Pilot claims vs actual enemy losses discrepancy

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by freebird, Aug 11, 2010.

  1. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    #1 freebird, Aug 11, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2010
    Following on from Ren's post in the "Spt vs Zero" thread, I thought this might be a worthy topic to discuss.
    I'm not really interested in a detailed argument about the numbers, but about the strategic implications of the problem. I think its pretty clear that from Jun '41 - Jun '42 ETO CBI, Allied AF vs Axis AF, the Allies were losing many more aircraft than the Axis were. (not including naval AF)

    The question: Why were the numbers so wildly innaccurate, even in the "primary" theater of the ETO, and was there any way for the command to have known this? Should they have been able to know?

    Good points Renrich.
    However, I think there is something missing here. Some posters don't seem to see this as a major problem - if some pilots were mistaken or "over entusiastic" about kill claims (or even deliberate) it wasn't a major problem, as it only affects personal records. However, it IS a major problem, as it affects the ability to make future plans.

    In 1941 the British were confidant that they were "Striking a blow to the Heart of Germany" with bombing, however after the Butt report in Aug '41, they became ppainfully aware that the effort was mostly wasted (only 5% of the bombers dropped within a few miles of target)

    In fact, there was an even worse discrepancy in fighter command.

    The Air Over Dieppe: Army, Part 9 | Legion Magazine

    A good part of the blame for the poor preparation in the MTO CBI was that fighter aircraft were urgently needed in the ETO because we were beating the Germans there and winning the war. If RAF had know that in actual fact they were losing over 4 aircraft for each Axis plane destroyed, might priorities have been different?

    Was there any indication that loss vs kill ratios were so badly wrong?
    Could they not tell from gun camera footage?
     
  2. billswagger

    billswagger Member

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    You have records that compare different types of losses. US losses generally reflect lost planes, but German records (i've heard)usually indicate a lost pilot. Someone on this forum explained that loss lists were derived by people lost in combat. So a pilot could be shot down over his friendly territory and still be on active duty, so the loss was otherwise not indicated.

    Its also fact that pilots would sometimes exaggerate their claims and gun cams were another way of confirming victories.

    I can't say much for Japanese loss/victory records. US history seems to paint the Imperial Japanese as having a relentless propaganda machine. Its one thing to record the actual victories/losses and its another make a script that details how one famous pilot overtook entire squadrons of allied fighters.

    I don't have the time to back track through sources but there was an article written on this very subject, outlining Sakai and some of his earlier claims. He's sited as having shot down planes that never flew at the locations he flew and the numbers of aircraft are grossly exaggerated. The article attests to the fact that his claims came from a time of war, and quite possibly his own words may have been twisted by the Japanese media. In present day interviews, his accounts seem to be more or less inline with US historical records.
     
  3. Just Schmidt

    Just Schmidt Member

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    These are some very interesting questions.

    As for why enemy losses were so wildly overestimated, it seem appropriate to distuingish between reports from fighter vs fighter and fighter vs bomber.

    In the last case the discrepansies are "easily" explained by the fact that hundreds of gunners were blazing away at the same fighter, and if this fighter was brought down all would claim the victory. I've also seen statet several places that the Fw 190 A's often developed smoke (not sure if it is the correct technical term:oops:) from perfectly functioning engines, leading to the enemy belief it was going down in flames.

    The exaggerated claims in fighter vs fighter is a lot harder to explain (though I hope someone bolder than me will give it a try), and factors here might even be valid also in the fighter vs bomber aspects.

    And then there is the question of strategic impact. Well, I'm bailing out on that one too...
     
  4. Nikademus

    Nikademus Member

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    The simplest answer i'd forward, based on studying day to day air ops which included hundreds of "eyewitness descriptions", is that its damn hard to tell a kill from a hit or clean miss in the heat of combat. Events are occuring very rapidly, with objects moving very fast and twisting about. I've read dozens of times whereby pilots will be quoted as saying "I saw x plane blow up/disintigrate/hit the sea/hit the ground and explode in a fireball etc etc" only to have the post war research and records for the side that owned the plane that "blew up" that all participants in skirmish x on day y returned safely to base.

