowing, but I did away with the notes and believe me, wet paper sure can stick in a person’s throat.
    After a while he turned his attention to me again and began to ask questions about what was going on over on the other side. When I told him that he more than likely knew more about what was going on than I did, he got peeved. I tried to explain that we got our war information from the papers and that they were usually three or four days old. When I offered to bet him a pound that he had already seen that day’s London papers, he got mad. He finally ordered them to take me to another room and search me.
    They did. that. But all they found after stripping me to the hide, was two lumps of sugar, a package of cigarettes and fifteen francs. They were half an hour late.
    Then they gave me something to eat and left me to myself. I had nothing to do but think and do a lot of wishing. I did plenty of both.
    About ten o’clock I was called into the colonel’s office. He seemed quite friendly. Offered me a cigarette and I countered by offering him one of mine. He put his away and took mine. Then the questions started again. He wanted information about who had helped me. When he drew a blank there he went after war information and again discovered that when it came to knowledge about the activities of the Allies I was a numskull of the first water.
    Then things took an ugly turn. He began to talk about trading. It was my life for information against my Belgian friends or information about the Allied activities.

I TRIED to convince him that I didn’t know a thing about the Allied maneuvers and that no one had helped me. He persisted that I had at least heard rumors, and that he didn’t believe I had stolen the clothes.
    “We can shoot you as a spy for masquerading behind enemy lines/’ he threatened.
    I had a hunch he was bluffing. I realized that I had done wrong in putting on those clothes. Perhaps they did have a right to put me up in front of a firing squad. But I didn’t think they’d dare. The Belgians had seen me come down. I had been paraded through two villages whose inhabitants would no doubt tell the British that I had been seen alive in the hands of the Germans.
    My line of reasoning might have been all wrong. I’m not sure yet that it wasn’t. And what happened a morning or so later had me convinced at the time that it was.
    Day and night were the same. Questions at ungodly hours, until I began to ponder over the feasibility of giving the old boy some false information.
    On the morning of the third day a young officer came into the room and told me to dress. Wondering what was up now, I followed him downstairs. But instead of going to the colonel’s office, we went outside.
    There, lined up on the garden path was a squad of soldiers, six of them. I had lots of time to count them before I was through. The men fell in at my side and led by the officer we walked down the garden path.
    I thought of a million things as the officer told me to step from the path and stand by the wall.
    There was the way. There was the officer. There was the firing squad. And there was I, scared to death.
    The officer offered me a cigarette, but I shook my head.
    I’ve often seen pictures and movies of men facing a firing squad and they always refused a bandage for their eyes. They were supposed to be brave men, not afraid to look down the long barreled rifles from whose blazing muzzles slugs would fly and tear their manly chests to shreds.
    Perhaps that’s the way a brave man should act, but I didn’t feel that way about it. If there had been a potato sack handy I would gladly have crawled in and then asked somebody to tie me up.

    I glanced up at the back window of headquarters. There stood the old colonel, grinning as he looked down where I stood with my back against a garden wall quaking in my rubber-soled flying boots. The boots were lined with sheep’s wool, but my feet were cold.
    I heard a motor stop outside, and wondered if there were going to be witnesses. My heart looped and then went into a side-slip as the officer shouted a command.
    The rifles rattled, but instead of pointing at me they dropped to the men’s shoulders. Bewildered, I turned to the officer. He smiled and pointed to the gate, where the soldiers waited. My knees were like fresh putty as I walked through that gate.
    “Get in.” The officer pointed toward the car. I crawled in, and in a few minutes we were standing on the platform of a railroad station.
    “You were frightened back there in the garden, yes?” grinned the officer.
    “Frightened!” I almost yelled. “What do you think? Say, what was the big idea?”

THE officer laughed. “It was just the colonel’s little joke.
    “Yes, you see he had been threatening to have you shot as a spy when you would give him no information. Last night he thought of this as a farewell as you leave for the prison camp at Rasstatt. It was not funny to you, was it? I could not help, could not tell you, for he stood in the window.”
    For a moment I was speechless. “Listen,” I said, tapping the young officer on the chest. “If he likes jokes, tell him this one and see if he thinks it’s funny. Maybe he’ll decide the joke’s on him.”
    Then I told the young German about what I had done with the notes and how I had used the sugar to accomplish my purpose. His eyes opened a bit wider as I spread it on, stretching the importance of the paper a point or two.
    “Be sure an’ tell him everything,” I snapped.
    “I shall tell him,” the officer smiled.
    “But I do not think he will consider it funny.” He paused and glanced at the guards. “But I do,” he whispered.
    The train came in. I left for Rasstatt in company with an armed guard sitting on either side.
    I’m certain that the officer must have given the colonel my message, for no word about me reached either the States or England until after I had been released and sent into Switzerland a couple of months later. Evidently the colonel was having a last crack at getting even.
    At home I was given up for dead. Letters of condolence came to my people as word of my supposed demise spread. I’ve read those letters. They were nice, but they raised the devil with my ego.


Sky Fighters art department knocked up this facsimile of an official
communication regarding the Rechnitzer’s fate.

And quite a while later, news of Rechnitzer’s safe release is reported in The Courier-News!


The Courier-News, Bridgewater, NJ, Friday, 10 December 1918, page 6.

“Famous Sky Fighters, November 1937″ by Terry Gilkison

Link - Posted by David on September 9, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

STARTING in the October 1933 issue of Sky Fighters and running almost 5 years, Terry Gilkison’s “Famous Sky Fighters” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Gilkison would illustrate in a two page spread different Aces that rose to fame during the Great War.

Although Gilkison was probably better known for his syndicated newspaper work, he also provided black and white story interior illustrations for pulp magazines. His work appeared in Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Gilkison provided similar features in a few other Thrilling Publications—there was “Famous Soldiers of Fortune” and later “Adventure Thrills” in Thrilling Adventures, Famous Crimes” in Thrilling Detective, and the fully illustrated air adventure stories of Buck Barton “The Flying Devil” in The Lone Eagle! He signed most of this work with only his initials “T.G.” to maintain a low profile and preserve his reputation as a syndicated newspaper cartoon artist.

The November 1937 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, features Captain Donald MacLaren, Captain W.D. “Bill” Williams, Roland Garros and Anthony Fokker!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters”, Terry Gilkison features Lt. Paul Pavelka, Captain Georges Madon, General Italo Balboas and famous American adventurer Walter Wellman! Don’t miss it!

“The Return of Silent Orth” by Lt. Frank Johnson

Link - Posted by David on August 14, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

ORTH is back for one last battle! Silent Orth had made an enviable record, in the face of one of the worst beginnings—a beginning which had been so filled with boasting that his wingmates hadn’t been able to stand it. But Orth hadn’t thought of all his talk as boasting, because he had invariably made good on it. However, someone had brought home to him the fact that brave, efficient men were usually modest and really silent, and he had shut his mouth like a trap from that moment on.

it had been nine months since the previous Silent Orth story graced the pages of Sky Fighters, but the quiet pilot has returned for one final dogfight in Hell skies! Seriously injured and captured by the Germans, Orth finds his way back to an Allied hospital only to be blown back into action by German bombs—and it’s pure retribution for the trio of German Aces who tried to stop him! It’s “The Return of Silent Orth” from the pages of the December 1936 Sky Fighters!

A Hun Bomb Blasts a Wounded Yank from a Hospital Cot to the Middle of Battle!

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