Luftwaffe Aerial Victory Claims from 1939 - 1945

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by GregP, Jul 23, 2014.

  1. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    I finished my list in Excel of the combined Luftwaffe aerial victory claims from 1939 through 1945. The results surprise me a great deal. I got the files in almost non-useful form as locked, non-searchable .pdf files. I subsequently unlocked them and imported them into Excel and used Excel to parse the records. The records have the Date, Rank, First Name, Last Name, Staffel, Unit, Victim Type, and Comments that are usually a location and altitude.

    The file accounts for 63,324 aerial victory claims and runs from 1 Sep 1939 through 8 May 1945, with Erich Hartmann having the second to the last victory over a Yak-9. Some of the victories are recorded without a name and, in some case, a last name but no first name. In fact, no first name (nf) and no last name (nn) accounts for 1,187 claimed victories, which could easily include the victories missing from Hartmann, Barkhorn, and Rall plus quite a few others. Some have no rank (nr). Sometimes the “crew” of a flak battery was credited with the victory, and sometimes the victim was “unidentified” or “unknown.” Since they amount to the same thing, I changed the “unknown” group to “unidentified” (50 such claims) so they would all be in one group. Some of the victim types were “4 engine aircraft, fighter, tethered balloon, biplane, 4 engine torpedo plane, single engine, passenger plane, Twun engine, “BSch” (whatever that is), and a few others.

    Sometimes there is no Staffel but there is a unit. Occasionally there is no rank for the person identified as the victorious pilot.

    We know that the German tracking of victories broke down at some point.

    Despite the above, the list gives a great deal of insight. Top 10 were as follows:

    1) The most claimed aircraft of WWII by the Germans was the Spitfire, with 4,997 claimed. That tends to throw a wrench in the “best fighter” thread. There were some 20,367 Spitfires made and 4,997 were claimed. That is 24.5% of production.
    2) Number 2 was the Il-2 with 4,850 claimed. I expected that one. There were some 36,183 built so about 13.4% were claimed as downed. It really WAS hard to shoot down!
    3) Number 3 was the B-17 with 4,296 claimed. There were 12,731 built so 33.7% of production was claimed as downed, mostly in daylight, mostly over Europe.
    4) Number 4 was the LaGG-3 with 3,381 claimed. I expected that one, too. There were some 100 LaGG-1’s built and about 6,528 LaGG-3’s built. So about half of the LaGG-1/3’s were claimed as shot down.
    5) Number 5 was the B-24 with 2,192 claimed. There were about 18,482 built so about 11.9% of production was claimed as downed. Seems to be significantly safer than either the B-17 or the Lancaster.
    6) The Lancaster was number 6 with 2,038 claims. There were some 7,377 built so 27.6% of production was claimed as downed, mostly at night.
    7) The Hurricane was number 7 with 2,033 claims. There were about 14,533 built so about 14% of production were claimed. It was apparently safer to fly a Hurricane than a Spitfire if you were fighting Germans.
    8) The I-16 was number 8 with 1,975 claimed.
    9) The Pe-2 was number 9 with 1,918 claimed.
    10) The Yak-1 was number 10 with 1,892 claimed.

    The P-51 Mustang had 1,034 claimed, making it 21st on the list. There were about 15,586 P-51’s built so 6.6% were claimed. It was MUCH safer to fly a P-51 than a Spitfire against the Germans.

    The Martin B-26 suffered 203 claims and the Mosquito suffered 194 claims. There were 5,288 B-26’s built and 7,777 Mosquitoes built. They were close but the Mossie was a bit safer than the B-26, but not significantly ... 2.5% versus 3.4%. So both were VERY safe most of the time. The Germans claimed 3 F6F Hellcats. Seems like it was a pretty safe thing to go flying in an F6F against the Germans, overall. Of course not many sorties were flown. I can't find how many as yet.

    There are still a few records to clean up ... mostly of the variety of a the last name being repeated in the first name, such as "Zien Zein" instead of "nf Zein" (nf being my abbreviation for no first name). It doesn't affect analysis of counts or types.

    I have asked and if I receive no objections from the staff of this site, I'll post the file in zip format ... but I need to wait and hear first whether or not it is OK to post it. They know where I obtained the data. We'll see.

    Meanwhile if there are questions I can answer from the list that are reasonable, and if the number of them isn't too many, I'll do the analysis and answer in here.
     
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  2. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    It is known that some Luftwaffe pilots would claim Hurricanes as Spitfires. Hurricanes also were relegated to secondary duties from 1941/42, so weren't in harms way as often after then.


