What makes an ace?

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dead parrot

Airman 1st Class
Jul 7, 2004
This is something I've been wondering about for a while now, but what do you all think is the key factor that turns a fighter pilot into an ace?

The vast majority of pilots seemed to have muddled through battles and got somewhere between 0 and 1 or maybe 2 kills, but a precious few acccount for a huge percentage of a fighter force's kills. What do these aces have in common?

One factor I have frequently come across is that aces already knew how to shoot (rifles etc) before becoming pilots. But I find this kind of strange, because I can't help thinking that shooting a rifle and lining up a plane for a shot are two completly different skill sets...

Anyways, what do you think?
Hmmm... You're post remembered me a strange story I heard about a Canadian ace of WW II.

The guy (if I remember well) was from Trois-Rivières and loved duck hunting. When the war started, he went to England and enlisted in the RAF (RCAF didn't wanted him). This guy was so used (as a duck hunter) to listen carefully, that he could hear a enemy plane's engine before it came at sight. So he had the time to jump in a plane and warm-up the engine before Germans could straffle the airstrip.

The guy was so talented that, a couple of years later, Canada forced him back and gave him a high-ranking spot in the RCAF.

Is it a true story or only a legend, I'll never know.
There were several things which contributed to being an Ace. Good gunnery helped, but wasn't required (Dick Bong was an ace several times over before receiving ANY training in air-to-air gunnery). Good eye-sight was important as was aggressiveness. I think one of the keys was a knowledge of your aircraft and that of your enemies. The pilot who can use the strengths of his plane and avoid the strengths of his enemy is bound to have success.
Or it could just be (in the USAAF) shooting three aircraft on the ground. :lol:
Dick Ira Bong--what a name... :)

But, seriously, he is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. He was a farm boy who grew up hunting with guns. So, he was good shot with a rifle and therefore he was a good shot in a plane, even though he had no air-to-air gunnery training...
It's the same principal, aim and shoot. On top of that, he probably was used to hitting moving targets. So he had a clue about firing in front of the target to bring the target into the bullet.
Bong was skilled in hunting but was never considered a good air-to-air marksmen. The majority of his kills were scored at dangerously close ranges where the chances of missing were virtually nil. After the war, he admitted that if he had received propery gunnery training before being deployed he could have doubled his score.

The destruction of aircraft on the ground was only counted in Europe. If you want to get on some one about their kill counts, get on the French or some of the Eastern European countries. They counted shared victories as whole kills and sometimes award multiple victories for dowing 1 plane (ie, 1 pilot might get credit for 2 kills because he shot down a twin-engined airplane).
I'm not getting at it, I'm just stating a fact. Destroying 3 planes on the ground wasn't as easy as it sounds.
I don't think 3 planes on the ground was ever considered an ace. 3 on the ground plus 2 in the air might be.
I saw it on a programme, and even a few Mustang pilots on it said so. I've got an interview with another Mustang pilot in a magazine who had 3 air kills, and he was an ace too. One was a Schwalbe, so I'll let him off. :D

The Germans weren't impressed if you were still in double figures. :lol:
I haven't seen anybody counting 3 as an Ace unless they had additional ground kills to make it to five. The Germans really looked down on the 5 kill mark. You needed at least 10 for it to mean anything to Luftwaffe. And they had over 100 pilots with 100+ kills.
I have some statistics about WW II Aces. (I appologize for any mistake, I translated it from French.)


Colonel Erich "Bubi" Hartmann, best pilot, 352 victories
Major Erich Rudorffer, 7th best pilot, 222 victories
Lieutenant-Colonel Dietrich Hrabak, 125 victories


Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, 28 victoires
Major Robert S. Johnson, 27 victories
Major John T. Godfrey, 16.33 victories


Vice Air-Marshall J.E. "Johnnie" Johnson, best RAF pilot in Europe, 38 victories
Captain Alan C. Deere, 22.5 victories

Well, that's all I have...
Hmm, I wonder how many of those were good shots with rifles etc before they ever flew...? Maestro, do you know off-hand?

Just another example I have seen (from The Most Dangerous Enemy, so a lot of you guys know it, I reckon), is the British ace Robert Doe. He had grown up shooting a rifle a lot when he was a kid, and so in his first ever action managed to shoot down two Me110s, despite the fact that he was an uncomfortable pilot who never did well at all at the acrobatic stuff. He put his success down to being a good shot and having a simple evasive technique that worked for him.
Hey guys it has been several dyas of R R.

let's make it perfectly clear for an air ace 5 kills were needed, For an air to ground ace 5 kills were needed. 3 kills does not make you an ace flying in WW 2 with the US of A, so that material is crock ! Fine so he scored 1 Me 262, but that does not elevate the score by 2-3 though. for the US the air to air kills were the most important followe by ground kills. Both air and ground were summed up together as an overall total for US pilots flying in the ETO. Not sure at all about the PTO, my weak point.

