Anyone actually talk to a WW2 fighter pilot?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by pinehilljoe, Aug 31, 2016.

  1. pinehilljoe

    pinehilljoe Member

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    How did they do it? I think of approach speeds of 300 to 500 miles per hour, 100 to 30 yards apart, one or two seconds to think and fire a burst.
     
  2. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    In what regards?

    Fighters intercepting bombers or transports?

    Fighters engaging enemy fighters?

    Or ground attack?
     
  3. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    I got to talk to Pappy back in the mid 70's, but I was too little and had no concept of WWII at all to ask him anything semi intelligent. We have many people here that talk to WWII pilots. Roman "Seesul" made friends with a Luftwaffe pilot (I forgot his name) and would ask him questions from time to time, but sadly he passed away a while back. GregP meets pilots often. And there are many others.
     
  4. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    I've talked with maybe 50 and heard more than 200 speak.

    If you were a wingman, that was the mission ... fly wing. Everything else was secondary, except the desire to be a flight leader and maybe fuel.

    I'd say that the flight leads had perhaps 8 - 10 basic different ways to attack. They were almost never at above 300 mph, even at combat power, if they were lower than the enemy because they were climbing, probably at somewhere above best rate but not s fast as cruise climb. If they were higher, then they could attack with some excess speed.

    Most tried their best to achieve surprise when they could. When they could not, that's when the tactics started to be diverse. Some guys thought roll was the best escape ... roll as hard as you can for the count to two or three or four, stop, pull as hard as you can ... lather rinse repeat until clear. Others said break into the attackers. Still others had different ideas.

    So I'd say what I've heard could be summed up by saying:

    1. Surprise and ambush the enemy plane if you can. There are several ways to do that depending on the person's proclivities. This is the number 1 best option.
    2. In case YOU get ambushed, you need to have a definite plan on what to do when it happens, depending on from which side and whether it comes from above or below. Follow the plan or die wondering why you didn't, IF you survive the first cannon burst.
    3. If you are doing the attacking and the enemy knows you are there and coming, no two guys seemed to have exactly the same notion of what the best attack might be. A lot depended on how many you were attacking. It would not be the same for a flight of four versus four as with maybe 4 versus 50 or 50 versus 4. I surmise it probably depended on who taught you and how you practiced when dogfighting with friends/ instructors, etc., but that was my own take-away. Some said large formation attack methods were briefed. Some never mentioned it.
    4. About the only thing almost everyone agreed on was the worst thing was for YOU to start firing too soon and it was a GOOD thing when the enemy did that. Alternately, the worst thing was to load tracers for the last few shells. Then EVERYONE including the enemy knew when you ran out of ammo.

    I know that isn't very definite, but I could probably write 20 pages on what I have heard ... and NOBODY wants to read that, especially second-hand. Guys like Bill Marshall (Drgondog) have talked with more WWII pilots than I have, and many of the ones he spoke with were aces and pilots of some note. The guys I have spoken with were just pilots, some with victories and some with a number of missions without ever seeing an enemy aircraft. So their comments were from the training only perspective.

    The most experienced combat pilot I knew was Ralph Parr. I knew him when I was flying in Scottsdale, Arizona in the 1980s. He had some humdinger stories, mostly about how he got himself into trouble and then had to quickly figure a way OUT of the trouble, sometimes at very low level with marginal fuel state. He was descriptive, and very open to discussion and didn't need to "build himself up." Definitely liked the F-86! A very likable and personable guy. I lost contact around 1988 - 1989 and he passed away in 2012 in Texas.

    I also spoke several times with John R. Alison, who flew with the AVG and came out with 7 victories in P-40s. Before he passed away in 2011 he stopped by Joe Yancey's shop on maybe 5 - 8 occasions. I didn't ask a lot, but I listened while he and Joe talked. That's when I heard him say they had operated their P-40s at 75-inches when it was necessary for survival. He wasn't talking about combat tactics when he was out there, it was more talk about flying the planes and his experiences with the Allison engines. So ... no fighter pilot war stories from those times except things he was surprised he lived through. Once he hit a tree in a P-40, bounced off, and continued with some difficulties. The plane never flew again after he landed it ... or that's how it was in the story. Maybe it was a rubber tree ...
     
  5. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Roman's (Seesul) friend was Willi Reische.
    I've had the honour to talk to a number over the years, some of which became friends. Some were just 'ordinary' fighter pilots, some were household name 'aces', but all were gentlemen, and all were very modest men.
     
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  6. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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  7. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Long Reach, Deep Fighter Escort Tactics published by VIII Fighter Command May 29, 1944 is recommended reading for those of you interested in Group/Squadron CO, ace fighter pilot thoughtful Pearls of Wisdom. I used excerpts from Zemke, Stewart, Szaniawski in Our Might Always - History of the 355th FG WWII to illustrate specifically practices recommended and adopted by leaders - but fighter pilot 'tactics' are also presented from Preddy, Brown, Beeson, etc.
     
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  8. Peter Gunn

    Peter Gunn Active Member

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  9. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    No - do a search to locate the May 29, 1944 original.. O'Leary's stuff is 'mixed' with respect to facts.

