|German pilot jumps from a Focke Wulf Fw-190
Are there any relatively accurate accounts of how many enemy fighters were shot down by our bombers?The short answer is "No."
Tom provided a link to Quora in which the question was asked:
Did the gunners aboard B-17 bombers in WWII manage to shoot down enemy fighters?Short answer there is, of course, "Yes."
With hundreds of gunners in a formation firing thousands of rounds at the German fighters attacking, there were bound to be German aircraft lost to the bomber gunners. Whether or not gunners could provide enough accurate information for a debriefer to give a gunner, or even the entire crew, a credit for an aerial victory is another thing altogether.
It's bitter cold, there's a lot going on, it's noisy. You're at your gun position hammering away at someone in another airplane who is doing his best to kill you. Not you personally but the aircraft you're in, along with nine of your mates. There's a lot of adrenaline involved and these are, for the most part, young men, some still in their teens. While the following clip is from a movie (Memphis Belle) the scene is pretty accurate for the speed at which the German aircraft pass through the formation -
For comparison, here's the real deal -
It was nearly impossible to verify if an individual gunner actually shot down an enemy aircraft, even if the target he is shooting at, while he's shooting at it, actually blows up, or immediately bursts into flame, there is no guarantee. After all, there are a lot of other gunners shooting at those guys.
Something I've often wondered about, with all of those bombers in formation, I wonder how many times the gunners from one bomber hit one of their own guys, not their own plane but another aircraft in the formation. Wouldn't surprise me if that happened more often than not!
Statistically, B-17 crews claimed twenty-three enemy fighters shot down per thousand sorties (a sortie is one mission flown by own aircraft). B-24 crews only claimed 11. Note that a claim is not the same as an actual aerial kill. For instance, in that Quora question linked above:
In the infamous “Black Thursday” raid of 14 October 1943, B-17 gunners claimed 288 German fighter aircraft kills whereas in actuality about 40 were shot down.In the last video, the only sure claim is one in which your gun camera shows the enemy pilot jumping from the aircraft, the aircraft blows up, or the aircraft impacts the ground. Then it still might not be that pilot's kill alone. What if the same sequence shows up on another gun camera in your squadron? Or another squadron at a different base? You could have two "verified" kills of the same aircraft.
War is confusing, it happens very quickly in the air, and you can never quite be sure whether or not you "Got him!"
- Confirmation and Overclaiming Link
- Luftwaffe Aerial Victory Claims Link
- World War II Aerial Victory Credits (USAF) Link
- Eighth Air Force Combat Losses Link