Pilots of the warring nations in WWII who are acknowledged as aces, i.e., they have shot down opponent aircraft in a number which accords them the title.
- Wing Commander Peter Brothers, RAF, 15 victories
- Wing Commander Douglas Ian Benham, RAF, 11+ victories
- Wing Commander Roland Beam, RAF, 10 victories
- Squadron Leader Andrew McKenzie, RAF, 8+ victories
- Wing Commander Geoffrey Page, RAF, 5 victories
- Lt. Col. Francis “Gabby” Gabreski, USAAF, 28 victories
- Capt. Joe Foss, USMC, 26 victories
- Major Walker “Bud” Mahurin, USAAF, 24+ victories
- Capt. Donald Gentile, USAAF, 21+ victories
- Capt. Ken Walsh, US Marine Corps, 21 victories
- Major Walter Beckam, USAAF, 18 victories
- Lt. Col. John Mitchell, USAAF, 16 victories
- Major James Goodson,USAAF, 15 victories
- Capt. Jack Ilfrey, USAAF, 8 victories
- Capt. Butch Varis, US Navy, 7+ victories
- Capt. Clayton Gross, USAAF, 6 victories
While serving with No. 341 Squadron RAF (right)
Pierre Henri Clostermann ((28 February 1921 – 22 March 2006) was a French flying ace, author, engineer, politician, and sporting fisherman. Over his flying career he was awarded the Grand-Croix of the French Légion d’Honneur, French Croix de Guerre, DSO, DFC and bar (United Kingdom), Distinguished Service Cross (USA), Silver Star (USA), and the Air Medal (USA).
Clostermann was born in Curitiba, Brazil, into a French diplomatic family. He was the only son of Madeleine Carlier from Lorraine and Jacques Clostermann from Alsace. After receiving flying tuition from German pilot Karl Benitz (died in 1943, Russia), he completed his secondary education in France and gained his private pilot’s licence in 1937.
On the outbreak of war, the French authorities refused his application for service, so he travelled to Los Angeles to become a commercial pilot, studying at the California Institute of Technology. Clostermann joined the Free French Air Force in Britain in March 1942.
After training at RAF Cranwell and 61 OTU, Clostermann, a sergeant pilot, was posted in January 1943 to No. 341 Squadron RAF (known to the Free French as Groupe de Chasse n° 3/2 “Alsace”), flying the Supermarine Spitfire.
He scored his first two victories on 27 July 1943, destroying two Focke-Wulf Fw 190s over France. With 33 recorded victories to his name, he received at only 24 years of age, a Commendation by General Charles de Gaulle, who called him
“France’s First Fighter”.
While serving in Lincolnshire, Pierre met and married Lydia Jeanne Starbuck at St Denys Church in Sleaford.
In October 1943, Clostermann was commissioned and assigned to No. 602 Squadron RAF, remaining with the unit for the next ten months. He flew a variety of missions including fighter sweeps, bomber escorts, high-altitude interdiction over the Royal Navy’s Scapa Flow base, and strafing or dive-bombing attacks on V-1 launch sites on the French coast. Clostermann served through D-Day and was one of the first Free French pilots to land on French soil, at temporary airstrip B-11, near Longues-sur-Mer, Normandy on 18 June 1944, touching French soil for the first time in more than four years. Clostermann was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross shortly afterwards, after which he was reassigned to French Air Force Headquarters.
In December 1944, Clostermann returned to the front line on secondment to the RAF as a supernumerary flight lieutenant. Clostermann joined No. 274 Squadron RAF flying the new Hawker Tempest Mk V. In an aircraft which he dubbed Le Grand Charles, Clostermann flew an intensive and highly successful round of fighter sweeps, airfield attacks, “rat scramble” interceptions of Messerschmitt 262 jet fighters, and rail interdiction missions over northern Germany over the next two months.
In March 1945, Clostermann briefly served with No. 56 Squadron before a transfer to No. 3 Squadron. On 24 March 1945, he was wounded in the leg by German flak and after belly-landing his badly damaged aircraft, he was hospitalized for a week. From 8 April he was commander of “A” Flight, No. 3 Squadron RAF. Clostermann was awarded a bar to his DFC for his successful tour of duty. He had to bail out for the first time on 12 May 1945, when during a victory fly-past, another Tempest collided with his aircraft, and because of this horrific collision the four planes of his flight went down, with three pilots dying. Clostermann’s parachute opened just a few yards above the ground. Clostermann continued operations with No. 122 Wing RAF until he left the military altogether on 27 July 1945 with the rank of wing commander.
