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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, June 1935″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

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

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. For the June 1935 cover, Mr. Frandzen features the Sopwith Dolphin and the Fokker D VIII!

The Ships on the Cover

TWO of the last ships to th_SF_3506 get into the air to swap lead in the World War were the Fokker D8 and the Sopwith Dolphin. The Dolphin had four exposed machine-guns, two Vickers shooting through the propeller arc and two Lewis guns shooting over the top of the arc at 45 degrees. The Dolphin’s pilot had good visibility with his top wing cut away and his office parked directly beneath this opening. His vision depended only on how far he could swivel his neck without putting it out of joint.

The Fokker D8, also known as the “Flying Razor,” was Fokker’s last contribution to Germany’s air fleet. He built it around an Oberursel motor because he could not depend on delivery of the Mercedes motors which he had used in his famous D7.

These Oberursel engines had been kicking around for months before Fokker finally in desperation figuratively jacked them up and built planes around them. Not many of these planes got to the front, but those that did, were used to good advantage. Udet, the famous German Ace flew the D8, and liked it. It was not as fast as Fokker would have liked because of the limited power of the rotary in its nose. But its ability to maneuver like a streak of greased lightning got it places where it could do things quicker than some planes with greater power which answered to their controls sluggishly.

Many Balloon Victories

Balloon busting was not confined to such sharpshooters as our own Frank Luke or Belgium’s Willy Coppens. Scattered through the official records of the Allies are scores of balloon victories chalked up to the credit of its flyers. Each of those downed bags represented a drain on the Kaiser’s money bags up to as high as $100,000. Therefore, the balloon falling in flames put a dent equal to from three to six war planes in the German finances.

As the Germans entered the last year of the war their supplies for making their kite balloons, or drachens, was at a premium. Where, in the early war stages, a half dozen of the cumbersome observation bags could be seen strung along four to six miles behind their lines, now only an occasional balloon floated.

“Blind the German’s observation,” was the terse order issued to all Allied armies.

By telephone, wireless, and despatches, this command raced along the lines. Long range guns poured streams of whistling shells into the skies. Their hits were few and far between. The ammunition wasted could have flattened mountains. The gunners gave up and watched tiny specks far up in the skies darting past, fading into the smoky war haze and disappearing over German territory.

Racing Through the Blue

Spads, Nieuports, Bristols, Moranes, Sop Camels, S.E.5’s raced through the heavens. Then the new Sopwith Dolphins flashed their black-staggered wings against an orange sky. Hisso motors yanked them toward a mountainous section where a German balloon had been floating unharmed for months. The massive gas bag was swaying swiftly down to its retreat between rocky crags as the Sopwith tipped their stubby noses down and blazed incendiaries into it. Smoke, then flame belched forth as the porcine mass writhed, collapsed and sank.

Two small monoplanes, one climbing rapidly. Another, diving, bracketed the Dolphins. Incendiary bullets were in the Sops’ Vickers belts, bullets that are outlawed for warfare against man. Down tipped the nose of one Dolphin, up went the prop of the other. Lewis guns bucked in their mounts, streams of orthodox bullets connected the enemy plane with the Dolphins. Two black-crossed monoplanes, “Flying Razors,” staggered in their flight. Blunted and dulled, they fluttered like discarded razor blades pitched from a roof, down into the purple haze of oblivion.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, June 1935 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

Next time, Mr. Frandzen features the Spad 22 and 13 C1!