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2000 Closed threads from 2000 (read only)

 
 
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Old 22 August 2000, 09:50 AM   #1
alex_revell
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Everybody. Tried to send this this morning but was warned it was too long. When I fianally got the file back it was so much gobbledegook and 1124 pages long! So I'm sending this in three parts.
I've not had time to read all the threads but may I ask your indulgence to clear up a few things in respect of the difficulties and pitfalls in matching claims against losses. My apologies if it's a case of teaching Grandma to suck eggs, but I thought it might be helpful. So, here goes. Lets take a hypothetical case. An allied pilot shoots down an enemy aeroplane which is seen to crash behind the German lines and it is confirmed by members of his Flight. To evaluate this claim the first reference a researcher would probably go to would be the Verlustliste der Deutschen Luftstreitkrafte im Weltkreige. The Verlustlist is pretty basic in that it only gives people killed each day by rank, name and area lost, but it's a good starting point. In the case of our hypothetical claim, the researcher finds there is no loss for the area which matches the claim. AH, Ah! he says, another allied pilot telling porkies. But in the title of the song, It Ain't Necessarily So. Lets look at the possible various scenarios. The German pilot was not injured in the crash and walked away from it to rejoin his unit. Or, he was wounded and extricated from the crash and taken to the nearest casulaty clearing station. After treatment there he was transfered to the nearest main German hospital at, say, Cambrai, some miles away from his crash site. Here he can recover from his wounds, rejoin his Jasta, or be sent back home to convalesce. Or, again, he might die of his wounds some five or ten days later. In the latter case his death would be entered in the Verlustliste under that day and the area would be given as Cambrai, some miles from his crash. There is therefore no way his death can be linked to the claim made days previously and in a different location. The researcher then has to go to any other sources which he might have: the Nachrichenblatt, Kofl reports, Jasta war diaries, pilots' diaries etc. These are not complete, we have very few jasta war diaries, for example. From this you can see how difficult and time consuming it can be to match even one victory, with no guarantee of a result anyway. con't.
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Old 22 August 2000, 10:15 AM   #2
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Claims. con't.
A very good example of this was McCuddens' two victories on Feb 18th 1918,when he shot down an Albatros with a green tail, which his thought was THE Greentail and a blue-tailed Albatros, which wa seen to crash. The Verlustliste, however, only gives a J Kaiser for the area in question, and nothing fits for the blue-tailed Albatros. On the face of it, one, or even two, of M's victories are doubtful, but Dr Bock in German found that Kaiser was in Jasta 35b and Alex Imrie had a copy of the Jasta war diary. The entry was a mirror image of the 56 Sqdn combat report. It also gave the information that the pilot of the blue-tailed Albatros, von Stein, was only wounded and crash landed his aeroplane, so he therefore would not have appeared in the Verlustliste along with Kaiser. This type of thing must hold true for many seemingly false claims by allied pilots. However, to argue - as suspect some will - that this may be reason for the lack of evidence in the German records in respect of Bishop's claims is not logical, when it must be applied to his every claim - especially given the nature of some of these claims: in flames, breaking up in mid-air, colliding in mid-air etc. where the pilot concerned could not have possibly escaped as only wounded.
As a fairly disinterested bystander in the B question, it seems to me that the believers in Bishop operate on blind faith alone. The Canadian writer who wrote a book called something like 'Hanging a Legend', and whose name escapes me for the moment, put forward that one possible reason for there being no records of the aerodrome raid in the German records was because the CO of the Jasta involved was so ashamed at being caught napping by a lone scout that he covered up the losses by simply not reporting them to High Command. When I asked how the CO would indent for replacement aeropanes and pilots, and how he would keep the deaths of the pilots concealed from their families - would he write to them all, forging the dead pilos' handwriting, telling them not to worry and all was well - there was nothing but silence. I later learnt that the writer in question was a lawyer. I would have thought that a prerequisite of a lawyer would be an ability to think and argue a case logically.
Well, enough. I hope this has explained a few of those pitfalls and cleared up a few points. The evaluation of claims is far from an exact science.
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Old 22 August 2000, 10:20 AM   #3
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Sorry everybody, I meant to add this to the Claims vs records thread
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Old 22 August 2000, 10:30 AM   #4
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Well put! I envy your ability to state this case without arousing the righteous indignation of . . Group B. But perhaps this congratulatory note is premature. We shall see . .

Have you read any of the Grub Street series? In THE JASTA PILOTS, there are wounded pilots listed as well as killed and captured/missing. So there is more than one official source for tracking down German casualties.

The following bit of information strikes me as indicative of the overclaiming tendency of Allied pilots: in September 1918, there were claims for 660 Fokker D.VII fighters ALONE. This does not include "shared" victories. Between 800 and 1,000 of these planes were built, and it was in action from May 1918 til the Armistice - seven months. It doesn't take a genius to deduce that there was an absurd degree of overclaiming - German records complete or not.