In his 432 sorties, Clostermann was credited officially with 33 victories (19 solo, 14 shared, most of them against fighters) and five “probables”, with eight more “damaged”. He also claimed 225 motor vehicles destroyed, 72 locomotives, five tanks, and two E-boats (fast torpedo boats). Many references credit him with 29 to 33 victories, although these probably include his “ground” kills of enemy aircraft. Recent, more detailed analysis of his combat reports and squadron accounts indicate that his true score was 11 destroyed, with possibly another seven, for a total of 15–18 victories.
Clostermann wrote a very successful book, The Big Show (Le Grand Cirque), on his experiences in the war. One of the very first post-war fighter pilot memoirs, its various editions have sold over two and a half million copies. William Faulkner commented that this is the finest aviation book to come out of World War II. The book was reprinted, in expanded form, in both paperback and hardcover editions in 2004. He also wrote Flames in the Sky (Feu du Ciel) (1957), a collection of heroic air combat exploits from both Allied and Axis sides.
After the war, Clostermann continued his career as an engineer, participating in the creation of Reims Aviation, supporting the Max Holste Broussard prototype, acting as a representative for Cessna, and working for Renault. In parallel, Clostermann had a successful political career, serving eight terms as a député (Member of Parliament) in the French National Assembly between 1946 and 1969.
He also briefly re-enlisted in the Armée de l’Air in 1956–57 to fly ground attack missions during the Algerian War. He subsequently wrote a novel based on his experiences there, entitled “Leo 25 Airborne”.
During the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and the UK, Clostermann praised Argentine pilots for their courage. Because of this perceived “betrayal” of the RAF, Clostermann attracted hostility from parts of the English press. He also attracted controversy in France for his vehement anti-war stance in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War.
Tributes and honours: on 6 June 2004, a road in Longues-sur-Mer, near temporary airstrip B-11, was named after Clostermann.
Grand Croix de la Légion d’Honneur; Compagnon de l’Ordre de la Libération – 21 January 1946; Médaille Militaire; Croix de Guerre 1939-45, with 19 citations including 17 to the level of the army (palms) and 2 stars; Croix de la Valeur Militaire with 2 citations; Médaille de la Résistance with rosette; Médaille de l’Aéronautique; Médaille Commémorative des Opérations de Sécurité et de Maintien de l’Ordre; Insigne des blessés militaires; Médaille commémorative des services volontaires dans la France libre; Médaille commémorative de la guerre 1939–1945;
Foreign orders and decorations
Grand Officer of the Nichan Iftikhar (Tunisia); Commander of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite (Morocco); Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (Vatican); Croix de guerre (Belgium); Distinguished Service Order or DSO (United Kingdom); Distinguished Flying Cross or DFC (United Kingdom) with bar (United Kingdom) – Well known as DFC and bar; Distinguished Service Cross (USA); Silver Star (USA); Air Medal (USA); Santos-Dumont Merit Medal (Brazil)
Commandant René Mouchotte DFC (21 August 1914 – 27 August 1943) was a World War II pilot of the French Air Force, who escaped from Vichy French–controlled Oran to join the Free French forces. Serving with RAF Fighter Command, he rose to command a fighter wing before being shot down and killed on 27 August 1943.
Born into a wealthy family on 21 August 1914 in Paris, Mouchotte began his military service in October 1935 with the French Air Force at Istres, where he was promoted to corporal (April 1936), master corporal (March 1937) and sergeant (April 1937); he qualified as a pilot in February 1937. In January 1939, he transferred to the reserve and resumed civilian life. Recalled in September 1939, he was posted to training establishments at Salon-de-Provence and Avord as a flying instructor. Despite several requests to join a fighter squadron, he was transferred to Oran in May 1940 for a conversion course to twin-engined aircraft. After the Armistice, the pilots on the base were ordered not to escape to join the Free French and the aircraft were placed under armed guard. Despite this, Mouchotte and five comrades (including Henry Lafont) escaped in a twin-engined Caudron Goéland aircraft, only to find that the controls for the variable-pitch propellers had been disabled, making the take-off hazardous. However they did manage to land in Gibraltar and later transferred to the Free French armed trawler, Président Houduce and sailed to England.
After arriving in Britain Mouchotte trained at RAF Old Sarum and RAF Sutton Bridge on Hawker Hurricanes, before being posted to No. 615 Squadron RAF at RAF Northolt in northwest London. He carried out his first operational sortie on 11 October 1940. The squadron moved to RAF Kenley in December 1940 and in August 1941 Mouchotte participated in the shooting-down of a Junkers 88. In November 1941 he transferred to RAF Turnhouse, where the Free French No. 340 Squadron RAF was training on Spitfires; he became a flight commander in February 1942 and subsequently squadron commander of No. 65 Squadron RAF, the first RAF squadron to be commanded by a non-Commonwealth officer. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 1 September 1942.
