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Christer Bergström 19th February 2005 18:10

"often veterans tend to 'colourise' their stories"

Indeed. One has to take all personal accounts with a grain of salt, but to completely dismiss personal accounts without very strong reasons would be to go too far.

Both personal accounts and official reports from the Eastern Front seem to be more (unconsciously) tainted by prejudices than what is the case in most other combat zones in World War II. The intense political brainwashing regarding their Soviet opponents ("Untermenschen incapable of anything good") which the German soldiers were subjected to, naturally coloured their appraisal of the enemy. After the war, this was to some extent inherited by the Cold War propaganda language - not least due to the influence by the reports by old Wehrmacht officers which the West studied carefully in order to "learn what the Germans had learned about the Soviets".

In our little society (English speaking WW II aviation nuts in the West), Toliver's and Constable's book "Horridoh" has had a huge impact on many people's basic concept on the air war in the East. In this book, we are taught that "the gunsight in the Soviet fighters often was nothing else than a hand painted circle on the windscreen". (Which is absolutely false; the Soviets had quite modern reflector gunsights.) Although the authors try to balance a generally negative view of the Soviet Air Force and its accomplishments, they miss such important things as the fact that the Soviets brought into use the most rapidly firing aircraft machine gun of the war and that they pioneered the use of rocket projectiles.

Discussing this topic still creates ridiculously infected discussions, particularly when these discussions involve people from Eastern countries with personal aversion against the former Soviet oppressors. I know that people in the East are esxtremely divided in their view on the USSR. It is my impression that most of them are happy to be rid of the Soviets, but they neutrally admit the technical accomplishments of the USSR at the same time as they neutrally are aware of the flaws in the technical field. Then there are two extreme groups - one which paints everything which has to do with the USSR in black and is unable to admit any accomplishment by "those dumb Soviet people" (quite similar to the Nazi Untermenschen propaganda), and one which attempts to glorify everything which has to do with the USSR (consciously adopting old Soviet propaganda).

In this jungle of contradicting statements and passionate outbursts, we in our little society are supposed to understand the true nature of the air war on the Eastern Front. . . :roll:

My personal conclusion, after studying the air war on the Eastern Front from both sides and listening to veterans from both sides for many years, is that the Soviets produced some of the lowest quality on the Allied side in WW II, and at the same time they also produced some of the highest quality on the Allied side in WW II. And that complicates the whole thing even further! (In this situation, it is easy for anyone from either of the two extreme sides which I described above to just pick whatever suits their version and leave whatever doesn't suit their version.)

Even "in the middle" - outisde these extremist camps - there is confusion. One attempt to an analyse stated unhesitatingly that the Germans were "psychologically superior" to the Soviets. (Toliver/Constable, "Das waren die deutschen Jagdfliegerasse", p. 266.)

Possibly as a reaction against this stereotype, the team of writers around German aviation historian Jochen Prien recently has counterposed with the opposite thesis. They dismiss “die Rede, dass die Abschüsse im Osten 1941 im Vergleich zu denen an der Westfront ‘leichter’ zu erzielen gewesen seien“ simply as “a legend.” (Prien et al, "Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945", Teil 6/I, p. 25.) Instead, Prien et al attempt to present the large number of Soviet aircraft encountered in the air as a major explanation to the huge amount of success attained by German fighter pilots on the Eastern Front. This assumption, that numerical inferiority in itself is an advantage, of course meets little support from those who actually took part in the air war. It is a fact - supported by facts which can't be dismissed and acknowledged by those who flew on the Eastern Front on both sides in 1941 - that the qualitative gap between the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Air Force was larger than that between the Luftwaffe and the RAF or the French Air Force in 1940 – 1941. It is a matter of examining the reasons to this, not trying to deny it.

Speaking of personal statements by Germans who flew on the Eastern Front, they range from a few accounts clearly coloured by the effect of intense propaganda (like "the Russians flew like the first men on earth") to what seems to be denial of any flaws on the Soviet side (possibly as a reaction to the wartime tendency to dismiss air victories on the Eastern Fronts as "easy"). I suspect that this statement made by JG 51's Hans Strelow on 28 November 1941 is motivated by the latter:

"Die Ansicht, die zuerst bei den Stäben und jetzt wohl auch in der Heimat verbreitet ist, dass die Abschüsse in Russland viel leichter und ungefährlicher waren als in der anderen Feldzügen, da die Abschussziffern so ungewohnt sind. Zugegeben, die Abschüsse in den ersten vier Wochen waren leichter. Aber dann lernte der Russe so unwahrscheinlich schnell dazu, wie es der Engländer bis heute nicht gekonnt hat." (Jägerblatt 3/1963.)

My conclusion is that throughout the war, the Soviets had a larger number of top class pilots than the RAF or the USAAF had by the same time, and that some of the Soviet war material was of absolute top class. It also is my conclusion that the Soviet Air Force eventually gained on the German qualitative lead, and by the end of the war there probably was no better air force than the Soviet Air Force.

I am absolutely convinced that at any given period would no other air force than precisely the Luftwaffe have been able to stand up with such effect against the Soviet Air Force. If Hitler had been equipped with the RAF or the US Air Force (and its men, doctrines and machines) in 1941 (instead of the Luftwaffe and its men, doctrines and machines), he would not have been able to achieve such accomplishments against the Soviet Air Force. Exchange 1941 for any other year between 1941 and 1945, and the result will be the same. This may surprise some, but it is a fact that from 1941 onward, the cream of the Luftwaffe was in action against the Soviets. The Allies never encountered the level of oppositions in the air which the Soviets had to endure from the very first day.

Returning to statements by individual pilots, it is interesting to listen to those Germans who fought both in the West and in the East, i.e. who were in a position to compare the Soviets with the Western Allies. What almost all of them say when I have made interviews with them, is that the Soviets improved quickly, and soon even surpassed the quality of the Western Allies. It always is nice not only when sources are given, but also when people are able to verify the source - so here I give one statement made to another researcher: Josef Unverzagt, who flew with JG 77 against the RAF and the USAAF in 1944 and against the Soviet Air Force in 1945, is quoted making the following comparison between the RAF and the USAAF in 1944 on one hand and the Soviet Air Force in 1945:

"Die Zahl der Gegner [in the East] war in der Masse weniger als im Westen, die Qualität der Jäger aber durch ausgesuchte Einheiten oft besser." (Prien, "JG 77", p. 2277; I am sure Mr. Prien will gladly provide anyone who wants to check his sources with a copy of the letter in question, since that is the essence of mentioning sources.)

I hope this posting will not provoke any heated debate from either of the extreme camps. It is not my intention to provoke anyone. I feel that the subject is important, and only because some people have a problem with the topic, we should not impose any self-censoring. After all, it is only a hobby, and as far as I know, no one of us is a professional historian, no one of us approaches the subject with the methods of a professional historian. We deal with this as merry amateurs and only because of fun, and let's keep it there. :D

All best,

Christer Bergström

http://www.graf-grislawski.elknet.pl/index.htm

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/bc-rs/

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/...-ace/index.htm

Juha 19th February 2005 20:28

Hello Christer
You wrote:"...The Allies never encountered the level of oppositions in the air which the Soviets had to endure from the very first day. "

I'm not sure on that, at end of Bob, IIRC JG 51 was the most successful of the JGs but JG 26 and JG 2 were also amongst the most successful JGs so IMHO there were no qualiative gap between JGs in West and in East at the beginning of the Operation Barbarossa, and for example on 10.5.40 or on 13.8.40 the force correlation was better for LW than on 22.6.41. Of course LW had more experience on 22.6.41 but it had also suffered heavy losses in earlier campaigns. Soviets had studied earlier campaigns and so they knew or at least they should have known more on LW and its tactics than the Western powers on 10.5.40. They also had more combat experience on 22.6.41 than Western Allies had on10.5.40 because of campaigns against Japanese, Winter War and the participation of Soviet pilots in Spanish Civil War.

On the quality of Soviet AF
Finns did not have any misconceptions on the capabilities of Soviet AF, at least not after the first days of Winter War. They had fought with inferior a/c (Fokker D XXI versus I-16 and I-153) and even if Soviet fighter tactics had been too inflexible many Soviet pilots had been good and tough. (The purges had not taken away the flight hours from average front line fighter sqn pilots´ logbooks). Soviets had also surprised Finns with some technical innovations, for ex. with the use of drop tanks to increase the radius of action of the fighters.
So how I see the question. I agree with You on the point that the quality of Soviet pilots varied greatly, probably more than in many other AFs. Also the willingness to fight varied greatly, how much this depend on motivation and how much it was the result of orders, I don't know.

Franek Grabowski 19th February 2005 20:55

Christer

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Indeed. One has to take all personal accounts with a grain of salt, but to completely dismiss personal accounts without very strong reasons would be to go too far.
Simply, evere account must be verified.

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Both personal accounts and official reports from the Eastern Front seem to be more (unconsciously) tainted by prejudices than what is the case in most other combat zones in World War II. The intense political brainwashing regarding their Soviet opponents ("Untermenschen incapable of anything good") which the German soldiers were subjected to, naturally coloured their appraisal of the enemy.
This not only reflected to Soviets but also eg. Poles - see claims of Rolf Pingel for example. Anyway, this does not mean reports from other fronts are less flawed.

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After the war, this was to some extent inherited by the Cold War propaganda language - not least due to the influence by the reports by old Wehrmacht officers which the West studied carefully in order to "learn what the Germans had learned about the Soviets".
The West had more sources of knowledge but Germans. Nonetheless a racial approach was clear as evidenced by comments about Polish pilots in 1940.

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In our little society (English speaking WW II aviation nuts in the West), Toliver's and Constable's book "Horridoh" has had a huge impact on many people's basic concept on the air war in the East.
Unfortunatelly!

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In this book, we are taught that "the gunsight in the Soviet fighters often was nothing else than a hand painted circle on the windscreen". (Which is absolutely false; the Soviets had quite modern reflector gunsights.)
Cannot comment on fighter gunsight at the moment but I welcome anyone to visit an aviation museum in Cracow. There the one may see genuine Soviet painted bombsight on Tu-2 bomber and cross wire bombsight on U-2/Po-2 LNB bomber. Supposedly just effective enough and much simplier, nonetheless limited by available technology and tools as well.

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Although the authors try to balance a generally negative view of the Soviet Air Force and its accomplishments, they miss such important things as the fact that the Soviets brought into use the most rapidly firing aircraft machine gun of the war and that they pioneered the use of rocket projectiles.
Soviets indeed had quite an experience and successes with firing weapons, this including hand guns and artillery. It must be remembered here that their designs were a mix of copied designs like Mosin, Nagan or TT and of genuine ones like PPSh, the latter unsubstantially claimed to be a copy of Suomi but actually much superior original design.
Claim of pioneering use of rocet projectiles is false, however. Rocket projectiles were first used during WWI - see Le Prieur!
It must be remembered that weapon by itself do not constitute a good aircraft simply because the former must be delivered to the best firing position first.

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Discussing this topic still creates ridiculously infected discussions, particularly when these discussions involve people from Eastern countries with personal aversion against the former Soviet oppressors. I know that people in the East are esxtremely divided in their view on the USSR.
People in the East are not that divided but perhaps some people involved some way with the ancient regime. Actually most people are surprised and indignant with the Western approach to communism. Is not it surprising the communism responsible for about 100 million deaths (including whole nations) is still considered something better that German Nasism which killed some 25 million people? Is not surprising the active role of Soviet Union in starting WWII is not recognised in the West?
There is a lot of ignorance and lack of knowledge but not in our part of the Europe.

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It is my impression that most of them are happy to be rid of the Soviets, but they neutrally admit the technical accomplishments of the USSR at the same time as they neutrally are aware of the flaws in the technical field.
Yes, it is really an accomplishment what they did with the technology they had.

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Then there are two extreme groups - one which paints everything which has to do with the USSR in black and is unable to admit any accomplishment by "those dumb Soviet people" (quite similar to the Nazi Untermenschen propaganda), and one which attempts to glorify everything which has to do with the USSR (consciously adopting old Soviet propaganda).
It is more a Western perspective rather than the one here.

