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Subject: RE;  Weave & hit-and-run
From: (Erik Shilling )
Date: Sep 16 1995
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

Re: Dan Ford's posting
>This isn't there same as Erik's high perch approach, which ended
>in a deflection shot.  But I'd like to know if it sounds right,
>and whether a Buffalo pilot would necessarily use a different
>approach than a P-40 pilot.  As I mentioned earlier, he is one
>of the few people around who actually flew * against * a buffalo,
>in a mock dogfight before the war began. 

No Dan, but it is a variation, and an option, which ever the pilot
felt most comfortable with.  We would have called it a high-over-

     Incidently our pass, although it would start out as a
deflection shot, would become, as we bore in be almost but not
quite from astern. From the high perch, we dove down below the
bomber formation.  Our gunnery pass would start from 90 degrees
from the flight path and in a 45 degree climb toward the bomber's

     With the loss of speed the P-40 would gradually drop back to
about 20 degrees to the bomber's flight path.  (Therefore the name
"Pursuit Curve."  As we neared the bomber, we would roll to almost
inverted, though still shooting. At the last second, pull away and
out, going back up to the high perch position to start the run over
again, meanwhile your buddy was on his pass.  (This is why some gun
camera pictures made the bombers appear to be inverted, however its
the fighters gun camera that's actually inverted.)  

     The theory of the pass was, the bomber were more vulnerable
from belly, and the bomber's dust bin gun was far less accurate. 
As we bore in, the P-40's engine, and bullet proof windshield
protected the pilot.  Next, rolling inverted to dive away, the self
sealing tank and the parachute provided lots of protection. Finally
leaving the bomber, the armor plating behind the pilot.  I felt
quite comfortable making such a run.  

     My next posting will the Dogfight between the P-40 and
Buffalo.  I will include a letter I received from, now retired
commander "Pancho" Brandt, commenting on his observations of the
fights over rangoon from a RAF pilots perspective.  I think you
will find it very interesting stuff.



Subject: Re: Fighter rolling  during attack
From: (Erik Shilling )
Date: Nov 16 1995
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military  Cole Pierce wrote:
>  Perhaps the aileron rolls were meant to give a true scattering
> of ammo.

     Here is the low down on the rolling attack.
The Japanese bombers we fought against were very vulnerable from
attacks from below.  Our attacks therefore were from below and the
side.  In other words as reasonable close to both 45 degree from
below and from the side.  
     The Japanese bomber had what Chennault called, a dust bin gun
in the belly, and semi-retractable.  Its controllable angle of
azimuth was restricted to about 40 degrees each side of center-
line, and its vertical deflection was very small, about 20 degrees. 
Its installation and aiming was a very crude.  The gun was mounted
on springs or perhaps rubber.  The top turret (manual) gunner
handled both the top turret and the dust bin gun.  The top gun was
manual controlled, not power controlled.  The dust bin gun's
azimuth was control by the same gunner, by use of rudder peddles. 
The recoil of the gun bounced the gun around in a small cone of
fire because of its spring mount.  The Japanese hoped the spraying
effect would hit an attacking fighter.  Not much accuracy there.
     Our guns were bore sighted at 400 yard for a speed of 220 mph. 
Thus the six guns had a cone of fire 18 inches in diameter, from
about 200 yards to 600 yards, and of course dead on at 400 yds. 
Incidently the angle of attack of the P-40 at 220 mph indicated was
quite small.  
     By making such an attack, it was impossible for the belly gun
to hit us, and the top gun had to be deflected down 45 degrees. 
This made it very difficult for this gun to be very accurate as
well.  With a closure speed close to 100 mph (45 yds per/sec), to
avoid hitting the bomber formation the attacker would have to
initiate break away at a distance of approximately. 200 yds., to
avoid hitting the bomber.  With the guns bore-sighted at 400 yds
and effective from 200 to 600 we would have approximately 8 seconds
of effective fire.  The rolling attack gave us the full 8 second. 
The push over would not.
     As you can well imagine, this is what it may look like on
paper, but it sure as hell wasn't that exact in actual practice.
But knowing the theory was essential to making it work.  Pushing
over with a bunch of negative "Gs" to avoid the bomber formation,
was not my cup of tea.  To initiate another pass, rolling and
diving away was the most practical, and the safest.  If in the
excitement, you didn't see the Jap fighter coming in on you, you
already had enough speed to escape.
     No the aileron roll was not meant to scatter ammo.  The angle
of attack and the guns bore-sighted properly, would only make a
difference of a couple of degrees.  Also using your gun sight to
roll on your target was not difficult.  That why we were taught
coordination exercises, rolling on a point, and lazy eights making
the nose drop through your point on the horizon.  Also, all
deflection shooting required that the airplane roll slightly in
order to follow the target, and it certainly had to be coordinated.

