THE BEST OF THE BEST
In the British Royal Air Force, the best fighter pilot of World War II is officially considered to be James Edgar Johnson - with 38 aircraft shot down, most of which were fighters.
Johnson was born in 1916 in the family of a police inspector. From childhood, he dreamed about the sky and even took private lessons in flying, but his path to extermination Aviation was not easy. Only in the spring of 1940 he completed training and was certified as a “qualified pilot” (in Western Europe, the Germans just started a blitzkrieg), after which he underwent an advanced training course and was sent to the combat unit at the end of August 1940. Then he was transferred to a fighter wing, which was then commanded by the legless pilot of the British Air Force legless Douglas Bader. Johnson opened his account of victories in May 1941, shooting down the Messerschmitt 109, and destroyed the last aircraft in September 1944 in the sky over the Rhine. And again it turned out to be Messerschmitt-109.
Johnson fought in the skies over France, escorting British bombers on their way to targets on the continent, or patrolling in the air along with other wing pilots.
He and his comrades covered from the air the landing of the Allied troops in Dieppe in August 1942, attacked ground targets after the Allies landed in Normandy in June 1944. The wing, which he commanded, worked hard ground targets and 1944-1945 winter's, contributing to the failure of the desperate German offensive in the Ardennes. From March 1945 to the end of the war, he commanded another wing, armed with the new Spitfire Mk. 14; his wing pilots in the last weeks of the war shot down all types of 140 enemy aircraft.
After the war, he continued to serve in command and staff positions in the British Air Force and at the end of the 1960-s, being already Vice-Marshal of Aviation and Commander of the British Air Force in the Middle East, he resigned.
By September 1943, when Johnson had only 25 airplanes on his account, he was awarded the British Order For Outstanding Differences in Service, the Cross For Outstanding Flight Merit, and the cross for it, and the American Cross For Outstanding Flight Honors. American award he received for the support to the aims of the bombers 8-th Air Force (VA) United States, operating from British airports.
It is noteworthy that during the air battles his plane was only once damaged by enemy fire, a fact that can be justly proud of.
KILLING IN THE STRENGTH OF FORCES
Paddy Finucane, who had a downed 32 on his account, died on July 15 1942, when his plane, returning after completing a mission in the skies of France, had a machine-gun burst from the occupied Nazi coast over La Mansh. He was then 21 year, he commanded a fighter wing and was a national hero of England.
Paddy Finucane's father was Irish, his mother was English, and Paddy was the eldest of five children in the family. When he passed 16 years, the family moved from Ireland to England. As soon as they settled in a new place, Paddy began working as an assistant accountant in London. We can not say that he did not like his work - he had a talent for working with numbers, and later, already in service in the British Royal Air Force, Paddy used to say that after the war he returns to the accounting work.
And yet the sky and flying was in his blood, so as soon as he reached the minimum age - 17 and a half years, he has presented papers for entry into service in the Royal Air Force of Great Britain. He was accepted, sent to study and exactly one year later sent to the combat squadron. At the beginning of June 1940, he made his first combat mission to patrol in the sky over the French coast, from where the evacuation of the remnants of the British Expeditionary Force continued. In his first flight, he was so anxious not to lose his place in the ranks, that he did not have time to observe the sky.
The combat experience soon came, however, his first Paddy aircraft shot down only 12 August 1940 of the year. In the early morning operation "Battle of Britain" started a powerful blitzkrieg against the Luftwaffe airfields advanced fighter aircraft of the RAF and the radar located on the south coast of England. On that day, Paddy chalked up the Messerschmitt-109, and the next plane, the Junkers-88 bomber, was shot down along with another 19 pilot in January 1941. Shortly thereafter, Finukein was appointed deputy commander for the 452 flight operations of the Australian Air Force Fighter Squadron - the first Australian squadron in Europe that destroyed 9 of the enemy’s aircraft during the months of the fighting, damaged 62 and probably also destroyed 7 of the aircraft.
The appointment of Finucane to the Australian squadron was a sensible decision of the command. The Australians immediately became attached to the young Irishman, who was laconic, never raised his voice in conversation and was sensible beyond his years, having that natural charm which is characteristic of the Irish people. Anyone who spoke with him could not fail to appreciate the inner and almost hypnotic power of the leader emanating from him. Finukein, like any other pilot of the squadron, enjoyed the parties in the summer cafeteria with pleasure, but he drank a little and encouraged his subordinates to do the same. Sometimes in the evening, on the eve of the upcoming missions, it can stand alone in a bar and a summer dining room, lost in thought, slowly sipping tube. Then, without saying a word, he knocked out the phone and went to bed. A few minutes later, other pilots followed his example. He was far from religion - if you interpret faith in the usual sense of the word, however, he attended the Mass every time such an opportunity was given. Rough Australians sincerely respected him for such behavior.
