Fighter Aces! A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The actual number of air victories required to officially qualify as an "ace" has varied, but is usually considered to be five or more.
Erich Hartmann, the highest-scoring ace in history, with 352 kills claimed. The Germans did not use the term 'ace', but referred to German pilots who had achieved 10 kills as Überkanonen (big guns) and publicised their names and scores for the benefit of civilian morale. Qualification for the Pour le Mérite was progressively raised as the war went on.
The term "ace in a day" is used to designate a fighter pilot who has shot down five or more airplanes in a single day. The most notable is Hans-Joachim Marseille of Germany, who was credited with downing 17 Allied fighters in just three sorties over North Africa on September 1, 1942, during World War II. The highest number aerial victories for a single day was claimed by Emil Lang: 18 Soviet fighters on November 3, 1943. Erich Rudorffer is credited with the destruction of 13 aircraft in a single mission on October 11, 1943. Numerous other Luftwaffe pilots also claimed the title during World War II.
Captain Hans Wind of HLeLv 24, Finnish Air Force, scored five kills in a day five separate times during the Soviet Summer Offensive 1944, a total of 30 kills in 12 days, of his final tally of 75.
On December 5, 1941, the leading Australian ace of World War II, Clive Caldwell, destroyed five German aircraft in the space of a few minutes, also in North Africa. He received a Distinguished Flying Cross for the feat.
During World War II, 68 U.S. pilots—43 Army Air Forces, 18 Navy, and seven Marine Corps—were credited with the feat, including David McCampbell, who claimed seven Japanese planes shot down on June 19, 1944 (during the "Marianas Turkey Shoot"), and nine in a single mission on October 24, 1944. Medal of Honor recipients Jefferson DeBlanc and James E. Swett became aces on their first combat missions in Guadalcanal, scoring five kills and seven kills respectively. US Navy pilot Stanley "Swede" Vejtasa, who during the Battle of the Coral Sea shot down three Mitsubishi A6M Zeros with a Douglas SBD Dauntless, managed to down seven Japanese planes in one sortie in the Battle of Santa Cruz flying a Grumman F4F Wildcat.
World War I flying ace Fritz Otto Bernert scored five victories within 20 minutes on April 24, 1917, even though he wore glasses and was effectively one-armed. This earned him the Pour le Merite award.
The world's top Mustang ace, George Preddy, shot down six Me-109s on August 6, 1944, setting the European Theater of Operations record.
Tags: Fighter Aces, Red Baron, Flying circus, Erich Hartmann, Luftwaffe, Air Force, Ace, World War 1, World War 2, Fighter pilots, Ace in A Day, Air Combat, World at war, Death From Above, Dogfight
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