    Human perception is falible, memory is fallible and the mind plays tricks somtimes. I recall a discussion in Psychology class regarding how "memory" works. The example used was your typical car accident but it has similar attributes to air combat in that accidents often happen quickly and suddenly. You get 5 different witnesses and each might recall the incident differently right down to specific occurances.

    Shores pointed one variable that really helped to explain the AVG claim disperity that persisted for years before his (and Daniel Ford's book) shed a more balanced light on the battles there. The BnZ tactic could produce situations quite easily whereby false claiming would be prevalient. Your making a slashing attack at high speed. You target the enemy bomber and see it "smoke" and dive away. Next instant your far away as you pull out of your dive. You saw the enemy smoke and drop out of formation. Kill? probable....maybe even confirmed if the wingman backs you up. Reality: The plane wasn't even hit....the smoke seen was caused by the gunning of the engine as the plane conducted evasive maneuvers. (This incident was a real example...but shows only one possible way by which such can occur)

    How to tell fact from fiction? No foolproof way. Germans had a fairly strict means of confirming but in the end it was not less subject to overclaiming than any other service. The smarter commanders took kill claims with a grain of salt and kept their eye on the bigger picture. Kill ratios are not the goal but a means to an end. If your pilots for example are making massive claims day in and out yet the enemy keeps coming on in strength, that can be a good indicator that something is not working as well as is being told. includes attrition battles.


    RAF units operating at Home in FC and BC already had priority. What would change? Units operating in the MTO/CBI were well aware of the growing obsolence of the Hurricane and wanted Spitfires naturally. The long time in coming of obtaining them in sufficient numbers was and continues to be a source of bitterness for the pilots on the sharp end in those Theaters. The high loss rates over Malta, to use a specific example led local CO's to not only demand Spitfires but also better experienced pilots vs. the raw drafts they were getting.

    From what i've read, very few fighters had "gun cameras" in the first half of the war. Not sure how many had them later in the war. I've never seen a figure and would be interested in seeing it because the issue of said cameras is often one that gets abused in debates.
     
  5. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Good move FB. Here is an example of what I was alluding to: On February 20, 1942, we are all familiar with the exploits of Butch O Hare. In defense of the Lexington, he singlehandedly, (his wingman had jammed guns) attacked eight rikkos of the 1st Chutai. These were land attack bombers G4M1s. He used high side high deflection runs and because of his expertise in this type attack he was hit by only one 7.7 bullet. He expended all his ammo and upon landing was credited with six kills, later reduced to five. Really? The fact is that he only shot down three EA although several more were damaged and he absolutely made the attack by the Japanese less effective. He was awarded the MOH for this exploit.

    I have no quarrel with his efforts or his MOH. He did great work that day and is a shining example. I have no quarrel with any of this except I wonder about this: In the PTO, the F4F is credited with 1408 kills. My guess is that those two kills he did not get are part of those 1408 kills the F4F is credited with. So he got credit for 40% more kills than he actually got and I believe those kills he did not get were only discovered many years after WW2 was over by a writer and researcher like John Lundstom and recorded in his book, "The First Team"

    All this leads me to believe that the kills by the F4F and all our other fighters in the PTO are overreported by perhaps as much as 40%. That puts a different complexion on the air war and leads me to believe, as earlier stated, that the war in the air was much closer than we might believe and the vaunted superiority of our aircraft and pilots might be a little overstated.

    I have read and believe it to be correct that both side's excited pilots when first arriving back at home base tended to be enthusiastic over claimers by about 50%. Bu when all cooled down and the final numbers were agreed on by the intelligence officers, maybe even those numbers were off.
     