Finally he took command of No. 341 Squadron RAF (Groupe de Chasse n° 3/2 “Alsace”) with the Biggin Hill Wing. On 15 May 1943, S/L ‘Jack’ Charles (611 squadron) and Mouchotte both destroyed a Fw 190 of I./JG 2, as the Biggin Hill Wing’s 999th and 1,000th kill claim.
He was shot down and killed in combat with Fw 190s of JG 2 during Ramrod S.8, escorting Flying Fortresses on the first daylight raid to Blockhaus d’Éperlecques in the Pas de Calais on 27 August 1943. His body was later washed ashore on 3 September and was buried in Middelkerke, Belgium. After the War in 1949, his body was exhumed, repatriated and buried in the family tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris on 3 November after a memorial service with full military honours conducted at Les Invalides in Paris.
He had accumulated some 1,748 flying hours, including 408 operational hours flying 382 war sorties. He had claimed two aircraft destroyed (with a further one “shared”), one “probable” and one damaged.
- Major Erich Hartmann, 352 victories
- Major Gunther Rall, 275 victories
- Col. Johannes “Mackie” Steinhoff 176 victories
- Lt. Col. Dietrich Hrabak, 125 victories
- Major Walter Krupinski, 107 victories
- General Major Adolf Galland, 104 victories
- Major Wolfgang Spate, 99 victories
- Lt. Col. Hans-Joachim Jabs, 50 victories
- Major Fritz Losigkeit
- Born 7 December 1920, Gmünd, Austria
- Died 8 November 1944 (aged 23), Hesepe, Nazi Germany
- Buried: Zentralfriedhof Vienna
- Allegiance: Nazi Germany
- Service/branch: Luftwaffe
- Years of service: 1939–44
- Rank Major
- Service number NSDAP 6,382,781
- Unit JG 54, JG 101 and Kommando Nowotny
Commands held: /JG 54, JG 101, Kommando Nowotny
- World War II
- Operation Barbarossa
- Eastern Front
- Defense of the Reich
Awards: Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
Walter Nowotny (7 December 1920 – 8 November 1944) was an Austrian-born fighter ace of the Luftwaffe in World War II. He is credited with 258 aerial victories—that is, 258 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft—in 442 combat missions. Nowotny achieved 255 of these victories on the Eastern Front and three while flying one of the first jet fighters, the Messerschmitt Me 262, in the Defense of the Reich. He scored most of his victories in the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, and approximately 50 in the Messerschmitt Bf 109.
Nowotny joined the Luftwaffe in 1939 and completed his fighter pilot training in 1941, after which he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 54 “Grünherz” (JG 54) on the Eastern Front. Nowotny was the first pilot to achieve 250 victories – 194 in 1943 alone – earning him the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds) on 19 October 1943. For propaganda reasons, he was ordered to cease operational flying.
Reinstated to front-line service in September 1944, Nowotny tested and developed tactics for the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. He was credited with three victories in this aircraft type before being killed in a crash following combat with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighters on 8 November 1944. After his death, the first operational jet fighter wing, Jagdgeschwader 7“Nowotny”, was named in his honour.
Nowotny’s military basic training began at the 2. Flieger-Ausbildungsregiment 62 in Quedlinburg (1 October 1939 – 15 November 1939) and continued at the Luftkriegschule 5 in Breslau-Schöngarten (16 November 1939 – 30 June 1940). He was promoted to Fahnenjunker–Gefreiten on 1 March 1940 and shortly afterwards, on 1 April 1940, to Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier. On 1 July 1940, Notwotny was promoted again, to the rank of Fähnrich. He completed his pilot training and received the Pilot Badge on 19 August 1940. Nowotny also trained as a fighter pilot at the Jagdfliegerschule 5 in Wien-Schwechat (1 August 1940 – 15 November 1940), the same school that Hans-Joachim Marseille had attended one year earlier. One of his teachers at the Jagdfliegerschule 5 was the Austro-Hungarian World War I ace Julius Arigi. Here Nowotny befriended Karl Schnörrer and Paul Galland, the younger brother of General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland. After graduation from the Jagdfliegerschule 5, Nowotny was transferred to the I./Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe Merseburg on 16 November 1940, flying fighter cover for the Leuna industrial works.
