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What if German pilots shot British BoB pilots

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by harolds, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. harolds

    harolds Member

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    This is a spin-off from another topic. In the BoB, Britain faced a shortage of pilots. Some replacement pilots came in to Spit and Hurri squadrons with very few hours on type. As it turns out, this was enough. However, let's suppose the Luftwaffe fighter leaders (who generally condemned chute shooting) were a bit more pragmatic. Let's say they encouraged the killing of parachuting enemy pilots if they were over Britain. Let's also say they theoretically killed one half to two thirds of the British fighter pilots that hit the silk. Would this have made a difference in the BoB?
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Even when it was the policy I'm not sure they would have gotten that high a percentage. Also the result would likely be more LW planes and pilots loss as concentrating on shooting someone hanging from a chute means you aren't watching for someone who is still flying. Also the British replacements came in an ever increasing stream indeed one of the reasons they won the battle is that they were turning out pilots and planes faster than they were loosing them so that the ratio of fighters available increasingly favored the RAF for most of the BoB and by the end of it pilots from the rest of the Commonwealth were showing up in numbers. Canada had a pretty significant pilot training program for one.
     
  3. Dave55

    Dave55 Member

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    Maybe some Fighter Command pilots would have become so angry that they would hit the attacking fighters first instead of concentrating on the bombers?
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It might have forced 12 group to get into the fray as well.
     
  5. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Lwd,

    One always had to watch one's tail, no matter what you were doing. I don't think it would have mattered all that much since successful pilots always did this. So if the leader of the rotte concentrated on shooting down an enemy plane the the wingman might have squirted the parachuting pilot while the leader watched over him. All I was saying is that if in addition to the normal attrition of combat, the Luftwaffe had killed approximately half of those Brit pilots that had bailed out, the pilot losses of Fighter Command might have exceeded the replacements.
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It's one more thing to watch and from what I've read targeting an individual in a parachute isn't trivial. Indeed getting tangled up in the chute can crash your plane. It also means the fighters are getting further away from the bombers they are suppose to be escorting which makes them more vulnerable.
     
  7. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    It may have led to increased losses and an inability to field enough aircraft, At least early on but assuming the rest of the BoB plays out the same I dont see any major difference occuring except for more losses on the Allied side.

    For such a scenario to make any real difference they would have had to keep up on attacking airfields rather then cities to prevent them on making good their losses.
     
  8. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    I think LWD has it...The fighter pilots had a job to do...
     
  9. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I think such an order would have had a horrible effect on the morale of the German pilots, and when it became known on the German population as a whole, the war in the West didn't have the racist undertones that caused so much harm in the East and the Pacific and limited the bad effects of such policies. We are not talking isolated exceptions by angry individuals here, that was a grey area or less "tolerated", the habits of the Poles were probably known by higher echelons, But the German pilots and population had been fed on romantic ideals, a policy like this could have wide ranging effects on the war. It would also have been a huge mistake on a strategic level, Germany relied on shock not attrition for victory, such a policy was bound to strengthen British determination to resist (historically the BoB caused that anyway but the Germans couldn't know that).
     
  10. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I agree TOS, in fact I suspect that had such an order really been issued, even Goring would have opposed it. I also suspect most of the fighter leaders, Molders, Galland, Osterkamp and others would have probably refused to pass the order on. When Hitler proposed shooting torpedoed merchant ship crews Donitz told him that morale would suffer and so would discipline (the U-boat crews wouldn't obey). What I was after was the theoretical possibility of the Germans winning the BoB if they did this and as von_noobie pointed out, continued the direct assault on Fighter Command.
     
  11. Dave55

    Dave55 Member

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    That SOB Rudel probably would have, if he was in a fighter
     
  12. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I find it hard to follow a what if that ignores morale, do we have any statistics on how many RAF pilots bailed out and returned to combat ? I suspect that even if such a policy had caused a third of them to be unable to do so (an optimistic estimates as effectively shooting at parachutes requires slow speed manoeuvring which would make you a sitting duck to other fighters so could not be applied in most cases) , it would not have been enough to change the balance, to win that sort of struggle Germany would have had to go to full wartime mode so as to outproduce the British and they didn't do that until late 1943.
     
