Air War's Greatest Aces...

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  1. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Air War's Greatest Aces

    Engaging in combat thousands of feet above the earth, the fighter pilot has long been recognized as a daring, larger- than-life individual. Those who achieved the status of 'ace' during World War II rank among the conflict's greatest legends.
    By Jon Guttman

    The term "as" (ace) was first coined by the French in World War I and came to refer to an airman who had destroyed five or more enemy aircraft in aerial combat. By the time that conflict ended, on November 11, 1918, most of the major warring powers had produced their share of fighter pilots who had acquired that charismatic sobriquet. Some, like Germany's Werner Voss, Canada's William Avery Bishop and America's Frank Luke, were brilliant loners. Others, including Germany's Oswald Boelcke, Britain's Edward Mannock and Austria-Hungary's Godwin Brumowski, distinguished themselves as much through their leadership as by their individual achievements. A few, like France's Georges Guynemer, America's Eddie Rickenbacker, England's Albert Ball, Italy's Francesco Baracca and Germany's Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen -- the Red Baron -- became not only nationally but internationally recognized heroes.

    Even during World War I, the fundamental principles of air superiority made it clear that skillful teamwork rather than individual prowess counted as much in the air as on the ground. At the same time, however, the very nature of aerial combat made it necessary to nurture an aggressive spirit in the fighter pilot. Consequently, the ace mystique was to survive as an essential air force tradition.
    During the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War and incidents between Japan and China spurred an earnest renewal of aerial warfare and, with it, the development of new aerial tactics. Most notably, massed formations of aircraft and individual dogfights, as practiced during World War I, were replaced by the coordinated use of mutually supporting pairs of fighters, a technique attributed to Werner Mölders, the leading ace of Germany's Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. Variations on that theme would subsequently acquire names such as "finger four," "Thach weave" and "mowing machine." When World War II broke out in September 1939, the concept of aerial superiority was no longer just a desirable adjunct but an essential element of victory. The result was aerial warfare and air battles of unprecedented scale. From that struggle, a new generation of aerial champions emerged to capture the public's imagination -- this time not merely over Europe, but on a truly global stage.

    Both the German Luftwaffe and the Italian Regia Aeronautica entered World War II with a wealth of experience, gained by the units they had sent to Spain. The Italians, however, continued to use the same massed dogfighting tactics they had employed in World War I, whereas the leading German ace of the Spanish Civil War, Werner Mölders (14 victories), had devised a flexible formation of mutually supporting pairs of wingmen called the finger four -- a fundamental tactic that gave birth to numerous variations on both sides.

    During the German invasion of Poland in 1939 -- and the invasions of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France in 1940 -- several Condor Legion veterans added to their scores, as did the talented disciples who profited from their experience. The Battle of Britain compelled the German fighter pilots, especially the Messerschmitt Me-109E pilots, to fly at maximum range, limiting the amount of time they could "mix it up" with their Royal Air Force (RAF) opponents.

    Nevertheless, they took a heavy toll of British aircraft, with three pilots in particular -- Mölders, Adolf Galland and Helmut Wick -- emerging as the leading Experten of the battle. On October 22, 1940, Mölders was the first to reach 50 victories, but on November 28, Wick moved into the lead by scoring his 56th. On that same day, however, his career was terminated over the Isle of Wight by an RAF ace, Flt. Lt. John Dundas (13 1/2 victories), who was himself killed moments later by Wick's wingman.

    While the Germans were amassing high scores over Europe, even more astonishing successes were being achieved by the outnumbered airmen of Finland following the invasion of their country by Soviet forces on November 29, 1939. Flying Fokker D.XXIs, Gloster Gladiators and even 1920s-vintage Bristol Bulldogs, the Finns inflicted tremendous punishment on their Soviet opponents before Finland, overwhelmed on the ground, was forced to cede part of the Karelian Isthmus to the victorious Soviets on March 12, 1940. The leading Finnish ace of the Winter War, Jorma Sarvanto, was credited with 13 Soviet aircraft, including six bombers downed in four minutes on January 6, 1940. He would add four more to that total during the so-called Continuation War, between 1941 and 1943.

