Confirmation and overclaiming of aerial victories during World War II
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In aerial warfare, the term overclaiming describes a combatant (or group) that claims the destruction of more enemy aircraft than actually achieved. The net effect is that the actual losses and claimed victories are unequal.
Overclaiming by individuals can occur when more than one person attacks the same target and each claims its destruction, when an aircraft appears to be no longer in a flying condition but manages to land safely, or when an individual simply wishes to claim unjustified credit for downing an opponent. In some instances of combat over friendly territory a damaged aircraft may have been claimed as an aerial victory by its opponent while the aircraft was later salvaged and restored to an operational status. In this situation the loss may not appear in the records while the claim remains confirmed.
Overclaiming can also occur for political or propaganda reasons. It was common for both sides to inflate figures for "kills" or deflate figures for losses in broadcasts and news reports. Overclaiming during World War II has been the centre of much scrutiny, partly because of the significant amount of air combat relative to other conflicts.
German methodology for confirming aerial victoriesEdit
The Luftwaffe's aerial victory confirmation procedure was based on directive 55270/41 named "Confirmation of aerial victories, destructions and sinking of ships" (German: Anerkennung von Abschüssen, Zerstörungen und Schiffsvernichtung) and was issued by the Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe. This directive was first issued in 1939 and was updated several times during World War II. In theory, this approval process for the confirmation of aerial victories was very stringent and required a witness. The final destruction or explosion of an enemy aircraft in the air, or bail-out of the pilot, had to be observed either on gun-camera film or by at least one other human witness. The witness could be the German pilot's wingman, another in the squadron, or an observer on the ground.
During the 1990s, the German archives made available to the publc, microfilm rolls of wartime records not seen since January 1945. They show that although the Luftwaffe generally did not accept a "kill" without a witness (in which instance it was considered only a probable and didn't count in the victory scoring process), some pilots habitually submitted unwitnessed claims and these sometimes made it through the verification process, particularly if they were made by pilots with established records. Unlike all of the other air forces that fought during World War Ii, the Luftwaffe did not accept shared claims, but sometimes it happened. Each claim should have referred to a particular aircraft, but some victories were awarded to other pilots who had claimed the destruction of the same aircraft. From mid-year 1943 through 1944, the OKW communiques often overstated Allied bomber losses by a factor of up to two; these claims existed only in the communiques and weren't used in victory scoring. Defenders of the German fighter pilots maintain that overclaims were eliminated during the confirmation process, but the microfilms show that this wasn't always the case. Stringent reviews and comparisons of Allied archives and German archives show that 90 percent of the claims submitted were confirmed, or found to be "in order" for confirmation, up to the time the system broke down altogether in 1945.
Examples of overclaimingEdit
|10 July 1940||Luftwaffe||III./ZG 26 claimed 12 Hawker Hurricanes. The RAF recorded one lost Hurricane in a collision with a Dornier Do 17|
|13 July 1940||Royal Air Force||No. 56 Squadron RAF claimed seven Ju 87s from Sturzkampfgeschwader 1 destroyed over Portland.|
StG 1 recorded the loss of only two Ju 87s shot down.
|12 August 1940||Luftwaffe||The Germans claimed 22 British aircraft destroyed, actual British losses were 3. In one engagement Bf 109s from JG 2 claimed six RAF fighters, while bombers from KG 54 claimed 14. Only one fighter was shot down and six damaged.|
|18 August 1940||Luftwaffe
Royal Air Force
|The Germans claimed 147 aircraft destroyed, recorded British losses were 68,|
the British claimed 144 aircraft destroyed, recorded German losses were 69.
|15 September 1940||Royal Air Force||On the day termed as the "Battle of Britain Day", the RAF claimed 185 German aircraft shot down. |
German recorded losses were 60.
