Aces High & Mustang Legends
Index of P-51 Mustang fighter pilots
Bankey, Ernest E.
Bryan, Donald S.
Harker, Chester V.
Littge, Raymond H.
Olds, Robin, Jr
Pattillo, Charles C. "Buck"
Pattillo, Cuthbert A. "Bill"
Preddy, William "Bill" Rhodes
Preddy, George E., Jr
 

 

What can you find here?

Most websites will only focus on the "aces" as it is very spectacular to list up how many kills different pilots scored and granted, there was some sort of competition amongst pilots to see which Fighter Group or which pilot could rack up the most enemy aircraft destroyed. However, most often those pilots who paid the ultimate price with their lives before being able to call themselves an ace are simply "forgotten".

Not here though... every fighter pilot has the right to get the proper recognition for what they did. There were thousands of outstanding airmen who did a lot to help the Allied Forces gain air superiority over the Luftwaffe. They all deserve to be saluted for what they did.

So where will we personally draw the line? Well, since this site focusses on the P-51 Mustang, we'll only be listing fighter pilots (sorry bomber boys, you guys obviously deserve the same amount of respect!) who flew the Mustang.

Since there are so many of them, this will probably be a work of a lifetime to get as many as we can listed up here, so keep checking back regularly for some new names in the list of follow us on facebook.

Ace

Adolphe PégoudThe term "ace" was first used during WWI, when the French press described Adolphe Pégoud as "L'as" (french word for Ace).

"Ace" is commonly used for pilots who shoot down a certain number of aircraft during combat. The precise number of aircraft varied in the beginning, but later (WWII) 5 victories became accepted as "standard".

If we take a closer look at the list of aces during WWII there is a huge difference between different air forces. For instance German WWII ace, Erich "Bubi" Hartmann , destroyed over 352 aircraft during the war, while the top American ace, Richard I. Bong , only has 40 kills.

This had multiple reasons:

  • First of all there is the counting system used by various air forces. For instance, the German air force credited a shared kill (two or more pilots shooting down one enemy aircraft, thus sharing the kill) to only one pilot. The French air force fully credited shared kills to all pilots involved, while the American and British air forces equally divided their kills.
    The latter resulted in fractioned end results for a lot of aces (ex. Major George E. Preddy, Jr.'s final tally was 26.83). An aircraft shot down by 2 pilots counted for 0.5 kills, an aircraft shot down by 3 pilots counted for 0.33 kills, etc.

  • The very nature of air combat also made verifying victories a problem. In most cases a victory would only count if a second party would confirm seeing the enemy aircraft crash, others simply took the pilot's word for it. The first method (confirmation by a wingman or other friendly aircraft) was too strict, in that quite a few of the enemy aircraft fell out of sight of other friendly forces, and it was not at all uncommon for a pilot and his wingman to be separated when the victory occurred.
    The second system held the potential for abuse if the pilots took advantage of it, and a few of them actually did.

    At a later stage, gun cameras finally eased to solve this problem, but they didn't fully solve it. The cameras only ran when the guns were being fired, so if a target took a fatal hit but didn't burst into flame or have major pieces fall off, it might only be counted as damaged or a probable, not as a destroyed aircraft.
  • There was a short period where American pilots were credited with kills for ground (strafing) victories, but this never really caught on. This was a counting system mainly used by the 8th AF and was conceived to encourage pilots in engaging enemy airfields and destroying aircraft on the ground. Towards true acedom, ground victories do not count.

    There is some truth in this as strafing is considered to be more dangerous than aerial combat because of intense flak generally present around valuable targets.
  • The main reason German pilots had such high kill rates is mainly because of the early years of dogfighting during WWII. In Russia and France they usually battled inferior fighters and ill trained fighter pilots. German pilots also flew more missions then axis pilots during the war: they usually fought untill they were eventually shot down whereas US pilots often rotated back home after one or more successful tours (to become instructors or simply for public relations reasons).
  • Several pilots also fought in battles leading up to WWII, such as the Spanish Civil War, the War in China, the Shanghai War, the Nomonhan incident in Mongolia, the Winter War or the Flying Tigers. The kills scored in those conflicts by pilots who also got victories in WWII are mentioned separately.

 

Ace in a day

The term "ace in a day" is used for pilots who shot down 5 or more enemy aircraft during a single day. The highest number of aerial victories for a single day was claimed by Emil Lang, who claimed 18 Soviet fighters on November 3rd, 1943. During WWII, 68 US pilots were credited with the feat.