  6. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Aside from the good points that FB made about overclaiming causing poor decisions by the high command, I believe it is important for all of us with an interest in history to have an accurate view of what really happened. It is nice to believe that O Hare shot down five Betty bombers in one engagement and it is nice to believe that Marseille shot down 17 fighters in three sorties in one day but if that is untrue, it gives us a skewed view of the war. It is hard for me to believe that Hartmann actually shot down 352 (or so) EA.
    Was any pilot

    that good? Was he that much better than Bong or Malan or whoever?

    In reading Shores about the CBI, I got the distinct impression that the Japanese were still very formidable in the air even in 1945. That does not sound like a crumbling, disorganised, beaten foe. That does nothing but give more credit to our pilots who were fighting them and also a lot of credit to the Japanese. The truth is a commodity in short supply in this day of a two or three minute sound bite so I would like to know, as much as possible, what really happened.
     
  7. steve51

    steve51 Member

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    billswagger,

    The Germans did record aircraft losses. They used a percentage of damage criteria where 60% damage represented a total write off or destroyed . I believe you're thinking of WW1, where German aircraft loss lists have been lost, while most pilot casualties lists have survived.
     
  8. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    "I'm not really interested in a detailed argument about the numbers, but about the strategic implications of the problem. I think its pretty clear that from Jun '41 - Jun '42 ETO CBI, Allied AF vs Axis AF, the Allies were losing many more aircraft than the Axis were. (not including naval AF)"

    I dont think that was the end point reached in the previus discussion. What did become apparent was that zero losses versus allied fighter losses were consistently overclaimed (by both sides, but that the zero was also consistently outscoring the Allies. What was disconcerting in that thread was that this trend continued for a long time in certain theatres after the traditionally accepted "tipping point" of June 1942. In the case of the Spitfires in the pacific, the Zeroes were flying rings around them right through 1943.

    However, in terms of total numbers of aircraft, the trends were a lot closer than that. Allied aircraft losses versus Axis losses appear to be a lot closer than allied fighters versus axis fighters. in the Darwin battles for example it appear that in a certain period of time, the allies lost 30 Spits, whilst shooting down 46 enemy aircraft. There were only 4 zeroes 9I think....not sure) in that total, so the fighter war was definately continuing in Japans favour.

    In the case of the ETO, its a whole new ballgame. I have a book which looks at the critical year of 1941, as to recorded losses over france and England, and it shows that in 1940 (after the BoB) through to the end of 1941, LW bomber losses were quite heavy. Fighter losses were again tipped in favour of the Axis, but the difference is not so marked as it was for the Japan/Allied exchange rates.

    The question: Why were the numbers so wildly innaccurate, even in the "primary" theater of the ETO, and was there any way for the command to have known this? Should they have been able to know?

    What is more perplexing is that the apparent overclaims and what appears to be happenbing in the air (ie, the axis fighters holding a marked superiority) should have resulted in them maintaining air superiority. But they didnt. They lost air superiority and at best could claim air parity, at worst air superioruity passed to the allies. Given that the allies at that time did not enjoy a marked numerical superiority what happened to allow the axis to lose their complete control of the skies?????

    In 1941 the British were confidant that they were "Striking a blow to the Heart of Germany" with bombing, however after the Butt report in Aug '41, they became ppainfully aware that the effort was mostly wasted (only 5% of the bombers dropped within a few miles of target)


    The bombers were not hitting their targets, for sure. Over france the brits were using small groups of fighters to entice the Germans into battle. As a rough generalization, the jagdwaffe were shooting down about 2 RAF aircraft for every one they lost themselves, But the german bombers were also suffering quite bad losses, which tended to even things up, at least until the Germans redeployed east

    A good part of the blame for the poor preparation in the MTO CBI was that fighter aircraft were urgently needed in the ETO because we were beating the Germans there and winning the war. If RAF had know that in actual fact they were losing over 4 aircraft for each Axis plane destroyed, might priorities have been different?