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    As I've stated up thread it might even have been counter productive. Even if the shooter is covered by his wingman they are slowing down to hit what is almost a stationary target. In the mean time the bombers they were escorting and for that matter their fellow pilots have moved on. This leaves everyone more vulnerable.

    Also, if this happened often I suspect there would be a lot of political pressure on 12 group to take a more active role in covering 11 group so the Germans might find themselves facing even more RAF fighters.
     
  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    three points.

    1. It made sense in attrition terms for Germans to shoot at British Pilots shot down over British territory and for the allies to strafe Germans over German held territory. The mathematics play into the hand of the defender. A pilot who bailed over friendly territoy may have counted as a "kill" for the aces scoreboard, but was usually far from dead, and the software was transferable to new hardware. This is why the numbers were always against the Germans in ther Battle of Britain and against the RAF in the absurd policy of "Leaning into France."

    2. The essential decency of most humans, identification with fellow flyers and a well founded fear of reciprocal treatment meant that most pilots refrained from strafing enemy in their chutes. There were also practical reasons for not hanging around to shoot someone out of the battle and dropping below the action which was moving on at 150 mph. Maybe strafing someone might have been an option for a lone pilot with no one else around in a clear sky, but not for a member of a formation. After a confused dog fight it must have been hard to tell whether the man in a chute was friend or foe.

    3. Some of the actions claimed as "deliberate strafing" may in fact have been collateral damage or even friendly fire. There are several accounts from the battle of Britian of the Germans strafing villages in Kent while being attacked by fighters. RAF fighter machine-guns did not have self destruct ammunition and bullets have to land somewhere. . . . .

    .
     
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  15. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Sheldrake,

    Perhaps you could have also mentioned that for both the RAF and the Luftwaffe, their pilot pool came out of the middle to upper classes who would have had more grounding in "fair play".

    I seem to remember that parachutes of that era could be collapsed by another fighter buzzing right over the top of the chute so perhaps it wouldn't necessary to slow down and shoot.
     
  16. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    That still would require concentrating on the chute for some very precise flying and loosing "situational awareness", a bit better than slowing down as you will have decent airspeed at the end of the pass but still unhealthy when other fighters are around.
     
  17. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Well TOS, I certainly agree that if some enemy planes are on your tail then it would be foolish not to concentrate on them. That's why I felt that perhaps only half of the parachuting men would get strafed. However, many of the accounts of air battles that I have read end with one plane falling and the other pilot alone in the sky wondering where everybody went. That would be a time to do the evil deed. Another way to do this is to keep firing at the plane going down until it either comes apart or explodes. That would probably take an extra second or two of firing. (Looking at many USAAF gun camera films, I think many American pilots did this.) Many pilots, seeing their enemy nosing down into a dive with smoke coming out of their engine cowling claimed a victory. The pilot in the damaged plane would either have time to bail or bring it in to a crash landing and survive that way. Most of the leading aces on both sides survived bailouts and crash landings. Part of me still feels that letting enemy get away to fight again is a gross error.
     
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Harolds,

    Are you sure?

    The more recent histories of the battle of Britain have demonstrated that "public schoolboy pilot" is a bit of a myth, The majority of RAF pilots were sergeant pilots and the RAF was the most egalitarian of the three British services. Churchill himself commented about how few pilots seemed to come from the old public schools. Of the top ten RAF aces in the Few, three were public school educated, two from state schools, two eastern europeans and three Aussies and Kiwis - classless colonials ;) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Few

    The Luftwaffe seems to have recruited from a wide social base. National socialism had a strong "socialist" bias against the Junkers and the Luftwaffe was a new socialist arm unlike the Army and Navy. It couklr recruit widely on tehcnical ability from the aviation enthusiasts developed by Nazi Party sponsored flying and gliding clubs..
     
  19. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Wasn't there one Brit reserve fighter unit called "the millionaires club" just before the war? Just reading the bios of Milan, Tuck, Bader, Galland, Hartmann, Molders and others gives the impression of people that came from solid middle class families.

    I'm sure you're right in that most of these aces were aviation enthusiasts who were reading the exploits (and myths) of WW1 air war while they were young boys.
     
  20. Owen

    Owen O

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