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Dare-Devil Aces, Dec. 1940


Awesome artwork is it not?

My wife and I go to flea markets, rummage sales and antique stores as one of our shared interests.

We do not buy much given that we live in a condo with limited space and our interests are narrow.

This past Saturday we went to a flea market and I found a gentlemen with a box full of WW2 Life Magazines and a smaller box full of pulp fiction that dealt with war aviation themes from the 1930s to 40s. It was a bonanza for a history geek like me especially because the WW2 Life Magazines were only $3.00 each!

Dare-Devil Aces (pictured above) cost a bit more and is an example of the pulp fiction magazines that were popular during the Depression and WW2 years.

Dare-Devil Aces was part of a publishing empire called Popular Publications founded by Henry (Harry) Seeger. Seeger’s motive was escapist literature to the masses-a niche that TV, movies and video games now fill more than the printed page.

Dare-Devil Aces was a type of pulp fiction that was based in the realities of WW1 and WW2 aviation and the issue I found (cover above) is from December, 1940. That is one full year before the US entered WW2 and at a time when England was under daily attack from the German Luftwaffe.

The cover of the Dare-Devil Aces never had anything to do with one of the particular stories in the magazine so it’s helpful to say something about the historical part (the airplanes in the artwork) and the pulp fiction part (the stories in the magazine).

The Historical Part

The cover was meant to convey a general theme and for most of the 1940 issues the general theme would have been the Royal Air Force versus the German Luftwaffe given the fact that 1940 was the year of the famous Battle of Britian.

The Battle of Britain was fought after France fell in May of 1940. The British were forced to evacuate France and did so in the epic of Dunkirk.

The Germans made plans invade England (Operation Sea Lion) but first had to attain air superiority in order to protect the troop conveys and prevent the Royal Navy from intervening.

Herman Goering promised Hitler that his Luftwaffe was up to the task but do to some strategic errors and the incredible pluck of the RAF the Luftwaffe failed. Great Britain would remain free from German occupation and eventually serve as the launching pad for the Normandy Invasion in June of 1944.

Despite some isolationist elements in the US many Americans were unabashedly pro-British and took an interest in how England was faring and what the US was doing to help them. Dare-Devil Aces was therefore quite popular with Americans who wanted to destroy Nazism and who saw it as the threat it was.

The Dare-Devil Aces cover  shows three Stuka dive-bombers, one of which is getting shot down. The British planes engaging the Stuka’s appear to be Bolton Paul Defiants, a two-seat aircraft sporting four .303 machine guns in the rear turret.

The ground scene seems to illustrate the British evacuation of Dunkirk earlier in 1940.

That’s about it for the history and the fact is both types of aircraft were obsolete by 1940 and in the case of the two-seat Defiant was quickly withdrawn or used in secondary theaters of war.

The Stuka too was withdrawn from the Battle of Britain because it was slow and vulnerable to the RAF’s Spitfires and Hurricane fighters. It would serve on effectively in other theaters as long as the Germans could maintain fighter air superiority to protect them.

The Pulp Fiction Part

Pulp fiction was never meant to convey historical fact. The stories in this particular issue are either part of a series or stand alone stories that have a fictionalized hero or heroes that triumph over great odds or significant obstacles to get the upper hand.

In the story I read the culprit is a Nazi bomber commander named Von Benz. In 1940 all Germans were considered Nazis in pulp fiction and Von Benz is typical of what you might expect of a Nazi-a cold blooded killer of women and children and a pilot that machine guns British pilots who have bailed out. Nasty guy for sure.

The story revolved around an American named Gary in the RAF (there was an Eagle Squadron of Americans who did fly in the RAF prior to the US entry but the story has nothing to do with the historical Eagle Squadron) and his closest British pilot friend, Bob.

Gary and Bob are both Spitfire pilots. (In 1940 there were way more Hurricanes than Spitfires but even in 1940 the glamor of the “Spit” was already evident.)

Von Benz is either directly responsible or indirectly responsible for a number of atrocities; one of which kills Bob’s mother and sister-the gal Gary is falling in love with (of course).

Gary and Bob vow vengeance with their Spitfires and both get shot down over France where the Luftwaffe base is located. Gary the American is shot down after Bob had been shot down some days earlier in the same place (of course).

Gary the hero (good to have an American hero for American readers) manages  in James Bond fashion to kill a German soldier and steal his uniform (and Luger) and fake his way into Von Benz’s HQ at the Luftwaffe base (of course).

There he encounters an earlier nemesis-a British Captain named Stanton who as it turns out is collaborating with the Nazis, something Stanton has accused “the American” of doing earlier and had resulted in a fist fight with Stanton losing (of course).

Needless to say Gary triumphs over Stanton, the Nazi guards and then the evil Von Benz himself (of course).

The story is pure propaganda designed to get Americans fired up about supporting Great Britain while we were officially neutral.

In fact the magazine editor in his preface to the issue calls American neutrality “pseudo-neutrality” since by that time we were all in for the British supplying WW1 destroyers for conveys and supplies of every kind.

Most Dare-Devil Aces magazines sell for $25.00 or more depending on condition and availability. My issue cost $10.00 (note the cover prince of 10 cents) which is more than I’d like but truth be known you hardly ever find them at flea markets or antique stores.

The cover pictured above is from the iNet as the one I purchased is not so clean.


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