    Italy's entry into the war in June 1940 expanded the battlefront to Africa and the Mediterranean. In the sideshow of East Africa, Mario Visentini, flying a Fiat C.R.42 biplane against even more antiquated relics such as Gloster Gladiators, Hawker Furies and Vickers Wellesleys, downed 17 British aircraft before crashing to his death on a fog-covered Ethiopian mountainside in May 1941.

    On June 22, 1941, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, and the Luftwaffe's battle-seasoned Experten enjoyed an unprecedented field day against outdated Russian aircraft flown by poorly led, inexperienced pilots. By the end of June, Mölders had become the first airman to pass Manfred von Richthofen's score of 80, and on July 15 he became the first ace to pass the 100 mark, scoring his 101st victory of World War II (and 115th overall). He was then grounded and appointed Inspektor der Jagdflieger, but while Mölders was returning to Berlin to attend the funeral of Ernst Udet on November 22, 1941, his plane crashed, killing the father of Luftwaffe fighter tactics. Adolf Galland assumed Mölders' title and went on to become the commander of German fighters and Germany's youngest general.

    In their invasion of Russia, the Germans were accompanied by several allies, all of whom contributed air arms and produced aces. Although initially equipped with Avia B.534 biplanes and later hand-me-down Messerschmitt Me-109Es, the Slovak 13 Stihaci Letky (fighter flight) managed to produce several notable pilots, including Slovak ace-of-aces Ján Reznak with 32 victories. Romanian aces such as Prince Constantine Cantacuzeno, Alexandre Serbanescu and Dan Vizante used Heinkel He-112Bs, Polish PZL P-24s and indigenously built IAR-80s and IAR-81s as well as Me-109s to down their share of Soviet aircraft. Hungarians started out in Fiat C.R.42s and Reggiane Re.2000s, but the most successful were the Me-109 pilots of Aladar de Heppes' 5/1 "Puma" Group. Puma aces would include György Debrödy, who survived the war with 18 Russian and eight American aircraft to his credit, and Heppes himself, with four Russians and four Americans.

    Formed after the Germans overran Yugoslavia, the Fascist republic of Croatia supplied two groups of Fiat G.50s, later re-equipped with Me-109Gs and attached to German Jagdgeschwader (JG) 52. The Croat group's commander, Fanjo Dzal, scored 13 victories, while its leading ace, Cvitan Galic, had 34 by May 1943.

    Finland entered what it called the Continuation War more as a co-belligerent than as an ally of Germany, hoping only to regain the territory it had lost in 1940. Equipped with Fokker D.XXIs, Fiat G.50s, Morane-Saulnier 406s, Curtiss H-75As (the export version of the P-36) and Brewster B-239 Buffaloes before Me-109Gs became available, the Finnish fighter pilots continued to amass phenomenal scores. Their leading ace, Eino Juutilainen, got a total of 94 1/6, while second-ranking ace Hans Wind's 75 included 39 in the Buffalo -- a record for that much-maligned fighter that would have astonished its American and British pilots.

    Although Spain was officially neutral during World War II, a number of Spanish Civil War veterans volunteered to fight over Russia, as a way of repaying Germany and Italy for their earlier aid, flying Me-109s with JG.27 and later JG.51. The leading Spanish ace over Russia was Gonzalo Hevia Quiñones, with 12 confirmed victories, followed by Mariano Cuadra Medina with 10.

    Although Western fighters were more of a challenge to their German opponents than Russian planes were, it was an Me-109F Experte flying in support of Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps in North Africa who achieved the all-time record for enemy aircraft shot down in one day: Hans-Joachim Marseille downed 17 in three sorties on September 1, 1942. Marseille's total of 158 was the highest in the West, but he died in an accident on September 30.

