This article is an abbreviated chapter of “352 shot down as a way to defeat” from Alexei Isaev’s book Ten Myths about World War II.
When for the first time in the national press the personal accounts of German fighter pilots were published in a small article in the newspaper Argumenty i Fakty for 1990, for three the three-digit numbers came as a shock. It turned out that the blond 23-year-old Major Erich Hartmann claimed 352 shot down aircraft, including Soviet 348 and four US. His colleagues in the 52 th fighter squadron of the Luftwaffe Gerhard Barkhorn and Günther Rall announced the 301 and 275 downed, respectively. These figures contrasted sharply with the results of the best Soviet fighter pilots, the 62 victories of I.N. Kozhedub and 59 - A.I. Pokryshkina. More detailed information about the Luftwaffe aces turned out to be even more shocking. It turned out that the Germans had more than 5 pilots in the terminology of the Allies (that is, having shot down 3000 and more enemy aircraft). Hartmann and Barkhorn with more than three hundred victories were only the tip of the iceberg. More 13 fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe scored from 200 to 275 victories, 92 - between 100 and 200, 360 - between 40 and 100. Immediately heated debates flared up about the method of counting downed, confirming the success of the fighter pilots by ground services, photo guns, etc. The main thesis, designed to remove tetanus from three-digit numbers, was: "It was the wrong bees, and they made the wrong honey." That is, the Luftwaffe aces lied about their successes, and in reality they shot down no more planes than Pokryshkin and Kozhedub. However, few people thought about the feasibility and validity of a frontal comparison of the results of combat activities of pilots who fought in different conditions, with different intensity of combat work. No one tried to analyze the value of such an indicator as the “largest number of people shot down” from the point of view of the body of the air force of this particular country as a whole. What are hundreds of shot down, biceps girth or fever patient's body temperature?
The answer to this question is not at all as obvious as it might seem at first glance. As a rule, the individual pilot accounts of the party that loses the air war are higher. I emphasize not one, two or three battles, but a war in the air as a chain of battles. This phenomenon manifested itself in the First World War. For example, the German pilot Manfred von Richthoffen shot down 80 Allied planes - the highest result among fighter pilots of 1914-1918. In World War II, all this was repeated, and not only on the Soviet-German front. The Pacific also had its own hartmanns. Japanese marine lieutenant aviation Tetzugo Iwamato shot down seven F4F Waldcat fighters, four P-38 Lightning, forty-eight F4U Corsair, two P-39 Aero Cobra, one P-40, twenty-nine F6F Hellket, one R-47 Thunderbolt, four Spitfires, forty-eight SBD Downtless bombers, eight B-25 bombers. Only over Rabaul did he gain 142 victories in air battles, and in total he accounted for 202 (!!!) aircraft shot down personally, 26 - in the group, 22 unofficial victories. And this is against the background of a rather sluggish interest in Japanese propaganda in the individual accounts of naval fighter pilots. The above list is actually the pilot’s personal records of the results of the battles that he conducted on his own initiative. Another Japanese fighter pilot, Lieutenant Hirooshi Nishizawa, shot down 103 (according to other sources - 86) American planes. The most successful American pilot in the same theater of operations, Richard Ira Bong, shot down 2,5 times less than his opponent from the Land of the Rising Sun. Bong has even fewer aircraft than I.N. Kozheduba - 40. The “low-intensity conflict” —the Soviet-Japanese border incident near the Khalkhin-Gol river — demonstrates an absolutely identical picture. Japanese Hiromichi Sinohara claimed 58 downed Soviet aircraft from May 1939 until his death on August 28 of that year. The best Soviet pilot Khalkhin-Gola, Sergey Gritsevets, had 12 Japanese aircraft on his account.
It is this effect that deserves close analysis. However, before turning to the analysis of the accounts of aces as an indicator of the activities of the Air Force of a particular country, it makes sense to deal with the burning question of confirming victories.
"The right bees"
Attempts to explain the difference in the number brought down by the vicious method of counting do not hold water. Serious blunders in confirming the results of fighter pilots are found in both sides of the conflict. This fact can be illustrated by the example of the battles on Khalkhin-Gol in 1939. Despite the relatively modest forces of the USSR and Japan ground forces involved in the battles on the territory of Mongolia, one of the most intense air battles of the Second World War unfolded in the air. It was a large-scale air battle involving hundreds of aircraft, which unfolded over a relatively small area of contact between the troops of the parties. Moreover, most of the efforts of aviation, over 75% of sorties, were aimed at fighting for air supremacy, that is, air battles themselves and strikes against airfields. The armies of Japan and the USSR had not yet been drawn into large-scale hostilities, and considerable aviation forces could be thrown into battle, with pilots already trained in peacetime in the cockpits. As a result of the conflict, the Japanese side announced the destruction of 1162 Soviet aircraft in air battles and 98 on the ground. In turn, the Soviet command estimated the loss of the Japanese in 588 aircraft in air battles and 58 combat aircraft on the ground. However, the real losses of both sides at Khalkhin Gol are much more modest. Combat losses of the Soviet Air Force amounted to 207 aircraft, non-combat - 42. The Japanese side reported on 88 downed aircraft and 74 written off due to combat damage. Thus, the Soviet data on the losses of the enemy (and, as a consequence, the personal accounts of the pilots) were exaggerated four times, and the Japanese six times. Practice has shown that the “Khalkhingol coefficient” 1: 4 of overestimating the losses of the enemy remained in the Red Army Air Force in the future. There were deviations from it both upwards and downwards, but on average it can be taken as calculated when analyzing the actual performance of the Soviet aces.
The reason for such discrepancies lies on the surface. The enemy's aircraft was considered to be shot down, for example, according to a report of a fighter pilot who claimed to destroy him, "randomly fell down and disappeared into the clouds." Often, it was the change in the flight parameters of the enemy’s aircraft that was observed by the witnesses of the battle, a sharp decline, a corkscrew began to be considered a sign sufficient to credit the victory. It is not difficult to guess that after the “indiscriminate fall” the plane could have been leveled by a pilot and safely returned to the airfield. In this respect, the fantastic accounts of the Flying Fortresses air gunners, which Messerschmitts chalked up each time they went off the attack, leaving behind a smoke trail, are indicative. This trace was a consequence of the features of the work of the Me.109 motor, which gave a smoky exhaust afterburner and in an inverted position.