The squadron's first combat contact with the enemy happened on 11 July 1941 of the year, and Finukain shot down Messerschmitt-109, recording the first victory on the squadron's account. In total, during the period from late July to late October 1941 18, he knocked «Messershmity", two more planes were destroyed together with other pilots and three aircraft damaged. For these successes, the pilot was awarded the Order "For Distinguished Service in the Service" and two slats to the cross "For Distinguished Flight Merit", which he received earlier.
In January, 1942, he was appointed commander of another squadron, and 20, February, 1942, when he and his wingman were storming the enemy ship near Dunkirk, a pair of Focke-Wulf-190 stepped on their heads, and Finucane was wounded in the leg and hip. Covered by his wingman, who by force of fire forced one enemy aircraft to make an emergency landing on the water, and the second to get out of battle, Finukein somehow crossed the English Channel and got on his airfield. He returned to service in mid-March 1942, and by the end of June he shot down another 6 aircraft.
Finucane explained his successes simply: “I was given a pair of good eyes, and I learned to shoot. The first requirement in combat is to see the enemy before he sees you or takes advantage of his tactical advantage. The second requirement - to hit the enemy when shooting. You may not have another chance. ”
15 July 1942, the Finucane's plane was fired from the ground and fell into the English Channel.
More than 3 of thousands of people gathered at the funeral mass in Westminster, telegrams and letters of condolence to his parents came from all over the world, including from the two best Soviet fighter pilots.
In far away
At 11 in the morning on 19 in January 1942, the ground staff of the British Air Force at Mingladon airbase near Rangoon (Burma), fleeing Japanese air raids in narrow trenches, overcoming the fear of being killed by a bomb, lifted their heads and watched a spectacular fight that took place hundreds of feet on top of their heads.
There, as if on a racing ground, the Japanese fighter Nakajima Ki was circling in circles. 27, a few yards behind which, like a tied one, was a Hurricane, whose machine guns hit the Japanese in short bursts. In the cockpit of the English plane was the commander of the squadron, Frank Carey, who spewed streams of curses. Carey saw his bullets tearing over the enemy fighter's batting over and over again, but the small, fidgety Japanese plane stubbornly refuses to fall. In the end he jerked, went into a shallow dive and crashed into the parking lot of British bombers "Blenheim", exploding and spreading apart of them. Then the English military doctors examined the body of the deceased Japanese pilot and extracted at least 27 bullets from it. It was almost impossible to believe that a Japanese pilot could fly his plane for so long with so many injuries.
For Frank Carey, it was the first combat aircraft shot down by him in the Asian theater of operations.
In his 30 years, Cary was significantly older than the average fighter pilot of the British Air Force. After high school, he had three years to work as a mechanic in one of the Air Force fighter units, then graduated from engineering courses and enrolled in flight training courses, which graduated with high marks in 1935 years. After he was sent to the position of pilot in the same part, where he once worked as a mechanic. He quickly made a name for himself by piloting small Fury fighter planes and performing aerobatic maneuvers on all sorts of air festivals, which was common for the British Air Force in the middle of the peaceful 30s of the 20th century. However, clouds are gathering on the horizon of the war, and the British fighter units needed something more modern, so in 1938, the squadron was re-equipped Carey on "Hurricane".
In the outbreak of World War I, his first enemy plane, the Heinkel-111, was shot down by Carey with another 3 pilot February 1940 of the year. A few days later he destroyed another Heinkel over the North Sea, and at the end of February he was awarded the medal “For Outstanding Flying Merit”. In March, he was promoted to officer and transferred to another wing, which in early May 1940 was transferred to France.
On May 10, the Germans launched an offensive against France, Belgium, and violent air battles broke out over Belgium and northern France. On that day, Carey shot down one Heinkel and damaged three other enemy aircraft. 12 and 13 in May, he shot down two Junkers-87 and reported on two more, “probably shot down.” 14 May he shot down the "Dornier-17". And the rear gunner of the German aircraft was shooting at Carey even when his aircraft in flames fell and damaged an aircraft engine Carey, wounding him in the leg. Despite his injury, Carey successfully completed an emergency landing near Brussels, and soon, having roamed through military hospitals, was discharged.
Carey with the same as he pilots of the downed aircraft found airworthiness freighter and flown to England where he was considered missing and probably dead. When Carey returned to service, the Battle of France campaign was almost over, and the Luftwaffe began to shift its activity to the other side of the English Channel.