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Old 22 August 2000, 10:53 AM   #5
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Excellent stuff Alex, thanks for sharing it with us.

The only thing I would like to add is that it is known and to be expected that, given the OOC and DD "claims" accepted by the British command, the British "victory totals" are highly exaggerated. This in no way reflects negatively on RFC/RNAS/RAF pilots who reported encounters in this way. Given the circumstances of the war, British command decided to adopt the confirmation policy as defined, with equal credit applying to ALL claim types, and giving full credit to all pilots associated with the destruction (or claimed OOC/DD victory) over a single enemy plane. I suppose that the logic here was that an enemy driven down can no longer have a decisive effect on the present battle, having been forced out of the fight.

It was not the fault of the pilots being awarded victories by this system that the assigned confirmation did not necessarily relate to a verifiable German casualty. If blame is to be assigned for the obvious discrepancies between RAF victory totals and verified German casualties, it seems to me that it should be placed on the system, not on the pilots.

IF it is _proven_ that a particular pilot deliberately lied about his experiences, then it would be appropriate to describe him as a fraud. Then again, very solid proof should be demonstrated before this is done.
 
Old 22 August 2000, 10:59 AM   #6
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Craig,
Just a possibility, minus the overclaiming, that every inline found at the front , fighting with Fokkers, could have been mistaken for Fokkers when they were Albatros, Pfalz, etc.
swirling dogfights dont always have accurate identifications. i believe i saw something in regards on the german side, MvR J11 possibly, that every rotary after a certain period were camels etc. cant remember where. probably here on the forum.
same happenened in WW2.

just wanted to make a point.

good post tho, Alex.

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Old 22 August 2000, 11:27 AM   #7
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Ron

Good point. I can see how a Pfalz D.XII or a Roland D.VI might be confused with a Fokker. But Albatroses and the Pfalz D.IIIa are rather dissimilar in profile, having raked wingtips while the aforementioned machines had square wingtips and balanced ailerons (as well as elevators). My source for the '660' figure is Grub Street's BLOODY APRIL, BLACK SEPTEMBER. And there are many claims for other German fighters, as well.

But I will agree that some confusion was possible.

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Old 22 August 2000, 01:57 PM   #8
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Many thanks, Alex. A few of us have tried to explain the enormous complexities involved in "claims verification" for years, with little success because so few people have access to the original records--or will admit that the system is broken. Among veterans of all wars, the Old Soldier's Syndrome is requent: "What do you know, sonny? *I* was there."
As I believe you noted recently on another thread, the time and effort involved in attempting to verify every claim by every major RFC/RAF ace would be enormous, thus relatively few have been thoroughly researched (i.e., Bishop, Mannock, McCudden, Barker, etc.)
I absolutely concur that The System is at fault far more than any individuals. The Brits, knowingly or otherwise, simply stuck with the worst possible method of assessing damage to the enemy. That was certainly not the fault of the pilots who operated under that system, and whose main interest in life was staying alive.
Let's remember that the primary purpose of aerial victory claims was in fact determining damage to the enemy. The 660 (or whatever) "D-VIIs" claimed in Sept. '18 is an excellent case in point. It matters far less whether Allied a/c recognition was accurate than the wholly bloated impression those figures gave air commanders. Whatever the actual losses of the GAS for that month, they certainly were not anywhere near 700. (TJP shows 85 KIA/WIA. Multiply X2 or 3 for non-injury losses and we still don't come close, even adding other a/c types.) Assuming that RAF planners based future operations on such widespread devastation of the opposing air force, they were in for a nasty surprise.
Ironically, the Luftwaffe was guilty of the same thing 22 years later during the Battle of Britain. Dolfo Galland has said that in August '40 German bomber crews radioed, "Here they come, boys--the last 50 Spitfires!"
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Old 22 August 2000, 02:01 PM   #9
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Having just read Under the Guns of the Red Baron, it seems to me that if someone of MvR's experience can make so many aircraft identification errors, then in the heat of combat anything is possible.

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Old 22 August 2000, 07:09 PM   #10
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<Alex> the author of the book you are reffering to was a journalist, I'm not sure if he was also a lawyer. But you are correct in your scrutiny of his explanation of purgering CO's, as if any CO would be able to get away with that one. Hiding dead/injured pilots and lost planes from Generals would not be an easy task. Esspecially when asked to take your full squad up on patrol and General gets report back from balloon ops saying there were n-k planes as opposed to n planes protecting the ballon ( k > 0 ).

Alex why not start with the Jasta Diaries when investigating allied claims as opposed to the German obituaries.
 
 

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