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My personal conclusion, after studying the air war on the Eastern Front from both sides and listening to veterans from both sides for many years, is that the Soviets produced some of the lowest quality on the Allied side in WW II, and at the same time they also produced some of the highest quality on the Allied side in WW II.
I am looking forward for examples of the latter. Soviets build several simple and effective designs but such an approach does not work in every field and does not constitute quality. The latter was always associated with Lend Lease stuff or a captured one.

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Even "in the middle" - outisde these extremist camps - there is confusion. One attempt to an analyse stated unhesitatingly that the Germans were "psychologically superior" to the Soviets. (Toliver/Constable, "Das waren die deutschen Jagdfliegerasse", p. 266.)
If this means the Germans were superior genetically, it is a pure nonsense. If this means the Germans were less exhausted psychically, it could be true.

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Instead, Prien et al attempt to present the large number of Soviet aircraft encountered in the air as a major explanation to the huge amount of success attained by German fighter pilots on the Eastern Front. This assumption, that numerical inferiority in itself is an advantage, of course meets little support from those who actually took part in the air war. It is a fact - supported by facts which can't be dismissed and acknowledged by those who flew on the Eastern Front on both sides in 1941 - that the qualitative gap between the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Air Force was larger than that between the Luftwaffe and the RAF or the French Air Force in 1940 � 1941. It is a matter of examining the reasons to this, not trying to deny it.
Quality and dislocation were key factors. Quantity only caused the Campaign to last so long.

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Speaking of personal statements by Germans who flew on the Eastern Front, they range from a few accounts clearly coloured by the effect of intense propaganda (like "the Russians flew like the first men on earth") to what seems to be denial of any flaws on the Soviet side (possibly as a reaction to the wartime tendency to dismiss air victories on the Eastern Fronts as "easy").
The former view often can be documented by an extremally low flying time of Soviets. Also, the one must have in mind comments of Franciszek Jarecki (the first pilot to escape with MiG-15) and Pepelayev (Soviet Korean war ace) which are interesting as reffering to condition of Soviet Air Force some 5 years after the war!

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My conclusion is that throughout the war, the Soviets had a larger number of top class pilots than the RAF or the USAAF had by the same time, and that some of the Soviet war material was of absolute top class.
Samples please! Proofs please!

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It also is my conclusion that the Soviet Air Force eventually gained on the German qualitative lead, and by the end of the war there probably was no better air force than the Soviet Air Force.
I would say Germans significantly dropped and the last sentence I consider a good joke. Certainly they perfected use of tactical air force and obviously drawn correct conclusions but it is still far to the best air force. Air force is not only aircraft, not only pilots but also radar network, radio communications, logistics, ground support, reserves, industry.

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I am absolutely convinced that at any given period would no other air force than precisely the Luftwaffe have been able to stand up with such effect against the Soviet Air Force. If Hitler had been equipped with the RAF or the US Air Force (and its men, doctrines and machines) in 1941 (instead of the Luftwaffe and its men, doctrines and machines), he would not have been able to achieve such accomplishments against the Soviet Air Force. Exchange 1941 for any other year between 1941 and 1945, and the result will be the same.
While I can agree to some degree on 1941 - Germans had several years of experience's advantage at the time, your comment concerning later years, especially 1944 or 1945 is pure rubbish.
By the time both RAF and USAAF(!) had a very well trained personnel, and the latter gradually increased number of experienced airmen. Both Great Britain and USA massively produced most advanced designs of the time, their mature jet aircraft entering service in 1945 for example. What Soviet Union had in turn? Yak-3s? Their PVO force consisting mostly of British and American aircraft?

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This may surprise some, but it is a fact that from 1941 onward, the cream of the Luftwaffe was in action against the Soviets. The Allies never encountered the level of oppositions in the air which the Soviets had to endure from the very first day.
Exactly the same may be said about Poland, Denmark, Norway, Low Countries, France, Britain, Yugoslavia and Greece. And I am frankly surprised to hear that eg. Galland, Priller and Schoepfel to name the few, were not the cream of Luftwaffe.

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Returning to statements by individual pilots, it is interesting to listen to those Germans who fought both in the West and in the East, i.e. who were in a position to compare the Soviets with the Western Allies. What almost all of them say when I have made interviews with them, is that the Soviets improved quickly, and soon even surpassed the quality of the Western Allies.
Frankly, it would be really surprising if Soviets did not improve. But I would like to see more wartime documents substantiating any thesis or at least more exhaustive letters. This thread was intended to show that Soviet aircraft were not that superior as some still believe. This is based on their performance and their design. We can use pilots' comments here but please use something in kind of Golodnikov, who clearly explains his opinions. Simple claim that something was better without any further explanation is worthless here.

Juha

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They also had more combat experience on 22.6.41 than Western Allies had on10.5.40 because of campaigns against Japanese, Winter War and the participation of Soviet pilots in Spanish Civil War.
Add here Poland and actions against Baltic States and Rumania, which did not resulted in substantial air combats but added to overall experience. IIRC Polish Campaign was found to be dissapointing for Soviets and resulted with significant changes.

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(The purges had not taken away the flight hours from average front line fighter sqn pilots´ logbooks).
Yes, but during Barbarossa the effect was somewhat spoiled by an increase of Red Air Force. Freshers had some 15 hrs on the combat type IIRC!

Ruy
Can you split the topic?

Christer Bergström 19th February 2005 22:15

"You wrote:"...The Allies never encountered the level of oppositions in the air which the Soviets had to endure from the very first day. . . I'm not sure on that, at end of Bob, IIRC JG 51 was the most successful of the JGs but JG 26 and JG 2 were also amongst the most successful JGs so IMHO there were no qualiative gap between JGs in West and in East at the beginning of the Operation Barbarossa"

I meant, of course, that from 22 June 1941, the Allies never encountered the level of oppositions in the air which the Soviets had to endure from the very first day.

If we speak of 22 June 1941, I think you should remember that what we are talking about is the quota between the number of German aircraft and the quality of pilots/tactics/equipment/methods. Then it should be fairly clear that what the Soviets encountered on 22 June 1941 was far worse than what the RAF encountered by that time.

From around mid-1942 and onward, the large core of immensely experienced German airmen on the Eastern Front had no similarity anywhere else. While German fighter units in the West constituted mainly badly trained rookies in 1944 - 1945 (a result of huge losses in air battles with US heavy bombers with fighter escort), the German fighter units in the East had amassed a core of extremely experienced veterans which made these fighter units stronger than ever. JG 52 alone had thirteen "plus 100" aces (each with a score of 100 or more victories) in service in October 1944. I am not saying that the number of victories as such shows how good a fighter pilot is, but undoubtedly a pilot with 100 victories has earned a huge experience from hundreds of air combats. The fact that more than every tenth pilot serving with JG 52 in October 1944 was a "plus 100" ace is quite telling, and also reveals much about the quality of their wingmen. In October 1944, the Western Allies were very lucky that they were confronted with mainly inadequately trained rookies and not with hardened veteran units like JG 52.

In January 1945, more or less the whole Luftwaffe - particularly the day fighter force - was shifted east. So while the Western Allies thus had a comparatively "easy" final period of the air war, the Soviets stood alone against more or less the whole Luftwaffe. The concentration on the Eastern Front of 1,500 Fw 190s and Bf 109s, which conducted 2,500 sorties during the first two days of February 1945 alone (to be compared with the average of 366 German fighter sorties over France in June 1944), represents a striking force which the Western Allies largely were saved from during the whole period from 22 June 1941 to the end of the war.

There were only some isolated cases when the Western Allies were faced with the same kind of massive opposition - regarding quantity/quality - in the air. One such case was 14 October 1943, when Göring's "Big Strike" dealt a disastrous blow against US 8th Air Force, causing the US commanders to cancel the whole air offensive against Germany.

All best,

Christer Bergström

Christer Bergström 19th February 2005 23:16

Franek,

The intense political brainwashing regarding their Soviet opponents ("Untermenschen incapable of anything good") which the German soldiers were subjected to, naturally coloured their appraisal of the enemy.

”This not only reflected to Soviets but also eg. Poles”

More or less, yes.

“Cannot comment on fighter gunsight at the moment but I welcome anyone to visit an aviation museum in Cracow. There the one may see genuine Soviet painted bombsight on Tu-2 bomber and cross wire bombsight on U-2/Po-2 LNB bomber. Supposedly just effective enough and much simplier, nonetheless limited by available technology and tools as well.”

The U-2/Po-2 was an improvised thing which had no bombsight. Compare with the Luftwaffe equivalence, like e.g. the old Ar 66 biplanes of the Störkampfgruppen. A Tu-2 with a painted bombsight? Interesting. Are there no other Soviet aircraft in that museum where you can see the reflector gunsights?

“their designs were a mix of copied designs. . .”

True to some extent. But nevertheless, the result often was quite outstanding.

“Claim of pioneering use of rocet projectiles is false, however. Rocket projectiles were first used during WWI.”

- Oh, I didn’t know that. Nevertheless, the Soviets used rocket projectiles en masse a long time before the Western Allies or the Luftwaffe brought such a weapon into use. Isn’t that true?

- Could you please elaborate on this, Franek: “Quality and dislocation were key factors. Quantity only caused the Campaign to last so long.” - I’m afraid I don’t understand what you are trying to say.

“My conclusion is that throughout the war, the Soviets had a larger number of top class pilots than the RAF or the USAAF had by the same time, and that some of the Soviet war material was of absolute top class . . . Samples please! Proofs please!”

- Just study the high number of very experienced Soviet pilots, with experience from 400, 500, 600 or more combat missions. Pilots with such a huge amount of experience could hardly be found in the RAF and USAAF, but in the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Air Force it was not entirely uncommon with such “super veterans” in 1944 and 1945.

Some random samples: Aleksey Reshetov conducted 821 combat missions between 1941 and 1945. Aleksandr Baturin logged over 400 combat missions until mid-1942. Nikolay Klepikov flew his 600th combat mission in July 1943. Viktor Shlepov had logged 685 combat missions by mid-July 1943. Due to the “tour system” which the Western Allies used, the RAF and USAAF pilots rarely manage to achieve such a huge amount of battle experience.

Allow me to compare with the battle experience of the best aces in US 8th Air Force: Gabreski 153 missions, Preddy 143 missions, R.S. Johnson 91 missions, Schilling 132 missions, Mahurin 85 missions, Beckham 123 missions, G.W. Johnson 88 missions, Anderson 116 missions, Wishner 137 missions.

Alfred Grislawski used to say: “You have to have 50 combat missions before you can come to grips with what it all is about.” Grislawski also said that he felt that he definitely grew better and better, the more experience he gained; there simply was no “limit”. He said that when he flew over Normandy in the summer of 1944, he felt that his experience from almost 800 combat missions made him totally superior to any enemy pilot that he met. He said that while he noticed that the enemy pilots often were confused as to Grislawski’s next step in air combat, his own huge experience had taught him to foresee every single move which his opponents would do in any given situation. He said that if the Western Allies would not have had their enormous numerical superiority at Normandy, it would have been an easy match for Grislawski.

“Frankly, it would be really surprising if Soviets did not improve. But I would like to see more wartime documents substantiating any thesis or at least more exhaustive letters.”

- I can guarantee that I will provide you with exhaustive evidence in future volumes of “Black Cross/Red Star”. If you have any wartime documents which deal with the matter, I would be most happy to see them.

BTW - thanks a lot for your help with the Hans-Ekkehard Bob biography, Franek! (Regarding the Polish fighter units.)

All best,

Christer

Juha 20th February 2005 17:05

Hello
Christer wrote:"...In October 1944, the Western Allies were very lucky that they were confronted with mainly inadequately trained rookies and not with hardened veteran units like JG 52."

And also other way around. I'm not an expert on JG 52 but according to Lipfert, when II/JG 52 fought against 15th AF in June 44 it wasn't easy picking but it was his unit that was decimated. IIRC Lipfert's view was that the main reason was the overwhelming numerical superiority not the individual skills of US pilots but it was anyway action against USAAF and not even the most appreciated AF of the USAAF.

Christer wrote:"...In January 1945, more or less the whole Luftwaffe - particularly the day fighter force - was shifted east..."