19 June Carey knocked "Messerschmitt-109», in July - "Messerschmitt-110» and «Messerschmitt-109». Then, in August, when the “Battle of Britain” began, Carey knocked down two Junkers-88 and four Junkers-87, the last 4 vehicles were destroyed in one sortie. Soon he shot down another plane, but was wounded in battle and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital. When Carey was fully established and returned to service, his squadron was transferred to rest in the north of England. By this time, the Royal Air Force fighter pilots once and for all broke the hopes of the Luftwaffe to achieve air superiority over the British Isles.
On account of Carey was 18 downed aircraft for 6 months from grown from sergeant to the squadron commander and was awarded the medal "For outstanding flight merit", cross "For outstanding flight merit" and the bar to the cross. At the end of 1940, he was transferred to a combat training center, where he spent several months as an instructor, then he was appointed commander of a newly formed squadron armed with Hurricanes, who sailed by sea to Burma. By the end of February 1942, he shot down five planes in Burma, bringing his total score from the beginning of the war until 23 machines, and was awarded a second bar to the cross.
8 March 1942, the Japanese occupied the capital of Burma, Rangoon, and the main task of the battered British fighter units was to cover the retreat of the Allied forces, which the Japanese stubbornly squeezed to the north, to the border with India. Stretching to 40 for miles of columns of retreating troops, there were only a handful of British Hurricanes and P-40 groups of American volunteer pilots who started fighting with the Japanese back in China, long before Pearl Harbor. Eventually, Cary's squadron began to be based on Chittagong, where in May 1943, Cary's last confrontation with the Japanese occurred. Then Carey returned to England, graduated from aerial shooting school, after which he led fighter aviation training centers in Calcutta (India) and Abu Zubeira (Egypt), and met the end of the war by a colonel at the Fighter Aviation Center, where he supervised tactics.
According to official data, Carey ended the war with 28 downed aircraft, although the pilot himself believes that there were more. The problem is that if he shot down several Japanese planes during the long retreat of British forces in Burma in 1942 year, it is impossible to document, because the entire archive part has been lost or destroyed. Some historians believe that on the account of Carey 50 downed aircraft. If so, then Carey is the most efficient fighter pilot among all the fighter pilots of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States who participated in World War II. Unfortunately, no one will be able to confirm the above figure.
The best fighter pilot of the British Air Force - James Edgar Johnson. Normandy, 1944 year. Photos from www.iwm.org
If we talk about George Berling (33 and 1 / 3 downed enemy aircraft), then applied to it the word "amazing" is probably an underestimation. Few are a born pilot, but Berling was one. He also showed himself to be disobedient and original, with disdain for the statutes and instructions, which often caused displeasure of senior officers and nevertheless brought him to the top of success in the air war. During the four months of fighting in the skies over Malta, he shot down 27 German and Italian aircraft of various types.
Burling was born near Montreal (Canada) in 1922. His path to the combat aircraft was rather winding. When he turned 6 years old, his father presented a model airplane, and from that time flying became the only hobby of young George. By 10 years, he had read all available books about the fighter pilot of World War I and spent all his free time at the local airport, watching the flight. The unforgettable first flight occurred shortly before 11 turned years: during one of the frequent excursions to the airfield, it came under rain and, taking advantage of the offer of one of the local pilots, took refuge in the hangar. Noticing the obvious interest of the teenager in the aircraft, the pilot promised to ride him on the plane - provided that his parents agree to this. George's father and mother thought it was a joke, and gave "good", and a few hours later George was in the air.
From this day on, all George’s thoughts were directed towards the same goal - to raise money in order to learn how to fly. He did not sit with folded arms - in any weather he sold newspapers on the street, made models of airplanes and sold them, took on any work. When he turned 15, against the will of his parents, he dropped out of school and began working to save money on training for a pilot. He cut his spending on food and other needs to an absolute minimum, and at the end of each week he collected enough money to pay for an hour of flight training. When he turned 16 years old, and there were more than 150 hours of flying time behind him, he passed all the exams for the qualification "civilian pilot", but then it turned out that he was too young to get a license. Berlinga did not stop it - he decided to go to China, who fought with Japan: the Chinese pilots were very necessary, and they didn’t really find fault with their age. He crossed the border into the United States, on his way to San Francisco, where he was going to make some money for a trip to China, but was arrested as an illegal immigrant and sent home.
