The WWII is a huge stage for giant countries to perform their show in the sky. Groups of engineers were scheming, factories were funded, and planes came off the assembly line at record pace. This is a preparation for our aerial heroes appear. Still, the way countries treated their pilot is different Japan would sometimes ask its best pilots to kamikaze, while America would be more prone to pulling them back to help train more pilots and serve with propaganda. Some pilot had a lot of advantages like fighter plane quality, radar, and the quality of the enemy’s training, some did not. Below are top ten pilot came from two side of war.
#10: Thomas McGuire
The reason bring him to the list is that he was the second highest scoring ace (38 kills) for the United States and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
He was the first man who fought against Japan in the air. A large majority of his kills were against very worthy adversaries.
However, he got this place because he fell to be alone from his three squadron mates by Oscar. McGuire tried to act as bait while his squad mate gained a firing position. McGuire, while trying to outmaneuver the Oscar, attempted a move that stalled the P-38 and caused it to crash.
#9: Kurt Welter
He is claimed the first night jet pilot victory in the world as well as the most downs in history with 63 ones. He admitted did not match well with RAF records and therefore quite a few are dubious.
He joined the Luftwaffe in 1934 and was immediately recognized for his skill. Before his dubious claims, he had nearly accumulated a remarkable 17 victories in 15 missions prior to April 1944. The majority of them were bringing down four-engine bombers; however some were the very capable P-51s although his ME-262 was not one equipped with experimental airborne radar. That means so his large number of night victories relied heavily on searchlights and radar detectors.
#8: Tetsuzō Iwamoto
I is hard to refuse that Tetsuzō Iwamoto was one of the two best Japanese fighter pilots in WWII. His actual victory count has been cited from 70-250.
He fought in some of the fiercest battles of the war, including the Battle of the Coral Sea. He survived in the war, because of quiting fighting and becoming a kamikaze trainer in 1944.
Most of the shot down planes by him were either the F4U or SBD Navy fighter bombers. He also participated on the China front and claimed 14 victories there.
#7: Hiroyoshi Nishizawa
As mentioning Tetsuzō Iwamoto, it will be a big loss if Hiroyoshi Nishizawa is forgot. He also had dubious kill records but the total is probably close to 80.
In both the Guadalcanal and New Guinea campaigns, he flew his Zero. He gained about 50 out of his 80 victories after Guadalcanal. And those 50 would prove to be the easiest because after this campaign, the U.S immediately improved their airborne tactics and overall quality of aircraft. Adversary quality caused his squadron to take tough losses and return to Japan. Later, he started to instruct kamikaze attack groups of the war.
As participating in the Philippines campaign, he served as the first kamikaze attack to successfully sink a U.S. ship.
Claiming to see a vision of his own death, he volunteered to be a kamikaze pilot but was refused. Soon after, a transport plane trying to take him to a replacement Zero got shot down and he was killed.
#6: Richard Bong
Like MCGuire, Bong was an American pilot in the P-38 Lightning against the Japanese. He got the highest scoring U.S. ace ever with 40 confirmed victories.
In late 1942, he marked his first victory, and only few months later, 4 Japanese fighters were shot down in one day by him. This brought him the Distinguished Service Cross. A year later since that day, he had increased his total to 27 downed planes and had become the leading U.S. ace of WWII.
In 1944 he was designated an instructor rather than a pilot. Still, he chose to fly sorties and subsequently shot down 13 more. He gained notoriety for his unique tactic of waiting until he was very close to the enemy to fire.
Sadly, Richard Bong was killed in August of 1945 while test piloting a prototype P-80 jet aircraft.
#5: Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer
What makes Schnaufer different from other in this list is his all 121 kills at night and all of them were detailed and confirmed. He is recognized as the most accomplished night fighter ace in history.
In June 1942, he got the front line and that also the time when night tactics were rapidly advancing. Most of his prey were of the British bomber variety. The British spent a year before starting to cope with German airborne radar. In 1944 Schnaufer had one particularly successful night where he shot down five bombers and became an ace-in-a-day.
In May 1945 Schnaufer was taken prisoner of war. How ironical it was that he died in a truck accident later on in life while running his family’s wine business.
#4. Sailor Malan
Adolph (Sailor) Malan is one of the toughest South Africans that ever lived. He was a great uncomfortableness of German, perhaps because he would kill only the bomber crews and leave the pilot alive and to return home. Throughout the war, he scored 27 kills, 7 shares, and 3 probables with outnumbered superior performance aircraft.
The first mission is remarkable. It was 15 hours after war was declared. His group shot down two bombers but later realized that they were RAF planes. This caused a small rift in his squadron after everyone was acquitted.
#3: Ivan Kozhedub
Standing in the Allied side, he was “Ace of Aces” with more kills than any other Allied pilots from inside his the Lavochkin La-5. The La-5 was not a good plane for inexperience pilots; it took 5 levers just to accelerate. Also, Russian pilot frequently had to paint on their own gun sights, which undoubtedly contributed to the lopsided air victories on the German side.
But it was not a big matter to Ivan. He found the most success escorting Pe-2 twin engine bombers on bombing runs. He was a master at deflection shooting. He also impressively recorded one of the only Me-262 kills of the war.
It is lucky for him to be survived in his first dogfight against three French planes because his own airplane was shot up badly. He soon accumulated 37 victories, mostly against Soviet aircraft. But then the bad luck came, he had to crash land and broke his back in three places. Doctors told him he wouldn’t fly again.
However, the fate could not stop him, he ultimately racked up an astonishing 275 downs. 272 out of them were against the Soviets, and 241 of those against Soviet fighter planes. He was shot down himself 8 times.
#1: Gerhard Barkhorn
Barkhorn return from the war with 301 victories, most of which on the Eastern front. In spite of his superior Bf 109 to the Soviet fighter, it is so magical that he was never fatally hit by a bullet in 1,104 sorties. He got 8 times shot down and once bailing out. Several crash landing and nearly death experiences deprived his physical abilities. Ironically, he and his wife were ultimately killed in a car crash in 1983.
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