What were the means of the pilot to determine the destruction of the enemy aircraft, in addition to changing the flight parameters? Fixing one, two, three or even ten hits on an enemy aircraft did not at all guarantee its disabling. The hits of the machine guns of the rifle caliber of the times of Khalkhin-Gol and the initial period of the Second World War were easily transferred by the 30 – 40 aircraft assembled from aluminum and steel pipes. Even an I-16 fuselage glued from veneer kept up to several dozen hits. All-metal bombers returned from battlefield, covered with open poles, hundreds of bullet holes from rifle caliber bullets. All this did not in the best way affect the reliability of the results announced by the pilots of the participating countries. The Finnish war that followed Khalkhin Gol once again demonstrated the same tendency. Soviet pilots, according to official figures, shot down Finnish aircraft 427 in air battles at the cost of losing their 261. The Finns declared 521 shot down by a Soviet aircraft. In reality, the Finnish Air Force performed 5693 combat sorties, their losses in air battles amounted to 53 aircraft, another 314 machine was hit by Soviet anti-aircraft artillery. As we see, the “Halkingol coefficient” has been preserved.
Confirmation of victories in the Air Force
When the Great Patriotic War broke out, no fundamental changes occurred. If there was a standard form in the Luftwaffe that was filled in by the pilot after the battle, then in the Red Army Air Force there was no such formalization of the process. The freestyle pilot gave a description of the air combat, sometimes illustrating it with the schemes of the evolution of his and the enemy aircraft. In the Luftwaffe, such a description was only the first step in informing the command of the results of the battle. At first Gefechtsbericht was written - a report on the fight, then it was filled out on an Abschussmeldung typewriter - a report form about the destruction of an enemy plane. In the second document, the pilot answered a number of questions relating to the consumption of ammunition, the distance of the battle, and indicated on the basis of what he concluded that the destruction of the enemy aircraft.
Naturally, when conclusions about the results of the attack were made on the basis of common words, problems arose even with the fixation of the results of air battles conducted over their territory. Let's take the most typical example, the air defense of Moscow, the pilots of the well-trained 34 th Fighter Wing. Here are lines from the report presented at the end of July 1941 by the regimental commander Major L.G. Rybkin commander of the air corps:
“... On the second flight of 22 July to 2.40 in the Alabino-Naro-Fominsk region at the height of 2500, m Captain MG Trunov caught up with “Ju88” and attacked from the rear hemisphere. Opponent down to shaving. Captain Trunov rushed forward and lost his opponent. You can assume the plane shot down. "
“... During the second take-off of July 22 at 23.40 in the Vnukovo region, ml. Lieutenant A.G. Lukyanov was attacked by “Ju88” or “Do215”. In the area of Borovsk (in 10 – 15 km north of the airfield) three long lines were launched on a bomber. From the ground were well visible hits. The enemy fired back, and then dropped sharply. You can assume the plane shot down. "
"... Ml. Lieutenant N.G. July 22 chipper in 2.30 near Naro-Fominsk from the 50 distance, released two lines into a twin-engine bomber. At this time, the MiG-3 opened fire anti-aircraft artillery, and the enemy aircraft was lost. You can assume the plane shot down. "
It is not hard to guess that “two lines” or even “three long lines” from one 12,7-mm machine gun “BS” and two 7,62-mm machine guns “ShKAS” of the MiG-3 fighter - not enough to ensure defeat of the Ju88 class bomber or “Do215” (rather, it was still the 217 “Dornier”). Moreover, the consumption of ammunition was not specified, and the term “long line” did not reveal in any way in pieces of bullets of two calibers. It was unwarranted optimism to “put down enemy aircraft” in all these three cases.
At the same time, reports of this kind were typical of the initial period of war for the Soviet air forces. And although in each case, the commander of the air division notes that "there is no evidence" (there is no information about the fall of enemy aircraft), in all these episodes, victories were recorded at the expense of the pilots and the regiment. The result of this was a very significant discrepancy in the number of downed Luftwaffe bombers claimed by Moscow air defense pilots with their actual losses. In July, the 1941 of Moscow’s air defenses conducted 89 battles during the 9 raids of German bombers, in August the 81 battles during the 16 raids. It was announced 59 downed "vultures" in July and 30 - in August. The enemy’s documents are confirmed by the 20 – 22 of the aircraft in July and 10 – 12 in August. The number of victories pilots air defense turned out to be overestimated by about three times.
Confirmation of victories "they have"
Opponents of our pilots on the other side of the front and allies spoke in the same spirit. In the first week of the war, on June 30, 1941, over Dvinsky (Daugavpils), a grand air battle took place between the DB-3, DB-3F, SB and Ar-2 bombers of three Baltic Air Force regiments fleet and two groups of the 54th fighter squadron of the 1st German air fleet. In total 99 Soviet bombers took part in a raid on bridges at Daugavpils. Only German fighter pilots declared 65 downed Soviet aircraft. Erich von Manstein writes in “Lost Victories”: “In one day, our fighters and anti-aircraft artillery shot down 64 aircraft.” The real losses of the Baltic Fleet Air Force amounted to 34 aircraft shot down, and another 18 were damaged, but safely landed on their own or the nearest Soviet airfield. At least twice the victory declared by the pilots of the 54th fighter squadron of victories over the real losses of the Soviet side is emerging.
