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, more often than not, most pilots who paid the ultimate price and gave 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 the 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 or follow us on facebook
The term "ace" was first used during WWI, when the French press described Adolphe Pégoud as "L'as" (french word for Ace).
At the start of World War I, Pégoud volunteered for flying duty and was immediately accepted as an observation pilot. On February 5th, 1915, he and his gunner were credited with shooting down two German aircraft and forcing another to land. Soon he was flying single-seat aircraft and in April claimed two further victories. His sixth success came in July.
It is not known how many of Pégoud's victories involved destruction of enemy aircraft, as early air combat was rare enough to warrant credit for a forced landing. However, it is certain that Pégoud, rather than Roland Garros (four documented victories, and later), was the first pilot to achieve ace status of any sort.
Pégoud was shot down and killed by one of his pre-war German students, on August 31st, 1915.
Adolphe Pégoud, the first pilot to be called "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:
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
An ace is a pilot who downed 5 aircraft in aerial combat. A double ace is a pilot who downed 10 enemy aircraft, a triple ace 15 and so on...
The term "ace in a day" is used for pilots who shot down 5 or more enemy aircraft during a single day. Certain pilots would even score 10 kills in a day, earning "double ace in a day" and some even 15 kills in one day. They would earn the title of "Triple ace in a 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.
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 was 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.
The Second World War produced a high number of double and even triple aces in a day.
Triple acedom (15 kills) 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.
Gruppenkommandeur (Group Commander) Emil Lang was born on January 14th, 1909. Lang joined the Luftwaffe as a member of the military reserve force on January 4th, 1938, with 8. Staffel (8th squadron) of Kampfgeschwader 51. Following the outbreak of war, he served as a transport pilot, flying missions to Norway, France, Crete and North Africa.
After completing fighter pilot training, he served with with 1./JG 54 (1st Squadron of the 54th Fighter Wing). At the age of 34 he was exceptionally old for a novice fighter pilot. His first three aerial victories were claimed in March of 1943. Before the year's end, his kill tally already stood at an amazing 100 victories, with a remarkable 72 scored around Kiev in just three weeks during October and November of 1943. He was the 58th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. This series of multiple victories included ten on 13 October 1943 and 12 (victories 61–72) in three combat missions on 21 October 1943. During the Battle of Kiev, Lang set an all-time world record of 18 aerial victories claimed from four combat missions in one day on November 3rd, 1943, making him aviation history's leading ace-in-a-day.
In June of 1944, Lang claimed 15 aerial victories, including his 150th, a USAAF P-47 on June 14th, and 4 P-51 Mustangs shot down in just 4 minutes on June 20th, 1944. On June 24th he downed an additional 4 P-51s.
On July 9th, he claimed three RAF Spitfires (although on RAF record no Spitfires were shot down that day, this stated that Luftwaffe claims were sometimes believed exaggerated, although this did not diminish the fact that he was a great pilot and leader). On August 15th, he claimed two more P-47s, and 10 days later 3 P-38s in just five minutes (the hard-hit 428th Fighter Squadron, 474th Fighter Group lost 8 P-38s, its worst combat performance).
He claimed 3 Spitfires in 2 missions for his final victories (171–173) on August 26th. Of these, 144 were on the Eastern Front and 29 on the Western Front in 403 combat missions.
Emil Lang was killed in action over Belgium on September 3rd, 1944 when his Fw 190 A-8 (Werknummer 171 240—factory number) "Green 1" hit the ground and exploded in a field at Overhespen. He had experienced mechanical trouble on the runway when he and the other aircraft of his flight took off at Melsbroek at 1.20 pm. Ten minutes later, Lang was still having difficulties raising his landing gear. Flying at an altitude of 200 metres (660 ft), his wingman, Unteroffizier Hans-Joachim Borreck, called out P-47s to their rear. Lang broke upward and to the left. Groß saw Lang's Fw 190 diving in flames, its gear extended, but lost sight of him when his own craft was hit and he had to bail out.
A study of both German and American records suggests that they misidentified their opponents as P-51s of the 338th FS, 55th FG intercepted a flight of three to six Focke-Wulfs. Lt Darrell Cramer took a high deflection shot at the Focke-Wulf on the left, which fell upside down in a steep dive and crashed hard into the ground... this undoubtedly was Emil Lang. Lang 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 mostly 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!
On August 10th , 1940, he was assigned to I. Jagd/Lehr-geschwader 2 , to begin operations over Britain. In his first dog-fight 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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
There are numerous aces in a day (score 5 victories in a single day). Some quick "ace in a day" stats of WWII:
A few top US aces in a day of WWII that stood out:
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
Apart from the USN highest award, the Navy Cross, David McCampbell was also awarded the US high-
est 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.
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. He flew with the 507th Fighter Group, 464th Fighter Squadron of the 20th Air Force in the Pacific Theater.
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.
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.
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.
Lydya Vladimirovna Litvjaková
Soviet Air Force
12 + 4 shared
Yekatarina Vasiljevna Budanová
Soviet Air Force
6 + 5 shared
Klavdija Jakovlevna Fomicevová
Soviet Air Force
0 + 11 shared
Click here to see a list of the top aces per Fighter Group
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.
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.
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.
Clive Caldwell destroyed 5 German aircraft in the space of a few minutes over North Africa in World War II, on December 5th , 1941.
69 pilots (44 USAAF, 18 US Navy, 7 USMC and 1 whilst flying with the AVG) were credited as ace in a day.