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Thread: Which US WWII fighter shot down the most enemy aircraft?

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    Senior Member Bucksnort101's Avatar
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    Which US WWII fighter shot down the most enemy aircraft?

    This popped into my head over my lunch hour today. Which US aircraft piloted by American pillots is credited with shooting down the most enemy aircraft? I'm not talking which model aircraft, but which specific airframe/serial number is credited with the most kills during the Second World War.



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    That has several answers. My answers come only from kills by American fighters flown in US service.

    1) In any single theater of oeprations, the top would be the F6F Hellcat, with 5,168 kills in the Pacific Thearter of Operations. Next would the P-51 Mustang with 4,950 kills in the European Theater of Operations.

    2) For the entire war combined, all theaters, it would be the P-51 Mustang with 5,954 kills in ETO, MTO, PTO, and CBI all combined, followed by the Hellcat with 5,168 in PTO and ETO.

    These numbers come from a 1945-1946 report compiled by the US Navy for the Hellcat and the Air Force Historical Society for the P-51.

    Since the war, there have been several "revisions" of kills .... sadly. They should let them stand as approved in the conflict of interest, by people in the service at the time. Just my opinion.

    Either way, the Hellcat and Mustang are neck in neck for the title.

    The third-ranking fighter for kills was the P-38, with 3,785 in all Theaters of operation combined. The theater of operations with the most enemy aircraft shot down was the PTO, with 12,666 enemy aircraft shot down.
    Last edited by GregP; 09-26-2011 at 01:19 AM. Reason: Spelling

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregP View Post
    .

    The third-ranking fighter for kills was the P-38, with 3,785 in all Theaters of operation combined. The theater of operations with the most enemy aircraft shot down was the PTO, with 12,666 enemy aircraft shot down.
    Minor quibble:

    US Army Air Forces Statistical Digest lists 13,623 enemy aircraft shot down in the ETO: 7,422 by fighters, 6,098 by heavy bombers and 103 my medium and light bombers.

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    Senior Member drgondog's Avatar
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    Alas - the probability of bomber claims to actual enamy a/c destroyed was excessive - probably an order of magnitude off.
    "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits." - Albert Einstein

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    Senior Member drgondog's Avatar
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    I have no idea how to definitively arrive at that answer. One would have to parse all the operational orders of battle, match squadron code and pilot to victory credit, parse the engineering records to obtain continuity in service as well as changes from one squadron code to another when battle damaged and out of service for awhile.

    I would start with PTO and look at P-38/F6F and F4U but also look at what serial number continuity existed for Bong, McGuire, McCambell, Boyington and Foss as my first pass. The ETO had a very fast pace of upgrades to airframes..
    "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits." - Albert Einstein

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    Senior Member Thorlifter's Avatar
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    Corsair kills amounted to 2,140 claims. Very respectable but not the winner.

    One of the stats that always made me think about losses not combat related is there were only 189 Corsairs lost in combat, but about 700 lost to non combat flights. Heck, it was safer to go up against the enemy than to fly it to get the oil checked.

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    Rob Johnson was credited with 28 kills, but he claimed 35. I'm not sure how many air frames he went through. He always boasted about "Lucky" his early Razorback model with modified waste gates and WEP.

    Richard Bong was the top scorer with 40, but i haven't found anything that describes or mentions a single air frame and serial number he favored or used.
    Most of them were in a P-38 however.

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    Senior Member davebender's Avatar
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    top would be the F6F Hellcat, with 5,168 kills

    I find that difficult to believe.

    The F6F operated mostly from CVs and only during the final two years of the war. How did F6Fs manage to shoot down over 5,000 enemy aircraft during 1943 to 1945? Total Japanese aircraft production was about 40,000 during 1943 to 1945. However most Japanese aircraft operated in places like China, Manchuria, Indochina, East Indies etc. where USN CV aircraft weren't likely to be encountered.

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    I have a pretty good file of the USAAC individual kills in WWII, but no file for individual US Navy / Marine kills.

    I have been searching for a good, authoritative list for victories and losses for years. All the ones you find disagreee with one another, and they really disagree if the lists are more than 10 years apart in age. It seems the farther we get from WWII, the fewer planes everyone shot down, particularly Americans. All that really means to me is we have better records since we weren't bombed everyday during the war. if the records for Germany, the former Soviet Union, Japan, etc. were available, we'd probably see their kills totals dropping, too. Since the Axis records are partly missing, they don't get investigated as often. Just my theory, yours may vary, and you well might be right.

    So, I can't say for sure, but would gladly collaborate with anyone in here to build a valid list of victories and losses for WWII ... or any other war. Ideally, the list I am looking for would have the date, name of the victor, the victor's aircraf type, unit, and country, the name of the victim, vitim's aircraft ype, unitm and country. amd perhaps a comments field for any information available.

    The lists I have now have a lot of this info, but not the aircraft type of the victor or the aircraft type of the victim ... and they are only for the USAAC (Air Force Historical Society) for the US claims. I must say, they are available, but not in convenient form.
    Last edited by GregP; 09-28-2011 at 12:54 AM.

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    Senior Member davebender's Avatar
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    if the records for Germany, the former Soviet Union, Japan, etc. were available, we'd probably see their kills totals dropping, too
    With the exception of the Soviet Union I fail to follow your logic.

    The best way to confirm kills is to examine enemy records after the war ends. British and American records are intact and should have been available since 1946. Therefore German and Japanese kills of British and American aircraft should have been settled by 1950 or so.

