Who was the best fighter pilot in World War 2?

Jun 2013
745
Agraphur
#25
Actually l suggest you read it again, it states he only claimed 7 aerial victories.
Hans-Ulrich Rudel - Wikipedia
And I actually quoted from it. I didn't see that 7 figure though. I guess those 7 are once he shot down by himself in a fighter, while the others credited would have been in his Stuka were the gunner would do the actual shooting.

How would he get the victories if he was not the gunner though?
Well I'm not sure, I took for granted that a crew shared the glory in a two seater, given that success in aerial combat should have a lot do with the pilot's skill. I guess that is the difference between credited and claimed.
 
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botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,526
Amelia, Virginia, USA
#26
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.
Thanks. I know you've posted about your father before, I couldn't remember the particulars. I made a quick search about VF11, and I suppose the results are well known to you.

The first skipper was LCDR Charles R. Fenton, who had led VF-42 from the USS Yorktown (CV-5) in the early months of the Pacific war. Four of the six senior officers were Annapolis men, an unusual depth of experience. The X.O. and OPS officers were: LTs Clarence M. White and Raymond W. Vogel. Among Fenton's experienced aviators was LT (jg) William N. Leonard with four kills at Coral Sea and Midway, Two other combat experienced pilots
were Lt. Frank B. Quady and Lt. (jg) Walter J. Hiebert, both formerly of VF6
aboard Enterprise (CV6). Leonard would add two more kills to his score at Guadalcanal June 12, 1943 to become an ace.

A bit further:
Fighting Eleven conducted two large combats in June. On June 12, Bill Leonard led four divisions against 36 Zekes near the Russell's, scoring 14-4 with no pilots lost. ENS Vernon E. Graham ran his score from zero to five: VF-11 first "in-house" ace in one flight.
Found it here

That's pretty cool, and I'm reminded of Robert Leckie's thoughts on being asked what he personally got out of the war: An ordeal endured, and a legacy for his son.

The second quote is relevant to the OP, I think. Leonard was an experienced fighter pilot, "led four divisions" on this mission, successfully, and yet didn't score himself. Does that mission add to his "score" on the "who's the best" meter? It should, and his superiors and fellow pilots would certainly agree. So how do we measure the best? Kill count? An ace might be a skilled, ruthless pilot, but a crappy teammate and leader and a detriment to his side, all things considered. What of innovators like Molders or Thach?
Air forces counted kills differently so the numbers are difficult, if not impossible, to compare. Even if we could, it's hardly fair to those rotated out, promoted, wounded, captured or killed.

Still, it's a fun question, and one of the first WW2 books I read as a boy was Thunderbolt! , by Robert Johnson (27 kills), so he's my nominee.
(and I pick the P-47 over the P-51)
 

botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,526
Amelia, Virginia, USA
#28
I don't know, there is just something about the sound of a P-51 wide open that makes my heart sing
Well, Robert S. Johnson didn't fly one, so it's objectively 2nd best.
Besides, the R-2800 Double Wasp may not make a heart sing, but it can awaken a primal sense of doom.
 
Likes: MG1962a

redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,714
Stockport Cheshire UK
#29
And I actually quoted from it. I didn't see that 7 figure though. I guess those 7 are once he shot down by himself in a fighter, while the others credited would have been in his Stuka were the gunner would do the actual shooting.



Well I'm not sure, I took for granted that a crew shared the glory in a two seater, given that success in aerial combat should have a lot do with the pilot's skill. I guess that is the difference between credited and claimed.
Are you really willing to.accept that a rear gunner armed with light machine guns could get close to.shootong down over 40 aircraft.:zany:
Also where in the article does it state this , l have not been able to find it.:think:
 
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