    In October 1943, Walter Nowotny became the first Luftwaffe ace to pass the 250 mark. After downing number 255, he was withdrawn to serve as an instructor, but in 1944 he returned to combat as leader of a special unit, Kommando Nowotny, formed around the new Messerschmitt Me-262A jet fighter. Nowotny scored three more victories with the jet -- making him the leading Austrian ace of the war -- but on November 8, 1944, he was shot down and killed by a North American P-51D Mustang flown by 1st Lt. Edward R. Haydon.

    Italy surrendered to the Allies in September 1943, but a contingent of die-hard Fascisti continued to fight for Benito Mussolini and the Republica Socialista Italiana (RSI) in the north. Adriano Visconti, with 19 victories prior to September 1943, brought his total up to 26 with the RSI, thereby becoming the World War II Italian ace of aces, but he ended up sharing a fate similar to that of the Duce he had so faithfully served -- shot as he was surrendering to left-wing Italian partisans in Milan on April 29, 1945.

    By early 1944, Nazi Germany was facing inevitable defeat. The spring and summer of 1944 saw the U.S. Fifteenth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign against southern and eastern European cities reach its climax, with the outnumbered air arms of several German allies making their last defiant stands. A Bulgarian Me-109G pilot, Stoyan Stoyanov, brought down five Americans before his country's small air arm was overwhelmed. Croatia's Cvitan Galic brought his total up to 36 before he was strafed and killed by Mustangs while trying to take off at Sarajevo.

    In August, Romania was compelled to go over to the Allied side, as was Finland in September. In both cases, their airmen found themselves battling their former German comrades. Romania's leading ace, "Buzu" Cantacuzeno, added three German He-111s to the more than 50 Soviet and American aircraft he had shot down. On October 3, amid the struggle to drive the Germans from Finland, Erik Teromaa added a Junkers Ju-87 to his 18 victories over Soviet aircraft.

    While air battles raged by day, German Nachtjäger fought an electronic cat-and-mouse game against nocturnal British bombers and their night-fighter escorts. One of the pioneers was Me-110 pilot Werner Streib, who downed an Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley on the moonlit night of July 20, 1940, and went on to become the Luftwaffe's first night-fighter ace. He eventually became Inspekteur der Nachtjäger, at which point his score stood at 66, all but one of which were scored at night. The leading German night-fighter ace, Heinz-Wolfgang Schnauffer, survived the war with 121 kills marked on the rudder of his Me-110G.

    In January 1945, a number of German fighter pilots, including Adolf Galland and Günther Lützow (108 victories), confronted Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring over his conduct of the Luftwaffe, which nearly resulted in their being arrested. Given Germany's desperate situation, however, many of them were instead sent back into combat with Jagdverband 44, a special unit formed around the Me-262A jet fighter in March 1945. Arguably the most formidable combination of aircraft and pilots ever assembled, Jagdverband 44 included such aces as Galland, Lützow, Gerhard Barkhorn, Johannes Steinhoff (176), Walter Krupinski (197), Heinz Bär (220) and night fighter Wilhelm Herget (71). The most successful jet ace, Bär, scored 16 of his 220 victories while flying the Me-262. Galland brought his own score up to 104 before being wounded on April 26, 1945.

    In the East, Erich Hartmann set a new record on August 24, 1944, when he downed 11 Soviet aircraft and in the process brought his total up to 301. The only other pilot to match that score was Barkhorn, who got his 300th on January 7, 1945, and added one more by the end of the war.

    In the Third Reich's final months, the dwindling Luftwaffe fought to the end, aided only by the Hungarians of Lt. Col. Aladar de Heppes' redesignated 101 Puma Regiment. On April 16, 1945, Dezsö Szentgyörgyi downed a Yakovlev Yak-9 for his 34th victory, making him the top Hungarian scorer. On May 8, Erich Hartmann, the highest-scoring fighter pilot in history, downed a Soviet Yak-7 for his 352nd victory, only to learn that Germany had surrendered that same day.