From OoBs I could easily find (from Price's The Last Year of the Luftwaffe), on 10.1.45 there were 2,599 serviceable LW a/c in LF Reich, 2 and 3 and 342 in LF 5, which probably that time operated mostly against Western Allies if it had fuel because up north there was not much daylight at that time, out of the total strenght of 4,566 serviceable a/c. On day fighters the numbers were1,024 LW fighters in LF Reich and 3 (LF 2 didn't have fighters anymore) and 82 in LF 5 out of total strenght of 1,427 serviceable day fighters. And
on 9.4.45 the numbers were 1,261 a/c out of total of 3,331, and on day fighters the number was 505 out of 1,310. IMHO that not show that more or less the whole LW had been shifted to east. In fact on 10.1.45 a bigger part of LW day fighters were against Western Allies than on 9.4.45 was against SU and its Eastern Allies. And what more the Western Allies were not conted on this but their longer ranged fighters actively seeked the remains of LW in the east to the end of the war and they had range to do this.

It's important to remember that SU made a major contribution in the winning of the air war against the LW but IMHO it's no good to try overestimate that contribution. Same goes to the Soviet equipment, La-5FN and La-7 were very good good weather day fighters, and in fact I haven't seen anywhere in English aviation literature contrary arguments or statements that late Yaks were bad fighters. I don't know what kind of aviation literature Jens had read but from early Air Enthusiast onwards I have only seen positive commants on those fighters. So I get little bit irritated when I saw that kind of misinformation as was in that La-7 vs Spit IX comparation. And I think that kind of misinfo is also a little bit strange because the specs and handling of La-7 is in itself enough to show that it was a very good low and mid level fighter. The latter part was not against Christer but against whoever had made that comparation.

Christer wrote:"...The concentration on the Eastern Front of 1,500 Fw 190s and Bf 109s, which conducted 2,500 sorties during the first two days of February 1945 alone (to be compared with the average of 366 German fighter sorties over France in June 1944), represents a striking force which the Western Allies largely were saved from during the whole period from 22 June 1941 to the end of the war..."

Fistly the comparation of the activity during a couple peak days to a monthly average on other hand is like comparing apples and oranges. The right way is to compare peak days activity on both fronts or a monthly averages on both fronts.

Secondly, also SU was saved from that kind of fighter activity almost during the whole war, IIRC most of the time less than half of LW fighter force was concentrated against SU. For example on 31.5.43 there were 547 Jagdflugzeuge against SU and 1,077 Jagdflugzeuge against Western Allies and that is from Olaf Groehler's Geschichte des Luftkriegs 1910 bis 1980. Berlin 1981. So this isn't a info from "bourgeois history-falsifiers" but from DDR.

And if one looks where the LW lost most of its single-engined fighters the answer is that against the "those Western Allies pilots with lowly number of combat missions" and that is true both cumulatively and more surprisingly yearly, even in 1942, when the figures were closest (1,921 vs. 1849) (the numbers incl. destroyed and those damaged over 10%). Clearly, during the 2nd half of 41 the losses in Easter Front were probably higher bwcause the yearly figure is 1,474 vs. 1095. I haven't figures of 1945 and anyway they would be more difficult to analyze because the area of Reich was so compressed. If one wants to see the monthly figures in 1943 (which IMHO is a very important year in this content) please look on page 138 in Williamson Murray's Luftwaffe. George Allen & Unwin 1985 ISBN 0 04 923080 8 or if You are less lucky from same book but different and not so good edition from Eagle Editions Strategy for Defeat The Luftwaffe 1933 - 1945 on page 115.

The LW tried to use concentrate fighter force against Western Allies, from example in June 44 and during Bodenplatte, but it didn't help it much.

One point on Soviet a/c which isn't mentioned too often is that in contrary to the image of utterly disregard of own losses the Soviet AF/designers tried to protect the pilots very early on with decent armour protection. As Christer mentioned the Eastern Front air warfare and the question of Soviet equipment is rather complex.

On Grislawski, the little I know on him indicates that he had very good situation awarness and that he was very reliable claimer, which IMHO indicates that he could see the situations very realisticly. He also seems to have been able to handle stress very well. So I think that he could learn his missions more than many others, even if I think that the law of diminishing returns also apply on him. But pilots were different, there were many LW pilots whose rate of claiming diminished greatly during the later part of war. Some probably suffered from combat stress, some probably became more carefull and lost some of their agressiveness, maybe some saw that they were fighting a loosing battle for lousy goverment and did their duty but not beyond that.

And Grislawski could think that he was superior to any enemy pilots but so thought also many of the Western pilots. So IMHO one cannot draw too much on that.

Juha

Franek Grabowski 20th February 2005 17:49

Christer

Quote:

The U-2/Po-2 was an improvised thing which had no bombsight.
Yes, it had and by no means it was improvised but factory build. Bomber variant is easily distinguishable by a removed fabric on two inner sections of port lower wing. There is a bombsight.

Quote:

A Tu-2 with a painted bombsight? Interesting. Are there no other Soviet aircraft in that museum where you can see the reflector gunsights?
No. Only Soviet wartime aircraft in Polish museums are Po-2LNB and Pe-2FT, the latter in rather poor condition. Tu-2 is a post war one and still had a painted bombsight.

Quote:

True to some extent. But nevertheless, the result often was quite outstanding.
Like with Tu-4. It was really an engineering achievement and the aircraft was only about 100 kg heavier than the original.

Quote:

- Oh, I didn’t know that. Nevertheless, the Soviets used rocket projectiles en masse a long time before the Western Allies or the Luftwaffe brought such a weapon into use. Isn’t that true?
Depending on what you consider en masse. Indeed Soviets first used rockets in WWII but reasoning of the Westerners should be checked before drawing any conclusions. Results of use of rockets on the Western front were not very promissing.

Quote:

- Could you please elaborate on this, Franek: “Quality and dislocation were key factors. Quantity only caused the Campaign to last so long.” - I’m afraid I don’t understand what you are trying to say.
That the quality and dislocation were the key factors. Had Soviets better quality and defensive dislocation, an equal number of aircraft comparing to Germans should be a hard nut for Luftwaffe.

Quote:

- Just study the high number of very experienced Soviet pilots, with experience from 400, 500, 600 or more combat missions. Pilots with such a huge amount of experience could hardly be found in the RAF and USAAF, but in the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Air Force it was not entirely uncommon with such “super veterans” in 1944 and 1945.
Considering that average sortie was much shorter on the Eastern Front it is not very surprising pilots flying there amassed such number of sorties. Average escort sortie to Germany took about 5 hours. In the same time, Soviet pilot could make 6 full time combat sorties plus a few scrambles.

Quote:

Some random samples: Aleksey Reshetov conducted 821 combat missions between 1941 and 1945. Aleksandr Baturin logged over 400 combat missions until mid-1942. Nikolay Klepikov flew his 600th combat mission in July 1943. Viktor Shlepov had logged 685 combat missions by mid-July 1943. Due to the “tour system” which the Western Allies used, the RAF and USAAF pilots rarely manage to achieve such a huge amount of battle experience.
Please note, that recent research in CAMO revealed many 'inaccuracies' in published numbers concerning Soviet pilots. Unless based on primary documents I would take the mentioned numbers with a grain of salt.
Allied system was not promoting individual pilots but produced huge numbers of well trained pilots - quality plus quantity.
Otherwise Soviets had their tour system as well. You may find that units were send back for reequipment and refit.

Quote:

Allow me to compare with the battle experience of the best aces in US 8th Air Force: Gabreski 153 missions, Preddy 143 missions, R.S. Johnson 91 missions, Schilling 132 missions, Mahurin 85 missions, Beckham 123 missions, G.W. Johnson 88 missions, Anderson 116 missions, Wishner 137 missions.
Then multiply those numbers by flight time and then compare to Germans or Soviets. Also, why you do not include other nations?

Quote:

Alfred Grislawski used to say: “You have to have 50 combat missions before you can come to grips with what it all is about.”
This may testify about the German training system, different to the Allied one.

Quote:

Grislawski also said that he felt that he definitely grew better and better, the more experience he gained; there simply was no “limit”. He said that when he flew over Normandy in the summer of 1944, he felt that his experience from almost 800 combat missions made him totally superior to any enemy pilot that he met. He said that while he noticed that the enemy pilots often were confused as to Grislawski’s next step in air combat, his own huge experience had taught him to foresee every single move which his opponents would do in any given situation.
We discussed this earlier.

Quote:

He said that if the Western Allies would not have had their enormous numerical superiority at Normandy, it would have been an easy match for Grislawski.
Grislawki's colleague, Karl Heinz Weber was downed when his Staffel of 9 was bounced by a section of 4 Mustangs. His victor, indeed quite an experienced pilot, less than a month earlier complained he did not down a German aircraft through entire war.
Through the entire Normandy Campaign, I think only once Polish 133 Wing outnumbered the enemy, when on 17 June Section of 4 bounced 2 Fw 190s.

Quote:

- I can guarantee that I will provide you with exhaustive evidence in future volumes of “Black Cross/Red Star”. If you have any wartime documents which deal with the matter, I would be most happy to see them.
How about order no 0823 of 16.10.1942 of People's Commissar of Defence of Soviet Union? This order introduced advanced flying training on fighter aircraft! So up until 1943 the training was elementary to say the least. No wonder Germans were downing Soviets one by another.

Quote:

BTW - thanks a lot for your help with the Hans-Ekkehard Bob biography, Franek! (Regarding the Polish fighter units.)
No problem.

Ruy Horta 20th February 2005 18:38

Quote:

Originally Posted by Franek Grabowski

Quote:

The U-2/Po-2 was an improvised thing which had no bombsight.
Yes, it had and by no means it was improvised but factory build. Bomber variant is easily distinguishable by a removed fabric on two inner sections of port lower wing. There is a bombsight.

Quote:

A Tu-2 with a painted bombsight? Interesting. Are there no other Soviet aircraft in that museum where you can see the reflector gunsights?
No. Only Soviet wartime aircraft in Polish museums are Po-2LNB and Pe-2FT, the latter in rather poor condition. Tu-2 is a post war one and still had a painted bombsight.

The U2 is a poor example in any case you turn it, lets leave it at that.

Now the Tu-2 is more interesting.
Can you proof that the a/c is complete?

I've got many a/c detail books and sometimes they are in remarkably complete condition, but often gunsights and bombsights are the first item missing.

Now if you can proof that the bombsight was missing on the operational Tu-2 I'd say good for you, but taking this museum sample as your main example is poor judgement.

I certainly believe that many early Soviet types were pressed into service without certain items (gunsights, primitive gunsights, fewer than the complete gun set etc etc etc), but by the time the Tu-2 saw service as a bomber most of these, if not all of these, supply problems had been solved.

It would be interesting to learn about the specific history of your "sample" aircraft and decide how good an example it actually is based on that information.

Franek Grabowski 20th February 2005 19:34

Quote:

The U2 is a poor example in any case you turn it, lets leave it at that.
Well, I would not underestimate importance of the type in Soviet inventory. Perhaps a little bit ridiculous and outdated, nonetheless used in quantities in bomber role!

Quote:

Now if you can proof that the bombsight was missing on the operational Tu-2 I'd say good for you, but taking this museum sample as your main example is poor judgement.
Ruy, the aircraft seved for tests of ejection seats, nonetheless thin red line is still present on the nose perspex.
bombsights similar in concept were present on Il-2s as well. Have a closer look on the front of the windscreen and the upper cowling. It was called VV-1.

JoeB 20th February 2005 22:38

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jens
Schwabedissen wrote studies about eastern airwar for USAF. The americans had no doubt about this, due their own experiences in Korea.

On that point I think it really depends on what it is " the Americans had no doubt about". And it's actually relevant to this debate for WWII IMO. That the Soviets built effective *fighter airplanes* in this general period (WWII and on to the time of the MiG-15), at least for short range air to air combat? Yes that was definitely the American experience, specifically from evaluating captured (North Korean AF) Yak-9P and MiG-15bis, besides the experience fighting against them.