Writing to your account by a fighter pilot of an enemy plane, safely reaching out to its aerodrome, was a common occurrence. For example, one of the most famous German aces, Werner Melders, in the landfill conditions of the “strange war” 26 in March 1940, fired at Hurricane Sergeant N. Orton, who, despite the damage, reached its airfield. The problem was primarily that the fighter pilot had something to do in the air, in addition to observing the behavior of his victim after firing at her. Do not forget that the speed of the aircraft began 40-x. already measured hundreds of kilometers per hour, and any evolution immediately dramatically changed the position of opponents in space to a complete loss of visual contact. A pilot who had just fired at an enemy plane could have been attacked by another fighter and could not see the real results of his fire. It is all the more strange to hope that other pilots will be closely watching the downed. Even slave- "Kachmarik" were primarily engaged in protecting the tail of his master. The need to intelligibly cover the details of the battle in Gefechtsbericht and Abschussmeldung did not fundamentally solve the problem. A typical example is an episode from the book of R. Toliver and T. Constable about Hartmann:
“The rest of the squadron pilots dragged the happy Blonde Knight to the dining room. The party was in full swing when Bimmel broke in (Hartmann's technician. - AI). The expression on his face instantly extinguished the jubilation of the crowd.
- What happened, Bimmel? - asked Erich.
- Gunsmith, Herr Lieutenant.
- Something is wrong?
- No, everything is okay. You just made all the 120 shots on the 3 downed aircraft. I think you need to know this.
A whisper of admiration ran through the pilots, and the schnapps again flowed like a river. ” [85– C.126]
Admiration for admiration, but the enemy of Hartmann in that battle were the Il-2 attack planes, rather strong planes. The task of the points "consumption of ammunition" and "shooting distance" in Abschussmedlung was to establish the probability of destroying the enemy aircraft. Total 120 shots at three downed should have been alarming. The rules of air shooting and low probability of hitting from a mobile platform has not been canceled. However, such mundane considerations could not spoil the people holiday and prevent the river from flowing to schnapps.
The battles between the “Flying Fortresses”, “Mustangs”, “Thunderbolts” of the USA and the Reich air defense fighters generated a completely identical picture. In the course of a typical air battle for the Western front, which unfolded during the raid on Berlin 6 in March 1944, the escort fighter pilots declared 82 destroyed, 8 allegedly destroyed and 33 damaged German fighters. Bomber shooters reported 97 destroyed, 28 allegedly destroyed and 60 damaged German air defense fighters. If you add these applications together, it turns out that the Americans destroyed or damaged 83% of the German fighters who took part in repelling the raid! The number of declared as destroyed (that is, the Americans were sure of their death) - 179 machines - more than twice the actual number of shot down, 66 fighter "Me.109", "FV-190" and "Me.110". In turn, the Germans immediately after the battle reported on the destruction of 108 bombers, 20 escort fighters. Another 12 bombers and fighters were listed among the alleged downed. In fact, the US Air Force lost 69 bombers and 11 fighters during this raid. Note that in the spring of 1944, both sides had photo guns.
Effect of scale
Discuss the accuracy of the stated results can be indefinitely. The fact remains that the official number of victories in an air battle for a pilot of any country is a numerical figure, recalculated with a certain coefficient to the real number of enemy aircraft shot down. This is neither bad nor good, this is a fact. If we, for good reason, question the results of the German aces, then the same doubts may arise with respect to the Soviet aces and aces of the USSR allies in the anti-Hitler coalition.
Accordingly, in any case, a significant gap remains between the accounts of the German fighter pilots and the Allied aces. Therefore, it makes sense to simply understand the causes of this phenomenon, and not to fence the myths about some special technique of counting downed. The reason for the high accounts of the Luftwaffe aces lies in the heavy use of air forces by the Germans (6 departures per day for one pilot in large-scale operations) and the presence of a larger number of targets due to the Allies ’superiority — the likelihood of an enemy aircraft flying in the sky was higher. The German top ace, Erich Hartmann, had 1425 combat missions, Gerhard Barkhorn had 1104 departures, and Walter Krupinski (197 wins) had 1100 sorties. I.N. Kozhedub had just 330 departures. If we divide the number of sorties by the number of those shot down, then both the German top-aces and the best Soviet fighter pilot get about 4 – 5 sorties for one victory.
It is easy to guess that if Ivan Nikitich carried out 1425 sorties, the number of those shot down from him could easily surpass three hundred. But there was no practical sense in this. If you need to perform 60 sorties a day to solve the problems of covering your bombers, ground troops, intercepting enemy bombers, you can make them dozens of planes, exhausting pilots with six sorties a day, or sixty planes with one sorting a day for a pilot. The leaders of the Red Army Air Force chose the second option, the command of the Luftwaffe - the first. In fact, any German ace did a hard job for himself and “that guy.” In turn, “that guy” at best got to the front in 1944 with a scanty raid and got off in the first battle, and in the worst case he died with a Faustpatron in his hands under the Soviet caterpillars tanks somewhere in Courland. An example of micro-air force with a high rated performance gives us Finland. The Brewster Model 239, which was delivered in the amount of 43 units, was used as a characteristic aircraft for this country, and was used as part of a regiment of four squadrons of eight aircraft each, that is, in the amount of 32 aircraft. The American fighter did not shine with technical characteristics, but had a good view from the cockpit and a radio station on each machine.
The latter factor facilitated the targeting of fighters from the ground. From 25 June 1941 to 21 in May 1944, the pilots of the Finnish Brewster announced 456 shot down at the cost of losing 21 cars (including 15 shot down in air battles and 2 destroyed at the airfield). Total 1941 – 1944 The Finnish air force destroyed Soviet aircraft in the air 1567. These victories won all 155 pilots, of which 87 - more than half (!), The highest percentage among the Air Force of the world - received the title of ace. The most productive were: Eino Yuutilaynen (94 wins, 36 of them on Brewster), Hans Wind (75, of which 39 on Brewster) and Eino Luukaen (51, mostly on Me.109). But, despite such a blissful picture of the accounts of the aces, it cannot be said that the Finns effectively defended the territory of their country from the influence of the Red Army air force and provided effective support to the ground forces. In addition, the Finns did not shine a system for confirming victories. One of the Finnish aces declared the destruction of the P-38 "Lightning" aircraft in air combat (!!!) with Soviet identification marks. Here it is time to think about the bold experiments with the drink of the Vikings from the fly agaric.