    I dont think they were losing four for every one. According to my refernce it was a bit closer than that, though still bad. When German bomber losses are factored into the equation the loss excahnge rate are even less. I am not referring to the losses over Germany itself, which were unescorted raids, for which i dont have daily loss records anyways.
     
  9. Hop

    Hop Member

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    You can't always take loss figures at face value, either. I believe the 15 - 1 type ratios for US fighters in the Pacific are arrived at by taking US losses attributed to enemy fighters and comparing them to kill claims. US losses to flak, accidents etc are excluded.

    I wouldn't take those losses at face value either. I once had a brief discussion on German losses in 1941 with Christer Bergstrom. According to him, from 22 June - 31 December 1941 German losses were 100 pilots killed, 48 wounded, 1 prisoner, which he listed as 149 "lost" pilots, so I presume the wounded pilots were those too badly injured to resume flying.

    The number of lost aircraft was listed as 110 in fighter combat, 58 to other causes.

    There are a couple of problems with these figures. Firstly, the number of losses to "other causes" seems high. There are 2 ways to record loss figures. You can attribute unknown losses to "other causes" or you can make a best guess as to what actually caused the loss. The first way results in losses to enemy action, where there is no proof that's what happened, being recorded as "other causes".

    The second problem is these are not the complete figures. They are for JG 2 and JG 26 only.

    In the same period JFS 5 recorded 48 claims over northern France and the channel. They were attached to JG 2 so their losses may be included, but I wouldn't bet on it.

    JG 1 recorded 8 victories over and off the Netherlands.

    JG 52 recorded 20 victories over and off the Netherlands.

    JG 53 recorded 18 victories over and off the Netherlands.

    RAF pilot claims of 731 aircraft during this period were for all types, including JU 88s, Dorniers etc. Claims for single engined fighters, which is what the German loss figures refers to, were 605, afaik.
     
  10. Nikademus

    Nikademus Member

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    #10 Nikademus, Aug 12, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2010
    He was referring to the postwar tracking of losses by researchers. Shores for example in Fighters over Tunisia explained in his Forward to the book that the primary source used by himself and Hans Ring for the Luftwaffe were Quartermaster General casualty lists. A weakness of this source was that if a situation arose whereby a downed German fighter pilot was never reported as MIA or WIA, (aka, a pilot force lands or crash lands without injury and gets back to his unit before it reports him as lost or missing)

    In this case a claim by an Allied pilot, unverified in "German" records would have in fact been true.


    Adding to the mix and confusion, Eric Bergerud in his book on SoPac combat noted that the US and Japanese classified their losses differently. The Japanese tended to treat any losses on a mission as "combat losses" while the US was opposite recording many losses as Operational unless specifically reported/witnessed as a combat loss. Combined with pilot interviews, one got a strong impression that US losses were frequently not reported as combat losses unless a witness could verify that the plane going down was on fire, with a enemy Japanese fighter riding it's tail all the way to the ground.

    European practice included counting forced landings while under combat and crashes/collisions during combat as "kills" which could be reported as legitimate claims while i don't think that was the case for the U.S. One P-40 pilot who crash landed while being shot up by a Ki-61 was quoted as saying he wasn't sure if the enemy pilot was credited with a score against him but if not, he should have been!
     
  11. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    I would think those would be the accepted figures after the war, which were based on enemy aircraft presumed shot down. It was not until some years later that research was able to match Japanese records with Allied claims.

    "Other causes" as in those lost to training accidents, landing mishaps, ran out of fuel, accidentally hit by German flak, etc. The British figure of 411 lost would also not include those lost in the UK to non-combat "other causes"


    So if there were 731 claimed and only ~100 actually lost there may be only 50 or 60 enemy fighters lost, and 40 or so bombers/recon etc?


