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Who was the best pilot in WW2?

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...interesting that polish pilots - 5% of the allied side - got 12% of the kills while they were not as good educated in aircombat as the RAF pilots....

Sorry to say but that's BS.

The reason why the polish pilots did so good was that their training and skills far superceded those posessed by their British counterparts.

Air force pilots in Poland before the war was an elite force where they only selected the most fit applicants and then put them through a rigorous training program consisting of ACMs, shooting, etc.

The RAF idea of pilot training, on the other hand, was to ensure the pilot could maintain his position in a formation.

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Sorry to say but that's BS.

The reason why the polish pilots did so good was that their training and skills far superceded those posessed by their British counterparts.

Air force pilots in Poland before the war was an elite force where they only selected the most fit applicants and then put them through a rigorous training program consisting of ACMs, shooting, etc.

The RAF idea of pilot training, on the other hand, was to ensure the pilot could maintain his position in a formation.

I was going to raise the point that many of the Polish pilots also had actual combat experiance gained over in Europe during the outbreak of the war. Actual combat experiance helped a great deal in being a good pilot.

In the Battle of Britain the highest scoring squadron was a hurricane squadron composed of Polish pilots.

3. you can't just explain the high scores of german pilots (high score 352' date=' 15 got more than 200 kills that are 3581 kills at all, more than 100 pilots got over 100 kills) and those from much smaller countries like finnland (high score 94 kills), croatia (high score 40 kills), romania (high score 60 kills), slowakia (high score 32 kills), hungary (high score 34 kills), italy (the exception here because 2/3 of german population but only a highscore of 26 kills) because there was a target rich environment or no limited ToD for axis pilots. Axis pilots got 3 digit numbers at the western front too. But in early war (like in BoB) there was just a low number of planes at all compared to late war: Germany produced nearly twice as much Me262 in 1944/45 than they had bf109s available in BoB (809 bf109s, 300 bf110 vs 700 allied fighters and 96 blenheims). interesting that polish pilots - 5% of the allied side - got 12% of the kills while they were not as good educated in aircombat as the RAF pilots. target rich environment means also that you are outnumbered and your chance to get killed is high. in the late war at the western front german troops were not what you would call "elite" or good equipped in any kind and same for most german pilots in these days: really young men without beeing really trained had to fight against much better trained and well rested (compared) allied pilots with a lot of modern fighters in supply . and allied high scores are: usa 40 kills (just 23 pilots got more than 20 kills), uk 36 kills (22 got more than 20 kills), canada 31 kills (3 got over 20 kills), french 26 kills (5 got more than 20), polland 22 kills (only one over 20 kills), australia 28 kills (2 over 20), new zealand 27 kills (5 over 20), south africa 35 kills (4 over 20), soviet union 62 (50 got more than 20 kills). it's a fact that world war II was primary a war at the east front and not in the west and the difference in pilot scoring in both east and west is to high. (think about it again: just 15 german pilots shot down 3581 planes while ALL US aces in europe and pacific war with 10+ kills shot down 4829 planes) it looks like axis side had the better pilots/plane/training setup (before most of them got killed) in the most stupid military masterplan in history... we all can be glad that the mad man was such an idiot [/quote']

There are two primary reasons why German aces scored way more than their allied counterparts.

1. They flew until they were killed. The sheer number of missions that many of these men flew is incredible and far surpassed their allied counterparts. More missions = more oppurtunities to destroy enemy aircraft.

2. Target rich environment. As the war dragged on American and British pilots struggled to find targets to shoot at, while the Germans were sure to have endless oppurtunities to attack allied aircraft.

American and British pilots simply didn't fly long enough to mount up high scores like the Germans.

A look at some of the careers of the best American pilots shows that their scores may have soared had they been allowed to fly longer.

For example, Richard Bong (Americans top scoring ace) destroyed 40 aircraft over 200 sorties (about 0.20 kills per sortie). Erich Hartman destroyed 352 aircraft over 1400 sorties. Had Bong flown as many missions as Hartman and survived he was on pace to end up with about 280 kills.

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Another key point is that the three-digit scores were largely racked up on the Eastern Front where (particularly in the early phases of the Soviet campaign) the quality of the average Russian pilot was...let's just say it wasn't great. German pilots who spent time on the Eastern Front and then went back to the West had frequently picked up bad habits that got them killed against the RAF and USAAF.