For the Luftwaffe, the air to air kills is the only thing that mattered unless you were of the Schlacht units and then they were counted especially armor kills. Seems that a/c shot up on the ground was not given high priority in the overall count for the pilots and their awards. Hve never heard of 5 kills being looked down upon by the German fighter forces and in fact in 1945 it was actually praised and their was hope for a few newer pilots that were able to score that many against the RAF/US and still live to talk about it. Same goes for the German night fighter forces.

Incidently Erich Rüdoffer's score could be specualted as there were not witnesse's to all of his kills, sadly Erich will not answer any more mails so this cannot even be attempted.......

E ~
Air to ground kills were not counted by US forces in the Pacific war although some people (particularly in the Navy) kept track of them as a separate catergory. The air groups aboard the USS Yorktown CV-10, for example, used the symbol of a duck (as in sitting duck) to signify a strafing kill.
plan_D said:
(snip)...I've got an interview with another Mustang pilot in a magazine who had 3 air kills, and he was an ace too. One was a Schwalbe, so I'll let him off. :D ...(snip)

Plan-D, it's a long shot, but are you talking about Ben Drew, an interview with whom appeared in World War II magazine, March 2004? His 5th and 6th kills were Me-262s, both on the same day. He also help destroy the prototype of the HUGE Bv-238V1, thus putting an end to its development.
If I can find the magazine I'll tell you, but it's not him. This one got one Me-262 killed and 2 damaged in one day.
Here is the list that I have been compiling for quite some time...


Ivan Nikitovich Kozhedub 62
Alexandr Ivanovich Pokryshkin 59
Grigori A. Rechkalov 58
Nikolai D. Gulayev 57
Dimitriy B. Glinka 56
Kirill A. Yevstigneyev 53
Nikolai M. Skomorokov 52
Arsenii V. Vorozheykin 52
Aleksandr F. Klubov 50
Ivan M. Pilipenko 48
Aleksandr I. Koldunov 46
Pavel M. Kamozin 46
Vasilii N. Kubarev 46
Nikolai F. Krasnov 44
Vladimir I. Bobrov 43
Sergi Morgunov 43
Georgi D. Kostilev 43
Vitalii I. Popkov 40
Aleksi V. Alelyukin 40
Lapanskii 40
Viktor F. Golubev 39
Vasilii F. Golubev 38
Mikhail Y. Pivovarov 37
Sergi D. Luganskii 37
Anatoli G. Dolgikh 36
Grigorii K. Gul'tyaev 36
Nikolai F. Kuznetsov 36
Ivan I. Babak 35
Nikolai S. Pavlushkin 35
Vladmir D. Lavrinenkov 35


*Marmaduke Thomas St.John Pattle 62
Adolph Gysbert Malan 35
Petrus Hendrick Hugo 22
*Johannes Jacobus Le Roux 18
Albert Gerald Lewis 18


Richard Ira Bong 40
*Thomas B. McGuire Jr.38
David McCampbell 34
Gregory Boyington 28 (6 w/AVG)
Francis S. Gabreski 28 (+6.5 Korea)
Robert S. Johnson 28
Charles H. MacDonald 27
*George E. Preddy Jr. 26.83
Joseph Jacob Foss 26
*Robert Murray Hanson 25
*Lance C. Wade (RAF) 25
Cecil E. Harris 24
John C. Meyer 24 (+2 Korea)
Eugene A. Valencia 23
Ray S. Wetmore 23
David C. Schilling 23
*Gerald R. Johnson 22
*Neel E. Kearby 22
Jay T. Robbins 22
Fred Joseph Christensen 22
Dominic S. Gentile 22
John J. Voll 21
Kenneth A. Walsh 21
Walker M. Mahurin 20.75 (+3.5 Korea)
Donald N. Aldrich 20
*Thomas J. Lynch 20
Robert B. Westbrook 20


James Edgar Johnson 38
*Brendan Eugene Finucane 32
William Vale 31
James H. Lacey 30
John Braham 29 (19 at night)
Robert Stanford Tuck 29
Frank R. Carey 28
Neville F. Duke 28.8
* Eric G. Lock 26
Billy Drake 25
* Geoffrey Allard 24
Douglas Bader 23
Donald E. Kingaby 23
Robert F. Boyd 23
Haurice M. Stephen 22.5
Michael N. Crossley 22
H. J. L. Hallowes 21.33
A. A. McKellar 21
Bransome A. Burbridge 21 (20 at night)
G. Gilroy 21
H. J. L. Hallowes 21
J. E. Rankin 21
R. A. Harries 20.33
John Cunningham 20 (19 at night)
R. H. Harries 20
W. D. David 20


George Frederick Beurling 31
Vernon Crompton Woodward 21
* Henry Wallace McLeod 19
*Mark Henry Brown 18
George Clinton Keefer 17
*William Thomas Klersy 16.5
*William Lidstone McKnight 16.5
Robert wendell McNair 16
Edward Francis J. Charles 15.5
James Francis Edwards 15
Donald Currie Laubman 15