With Jagdgeschwader 54
Nowotny was posted to the Ergänzungsstaffel (Training/Supplement Squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54) on 1 December 1940. JG 54 at the time was under the command of Major Hannes Trautloft. Nowotny was transferred again, this time to the 9th Staffel of JG 54 (9./JG 54), the so-called Teufelsstaffel (Devils’ Squadron) where he was further trained by veterans from the front line (23 February 1941 – 25 March 1941). From 25 March 1941 to 10 March 1942, Notwotny flew with the Stabsstaffel of the Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe JG 54 where he was promoted to Leutnant on 1 April 1941, effective as of 1 February 1941.
Nowotny flew a Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-7 “White 2” on his 24th operational mission on 19 July 1941 and claimed his first two enemy aircraft, both Polikarpov I-153 biplanes of Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily (VVS—Military Air Forces) KBF’s 12 OIAE/61 BAB, over Saaremaa. He was shot down in the same engagement by Aleksandr Avdeyev, also in a Polikarpov I-153. According to Soviet archives, no Soviet aircraft was lost in the engagement. Nowotny spent three days in a dinghy in the Gulf of Riga – on one occasion almost being run down by a Soviet destroyer – until finally being washed ashore on the Latvian coast.
Nowotny quickly recovered from his ordeal and on 31 July claimed a Beriev MBR-2 flying boat north-west of Saaremaa and an Ilyushin DB-3 bomber south of the island. For the rest of his combat career, Nowotny always wore the trousers (German: Abschußhose roughly “shoot down pants” sometimes also referred to as “victory pants”) that he had worn during those three days in the Gulf of Riga – with one exception, his last sortie, at Achmer on 8 November 1944, when he was killed flying the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.
In 1942, Nowotny increased his tally of victories and claimed his 30th and 31st kills on 11 July over the Wolchow bridgehead, which earned him the Luftwaffe Honor Goblet on 14 July 1942. Nowotny shot down a further five aircraft on a single day (32nd – 36th victories) on 20 July and seven (48th – 54th victories) on 2 August. After having downed three enemy aircraft on 11 August, Leutnant Nowotny carried out three victory passes over the airfield, despite having sustained combat damage to his own Bf 109 “Black 1”. In the subsequent landing, his aircraft somersaulted and he sustained moderate injuries. Walter Nowotny was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 4 September, after 56 aerial victories. The Knight’s Cross earned him a home leave to Vienna. Here, the brothers Hubert and Walter met for the last time before Hubert was killed at Stalingrad. LeutnantNowotny was made Staffelkapitän of 1./JG 54 on 25 October, replacing Oberleutnant Heinz Lange.
In January 1943, JG 54 started converting to the agile Focke-Wulf 190 fighter. With the new aircraft, Nowotny scored at an unprecedented “kill” rate, often averaging more than two planes a day for weeks on end. As of 1 February 1943, Nowotny, Karl Schnörrer, – Nowotny’s wingman since late 1942 – Anton Döbele and Rudolf Rademacher, formed a team known as the “chain of devils” (Teufelskette) or the Nowotny Schwarm, which during the course of the war was credited with 524 combined kills, making them the most successful team in the Luftwaffe.
Nowotny scored his 69th to 72nd victory on 16 March. He reached the century mark on 5 June 1943, on his 344th combat mission. He was the 42nd Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. By 24 June, he would accumulate a further 24 victories increasing his total to 124. On 21 August, Nowotny was made Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 54. In August alone, he shot down 49 aircraft – a number matched exactly by Jagdgeschwader 52‘s (JG 52) Erich Hartmann – bringing Nowotny’s total to 161 victories. On 1 September, he scored ten victories in two sorties, which took his tally to 183. Seventy-two hours later, that number had risen to 189, earning him the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 8 September. The award was to be personally presented by the Führer, Adolf Hitler, on 22 September 1943. However, by this date Nowotny had claimed his double century (200) on 8 September, and, on 15 September, his 215th victory, making him the highest-scoring pilot in the Luftwaffe to that time. Two Lavochkin La-5s and a Yakovlev Yak-9 on 17 September brought his score to 218 victories, earning him Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords on 22 September 1943. The planned “Oakleaves” (Eichenlaub) presentation thus became a Swords (Schwerter) ceremony.
Nowotny was promoted to Hauptmann on 21 September 1943, effective as of 1 October, following his 225th victory. On 14 October 1943, he became the first pilot to reach 250 victories, following his 442 combat missions. Nowotny was celebrating this feat in the Ria Bar in Vilna when he received a phone call from Hitler himself, announcing that he had been awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, making him the eighth of 27 men to be so honored.
