Average No. of kills - USN Pilots

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by shiro_amada_jp, Feb 8, 2010.

  1. shiro_amada_jp

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    For USN pilots during the later years of WWII, what was the average number of kills?
     
  2. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Probably, and I haven't done the math so I don't know for sure but it is probably well under 1 for any of the following:

    1. All USN Pilots
    2. All USN Carrier Pilots
    3. All USN Active on operations, Carrier Pilots
    4. All USN Active on operations, Carrier Fighter Pilots

    You see, as you add more restrictions to the population, the average number of kills increases simply because the number of pilots decreases. You can go on restricting the population until you get to a number over 1. For instance, right now you have all active USN carrier Pilots who are on operations.

    Further restrictions to the population would increase the number over 1 by doing the following:

    1. Fighter Pilots who've flown a full tour as part of Air Group Ten in 1944.

    That would do it to raise the number over 1 as Air Group Ten saw a lot of combat in 1944 and had a lot of kills. Given there were only something like 30 pilots in the airgroup (not counting casualties and replacements, that would raise the number above 50, most likely), you would have a number probably around 2 or 3 kills per pilot.

    All that said, I would be amazed if the average for any group of pilots was above 3. Very, Very doubtfull it would be above 5.
     
  3. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I believe that is an impossible task..but my guess is far less than 1
     
  4. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    I go with Bill. It is less than one and that is probably true for all large air forces in WW2. Kind of like fly fishermen. 10% of the fishermen catch 90% of the fish.
     
  5. shiro_amada_jp

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    Very interesting. I haven't thought of it that way. What about IJN pilots though? Did they have the same average number of kills?
     
  6. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    The math for fighter pilots is pretty much the same for all nations. The top 5-10% shoot down about 60-70% the aircraft knocked down. The reason why is always a point of conjecture. From what I've read (never having shot down anything myself) the reasoning seems to be as follows:

    1. Opportunity-Usually aces work in a target rich environment. Plenty of pilots fly complete tours and never see another enemy aircraft yet they would be aces if they had the opportunity. They didn't. Places like Russia in 1941 or during the Japanese advance south in 1942, Battle of Britian, German defense of the Reich, American Bomber Offensive, ect., created aces simply because there was so much air combat going on.

    2. Situation Awareness- Aces seem to have the ability to track a large number of variables at the same time. An ariel engagement was one long stream of slashing attacks and defensive turns, each action changing the variables of the interactions with other aircraft. Aces could keep track of all those things. At least better than other pilots.

    3. Shooting ability- The old saw that "Good flying never shot anybody down" is very true. Most aces shot fairly well, or compensated for it by getting very close to the target before firing. They also tended to shoot at more targets than non-aces. Like they say in basketball, "100% of the shots you don't take won't score". Same holds true for air combat.

    4. Excellent Eyesight- Aces usually saw the enemy before anyone else in their group did. That gave them the advantage to act and put themselves in a situation where they could score a kill. Seeing the other guy first is hugely important.

    5. Evasion- Most aces, if not all, had a standard evasion trick they used when under fire. They practiced it to the point it was routine. It may not get them away from an attacking enemy, but it got them out of the line of fire immediately. And that was probably all they needed. Once you engage in manuvering combat, the odds of being shot down drop while the odds of an draw increase.

    6. Desire- Most aces really wanted to shoot a lot of aircraft down. So they put themselves in a spot where they could shoot down the enemy. Conversely, they were also in a position to be shot down. If you could actually break down the number of pilots who were shot down while trying to line up someone else to shoot down, you would find a substantial number of them were in the attack phase when shot down. It comes with the territory. To get a kill, you took the chance of being a kill.

    Funny enough, many aces didn't consider themselves particularly great pilots. If you asked them who was the best pilot in the group, the would often point to someone else. That would neccessarily be modesty but the truth. There is a theory that many aces were in fact ordinary to poor pilots and their inability to do predictable things led them to survival as they tended not to be where the enemy thought they should be when shooting began whereas excellent pilots were predictable.

    Another point, there were numberous pilots who flew complete tours in target rich environments but never blew the tape off their guns. They weren't cowards, but they weren't interested in being aces either. They flew, kept their eyes open and avoided trouble when it came their way. Survivial and keeping others alive seemed to be their main goal. Not everyone got into the cockpit thinking they were the Red Baron. Some, probably most, just did their jobs and went home.
     
  7. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    Maybe being a bit picky, but the statistical *average* is not affected by the fact that a few pilots scored a lot of the kills. If there are 100 pilots and 100 kills, whether 1 of the pilots scored all 100 kllls and the other 99 none, or each scored 1 kill, the average is still 1 kill per pilot in either case. It seems like you guys are thinking more of the median, as 'the average pilot' the victory credits of a pilot who scored less than 1/2 of pilots did, and more than 1/2 pilots did. That score though would almost surely be zero. Tillman gives the example of one heavily engaged highly successful F6F sdn on a long 1944 tour, and even in that case a little over 1/2 the pilots were not credited with any victories. When counting all the fighter units which saw less, or in some cases almost no, air combat action, the median was surely zero; the 'typical pilot' was not credited with a victory. But the *average* victories per pilot would be higher than the median, because all the victories credited to the few aces count in the average, spread across everyone else. I agree as others have said it would still be a small number, varying considerably whether you count everyone who completed training and was posted to a fighter unit, everyone with a certain number of combat missions, certain number of missions engaging enemy a/c, etc.

