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  #1  
Old 2nd July 2005, 08:30
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Jim Oxley Jim Oxley is offline
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Bomber Aces

Read any book on the history of RAF Bomber Command or the Luftwaffe's Kampfgerschwader and it will be as much about the aircrews as it is about the missions, campaigns, results etc.

One aspect that is evident in Bomber Command histories are the number of crew that flew two or more tours. Up until mid 1941 RAF Bomber Command did not have a set policy of rotation. Crews often flew until the Station Commander decided that a particular crew deserved transfer to an OTU. Group Commanders also set there own mission limits. For example in No.2 Group A.V.M. Stevenson set the mission total at 45. For No.5 Group it was set at 35. After 1941 a 'tour' was officially set at 30 missions, or 200 flying hours. Anything over that was to be by volunteer only.Even with this limit set many crew fly more than the one tour. Potential 'pathfinders' for example had to complete a normal tour before even being considered for No.8 Group. Within the confines of the Bomber Command personnel there was an unofficial 'ace' status, applied to any pilot or crew member who flew more than two tours. Almost two thousand individuals met that criteria, with a small very select group even exceeding the 100 mission mark eg Cheshire, Palmer, Harrison, Gibson, Tait, Martin, Staton and Donaldson; to name just a few.

Within the Kampfgerschwader things were quite different. Although there was a rotation system in place, it was very rudimentary and always resulted in a pilot/crew returning to combat after a short period. So crews literally flew till they dropped. The only sure way to avoid that fate was to land a desk job, which very few managed to do. Consequently mission totals amongst the Kampfgerschwader were extremely high (if they lived long enough), 100-200 mission not being at all uncommon. Yet even within that organisation the bomber pilots had their own 'ace' criteria. Those pilots who reached the amazing total of 250 missions or more. Some notable pilots in this category were: Batcher (682), Muller (680), Antrup (500), Hogeback (486), Helbig (480), Wittmann (467), Schafer (420), Roewar (305), Kindler (230).

In stark contrast are the histories that deal with the US 8th and 9th Air Force Bomber Commands. Almost invariably the emphasis is on the organisation, rarely on the individual. And when it does focus on an individual it is usually a person of significant rank. Consequently there is almost no information available on pilots/crew that flew more than one tour in the European Theatre. As such no personalities come to mind that can rank as 'bomber aces' comparable to the RAF and Luftwaffe.
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Old 2nd July 2005, 22:41
Smudger Smith Smudger Smith is offline
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Re: Bomber Aces

Dear Jim,



Read with interest your post, however I feel that the term ‘ace’ is inappropriate when describing experienced Bomber Command aircrew.



The majority of two or three tour airman where unknowns, a select few became war-time household names, the likes of Gibson, Cheshire, etc many more ordinary aircrews continued to operated within their respected groups with little or no recognition other from those they served with. An example is that of Wing Commander Peter Francis Dunham RAFVR. This officer began his first tour in 1940 as an airgunner, his second tour as an Observer his third as a pilot, he was killed while c/o of No.90 Squadron. I for one would not consider this extremely brave and courage’s officer an ‘ace’. I personally feel the term ‘ace’ is better suited when describing the Fighter boy’s,


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Old 3rd July 2005, 06:35
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Re: Bomber Aces

Fair enough, I'll accept that. Dunham is indeed an excellent example of a crew member doing multiple tours. And he would have been included as one of the couple of thousand that I referred to above.

I find it really odd though that it wasn't a practice that the Americans were keen to emulate. They seemed to have had a totally different mind set to the war. And I'm wondering what the contributing factors may have been.

Was it...
a) partly due to the excessive manpower that the Americans poccessed, negating the need for multiply tours
b) perhaps coming late to the War, and fighting it many thousands of miles from their own land, they didn't quite have the committment that existed in both the British and German air forces
c) or was it that they had a more workman like approach to the war i.e. do the job and go home.

I find the whole thing very interesting.
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Old 9th October 2005, 18:45
jhor99 jhor99 is offline
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Re: Bomber Aces

On July 5 1943, 28 B17s from the 99th Bomb Group, had as it's target Gerbini airfield, pre Sicily invasion. They destroyed about 20 aircraft on the ground, and they were attacked by over 100 enemy fighters, 3 of 6 B17s in my sqdn were shot down, 49 enemy fighters were shot down, plus several probables. One waist gunner Sgt was credited with shooting down 7 enemy planes. At a ceremony several days later, 2 Generals awarded him some medals, promoted him to 2nd Lt, shlpped him out and declared him an ace.
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Old 10th October 2005, 08:04
Smudger Smith Smudger Smith is offline
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Re: Bomber Aces

Jules,I find it un-believable that even today the over claiming of American gunners is still believed and pumped out. We are all aware of the tremendous job they did, but if the claims were anything near correct the US gunners would have single-handedly destroyed the German day fighter arm.Don’t believe a word of it personally. !PS : Before all the Flak, I AM NOT ANTI AMERICAN. !!!!
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Old 10th October 2005, 09:06
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Re: Bomber Aces