The Brillanten (Diamonds) were presented by Hitler at the Wolfsschanze, near Kętrzyn (German: Rastenburg) on 19 October 1943. Nowotny immediately went on a short vacation to Vienna before returning to his front-line unit. On 29 October 1943, Nowotny presented the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross to Oberfeldwebel Otto Kittel. In the days following, Nowotny flew as wingman to Karl Schnörrer, helping him accumulate further victories. On 11 November, Anton Döbele was killed when he rammed an Il-2 Sturmovik. The next day, 12 November 1943, Schnörrer was severely injured after bailing out at low altitude. Schnörrer was replaced as Nowotny’s wingman by Unteroffizier Ernst Richter. With Richter, Nowotny claimed his final two aerial victories on the Eastern Front on 15 November 1943. In total, Nowotny had claimed 255 confirmed kills plus a further 50 unconfirmed, before he was taken off combat duty.
Nowotny was sent on a propaganda tour in Germany, which included the presentation of the Knight’s Cross of the War Merit Cross to the railroad engineer August Kindervater on 7 December 1943 – Nowotny’s 23rd birthday. Shortly before Christmas, he visited the Focke-Wulf production site at Bad Eilsen, where he was met by Professor Kurt Tank. The mayor of Vienna, Dipl.-Ing. Hanns Blaschke awarded Nowotny the city’s ring of honor on 11 January 1944, the presentation taking place a week later. It was a token that Nowotny accepted reluctantly, feeling that he did not deserve it. His next official visit was the Büromaschinenfabrik (office machinery factory) at Zella-Mehlis, before he briefly returned to Jagdgeschwader 54. Nowotny was made Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 101 (JG 101) and commander of the Jagdfliegerschule 1, a Luftwaffe fighter pilot training school at Pau in southern France, in April 1944.
Kommando Nowotny and death
In September 1944, Nowotny was made commander of a specialist unit dubbed Kommando Nowotny, flying the newly developed Messerschmitt Me 262 out of airfields near Osnabrück. The unit not only had to contend with the enemy, but also with working through the ‘teething’ phase of the Me 262 and developing the tactics appropriate for a jet unit. On 7 October, Nowotny downed a B-24 Liberator bomber, his first aerial victory on the Western Front.
Generals Alfred Keller and Adolf Galland had scheduled an inspection at Achmer for the afternoon of 7 November 1944. Galland had already visited Kommando Nowotny several times and was deeply concerned over the high attrition rate and meager success achieved by the Me 262. After inspecting the two airfields at Achmer and Hesepe, he stayed in the Penterknapp barracks discussing the problems of the past few weeks. Several pilots openly expressed their doubts as to the readiness of the Me 262 for combat operations.
The next morning, 8 November 1944, the Generals arrived again at Nowotny’s command post and Keller declared that the aces of the past years had become cowards and that the Luftwaffe had lost its fighting spirit. Shortly after, news reached the command post of a large bomber formation approaching.
Two Rotten of Me 262 were prepared for take-off, Erich Büttner and Franz Schall at Hesepe, and Nowotny and Günther Wegmann at Achmer. At first only Schall and Wegmann managed to take off because Büttner had a punctured tire during taxiing and Nowotny’s turbines initially refused to start. With some delay, Nowotny took off and engaged the enemy on his own, Schall and Wegmann having since retired from the action after sustaining battle damage. Nowotny radioed that he had downed a B-24 Liberator and a P-51 Mustang before he reported one engine failing and made one final garbled transmission containing the word “burning”. Helmut Lennartz recalled:
“I remember Nowotny’s crash very well. Feldwebel Gossler, a radio operator with our unit, had set up a radio on the airfield. Over this set I and many others listened to the radio communications with Nowotny’s aircraft. His last words were, “I’m on fire” or “it’s on fire”. The words were slightly garbled.
It remains unclear whether Nowotny was killed due to engine failure or whether he was shot down by United States Army Air Forces(USAAF) Captain Ernest Fiebelkorn (20th Fighter Group) and 1st Lieutenant Edward “Buddy” Haydon (357th Fighter Group) east of Hesepe. In recent years, United States military historians proposed that Nowotny’s victor may have been P-51D pilot Lieutenant Richard W. Stevens of the 364th Fighter Group. Many witnesses observed Nowotny’s Me 262 A-1a Werk Nummer 110 400 (factory number) “White 8” dive vertically out of the clouds and crash at Epe, 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) east of Hesepe. The Wehrmacht announced his death on 9 November 1944 in the daily Wehrmachtbericht.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.org for some photographa