That the Soviets produced first rate *fighter forces*, it's more debatable whether that was the American experience in Korea. Directly in terms of the effectiveness of forces flying WWII types, the Yak-9 force was not very effective at all. OTOH it was at least mainly NK piloted (officially entirely NK, but Igor Seidov has written recently of Soviet pilots even in the Yak-9 units, albeit without presenting clear evidence IMO). The MiG-15 force was also a composite, early on entirely Soviet units, later on substantially and eventually mostly Chinese and some NK. Russian accounts of the high effectiveness of their part of this force can be debated on two counts:

-first and mainly, a quite low % of their claims can be verified in US primary source records as losses, 10-15%.
-post 1991 writing tends to focus mainly on the two most successful units (303rd and 324th Divisions, although in fairness such selective emphasis has long been common in writing about German and Allied units of WWII as we all know), and tendency to ignore that during their most successful phase these two units had together with a by then substantial Chinese presence a quite heavy numerical advantage, and the US pilots were not in a position to say "MiG at my six, oh OK it's Chinese, now let's getting to fighting the Soviets". Even though in all seriousness they well realized that their best opponents were very competent.

But overall even the Soviets alone had a quite unfavorable exchange ratio v. the Americans according to each side's loss records. At this point the debate tends to focus on the American loss records, and that's too far off topic (anyway here we're speaking of that the "Americans knew" and it's hard to say the USAF in general knew that what it says in their secret records was greatly wrong, even if it was, which debate is too far off topic, unless somebody wants to discuss it :) ). Again I think it is relevant here though because the question of *actual* not claimed exchange ratio in fighter combat later in the war seems not much published. So a basic naive question: what was the exchange ratio, not estimated from claims with a general discount factor nor from total losses to all causes but from actual air combat losses, typically, in East fighter combat say in 1944 and 1945?

Joe

Christer Bergström 21st February 2005 04:50

Official figure of German fighter losses attributed to enemy action on the Eastern Front in 1944: 972.


Here are the official loss figures for the VVS KA in 1944:

http://my.tele2.ee/airacesww2/airace...losses1944.htm

Although I haven't arrived there yet in my research, I feel there is reason to doubt the German loss figure. It appears to be a bit low. The incomplete Generalquartiermeister loss records for 1944 list 529 Bf 109s for JG 52 alone (1944 only). Of course this number includes aircraft with damage degrees above 10 %, and due to all reasons, it must also be kept in mind that it is far from complete.

I think that we'll see one day. . . :wink:

All best,

Christer Bergström

JoeB 21st February 2005 07:16

Quote:

Originally Posted by Christer Bergström
Official figure of German fighter losses attributed to enemy action on the Eastern Front in 1944: 972.


Here are the official loss figures for the VVS KA in 1944:

Thanks, but if I read the Soviet table correctly, a real kill ratio would seem to depend greatly on the actual fate of the large category "did not return from sortie". I wonder how many of 972 German losses would be to AAA or losses on the ground (or would those be included?).

Do you doubt the German figure because Soviet claims were much higher, or some general reason about known German loss accounting practices? In the Korea case it's my observation that it's often the following combination: some assume various known quirks in US loss accounting must have had a very major statistical impact because official losses are so much at variance with opponent claims. But actually at the primary record level, while a few examples of the expected quirks can be found it's not significant %-wise: the often quoted official figures are not that far from correct, insofar as can be determined by the large volume of records that are declassified, and the specific claims. Of course this is not necessarily the same for German loss records. However the same assertion of loss undercount is made about 1939 Japanese losses, so there is something of a recurrent pattern of questioning VVS opponent loss records, and therefore value IMO in discussing the three cases comparatively.

Joe

Christer Bergström 21st February 2005 19:42

Quote:

if I read the Soviet table correctly, a real kill ratio would seem to depend greatly on the actual fate of the large category "did not return from sortie".
This is the problem which faces anyone who tries to make any deeper research into such topic: There simply are no 100 % reliable figures of the kind you want. One reason why the Soviets used the category "MIA" is because the exact cause of the loss could not be established. The Eastern Front was different than the US air operations over Germany, where there often were hundreds of eye witnesses to the shootdown of a certain B-17. (And even regarding US 8th Air Force there were cases where losses were erroneously attributed to Flak simply because no one saw the rapidly attacking German fighter.)

So if you are looking for a 100 % complete list which contains the exact reason to every single Soviet aircraft loss, I'm afraid you are looking for some kind of unfindable Holy Grail - which you will never find (whatever Dan Brown says). So you have to try to analyse what there is, and draw your own conclusions. That's the approach of a historian, contrary to the approach of a medium-level matematician (or a bureaucrat).

Sometimes people tend to overemphasise statistics, thus forgetting that in order to analyse statistics, a certain amount of understanding is necessary. The truth can't always be easily found in a single column of figures.

Yes, I think it is a matter of understanding before one tries to evaluate various figures.

I have covered the general subject which you discuss - which boils down to comparative standards between German and Soviet fighter pilots - in the narrative texts in Classic's series "Jagdwaffe":

Vol. 3, Section 2: "Barbarossa"
Vol. 3, Section 4: "The War in Russia Jan - Oct 1942"
Vol. 4, Section 3: "The War in Russia Nov 1942 - Dec 1943"
Vol. 5, Section 2: "War in the East 1944 - 45"

Of course I examine this even deeper in my "Black Cross/Red Star" series (where Vol. 3, covering the period June - Nov 1942, will be published this summer), but since you are interested in the last year of the war, I can only suggest that you go to Jagdwaffe Vol. 5, Section 2: "War in the East 1944 - 45".

Maybe one should not recommend one's own books, but to defend myself I can say that I have already received my full payment for the Jagdwaffe series, and will not earn more through more sales. Also, I don't know if there are any other books where any attempts have been made to analyse the phenomenon you are interested in.

One start could be this article:

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/bc-rs/text.html

All best,

Christer Bergström

PS: "Do you doubt the German figure because Soviet claims were much higher" :shock:

Well. . . :roll: please re-read what I wrote: "Official figure of German fighter losses attributed to enemy action on the Eastern Front in 1944: 972. The incomplete Generalquartiermeister loss records for 1944 list 529 Bf 109s for JG 52 alone (1944 only). Of course this number includes aircraft with damage degrees above 10 %, and due to all reasons, but it must also be kept in mind that it is far from complete."

- Maybe I wasn't clear here, but JG 52 constituted only a small part of all Luftwaffe fighter units which saw action against the Soviets in 1944. (The other were JG 5, JG 11, JG 51, JG 53, JG 54, and JG 77, to which should be added the elements of various SGs which flew fighter missions on the Eastern Front in 1944.)

JoeB 22nd February 2005 01:23

Quote:

Originally Posted by Christer Bergström
1. One reason why the Soviets used the category "MIA" is because the exact cause of the loss could not be established. The Eastern Front was different than the US air operations over Germany,

2. The truth can't always be easily found in a single column of figures.

3. "Do you doubt the German figure because Soviet claims were much higher" :shock:
Well. . . :roll: please re-read what I wrote:

1. That's a suprisingly high % for such a category though, in the KW even the Soviets didn't end up with a large "unk" category. Either they didn't have that category in lower level reports, or the usually quoted totals simply assume (reasonably, and easier to conclude for that war) that "failed to return" meant air combat loss. Anyway you presented the fact for WWII and educated me, thanks. On drawing own conclusion, I guess I'd assume "failed to return" were air combat losses at a minimum of the ratio of known air combat/AAA losses, since air combat losses are more likely to occur in reduced situational awareness within a unit or formation.

2. I agree of course, perhaps seldom found in a column of numbers.

Thanks for the references.

3. I think I understood your point, but again trying to draw a parallel, the main reason to closely re-examine USAF loss records for Korea (at least what piqued my curiosity) is the existence of a list of a specifc claims (besides a total) a high multiple of the official losses. Intrinsic apparent inconsistencies in the numbers (% of total losses to air combat v other causes for air combat types, and so forth) might contribute to the curiosity, but the high number of opposing claims is the main reason. I just wondered if this was similar for East air war, whether Soviet claims far in excess of 972 was a reason and to what degree besides the possible intrinsic disrepancies in the German figures you mentioned.

Joe

Jens 23rd February 2005 18:03

"People in the East are not that divided but perhaps some people involved some way with the ancient regime. Actually most people are surprised and indignant with the Western approach to communism. Is not it surprising the communism responsible for about 100 million deaths (including whole nations) is still considered something better that German Nasism which killed some 25 million people? Is not surprising the active role of Soviet Union in starting WWII is not recognised in the West?
There is a lot of ignorance and lack of knowledge but not in our part of the Europe. "

I think this statement proves my thesis, that some people discussed from a biased point. I lived in GDR and can imagine, why people hate the communists and the SU, but this shouldn't lead to make a false look at the historical facts. Same in the other view, hate of nacism shouldnt lead to underestimate power of Wehrmacht.

"Secondly, also SU was saved from that kind of fighter activity almost during the whole war, IIRC most of the time less than half of LW fighter force was concentrated against SU. For example on 31.5.43 there were 547 Jagdflugzeuge against SU and 1,077 Jagdflugzeuge against Western Allies and that is from Olaf Groehler's Geschichte des Luftkriegs 1910 bis 1980. Berlin 1981. So this isn't a info from "bourgeois history-falsifiers" but from DDR."

The question behind these figures is, how much of the "western" fighters were in schools and Erg.-jagdgruppen? At schools alone 11500 airplanes were totally and 10000 damaged lost. Out of these 15000 were pure school planes. So roughly 9000 combat planes were more or less lost at schools. It's clear that most statistics say, they were lost against western allies. Additionaly in 1944 ~20% of all planes of LW were in Erg.-jagdgruppen (without schools).

I think Christer Bergström has given the right questions and some answers.

Franek Grabowski 23rd February 2005 19:10

Jens
Are you kidding?

Quote:

I think this statement proves my thesis, that some people discussed from a biased point. I lived in GDR and can imagine, why people hate the communists and the SU, but this shouldn't lead to make a false look at the historical facts. Same in the other view, hate of nacism shouldnt lead to underestimate power of Wehrmacht.
Do you deny Ribbentrop-Molotov and subsequent agreements that started WWII and allowed both countries to conquer almost whole Europe by mid 1941? Do you deny that policy of both Germany and Soviet Union resulted in genocide deaths of millions of people? Do you deny that half of Europe was occupied by Soviets?
Now, whatever is your answer, please explain me where is the link to purely technical matters discussed here?

Quote:

The question behind these figures is, how much of the "western" fighters were in schools and Erg.-jagdgruppen? At schools alone 11500 airplanes were totally and 10000 damaged lost. Out of these 15000 were pure school planes. So roughly 9000 combat planes were more or less lost at schools. It's clear that most statistics say, they were lost against western allies. Additionaly in 1944 ~20% of all planes of LW were in Erg.-jagdgruppen (without schools).
I do not see any reason why the German command had to include their school aircraft into OdeB. Anyway, simple count of JGs engaged show that most of them were engaged on the Western Front and the situation changed only in April when both Fronts were so close, that there was no distinction between the units.

Quote:

I think Christer Bergström has given the right questions and some answers.
I see no particular reason to believe there are more unknown losses due to Soviets than to Anglosaxons.

Christer Bergström 23rd February 2005 22:53

Quote:

For example on 31.5.43 there were 547 Jagdflugzeuge against SU and 1,077 Jagdflugzeuge against Western Allies
In all humility, this is an example of what happens when one approaches history from the viewpoint of a medium-level matematician, who tries to understand history by watching selected statistical figures.

The reality - which always is more complicated than a few statistical figures - looked like this on 31 May 1943:

The more than one thousand Luftwaffe fighters in action against the Western Allies broke down into these forces:

The West (France, Belgium): 328 fighters (mainly JG 2 and JG 26) - opposed to an overwhelming Allied numerical superiority, including approximately fifteen hundred RAF fighters. (RAF Fighter Command carried out 15,447 sorties in June 1943.)

Home defence (Luftwaffenbefehlshaber Mitte): 296 fighters - opposed mainly to the heavy bombers of US 8th Air Force (mustering 705 heavy bombers on 31 May 1943).

Sicily and Sardinia (Luftflotte 2): 290 fighters (of which only 160 were serviceable) - opposed to 4,900 Allied aircraft, including 2,100 fighters.

Western Norway: 76 fighters, which saw very little action.

Southeastern Europe: 90 fighters, mainly assigned to protect the Rumanian oil fields, also saw very little action by this time.