    German and Japanese pilots who claim Soviet aircraft kills are an entirely different matter. I have my doubts as to the accuracy and completeness of Soviet records. So conclusive proof of aerial victories over Soviet controlled territory may be impossible.

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    You fail to follow my logic. OK, I often miscommunicate unintentionally.

    We do not have complete records for German aircraft production, so ... me make estimates. We do not have full and complete records of German claimed victories, so we list what we have. The Japanese ddid not keep official victory lists .... most of the totals we got from WWII came from examination of individual war diary entries by the pilots. Many came rom Martin Caiden, who was a good author, but not often concerned with the real facts when a good yarn would do as well.

    I maintain there is nobody out there who knows the real Japanese victory totals, especially by pilot, type, and victim type. We know what WE lost and when, but not necessarily who shot it down. So, we tend to examine out own lists more heavily ...because that's the data we have.

    You may not agree with this premise but it is my opinion substantiated, I might add, by Saburo Sakai, whom I met in the mid-1980's in Arizona when he was a guest at the Doug Champlin Museum. He said that the Japanese did not keep official lists of individual victories. The individual pilots did and, if they died ... and if their war diaries did not get returned to the family, then nobody knew what happened in their sorties, except for the people who were there in the fight. He stated categorically that thwere was no way to get an accurate and complete list as long ago as the mid-1980's. I doubt the chances today are any better, but I could be wrong.

    We ALL know how easy it is to get data from the former Soviet Union! So it is tough to see how we can ever get a real list of WWII victories and losses. Heck, I can't even find a GOOD list from the USA, and we HAVE our records. I think the government and individual services have little interest in the data or it would be available much more easily today. Since it is not, I conclude it is not in their best interests for the data to be easily retrievable. Again, just my opinion.

    Yours obviously varies.

    I cannot reasonably argue the subject other than to print my opinion since I can't find the definitive data. If you can, let's get together, compile it, and publish it.
    Last edited by GregP; 09-26-2011 at 08:47 PM.

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    "Shooter" evangilder's Avatar
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    I think a lot of the reason that the data is in it's form is that when the war was over, everyone wanted to get back to their pre-war lives. It was over, and they wanted to move on, or to train for the next war. I honestly don't think they knew then that the battles they fought would still be researched, discussed and talked about 60 years later.


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    Pretty good conjecture! Could be spot on

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    Senior Member MikeGazdik's Avatar
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    Im reading the question different than most. I think he is asking which plane, 1 particular aircraft, had the most kills. Such as, P-51 serial # ABC1234. Which may have had kills while piloted by more than 1 pilot.

    And if that is the way it is asked, man thats a neat question! I know Johnson had to get a new plane after the 1 Thunderbolt got shot to hell, but I don't remember how many he had shot down by then. I think as mentioned the "early" guys like Foss may have been stuck in 1 plane longer. I think I remember Gabreski getting at least 3 different Thunderbolts. I read Boyington's too long ago to recall. What about a guy like McCambell in Hellcats?

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    Senior Member R Leonard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davebender View Post
    I find that difficult to believe.
    The F6F operated mostly from CVs and only during the final two years of the war. How did F6Fs manage to shoot down over 5,000 enemy aircraft during 1943 to 1945? Total Japanese aircraft production was about 40,000 during 1943 to 1945. However most Japanese aircraft operated in places like China, Manchuria, Indochina, East Indies etc. where USN CV aircraft weren't likely to be encountered.
    Do you have some other operational results to report? And be assured, the F6F did not only operate from CVs. There were land based F6F squadrons in combat, both USN and USMC, not to mention those operating in CVLGs and CVEGs.

    The number 5,168 is somewhat of a moving target, I'd admit. US Naval Aviation combat aviation statistics compiled in 1947 or so mark the F6F total credits as 5163 fighters and bomber types only. If you look a little deeper into the report you can also find just for the period 1 Sep 44 to 15 Aug 45 a total of 3,518 credits to F6Fs, this includes 2,278 single engine fighters, 36 land based single engine reconnaissance, 515 bombers/torpedo bombers, 89 floatplanes, 530 twin engine combat types, 17 flying boats, 36 transports, and 17 trainers. Were one to add just the land based single engine reconnaissance, floatplanes, flying boats, transports and trainers from this last year of the war to the gross 5163 reported fighter and bomber credits, the F6F total rises to 5,358, higher than that which you protest and still does not count any of these types credited to F6Fs from their introduction to combat through 31 August 1944. And to forestall the question, these numbers do not include any destroyed on the ground.

    Frank Olynyk's compilation of just USN awarded credits comes to 5136, giving a pilot's name, date, & place for each credit for an aircraft destroyed in the air as well as probables and damaged. Frank's numbers also do not include any destroyed on the ground. If you add the USMC F6F credits for enemy fighters and bombers from the combat statistics compilation, 93, to Olynyk's USN F6F total you get 5,229, again, higher than that which you protest.

    Overall, the Naval Aviation combat statistics reports the aerial destruction of a total of 9,249 enemy aircraft over the course of the war.

    If you want to cite Japanese production, then I’d suggest you look at the end of the war. A SCAP inventory of remaining Japanese aircraft reports (combining both army and navy): fighters - 4,554, bombers - 1,790, reconnaissance - 1,076, transports - 169, trainers, 6,681, and other not specified - 2,097 with no report for flying boats, a total of 16,367; this end result from a total production, from 1 January 1941 through 15 August 1945, of 69,270.

    Do you have some other sources?
    hmmm ... I wonder what this switch does ...

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