In September 1939 year World War II broke out, and 17-year Berling filed an application for employment in the Canadian Air Force, but he was denied due to lack of required documents on education. Then Berling volunteered for the Finnish Air Force, who urgently recruited pilots due to the growing tension in her relations with the USSR, and was accepted on the condition that he would give her father’s consent, which was unrealistic.
Deeply disappointed, Burling continued his private flights, and by the spring of 1940, his flight time was 250 hours. Now he was thinking about early admission to the British Air Force and began attending night school, trying to adjust his educational level to the required standards. In May, he joined 1940 deckhand on Swedish merchant ship, which arrived in Glasgow, where he immediately went to the recruiting center in the Air Force. There he was told that to consider the issue of admission to the Air Force requires a birth certificate and parental consent. The steadfast Berling went to Canada by boat and a week later crossed the Atlantic Ocean, now in the opposite direction.
7 September 1940, he was selected for flight training in the Royal Air Force, and exactly one year later he was assigned to his first squadron, then was transferred to another squadron. In the end, he signed up as a volunteer on a business trip and 9 June 1941, along with his brand new Spitfire Mk. V was on the deck of the carrier "Eagle", headed for Malta. At that time, Malta was under combined blows by the German and Italian Air Forces, whose bases were in Sicily, only 70 miles from Malta.
The arrival of a Canadian in Malta in June 1942 was dramatic. He took off from an aircraft carrier and barely landed his plane on the Luka base strip, as the raid of German and Italian aircraft began. Berling unceremoniously dragged from the car and dragged him to the shelter, and he watched the scene with eyes wide open - here it is, finally, the present case, a real war. After so many years of efforts on the way to the cherished goal, he will soon have to fight the enemy and prove that he is really a cool pilot.
The battle began even earlier than he expected. On the same day, in 15.30, he and other pilots of his squadron were sitting in the cockpit of their aircraft ready for departure; the only clothes they wore were shorts and shirts, since putting on more bulky summer clothes could have caused a heat stroke on the hot Maltese earth. Soon they took to the air to intercept a group of 20 «Junkers-88» and 40 «Messershmity-109». Berling knocked down one Junkers, one Messerschmit, and unexpectedly appeared Italian fighter Mackey-202 damaged his machine-gun fire, and then got on the airfield to replenish the ammunition and fuel supply. Soon, he was again in the air over La Valletta, along with his comrades, who defended the 30 raid by diving Junkers-87 bomber on the English ships moored at the berths. Bomber raids covered German fighters in the amount of not less than 130 units. Berling shot down one Messerschmitt-109 and seriously injured one Junkers, the wreckage of which struck the propeller of the Beerling plane and forced him to plant a Spitfire on the belly near the steep bank. On the first day of the fighting, Berling shot down three enemy aircraft and two more "probably shot down." This was a promising start. Fierce air battles resumed in July, and already July 11 Berling shot down three "Mackey-202" and was presented to the medal "For Outstanding Flight Merit." Until the end of July, he shot down another 6 of enemy aircraft and damaged two; in August, he shot down one Messerschmitt-109 and, together with two other pilots, shot down Junkers-88.
Beurling's success was determined by three major factors - his phenomenal vision, excellent shooting and a preference to do his own thing as he sees fit, and not as written in the textbook.
Even before a trip to Malta, Berling was offered production to officers twice, but he refused, saying that he was not from the test that the officers were made of. In Malta, however, Burling unwittingly turned out to be the leader - his ability to see the enemy’s aircraft earlier than others attracted other pilots to him, like a magnet, where Berling is, there will soon be a fight. His bosses quickly figured out how to best use this powerful potential, and informed Berling that he would be promoted to officers, whether he liked it or not. Berling protested unsuccessfully, but in the end he made an officer’s uniform.
Malta was a nightmare for most of Berling’s colleagues, he also enjoyed every minute of his stay on the island and asked him to extend the business trip, for which he received the consent of his superiors. October 15 1942 turned out to be another hot and, as it turned out, the last day for Berling on the island. He attacked the Junkers-88 and knocked him down, but the shooter of the German bomber was able to turn on the plane of Berling and wound him in the heel. Despite his injury, he shot down two more Messerschmites and only after that left the plane with a parachute, splashed down to the sea and was picked up by a rescue boat.