    Mustangs didn't see service for 2-1/2 to 3 years after the Spitfire. Merlin Mustangs some 4 years after the Spitfire began fighting the war.

    Much of that time that the Merlin Mustangs were flying the Germans had weakened defences - for which the Mustang can take some credit. And there was also the directive to avoid the escorts and target the bombers. So less threat to the fighters than might have been.

    Spitfires had, on occasion, been subject to poor tactics - like sweeps over France in 1941.
     
  3. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Greg, they are only claims, confirmed or not, and it's fairly useless to make too far reaching conclusion from claims. E.g it is known from the real loss data that it was safer to fly Spitfire than Hurri during the BoB, I'm pretty sure that if one based his oppinion to LW claims it was other way around. One writer, was that Staphfer, wrote that because Soviet fighter pilots claimed, was that 68 000 LW planes, the history of the WWII air war in Europe must be rewritten because there was not much left from LW to be shot down by the Western Allies pilots.
     
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  4. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #4 GregP, Jul 23, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2014
    Hi Juha,

    Since there is no list of officially awarded victories for the Luftwaffe in WWII, we are left with speculation or using claims that I have been very hard to find over 5+ years of effort at such things. I choose to use the claims. In the USA, the government funded studies of WWII after the war and we have the list of officially awarded victories for both the USAAF and the US Navy / Maries. Germany never funded such research post-war.

    What I do would is take the lists of officially recognized losses for each indivuidual type and see what that gets me. For instance, the Germans claimed 2,038 Lancasters shot down. I don't know how many were admitted by the UK, but I will be looking at those data going forward.

    Hey guys, I don't want a thread full of excuses in here or never-ending arguments; it's not why I started on this list. I have seen pages and pages of threads saying that such and such a plane was the best or worst or so many were lost on missions. We didn't have any data to bounce such figures off of, so I started on the German claims list some 5 years ago. Any and all of you can make of it what you will, but the claims are the claims.

    I didn't make the claims and I don't know who did (I suspect the pilot's unit turned in the official claims), so I feel no desire to defend or argue them one way or the other ... they are what they are. All I know is these data show up in a list of German claims that I think were VERY well researched. You can bet I'll go forward and do some comparison of published losses versus claims, and put the information in here. You can dismiss it, like it, or argue until the sky turns yellow and it's OK.

    I have no dog in this hunt and don't care either way. I'm presenting numeric data with a basis in combat claims submitted to German authorities only.

    I strongly suspected the first thing that would be said was defense of the Spitfire and excuses for the low Mustang losses and it was. Everyone in here KNOWS when Mustangs first showed up in the fray. Use the data or don't.

    I'd be happy to discuss with anyone, but I won't argue about it for or against any individual type. The best or ideal discussion for ME would be how to make the best use of such claim data since that is what I am looking at doing going forward ... how can this be made useful? So if you have an idea of how best to male use of the claim data, please chime in.
     
  5. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    then there are flak victories to consider, and shared victories. This is useful data, and Greg needs to be thanked for the obvious great effort that hes put into this. but its claims only.

    During the war, the US admitted 20000 or so combat losses, of which about 5000 were in the PTO. The British admitted slightly higher, with about 2000 lost in the PTO. The Russians lost 120000 in total. US total losses were about 60000. By extrapolation, that puts Russian combat losses in the ballpark of 40000. All the rest, combined, might account for 5000, maximum. if you add all that up, you get a figure of 78000 allied a/c lost in combat, however a good proportion if these will be listed as "lost" some will be flak losses, others will be landing or take off accidents.

    63000 aerial victories starts to look difficult to reconcile to these more or less known constants. But doesnt mean they are wrong, it means they are inconsistent with other data, but that other data might just as likely be wrong as well.

    Overclaiming is a world wide phenomena and the germans are not immune to this. like all these things, you gotta be prepred top take a hard dose of scepticism when discussing these sorts of issues.
     
  6. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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  7. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Greg, is your research available? I would love to have a copy or .pdf. Thanks.
     