    In Asia, September 1939 found the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) already embroiled in an undeclared war with the Soviet Union in the Nomonhan region between Manchuria and Mongolia, while that force and the Japanese Navy Air Force (JNAF) had been engaged in combat over China since 1937. Consequently, by the time the Pearl Harbor raid of December 7, 1941, brought Japan into conflict with the United States, scores of Japanese fighter pilots were already aces, and they would add significantly to their tallies in the years to come. Among the most notable exponents of the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero were the pilots of the Tainan Kokutai (Naval Air Wing), operating in the Philippines, Dutch East Indies, New Guinea and the Solomons, especially the "Cleanup Trio" of Saburo Sakai, Hiroyoshi Nishizawa and Toshio Ota. Among the most famous carrier pilots was Kenji Okabe from Shokaku, who opened his account with two Hawker Hurricanes over Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), on April 9, 1942, and later, during the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 8, set a one-day Japanese record of eight American aircraft. Okabe survived the war with a total of 15 victories.

    The Guadalcanal campaign was to end the careers of numerous JNAF aces, including Saburo Sakai, who after scoring his 60th victory was severely wounded by Douglas SBD rear gunners on August 7, 1942; Junichi Sasai (27), killed on August 26 by Marion E. Carl (an 18-victory ace of Marine squadron VMF-223); and Toshio Ota (34), who downed his 34th victim on October 21 and then was killed by Frank C. Drury (a six-victory Marine ace of VMF-212). From then on, the fortunes of the Japanese air arms, whose losses were irreplaceable, began a steady decline.

    By 1944, few of the "old hands" were still fighting. Nishizawa, Japan's official ace of aces, claimed his 87th victim over Leyte Gulf on October 25, 1944, but he was shot down and killed the next day while being transported in the Philippines from Cebu to Luzon. Tetsuzo Iwamoto, with 14 victories the leading JNAF ace over China prior to Pearl Harbor, survived the war with an estimated total of 80, only to die of illness. Sakai, despite the loss of an eye, returned to combat, added four more to his score and survived. Another survivor was the leading JAAF ace of World War II, Satoshi Anabuki of the crack 64th Sentai (fighter regiment), who scored 51 victories over China and Burma, mostly while flying Nakajima Ki.43 Hayabusas.

    The first Allied pilot to become an ace was a PZL P-11C pilot of the Polish 142nd Eskadra, Stanislaw Skalski, when he downed two Henschel Hs-126s on September 3, 1939. A Junkers Ju-87 the next day brought his total to six victories in four days. Making his way to Romania, France and finally England after Poland fell, Skalski fought in the Royal Air Force and eventually became a wing leader -- and, with a total of at least 21 victories, Poland's leading ace as well as her first.

    During the months of quiet stalemate following the Polish campaign called the "Phony War," all was not quiet over the Western Front, as the Luftwaffe clashed with French and British units. On March 26, 1940, Edgar J. Kain, a New Zealander of No. 73 Squadron who had scored three earlier victories, became the first RAF ace when he downed two Me-109Es. On May 27, "Cobber" Kain's score stood at 17, but when he took off for England on June 6, his Hawker Hurricane crashed while he was doing a farewell slow roll over Echemines airfield, and he was killed.

    Amid the overall debacle of the Battle of France, French fighter pilots -- joined by exiled volunteers from Czechoslovakia and Poland -- fought fiercely and produced a number of aces. The most successful, Edmond Marin la Meslée, was credited with 16 victories while flying an American-built Curtiss H-75A. Later, flying a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt, Marin la Meslée was killed by anti-aircraft fire on February 4, 1945.

    Following the French capitulation on June 16, 1940, thousands of pilots from German-occupied countries fought on in the RAF. Between August and November 1940, the Battle of Britain gave the RAF fighter pilots plenty of opportunities to add to their scores. The leading Allied ace of the battle was a Czech serving in a Polish Hurricane unit, Flt. Sgt. Jozef Frantisek of No. 303 Squadron, who was credited with 17 German aircraft before his death in a flying accident on October 8. Among many other Battle of Britain heroes was Colin Falkland Gray, a Supermarine Spitfire pilot of No. 54 Squadron who downed 16 1/2 German aircraft between May and September 1940. Later serving over Tunisia and Sicily, Gray brought his total to 27 and two shared by July 25, 1943, to earn honors as the leading ace from New Zealand.

