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Other WWI Aviation Airfields, equipment, tactics, training, uniforms and all other WWI aviation topics

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Old 21 February 2024, 04:29 AM   #1
The Hangman
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Most planes shot down never knew what hit them?

Would it be correct to day a good number of aircraft shot down in WWI (And WW2) never knew what hit them until it was too late? Fatigue, green pilots, lost focus, target fixation, hit from the plane coming out of the sun, and those poor guys in BE2's flying slow and stable?

I read Rickenbacker's account of his first patrol, and how he was shocked when he was told of the number of aircraft seen by his escorting veteran pilot. Rickerbacker didn't see anything. He had to learn quick how to spot them.

I bring this up, because tabletop air combat games, or the few flight sims I've played make the participants all knowing, which I understand of course to have the excitement of a aerial melee twisting and turning. But it reality, I wonder if most aces racked up scores shooting down planes that never saw them coming.
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Old 21 February 2024, 05:25 AM   #2
dglewwe
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Quote:
...tabletop air combat games...make the participants all knowing...
On the gaming side/tangent:

Mike Clinton's "Watch Your Six!" tabletop/miniatures rules addressed this well, and I shamelessly stea...er...borrow his method of setting up a game that can find a plane 'in the crosshairs', so to speak, and not lasting much beyond the first few turns.

Both he and I minimize the impact of this by using rules that allow players to manage multiple aircraft in a game without (too much) ahistorical coordination, thus losing one to a 'bounce' is not a critical game-ending event and allows for the inclusion of this (common?) facet of the genre.

You are correct in that it isn't something most would consider a 'fun' thing to play, but having it as part of a gaming experience helps to bolster the 'historical' bit of miniature gaming.
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Old 21 February 2024, 07:12 AM   #3
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Hi,

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Originally Posted by The Hangman View Post
Would it be correct to day a good number of aircraft shot down in WWI (And WW2) never knew what hit them until it was too late?
I am not aware of any statistics covering that.

I believe the earliest statement to the effect of "90% of the pilots shot down never saw their attacker" I've come across was part of the answers of an 8th Air Force fighter pilot questionnaire from WW2.

Unfortunately, I don't remember the exact source at the moment. It was a reprint of sorts ... Ed Maloney did a reprint of similar material for the Pacific Theatre, so maybe he also was the editor of the 8th Air Force stuff.

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Old 21 February 2024, 07:25 AM   #4
HoHun
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Hi again,

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Originally Posted by HoHun View Post
I believe the earliest statement to the effect of "90% of the pilots shot down never saw their attacker" I've come across was part of the answers of an 8th Air Force fighter pilot questionnaire from WW2.
Here's more on that:

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Hi everyone,

For quite a while, I've been looking for the background of the well-known statement "90% of all fighters shot down never saw the guy who hit them".

I recently purchased a copy of "The Long Reach - Deep Fighter Escort Tactics", originally published by VIII Fighter Command and dated 29 May 1944, and re-published in 2012 by Ray Merriam.

To my surprise, it's included there in an article on tactics written by Lt. Col. Mark E. Hubbard, a P-38 pilot of 20th Fighter Group. The full paragraph:

Quote

"a. A wing man should always stay with his leader. Under no circumstances should there be less than two airplanes working together as one man cannot protect his own tail, and 90% of all fighters shot down never saw the guy who hit them."

Over the years, I've participated in quite a few discussions on how well justified the exact percentage number was, and we couldn't ever figure it out.

If the statement actually originated with Hubbard, and even assuming he wasn't just quoting an older trueism here, I would think it was more of a figure picked for effect than the exact result of diligent operations research.

Hubbard seems to have been quite critical of the P-38, by the way ...

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"The 20th Fighter Group's Commanding Officer Lt Col. Mark Hubbard sent a strongly worded letter up the command chain in March 1944 bitterly criticising the P-38 as being unsuitable for the task it was being asked to carry out. Lt Col. Hubbard was shot down and taken POW days after sending this letter."

(From http://www.20thfightergroup.com/aircraft.html )

... which apparently led to him becoming a bit of a controversial figure in history. Apparently, some 20 years ago there was a bit of a flame war going on regarding Hubbard's reputation:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!to...ry/mnA9JMFEk7k

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Henning (HoHun)
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Old 21 February 2024, 09:03 AM   #5
Volker_Nemsch
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Arrow In the end the "classic ambush"...

.
... would be the best tactic.

If you shoot (down) you opponent before he realised that that you are attacking him you are on the safe side. He will not fly evasive maneuvres, he will not shoot back and if there is a second (or even third) opponent it might give you the chance to get away from the scene before the "other side" might get to focussed on you.

The DICTA BOELCKE explain all this in a very precise way...

.
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Old 2 March 2024, 10:29 AM   #6
Barrett
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The conventional wisdom that 90 percent of downed pilots never knew their peril until too late probably is due to acceptance of Hartmann's statement in the Toliver bio. A couple of things wrong with that:

1. The Eastern Front air war was largely a low-to-medium altitude affair in contrast to other WW II and of course Korean War environments. Large numbers of fighters mixing it up in a relatively small cube of airspace made keeping track of assailants difficult.

2. I was secretary of the American Fighter Aces Assn in the 80s and 90s, and in all those MANY "ready room" debriefs it was noteworthy how few war stories involved being surprised or surprising Brand X. Having read MvR's reports, I figured that he surprised about 20 of his 80.

Sooo...one year I sent a questionnaire with membership renewals, covering a variety of subjects including Surprise. I got about 210 replies from WW I to Vietnam. The similarities were remarkable: about 20 % of aerial kills were by surprise. Aaaand, as I recall, about the same ratio applied to Our Guys being surprised...
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