  8. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    #8 Juha, Jul 23, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2014
    Hello Greg
    All I am saying that claims, officially accepted or not aren't a good base to begin, because claim accuracy fluctated wildy, even between different Geschwadern fighting in same area at same time as can be seen from Luftwaffe Kills in Tunisia Compared to Recorded USAAF P-38 losses, which is a good type to study because the only type it could have been confused were the recon variants (F-5 and F-5), the claim accuracy varied from JG 51's 76.0% (very good) to JG 2's 22.7%. The problem is to find out reliable loss data. You can find RAF losses per command and year, but not by type, at least from Captain Norman MacMillan's Royal Air Force in the World War Volume IV (1950) Appendix III which gives year, sorties, tonnage (of bombs dropped) and a/c lost. The MTO info is in the Vol III (1949) App. I. So if you can collect the losses per type you can cross-check it with the info MacMillan gives. RAF BC heavy bomber losses are fairly easy to find from Middlebrook's books but I'm not so sure on Spits and Hurries but at least sums of those serving in the FC can be found from Foreman's Fighter Command War Diaries even if I have seen fairly harsh critic on Foreman's earlier Over the Beaches book. And then it is the question of AA claims. In German side there was LW's, Heer's (Army's) and Navy's AA units. British had AA-artillery and Naval AA plus RAF Regiment. Usually the AA claims are much harder to find. In the NA one must remember the Italian claims etc
     
  9. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    wow...that is a lot of work you put in there....nice job.
     
  10. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    What you did was to draw conclusions from the numbers ("It was apparently safer to fly a Hurricane than a Spitfire if you were fighting Germans", " It was MUCH safer to fly a P-51 than a Spitfire against the Germans".). But these numbers need to have some perspective.

    A type that was in the front line is surely more likely to have more claims against it than one that was at the front line for 2?
     
  11. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #11 GregP, Jul 23, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2014
    Well, Wuzak, I can draw this conclusion easily.

    The Spitfire was the type most often claimed by the Germans. They weren't particularly after Spitfires, they were out to bomb the UK. Spitfies didn't escort the daylight or night bomber streams, they were basically defensive versus the Germans and STILL they were the most claimed aircraft the Germans downed.

    Don't know what that tells you specifically, but Spitfires were in the war for five years fighting defensively. The Germans claimed 4,997 ... call it 5,000, or 1,000 per year on average.

    The P-51 Mustang got into the fray in mid 1943. So the Mustang was at war for 2 years ... or maybe 1.75 years, depending on your take on it. The Germans claimed 1,034. That's between 517 and 590 claimed per year.

    In my book, about half the losses flying in combat against the same enemy in the same theater of war is significant. If it isn't in your book, then what is? I can guarantee you that escort missions were not safe catwalks. The B-17's being escorted were the third most claimed aircraft in the German files, and that doesn't happen without attacks by both flak and fighters ... which the P-51's were assigned to prevent (the fighter portion anyway).

    So, I have a tenative new take on the ETO fighter debate from these data, even though I still have yet to correlate the admitted losses with German claims.

    I see that Tony Wood's site was named above. I have been asking about aerial victories in here since 2002 and this is the first time anyone has mentioned it to me. Go figure. Makes me want to scream.
     
  12. Crimea_River

    Crimea_River Well-Known Member

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    I'd love a copy of the list if it can be made available. Sounds like a major accomplishment Greg.
     
  13. BiffF15

    BiffF15 Well-Known Member

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    Greg,
    I concour with Crimea! I salute the fact you took the time to actually assimilate that much!
    Cheers,
    Biff
     
  14. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    If I don't receive any objections from a moderator or moderators within a couple of days, I'll post it here as a zip file.
     
  15. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Greg, you draw your conclusion too easily.

    Spitfires did not spend all their time fighting defensively, though that is what they were famous for.

    They did do offensive operations over France and in North Africa. They were used on bomber escort missions - short range missions or as part of the fighter relay. RAF Spitfires, for example, escorted the Schweinfurt-Regensburg raid into France. 8th AF Spitfires escorted the raid on the St-Nazaire submarine pens. etc.
     
  16. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    I don't think half the losses in the same theater of oerpations is insignificant, Wayne.

    If nothing else, it tells me the Spitfire was probably a bit more delicate than the P-51 since they were facing the same enemy at the same time in the same theater.

    I have no real conclusions as yet but will be looking for them in areas I would not have previously looked as a result of higher losses over equivalent timeframes. It might well amount to nothing, but it brings up a point of interest.
     
  17. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    I think you would have to do a month-by-month analysis to support that.

    And you are still talking claims - not necessarily losses.
     
  18. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Wayne,

    Theer is NO official victory list for the Germans in WWII.

    Erich Hartmann's 352 victories are claims because the Nazi government collapsed at the end of the war and the subsequent post-war German government did not fuind statistical studies of WWII at a later date. For the Nazi government, claims are all we have.

    Would you rather speculate vaguely or have at least the claims to look at?

    There IS no "vetted" victory list.
     
  19. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    Greg, the 2TAF, composed mostly of Spitfire squadrons, was certainly not fighting a defensive war.
     
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  20. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Greg, there must be a list of Spitfires lost to enemy action somewhere?
     
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