    Curiously, the most famous RAF aces did not really emerge from the Battle of Britain, but from the multitude of reciprocal cross-Channel raids that took place in the following three years. Among them were James E. "Johnny" Johnson, whose total of 38 made him the leading British ace, and the legendary Douglas Bader, whose loss of both legs in a prewar accident did not prevent him from downing 24 German aircraft before being shot down and taken prisoner on August 9, 1941. Another prominent ace from that period came from the neutral Republic of Ireland: Brendan Finucane had joined the RAF in 1938 and brought his score up to 32 by July 15, 1942, when machine-gun fire from a German gun position on the French coast disabled his engine. "Paddy" Finucane tried to ditch in the Channel, but perished when his Spitfire sank.

    While the Channel duels took place by day, British night intruders raided German airfields as Luftwaffe bombers were returning from nocturnal sorties over England. Later, RAF night fighters strove to foil their German counterparts and thus protect British nocturnal bombing raids on the Reich. The most successful night intruder was also the leading Czech ace, Karel M. Kuttelwascher, who scored 20 victories while flying a Hurricane with No. 1 Squadron. The most successful RAF night pilot, Branse A. Burbridge, obtained 20 of his 21 victories at night, flying de Havilland Mosquitos in No. 85 Squadron -- including four German night fighters downed during a single sortie on November 4, 1944.

    Some of the most prominent aces of the British Commonwealth fought over other far-flung battle fronts. The RAF's ace of aces, South African–born Marmaduke Thomas St. John Pattle, flew Gloster Gladiator biplanes and later Hawker Hurricanes over the North African desert and Greece, quickly bringing his total to 51 before being killed over Eleusis Bay by two Messerschmitt Me-110s on April 20, 1941. Canada's leading ace, George F. Beurling, got all but two of his 31 1/3 victims flying Spitfires in defense of the island of Malta in 1942. Australia's top ace, Clive R. Caldwell, gained 19 victories, plus three shared, over North Africa flying Curtiss Tomahawks with No. 250 Squadron and Kittyhawks with No. 112 Squadron. Taking command of 1 Fighter Wing of the Royal Australian Air Force, he flew a Spitfire to add eight Japanese aircraft to that total in 1943.

    Although Thorsteinn Elton Jonsson came from neutral Iceland, his mother was English and that, combined with a thirst for adventure, led him to join the RAF in April 1940. He subsequently flew a Spitfire over North Africa in 1942-43 and a North American Mustang III over Normandy in 1944, downing eight German aircraft to become Iceland's only ace.

    Several French aces flew with the RAF, including Jean-François Demozay (21) and Pierre Clostermann, who claimed 33 victories but whose confirmed score may actually have been only 11. Among the leading aces from other countries who flew to national prominence in the RAF were Norway's Svein Heglund (15 1/2), Denmark's Kaj Birksted (10 1/2) and Belgium's Comte Yvan G.A.F. du Monceau de Bergendael (8).

    Like the German Luftwaffe and Italian Regia Aeronautica, the Soviet V-VS (Voyenno-Vozhdushny Sily, or Red Army Air Force) had sent airmen to participate in the Spanish Civil War, several of whom became aces. Other Soviet fliers gained experience over China in the late 1930s and in the undeclared war with Japan over Nomonhan in Mongolia in June-September 1940. Unfortunately for the V-VS, much of the expertise they had to offer was lost in Josef Stalin's paranoid purges of the Soviet officer corps in the late 1930s and early 1940s. As a result, the V-VS suffered from a qualitative disadvantage against the Finnish air force in 1939-40, and against the Luftwaffe when Germany invaded Russia on June 22, 1941.