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Interesting that nobody has nominated Werner Molders. Although he was killed in a plane accident aboard a Ju52 enroute to German (for of all things a funeral for Ernst Udet... who ironically had been forced to commit suicide), he managed to score over 100 kills - with about 50 alone being scored during the latter part of 1940 in the BoF and BoB.

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Although he was killed in a plane accident aboard a Ju52 enroute to German

it was a Heinkel He 111 - engine failure (both)

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Another key point is that the three-digit scores were largely racked up on the Eastern Front where (particularly in the early phases of the Soviet campaign) the quality of the average Russian pilot was...let's just say it wasn't great. German pilots who spent time on the Eastern Front and then went back to the West had frequently picked up bad habits that got them killed against the RAF and USAAF.

The book "Black Cross, Red Star" disagrees with this, at least in part. The authors found that by the late war most German pilots considered the Russians as dangerous opponents in the air as the Americans. There are some quotes in the books from German pilots along these lines. One commented that if you got an American in a bad situation he'd run away, but if you got a Russian in a bad situation he do his damndest to make sure you went down with him - even try and ram you. Another said that while Americans would only engage if they had numbers on their side, Russian pilots could be expected to engage German flights no matter the odds, and while this resulted in heavy casualties for them, it also made for bitter battles for the Germans.

Of course the Red Air Force was easy meat for the Luftwaffe at the beginning of the war, and German pilots shot them from the sky. "Black Cross, Red Star" argues that this gave the Luftwaffe a larger pool of experienced combat veterans than any other air force had ever seen. The overall quality of ALL pilots on the Eastern front was very high due to the experience they gained in the early war in an intense, but nevertheless relatively forgiving combat environment. Further, these units were not broken up but continued to fly together for the duration. So by the time the Russians started getting their act together the German pilots had an insurmountable edge in not just personal skill, but institutional skill as well.

One of the reasons the books argues why so many Experten fared poorly when transferred to the West was that they were often flying with new and inexperienced pilots. They had learned to expect things of their wingmen that these new pilots could not deliver, and often suffered as a result.

Of course, part of the reason Luftwaffe pilot quality fell off so precipitously was the failure to rotate pilots. Future force generation was sacrificed in favour of immediate combat power - a mistake that permeated the Luftwaffe at all levels and in all areas and cost them very, very dearly.

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One to mention is Ilmari Juutilainen from FiAF.

94 confirmed kills flying Fokker D.XXI, Brewster B239 and Bf 109.

Never shot down.

Enemy never managed to score even a single bullet hole to his aircraft.

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Another Japanese ace

Hiroyoshi Nishizawa the Devil of Rabaul, Imperial Japanese Navy 150+ kills, sadly shot down in Oct, 44 traveling in an unarmed transport plane. Forsaw his own death a day before and requested a Kamikaze mission but was refused as pilots of his skill were needed.

USMC-C-Aces-59.jpg

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Forsaw his own death a day before

You don't actually believe that kind of stuff, do you?

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First off' date=' the Knights Cross w/Gold Swords, Oakleaves and Diamonds was something that was [i']created yes, created, specifically for Rudel because the Germans had run out of suitable awards to give him. He is the first and believe one of 3 (or was it five) that hold such an award. Sorry, but you don't have the German military create a special award for you if you are nothing but a nobody pilot that has been fibbing all along about his success record on the Eastern front.

That is incorrect. Hitler had the award made to give to 12 of the top heroes of the fatherland once the war was over. However, Rudel was given the honor as an exception and was the only person to have received the award as we all know germany did not win the war.

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You don't actually believe that kind of stuff' date=' do you?[/quote']

Yes after I read Sabuo Sakais book who was in his squad, yes i do.

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Though his kill count did not match up to the best German aces in WW2, Richthofen was the father of air combat.

Richthofen was the master, but not the father.

The father of air combat for the Germans was Oswald Boelcke who's "Dicta Boelcke" formed the basis of aerial combat. The dicta was a set of eight rules, summarized as follows:

1. Secure advantage before attacking

2. Carry through with an attack you start

3. Fire only at close range, and with proper aim

4. Always watch your opponent

5. Attack from behind, avoid head to head

6. If your opponent dives on you do not turn away to run, but turn to meet him.

7. When over enemy lines never forget your line of retreat

8. When flying in squadrons, attack in formations of four to six. When the fight breaks up do not all go after the same opponent

Boelcke was Richthofen's squadron leader and teacher until his death on 28 October 1916 in an aerial collision with one of his wingmen. Richthofen would go on to ruthlessly apply Boelcke's lessons with his calculated hunting style.