Pierre H. Closterman 33
Marcel Albert 23
*Jean E. F. Demozay 21
*Pierre Le Gloan 20
*Edmond Marin la Meslee 20
Roland De La Poype 17
Roger Sauvage 17
Jacques Andre 16
Louis Delfino 16
Michel Dorance 16
Jean Marie Accart 16
*Albert Littolff 15


Clive Robertson Caldwell 28.5
Charles Curnow Scherf 23.5
*Keith William Truscott 17
*Leslie Redford Clisby 16.5
Adrian Philip Goldsmith 16.25
John Lloyd Waddy 15.5
*Patrick Clarence Hughes 15.17
*Richard Nigel Cullen 15


Collin F.Gray 28
Alan Christopher Deere 22.5
Evan Dall Mackie 22
Raymond Brown Hessylyn 22
William V. Crawford-Compton 22
John Milne Checketts 22
Edgar James Kain 17
Brian John George Carbury 15.5


Karel Miroslav Kuttelwascher (RAF) 28 (15 at night)
*Joseph Frantisek (RAF) 28
*Alois Vasatko 15.33
Frantisek Perina (RAF) 14


Juan Lario Sanchez 27 (USSR)
*Francisco Merono Pellicer 20 (USSR)
Vicente Beltran 20 (USSR)


Tetsuzo Iwamoto 202
Hiroyoshi Nishizawa 174
*Shoichi Sugita 120
*Takeo Okumura 98
Satoshi Anabuki 96
*Mitsuyoshi Tarui 76
Tadashi Nakajima 75
Isamu Sasaki 75
Shigeo Fukumoto 72
*Toshio Ota 68 (Devil of Rabaul)?
Saburo Sakai 64
Kazuo Sugino 64
Yasuhiko Kuroe 60
*Junichi Sasai 60
*Hiromishi Shinohara 58
Sadaaki Akamatsu 54
*Naoisihi Kanno 53
*Goro Furugori 50
Kenji Okabe 50


Eino Ilmari Juutilainen 94.17
Hans (Hasse) Henrik Wind 78
Eino Antero Luukkanen 56
Urho Sakari Lehtovaara 44.5
Oiva Emil K. Tuominen 44
Risto Olli P. Puhakka 43
Olavi Kauko Puro 36
Nils Edvard Katajainen 36
*Lauri Vilhelm Nissinen 32.33
Kyosti Keijo E. Karhila 32.25
Jorma Karhunen 31.5
Emil Onerva Vesa 29.5
Turo Tapio 'Tappi' Jarvi 28.5
Klaus Jalmari Alakoski 26
Altto Kalevi Tervo 23.25
Jorma Kalevi Saarinen 23
Eero Aulis Kinnunen 22.5
Antti Johannes Tani 21.5
Urho Paavo Johannes Myllyl 21


Prince Constantine Cantacuzine 60
*Alexandre Serbanescu 53
Florian Budu 40
Ion Milu 32
Mucenica 24
T. Greceanu 20
Vinca 16
Dan Vizanti 15


*Mato Dukovak 40
*Cvitan Galic 38
Jan Gerthofer 33
Isidor Kovaric 28
Jan Reznak 26
Mato Culinovic 18
Dragutin Ivanic 18


Jan Gerthoffer 33
Jan Reznak 32
*Izidor Kovarik 29
Frantisek Cyprich 21
Rudolf Bozik 19
Stefan Martis 19


Dezso Szentgyorgyi 34
Gyorgy Debrody 26
Lajos Toth 26
*Laszlo Molnar 25
Mikos Kenyeres 19


* Adriano Visconti 26
* Franco Lucchini 26
* Teresio Martinoli 23
* Leonardo Ferrulli 22
* Mario Visentini 20
Franco Bordoni-Bisleri 19
Luigi Gorrini 19
Furio Lauri 18
Mario Vientini 17
Ugo Drago 16
Mario Bonzano 15
Duilio Fanali 15


Erich Hartmann 352
Gerhard Barkhorn 301
Guenther Rall 275
* Otto Kittel 267
Theodore Weissenberger 252
Wilhelm Batz 237
Erich Rudorffer 222
Heinrich Bar 221
* Heinrich Ehrler 220
Hermann Graf 212
Johannes Weise 208
* Hans Philip 206
Walter Schuck 206
Anton Hafner 204
Helmut Lipfert 203
Walter Krupinski 197
Anton Hackl 192
* Maximilian Stotz 189
Joachim Brendel 189
* Joachim Kirschner 188
Kurt Hans Friedrich Brandle 180
Guenther Josten 178
Johannes Steinhoff 178-176
*Albin Wolf 176
Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert 174
Gunther Schack 174
*Emil Lang 173
*Heinz Johnny Schmidt 173
*Horst Adameit 166
*Wolf-Dietrich Wilke 162
*Hans-Joachim Marseille 158
*Heinrich Sturm 158
Gerhard Thyben 157
*Hans Beiswenger 152
Peter Duettmann 152
Gordon Gollob 150

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