Allied Fighter Aces of WW2

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  • The Air Combat Tactics and Techniques of World War II MIKE SPICK


  • ALLIED FIGHTER ACES The Air Combat Tactics and Techniques of World War II



  • Allied Fighter Aces First published 1997 by Greenhill Books

    Lionel Leventhal Limited, Park House, 1 Russell Gardens London NW119NN

    and Stackpole Books, 5067 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg

    PA 17055, USA

    Mike Spick, 1997 The moral right of the author has been asserted

    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any

    means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, without first seeking the written permission of the Publisher.

    British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Spick, Mike

    Allied fighter aces: the air combat tactics and techniques of World War II 1. World War, 1939-1945 - Aerial operations

    I. Title 940.5'44

    ISBN 1-85367-282-3

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Spick, Mike

    Allied fighter aces: the air combat tactics and techniques of World War Il/by Mike Spick

    p. cm. ISBN 1-85367-282-3

    1. World War, 1939-1945 -Aerial operations. 2. Strategy I. Title

    D785.S69 1997 940.54'4-dc21 97-19006


    Typeset by Ronset, Blackburn, Lancashire Printed and bound in Great Britain

    by Creative Print and Design (Wales), Ebbw Vale

    Greenhill Books


    List of Illustrations


    Prologue The Fighter AceFlying and MarksmanshipPre-war Allied Air Power: The Royal Air ForceFighting Area AttacksManoeuvre CombatFleet Air ArmUnited States Army Air CorpsUnited States Navy and Marine Corps

    1 France, September 1939-June 1940 SitzkriegAgainst the LuftwaffeThe FightersThe Opposition Into ActionBlitzkriegDunkirkAces of the French Campaign

    2 The Battle of Britain, July-November 1940 Detection and ControlOrganisationAims and Attitudes Aircraft of the Battle'What-ifs'The Hour ApproachesPhases of the BattleRAF TacticsAgainst the BombersAgainst the FightersFighter Command TacticsThe Aces

    3 Leaning Forward, January 1941-May 1944 Wing LeadersBasic TacticsPolicy for 1941- Changing Times, 1942-May 1944The FightersThe Aces

    4 Maltese Falcons, June 1940-November 1942 The FightersThe Aces

    5 North Africa, June 1940-August 1943 The FightersThe Aces

    6 Night Fighters over Europe 'Catseye' FightersRadar FightersIntrudersBomber Support The FightersThe Aces










  • 7 Against the Rising Sun, December 1941-February 1943 The FightersThe Aces

    8 Seven-League Boots, 1943-45 Escort TacticsThe FightersThe Aces

    9 Victory in the Pacific, 1943-45 The FightersThe Aces

    10 Normandy to Berlin The FightersThe Aces

    Epilogue OverclaimingRelative ScoresMirror, Mirror, on the Wall...

    Appendices 1. Leading Aces of the British and Commonwealth Air Forces

    2. Leading Aces of the American Air Forces












    Plates (pages 97-112) 1 Spitfires of No 19 Squadron 2 The Skua 3 The Fulmar 4 Bob Tuck and Spitfires of No 65 Squadron 5 No 1 Squadron in France, 1940 6 Pilots of No 43 Squadron 7 Frank Carey 8 Eric Lock of No 41 Squadron 9 Disbanding Fighter Command in April 1968

    10 Keith Park 11 'Sailor' Malan 12 Douglas Bader and pilots of No 242 Squadron 13 'Al' Deere and Colin Gray 14 Mass take-off by No 122 Squadron 15 'Killer' Caldwell 16 A Kittyhawk of No 112 Squadron 17 George Beurling 18 Reade Tilley in his Spitfire 19 Paddy Finucane 20 Aces of Biggin Hill 21 Neville Duke 22 The Blenheim 23 John Cunningham 24 Bob Braham 25 A Beaufighter 26 'Flying Tigers' 27 The P-51 Mustang 28 Bob Johnson 29 Gabby Gabreski

  • 30 David McCampbell 31 John C. Meyer 32 Dick Bong 33 The Hellcat fighter 34 'Pappy' Boyington 35 The Corsair carrier fighter 36 The Spitfire Mk XIV 37 'Johnnie' Johnson 38 Don Blakeslee 39 The Tempest V

    Figures Page 1 Fighter Command Attack No 2 20 2 Turning Capability 22 3 Standard RAF Fighter Formation, 1939 29 4 Comparative Turning Ability 49 5 The Break 58 6 The 'Ten Second' Envelope 64 7 The Scissors 66 8 Deflection Shooting 68 9 Sailor Malan's Formation 70