Of note, Richthofen was not considered the best pilot in JG1. That honour went to Werner Voss, who was a fantastic pilot and an even better shot. Unlike Richthofen, Voss was a lone wolf pilot and served more as an inspiration than an actual leader. Where Richthofen would carefully stack the odds in his favour before attacking, Voss was known to plunge into a fight no matter the odds.

However as the war progressed the life of the lone wolf became more and more suicidal, and while he was one of the last, Voss' number finally came up. His Fokker Triplane was shot down and Voss killed when he was attacked by a flight of seven SE5s from 56 and 60 Squadrons of the RFC on 23 September 1917. By the end of the fight Voss had filled all the SE5s full of holes, but was finally wounded and killed, unable to escape from the much faster SEs. It was Voss' bad luck that the SE5s were flown by a dream team of some of the RFC's greatest pilots - every one of them an ace, lead by James McCudden, considered by some as the highest scoring British pilot of WWI (as most of his 57 kills can be confirmed, while many of his contemporaries cannot).

"As long as I live I shall never forget my admiration for that German pilot, who single-handed fought seven of us for ten minutes, and also put some bullets through all of our machines. His flying was wonderful, his courage magnificent, and in my opinion he is the bravest German airman whom it has been my privilege to see fight."

-Major James McCudden, Royal Flying Corps

Of further interesting note, Lanoe Hawker, considered the father of air combat for the British (and called "The British Boelcke") while shot down and killed in combat on 23 November 1916 while flying his DH 2 against Richthofen's Albatross D.II in one of history's classic dogfights. The DH 2 had an extremely unreliable engine, and the fight was one of the lengthiest of the war. It's believed that towards the end Hawker developed engine trouble and tried to disengage, which is when Richthofen killed him with a bullet to the head. At the time Hawker had 8 kills, and the British ace became Richthofen's 11th.

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Rudels record will be unmatched forever, you may dislike the man and his views, but as a pilot, soldier and a leader he was incredible.

Richtofen was a known cherry picker, odd thats what got him killed in the end.

Marseille gained most of his kills flying a plane, the 109f, that was far superior to his opponents. Odd the crappy side hinged canopy of the 109 got him killed.

Rudel was flying a stuka. The man had guts.

Regardless, the more I read about air combat, the more I realise how much luck was involved to survive.

Slaterat

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While Rudel's accomplishments are awe inspiring, I'm always hesitant to say anyone was the "best" myself. Some flew better planes, some had more opportunities, and some pilots were just luckier.

There's only a handful of cases where aces have met in combat and tested themselves directly against each other. In WWII one of those is the fight between "Sailor" Malan and Werner Moelders during the Battle of Britain. Meolders started with the advantage on the South African's Spit I, but Malan managed to reverse on Moelder's Emil, wounding the German ace and forcing him to crashland in France.

Malan finished the war with "only" 32 kills, a fraction of what Moelders had when he died, and a tenth that of some of the Luftwaffe's high scorers, yet in flying and fighting skill he was probably a match for any pilot in the Luftwaffe.

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Another Japanese ace

Hiroyoshi Nishizawa the Devil of Rabaul, Imperial Japanese Navy 150+ kills, sadly shot down in Oct, 44 traveling in an unarmed transport plane.

Nice to see my friends the Japanese get some lovin.

As the Pacific war in particular was where aircraft and naval forces dominated (ground campaigns were, in a way, secondary affairs), the air-to-air combat was particularly fierce. This was where the American aces got their kills. Though, not to detract from American accomplishments, part of this can be owed to the sorry fact that the Japanese had a grossly inadequate pilot replacement system whereas the Americans had an excellent one.

Japan started the war with grizzled and highly skilled air combat veterans (the same veterans who had gone toe-to-toe with the Soviets in the summer of 1939, destroyed the Chinese air force, and wiped out British air forces in the Pacific), but command was too confident in their abilities and therefore didn't emphasize their eventual replacements.

The result was a generation of highy-skilled veterans eventually being shot down or dwindling in number, while the Japanese air forces eventually became mostly comprised of unskilled "n00bs" who had only minimal training and no experience. This accounts for such events as the "Marianas Turkey Shoot".

That being said, many veteran aces did make it through the war and continued to rack up kills as the war came to a close. There were even a few aces known as "B29 killers" who racked up joint scores on B29 kills with their Ki-61's and other high alt bomber-killer aircraft.