WWI

 

Julius Arigi

The first aviators to achieve this were pilot Julius Arigi and observer/gunner Johann Lasi of the Austro-Hungarian Air Force. Julius Arigi (October 3rd, 1895 – August 1st, 1981) was a flying ace of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I with a total of 32 credited victories. On August 22nd , 1916, Stabsfeldwebel (Staff Sergeant) Arigi ignored standing orders that an officer had to be aboard to command his plane. He took Feldwebel (Sergeant Major) Johann Lasi along to engage six Italian Farman aircraft over the Skumbi estuary in a Hansa-Brandenburg C.I aircraft. They shot five of the Farmans down.

World War I flying ace Fritz Otto Bernert scored five victories within 20 minutes on April 24th, 1917, even though he wore glasses and was effectively one-armed (his left arm was left useless after a wound inflicted by a bajonet severed a major nerve whilst in ground combat).

John Lightfoot Trollope of the Royal Air Force shot down and destroyed seven German planes on March 24th , 1918. Henry Woollett shot down and destroyed six German airplanes on April 12th , 1918 and French aviator René Fonckwas the first double ace in a day. He scored six in a day on two occasions, once on May 9th and once on September 26th, 1918.

 

WWII Triple Aces in a day

The Second World War also produced a high number of double and even triple aces in a day.

Triple acedom (15 kills in one day) was achieved by only 4 Axis pilots and 1 Japanese pilot (not verified). The highest numer of aerial victories in history for a single day was claimed by Emil Lang when he shot down 18 Soviet fighters on November 3rd , 1943. Lang was initially a transport pilot and did not transfer to fighters until he was 33 years old in 1942.

Emil Lang

His first 3 aerial victories were claimed in March of 1943. Before the end of 1943, Lang's kill tally would total over 100 kills, including a remarkable 72 scored around Kiev in just 3 weeks time in late October, early November.

He made ace in a day on no less than 4 occasions:

  • 10 enemy aircraft destroyed on October 13th , 1943.
  • 12 enemy aircraft in three combat missions on October 21st , 1943.
  • 18 enemy aircraft in four combat missions on one day on November 3rd , 1943, making him the all-time ace in a day record holder.
  • 15 destroyed on June 14th , 1944, including a USAAF P-47 Thunderbolt.

He also show down four P-51 Mustangs in just four minutes time on June 20th , 1944 and another four P-51s on June 24th , 1944. Further kill tally includes three RAF Spitfires on July 9th , 1944, two P-47s on August 15th , 1944, and three P-38s on August 25th , 1944. He shot down aircraft of various types in his career, which ended with a total of 173 aerial victories before he crashed in his FW-190 on September 3rd , 1944, due to mechanical problems. He ranks 26th amongst all aces of WWII.

Second notable triple ace in a day was Hans-Joachim Marseille. While Emil Lang mostly flew combat over Russia and the ETO, Marseille usually flew combat over North Africa. He claimed all but seven of his official 158 victories against the British Commonwealth's Desert Air Force flying the Me-109. No other pilot claimed as many Western Allied aircraft as did Marseille.

He completed his training on July 18th , 1940. One of his teachers was Austro-Hungarian WWI ace Julius Arigi!

Hans-Joachim Marseille

On August 10th , 1940, he was assigned to I. Jagd/Lehrgeschwader 2 , to begin operations over Britain. In his first dogfight over England on August 24th , 1940, Marseille was involved in a four-minute battle with a skilled opponent. He finally was able to defeat his opponent and escaped by hugging the water over the North Sea after being bounced by several other Allied fighters. He did not take any pleasure in this kill and found it difficult to accept the realities of aerial combat. In a letter to his mother, dated August 24th , he said: “Today I shot down my first opponent. It does not sit well with me. I keep thinking how the mother of this young man must feel when she gets the news of her son's death. And I am to blame for this death. I am sad, instead of being happy about the first victory.”

After being transferred to another unit, Marseille made the trip to Africa on April 20th , 1941.

He scored two more kills on April 23rd and 28th , his first in the North African Campaign. However, on April 23rd , Marseille himself was shot down during his third sortie of that day by Sous-Lieutenant James Denis, a Free French pilot with No. 73 Squadron RAF (8.5 kills), flying a Hawker Hurricane. Marseille's Bf 109 received almost 30 hits in the cockpit area, and three or four shattered the canopy. As Marseille was leaning forward the rounds missed him by inches. He managed to crash-land his fighter. Ironically, just a month later, records show that James Denis shot down Marseille again on May 21st , 1941.