    I don't think you can presume that at all. Most of the wounded pilots would be those bailed out in combat, or survived a crashed landing. Either way it would be easy to break or sprain a leg on (para) landing or sustain injuries on crash landing, but presumably many pilots would be able to fly again after a few months. You certainly cannot assume that ALL wounded pilots are unable to return to combat. So the JG would have "lost" the pilots from active duty, but the pilot would be able to return to combat after some time. (Although possibly not with the same JG)
     
  12. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    #12 freebird, Aug 12, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2010
    But the LW bomber combat losses shouldn't be a factor in this discussion, should they? The British should have a fairly accurate picture of operations over the UK, by comparing losses of RAF interceptors with actual wreckage of LW bombers shot down. From the Allied strategic planning side, they have to continue to protect British territory, but the option to draw battle over the continent is another matter.

    The 1941 the Western Front LW bomber combat losses should almost certainly be over the UK or the surrounding waters wouldn't they? (As both the RAF the LW continued in the "blitz" of enemy cities)
    However, the LW aircraft encountered in combat on Rhubarb or Circus operations over the continent should almost certainly be LW fighters intercepting. Due to the fact of the RAF over-claiming aircraft destroyed on continental raids by 5 or 6 or 7 times, these disasterous operations were continued.

    I wonder what the over-claim difference is between friendly enemy territory?
    The figure given for the climactic day in the BoB was that Fighter command claimed ~180 LW aircraft destroyed, when in fact it was supposedly 60 shot down. If you take into account those LW aircraft that were very badly damaged written off or crash landed in France (probably due to combat damage) on that day, you might have had slightly higher, perhaps another 10 or 20 aircraft. (ie "operational kills")

    So despite the chaos of attacked airfields, confusion as to losses from flak, multiple claims for the same aircraft, claims for LW bombers that made it back on 1 engine etc. the over-claims were perhaps in the range of 2.5 times, (not more than 3 in any event)

    Yet over the continent, over-claims of LW aircraft destroyed suddenly jumps to 5 or 6 or 7 to 1?
    Why is that?
     
  13. claidemore

    claidemore Member

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    freebird:
    If we're not interested in details about the numbers, then how can we be "pretty clear" that Allied AF's were losing many more aircrafft than Axis AF's? Thats a huge presumption.
    Is that a fact? How can it be a fact if you don't know whether it was 5 or 6 or 7?

    Everything I've learned in the past leads me to believe that overclaiming in most theatres by most airforces in WWII was by a factor of approximately 2 to 1. If I am to accept numbers like 5,6, or 7 to 1, then I need to see some detailed figures.

    Renrich: you offered the example of a 40% overclaim by Butch O'Hare as a measurement for the F4F fleet. That is a good indicator, but we really need to look at a larger random selection of individual combats over a wide period of time. Of course that would be a lot of work.
     
  14. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    #14 parsifal, Aug 12, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2010
    Hi FB

    I just dont see the imbalance as being all that great, and strategically Germany was losing, not winnng the air war . I see the losses being absorbed by the RAF as attritional necessaities nmore than anything. There was gross overclaiming (by both sides, to be sure, and i have previously raised doubts about the accuracy of some official records, and then ther is the complication of when a loss is a loss.....

    However, just to illustrate my point, and drawing from John Foremans book 1941 - Part 2 - The Blitz to the Non-Stop Offensive, if I could pick a "typical" day/night action from say 18 April 1941, the RAF lost 16 Bombers, and 3 fighters in tactical operations over France. The Luftwaffe lost 9 Bombers and 1 Me 109e. 6 of the bombers were destroyed or crashed over friendly (ie German) territory.

    The next day the RAF lost 3 Bombers and 3 fighters, whilst the Luftwaffe lost 1 bomber (30% damaged) and one fighter (15% damaged) both in crash landings. However that night over England the Luftwaffe lost a further 14 aircraft (including 6 damaged, ranging from 15% to 75% damage). These are not exceptional days for the RAF, they are typical, so where this idea of a one sided exchange rate comes from, I am not quite sure.