Before I go any further, I will make one reservation. Regarding the air war at night, the situation is the opposite to that in daytime: At night time, it is absolutely clear that the Western Allies (or more precisely, the RAF Bomber Command) encountered a level of opposition in the air which the Soviets were lucky to be saved from. I would say that the RAF Bomber Command and the Soviet Air Force were those two Allied air forces which faced the strongest opposition from the Luftwaffe. That said, let’s return to the day fighting:

Let us now study the Eastern Front on 31 May 1943. Indeed, there were “only” 547 Luftwaffe fighters on the Eastern Front on 31 May 1943. But that's only one part of the story.

By 31 May 1943, the huge Air Battle at Kuban (the German Kuban Bridgehead in northwestern Caucasus) had just ended. At the climax of this battle, the Luftwaffe mounted Fliegerkorps I with around 1,000 aircraft (including 200 fighters) against 800 Soviet aircraft (including 270 fighters). This German concentration of aviation assets was made at the expense of other sectors of the Eastern Front (e.g. the Ukraine had to do more or less without any German fighters during one period during the Air Battle over the Kuban), but this could be tolerated because spring thaws prevented any major operation by the Red Army by that time.

If we subtract all German aircraft apart from the fighters - as has been done above - the Eastern Front appears to be given a fairly low priority. But of course the Soviet airmen faced not only fighters, but many other aircraft. If not, their task would have been much easier.

If we exclude transport planes, liaison aircraft, etc, plus the aircraft in western Norway and the Balkans which saw only limited action, and instead focus on the actual first-line force of combat aircraft which saw regular daylight combat, we will find the following for 31 May 1943:

Opposed to the Soviets: 2,500 Luftwaffe combat aircraft (night fighters excluded).

Opposed to the Western Allies: 1,700 Luftwaffe combat aircraft (night fighters excluded).


Interestingly, the date chosen above - 31 May 1943 - is just between two major air battles on the Eastern Front. One, at Kuban, has already been described. The other one was “Operation Zitadelle” at Kursk.

For “Operation Zitadelle” the Luftwaffe gathered a force of over 2,000 aircraft (including 630 fighters and Zerstörer) at Kharkov and Orel - opposed to a Soviet force of 2,400 aircraft (including 1,000 fighters). (Khazanov & Gorbach, “Aviatsiya v bitve nad Orlovsko - Kurskoy dugoy”, p. 11.)

Imagine this formidable Luftwaffe force - which included the top elite among the Luftwaffe fliers as far as experience and combat skills is concerned - assembled in Sicily, instead of the badly depleted remnants of Luftflotte 2 which were in place to meet the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943. Then imagine the Western Allied aviation in Tunisia cut in half from 4,900 aircraft (2,100 fighters) to a numerical similar to the Soviet at “Zitadelle” - 2,400 aircraft (including 1,000 fighters). Then you would have the Western Allies facing the same kind of opposition as the Soviets were up against. Wouldn’t that have brought the Western Allies into greater difficulties?

Finally this:

Quote:

simple count of JGs engaged show that most of them were engaged on the Western Front and the situation changed only in April when both Fronts were so close, that there was no distinction between the units.
I don’t know what Franek means here. However, it is a fact that immediately following the Soviet breakthrough on 12 January 1945, almost the entire Luftwaffe -including most of the Home Defence Jagdgeschwader – were rapidly transferred to the Eastern Front. These units included JG 1, JG 3, JG 4, JG 6, JG 11, and JG 77. Already in January 1945, the number of Bf 109s and Fw 190s assigned explicitly and exclusively to the Eastern Front reached fifteen hundred. In fact, the bulk of the air fighting in Europe in 1945 would take place on the Eastern Front. The Wehrmachtführungsstab noted on 19 January 1945 that all available reserves of aircraft fuel was to be concentrated to air operations on the Eastern Front: “Air operations on all other war theatres are in comparison [to the Eastern Front] of absolutely negligible importance.” This would not change during the remainder of the war - to the benefit of the airmen in the USAAF and the RAF.

Just before that, there actually had been a couple of isolated incidents when the Western Allies had been unfortunate to encounter at least a numerical opposition in the air of the same magnitude as the Soviets had to face all the time from 22 June 1941 to late April 1945. That took place during the German Ardennes offensive in December 1944, when Göring concentrated a uniquely strong force of Luftwaffe aircraft against the Western Allies. (Unique after 22 June 1941.) No less than 2,300 German aircraft were stationed along the Western Front to support the Ardennes offensive. (In other words, a number which is comparable to the force which was available for Operation “Zitadelle”, although the Western Allies could muster 5,000 aircraft against the Ardennes offensive - i.e. twice the numbers the Soviets dispatched at the eve of “Zitadelle”.)

The first days of the Ardennes offensive, air activity was hampered through bad weather, but on 23 and 24 December the RAF and the USAAF faced the onslaught by the whole Luftwaffe force which had been concentrated in the West. On 23 December 1944, the Americans alone lost 67 aircraft in the West. One Jagdgruppe, IV./JG 3, claimed to have shot down 31 B-26 bombers and three Thunderbolts. The next day, no less than 94 US and British aircraft were shot down in the West.

The Luftwaffe made 800 sorties in the West on 23 December 1944, and 1,088 on 24 December. It should be kept in mind that these sorties were carried out by “Western units” which had been badly depleted after twelve months of terrible attrition in a fight against a growing Allied numerical superiority. The bulk of the pilots in these units were inadequately trained rookies. As I have showed in a previous post, the situation in the “Eastern units” was dramatically different. One can imagine what the outcome had been if the RAF and the USAAF had faced the “super veterans” of JG 51, JG 52 and JG 54 over the Ardennes, instead of the rookies of JG 1, JG 11 and JG 4.

As mentioned, I advice against drawing too many conclusions form statistical numbers, but the statistics from two days of Luftwaffe operations during the last period of the year show some interesting relations. On both days, the Luftwaffe was assigned to carry out tactical support at the frontline, and on both days losses were due to both air combat and ground fire.

23 December 1944: 800 Luftwaffe sorties in the West, leading to 115 German victory claims and 135 German aircraft lost.

8 February 1945: 1,654 Luftwaffe sorties in the East, leading to 8 (eight) German victory claims and 43 German aircraft lost (mainly Bf 109s and Fw 190s).

All best,

Christer Bergström

http://www.graf-grislawski.elknet.pl/index.htm

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/bc-rs/

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/...-ace/index.htm

Dénes Bernád 23rd February 2005 23:28

Flak
 
Just a small note, without the intent to get involved too much in this thread.

If one discusses the air war in general, including statistics of losses, he/she must consider the flak force as well.
I am not very knowledgeable in this topic, but IIRC most of the medium and heavy German flak was concentrated in the West, complementing the available fighter force.
Wasn't the Flakwaffe responsible for more enemy aircraft shot downs than the Jagdwaffe (in the West, incl. the IIIrd Reich)?

Dénes

Franek Grabowski 23rd February 2005 23:48

Denes
You are absolutelly correct, Polish AF lost about 6 day fighters to German aircraft since June 1944 and claimed about 70 destroyed at the same time. All the remaining losses were due to Flak and accidents. I do not think the proportion was much different for Commonwealth and USAAF, and it must be remembered the German claims were wildly exagerrated.

Christer Bergström 24th February 2005 03:21

Yes, that's right, Dénes. If we take RAF fighter losses on 24 December 1944, for instance, 12 were shot down by German Flak and six by German fighters. Meanwhile, it appears as though many more German fighters were lost in air combat than to Allied AAA by this time.

However, losses due to sudden hit-and-run fighter attacks sometimes were erroneously interpreted as due to AAA. If we study the air battle in the West on 23 December, US sources admit that a large part of their losses were due to German fighters. Thus, 391 BG alone reported 16 B-26s shot down by German fighters in a single engagement that day.

Indeed, the German claims sometimes were wildly exaggerated - but this applies to fighter pilots in all air forces.

I am trying to understand the series of air battles between US 8th Air Force and Luftflotte Reich over Germany on 4 - 6 August 1944. During those battles, the fighters of US 8th Air Force claimed 128 German aircraft shot down (including six by Major George Preddy of 352 FG on the 6th), but so far I have only been able to find 29 losses among those of Luftflotte Reich’s units which, AFAIK, served in northern and western Germany and participated in the battle with 8th AF over Germany on those days.

The units in question are I./JG 3, II./JG 5, III./JG 53, JG 300, JG 301 and JG 302. Apart from these, I./JG 2 and JG 4 were based in the vicinity and might have participated in these battles, although these units filed no claims. However, through the whole month of August 1944, these units (I./JG 2 and the whole of JG 4) recorded no more than 20 losses due to hostile action (Flugzeugbestand und Bewegungsmeldungen) - which hardly covers all the "missing" 100 US claims.

Maybe someone can provide me with some additional information here? (Meanwhile, 82 American aircraft - 52 bombers and 30 fighters - were shot down, the majority though through AAA; the German fighters claimed 12 bombers and 17 fighters shot down.)

I find this surprising, since I have the impression that the claims made by US 8th AF's fighter pilots generally seem to be fairly accurate - at least compared to claims made by fighter pilots of many other air forces. (Perhaps as a result of a wider use of gun camera?) - For instance, RAF Fighter Command claimed 909 German aircraft shot down in 1941, while actual German losses only were 183. Also, a comparison between the number of aircraft claimed shot down by the Soviets (in air combat and through ground fire) in 1941, and the actual number of German aircraft recorded as lost in the air on the Eastern Front to hostile action in 1941, gives an average Soviet overclaim ratio of 2.8 claims per actual German combat loss in the air. (I will present the exact figures in a monthly loss table in a forthcoming second edition of Black Cross/Red Star, Vol. 1.)


All best,

Christer Bergström

Juha 24th February 2005 15:44

Dear Jens, according to Groehler the numbers are the fighters under various Luftflotte, so I think they were all operational, I think. His 22.6.41 figures are those normally given figures for operational a/c at the beginning of Oper. Barbarossa.

Dear Christer, some knowledge of how to use statistics scientifically correctly doesn't hurt anyone. And exact use of terms is better than those like "...more or less the whole LW - particularly the day fighter force..." without first explaning what that means (60%, 70%, 85% or 90%)

I wonder why to exclude the night fighters, they were combat a/c pure and simple, in fact they needed more resource to produce, maintain and man than a average combat plane? Was the reason to get more suitable figure? If You check my message You will see that I used purely fighter figures because in the quote I referred You wrote Bf 109s and Fw 190s. According to Groehler night fighter figure on 31.5.43 was 32 in East, 456 in West and 24 in Italy.

One reason why the Western Allies had so overwhelming, other than the industrial power, was that they shoot down clearly more German a/c than than the Soviets. If we take the LW monthly fighter lossesin 1943, because You Christer had that super-veteran theory, IMHO You seem to have more interest in fighter pilots and because La-7 (the heading of this tread) was a fighter, they were, again according to Williamson Murray's LW p. 138.
At Eastern front Jan 85, Feb 63, March 100, Apr 67, May 110, Jun 85, Jul 201, Aug 150, Sept 99, Oct 94, Nov 45
At Western front 87, 77, 140, 143, 183, 157, 335, 248, 276, 284, 281
At Mediterranean 124, 89, 140, 247, 97, 131, 246, 133, 167, 92, 54

So alone in Med. LW lost 272 fighters more than in the eastern Front in the first 5 months of '43, and many of their opponents had been veterans of Eastern front. It had been a hard and heavy fight but in the end Western Allieds had mauled the LW in Med. badly and will cripple it during the next 2 months. And of course there were also the Italians, but at Eastern front there were Romanians, Hungarians, Finns, Slovaks, Croats and the small Italian contigent, so this comparasion isn't complete, but I'm not going to went through all my material to check also the lossies of smaller Axis powers.

And of course the fact that the Germans Fought 2front war helped Western Allies as it helped SU, or what You thing would have been the effect of 1000 fighters, 150 long range recon a/c, 170 heavy fighters and ground attack planes, 528 bombers etc more at the disposal of LW at the Kursk. In fact figures should be far bigger because there would not have been losses in West and in Med. And the lesser need of night fighters had made possible more other a/c.

Juha

Christer Bergström 24th February 2005 17:37

Quote:

” I wonder why to exclude the night fighters”
I never did. All I said was that the air war at night should be placed in a special category. As I said: “Before I go any further, I will make one reservation. Regarding the air war at night, the situation is the opposite to that in daytime: At night time, it is absolutely clear that the Western Allies (or more precisely, the RAF Bomber Command) encountered a level of opposition in the air which the Soviets were lucky to be saved from. I would say that the RAF Bomber Command and the Soviet Air Force were those two Allied air forces which faced the strongest opposition from the Luftwaffe.”

