closterman fact or fiction ?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by rochie, Feb 7, 2008.

  1. rochie

    rochie Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2006
    Messages:
    14,632
    Likes Received:
    421
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Head chef
    Location:
    billingham nr middlesbrough uk
    i've read the big show and enjoyed it but after going through some old threads i noticed a lot of negative comments about pierre closterman.
    did he really make up a lot of his war record ?
    if so what should his what is his real story anyone know ???
    and did other pilots do this sort of thing, i've read that the luftwaffe was very strict in getting verification from other sorces for its pilots "claims".
    what was it like on the allies side
     
  2. Torch

    Torch Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2006
    Messages:
    2,286
    Likes Received:
    217
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Colorado
    Good question, I read the Big Show also and I've gotten the same vibes as you...
     
  3. Arsenal VG-33

    Arsenal VG-33 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Location:
    Indiana
    I see no reason to doubt Clostermann's claims. His book, as with books written by other aces, will always have a measure of dramatization in it, sometime large measures of it. That doesn't make their stories less true somehow. I happen to have my two copies of his book right next to me, "The Big Show" ("Le Grand Cirque") in French and in English. While there may be discrepencies within the actual translation of some words/phrases/terminology, I feel Clostermann pretty much has an solid record. Keep in mind that he didn't always get along very well with his wingman.

    The only thing I can take from Clostermann that wasn't good, is that he often tended to ignore his wingman's safety and throw himself into a digfight alone. However, he wouldn't have been made the only foreign squadron commander within the RAF if he was a compulsive liar. The only reason his claims became the topic of dispute is because during the Falkland War, he made the observation that Argentine pilots were brave pilots as well. Naturally, this didn't fly well in the UK, and he was for a long time the object of derision because of it.

    On another note, the last thread on this forum about Pierre Clostermann descended into something of a free-for-all, French-bashing fest. Is this where the "negative vibes" come from? I also find it interesting that aces of the US/Uk/Ger are for some reason above scrutiny. For the record, other forums I've visited have mentioned that only very recently, some historians have called into question the "kills" claimed by Molders, Galland, and Marseilles. Should we look less upon them if it turns out they inflated their claims? I don't think so.
     
  4. rochie

    rochie Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2006
    Messages:
    14,632
    Likes Received:
    421
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Head chef
    Location:
    billingham nr middlesbrough uk
    i also cant believe clostermann would have gained such a high rank within the R.A.F if he made so many false claims on his after action reports.
    and it was because i noticed so many negative comments about pierre clostermann's record that i posed the question
     
  5. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Messages:
    6,977
    Likes Received:
    570
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Bioinformatician
    Location:
    Dordrecht
    Correction, he wasn't the only one, Bob van der Stock was for instance a dutch squadron commander.
     
  6. JoeB

    JoeB Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2006
    Messages:
    809
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    18
    It's virtually a given that WWII pilots actually shot down fewer a/c than they were credited with, because almost all air arms in general did at all times. As has been discussed, there are example of German units in certain periods with almost 100% accurate claims, but it wasn't the rule even for the Luftwaffe, and in some units and periods they were very far from it in fact, and the typical range for all WWII air arms was 25-50% (or higher or lower, I'm *roughly* generalizing).

    But, the ratio's between credited victories and actual losses inflicted on the enemy varied a lot between air arms and between periods and theaters for a given air arm, so would presumably vary more still among individuals. And it's often hard to assess individual victories of WWII pilots. Usually there are A credits on the ace being examined's side, of which B are credits to the ace himself and C losses on the other side. A and C include all combats which can't be absolutely distinguished from one another, sometimes a lot of combats with A and C both big numbers. But C is almost always less than A, often a lot less. Some investigators will class all the ace's credits as 'verified' if B is less than C, IOW if the ace alone was credited with fewer planes than the other side lost in total; sometimes even over a whole front on a whole day, which is misleading to the point of nonsense IMO. The fair way would be some kind of prorating, the ace's verified victories would be B*(C/A).