Six departures per day
The high intensity of the use of Luftwaffe aircraft was the result of the strategy of the Third Reich top leadership to cover a huge front with clearly insufficient means for this task. German pilots fought almost continuously. Depending on the situation, they were shuffled between different sectors of the front in accordance with the conducted defensive or offensive operations. For examples go far is not required. In the course of his combat debut on the Eastern Front in the fall and winter of 1942, the FW-190 fighter had to participate in three major operations at once. With the new fighters, the I group 51 of the fighter squadron was re-equipped, withdrawn from the front in August 1942, and returning back to the Focke-Wulfs on September 6. The first battles of the group on the new aircraft were the battles of September - October 1942 near Leningrad. During this period, the Germans, by transferring E. von Manstein's 11 Army from the Crimea, tried to take the city by storm, and the restored Soviet 2 Shock Army — to break through the blockade.
The result of this was the encirclement of a part of the forces of the 2 shock army with the forces of the XXX corps of Manstein's army. The battle took place in a tense struggle in the air. The next program number for pilots "Fokkerov" was the operation "Mars", which began in late November 1942 g. After the completion of the "Mars" in December 1942 g. 51-I fighter squadron relocated to the ice airfield of Lake Ivan. Here until January 1943, I and II groups of the squadron fought in the area surrounded by the Soviet Union Great Onions until the capture of the city by the Red Army. In these battles 12 December 1942, the commander of the group Heinrich Kraft was killed (78 victories). Then operation “Buffel” followed - a withdrawal of the Model 9 Army from the Rzhevsky bulge. In March, 1943 was in the first group of the 51 squadron, there were only eight combat-ready "FW-190". The transfer from one front to another in 1943 took even greater scope.
Take for example the I and II groups of the 54 th fighter squadron “Green Hearts”, which started the war with the USSR in the Army Group “North”. Moving along with GA “North” to Leningrad, both groups of the squadron get stuck there until 1943. In May 1943, they get into GA “Center” and fight in the Orel region during the “Citadel” period and the “departure” operation that followed the failure Hagen line. In August, 1943 g. I group falls into the GA “Yug” strip, in Poltava, and remains there until October. After that, she is relocated to Vitebsk, and then to Orsha, that is, leads to battles in the subordination of the GA "Center". Only in the summer of 1944, she returns to the “North” GA and ends the war in Courland. A similar path was made by Group II of the Green Heart squadron. In August 1943, the group falls into Ukraine, at the disposal of GA “Yug”, and remains there until March 1944, after which it returns to GA “North”, to the Baltic States. Similar dances were performed by other German fighter flights. For example, I and III groups of the 51 th fighter squadron fought in the “Center” GA, in August 1943 fell under Poltava, and in October returned under Orsha. In 1942, near Kharkov, the Germans concentrated the efforts of their air forces in the Crimea in the first half of May, and then were forced to throw them at a reflection of the Soviet offensive. The Soviet pilots, however, were more attached to their sector of the front. A.I. In his memoirs, Pokryshkin wrote with a certain annoyance: “But then the battle broke out on the Kursk land. We heard about it the same day that our offensive began.
The maps indicated arrows, wedged in the defense of the enemy. Now all thoughts, all feelings were there - near Kursk. We were called hard fights in the areas of Orel and Kharkov. Newspapers reported large air battles. That would be where we, the guards, to turn in full force! But there the pilots successfully did their job without us. ” On the contrary, E. Hartmann, like most of the 52-th Fighter Squadron, was transferred to the south face of the Kursk Bulge and actively participated in the battles. Only in the defensive phase of the Battle of Kursk, E. Hartmann’s score increased from 17 to 39 downed. In total, until 20 of August, the moment of completion of the offensive operation, which was written by A.I. Pokryshkin, the score has risen to 90 "wins." If Pokryshkin and his 16 th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment were given the opportunity to take part in the Battle of Kursk in July-August 1943, he would undoubtedly increase the number of downed dozen or even a dozen. The castling of the 16 Guards Aviation Regiment between various fronts of the southwestern direction could easily increase the score of Alexander Ivanovich to a hundred German aircraft. The absence of the need to castle air regiments between the fronts led to the fact that A.I. Pokryshkin even passed the battle near Kharkov in May of 1942, staying in this period on a relatively quiet section of the 18 of the Southern Front Army.
Combat work only during the periods of active actions of “its” front was aggravated for the Soviet aces by periodically withdrawing their regiments to the rear for re-formation. The air regiment arrived at the front, during the 1 – 2 months it lost its materiel and went down to re-form into the rear. The regiment reorganization system was actively used up to the middle of 1943 (by order of the GKO from 7 in May of 1943). Only later did they begin to introduce replenishment right at the front, as the Germans did. The system of complete reshaping was also harmful by the fact that the regiments at the front were “grinding off” to the “last pilot”. Suffer from this, not only beginners, who passed the hard selection in the Air Force of any country, but also the "middling". After the re-formation, the experienced pilots held out, and the newcomers were again beaten out together with the “middling”. The reshaping was carried out as a result of the most successful units, such as the "regiment of aces", the 434 th Fighter Regiment of Major Kleschev. From May to September 1942 was reformed three times, each time flying away from the front to the rear to receive materiel and replenishment. The same "downtime" caused the rearmament of the regiment. In the transition to a new type of aircraft, the Soviet regiment spent time up to six months on receiving materiel and retraining pilots. For example, the aforementioned 16 th guards air regiment A.I. Pokryshkina was put into retraining at the Aircobras at the end of December 1942, the flights began on 17 in January on 1943, and only 9 went to the front in April of that year. All this shortened the period of stay of the Soviet aces on the front and accordingly narrowed their ability to increase their personal account.