    In the period 9/39 through to the end of 1941, the Luftwaffe lost the equivalent of three air forces, thats roughly 7-8000 aircraft. I dont know how many aircrew were lost, but judging by the gradual reduction in training hours, I would say the Luftwaffe was losing a lot of aircrew as well. Whilst the RAF was losing aircraft hand over fist as well, its frontline strength grew from 2500 in August 1940, to 5200 in December 1941. In that same period the German frontline strength shrank from 3015 to 2561. There was a partial recovery the following spring for the luftwaffe when numbers climbed back to 3500, but it should be clear from those numbers that the Germans simply could not be winning a lay down mezzaire hand. I am sure there will be arguments about those numbers, but I think the general trend should be clear....the Luftwaffe suffered from sever overuse as 1941 progressed, continued to struggle from a relatively low production and training rate, was stuck with a two front war, and became increasingly stretched thin as time went by. none of these numbers suggest a runaway series of one sided losses in favour of the germans.
     
  15. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I have spent a lot of time researching LW/USAAF 8th AF claims and believe the following:

    1. The 8th AF Bomber claims were far overstated.
    2. The 8th AF fighter claims were close

    The most common 'overclaim' circumstances between LW records and US fighter pilot claims were centered on the disposition of a crash landed aircraft. As noted above the damage estimate of 60% was the threshold of 'written off' but there are zero statistics on the percentage of a/c with less than 60% which were actually returned to service.

    The second most probable overclaim is the all too common "seen to spin out of control pouring black smoke".. Some were awarded probables and some were awarded destroyed credits.

    Having said this, combat film was used heavily, and absent conclusive combat film a witness was required to award a credit for destroyed.

    When cmpared to LW reports and publications (Prien, etc) of their own KIA and ac destroyed in combat with 8th AF, I found that the US fighter claims were close (90-95%) if one disregarded bomber claims completely... no question German fighters were shot down by bomber crews so one must be careful about the assumptions.

    I found that German claims for destoyed US bombers and fighters vs 8th AF was about 2:1 overstated when examining US losses. Having said that, if the 8th AF ship made it back to England and was written off it wasn't noted as 'shot down'.

    As noted by several folks, the post war 'ratios' were in fact either air to air comparisons of 'credits versus losses' or enemy aircraft destroyed in combat to all combat losses.

    8th AF noted most losses around airfields on take off/assembly as 'Accidents', aircraft lost over England with no combat operations involved as 'accidents' whereas operational losses were the rather all inclusive mechanical, coolant, loss of control/mac, loss of fuel, 'seen to spin out of control' etc when no eney aircraft or flak was discernable.

    Most defined accidents were due to weather, pilot error or mechanical failures.

    To the question 'what were the consequences to failure to account for realistic enemy losses due to your own pilot's overclaiming' - I don't know other than underestimating true enemy strength and planning accordingly.

    The plan results might be to shift focus from destroying aircraft industrial or airfield sites to other targets, or to consistently underestimate expected enemy air reaction when planning a mission. The Luftwaffe amy have been guilty of both during BoB.

    The basic consequence to USAAF may have been more a morale/political issue as the LW kept pounding the 8th AF when the Intelligence reports cited LW fighter losses as higher than their actual strength in total.
     
  16. VG-33

    VG-33 Banned

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    This look like an neverending story.
    Overclaim is natural, no doubt that much less than 731 german planes were destroyed over France for the quoted period.

    On the other hand, are you sure that german losses list is 100% complete and reliable to pretend that only 103 aircraft were lost to these action.

    AFAIK, Luft strengh grew from 3 900 to 4 200 from the beginning to the end of 1941. In the meantime some 10 270 planes were produced. So 100 shooted down by RAF over France. OK.
    link:
    http://img508.imageshack.us/img508/7880/41902849.jpg

    But where the hell did the others 9 870 (10270 - 300 -100) ther planes went away?
    I'm not sure we knew the faith for each one of them...