I must agree with Smudger on this and like him want to say i am not Anti American and do appreciate all they did in the war, but far too much evidence shows that their was massive overclaiming by US gunners, obviously due to many gunners shooting at a single fighter and if it was hit they all claimed it, also i assume any erratic flying to escape by the Luftwaffe would be classed as "shot down" and this together with any fighter diving hard and fast for home after a firing pass would also be another kill !!!
You simply can't argue with facts and it would be nice to see the real Luftwaffe losses for this raid in particular and, i would place a safe bet that they lost less than 7 fighters to gunners during the whole attack.
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Old 10th October 2005, 13:43
Franek Grabowski Franek Grabowski is offline
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Re: Bomber Aces

Mates, Mr Horowitz wrote about credited claims! If you want we may discuss excessive (or ridiculous to some) RFC/RNS claims!
One note, comparing German and Allied bomber airmen, one should take care of time difference between average sortie. I suppose the former took about 2 hours, while the latter perhaps 6, so no direct comparison.
Concerning multi-tour flyers, well, is there any list of them? A number of Polish airmen flew 3 tours and some of them even 4. I am not sure if only pilots or other aircrew were included in the stats (one of them says only 65 pilots finished two operational tours).
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Old 10th October 2005, 14:29
Smudger Smith Smudger Smith is offline
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Re: Bomber Aces

Quote:
Originally Posted by Franek Grabowski
Mates, Mr Horowitz wrote about credited claims! If you want we may discuss excessive (or ridiculous to some) RFC/RNS claims!
One note, comparing German and Allied bomber airmen, one should take care of time difference between average sortie. I suppose the former took about 2 hours, while the latter perhaps 6, so no direct comparison.
Concerning multi-tour flyers, well, is there any list of them? A number of Polish airmen flew 3 tours and some of them even 4. I am not sure if only pilots or other aircrew were included in the stats (one of them says only 65 pilots finished two operational tours).
Franek,If the US Bomber fleets ‘did’ inflict such grievous losses on the German day fighters, why was there such a almighty rush to introduce long range fighter escorts, surely at the rate the US gunners were destroying the German fighters in the air, and their precision pickle barrel bombing of selected German aircraft factories on the ground, there would not have been nothing left for the fighter jocks.Regardless of claims or credited ‘kills’ the US like the RAF in the Battle of Britain over claimed, (B of B is an example) the difference is that we accept that the RAF over claimed and we try to report the known facts, the American of the other hand (Who I must point out I have the greatest respect for and am proud to say have amongst my closest friends) continue to pump-out the same old rubbish. I am sure that a simple check on Tony Woods great site will confirm that the Germans did not loss 49 fighters shot down during this encounter.I must continue to point out I am not anti US, or am I trying to belittle their tremendous courage and sacrifice in the air-war over Europe. What I am is feed-up with the continuing use of over inflated and exaggerated claims continually being used to prove a point were the US Airforce is concerned. Does it really matter if they shot down 4 or 49 German fighters on this raid? What matters is that they served, fought and died for a cause, would we think any less of them if they only shot down 4 fighters, I think not. All I ask for in return is give me facts not fiction.I am wait the shelling. !!!
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Old 10th October 2005, 22:19
Franek Grabowski Franek Grabowski is offline
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Re: Bomber Aces

Smudger
Just as you wrote, does it really matter if they shot down 4 or 49 German fighters on this raid? No, it does not, and this was the very approach of US command. They knew actual German losses from the other sources, and the main purpose of victory crediting and verification was propaganda and morale busting. Thus said, those airmen were credited with those victories and I feel in no position to verify them.
Otherwise, there is quite an interesting observation. Americans claim they single handedly won the war, thus causing anger of Britons, who feel forgotten. This is exactly the feeling expressed by the remaining Commonwealth nations toward Limmeys, and then again such feelings are expressed toward all the Commonwealth nations by Poles for example.
Thus said, history is not fair game but this is no reason to change it.
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Old 10th October 2005, 23:31
Smudger Smith Smudger Smith is offline
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Re: Bomber Aces

Franek

You correctly mention that the claims were known to be exaggerated and used for propaganda, then why are we still using these obviously inflated figures when discussing the contribution of the US Airforce in Europe, their contribution speaks for itself, do we use proven material or propaganda in our research.

A sweeping statements from someone so passionate about researching and defending the Polish Airforce and its fighter pilots. If I had believed certain posts about the over-claiming of a number of Polish fighter aces, then you are telling me it’s ok, because after all it does not really matter. ? I think not.


Where details / losses or claims are known use them, don’t for pity sake continue to use inflated propaganda and expect to be taken seriously. This is true of most airforces, however it just happens to be Americans who do it on a more regular basis.
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