    Amid horrendous losses, a few talented individuals rose to prominence. Most famous was Aleksandr I. Pokryshkin, who was flying the mediocre Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 when he downed an Me-109E of JG.77 near Jassy on June 23, 1941. Surviving the war with 59 victories -- 48 of which were scored flying a Lend-Lease Bell P-39 Airacobra -- Pokryshkin won the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union three times, as well as the American Distinguished Flying Cross.

    Another special case from the war's early days was Aleksei P.P. Marasyev, who downed his seventh victim, a Junkers Ju-52, in April 1942, before being shot down by a flight of 10 Me-109s. Marasyev emerged from the wreckage of his Yakovlev Yak-1 with both legs crushed, and over the next 19 days he crawled back to Russian lines. By the time he was found by partisans and evacuated, gangrene had set in and both legs had to be amputated. With a determination worthy of Douglas Bader, however, Marasyev mastered both artificial legs and aircraft. Flying Lavochkin La-5s, he achieved a final score of 19.


    A relative latecomer was Ivan N. Kozhedub, whose flying skill made him so valuable as an instructor that he was not able to wangle a combat assignment until June 1943. Once he did, however, he became the leading exponent of the Lavochkin LaG-5, La-5FN and La-7 fighters and the leading Allied ace of World War II -- his 62 victories included a Messerschmitt Me-262A downed on February 18, 1945. Kozhedub was also the only Soviet fighter pilot other than Pokryshkin to earn three Gold Stars.

    Like the RAF, the V-VS formed foreign units, including regiments of Czechoslovakian, Polish and French airmen. The famed Normandie-Niemen Regiment produced the leading French ace of World War II, Marcel Albert, with 23 victories. Another of the unit's members, Roger Sauvage, a Parisian whose mother came from Martinique, added 14 victories to the two he had scored in 1940, to become the war's only black ace.

    Unique to the V-VS was the formation of three all-female regiments, of which one, the 586th, was a fighter outfit. None of the 586th Fighter Regiment scored more than four victories, but two women serving in male units did -- Lidya Litvak with 12 and Ekaterina Budanova with 11. Both, however, were killed in action.

    Like the Soviets, the Chinese fought a desperate but costly air war against the better equipped and trained Japanese. Among those gifted Chinese fighter pilots who rose to prominence, Liu Chi-sun flew the Curtiss Hawk III, the Polikarpov I-152 and I-16 to account for a total of 11 1/3 Japanese aircraft between August 1937 and May 1941. The most successful Chinese fighter pilot after 1941 was Wang Kwang-fu, who scored 6 1/2 victories flying Curtiss P-40s -- including 3 1/2 on October 27, 1944 -- and two more in a North American P-51 Mustang.

    Americans were involved in the air war long before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The first to become an ace, William R. Dunn, got his fifth victory on August 27, 1941, flying in No. 71 Squadron, one of three "Eagle Squadrons" in the RAF made up of American volunteers. During the Pearl Harbor raid, 2nd Lt. George S. Welch managed to take off from Wheeler Field in a Curtiss P-40B and in the course of two sorties was credited with downing four Japanese aircraft. Later flying Lockheed P-38s over New Guinea, he eventually brought his total up to 16.

    In the early months of the Pacific War, the general gloom of Allied defeat was broken somewhat by the exploits of a force of flying mercenaries in China, Colonel Claire Chennault's American Volunteer Group (AVG). Also known as the Flying Tigers, the AVG produced its first two aces on Christmas Day 1941, when Charles H. Older added three JAAF aircraft to two previous kills, and Robert P. "Duke" Hedman downed four Mitsubishi Ki.21 bombers and a Nakajima Ki.43 fighter. Older would bring his score up to 10 by the time the AVG was disbanded on July 4, 1942; he later returned to China as deputy commander of the AVG's U.S. Army Air Force successor, the 23rd Fighter Group, and brought his total up to 18. Another Flying Tiger, David L. "Tex" Hill, was credited with 12 3/4 enemy aircraft by the time the AVG was disbanded, then added six to that total with the 23rd Fighter Group.