Quote:

”One reason why the Western Allies had so overwhelming, other than the industrial power, was that they shoot down clearly more German a/c”
Again, I never denied that. This was precisely due to:

a) The bad qualitative shape of the Soviet AF (as compared to the Luftwaffe) in the first period of the war which allowed the core of Luftwaffe experts to accumulate such a tremendous experience, and
b) The mounting Western Allied numerical superiority

Now how could this Allied numerical superiority in the air be achieved? There are several reasons:

a) Between June 1940 and June 1944, the UK and USA had no frontline on the ground to cover (this regarding Western Europe), and placed the main emphasis in the West on building up a large force of aircraft, which was tasked to soften up the grounds for the invasion toward the end of the war.

b) The USSR had lost some of its most important industrial areas and mine regions, together with millions of manpower, in the large areas of the USSR which the Germans occupied in 1941. The Western Allies never were beset by anything similar.

c) In 1941 - 1942, between two-third and 75 % of the whole Luftwaffe was actively seeking to extinguish the Soviet Air Force inside the Soviet Union itself, which of course severely hampered all Soviet efforts to re-build its battered air force. Meanwhile, the RAF was - comparatively speaking - left alone on the British isles, and faced only two Jagdgeschwader which remained largely defensive. And regarding the Americans - well. . .

d) Between 1941 and 1945, the Western Allies were able to build up the air forces on the British isles without any interference from the Luftwaffe; they were able to cancel their air offensive whenever they found the need to do so in order to conserve their forces (like the Americans did on some occasions after they had sustained too heavy losses at the hands of the Jagdwaffe). In other words, they were never “receiving” - always “giving”. Their Soviet allies never enjoyed this luxury - they had to build up their air force in the midst of enemy fire. Thus the Soviets had no chance to reach the same enormous numerical superiority visavis their enemy as the Western Allies maintained from early 1944.



Quote:

“alone in Med. LW lost 272 fighters more than in the eastern Front in the first 5 months of '43”
That of course has several reasons, and the most important the reasons were:

a) The mounting Western Allied numerical superiority (which mid-1943 reached a point at Tunisia/Sicily which the Soviets were unable to mount at any important combat zone - again because the Germans gave the Eastern Front a way higher priority than the Mediterranean).

b) Nearly 50 % of all German combat aircraft in the Mediterranean area in May 1943 were fighters, while only 23 % of all combat German aircraft in the East were fighters by the same time. Thus, when the Western Allies with their huge numerical superiority came across a German aircraft in the Med, there was a greater probability that it would be a fighter. When the Soviets came across a German aircraft over Kuban, there was a big probability that it would be a non-fighter - and with a numerical superiority.



Quote:

“alone in Med. LW lost 272 fighters more than in the eastern Front in the first 5 months of '43, and many of their opponents had been veterans of Eastern front.”
As a matter of fact, those Eastern Front super veterans gave the Western Allies a bloody nose in Tunisia. Many of them were able to attain the same amount of successes against the RAF and the USAAF over Tunisia as they previously had done in the East. Have you studied the victory-to-loss ratio for the German fighters over Tunisia during the early part of the campaign (before fuel shortage and and overwhelming Allied numerical superiority wore them down)?

Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert had carried out around 500 combat sorties and achieved 103 victories on the Eastern Front in 1941-1942 when he was shifted to Tunisia. Between January 1943 and early May 1943, he was credited with fifty victories against the USAAF and the RAF - quite comparable to the success rate achieved by other top aces on the Eastern Front at that time, and also comparable to the rate of successes that he had achieved against inferior equipped Soviets. Heinz Bär arrived from the Eastern Front to North Africa in October 1942 and shot down twenty RAF and USAAF fighters in two months - about the same rate of successes that he had scored previously on the Eastern Front.

But of course German super veterans were killed in Tunisia; they were killed everywhere.

See my article: http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/bc-rs/text.html

Quote:

“of course the fact that the Germans Fought 2front war helped Western Allies as it helped SU, or what You thing would have been the effect of 1000 fighters, 150 long range recon a/c, 170 heavy fighters and ground attack planes, 528 bombers etc more at the disposal of LW at the Kursk.”

Of course, but I think you missed my point, which was that if the Luftwaffe forces in the East and in the West had entirely swapped places at any given time from mid-1941 and onward, it would have been easier for the Soviets and more difficult for the Western Allies. The Luftwaffe was always stronger on the Eastern Front than on the Western Front, if we pay attention to both quantity and quality. (Not either quantity or quality, but the quota between quantity and quality.)

We have all (I believe) heard the discussion on the victories attained by the German fighter pilots in the East in 1941 were comparatively “easy” due to the low quality of Soviet pilot training standards. Some authors have denied that, but I think it is an irrefutable fact.

At the same time, I think it is an irrefutable fact that due to exactly the same factors, the victories attained by the Western Allied fighter pilots in the in 1944 also were comparatively “easy” due to the low quality of German pilot training standards. In 1944, German rookies who barely knew how to fly were shot down to the hundreds when they were caught in a position of altitude and speed inferiority by numerically superior Western Allied fighter pilots. Those Western Allied pilots were up to far greater difficulties when they were unfortunate to encounter such super veterans as Theodor Weissenberger, Emil Lang or Alfred Grislawski - but even those super veterans had to face a huge numerical superiority, and they were hampered through the disastrously low quality of the rookies who were assigned as their wingmen and Rottenflieger.

I am surprised that some people with considerable knowledge on the Luftwaffe is unable to see the obvious fact that the Luftwaffe was more powerful in the East than in the West, and that the Western Allies thus had an “easier” task than their Soviet allies had. With exception of the war at night, which differed radically from the war in daylight and thus is a completely different story - don’t you agree?

Again: In daylight from June 1941, the Western Allies were lucky that they were saved from facing the tremendous resistance in the air which the Soviets had to endure all the time.

I have to emphasise again that the decisive factor to the indeed very heavy German air combat losses in the West in 1943 - 1944 were the unsurpassed and steadily mounting numerical superiority which the Western Allies enjoyed. The situation in the West would have been completely different if the Western Allies would have had to settle with a force no bigger than the number of Soviet aircraft in first-line service - against a Luftwaffe force with the same power as the Luftwaffe force in the East.

All best,

Christer Bergström

Dénes Bernád 24th February 2005 17:50

A source
 
There is a source on the net, compiled by Les Butler, on Luftwaffe Aircraft Losses By Theatre, September 1943 - October 1944:
http://www.lesbutler.ip3.co.uk/jg26/thtrlosses.htm

For those of you who are not aware of it, it's worth taking a look at it.

I would highlight one conclusion:
An airplane flying a combat mission in the West was 7.66 times more likely to be destroyed than one on a similar mission in the East. It is clear that the burden of sacrifice was borne by the Luftwaffe aircrew on the Western Front and over the Reich, not on the Eastern Front.

Dénes

Graham Boak 24th February 2005 17:55

Some points
 
Two of your points can be immediately refuted.

a) 1940-1944. The Allied air forces were supporting fighting on the ground in Greece, Crete, North Africa, the Middle East, East Africa and Italy during this period, not to mention the Far East and Pacific. Not in such numbers as on the Eastern Front perhaps, but at much greater logistic cost. Nor is there any Russian equivalent to the Atlantic campaign at sea, or the massive drain on resources to supply Russia via Lease-Lend.
Just casually excluding all this effort is a cheap debating point of little value.

b) The Allies never lost some of its most important industrial areas and mine regions, together with millions of manpower? France.

JoeB 24th February 2005 19:34

Quote:

Originally Posted by Christer Bergström
Maybe someone can provide me with some additional information here? (Meanwhile, 82 American aircraft - 52 bombers and 30 fighters - were shot down, the majority though through AAA; the German fighters claimed 12 bombers and 17 fighters shot down.)

I find this surprising, since I have the impression that the claims made by US 8th AF's fighter pilots generally seem to be fairly accurate - at least compared to claims made by fighter pilots of many other air forces. (Perhaps as a result of a wider use of gun camera?) - For instance, RAF Fighter Command claimed 909 German aircraft shot down in 1941, while actual German losses only were 183. Also, a comparison between the number of aircraft claimed shot down by the Soviets (in air combat and through ground fire) in 1941, and the actual number of German aircraft recorded as lost in the air on the Eastern Front to hostile action in 1941, gives an average Soviet overclaim ratio of 2.8 claims per actual German combat loss in the air. (I will present the exact figures in a monthly loss table in a forthcoming second edition of Black Cross/Red Star, Vol. 1.)

I look forward to reading details of Soviet claims v. German losses. 2.8 claims per loss is a surprising result, to me, given the ratio's in the 1939 war and Korea, around 6 (over a range of JAAF official loss sources I've read) and around 8 (more familiar with this) respectively.

On mid level statistician v. truth again I agree with you. The smaller wars are not as important as WWII, OTOH the Korean War especially has detailed records of all kinds for one combatant, pretty detailed claims for the other (USAF and VVS respectively) and a scale where it's feasible to count "bottom up" from individual incidents and see where losses are or aren't there to match claims combat by combat, without a lot of doubt whether say, other units' losses or claims/victories are being accidentally ommitted. So again 2.8 to 1 is a quite suprising result to me, I look forward to learning more.

On reasons for higher or lower claim accuracy, I don't believe gun camera's are a decisive one, though of course it can't hurt. Much gun camera footage shows enemy planes in aiming reticles, perhaps indicating hits, not that often conclusive as to destruction, nor proving that the plane fired on was being fired on by just one "friendly". The Soviets in Korea used gun cameras (about whose quality the airmen complained though, to be fair), and comparing results based on what you said and I did, accepting each as fact just for argument sake, claimed much less accurately with them than without them (of course there were other variables, there always are).

However again back to individual incident or day v. reams of statistics, it probably makes sense to evaluate claim accuracy over some period longer than a day, and perhaps aim for periods where the complete OOB and records can be identified with high certainty. Not an expert on it, but most sources seem to indicate a considerably higher general claim accuracy for the USAAF in late WWII than the example you gave. In Korea either for the war based on totals, but also importantly for sub periods where each incident can be counted and OOB's are certain, the USAF ratio tended towards actual enemy losses being 75% of "destroyed" claims (giving no weight to "probably destroyed" or "damaged"), though with individual days or combats much less accurate. Of course this could have increased from late WWII, but then we arrive at one AF's claim accuracy increased the other's declined sharply from WWII to Korea, a very interesting result if true.

Joe

Christer Bergström 24th February 2005 20:34

Graham,

“immediately refuted”, ”excluding all this effort is a cheap debating point of little value”??? :roll:

Please don’t let this discussion become too heated.

My main point has been this:

The decisive factor to the indeed very heavy German air combat losses in the West in 1943 - 1944 were the unsurpassed and steadily mounting numerical superiority which the Western Allies enjoyed. The situation in the West would have been completely different if the Western Allies would have had to settle with a force no bigger than the number of Soviet aircraft in first-line service - against a Luftwaffe force with the same power as the Luftwaffe force in the East.

I tried to give the main reasons why the Western Allies were able to build up such a huge numerical superiority in the air - which the Soviets never were able to do. No one can’t refute that, so I can’t see Graham’s point when he writes the following:


Quote:

a) 1940-1944. The Allied air forces were supporting fighting on the ground in Greece, Crete, North Africa, the Middle East, East Africa and Italy during this period, not to mention the Far East and Pacific. Not in such numbers as on the Eastern Front perhaps, but at much greater logistic cost. Nor is there any Russian equivalent to the Atlantic campaign at sea, or the massive drain on resources to supply Russia via Lease-Lend.
Just casually excluding all this effort is a cheap debating point of little value.

b) The Allies never lost some of its most important industrial areas and mine regions, together with millions of manpower? France.
What exactly is Graham’s point? That the Western Allies failed to build up such a huge numerical superiority as I described? Or that they did so, but that the reasons were other than what I described? (If so - then what?) What exactly does Graham think would be my point in “casually excluding” the Atlantic campaign at sea and the war in the Balkans and Africa and Pacific? I have no reason to “casually exclude” anything; all I wanted to do was to contribute to a better understanding of some fundamental issues regarding the air war during WW II.