    Joe
     
  8. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Tim, nice post and very well thought out. I knew one ace in WW2. He had ten kills in the PTO and I could kick myself for not being a little more inquisitive. I did ask him which was more difficult to land on a carrier, a Wildcat or the modern jets. He said the Wildcat was more difficult.
     
  9. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Thanks Ren, appreciate the sentiment.

    I can believe a piston engined bird would be tougher. Have to float that in and chop it. Jet engined bird is all about power. Land under power. Not as much guess work, just plow in.
     
  10. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    One thing that came to me last night about the Japanese averages is they were affected by a different set of circumstances than an Allied set of averages. The Japanese started with a group of very experienced, excellent pilots that were ground down over time by the law of averages. In the end, they had a large number of fairly inexperienced pilots (as a consequence of expanding their pilot training too late) with a few extremely good, first rate killers sprinkled through.

    A similar situation occured with the Lufftwaffe.

    The Allied forces were more in favor of the law of averages with plenty of medium time pilots, thousands in fact, and an increasing amount of hours tacked on in training. The allies fought with an eye towards keeping the numbers on their side. They prepared and fought a long war. The Axis fought a short one.
     
  11. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Those are good points. The USN did shorten the syllabus somewhat, according to Lundstrom, after the war began, but the pilots were still very well trained.
     
  12. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    The Japanese and Americans also viewed "kills" differently. I believe, at least early on, individual kill tallys were discouraged by the Japanese and instead group kills were counted.

    Did the Japanese Army and Navy have he same "victory counting" philosophy as each other? how did this change over the coarse of the war?
     
  13. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    #13 JoeB, Feb 16, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2010
    I think it's fair to say in general the Japanese, Army and Navy, simply didn't have an 'official victories' concept. Not all other AF's had one either at all times. For example USAAF victories early in WWII were pretty informal (one reason they were more exaggerated than later on), that seem to have been 'officialized' later on to match the more formal procedure later on. But say in case of the USAAF's first WWII ace, Buzz Wagner, it's apples and oranges to speak of his 'official victories' v. those of say 8th AF pilots in 1944. He seems to be credited with some victories he didn't even claim in his combat reports, let alone actually score per Japanese accounts, presumably to match public relations accounts of those combats released at the time.

    As far as group and individual Japanese Navy victories, sometimes they are written up in combat reports as group or shared among some subset of pilots on the mission, sometimes as individual, sometimes both in the same mission. But the judgements seem to have been just viewed as the information or opinion of the officer writing the report, somewhat official, but not cast in official stone the way we often now think of it in US case. For example someone mentioned here recently that a past president of the American Fighter Aces Association had to actually quit the organization because his fifth victory wasn't official enough; there was never such a black and white concept in JNAF/JAAF. So for example Henry Sakaida's book "Winged Samurai" lists Saburo Sakai's victories per Sakai's log. They don't always agree with what the Tainan Air Group combat reports say, about whether shared or individual, or scored at all (nor, of course do they exactly agree with Allied losses). It isn't some scandal, just one version was Sakai's opinion, another the opinion or information received by the officer who wrote the combat report. Neither is the 'official list of victories': there's no such thing.

    The Soviets also had the shared (but not fractional) victory concept in WWII for some victories (though dropped it Korea for some reason), but had more of a Western concept of 'official victories'.

    Joe
     
  14. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Joe, the Fighter Aces were formed on the basis of five or more destroyed and at the time the association was formed there were sketchy documentation and standards. Five Down and Glory was the initial reference accepted.

    When the USAF published Study 85 it was decided that a.) no ground scores were to be counted as only the 8th AF encouraged and recognized them toward 'ace' credit, and b.) the Study 85 would be the basis of determination.

    Wayne Jorda, a past president had only four documented air scores according to USAF 85 and was removed from the Association rolls - along with more than a few others including all the 8th AF aces who initially were inducted with 5 combined air/ground totals in which 4 or less were air to air.

    Candidly I am not sure what the final determinant was for USN and USMC.
     
  15. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    This was my assumption also - and the reason I immediately said <<1.

    My field of expertise is probably the ETO focused. The 8th AF were credited (by USAF 85) for ~ 5182 air to air scores.

    Each fighter Group, with possible exceptions of 479th and maybe the 339th that showed up on combat ops in April 30 - mid May, 2944 had at least 500 pilots flow through each Group - with 15 active groups plus Scout Forces, Recon, etc., during the 15+ months average combat duty. The standard, no extension tour was 270 hours before eligible for leave and 300 hours for tour and rotation (if desired) to some other command.

    So, the math has less than 1 for 8th AF and it was a pretty successful combat org with a LOT of air combat -

    The LW has a fair chance of exceeding that average because of the long service for the high scoring survivors in contrast with a fair number of 'new guys' that died with less than five missions in the 1944-1945 period.
     
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