Royal Air Force
|Overall, the Germans claimed they shot down approximately 3,600 aircraft, nearly twice as many as the British lost. The RAF Fighter Command reported that they shot down 2,692 German aircraft in the Battle of Britain, nearly twice as many as the Germans lost, including losses from flak and accidents.|
|June 1941 - December 1941||Soviet Air Force||The Soviets of the South Western Front claimed 85 Bf 109s. A further 53 were claimed by anti-aircraft units in October and another 54 in November. Only 31 Bf 109s were recorded as lost by the Luftwaffe in this period. VVS claims on the Eastern Front amount to 3,879, anti-aircraft units claimed 752, and a further 3,257 were claimed destroyed on the ground. The Luftwaffe reported the loss of 3,827 aircraft to all causes on the Eastern Front in 1941. The VVS overclaiming more than 100%.|
|June 1941 - December 1941||Royal Air Force||During this period RAF Fighter Command launched a sustained 'fighter offensive' over Northern Europe, designed to tie down Luftwaffe fighter units, and hence indirectly take pressure off the Eastern Front, and to hopefully draw those Luftwaffe units encountered into a war of attrition. Fighting exclusively over enemy territory, and thus usually unable to accurately verify their pilot's combat reports, Fighter Command claimed 711 Luftwaffe fighters shot down, while losing 411 of its own fighters. The loss to JG 2 and JG 26, the principal opponents, were reportedly just 103 fighters.|
|6 April 1942||Soviet Air Force||A Red Air Force unit claimed seven Finnish Brewsters shot down in a single action over Tiiksjärvi-Rukajärvi area and four destroyed on the ground. Not a single Finnish aircraft was confirmed by Finnish records. Soviet pilot V. I. Solomatin claimed to have shot down five Brewster fighters and was later honoured with Hero of the Soviet Union. Finns claimed to have shot down 2 bombers and 12 fighters; actual USSR air losses were 1 bomber and 6 fighters|
|8 June 1942||Soviet Air Force||6 GIAP/VVS ChF claimed nine German aircraft shot down in a single action. Not a single German aircraft of any type was recorded as lost.|
|4 June 1942||Japanese Imperial Navy||In the attack on Midway Island Japanese Zero pilots claimed more than 40 American fighters shot down and several probably destroyed. The U.S. Marine Corps squadron, VMF-221, had sent up 25 Brewster Buffalos and Grumman F4F Wildcats, losing 15.|
|20 July 1942 - 10 August 1942||Luftwaffe||During this period, Fliegerkorps VIII claimed to have shot down 606 Soviet aircraft while destroying another 107 on the ground. Actual losses of 8 VA were 230 aircraft - 114 fighters, 70 Shturmoviks, 29 Pe-2s, four Su-2s and 13 night bombers.|
|26 July 1942||Soviet Air Force: 434 IAP and 512 IAP||These units claimed 18 and 12 kills against Macchi C.200s of the Italian 21 Gruppo Autonomo C.T. during Fall Blau.|
The Italian unit lost three Macchis.
|15 September 1942||Luftwaffe
Royal Air Force Desert Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
|Jagdgeschwader 27 claimed 19 aerial victories, while Royal Australian Air Force and RAF records report the loss of five aircraft (a further Allied fighter was lost to friendly ground fire). The Allies claimed two destroyed, two probables, and three damaged in the same engagement. The Germans lost Lt. Hoffmann of I. Gruppe and Uffz. Prien to a midair collision, killing Prien. No further losses had been reported.|
|9 October 1942||United States Army Air Forces||The USAAF claimed that they had inflicted on the Luftwaffe the following: 56 kills, 26 probable kills, and 20 aircraft severely damaged. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt reported these numbers to the Amerian public in a nationwide broadcast. In fact, the Luftwaffe suffered 1 loss.|
|15 December 1942||Imperial Japanese Army Air Forces||Burma: 50th Sentai pilots submitted claims for six Hawker Hurricanes shot down over Chittagong. Not one Hurricane was even damaged.|
|25 December 1942||United States Army Air Forces||Burma: 16th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group pilots submitted claims for ten enemy aircraft shot down, five probable, and one damaged. The 64th Sentai lost one Ki-43 and three Ki-48s from 8th Sentai were damaged.|
|2 March 1943||RAF No. 54 Squadron
RAAF No. 457 Squadron
Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service 202nd Kōkūtai
|Each side claimed three enemy aircraft destroyed. Neither side suffered any losses.|
|17 April 1943||United States Army Air Forces||During a mission against the Focke-Wulf plant near Bremen, the USAAF's 91st and 306th Bomb Groups claimed 63 German fighters destroyed, 15 probable destructions, and 17 damaged. Only two were confirmed destroyed, with nine damaged. Therefore, the USAAF overstated their victories by more than 750 percent.|