Sadly the Japanese tended to deemphasize individual scoring (the complete opposite of their allies the Germans), so the highest scoring Japanese aces likely had kill tallies much higher than the numbers out there (which differ greatly). The Japanese military liked to have group emphasis and so tended to divide scoring among the group, or not recognize scoring at all. Despite some sources claiming that Japanese scores were exaggerated, the opposite is actually true; they were often dismissed by the NCOs and officers who had to confirm the kill reports. Therefore, it could be said that Japan had the most stringent scoring system but also the most inaccurate one because it deemphasized individual achievement, dismissed a great deal of kill reports, and had no universal score system.

It should also be noted that most of the highest scoring aces are navy pilots as the largest Pacific battles against the US were mostly IJN affairs with IJAAF in a secondary and defensive role.

Certainly Nishizawa was one of the best (perhaps the most skilled Japanese pilot of the war)

USMC-C-Aces-59.jpg

...and though you may read different things about Japanese scores, I think it's safe to assume he had anywhere from 80 to over 150 kills, mostly against American forces.

Nishizawa didn't cast a very heroic figure; he was unusually sickly and gaunt, tall, lanky, and pale for a Japanese. He seemed to be "unfit" to be the hardcore military man the Japanese demanded of its forces....but he flew an airplane like few others could.

And Saburo Sakai, definitely. STRONGLY recommend his book "Samurai" as a few others have mentioned.

The highest scoring IJAAF ace doesn't get a lot of attention because he was an army pilot rather than a navy pilot;

Hiromichi Shinohara

Shinohara fought in Mongolia against the Soviets in the Battle of Nomonhan (Khalkin Gol), during the unofficial Soviet-Japanese war in 1939 (which has not gotten much attention in history). Japanese aces actually racked up huge kill scores against the Soviet air forces in a battle which only lasted from May to September of that year (even though they were facing Soviet veterans of the Spanish civil-war). Shinohara got at least 58 confirmed kills before being KIA in August. With such a high score in such a small time, had he survived, he might have gone on to be Japan's #1 ace.

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Yeah, Guynemer's another great one. He was on the verge of physical collapse for most of the war, yet still proved himself a peerless pilot. Rene Fonck would ultimately shoot down more planes, but never with Guynemer's panache.

Probably his most famous battle is his legendary 1-on-1 duel with Ernst Udet, the highest scoring German Ace to survive WWI, and renowned as a superb pilot in his own right. Udet's account of the battle makes it clear that Guynemer was all over him. A few minutes into the battle Udet got a fleeting snapshot at Guynemer's SPAD - and his guns jammed. He started beating on them with his fists to try and clear them while Guynemer circled above him.

The French ace saw what Udet was doing and dove past Udet, rolling inverted and waving as he went by before diving for home. Udet was left in awe of Guynemer's flying skill and chivalry. This encounter came late enough in the war that most of the early chivalry between pilots was a thing of the past.

Here's a picture Russel Smith painted of that duel. I had a larger version as my desktop for a bit.

http://www.brooksart.com/Lesson.html

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Oh, talking about duels between aces, I remember reading about one the Aces of the Pacific historical material (I think it was). It was between an American and a Japanese ace over either Rabaul or Truk, and the American finally won it with a 90 degree vertical deflection shot.

For the life of me I can't remember the names of either pilot, but they were both pretty famous.

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Yes after I read Sabuo Sakais book who was in his squad' date=' yes i do.[/quote']

"Samurai" is NOT Saburo Sakai's book.

It is Martin Caidin's book loosely based on his interviews of Sakai.

There was later rather bitter argument between Caidin and Sakai

because Sakai had found out that Caidin had been putting words

into his mouth.

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"Samurai" is NOT Saburo Sakai's book.

It is Martin Caidin's book loosely based on his interviews of Sakai.

There was later rather bitter argument between Caidin and Sakai

because Sakai had found out that Caidin had been putting words

into his mouth.

wow...are you sure about that? I could believe that, but I had no idea. It's an excellent book and it's written from Sakai's point of view (he's credited as the author "with" Martin Caidin). I had always assumed that this was Saburo Sakai's own memoir.

Hmmmm got any linkage for more info?

EDIT:

Check this out

http://www.mishalov.com/Sakai.html

Saburo Sakai's New York Times obituary.

Mr. Sakai was dining with American military officers at the Atsugi Naval Air Station west of Tokyo and suffered a heart attack as he leaned across the table to shake hands with an American; he died later in a hospital.

Died at the age of 84 in 2000; his opponents were only able to take his right eye, and he died the friend of his former enemies. R.I.P.

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