The Luftwaffe strategy allowed to increase the accounts of the aces, but in the long run it was a strategy of defeat. One of the participants in the battle at Khalkhin Gol, the Japanese fighter pilot Ivori Sakai, recalled: “I made 4 – 6 sorties a day and in the evening I got tired so much that when landing I saw almost nothing. The enemy aircraft flew at us like a huge black cloud, and our losses were very heavy. ” The Luftwaffe pilots who fought on both the Western and Eastern fronts in World War II could say the same about themselves. They were called "the most tired people of war." Drawing "abshussbalkenov" was, in fact, a game of young people who have not played a childhood in one place. 87% of Luftwaffe fighter pilots were aged 18 – 25 years. There is nothing surprising in the fact that they were chasing after the external attributes of success.
Aces of the Eastern Front lost in the West?
Since the ratio of the best result of a fighter pilot on the Western Front was just as shocking as on the Eastern one, during the Cold War, the legend of “unreal” Luftwaffe aces in the East was put into circulation. According to this legend, mediocre pilots could shoot down the "Russian plywood", and true professionals fought with noble gentlemen on the "Spitfires" and "Mustangs". Accordingly, having got on the Western front, having joined the zipuns, plow and cucumber brine in the mornings, the aces of the “Green Hearts” died of lightning speed in the mornings. The bogeyman of the supporters of this theory was Hans Philippe, ace of the 54 th fighter squadron with 176 victories in the East and 28 in the West. He is credited with saying “it is better to fight with twenty Russians than with one Spitfire”. He noted that he had experience of fighting with "Spitfires" even before the Eastern Front. In 1943, Philip led the Reich 1 Fighter Squadron, and his return to the Western Front was fatal for him. He was overtaken by the Thunderbolt pilot's turn a few minutes after he himself shot down his first and last four-engined bomber. For six months, the command of the 1 squadron "expert" managed to bring down one "B-17", one "Thunderbolt" and one "Spitfire".
Indeed, there are several examples when fighter pilots who were glittering on the Eastern Front turned out to be far less effective after transferring them to the West to defend the Reich. This is Erich Hartmann himself, who had on his account the entire 4 American "Mustang". This is Günther Rall, who shot down an 272 aircraft in the East and an entire 3 in the West. This is the pilot, the first to reach the line in 200 shot down, Herman Graf with 212 victories on the Eastern Front and the entire 10 - in the West. This is Walter Novotny, who announced the destruction of 255 Soviet aircraft and 3 Allied aircraft. The last example, by the way, can immediately be called the least successful. Nowotny mastered jet fighters and in fact, most of the time in the West struggled with the technical shortcomings of the jet Me.262 and practiced tactics for its combat use. In fact, for Walter Novotny, the first six months in the West were not combat work, but the rest provided by the command to save the pilot with the highest score at that time. Not too convincing on closer inspection, the example of Hartmann - he shot down four Mustangs in just two fights.
However, even if we take these examples unconditionally, they are more than offset by data from other pilots. Walter Dahl, a veteran of the 3 th fighter squadron Udet, had 129 victories in his account, of which 84 on the Eastern Front and 45 on the Western Front. His first victim was a biplane "And-15bis" 22 June 1941, and since December of the same year he had already fought in the Mediterranean. Two years later, 6 December 1943, he knocks down his first “Flying Fortress” in the Reich air defense system. A smaller score on the Western Front is compensated by the quality composition of the downed. Among the 45 victories of Walter Dahl in the West are the 30 four-engined bomber (23 "B-17" "Flying Fortress" and 7 "B-24" "Liberator"). The uniform distribution of victories was generally characteristic of Luftwaffe veterans. Anton Huckl, ace of the 77 th Fighter Squadron, won his first victory on 15 on June 1940 in the sky of Norway. These were the two Hudson's of the Royal Air Force. The 1941 campaign and most of the 1941 campaigns took place on the Eastern Front, where it crossed the line in the downed 100. Then, until the spring of 1943, he fought in the skies of North Africa, and since the fall of 1943, in the air defense of the Reich. Hackle's total score was 192 aircraft, of which 61 were shot down in the West. As in the case of downed Walter Dahl, Hackle has a significant proportion of heavy bombers. Of the 61 wins in the West, more than half, 34 units, are the four-engined B-17 and B-24 bombers. Another famous fighter pilot, Erich Rudorfer, from 222 shot down an 136 aircraft declared on the Eastern Front. That is, on the Eastern Front, they scored a little more than half, 61% wins.
Almost perfect in terms of the balance of success in the West and the East is the account of Herbert Ilefild. A veteran of the Condor Legion, he opened his account in Spain, where 4 E-16, 4 E-15 and 1 SB-2 of the Republican Air Force were his victims. In World War II, he won the first victory in the French campaign. In the summer of 1941, Ilefild hit the Eastern Front, where in April 1942 shot down his 100 aircraft. He commanded the 11 th Fighter Squadron in the West, was killed on 1945 on New Year's Eve during Operation Bodenplate. The total ACA score was 132 aircraft, of which 56 were shot down on the Western Front, 67 on the Eastern Front and 9 in Spain. Of the 56 victories in the West, 17 machines made up the “B-17” “Flying Fortress”. There were generalists in the Luftwaffe who had equally successfully fought in all theaters of operations and in all types of aircraft. Heinz Baer arrived from the Eastern Front in North Africa in October 1942 and shot down 20 enemy fighters for two months - about the same level with which he had fought before on the Eastern Front. The total "African account" of this ace was the 60 of the Allied aircraft. Later on he was equally successful in the defense of the Reich, winning 45 victories in the skies over Germany, including a four-engined bomber shot down 21. The energetic Baer did not stop at that and became the first (!) In terms of effectiveness of the “reactive” ace (16 wins “Me.262”). The total Baer score was 220 downed. Less well-known pilots also demonstrate impressive success in the West. For example, the leader in the Luftwaffe in the number of four-engine bomber shot down (44 units), Herbert Rollweig, from all 102, 11 won all his victories in the East. In most cases, the experience of the war on the Eastern Front in 1941, obtained by the majority of these pilots, contributed to the improvement of flying skill and fighter tactics.