    I haven't actually read Clostermann's book. My main problem with it is the broad conclusions some people seem to draw about big picture issues based on Clostermann's small picture first hand accounts. Clostermann flew in a period and theater and air arm, w/ RAF '43-45 North Europe, where official credit accuracy relative to actual German losses was generally pretty good. But again it's often hard to determine that for an indivdual, and even if the credited victories don't check out, it doesn't by any means prove the pilot 'inflated' them, as in on purpose, though surely there were some who did. Also someone might describe kills in a book they weren't officially credited with, but official credit doesn't mean an enemy plane was always really shot down, nor does lack of official credit rule it out.

    Marseilles' credits AFAIK correlate reasonably with Allied losses, and aren't so difficult to check because of relatively small scale of many of the combats. For example when he was credited with 17 victories in one day the best estimate AFAIK was somewhat less but not alot less (again would depend whether you credited him with every Allied loss; on a prorated basis it was a few to several less than 17 IIRC). On another forum somebody said that day's claims were grossly exaggerated, but eventually retreated to 'oh that's just what I heard'. You are right, there was many agenda driven analyses of WWII air combat that appear on the web, alongside objective ones, but again the methodology issues make it challenging to conduct and hard to compare analysis of individual pilots scores even without agendas. Better IMO to start with average accuracy of credits for whole air arms in various theaters and periods.

    Joe
     
  7. Skywalker

    Skywalker New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Whatever Pierre Closterman's number of confirmed kills, his book is one of the most poetic records in all of air combat. I wept along with Closterman when he landed his Hawker Tempest, Le Grand Charles, for the final time and "laid him down on the grass, like a cut flower."

    And I shared his grief when one of his comrades died in his arms, after Closterman had hauled what was left of him out of the burning wreckage of a Tempest which had cartwheeeled during a wheels-up crashlanding attempt; and later felt Pierre's own anxiety when he had to attempt a wheels-up landing of his own the very next day.

    I found my first copy of "The Big Show" abandoned in a desk at school in my 8th grade math class, and was entranced by it, and read re-read it until it had to be taped together, a not uncommon fate for many of my military history sci-fi books in those days.

    Later in college, my best friend was perusing my bookshelves and saw its garish red yellow cover with Closterman's Tempest celebrating a victory over a burning FW-190, and he said, "Hey! I read that book years ago in Jr. High. I remember losing it in Mr. Gadd's math class." So I ended up getting him a new Bantam War Books edition to replace it, and another one for me to re-read to spare the old beat-up edition I'd read to pieces.

    Skywalker
     
  8. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2007
    Messages:
    526
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    Student, Casual
    Location:
    Adelaide
    Thats awesome man! Haven't read it but will definately! I must admit I don't know much at all about Closteman but what I have heard is mainly negative, but I wont judge until I know more! I do know however that I love Hawker Tempest's
     
  9. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    19,162
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Communications
    Location:
    Long Island Native in Mississippi
    Home Page:
    I put Clostermann's validity in the same catagory as Walther Dahls'... Alot of bullsh!t mixed in with some very skilled and brave facts...

    Read the book, 3-4 times, and its a great book, agree with all the views above... However, he lies...

    I remember talking to Adolf Galland as a kid, and seein him snort when asked about Clostermann... If his fellow Ace/Experten, including my Grandfather, have a less than favorable opinion of him, thats good enough for me...
     
  10. Amsel

    Amsel Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2008
    Messages:
    1,857
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    Texas
    You talked with Galland! How was he to talk to? That would be something else.
     
  11. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    19,162
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Communications
    Location:
    Long Island Native in Mississippi
    Home Page:
    I talked to many Vets in my time... So has Erich and Bill and Neil and Chris and Chris and David and...................................

    Galland was a great guy, always smilin... My Grandfather really liked him....
     
