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Old 11th January 2009, 02:03
Martin Gleeson Martin Gleeson is offline
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Flak/AA - Why do we not research it ?

Hallo all,

For years the subject of research - or rather the lack of - into Flak/AA claims and victories has puzzled me.

We, as a body of aviation researchers and historians, have an almost limitless interest in the victories of fighter pilots and aerial combat. The published works on this aspect of the air war are vast, authoritative and growing (thankfully). This is all to the good. However we seem to virtually ignore the study of the claims/victories achieved by Anti-Aircraft Guns, Ground Fire, Barrage Balloons and Surface-to-Air Missiles and Rockets.

With one exception I do not recall seeing a list of Flak or AA claims/victories for any unit, battle or ship from any nation. It is clear that AA was a major cause of aircraft and aircrew losses throughout WW2. Let us not forget the considerable casualties resulting from ground fire and AAA to aircraft during WW1. In the Korean and Vietnam air wars the real victories achieved against American aircraft by AAA and SAMs were a multiple of those obtained by opposing fighters. The most dangerous adversary for the Israeli Air Force in the 1973 air war was a combination of SAMs and AAA. Yet what do we know of the personnel and units who claimed these victories ?

The exception I referred to above is 'U-BOAT VERSUS AIRCRAFT' by Norman Franks and Eric Zimmermann, Grub Street, 1998; a detailed account of the U-Boat gun claims and victories against Allied aircraft in WW2.

However it is mainly WW2 that I am thinking of for the purpose of this discussion. Let me illustrate this disparity in fighter versus AAA claims research. Last year on this website there was a fabulous thread on Soviet Air Force losses during airfield attacks in May and June 1943. Original Russian research put names to those Shturmovik crews who were lost. Follow up posts narrowed down the Luftwaffe fighter pilot claimants. The Soviet losses were appalling, but genuinely mostly due to fighter action. Last year also I greatly enjoyed Christer Bergstrom's 'KURSK - The Air Battle' and again he clearly showed the extent of Il-2 losses, especially to fighters and he was able to provide the names of possible victors in many cases. However there was almost no detail of the losses to AAA and ground fire. Oleg Rastrenin in his work 'Il-2 SHTURMOVIK GUARDS UNITS of WW2' stated that 49% of Il-2 losses at Kursk were attributed to AAA/ground fire, 37% to fighters and 14% to unknown causes.

In using the above example I mean absolutely no criticism of Christer Bergstrom nor of any other author in this regard. That is not my intention, rather it is to stimulate a discussion on whether anything can be done to improve matters. I know many authors give the Flak unit where it is known but these tend to be for a fraction of the Flak claims covered by any book. It is the apparent almost complete lack of research material and published work on the Flak claims available to the authors that is the basic problem.

I understand that the original microfilms with the Luftwaffe fighter claims also contain the Flak claims (presumably only the Luftwaffe Flak ?). Without these being available to us it is surely more difficult to be definitive about attributing certain losses to certain fighter pilots. It cannot simply be a case of, for example, trying to reconcile 40 RAF losses to 35 or 45 Luftwaffe fighter claims and ignoring the Flak claims and other reasons for losses. Indeed one sometimes reads of instances where a certain aircraft was claimed by both a fighter pilot and by a Flak/AA unit. It is hard not to believe there are/were scores if not hundreds of Old Comrades Associations for many of the Luftwaffe Flak units alone. Surely many of them must have lists of the claims made by their wartime units ?

I realize that such research may be difficult but it would only enhance the accuracy of any work. In many of the warring nations more personnel served in Flak/AAA units rather than as aircrew. Yet one would not suspect that based on the volume of published works available. Perhaps when we have exausted the research potential for aerial combat then we will look at the Flak/AAA claims more closely. One cannot really write about aerial conflict definitively without properly detailing the AA claims. I expect and hope the forthcoming Eagles over Europe project will be groundbreaking in addressing this problem.

Is anyone working on such research at present ? Trusting this post will stimulate discussion and focus attention on the subject.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Gleeson.
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