And what’s Graham’s point with France? That the fall of France prevented the UK and the USA from building up a numerically superior air force? Allow me to be more specific: When I wrote the Western Allies, I meant precisely the UK and the USA. Those two countries never lost some of their most important industrial areas and mine regions, together with millions of manpower, like the USSR did. Let’s talk about France as such, and then I will agree that as a country, France fared even worse than the USSR; France lost the war, surrendered, and made peace with the victorious Nazi Germany. France lost all, while the USSR “only” lost something like 60 % of its mineral resources.

But I see that I forgot one other important explanation to the fact that the UK and the USA managed to mount such a numerically superior air armada against Germany, and that of course was that they were two countries; they were fortunate to combine the potentials of two major industrial countries against a single country, which had to assign the cream of its armed forces against a third major industrial country (the USSR).

Let us conclude by saying that two major industrial powers - the USA and the UK - fought a relative minority of the Wehrmacht and the industrially underpowered Japan (which was also at war with China); while one major industrial power - the USSR - fought the bulk of the Wehrmacht and a relative minority of the Japanese armed forces.

Without “casually excluding” either the Allied bomber offensive or the war in the Mediterranean, it is true that the Red Army wore down the Wehrmacht to a point where the Western Allies finally were able to land their armies in France in June 1944.

Even in August 1944, when the Western Allies had opened the second front in the West, there were 2.1 million German troops deployed in the East while 1 million opposed Western Allied operations in France. Between 1 July 1944 and 31 December 1944, the Wehrmacht sustained an average monthly loss of 20,611 killed on the Eastern Front and 8,294 killed on the Western Front. (Kriegstagebuch OKW, vol. VIII, p. 1509.)

Out of 7,620,323 casualties in the Wehrmacht during WW II, 82 % (= 6,256,026) were sustained on the Eastern Front. (Kriegstagebuch OKW, vol. VIII, pp. 1515 - 1517.)
These losses were inflicted upon the Germans during a period of 47 months; during 36 of those months, the Western Allies could sit in relative safety on the British isles and build up a tremendous air armada while their ground forces were engaged in battle campaigns where only fractions of the Wehrmacht were engaged. Even if we bring in the Pacific war zone, it is clear that the Western Allies never ever came even close to facing the tremendous opposition which the Red Army faced on the Eastern Front. And which the Red Army - nota bene - also annihilated.

JoeB,

Quote:

“it probably makes sense to evaluate claim accuracy over some period longer than a day, and perhaps aim for periods where the complete OOB and records can be identified with high certainty. Not an expert on it, but most sources seem to indicate a considerably higher general claim accuracy for the USAAF in late WWII than the example you gave.”
Absolutely. I am only studying the case of 4 - 6 August 1944 because I am studying the case of 4 - 6 August 1944 as such. As mentioned previously, I agree that most sources seem to indicate a considerably higher general claim accuracy for the USAAF in late WWII. That is, in Europe. . .

All best,

Christer

Juha 24th February 2005 21:57

Hello Christer
I see Your point, but quality is always rather dificult object to value objectively and anyway IMHO you overestimate the influence of some exeptional individuals in "Materialschlacht". I think that Your "Super-veteran" theory is an interesting hypotesh but I haven't see anything that would proven it in the sense that it would have historical importance.

I can recall only one very clear test case, that was the Tunisian campaign. JG 77 and II/JG 51, both of which had their fair share of top Experten, were transferred from East to Tunisia as were a Gruppe from JG 2 and 2? Gruppen of JG 53 (I have not checked the units). One of their major opponents (USAAF) was inexperienced, used fighter a/c that You don't value much (P-39 and -40) or that was still a bit inmature (early P-38s with insufficent intercoolers and w/o dive recovery flaps) and some Spit Vs. The other main opponents main fighter was Spit V, which IIRC You thing was not as good as the Bf 109G-2 which was the a/c with which the Eastern Gruppen were equipped. The end result was that the remaints of the LW Gruppen fleeing at wave-top height with schwartzemann or two in rear fuselage towards Sicily hoping that the marauding Allied fighters didn't catch them. I don't know if JG 77 and II/JG 51 were more efficient than the other Gruppen. Have to wait until the new edition of Shore's et al. book hits the shelves. I know that they gave a good account on themselves but that didn't change the way the things went. It doesn't matter historically if the Allied lost 50 - 100 a/c more or if the campaign took a few weeks longer because of the alleged higher quality of Eastern Front Jagdgruppen. In most that would be only a detail in greater story. This test case makes me very sceptical on "super-veteran" theory. Later the "super-veterans" would have met much more experienced USAAF equipped with better a/c, I think that there were a bigger qualitative leap from P-40F to P-51D than from G-2 to G-6/G-10. And same for RAF ( from Spit V to Spit IX/XIV or to Tempest).

My knowledge on Tunisia campaign is limited on a couple of articles by Shores and on few articles on USAAF actions there plus what the JG 51 unit history tells and something else. But Reinert's and Bär's actions are familiar to me. I have no fixed oppinion on it or on anything else on air war. Before reading first time Williamson Murray's LW I thought that the Eastern Front was more important in air war than what I think now. After reading Murray some 20 years ago I began to think that the impact of Med theatre has been underestimated, at least outside the British Commonwealth. Another thing that surprised me was that the famous Kuban actions (known through Progress Publishing) didn't show more clearly in the loss tables.

äGraham Boak mentioned the other fronts Western Allies fought. I only want to add that with the resources put on
a battleship or an aircraft carrier with its air group or an destroyer division one could manufacture lots of a/c, tanks guns etc. So the Pacific was a significant drain to Allied economies. Same goes to night fighters. Yes, night air war was different but it also drained resources from day air war. A Bf 110 in a NJG was away from a ZG or means at least a couple fewer Bf 109s in a JG, in that sense I feel that they should be taken to equation.

"...When the Soviets came across a German aircraft over Kuban, there was a big probability that it would be a non-fighter - and with a numerical superiority."

Of course that is true, but in 1943 only in Jan the LW losses were bigger at Eastern Front than against the Western Allies and during the Kuban air campaign the losses for all a/c were (Murray again, same page)
East April 43 238, May 331 or 333 (the losses in all fronts are so same that it's impossible to say for sure)
West Apr 255, May 331 or 333
Med Apr 572, May 331 or 333

And IMHO this should have made the air victories easier, I mean that I think it was easier to shoot down a couple of Ju 87s than a Bf 109. And IMHO that shows that the Germans thought that the Med was a more dangerous theathre than the Eastern Front and made their air forces there more fighter heavy. There were of course also other factors in action. IIRC the LW at beginning tried to manage without fighters in Africa, relying to Italian fighters, but that didn't work.

On one earlier point. I don't think that the wartime propaganda had a big influence on the opinions of Eastern Front veterans. They might have believed it first but usually if the propaganda differ from one's personal experiences one began to doubt the propaganda, not his personal experiences. If one fought against a good pilot in a good a/c he probably stop thinking his opponents as untermenschen or monkeys. Same happened to the Aussie pilots in Malaya in 41-42.

But I agree with You that there at least were a tendency to underestimate the impact of Eastern Front in some parts of the air war enthusiasts in USA and in British Commonwealth and also the skills of Soviet pilots and the quality of Soviet a/c. But as I had wrote before, for example AE/AI articles gave truthful appraissals on Soviet a/c rather early on. But of course there are room to more books on Eastern Front Air war.

Juha

Christer Bergström 24th February 2005 22:37

Quote:

I don't think that the wartime propaganda had a big influence on the opinions of Eastern Front veterans. They might have believed it first but usually if the propaganda differ from one's personal experiences one began to doubt the propaganda, not his personal experiences. If one fought against a good pilot in a good a/c he probably stop thinking his opponents as untermenschen or monkeys. Same happened to the Aussie pilots in Malaya in 41-42.”
Maybe you missed my point here? I do think that in general, the victories attained by the German fighter pilots in the East in 1941 actually were comparatively “easy” due to the low quality of Soviet pilot training standards. Some authors have denied that, but I think it is an irrefutable fact.

Quote:

“IMHO you overestimate the influence of some exeptional individuals in "Materialschlacht".”
To the contrary, I’d say. If you study how the few super veterans’ share of all victories increased toward the end of the war, it is clear that the Luftwaffe became increasingly dependant on the accomplishments of a handful of “super veterans”.

Quote:

“Your "Super-veteran" theory is an interesting hypotesh but I haven't see anything that would proven it in the sense that it would have historical importance.”
I never said that shifting all the Eastern Front Luftwaffe units to the West would have had any “historical importance” in the sense of “turning the fortune of the war” to the benefit of the Third Reich or something like that (if that's what you mean). But it would have had consequences far wider than “only a detail in greater story”. One effect would have been that the Western Allies would have lost more aircraft, and a certain Allied campaign could have taken a few weeks longer because of the higher quality of Eastern Front Jagdgruppen. But the main effect would have been that the great relief this transfer would have brought to the Soviets, would have enabled the Red Army to achieve a major breakthrough on the Eastern Front. If you study the air war in the East, you will find that on several occasions, the Luftwaffe was the key factor which prevented a total and disastrous collapse of the German Eastern Front. Imagine that that vital air support had not been there, but instead had been used against the far less dangerous US and British armed forces. . .

Quote:

“Before reading first time Williamson Murray's LW I thought that the Eastern Front was more important in air war than what I think now.”
Well, that depends on where one places the focus. If you focus on the things I hint at above, I think you will change your opinion again. But for a closer description of what I mean, I will have to ask you to wait until “Black Cross/Red Star”, Vol. 4.

Quote:

“I can recall only one very clear test case, that was the Tunisian campaign.”
Exactly. Read Shores/Ring, “Air War over Tunisia”. (Will there be a new edition?)

Quote:

“The end result was that the remaints of the LW Gruppen fleeing at wave-top height with schwartzemann or two in rear fuselage towards Sicily hoping that the marauding Allied fighters didn't catch them.”
Well, first of all, it was the Allied ground forces which forced the Germans and Italians out of Tunisia. Secondly, who would go looking for air combat with one or two Schwarzemänner in the rear fuselage? Thirdly, the Luftwaffe was overwhelmed at Tunisia - like on every other combat zone - mainly due to a tremendous Allied numerical superiority in the air. Not even the “super veterans” sufficed against such a vast numerical force.

Remember the relation of forces after the conclusion of the Battle of Tunisia:

Sicily and Sardinia, Luftflotte 2: 290 fighters (of which only 160 were serviceable) - opposed to 4,900 Allied aircraft, including 2,100 fighters. Even if we include all German aircraft, we still have 683 against 4,900 - i.e. one against seven. Try to wage a successful campaign with those odds. Do you think that the relation of 1.2 German aircraft against every Soviet aircraft at Kuban made the air war at Kuban less difficult for the Germans? Well of course! Now which factor do you think was the most important to the fact that the air war over Tunisia/Sicily in May 1943 was more difficult to the Germans than the air war over Kuban?

(Try to imagine what would have happened in the Battle of Britain if the Luftwaffe would have been able to mount a force which was 17 times larger than the British fighter strength - i.e. like the relations were at Tunisia/Sicily in May 1943. What would have happened if the Luftwaffe would have been able to mount not 2,600 aircraft, but 12,500 aircraft against Fighter Command's 740 fighters by 1 July 1940?)

One more time:

The decisive factor to the indeed very heavy German air combat losses in the West in 1943 - 1944 was the unsurpassed and steadily mounting numerical superiority which the Western Allies enjoyed. The situation in the West would have been completely different if the Western Allies would have had to settle with a force no bigger than the number of Soviet aircraft in first-line service - against a Luftwaffe force with the same power as the Luftwaffe force in the East.

All best,

Christer Bergström

Graham Boak 24th February 2005 23:25

My point
 
My point was quite simple: you stated four reasons for your argument. I see two of them as obviously wrong. This does not mean that the main point of the your argument is lost, but then I wasn't addressing that. Your supporting discussion clearly is.

As for the "cheap debating point" - I see you as claiming much for the Russians: fairly enough, for they achieved much. However, you miss few chances to downplay the effect of the Western Allies. The Russian effort was vital and magnificent - it does not need this kind of blinkered approach. The two points were both examples of this. By all means tell the truth about the Eastern front successes, they are indeed long underplayed in English (and German!) sources. But don't misrepresent all else.