    Robert L. Scott, Jr., joined the AVG just before it became the 23rd Group and proceeded to behave like a one-man air force, frequently repainting the spinner of his P-40E to make the Japanese think that the group had more aircraft than it did. He got his first two victories over Leiyang, China, on July 31, and had brought his tally up to 10 by the time he was shipped home in January 1943.

    Another morale-boosting hero of the early months of 1942 was Edward H. "Butch" O'Hare, a Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat pilot from the aircraft carrier Lexington who received the Medal of Honor for downing five attacking Mitsubishi G4M1 bombers on February 20, 1942. Returning to combat aboard the carrier Enterprise in September 1943, O'Hare downed two more Japanese aircraft over Wake Island on October 5, and later experimented with night interception tactics. During a nocturnal mission over the Marshall Islands on November 27, however, O'Hare was lost -- either shot down by the gunner of a Japanese bomber or by one of his own team.

    The American invasion of Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942, brought on an all-out air and sea battle of attrition between Japanese and U.S. Marine, Navy and Army Air Force pilots. Among the leading Marine aces to emerge from the struggle were three Medal of Honor recipients: John Lucien Smith (19 victories), Robert E. Galer (13) and Joseph J. Foss, whose total of 26 made him the top U.S. Marine ace. The campaign's top Navy ace, Stanley W. "Swede" Vejtasa, got his first three kills as the pilot of a Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bomber with VS-5 from the carrier Yorktown during the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 8, 1942. After retraining on fighters, he was flying an F4F-4 with VF-10 from the carrier Enterprise during the Battle of Santa Cruz on October 26, when he shot down two Aichi D3As and five Nakajima B5Ns. Vejtasa's final victim was a Kawanishi H6K flying boat on November 13.

    By early 1943, the Americans were taking the offensive on all fronts. In the Solomons, Vought F4U pilot Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, commander of Marine "Black Sheep" squadron VMF-214, added 18 confirmed and four probable kills to the six he had already gained with the AVG over China; he was shot down near Rabaul and taken prisoner on January 3, 1944. Over New Guinea, two rival Lockheed P-38 pilots of the Fifth Air Force, Richard I. Bong and Thomas G. McGuire, became the leading American aces with 40 and 38 victories, respectively. Both would also receive the Medal of Honor, but neither survived the war; McGuire was killed when his P-38 stalled and crashed during a fight over Los Negros Island on January 7, 1945, and Bong was killed test-flying a Lockheed P-80 jet fighter on August 6, 1945.

    During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, fought on June 19, 1944, Grumman F6F Hellcats won such a lopsided victory that the Americans called it the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot." Alexander Vraciu from the second carrier Lexington got six of his eventual total of 19 that day, while David McCampbell, commander of Essex's Air Group 9, got seven. McCampbell would later outdo himself during the Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 24, 1944, when he attacked a formation of 40 enemy planes and shot down nine, while his wingman, Roy W. Rushing, accounted for six (Rushing's eventual total came to 13). McCampbell won the Medal of Honor for that action, and his final score of 34 made him the leading U.S. Navy ace.

    The leading American aces over Europe were Republic P-47 pilots from Lt. Col. Hubert Zemke's 56th Fighter Group (better known as "Zemke's Wolfpack") of the Eighth Air Force. Zemke himself scored 17 3/4 victories before being shot down and captured on October 30, 1944. Robert S. Johnson downed 27 German aircraft, but his record was narrowly exceeded by Francis S. Gabreski, who got 28 before crash-landing on July 20, 1944, and being taken prisoner.

    Although it did not produce top scorers, the North American P-51 Mustang was the preferred mount of a number of notable aces, including Dominic S. Gentile, the leading Mustang proponent with 21 5/6 victories; future test pilot Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager of the 357th Fighter Group, whose 11 1/2 victories included five on October 12, 1944; John J. Voll of the 31st Fighter Group and leading ace of the Fifteenth Air Force with 21 victories; and Fred F. Ohr, the only Korean-American ace, with six.