|18 April 1943||United States Army Air Forces||During the Operation Vengeance mission to kill Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the 339th Fighter Squadron claimed to have shot down three twin-engined Betty bombers and two Zero fighters. In fact, the Japanese lost two bombers, and no fighters.|
|4 July 1943||Luftwaffe III./JG 5
Soviet Union 7. VA
|The Soviet Union sent 3 DB-3f, 2 Hampdens (9 BAP), and 2 Il-2 (46 ShAP VVS SF) attacked a German convoy near Kirkenes. In following air combat, the 7./JG 5 and 8./JG 5 Luftwaffe pilots claimed 7 Hampdens, 6 Pe-2s, 5 Il-2s, and 2 Boston bombers. Soviet records show that 6 aircraft were shot down: 1 DB-3, 2 Hampdens, 2 Il-2, and 1 Pe-2 of 118 RAP VVS SF.|
|5 July 1943 - 8 July 1943||Soviet Air Force: 2. VA and 16. VA||During the Battle of Kursk, the Soviet 2. VA unit claimed 487 aircraft from Fliegerkorps VIII were shot down. German records show 41 losses. According to the Generalquartiemeister der Luftwaffe, 58 aircraft were lost to all causes, including those from flak and accidents. The 16. VA unit claimed 391 against Luftflotte 6. German records show 39 losses. The Soviet Union claimed that they destroyed a total of 878 German aircraft; this is significantly more airplanes than the Luftwaffe had in the air. Luftwaffe records show that there were 97 loses from all causes, including those from flak and accidents. Losses due to Soviet fighter pilots were 80. The Soviet Union overclaimed by more than 750 percent.|
|17 August 1943||United States Army Air Forces
|After the Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission, the USAAF stated that they shot down 309 German fighters, broken-down as follows: gunners on the bombers claimed 288, Spitfire pilots claimed 7, and P-47 pilots claimed 14. Luftwaffe records show 40 aircraft lost. The United States overclaimed their victories by more than 650 percent. The Luftwaffe claimed that they shot down 101 bombers and 5 fighters shot down. USAAF records show that 60 B-17s and no fighters were lost and that between 58 and 95 bombers were damaged.|
|14 October 1943||United States Army Air Forces
|After the Second Raid on Schweinfurt, USAAF gunners aboard the B-17 bombers claimed to have shot down 138 German fighters. German records show that 38 were lost and 20 were damaged. German fighter pilots claimed they shot down 121 bombers and 1 fighter. USAAF records show that 60 and 1 fighter were lost, 17 bombers were scrapped, and 121 bombers were damaged.|
|6 November 1943||Luftwaffe||The Soviet army pushed the retreating German army to the west of Kiev. The Luftwaffe attempted to hold the line. Yak fighters of 256 iad were ordered to patrol to the west of Kiev. Erich Rudorffer of II./JG 54 claimed that he shot down 13 fighters and his wingman, Tangermann claimed 5 near Kiev. Soviet data suggests that they lost 5 Yak fighters, 1 of which was shot down by AA fire, and that a Yak-1 of l-t Khalatjan was slightly damaged on c/m and bellylanded in friendly territory. However, the Soviet Union habitually, and to a high degree, overstated their victories and understated their losses throughout WWII.|
|6 January 1944||United States Army Air Forces||The United States claimed that they destroyed 241 German fighters, broken-down as follows: bomber crews claimed 210 and their fighter escort claimed 31. German records show they lost 39 fighters. The USAAF overclaimed by more than 500 percent.|
|3 March 1944||United States Army Air Forces
|On a bombing mission to Berlin the Eighth Air Force dispatched the 1st and 2nd Air Divisions, comprising the 95th, 100th, and 390th Bomb Groups. The USAAF claimed they shot down 179 Luftwaffe fighters, broken-down as follows: B-17 gunners claimed 97 and their fighter escort claimed 82. German records show that 66 fighters were lost. The Luftwaffe claimed that they shot down 108 bombers and 20 fighters. USAAF losses were 69 bombers and 11 fighters.|
|? April 1944||United States Army Air Forces vs RAF||An unusual incident involving friendly fire occurred during the Burma campaign when the crew of a US B-25 fired at two approaching aircraft and later claimed to have shot down two Japanese fighters. The fighters were RAF Spitfires, one of which was piloted by New Zealand ace Alan Peart who was recorded by a ground radio unit saying, "Keep clear. The bastards are shooting at us." Both Spitfires returned safely to base, without damage.|
|14 June 1944||United States Army Air Forces||During the Oil Campaign of World War II, 15 P-38 Lightning escorts from 49th Squadron, 14 Fighter Group were engaged by 32 Bf 109G-6s from the 101. Honi Légvédelmi Vadászrepülő Osztály, Royal Hungarian Air Force over central Hungary. American fighter pilots claimed 19 victories: 13 Bf 109s destroyed, 1 probable destruction, and 5 damaged. The Hungarians suffered 2 losses: 1 Bf 109G was destroyed in air combat and 1 Bf 109G was destroyed in a forced landing as a result of air combat. The USAAF overclaimed by 850 percent.|