  12. Timppa

    Timppa Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2007
    Messages:
    401
    Likes Received:
    40
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Finland
    clostermann
    (28 February 1921–22 March 2006)

    "Dear Neil I was a little annoyed by Adam Holden's letter, which you published in SAM Vol 22/3 May 2000. On principle I never usually answer letters of this sort, but in view of my Tempest friends from No 3 Squadron, I feel I owe them an answer. First the Falklands War. . I never wrote to an Argentinean newspaper, but sent a letter to a group of Argentinean pilots who were pupils of my son, (then an Armée de l'Air Mirage pilot), at the Mirage Academy in Dijon. I knew them and they even came to my house when they were on leave. When I read the insults printed in the UK tabloid newspaper, the 'SUN', (greasers, tango dancers etc.), I wanted to tell these 'underdogs' that some people admired their courage. It is an admitted fact today by all - (including the US Air Force and the RAF) - that "the courage of your enemy honours you", and it should not be forgotten. Also, being an MP, with political responsibilities I am entitled to my opinions. They had nothing to do with my long-standing friendship and love for the RAF.

    Secondly, I was never married to an 'Argentinean beauty'. I have been married for 53 years to a French girl.

    As to my claims, they never changed. They were painted on my Tempest, (see accompanying photo), (The photograph that Pierre sent with his letter, with him in the cockpit of 'Le Grand CharIes'~, NV724, JF.E of 3 Sqn., circa July 1945, showing the twenty-three black crosses representing his accredited confirmed 'kills', and the nine white outline only crosses for 'probables' and 'ground kills'.) and are substantiated by the following citations and letters. My two DFC citations, by Air Marshal Slessor and AOC 83 Group Sir Harry Broadhurst, are enough for me.

    "DFC 26/8/44 This officer has displayed outstanding courage and devotion to duty throughout his operational career in the course of which he has destroyed at least 11 enemy aircraft and damaged other military objectives". "Bar 28/5/45 since being awarded the DFC this officer has participated in 70 new operational missions during which he has destroyed a further 12 enemy aircraft. Throughout, Lieutenant Clostermann has displayed outstanding courage and ability, and has proved to be a source of inspiration to all". 23 black crosses and 23 confirmed by my DFC citations. I never personally asked for anything else.

    There were I suppose two problems; ONE, I have been in so many Squadrons; Nos 341, 602, 486, 274, 56, and 3, that the forms 540 and 541 'Logs of Claims' were quite spread out. TWO, the French Air Force - as well as the US 8th Fighter Command, considered aircraft 'probables' and destroyed 'on the ground' as victories. This may explain some of the ridiculously inflated claims we found in the press, about me and many American pilots. Not my fault. I tried to rectify often, but to no avail! Finally, the statement about the the DSO. I am a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur, which, as a French national, takes precedence over my DFC, and therefore is worn 'in front' of it. It is red with a blue tinge - as is the DSO.


    Pierre Clostermann
    Montesquiei des Albères
    France"
     
  13. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2007
    Messages:
    3,734
    Likes Received:
    65
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Helsinki
    Hello Rochie
    first, remember there was Flight Lt P. Clostermann, highly regarded and effective leader and fighter pilot and then there was P. Clostermann , good and very successful aviation writer. Nobody has accused Flight Lt Clostermann of lying. What I remember from the material I have read on 122 Wing, Clostermann did very well and was one of the top pilots of the Wing.

    On Clostermann’s books, I read 3 of them some 40 years ago, liked them but IIRC I thought even then that they were a bit too “colourful” to my taste. I liked more on J. Johnson’s “Väistä sininen parvi”, the Finnish translation of “Wing Leader” but that of course is question of taste. IMHO Clostermann’s The Grand Show is better read as a docunovel. He seems to have used a writer’s licence sometimes to put a bit more colour to some of his schemes. But a good read. My favorite aviator's memories is "Kapteeni Lipfertin sotapäiväkirja". Its English translation is "TheWar Diary of Captain Helmut Lipfert" or something like that, plus a couple of Finnish aces memories, those of Juutilainen and Luukkanen, both are translated to English.

    Juha
     
  14. antoni

    antoni Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2007
    Messages:
    397
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    In May 2000 the following letter was published in Scale Aircraft Modelling.