Juha 24th February 2005 23:38

Only shortly
the first quote refer one of Your earlier message in this thread, where You speculate on the impact of propaganda. Nothing to do with the claims.

2nd quote, I mean their impact to flow of events not their share of claims.

Other points
I really don't know if the Western Allies ground forces were "far less dangerous" than the Red Army to others than PoWs.

There should be new editions on Shore's Med. books, the first should become out during this year, I think.

As I had wrote, one reason why LW was in so bad condition was the ability of Western Allies to mash it, with fighters, fighter bombers, medium bombers and heavy bombers. Plus of course the Ultra. Western Allies had multifacet instrument which was difficult to counter. One important point was its exceptional reach, and USAF remembers that even today, that's why US fighters had been long ranged ever since. British were clever and saw the possible consequence of too heavy fighter losses in France in 40 and made moves to ensure that FC would maintain at least prudent effiency. The German High Command (especially Hitler) in other hand had a habit to turn a reverse to a disaster. That helped both Western Allies and SU. And Finns found that it was possible to fight against very great odds, at least against VVS, and maintain some sort of freedom of action and even use Blemheims for tactical bombing ops in summer 44 during a major Soviet offensive (Strategic blow) without a single bomber loss to fighters. That is one reason why I doubt You claim that VVS was the best AF in the world in 45.

I usually leave the alternative history to others. This is only a statement no bun intended, a couple of my best friends are very keen on alternative history, but I'm not.

All the best
Juha

Christer Bergström 25th February 2005 00:13

Quote:

“I really don't know if the Western Allies ground forces were "far less dangerous" than the Red Army”
Since the Germans deployed a force of 2.1 million troops against the Red Army in the East, while they deployed less than half that number against the Western Allies in France in August 1944, I think we can conclude that they regarded the Red Army as a more powerful enemy.

In pure numbers (for those who like statistics), the Red Army also proved to be capable of dealing the Wehrmacht larger losses than the Western Allies were. Between 1 July 1944 and 31 December 1944, the Wehrmacht sustained an average monthly loss of 20,611 killed on the Eastern Front and 8,294 killed on the Western Front. (Kriegstagebuch OKW, vol. VIII, p. 1509.)

Now maybe you will say that that may be so, but that is mainly due to the Red Army’s immense numerical superiority against its German counterpart - 6.7 million men against 2.1 million German troops. . . So you mean that the reason why the Germans sustained higher losses due to the Red Army than due to the Western Allies was that the Red Army enjoyed a greater numerical superiority? Now where have I heard that before, in a slightly different context? :wink:

Graham, I am sorry if I hurt your feelings as an Englishman. It never was my intention to downplay the effect of the Western Allies. Maybe you missed what I wrote about general accuracy in US fighter claims (even though I admit that I pointed out quite some high RAF overclaims), and maybe you failed to notice that I agree (of course) that the German losses in the air were higher due to the Western Allies than due to the Soviets? If you think that my main explanation of the latter - namely the huge Western Allied numerical superiority in the air - is to downplay the effect of the Western Allies, then surely my similar explanation of the fact that the German losses on the ground were higher due to the Soviets than due to the Western Allies means that I downplay the Soviets.

All best,

Christer Bergström

http://www.graf-grislawski.elknet.pl/index.htm

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/bc-rs/

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/...-ace/index.htm

Juha 25th February 2005 02:58

Dear Christer
You must take to account that the front line was much shorter in France than that of Eastern Front, how about figure of men per front km. And there were also surprisingly large number of troops in Italy, in Balkan, in Norway (in Southern and Central parts). I'm not going to check this but IIRC if one takes account those listed as MIA in that loss report the losses became more even even if Eastern Front losses were still clearly greater, and again, the losses in Western Europe happened at shorter frontline.

".. . So you mean that the reason why the Germans sustained higher losses due to the Red Army than due to the Western Allies was that the Red Army enjoyed a greater numerical superiority?..."

In fact I'm used to use more sophisticated arguments when it come to the effectiveness of army units, but this isn't a tank warfare forum.

All the Best
Juha

JoeB 25th February 2005 05:10

Quote:

Originally Posted by Juha
Only shortly
And Finns found that it was possible to fight against very great odds, at least against VVS, and maintain some sort of freedom of action and even use Blemheims for tactical bombing ops in summer 44 during a major Soviet offensive (Strategic blow) without a single bomber loss to fighters. That is one reason why I doubt You claim that VVS was the best AF in the world in 45.

Also saying it was the best in 1945, via comparisons through the medium of LW opposition (how was it different West v. East) seems inherently imprecise, though interesting to debate. "Allied" and Soviet AF's did meet in combat directly not so many years after 1945...

Joe

Six Nifty .50s 25th February 2005 06:00

Quote:

Originally Posted by Christer Bergström
I do think that in general, the victories attained by the German fighter pilots in the East in 1941 actually were comparatively “easy” due to the low quality of Soviet pilot training standards


Forgive me for entering this discussion late, but what exactly were the standards for Soviet pilot training?

Recently I saw a documentary about the Battle of Britain where former RAF Spitfire pilots confirmed that it was absolutely routine for a new pilot to have just (9) hours in a fighter before they were sent into combat. Basically, they knew how to take off and land -- and not much else. The rest was on-the-job training for those who managed to survive the first mission. Many did not.

Bob Doe of No. 234 Squadron had this to say about target practice:

"We were given 20 rounds per gun each and told to go fire them into the North Sea -- but you couldn't really miss the North Sea. And, uh, that was the only gunnery we did"

Juha 25th February 2005 09:05

Hello JoeB
My sentence needs a couple checks. To be more precis I meant that at the Carelia Istmus front, where the main blow of the Soviet "Strategic Blow" in summer 44 hit, and where the Finns were able to use their Bf 109 Gs as escort fighter the escorted bombers (Blenheims, Ju 88As, Do-17Zs, DB-3s and-3Fs) didn't suffer losses to Soviet fighters. Up north at Syväri (Svir) front, where Finns were compelled to use their Curtiss 75 Hawks (P-36s) as their escort fighters, they had more problems in reining La-5s and later Yaks and I remember that at least one Ju 88A was lost to a La-5.

Juha

Franek Grabowski 25th February 2005 12:42

I see the discussion goes out of control and I am afraid we will be discussing Spanish Armada by the next week. ;)

Quote:

Even in August 1944, when the Western Allies had opened the second front in the West, there were 2.1 million German troops deployed in the East while 1 million opposed Western Allied operations in France. Between 1 July 1944 and 31 December 1944, the Wehrmacht sustained an average monthly loss of 20,611 killed on the Eastern Front and 8,294 killed on the Western Front. (Kriegstagebuch OKW, vol. VIII, p. 1509.)
Does the number include Germans killed in anti-partisan operations and major battles like Warsaw Uprising? Is Poland considered Eastern or Western Ally?
What is influence of those numbers on condition of any air force?

Quote:

At the same time, I think it is an irrefutable fact that due to exactly the same factors, the victories attained by the Western Allied fighter pilots in the in 1944 also were comparatively “easy” due to the low quality of German pilot training standards. In 1944, German rookies who barely knew how to fly were shot down to the hundreds when they were caught in a position of altitude and speed inferiority by numerically superior Western Allied fighter pilots. Those Western Allied pilots were up to far greater difficulties when they were unfortunate to encounter such super veterans as Theodor Weissenberger, Emil Lang or Alfred Grislawski - but even those super veterans had to face a huge numerical superiority, and they were hampered through the disastrously low quality of the rookies who were assigned as their wingmen and Rottenflieger.
Have you ever seen any document that showed what was the experience of such a 'rookie'? German problem was definetelly not how to fly but in preparing to a combat. A slightly different thing that applies to Eastern Front as well.
Concerning those 'super veterans' as you call them, please give samples how those and other aces like Huppertz, Simsch, Weber, Wurmheller or Zweigart were outnumbered in their last combats.

Quote:

Forgive me for entering this discussion late, but what exactly were the standards for Soviet pilot training?
Just before Barbarossa 15 hrs on a combat type. As mentioned in this thread, advanced flying was introduced in late 1942.

Quote:

Recently I saw a documentary about the Battle of Britain where former RAF Spitfire pilots confirmed that it was absolutely routine for a new pilot to have just (9) hours in a fighter before they were sent into combat. Basically, they knew how to take off and land -- and not much else. The rest was on-the-job training for those who managed to survive the first mission. Many did not.
I have a copy of a log book at hand. Pilot in question finished OTU at the end of July and logged about 30 hrs on Hurricanes. I will ask a friend who finished his training at the heat of battle but did not seen operational flying, what standards were then. Anyway, as long as I cannot check any such log book, I do not believe those 9 hrs. In any way RAF suffered heavy losses up to the Battle, so it cannot be considered a normal situation.

Ruy Horta 25th February 2005 14:32

Quote:

Originally Posted by Franek Grabowski
Just before Barbarossa 15 hrs on a combat type. As mentioned in this thread, advanced flying was introduced in late 1942.

We must at least consider that a number of Soviet pilots had the benefit of real combat experience, either by operational flying in Spain, China, Mongolia or against Finland, or by the lessons learned in these wars. The Soviet Air Force might be included in the list of combat wise forces in terms of real up to date combat experience, unlike most of the western allies.

15 hrs on a combat type

Did the Soviets continue fighter pilot training in operational units, if so, the actual time doesn't mean as much as it does on first glance, as long as they (under normal circumstances) were able to continue to gather experience before being thrown into the fray.

Just some thoughts, no supporting data.

Six Nifty .50s 25th February 2005 18:53

Quote:

Originally Posted by Franek Grabowski
Quote:

Recently I saw a documentary about the Battle of Britain where former RAF Spitfire pilots confirmed that it was absolutely routine for a new pilot to have just (9) hours in a fighter before they were sent into combat. Basically, they knew how to take off and land -- and not much else. The rest was on-the-job training for those who managed to survive the first mission. Many did not.
I have a copy of a log book at hand. Pilot in question finished OTU at the end of July and logged about 30 hrs on Hurricanes. I will ask a friend who finished his training at the heat of battle but did not seen operational flying, what standards were then. Anyway, as long as I cannot check any such log book, I do not believe those 9 hrs.

One log book does not prove your point.

No one said that all RAF pilots had just 9 hours of training time in fighters, but many did because that was, at one time, the length of the Spitfire training program after converting from trainers. Some of the prewar-trained RAF fighter pilots had hundreds of hours logged before they flew combat missions.

Don Caldwell 25th February 2005 19:09

Is anyone ready for some data?
 
I'm afraid that this thread is too long and full of prejudiced posters shouting past each other for me to even read it in full. Juha is one of the few who have referred to published data (rather than opinions), but Groehler's table is not readily available from its original DDR source. I've taken his data, added some supplemental material and explanations, and posted it on http://jg26.vze.com. Scroll down the home page and click on the "Luftwaffe Aircraft Losses by Theatre" icon (I don't know why the URLs for the sub-pages don't show up.) This table has nothing whatsoever to do with the performance of the La-7 or Yak-3 (I've given up seeing these data on this thread), but shows the operational strengths and losses of the Luftwaffe on its various fronts in greater detail than found elsewhere, and many useful conclusions can be drawn from it. For example, it goes a long way to show why the few Jagdwaffe pilots who remained on the Ostfront were so "good" compared to their comrades in the RLV -- they survived long enuf to develop their skills!


Don

Ruy Horta 25th February 2005 19:39

IMHO here is one weak point in the Caldwell table, that is the late starting date which is likely to color the picture in favor of the West.

In terms of fighter pilots the real question would be if there was a significant difference for the rookie who started in the East or the West at that late date. What were his statistical chances to survive his first 5 to 10 combat sorties respectively for the East and for the West?

These statistics would proof a point.

Why does the Caldwell table start so late? It would probably be easier to collect data from the first two thirds of the war?

There are two issues being mixed.

1. Respective quality of Western Allies and Soviets
2. The role of quantity in determining the outcome

Some (in this thread) argue that although late war western pilots might on average have been inferior to those on the Soviet side, their numeric superiority made up for that. Although I don't recall where, I've read such remarks from more than one Jagdwaffe pilot.


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