    Regards
     
  17. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Claidemore, I don't know for a fact that the two rikkos that Butch supposedly shot down but did not are listed as some of the kills of the F4F, but my suspicion is that they are because I believe that the numbers generally accepted are from that Navy Report of 1946. Remember that he was originally credited with six kills when he first landed on Lexington but that was reduced to five so it was originally an overclaim of 2 to 1. For many years after the war I read of the O Hare exploit of becoming an ace in one flight and I think that story still circulates except that now someone like Lundstrom comes along and upon studying in depth the Japanese records he finds that the Japanese in that engagement not only lost three rikkos to O Hare but he even names the pilots of the rikkos in the engagement.

    My guess is that if the average member of this forum was asked to say how many Zeros were shot down by Navy Wildcats and vice versa from the war's beginning to November, 1942, the answer would be somewhere around 60 Wildcats to around quite a few less Zeros. The reality though is that Lundstrom found, ( without me looking it up) that it was about 30-30, which if you think about it is not very many.

    The Hellcat is credited with 5257 kills in the PTO with 270 Hellcats lost to EA. What if that number of kills was reduced to say 3500? Big difference!

    I agree with you that the only way to pin this down would be to do as Lundstrom or Shores and his associates did and go day to day over the records of both sides and reconcile the figures as well as possible. I also agree with other members who state that most of the overclaiming was unintentional. If O Hare sees a rikko with one engine on fire and smoke and flame coming from the wing and seemingly diving through cloud out of control, one cannot blame him for thinking he has a kill.

    An interesting aside which has been cussed and discussed on this forum was that the Navy concluded that Butch was so successful in this fight and received only one hit from a 7.7 because he was so skilled at high deflection shooting which the USN stressed in training and all of his runs were. That made the Japanese gunner's job almost impossible. One of the Wildcats lost that day was when the pilots made a low deflection run from astern and the rikko got him with the 20 mm tail gun.
     
  18. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    #18 JoeB, Aug 12, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2010
    Overclaims on average in WWII were certainly higher than 2:1. I agree it's a commonly quoted ballpark, or even 3:2, but it's optimistic in most cases (from claiming side POV). IOW freebirds's quote is not of some extraordinary new thing that needs extraordinary proof.

    It's documented in many sources that fighter-fighter claims by RAF in sweeps over NWE in 41-42 period resulted in overclaims of a multiple (ballpark mentioned) much more than 2:1. The British high command eventually figured this out, via codebreaking. That's actually important because it's probably among the reasons RAF claiming got more accurate later in the ETO, but of course they couldn't tell whose specific victory credits were overclaims, nor even disclose what they knew. And it could have been 5 or 6 or 7 depending on incomplete info and the vagaries of loss classification especially of a defending fighter force over friendly controlled territory like the LW in that period (a/c perhaps recovered and reparied even if it landed wheels up in a field, perhaps cannibalized for spares even though landed on own wheels at base shot up, etc., how were they all counted?).

    On accompanying thread we went through how the Japanese 3rd Air Group lost 8 Zeroes in combat with USAAF 49th FG P-40's over Darwin in 1942, per the 3rd's original detailed records, v 37 credits for Zeroes by the P-40's, and I believe the Spitfire Wing was credited a higher ratio still compred to the 4 Zeroes shown lost in the same Zero unit's (by then designated 202nd AG) records the following year, in each case mission reports which show each combat recorded by the Allies and name all the Japanese pilots on each mission. And this was no fluke, similar results frequently seen in other early-mid war actions of Allied fighters v Zeroes.