There are also examples of pilots who are successful in the West and have not performed very well in the East. This is the commander of group II 54 th Fighter Squadron Major Hans "Assi" Khan. He served for a long time in the 2 th fighter squadron, was one of the leading aces of the battle for Britain, in the West, Khan won 68 victories. 1942 was transferred to the Eastern Front of Khan in the fall, and he assumed the position of the group commander on November 1. 26 January 1943 Mr. Hans Khan shot down his hundredth plane. Over the next month, the Assi shot down eight more aircraft. 21 February due to engine failure Khan was forced to land in the rear of the Soviet troops south of Lake Ilmen. The next seven years, Hans Khan spent in the Soviet camps. An even more vivid example is the commander of the 27 th fighter squadron, Wolfgang Schellmann, the second most effective ace in the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. He was shot down on the very first day of the war, 22 June 1941, although he was considered a recognized specialist in maneuverable air combat. Joachim Müncheberg after three years on the Western Front (he won the first victory on 7 November 1939) arrived at the 51 th Fighter Squadron on the Eastern Front in August 1942. He was shot down twice in four weeks, although he was considered an expert on combat sung by X. Philip "Spitfires" - there were as many 35 on their account of Müncheberg, two more than his total score in the East, 33 of Soviet aircraft. Siegfried Schnell, who won 87 air victories against the Royal Air Force and the Americans, arrived in the 54 Fighter Squadron on the Eastern Front in February 1944 - two weeks later he died in a battle with Soviet fighters.
The causes of the death of the aces of the Eastern Front in the West should be sought in changing the overall situation in the Reich air defense. During this period, the pilots died, who became recognized as the aces of the Western Front, and not just the "guest performers" from the East. These were also the aces who held the posts of commanders of groups and squadrons. In the autumn of 1943, a veteran of the air war over the Channel Tunnel, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Oesau, was put in charge of the 1 th fighter squadron. Oecay began his combat career in Spain, where he scored eight victories. By the time he was appointed commander of the squadron, the Knight's Cross holder with oak leaves and swords of Oesau had 105 victories, more than half of which he won in the West. But he was destined to lead the squadron less than six months. Fighter "Bf.109G-6" "Oesau" was shot down over the Ardennes 11 in May 1944, after an 20-minute air battle with "Lightnings". There are many such examples. Lieutenant Colonel Egon Meier, being the commander of Group III of the 2 th Fighter Squadron, conducted the first successful frontal attack of the Flying Fortress in November 1942. So the tactics were introduced, which later became the base for the Reich air defense fighters. In June, Meyer replaced 1943. Walter Oesau as commander of the 2 fighter squadron. 5 February 1944 Egon became the first pilot to shoot down 100 aircraft on the Western Front. Less than a month after the anniversary victory, Mayer died in a battle with the Thunderbolt over the Franco-Belgian border. At the time of his death, As was considered a leading Luftwaffe specialist in American heavy bombers: he had 25 B-17 and B-24 on his account. Total Egon Mayer won in the West 102 victory.
Comparing the aces of the East and the West, one should pay attention to fundamentally different conditions of warfare. On the front of a fighter squadron stretched for hundreds of kilometers, somewhere between Velikiye Luki and Bryansk, there was always something to do. For example, the battles for the Rzhevsky bulge in 1942 were almost continuous. Six sorties a day were the norm, not something exceptional. When reflecting the “Flying Fortress” raids, the nature of the battles was fundamentally different. A typical raid, a strike on Berlin 6 in March of 1944, took place with the participation of 814 bombers and 943 fighters. The first plane took off at 7.45 in the morning, the coastal line of bombers crossed only at the eleventh hour, the last got into 16.45. Bombers and fighters were in the air over Germany just a few hours. To make even two flights in such conditions was a great success. Moreover, the entire mass of escort fighters was in the air in a relatively small space, reducing the duel from air defense to a kind of “general battle”, realizing in practice its numerical advantage. On the Eastern Front, battles were fought around relatively small groups of strike aircraft.
Alfred Grislavski, led by Herman Graf, said that "the Russians had a different tactic - their main task was to attack our ground troops, and therefore we often managed to attack them with a big advantage from our side." Indeed, when the enemy is the Pe-2 eight with a fighter cover of eight Yaks, you can immediately throw an entire squadron of 12 aircraft on it, three Schwarm four planes, and in an hour attack the same Il-2 group with similar destructive cover. In both cases, the attacking "experts" of the Luftwaffe will have a numerical advantage. This was achieved using radio guidance. In the air defense of the Reich, pilots had to attack at once a large mass of bombers, concealed by an equally large mass of fighters. It is the same to encounter in the East on 7 thousand meters with several Soviet air armies. On the Eastern Front, major “general battles” in the air were rare, in the Reich air defenses each raid became such a battle. But not the heavy bombers themselves were the main problem.
The horrors of the Western Front, often cited by Western authors, performed by Hans Phillip describe the attack of the B-17 system very colorfully: “When you attack a system from 40“ Fortresses ”, all your last sins flash in a flash in a flash. With such sensations, it is getting harder for me to demand from every pilot of the squadron, especially from the youngest noncoms, that they fight just like me. ” However, these horror stories are not supported by statistics. There are very few reliable examples of the death of aces or at least of the commanders of groups / squadrons from defensive fire of four-engined bombers. Quickly enough, the "experts" of the Luftwaffe developed a tactic of attacking a system of heavy bombers in the forehead, which made it possible to avoid massive fire of defensive machine guns. Philip himself was killed by the convoy of an escort fighter pilot. On the contrary, it is possible to immediately name several names of the German aces, who became victims of air gunners on the Eastern Front. The most famous of them is Otto Kittel, the fourth in the list of the best aces of the Luftwaffe. His career was interrupted by the turn of the gunner "IL-2" 14 February 1945. Another well-known example is the promising young ace, 20-year-old Berliner Hans Strehl (67 wins), in March 1942, who fell victim to the arrow "Pe-2". The commander of group II 53 of the fighter squadron Hauptmann Bretnets 22 June 1941 was seriously wounded from "ShKAS" by the shooter "SB-2", later died in the hospital. In short, the great and terrible arrows of the “Flying Fortresses” were not much better than the gunners of attack aircraft and nearby bomber. One factor compensated for another: the “box” of heavy bombers created dense defensive fire, while more compact single-and twin-engined airplanes made the attackers move closer to them for a smaller distance.