Hans-Joachim Marseille standing next to a downed Hurricane

Marseille's kill rate was still very low at that point and he went from June to August without a single victory. Marseille persisted however, and created a unique self-training programme for himself, both physical and tactical, which resulted not just in outstanding situational awareness, marksmanship and confident control of the aircraft, but also in a unique attack tactic that preferred a high angle deflection shooting attack and shooting at the target's front from the side, instead of the common method of chasing an aircraft and shooting at it directly from behind.

Finally on September 24th , 1941, his practice came to fruition, with his first multiple victory sortie, claiming four Hurricanes. By mid December, he had reached 25 confirmed victories.

His attack method to break up formations, which he perfected, resulted in a high lethality ratio, and in rapid, multiple victories per attack. On June 3rd , 1942, Marseille attacked alone a formation of sixteen Curtiss P-40 fighters and shot down six aircraft of No. 5 Squadron SAAF, five of them in six minutes, including three aces: Robin Pare (6 victories), Douglas Golding (6.5 victories) and Andre Botha (5 victories).

His most successful day in history came on September 1st , 1942, when he destroyed 17 enemy aircraft in one day, divided over three sorties. Eight of those aircraft were shot down in a periode of just 10 minutes!

This was the most aircraft from Western Allied air forces shot down by a single pilot in one day.Only Emil Lang would do better with 18 against the Soviet Air Force on November 4th , 1943.

He made ace in a day on 7 different occasions:

  • 6 on June 3rd , 1942
  • 6 on June 17 th , 1942
  • 17 on September 1st , 1942
  • 5 on September 2nd , 1942
  • 6 on September 3rd , 1942
  • 7 on September 15th , 1942
  • 7 on September 26th , 1942

Marseille died on September 30th , 1942, as the result of mechanical failure. His 158 kills rank him 30th amongst all aces in WWII.

Other triple aces in day were August Lambert (77th highest scoring ace with 116 victories) and Huburt Strassl (133rd highest scoring ace with 67 victories).

August Lambert 7 Soviet aircraft on April 10th , 1944
12 Soviet aircraft on April 17th , 1944
9 Soviet aircraft on May 4th , 1944
14 Soviet aircraft on May 6th , 1944
17 Soviet aircraft in late May 1944
Hubert Strassl 15 Soviet aircraft on July 5th , 1943
10 Soviet aircraft on July 6th , 1943

Japanese Naval pilot Hirojoshi Nishizawais said to have show down 15 enemy aircraft on August 4th , 1943, although no official records exist of him doing so. He was the top Japanese ace with 87 victories.

 

WWII double aces in a day

To be considered a double ace in a day one has to destroy over 10 enemy aircraft in a single day.

Notable German double ace is Erich Rudorffer who scored a total of 14 victories over the Russian theater, 13 of which were scored within a single mission on November 6th , 1943.

Germany counted a total of 20 double aces in a day. Austria had one, Franz Schall, who flew with the Luftwaffe. He also scored 14 of his 137 victories whilst flying the Me-262 jet.

 

Ace in a day

There are numerous aces in a day (score 5 victories in a single day). In the table below you can find some ace in a day stats of WWII:

Germany 263 pilots who scored between 5 and 10 kills in a single day.
33 german pilots became “ace in a night”, scoring between 5 and 10 kills in one single night mission.
France On june 15th , 1940, Pierre Le Gloan became the first ace in a day of WWII when he destroyed 5 Italian aircraft in one mission.
Finland Hans Wind scored 5 kills in a day 5 separate times during the Soviet Summer Offensive 1944. He gathered a total of 30 kills in just 12 days, totaling 75 by the end of the War.
Australia Clive Caldwell destroyed 5 German aircraft in the space of a few minutes over North Africa in World War II, on December 5th , 1941.
US 69 pilots (44 USAAF, 18 US Navy, 7 USMC and 1 whilst flying with the AVG) were credited as ace in a day.

Notable US aces in a day:

  • David McCampbell
    David McCampbell, a US Navy pilot with VF-15, scored the most US victories in a single day, namely 9, and became an ace in a day not once, but twice.
    He was the all time US Navy leading ace with a total of 34 aerial victories which also ranked him 3rd amongst all US flying aces of WWII. He was also the highest scoring US ace to survive the war (he passed away in 1996).