    But in fact overclaim ratio's varied enormously, apparently affected by all kinds of variables. The credits of some Luftwaffe night fighter units v British bombers in early-mid war were basically 100% correct, and 50% or 75% correct claiming did happen even in fighter v fighter action in daylight (US and British at times late in the war, Germans at times earlier), but OTOH 15% claiming in fighter-fighter combat was not that uncommon*, and 15% was seldom achieved by bomber formation claims v. intercepting fighters in daylight. A partial list of non-quantified variables I've noticed:
    -claims by fighters were less accurate against other fighters than against non-fighters
    -claims in large scale actions were less accurate
    -claims by the side actually suffering more heavily were less accurate
    -claims at night, by fighters, somewhat paradoxically, tended to be relatively accurate
    -claims by bombers against fighters were usually very inaccurate
    -particular phenomenon like clouds, or tactical situation like a 'perfect bounce' that all the pilots on one side just *knew* had been devastating (but wasn't actually) could cause extreme overclaims
    -some air arms overclaimed more than others on average, but there was no standard for any particular air arm. British, US and German fighter arms all had episodes of quite accurate and very inaccurate claiming, relative to the other variables mentioned. The Japanese are generally (and mainly correctly) thought of as tending toward more inaccurate, but some early war actions by their fighters v US bombers resulted in underclaims, more than one case.

    Re: somebody else's comment about counting AA and accidental losses, it surely mattered what the total losses of an air force were not only its air combat losses, but I've never seen the point in counting losses to non-air combat in discussion focusing on claims made by the other side *in* air combat. In some cases there might be questions about causes of losses (whether accurately reflected in records), but the answer you want to find specifically relative to one side's aerial claims is the other side's air combat losses, seems elementary to me :D.

    *The Soviets averaged in that ballpark in both the 1939 war v Japan and in their operations in the Korean War; AFAIK the ratio and its variations are not clear for WWII, and seems a sensitive topic to tackle even for some authors who write about the east front air war 'from both sides', but it's very clear in Korea, again subject to the variables above (for example accuracy was ~33% for night claims later in the war, but only about 13% for Nov 1950-May 1951 daylight combat, a period with excellent info available on virtually every combat from both sides, and basically only the Soviets fighting on one side)

    Joe
     
  19. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    I have noticed that ground attack claims are even more inflated than air to air claims. Just 2 examples, during the Falaise Gap battle RAF and USAAF pilots claimed hundreds of tanks and thousands of trucks destroyed yet research on the ground actually seem to have attributed around the low tens of tanks and 2 or 300 hundred trucks knocked out by aircraft. Most vehicles seemed to have abandoned out of fuel rather than destroyed.

    The first month of Barbarossa, Luftwaffe ground attack claims are in the positively bonkers range. I have read of claims of 20,000 aircraft and 150,000 vehicles destroyed on the ground. Vast amounts of aircraft and vehicles were lost by the Russians but those numbers surely dont add up after 2 or 3 months there wouldnt have been anything capable of driving or flying on the Russian side.

    I dont criticise the pilots for overclaiming when the adrenaline is running your judgement and all senses are impaired. Plus going round again for a second look to confirm your kills hadnt just driven off with a slightly stunned crew would be suicide.

    I used to race motorbikes (not very succesfully I might add) and outside of the small strip of tarmac or dirt you were on the world could have ended and you wouldnt notice. Once at a race a rider some distance in front of me lost it under braking his bike hit the barrier and bounced back onto the track cartwheeling in front of me. Friends in the crowd thought I was a gonner it missed the front of my bike by only a fraction and I was on the stops accelerating hard at about 100 to 110mph. I never even saw the bike and couldnt work out what all the fuss was about about after the race finished.
     
  20. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    The cult of the Ace certainly has its good and bad.

    The benefits of overclaimng would be fame, promotion and also better ground crew so a quick boast is maybe the way.

    Statistics I leave to the maths teachers.

    Dont prove nothing. In boxing, Its not the number of punches thrown but who is standing at the end.

    That is the only statistic worth knowing.
     
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