Who was the best fighter pilot in World War 2?

Jun 2011
304
The Old Dominion
#12
Yorktown or Lexington at Coral Sea? Could be either one if he flew from Yorktown at Midway, if I'm not mistaken.
Yorktown Air Group performance at Midway was superb...as you would expect from solid veterans.
VF-42 on Yorktown through Coral Sea, then TAD (along with 15 other VF-42 flyers, thus making up the majority of the squadron) to VF-3 on Yorktown at Midway, and VF-11 out of Fighter One at Henderson Field in the Solomons.
 

Vaeltaja

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
3,689
#14
There are couple of Finnish aces too who could be mentioned. Juutilainen especially. Flew from 1939 to 1945, shot down 90+ Soviet aircraft, was never even hit in any of the aerial combats he took part to by an opposing fighter. Was only once downed and even then by friendly AA. He is perhaps the most prominent. Refused to be promoted to any officer rank and started the war as 'kersantti' (Sergeant) and reached the rank of 'lentomestari' ('Master of the Flight', air force equivalent to 'sotilasmestari' or 'Master of the Military ' ~ Chief Warrant Officer or Sergeant Major) in the spring of 1941. And since that was the highest NCO rank he kept it until the end of the war.

Especially if 10 kill pilot is removed from an operational unit and made a flight instructor, to impart the fundamentals of combat training that made him successful. (USAAF and USN System)

While 30 kills racks those up because he's stuck flying nonstop combat missions indefinitely, where it gets to the point he's made a propaganda hero, kept flying, while stealing kills from other squadron mates, per policy. Which means he's actually helping create worse pilots. (Luftwaffe system)
That was Luftwaffe system - same didn't apply in the Finnish Air Force for example. The Finnish system on the other hand had other issues mainly caused by the very limited inventory which meant that best fighter aircraft (Brewster Buffalo) were concentrated into a single squadron and since there weren't any of them available to other squadrons those had to make do with other fighter types (like Curtis Hawk 75 (P-36), Morane Saulnier 406, Fiat G.50 and so on). This meant that the squadron in question had more responsibilities and engagements than others since it was placed where the opposition was expected to be most serious. There was even a whole fight (colloquially often known as 'Knight Flight') consisting only of pilots decorated with Mannerheim Cross (Finnish equivalent to the Victoria Cross or Medal of Honor - and person who was awarded such was known a 'Knight of the Mannerheim Cross').
 
Likes: Isleifson
Jun 2013
745
Agraphur
#17
At the same time Hartmann lost 14 aircraft he flew.
Due to his practice of closing for point blank kills enemy debris tended to damage his plane. Supposedly he was never brought down by enemy fire.

Obviously he is the most successful fighter pilot in history. Nr.3 Gunther Rall was also highly productive and might well have given Hartmann a run for it if he hadn't broken his back and been out for a year.
Hans Joachim Marseille was otherwise regarded as the supreme fighter pilot, Galland claimed that "Marseille was the unrivalled virtuoso among the fighter pilots of World War 2. His achievements had previously been regarded as impossible and they were never excelled by anyone after his death" he developed and mastered high angle deflection shooting and constantly trained and tinkered with tactics.
Also might be worth mentioning that the premier combat pilot in history, Hans Ulrich Rudel had 51 aerial victories as a dive bomber.
 
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Jun 2013
745
Agraphur
#18
While 30 kills racks those up because he's stuck flying nonstop combat missions indefinitely, where it gets to the point he's made a propaganda hero, kept flying, while stealing kills from other squadron mates, per policy. Which means he's actually helping create worse pilots. (Luftwaffe system)
Germany never had the luxury of rotating out pilots after 25-30 missions like the western allies. It wasn't glory hounding, but simply a chronically shortage of experienced pilots that kept them flying. This was also compounded by fuel shortage when losses mounted. Always being outnumbered and with a very high likelyhood of entering air combat on every mission even within minutes of take off on the Eastern front, meant that pilots racked up the numbers or didn't fly for long.
 
Jul 2016
9,308
USA
#19
Germany never had the luxury of rotating out pilots after 25-30 missions like the western allies. It wasn't glory hounding, but simply a chronically shortage of experienced pilots that kept them flying. This was also compounded by fuel shortage when losses mounted. Always being outnumbered and with a very high likelyhood of entering air combat on every mission even within minutes of take off on the Eastern front, meant that pilots racked up the numbers or didn't fly for long.
Just like every other facet, the Germans had a crappy replacement system, because they never designed it for attrition. It was all set up for "short and lively" 4-6 month long wars that ended after one successful summer campaign, so lasting two years, or gasp, five straight years (like the Eastern Front), completely overwhelmed a system that couldn't keep up.

The US went a completely different route. Not everyone, but often, when someone demonstrated a certain level of proficiency they were often yanked out of the front lines, even if they didn't want to, and made flight instructors. "That spread the wealth," in that current techniques would be transmitted to trainees, who would then show up to front line units more prepared than their counterparts, whose training was less, as the instructors weren't the best of the best, and the techniques they were learning were not always current.
 

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