Two weeks later, Berling was sent to England on a Liberator bomber. On the way to Gibraltar, where the plane was supposed to land for refueling, some sixth sense warned Berling about the impending catastrophe. In the face of strong turbulence, the aircraft began to perform an approach, while Burling took off his flight jacket and moved to a place near one of the emergency exits. The landing approach was unsuccessful - the landing gear only touched the ground on the second half of the runway, and the pilot tried to go to the second round. The climb path was too steep and the plane crashed into the sea from a height of 50 feet. When hitting the water, Berling dropped the emergency exit door and jumped out into the sea, managing to swim to the shore with his bandaged foot. In England, he spent some time in the hospital, and then went on vacation to Canada, where he was met as a national hero. Returning to England, he attended the awards ceremony at Buckingham Palace, where he received four awards from the hands of King George VI — the Order For Outstanding Differences in Service, the Cross For Outstanding Flight Merit, the medal For Outstanding Flight Honor and the bar to the medal.
Burling continued to serve as a flight commander, until the end of 1943, he shot down three Focke-Wulf-190 fighters over France, bringing his victory score to the 31 and 1 / 3 aircraft; 1 / 3 belonged to the "Junkers-88", shot down by him along with other pilots over Malta. In the summer of 1944, he was appointed an aerial shooting instructor, and at the preliminary exercises he hit everyone — first with consistently low shooting results, and after that almost 100% hits. Burling explained later that he initially tried to act as written in the instruction, but, not having achieved success, he returned to his method of pre-emptiness shooting, of which he was an unsurpassed master. At the end of the war, Burling officially transferred to the Canadian Air Force and commanded a squadron.
After the end of hostilities, demobilization followed, and Burling changed one job after another. He was absolutely not adapted to civilian life and longed to return to the hot excitement of battle and the brotherhood of fighter pilots.
At the beginning of 1948, his expectations began to seem to come true. Gathering independence, Israel, threatened by its Arab neighbors, was searching for planes and pilots throughout the West to defend itself. The Israelis were armed with “Spitfirers”, and Burling, following the example of some former Canadian Air Force pilots who had already been recruited as volunteers, offered his services, dreaming about how he would be back in the close and vibrating fighter cockpit.
These dreams did not come true. 20 May 1948, he had to take a plane with medicines from Rome to Israel; the day before, he, together with another Canadian pilot, took to the air so that Berling could practically get used to the new type of aircraft for him. Eyewitnesses observed how the plane made a circle over the airfield and went to land, missed the runway and began to sharply gain altitude for the go-around; after a few moments, he fell off and fell to the ground. Both pilots died.
George Berling was just 26 years old.
MASTER NIGHT BATTLE
I can not say a few words about Richard Stevens, on account of which 14 aircraft shot down during the period from January to October 1941. Not the biggest score, but in this case it is important what kind of planes they are and under what circumstances they were destroyed. So, all the downed planes were German bombers (“Dornier-17”, “Heinkel-III” and “Junkers-88”), and they were destroyed at night by Stevens, who was flying on “Harricane” not adapted for night battles, not having onboard radar.
Stevens was assigned to his first extermination unit in October 1940, when the Luftwaffe began to transfer the power of its attacks from daytime raids to nighttime, and during one of those first nighttime raids his family died.
Stevens’s Fighter Squadron was designed to operate during daylight hours, and at nightfall, its combat mission simply went to naught. Night after night, when the enemy's bombers roared towards London, Stevens sat alone on the airfield, watched the blinding fires and the searchlight twinkling, and thought darkly about the "hurricanes" not suited for the night. In the end, he turned to the command for permission to a single combat sortie over London.
Stevens had one valuable quality — experience. Before the war, he was a civilian pilot and flew over the English Channel with a cargo of mail. About 400 hours of night flying in all weather conditions were recorded in his flight book, and the pre-war skills soon found a worthy use.
However, his first night patrols were unsuccessful - he did not see anything, although the flight director assured him that the sky was full of enemy planes. And then the night came from 14 on January 15, when he shot down his first two German bomber ... By the summer of 1941, he had become the best night fighter pilot, significantly ahead of the pilots who fought on radar-equipped fighters.
After Germany attacked the USSR, when the Luftwaffe removed a significant number of its bombers from the Western Front, there were fewer raids on England, and Stevens was nervous because he hadn’t seen the enemy’s bombers in the night sky for weeks. He began to ripen the idea, which was finally approved by the command - if you can’t find enemy bombers in the night sky over England, then why not take advantage of the darkness of the day, slip somewhere to Belgium or France and hunt for Germans over their own airfield?
Later, during the war, the nightly offensive actions of the British Air Force fighters over enemy bases became common, but in December 1941, Stevens was indeed the founder of a new tactical device. On the night of December 12, 1941, the “Hurricane” Stevens circled for about an hour near the German bomber base in Holland, but the Germans didn’t seem to fly that night. Three days later, he again went to the same goal, but did not return from the mission.