    On June 19th , 1944, during the Marianas Turkey Shoot, McCampbell shot down 5 Japanese D4Y “Judy” dive-bombers in a single mission, thus making ace in a day. In a second mission, later that very same day, he downed an additional two A6M “Zekes”, augmenting his total to 7 in one day.
    On October 24th , 1944, he became the only American pilot to achieve “ace in a day” twice, whilst also setting a US combat record of 9 enemy aircraft shot down in a single mission. He and his wingman engaged with 60 Japanese aircraft that day, his wingman also getting 6.

    Both men returned to the USS Essex after running low on fuel, only to be taken under fire by the friendly fleet when they were mistaken as Japanese aggressors. Several USN Hellcats also dived on them, realizing their mistake at the very last minute. Upon making final approach to the USS Essex, they had to abort because the flight deck was full of launching aircraft. They were diverted to the USS Langley and just after McCampbell made contact with the flight deck, his engine quit, there was no more fuel left…
    After examining the gun bays it was also discovered that he only had 2 rounds left for his six machine guns.

    Apart from the USN highest award, the Navy Cross, David McCampbell was also awarded the US highest military award, the Medal of Honor.



  • William L. Leverette was a double ace who scored 7 victories (all Stuka dive bombers) in a single mission with the USAAF in the MTO (Mediterranean Theater of Operations) on October 9th , 1943. His total tally stood at 11 at the end of WWII, ranking him a shared 11th place on the US armed forces aces list.

  • William A. Shomo of the USAAF also scored 7 victories in one mission, but what makes him special is the fact that he actually was a photo reconnaissance pilot. He scored all 7 victories whilst flying F-6D-10 Mustang 44-14841 “Snooks 5th” on January 11th , 1945. He received the Medal of Honor for his achievements in that mission. His end total stood at 8 victories in WWII.


  • The top ace in a day in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) was 352nd FG ace and the top P-51 Mustang ace George E. Preddy. Preddy downed 6 German fighters in one single mission on August 6th , 1944.

  • The last US ace in a day was Mexican American Oscar F. Perdomo, who scored 5 victories on August 13th , 1945.

  • Since WWII there has only been 1 more ace in a day, namely Muhammad Mahmood Alam of the Pakinstan Air Force, who shot down 5 Indian Air Force Hawker Hunter Mk.56 fighters in less than one minute during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965.

  • Strafing ace in a day: Lt. Col. William C. Clark of the 339th FG destroyed 5 enemy aircraft on the ground in one single mission on April 16th , 1945.
    Lt. Col. Elwyn G. Righetti would do better on April 19th, 1945, when he destroyed 9 aircraft in one single strafing mission. Sadly, he would not return back to base that day.


  • Benjamin Warmer of the 9th Bomb Group also scored 7 victories in one mission on July 5th , 1943. What makes it so special is that he was actually a gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day.

 

Aces bits ‘n pieces:

  • Click here to view a table of the total number of Aces per country WWII (aerial victories only)
  • Ace of aces: Erich “Bubba” Hartman, Germany – 352

  • Female aces:
    Lydya Vladimirovna Litvjaková
    Yekatarina Vasiljevna Budanová
    Klavdija Jakovlevna Fomicevová
    16
    11
    11
    Soviet Air Force
    Soviet Air Force
    Soviet Air Force
    12 +4 shared
    6 +5 shared
    0 +11 shared
  • Top US ace: Richard I. Bong – 40

  • Most kills in one day: Emil Lang – 18

  • Top Strafing ace: Elwyn Guido Righetti, 55th FG – 27 (some sources claim Thomas A. Reynolds as top strafing ace with 38.5, but no substantial documentation can be found to substantiate this)

  • Top night fighter ace: Martin Becker, Germany – 9

  • Top US night fighter ace: Archibald Harrington, 410th Sqn, RCAF – 7

  • Top US gunner ace: Michael L. “Mike” Arooth, tail gunner on B-17, 527th BS, 379th BG – 17

  • Top US photo reconnaissance ace: Edward O. McComas, 118th RCN – 14

  • Top WWII jet ace: Kurt Welter , Me-262- 29

  • Click here to see a list of the top aces per Fighter Group

On the left of this page is a list where you can read in-depth biographies about certain P-51 Mustang pilots.

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