    My Pdf version is 50Mb
     
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  10. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    I only met two and spoke to one. He was a guy on a train coming out of London. He had a tie with an R.A.F motif on his tie. All he said was "yes, I flew Spitfires when I was young and stupid" maybe he didnt want to reminisce with a 12 year old kid on a train, that is his right. The other was a man with a horribly burned face who used to ride a Honda 500 very slowly around the town. It didn't matter how slowly he went neither myself or anyone I knew wanted to pass even though we would race with anyone else anytime of day or night, it just didn't seem right. I guess Shakespeare expressed it about right.

    And gentlemen in England now a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
     
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  11. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    #11 pbehn, Sep 2, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2016
    With regard to the OP speed is purely a perception, 40MPH between dry stone walls on a twisty roads feels much faster than 120MPH on an empty motor way. Closing speeds of 600MPH must have been "interesting" since some head on attacks did result in collisions many more must have seen planes passing within feet of each other which I would imagine would be an experience to turn people to religion. The trick being to survive long enough to get used to what you are doing.
     
  12. Peter Gunn

    Peter Gunn Active Member

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  13. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    Is that what the video game says? Lol.

    I don't know if you're talking about peeling off or chasing down an enemy fighter. In the cats, I think I recall, 500 yards was the sweet spot for the 50 cals. You let them have it there, they aren't coming home. I talked to a lot over the years, in my Dad's club. It started out as just Navy, but, as the years go by, you take whatever you can get, so there were Army pilots in there, too, near the end.
     
  14. MIflyer

    MIflyer Member

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    Recently read a very good book that has been around for quite some time, but despite all the reading and research I have done I had never heard of it. It's entitled "Ten Fighter Boys" and has 10 sections written by 10 pilots assigned to the same RAF squadron, flying Spitfires during the Battle of Britain. They were asked to write down their experiences, whatever they wanted to describe, and they did so in a quite modest manner, saying frankly what they had done to screw up. I think almost ever last one of them was shot down at one time or another or had to perform an emergency landing. One of the pilots never finished his section because he was killed and some others were killed not long after.

    The book was first published during 1942. It does not read like propaganda at all.
     
  15. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Is that his full proper name? I did a search for Luftwaffe aces and his name isn't listed. There wasn't any Reische at all actually, or was he not an ace?

    NEVERMIND......I'm stupid and found it
     
  16. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #16 oldcrowcv63, Sep 4, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
    Ouch! This thread brings up one of my less good moments (or maybe a normal one?) In the Miramar O'Club in the early 1970's, as a newly minted JG, I am casually drinking beer, as one in such circumstances is want to do, and I see a group of shipmates talking to some old codgers. I join the conversation and open a conversation with one elderly Captain. At some point in the conversation, I ask him what aircraft did he fly. he answers "Wildcats." Needless to say I drained him of every airborne experience, every moment he spent airborne in the F4F/FM and learned everything an aviation history buff would ever want to know about such an aircraft flown in war time conditions NOT. I recall nothing more of that conversations than I do of my breakfast last January 15. I especially don't recall the number of beers I imbibed. Probably related to my lack of recollected details. Chance of a lifetime missed. I just recall entering a state akin to slack jawed zombie-hood at the word "Wildcat." :oops:

    I do recall in great detail flying and conversing with one of the last lighter than air aviators in the USN. Was a great pilot. Now the blimp is not quite as maneuverable as a fighter but it has greater endurance than any one ever built. That's got to count for something. :rolleyes:
     
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  17. Frank Stewart

    Frank Stewart New Member

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    Standard American practice was to Zero .50 Caliber guns at 400 yards, not 500, but 500 would still give enough hits to down most single engine fighter planes. Do a google search for fighter gun zero pattern images, or something like that to find copies out of training manuals.
    The actual average range of most fighter vs fighter combat in WW-II was 250 yards on the allied and Jap sides and half again that, or more, (400 M.) for the Germans. The P-38 was good for 750 yards "Point Blank Range" in that the trajectory would not rise above, or fall below a typical fighter plane target's fuselage. The P-38 was also the only fighter plane WO Precession defects in aiming.
     
  18. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    How did they do it??? Training, training, and some training and add some tenacity. Most us pilots had 300+ hours under their belts before they entered combat. Most had 30 or more in some sort of Clobber College that was run by the group to which they were assigned. Then they flew wing position til they got their feet wet. The training helped them react immediately and intuitively. But it wasn't the final factor. My father told me some of the guys who were hot shots all throughout training and would have been voted most likely to become an ace quickly couldn't hack combat. These guys transferred to something other than fighters after a few missions. It took something inside...why I say tenacity.
     
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  19. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    ace letter valencia pg1.jpg ace letter valencia pg1.jpg ace letter Valencia pg2.jpg My father was asked by Gene Valencia (when he was President of Fighter Aces Association) to put thoughts on paper regarding his (Bert Marshall's) perspective of qualities that are important.
     
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  20. airminded88

    airminded88 Member

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    Amazing piece of correspondence Bill, thanks for sharing it with the forum.
    Words of wisdom without doubt.
     
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