    10 Peter Brothers' Defensive Measures 73 11 The Finger Four 83 12 Beating the Box 123 13 Caldwell's Evasion Method 134 14 Early AI Radar Display 138 15 Serrate Display 142 16 Shooting Position from the Beaufighter 144 17 The High Side Attack 152 18 The Overhead Attack 154 19 The Thach Weave 159 20 The Split-S 164 21 Gabreski's Evasion 170 22 The Vector Roll Attack 172 23 Lightning Sweep Formation 178 24 The Best Laid Plans 183 25 The Gyro Gunsight 189


    In 1939, world democracy was in a pitiable state. The Geneva-based League of Nations had signally failed to impose any restraint on the emergent Fascist states. A bloody civil war had left Franco in control of a shattered Spain. Mussolini's Italy had conquered Abyssinia, notwith-standing widespread international condemnation, while Hitler's Germany had annexed first Austria, and then the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. Stretching across the vast land-mass from Poland to the Pacific, the Soviet Union was suffering horrendous purges under Stalin, who also harboured territorial ambitions towards Finland. In the far east, Japanese armies occupied Korea and ravaged China. To the west, the United States of America, the sleeping giant, pursued a policy of non-intervention at best, isolationism at worst. A world war was inevitable; the charge was set, the powder train laid. All that was needed was a spark. This was duly provided on 1 September 1939 when Germany, having first signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, invaded Poland.

    Pre-war, it was widely accepted that air power would assume a greater importance than it had in the 1914-18 conflict, but to what degree was not known for certain. In the event air power was critical to ultimate victory. It hamstrung armies in the field; reduced war-making capacity at home; and reduced naval forces to near impotence. But before any of this could be done, air superiority had to be gained. Without air superiority, air forces were ineffective in the close air support role; with it, armies were disadvantaged, production was curtailed, and naval units became vulnerable.

    Air superiority was the task of the fighter, and fighters determined the eventual outcome of the entire war. In Western Europe, North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Far East and the Pacific, Allied fighters held the ring when all seemed lost on the ground. Having stemmed the tide, they then led the way back to eventual victory.



    'Allied' is defined as those air forces which fought against the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan), but not for or in alliance with them. This eliminates the Russians, who became allied to the West by default after Operation Barbarossa in June 1941; those Italians who switched sides after the capitulation in 1943; the many Eastern European nations which changed sides when it became obvious that Germany was losing the war; and most important of all, the French, many of whom elected to go to Russia to fly with the Normandie-Niemen Regiment rather than serve with the British and Americans. This hardly qualifies them (or the Russians) as bona fide Allies. Top-scoring French pilot Marcel Albert (23 victories) flew with this unit. The Vichy French served to muddy the waters still more. The classic example was Pierre LeGloan, who, flying a Dewoitine D.520, was credited with three Italian BR.20 bombers and four CR.42 fighters in the summer of 1940. Transferred to Syria, he claimed seven victories over British aircraft for the Vichy regime before returning to Algeria, where he flew against British and American forces in 1942. He was killed during the following year flying an Airacobra. He was far from being the only pilot to fight on both sides.

    Many thousands of fighter pilots, of many nations, flew and fought and died in aircraft bearing the roundel of the British and Commonwealth air forces, or the white star of the USAAF and USN. Of these, a mere handful became famous. About five percent of fighter pilots accounted for roughly forty percent of all aerial victories. These were the aces.

    The value of the fighter aces was incalculable. Throughout recorded history, mankind has needed heroes as an inspiration and an example, and this, together with leadership and tuition, the aces provided in full measure. Their effect on morale and capability was out of all proportion to their purely material achievements. And this was only within their units. At home too, the population was greatly heartened and encouraged by their deeds. This is their story.

    The question of what singles out the fighter ace from any other successful fighting man of the same period is largely a matter of visibility. Firstly, air fighting has many of the attributes of gladiatorial combat. Rarely is it really a one versus one encounter, but it often seems that way, giving the fighter pilot the mantle of the old-time single-combat champion. Secondly, not only can the deeds be seen, often by watchers on the ground as well as actual participants, but they can be counted. Even as a batsman in cricket is acclaimed for the number of runs he



    scores, or a baseball player for his home runs, so a fighter pilot is judged by his victory score.

    It mattered little that the humble machine-gunner on the ground ma