    Only two American night fighter pilots became aces. Northrop P-61 Black Widow pilot Paul A. Smith downed five German aircraft over Europe in 1944. Major Carroll C. Smith, commander of the 418th Night Fighter Squadron in New Guinea and the Philippines, scored two of his night victories in modified P-38Js and five in P-61As, including four on the night of December 29-30, 1944.

    As a curious postscript, two Allied pilots who did not make ace in World War II got a second chance as volunteers in Israel's Sherut Avir during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. Rudolf Augarten, an American P-47 pilot who downed two Me-109Gs on October 3, 1944, added four Egyptians to his score while flying Avia S×-199s (ironically, Czech versions of the Me-109G), while Canada's Denny Wilson flew Spitfires in both conflicts to account for two German and three Egyptian aircraft -- the last of which was a Spitfire.
     
  2. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    les, I love these little history lessons!
    Thanks! :thumbleft:
     
  3. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Ur welcome... Anything I can do to help... I find the pilots and aces of WWII to be fascinating and have been reading and researching about them for as long as I can remember, since I found out my Grandpa was an Ace with Boyingtons Bastards....
     
  4. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    8) Awesome! You're full of surprises!
     
  5. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Surprises????
     
  6. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    I didn't know your grandpa was an ace with Boyington.
     
  7. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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  8. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    :salute: A helluva man, by the sound of it.
    My grandad flew a Lancaster in 419 sqn. RCAF, attached to 6 Bomber Group RAF. He wasn't ever very talkative about it, and he's a hard man to get info from. I know he lost his bomb-aimer once, and a couple of gunners. To me, he'll forever be a hero!
    I also have a great uncle who was a para, who survived Normandy and everything that came after.

    Heros all! :salute:
     
  9. cheddar cheese

    cheddar cheese Active Member

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    All the people in my family from that time zone are dead apart from my Great Aunt, but I hardly ever see her anymore
     
  10. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Very cool NonSkim.. Shame he doesnt talk much about it... I learned alot from my Grandpa, and he was free with info whenever asked....
     
  11. rochie

    rochie Well-Known Member

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    hi all i,m new here
    i read that gunter rall beat hans marseille's 17 in day
    :n00b:
     
  12. Richard_H

    Richard_H New Member

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    Coming from norway, i have to "advertise" a bit for the pilots of my own country who flew for the Royal Airforce



    Norwegian Aces

    Name Victories

    Svein Heglund 15
    Helmer Grundt-Spang 11
    Werner Christie 10
    Marius Eriksen 9
    Martin Gran 9
    Nils Jorstad 7
    Frederick Fearnley+ 7
    Rolf Arne Berg 6
    Helge Mehre 6
    Arne Austeen 6

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Thats our own Top- Scorer Svein Heglund with 15 kills, he flew the Spitfire and Mosquito.


    331 history
    331 history

    the story of the 331 Squadron, one of two norwegian squadrons flying for RAD (its all in english) (332nd sqn was the second one)

    Those two squadrons was one of the top scoring squadrons in the 2TAF (2nd Tactical Airforce.)
     
  13. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
    Staff Member Moderator

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    welcome Richard H and thank you for the info.

    my cousin, Hptm Hans Baer of II./NJG 5 as Gruppenkommandeur had 12 kills at night, many with the outdated Do 217N while serving in 4./NJG 3. Killed in an accident near his airfield in his Bf 110G-4 in December of 1943.
     
  14. Alxg

    Alxg New Member

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    Wow didn't now that we had so many flying aces from norway
    (I'm Norwegian too)
     
  15. KyleDenton

    KyleDenton New Member

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    My grandfather flew in the 331 in '42 '43

    My grandfather flew with Svein Heglund. He also flew the Spitfire and Mosquito.
    Some of their records are here:
    http://www.luftwaffe.no/Table1.htm

    My grandfathers name was Erik Fossum. I am working on logging his history in the RAF. His flight log shows several kills and are recorded on the table above. It's very interesting to see pictures of men he flew with during WWII.
     
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