The war in the West was, in essence, catching the Luftwaffe fighters against a giant “livebone” - a “gut” stretched for tens and hundreds of kilometers from the “B-17” and “B-24” boxes under the cover of fighters. Under these conditions, it was easier for the Americans to realize their numerical advantage than the Red Army air force.
Place aces in the Red Army Air Force
On the one hand, the high performance of the pilots was maintained by the command of the Red Army Air Force. Cash prizes were awarded for the downed enemy aircraft, for a certain number of fighter pilots shot down were presented for awards. But, on the other hand, there was an incomprehensible indifference to the formalization of the accounting process for downed and personal accounts of pilots. In the paperwork reporting of the Soviet aviation units were not introduced any forms for accounting downed, filled in by the pilot after a successful "hunt". This looks rather strange against the background of the ever-increasing formalization of reporting starting from 1942. Printed forms of the combat and numerical composition of the units and loss accounting (the so-called form No. 8) were introduced by typographical means. Even the condition of the horse was reported by filling out a special form. In 1943, all of these reporting forms were further developed, forms were becoming more and more complex and refined. Came across real masterpieces of stationery painting, next to which Malevich’s Black Square looks like a pathetic craftsman. But amidst all this diversity of reporting forms, there are no forms for pilots to fill in as reports of downed aircraft. Pilots still wrote to the best of their literary abilities and knowledge of spelling and punctuation, describing a free-form air combat. Sometimes, from the pen of military officers, quite detailed reports were issued indicating the distances of firing and maneuvering schemes, which were significantly superior to the informativeness of the Germans' Abschussmeldungi. But on the whole, the top command seemed not very interested in reports of downed enemy aircraft. The reliability of these reports "above" was evaluated quite skeptically, from time to time lightning was falling down when the statistics looked absolutely unconvincing. All this suggests that the statistics of the victories were needed primarily by the pilots themselves. Let me remind you that the term “al” was originally introduced by the French into the First World War. The purpose of the newspaper hype around the names of the best pilots was to attract young people to military aviation. Often, the very routine and dangerous work of a military pilot gave a sporty spirit and aroused hunting excitement.
Another interesting fact can be noticed if we analyze the reliability of the victories declared by the pilot after the fact, using the data of the enemy. Such an analysis, for example, was conducted by the aforementioned Y. Rybin in relation to several North Sea pilots, in particular, one of the most famous Soviet aces, after the war Commander of the Air Force, P.S. Kutakhov. It turns out that many aces have the first two, three, or even six victories are not confirmed. At the same time, everything goes much more vigorously in the future, confirmation is already found for several victories in a row. And here we come to the main point, which was given marks on the aircraft shot down. They gave the pilot confidence in their abilities. Let us imagine for a moment that instead of a real system of record-keeping of victories, we have a boring, multi-stage check with the search for the carcass of the declared “Messer” in the forest more often. If it turns out that the enemy’s aircraft “gone with a decrease” or “randomly falling” aircraft was not actually shot down, this would be a big blow for the novice pilot. On the contrary, the label drawn after “leaving with a decrease” will add to the enthusiasm of the pilot. He will be more confident to maneuver, not to be afraid of engaging in battle with a dangerous opponent. He will step over the main obstacle - the feeling of the invulnerability of the enemy. If tomorrow he was sent to accompany the stormtroopers, he would already be confidently glancing across the sky. Not the animal fear of the unknown lies in his heart, but the excitement of a hunter waiting for a victim. Yesterday's cadet becomes a full fighter pilot.
In the Field Charter of the Red Army, the tasks of aviation were described quite clearly: “The most important task of aviation is to contribute to the success of ground troops in combat and operation” [45– C.23]. Not the destruction of enemy aircraft in the air and at airfields, but the promotion of ground forces. In essence, the activity of fighter aircraft is aimed at ensuring the activities of strike aircraft and covering their troops. Accordingly, a certain number of strike aircraft required an equal or even slightly larger number of fighter aircraft. Why - quite obvious. Firstly, attack aircraft need to be covered, and secondly, fighters always have independent tasks to cover the troops and important objects. For each of these fighters need a pilot.
The main thesis to which attention should be paid is a comparison of the real effectiveness of the Air Force and the accounts of the aces. For example, Soviet assault air regiments in Romania in 1944 could have made thousands of sorties, dropped many tons of bombs, and never met the Luftwaffe fighter and Hartmann in particular. The planes shot down by Hartmann and Barkhorn at the same time gave a few percent of the total number of sorties of the Soviet Air Forces in this direction, significantly lower than the losses due to piloting errors and technical malfunctions. Work in the mode of megaasov, making six sorties a day and covering a large front, is an abnormal situation. Yes, they can easily score bills, but the Air Force as a whole will not at the same time solve the task of covering its troops, or influencing the conduct of operations with air strikes. Just because the sorties of a small group of “experts” cannot physically cover all these tasks. On the contrary, ensuring the numerical superiority of their air forces over the enemy does not at all favor the rapid build-up of a personal account. The pilots make one or two sorties a day, and in the case of massaging efforts by the Air Force towards the main attack of the ground forces, the probability of meeting an enemy plane decreases exponentially. Let me explain this thesis by simple calculation.