    Dear Neil,
    Whilst I enjoyed your article on converting Ocidental's Spitfire IX kit using the new RonsResin re-shaped nose and propeller etc (SAM VoI22j1), the supplementary information you included on French 'ace' Pierre Clostermann is, I am afraid, totally inaccurate! Firstly, the English translation of his book, 'Le Grande Cirque', is called 'The Big Show' not 'The Big Circus', more importantly, its author would be most surprised to learn that he died in a motoring accident in the 1950s1 In fact, as recently as June 1996, Clostermann was living in St Genis des Fontaines, Montesquieu, France. Only two years previously, he had added further controversy to his reputation when he was seen (by no less a personage than AVM 'Johnnie' Johnson) wearing the ribbon of the DSO at the DDay commerative (sic).) ceremonies at Bayeux, in northern France, despite the fact that he'd never been awarded the medal! And at the start of the Falklands Campaign in 1981, he wrote, in an Argentinian (sic) newspaper, something of a eulogy to the prowess of the nation's fighter pilots, much to the disgust of his old RAF comrades, who reasoned that his marriage to an Argentinian (sic) beauty had perhaps coloured his thinking!

    Historians continue to scrutinize Clostermann's air combat claims, and recent research suggests a total of 11 destroyed; 3 probables; 9 damaged. He seems to have had an unfortunate penchant for claiming aircraft downed by others in his unit if he was merely present at the time, and did not actually fire his guns! His greatly exaggerated claims have brought him no respect from the cogniscenti (sic); none of his Free French comrades support his claims, even though they are less openly critical of him than his non-Gallic counterparts. Of course none of this detracts from Clostermann's obvious bravery and competence as a fighter pilot of course, and I too was a huge fan of his book. Incidentally, I learned much of the foregoing when in correspondence with other well known WW2 fighter pilots as part of the research I was undertaking for a book on the subject, and it was sobering to learn that much of what's written in its pages may probably be not wholly true.

    Adam G. Holden

    The next month the editor had the embarrassment of having to publish Clostermann's reply.
     
  15. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,359
    Likes Received:
    561
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Executive, Consulting
    Location:
    Scurry, Texas
    Galland was a typical fighter pilot, as Rall and Olds, etc. twinkle in the eyes, loved the ladies, great sense of humor, supremely confident.. it is a rare community.

    Yeager and Olds and Sublett and about 20 othe American Fighter Aces went to Russia in the late 90's to meet with a bunch of WWII and Korean War aces - said the same thing about their Russian counterparts.
     
  16. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,359
    Likes Received:
    561
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Executive, Consulting
    Location:
    Scurry, Texas
    Closterman was wrong about 'probables' being credited as victories - at least fo 8th AF - the 8th DID credit ground scores but those were later revoked by the USAF as other commands did not do the same.
     
  17. Arsenal VG-33

    Arsenal VG-33 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Location:
    Indiana
    Please show your evidence.

    Do you have any proof of this other than a man's "snort"?

    Of course, if Clostermann were German or American, I suppose his record would then be beyond reproach. What a crock....
     
  18. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,359
    Likes Received:
    561
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Executive, Consulting
    Location:
    Scurry, Texas
    Reputations among the fighter pilot community are fragile. The fighter pilot community is brutal on 'claimers' - of any nationality, and particularly harsh on those that left their wingmen to fend for themselves while pursuing scores..

    I have no idea whatsoever whether Closterman was in that category.. Gabby Gabreski caused more than a few heads to shake for losing wingmen in Korea, as an example. To my knowledge he was not French.
     
  19. Arsenal VG-33

    Arsenal VG-33 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Location:
    Indiana
    Precisely! This is what I presonally believe to be the case. All of these pilots are arrogant and braggarts to a certain degree, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if they were all liars to a certain extent, in fact I'm convinced it is the case. Yet P. Clostermann somehow becomes everyone's puching bag. It doesn't make any sense at all.
     
  20. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,359
    Likes Received:
    561
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Executive, Consulting
    Location:
    Scurry, Texas
    No, they are not arrogant or braggarts. Most are self deprecating modest individuals. There is a difference between confidence and 'bragging'

    As to 'all being liars'? where in the world would you draw an opinion like that?

    Officers caught lying, screwing other guys wives, or cheating, were bounced out of the service (at least in US service) faster than you wrote that pathetic post. The US military takes "I will not lie, cheat or steal - or tolerate those who do' VERY SERIOUSLY.
     
Loading...

Share This Page