|17 June 1944||Luftwaffe III./JG 5||Pilots of III./JG5, Dörr and Norz claimed both 12 Soviet aircraft. Soviet data checked by Rune Rautio and Yuri Rybin indicated that no Soviet aircraft were lost in that action. Most 7 VA aircraft had been deployed further south against Finnish forces in Svir-Petrozavodsk Offensive. |
|18 June 1944||Luftwaffe||The Luftwaffe claimed 39 B-24s and 5 P-51s shot down over Schleswig-Holstein. 13 B-24s and 2 P-51s were lost.|
|10 June to 1 August 1944||Soviet Air Force||A Red Air Force unit from the 324th fighter division claimed 39 Finnish Curtiss, 18 Brewster, 6 Morane and 1 Bf-109 shot down during Svir-Petrozavodsk Offensive. Finnish records are showing just 4 Morane and 2 Brewster shot down by Soviet air craft. 3 Morane and 3 Curtiss were shot down by anti aircraft artillery. Soviet 324th fighter division with 3 regiments was not only Soviet fighter unit there operating north from Lake Ladoga. Other units were 197th, 435th, 415th, 773th, 152rd, 195th, 19th Guards and 20th Guards fighter regiments.|
|4 July 1944||Luftwaffe III./JG 5||Pilots of III./JG 5 claimed they shot down 26 Soviet aircraft.. Soviet data checked by Rune Rautio and Yuri Rybin indicated that 2 Soviet aircraft were lost. Most of 7 VA aircraft had been deployed further south against Finnish forces in Svir-Petrozavodsk Offensive.|
|17 July 1944||Luftwaffe III./JG5||Pilots of III./JG5 claimed 37 (at 18.59-19.30)including Schuck and Glöckner both having 7. Soviet data checked by Rune Rautio and Yuri Rybin found only 2 Soviet aircraft lost in that action. Most of 7 VA aircraft had been deployed further south against Finnish forces in Svir-Petrozavodsk Offensive |
|25 July 1944||31st Fighter Group||31st FG HQ/307th Fighter Squadron/308th Fighter Squadron/309th Fighter Squadron vs Hans Rudel's SG.2 and Hungarian Stukas of 102/2. Dive Squadron and I./Stg 77. USAF Claims of 26 to 28 Enemy aircraft. German/Hungarian losses were 8|
|17 August 1944||Luftwaffe III./JG 5||Pilots of III./JG 5 claimed 40 Soviet aircraft during that day (35 found in 'supplementary claim from lists') . Soviet data checked by Rune Rautio and Yuri Rybin: 4 shot down by German fighters, 7 shot down by AA and one destroyed for unknown reason. From early June to late August just 2 Soviet fighter regiments were operating in sector of III./JG 5.|
|28 October 1944||Luftwaffe II./JG54 and 2./JG54 vs Soviet Air Force 8 GvShAP/47 ShAP in Libau||Pilots of II./JG54 Broch, Rudorffer, Tangermann and Thyben claimed 14 Il-2 shot down at 11.44-11.56 and Ludwig Böes of 2./JG54 two other Il-2 (half hour later). Soviet losses of that day in Libau area where just three Il-2. Two Il-2 of 47 ShAp were shot down more likely by Rudorffer or Tangermann or both (or one by Thyben). 8 GvShAP lost one Il-2 and most likely shot down by Broch. None of claims of Ludwig Böes can be found on Soviet loss data of that day. Total German claims were 16 Il-2. Soviet confirmed losses of 3 Il-2. 47 ShAp logbook states: "8 Il-2 came under attack of 8 Fw 190 and lost 2 a/c. Both Il-2 were shot up by fighters, and crashed in flames in the sea 8-9 km SW from Libau. Both crew killed." On the other hand, Soviet sources have confirmed Soviet losses been 28 aircraft failed to return and 10 force landed. Total German claims of that day in Courland: 28 by fighters, 31 by AA-troops. Details of Soviet losses are missing.|
|1944–1945||Luftwaffe||Oberleutnant Kurt Welter, claimed perhaps 25 Mosquitoes shot down by night and two further Mosquitoes by day while flying the Me 262, adding to his previous seven Mosquito kills in "hot-rodded" Bf 109G-6/AS or Fw 190 A-8 fighters. As far as can be ascertained, just three of his Me 262 claims over Mosquitoes coincide with RAF records.|
|1 January 1945||Luftwaffe||On this date German pilots overclaimed by between 4 and 3:1 . During Operation Bodenplatte the Luftwaffe claimed 55 destroyed and 11 probably destroyed in air-to-air combat (according to document: Fernschreiben II.JakoIc Nr.140/44 geh.vom 3.1.1945). Other German sources (according to document: Luftwaffenführungsstab Ic, Fremde Luftwaffen West, Nr. 1160/45 g.Kdos.vom 25.2.1945), quote 65 claims and 12 probables. Just 31 Allied aircraft were hit. 15 were shot down in aerial combat, two were destroyed whilst on take-off and seven were damaged by enemy action.|
|24 March 1945||U.S. Army Air Force||The 332nd Fighter Group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for a mission flown on 24 March 1945, escorting B-17s to bomb the Daimler-Benz tank factory at Berlin, Germany. The American pilots were credited with destroying three Me 262 jets of the Luftwaffe's all-jet Jagdgeschwader 7, despite the American unit initially claiming 11 Me 262s. Upon examination of JG 7 records, just four Me 262s were lost and all of their pilots survived. The bombers also made substantial claims, making it impossible to tell which units were responsible for those individual four kills.|
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