Let the "blue" five fighters and five bombers, and the "red" twenty fighters and twenty-five bombers and attack aircraft. For example, during several air battles, the “blue” lose all five bombers and one fighter, and the “red” lose five fighters and five bombers and attack aircraft. In this case, the possibilities of the "blue" to influence the advancing "red" are equal to zero, and the "red" retain 75% of their initial shock capabilities. Moreover, the remaining 20 bombers and attack aircraft of the “red” 100 combat missions drop thousands of tons of bombs on the 2 enemy, while 5 bombers of the “blue” ones have time to make 50 departures and drop 250 tons of bombs. Accordingly, the loss of ten “red” planes leads to an increase in the personal account of ace X. “blue” on 30 units (taking into account the usual in such cases overestimation of the actual results of the battles). Six blue planes actually shot down increase the personal account of the aces K. and P. for five victories each, and two more victories are recorded by the novice aces V. and L. As a result of the war, it is quite possible that the pilot X. of the "blue" pick up 352 downed, and the pilots K. and P. "red" - 62 and 59, respectively. The effectiveness of the actions of the Air Force as a whole is clearly not in favor of the "blue" ones; they drop fewer bombs and slightly reduce the strike power of enemy aircraft with the actions of their fighters.
A collision of equal forces would not lead to a sharp increase in the personal accounts of one pilot, the result of the air combat would inevitably be spread over many pilots. The path to high personal accounts is through a war with a superior enemy force with a small number of its pilots. If, in this example, one fighter and five bomber "blue" fought one bomber and one fighter "red", then the pilot "red" K. would have every chance to get not a measly two wins, but all three or four. Especially when setting the problem in the form of "hit and run." On the contrary, the Aesy "blue" with difficulty divided the only downed bomber. In a word, there is a choice between riding and "checkers", external attributes in the face of stars on the fuselage or stripes on the keel and the results achieved by the Air Force. To organize the three-digit accounts of the aces, in essence, did not constitute a technical problem. For this, it would be necessary to abandon the mass production of aircraft and the mass training of fighter pilots. The lucky few would be given custom-made aircraft, the engine parts of which were manually adjusted to each other, made for these aircraft in a laboratory way, as for ANT-25, in which V.P. Chkalov flew to America across the pole. One could not even suffer and arm with “Spitfires”, hand-assembled by “Uncles John”, who had decades behind them at the machine. A. Pokryshkin and I. Kozhedub on such piece planes would attack the German squadrons, delivering strikes on the "hit and run" principle and carrying out six sorties a day. In this case, in two years, it would be quite realistic for them to recruit 300 downed by a brother. It would have ended with the stop of the Germans on the line Arkhangelsk - Astrakhan. For the ground forces, this threatened the anecdotal situation, “but there will be no air support - the pilot got sick.” Almost in the spirit of this immortal anecdote, events developed in Kurland in the winter of 1945. Then, after the death of Otto Kittel, the ace from the 54 fighter squadron, the infantrymen fell into despondency: "Kittel died, now we are surely the end." But after the war, 267 will be proud of the victories of Kittel himself. It is not surprising that the Red Army Air Force refused such dubious happiness.
In the USSR, a choice was made quite consciously in favor of the mass air force with an average level subsidence that was inevitable for any mass event. Airplanes of the mass series, manufactured by “fabzaychaty”, lost the technical characteristics of the experimental machines due to the violation of geometry, quality of finish. The need to ensure the mass of cars with fuel led to a reduction in fuel requirements, instead of laboratory 100-octane gasoline, which consumed a barrel of crude oil per liter, 78 octane gas was supplied for catalytic cracking. Worse fuel reduced the power of an already mediocre engine, reducing the flight qualities of a glider with disturbed geometry. At the same time, the aircraft itself was originally designed for mass production with the replacement of scarce materials with wood and steel. However, the presence of a large mass of aircraft made it possible to give the best young people of the nation not a rifle or machine gun, but a powerful and maneuverable weapon of warfare. They were already able to protect the infantrymen from the bomber with a ton of bombs, to ensure the actions of their more experienced colleagues in aerial combat, and in the end to get a chance to become an ace himself.
There is a famous statement by I.V. Stalin: "we have no irreplaceable." In these words was the whole materialistic philosophy of the Soviet leadership. It would be absurd for him to base a strategy on personalities. The combat capability of an air force operating at a front hundreds of kilometers above the heads of hundreds of thousands of people should not depend on the mood and moral and physical well-being of one or even ten people. If a megaac makes a mistake and is shot down, then this loss will be, firstly, very sensitive, and secondly, difficult to recover. Formation of a megaas similar to Hartmann, Barkhorn or Novotny is a matter of several years, which simply will not be at the right moment. In war, the inevitable loss of both people and technology. This is especially true of the Air Force - in the Soviet 1941 mobilization plan, the loss of the pilots was rightly assumed to be the highest among the combat arms. Accordingly, the task of command is to form a mechanism for effectively compensating for these losses. From this point of view, massive air forces are more stable. If we have three hundred fighters, then even the loss of a few dozen pilots will not be fatal for us. If we have ten fighters, half of which are megaasy, among them, the loss of five people can be a heavy blow. Moreover, a heavy blow primarily to ground troops, the notorious "Kittel died, and now we have a cover."
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The number of claimed downed is not an objective indicator when comparing the Air Force of the two countries. The number of “Abshussbalkenov” or “asterisks” on the fuselage drawn on the tail is an objective indicator of the pilot's skill within the Air Force of this particular country, nothing more. Three-digit accounts of aces can be achieved by deliberately choosing to conduct an air war with the numerical superiority of the enemy and the constant castling of air units and formations from passive sections of the front into the thick of battle. But this approach weapon double-edged and most likely lead to the loss of the air war. In short, the reason for the difference in pilot accounts can be explained as follows:
1) Scale effect, or, if you will, “hunter effect”. If one hunter enters a forest with five pheasants, then he will have a chance to bring 2 – 3 birds home. If, on the contrary, five hunters go into the forest for one pheasant, any skill will result in only one carcass of an unfortunate bird. The same in the war in the air. The number of shot down is directly proportional to the number of targets in the air.
2) Intensive use of the Air Force by the Germans. Performing six sorties a day with constant movement along the front line to counter crises or conduct offensive operations, it is easy to knock down more over a long period than performing one sortie a day, remaining all the time on the same front line.