For more information about the Jap bomber see my post on, Flying
Tigers return to China.  This got longer than I anticipated.


Erik Shilling
3rd Sqdn Flying Tigers

From: Shilling)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: Maneuverability -- was Airacobra
Date: 11 Feb 1997 22:10:53 GMT

In <5dlr1a$> (Emmanuel.Gustin)
>Maybe Erik can comment on how the Japanese tried to protect their
>actics; which might mean that they too flew too close to the bombers? 

Hope this is what you wanted.

December 23, 1941 at 10;00 AM was the first time Japanese appeared
over Rangoon. There were two waves of bombers of 27 aircraft each
plus about 40 fighters escorting them.  AVG had 14 P-40s, British
had 10 buffalos. Interception was at 12,000 feet, fifteen minutes
east of Rangoon.  The Japanese fighters escorting the bombers, flew
about three miles behind and about 18,000 feet.  Some of the AVG
pilots attacking the bomber formation never saw any the fighters...

The Japanese bomber force was intercepted about 80 mile southeast
of Rangoon on their way in.  (about 60 miles from land) The AVG
continued the fight through out their bombing run staying with the
Japanese until about 50 mile back out over the Gulf of Martaban.
Our total combat milage over water was 110 miles compared to a
total of 40 miles overland.  

I have added this information, because Dan Ford maintains that not
enough Japanese wrecks were located to justify our claims,
Therefore in his opinion, the AVG only shot down one third of the
number the AVG claimed. Another contention of Ford's, is that the
Japanese no longer have any reason to lie.

December 24 no action

December 25, 3 waves of bombers and again 27 bomber in each wave. 
Only about 30 fighters this time.  Probably due to some of the
fighters being shot down, and others out of commission due to
battle damage etc. 

The Bombers led the assault flying at 19,000 feet with the
escorting fighter flying about 5 to 10 miles behind, and about 2000
feet above.

The distance between the bombers and their escort enable the AVG to
shoot down several bombers before the fighter could even get in a
position to engage the AVG.  

In retrospect, it seems that the Japanese thought by lagging back
almost out of sight we would be lulled into think the bombers were

(I know this doesn't make sense, but a lot of things the Japanese
did during the war didn't make sense either.)

One AVG flight got about 8 fighters. Other flight got 14 bombers
and 12 fighters.

Our First Ace was Duke Hedman who shot down 4 bombers and one
fighter on Christmas day. 

Tokyo Rose had broadcast on December 24th that Japan was going to
give the AVG a Christmas present.  Apparently she had five for Duke

Officially the AVG was credited with 12 victories on the 23
December and 23 shot down on December 25.  Our losses, 5 planes and
two pilots, however no pilots were lost on Christmas day..

Two of the five P-40 lost were due to bullets in the radiator
forcing them to belly land.  This was Ed Overend and George

RT Smith write, "we're out numbered about 7 or 8 to one.

For the most part the AVG attacked the bombers and fought the
fighters when necessary.  Hit and run tactics were not used against
bombers, but if attacked by fighters, our P-40s made head on runs,
even turned with them as long as speed allowed, then dove away. 
Then climbed up and rejoined the fray when they (P-40) again had
speed and altitude.  
Our victories for these two days.  There were 35 enemy confirmed, 
10 fighters and 25 bombers. 

RT Smith, in his diary, had this to say about the RAF. "I have
spoken very little of the RAF, because we saw very little of them,
both during and after the action."

As you can see, the Japanese fight escort was not very good. 

As the war progressed, the Japanese started sending over larger
waves of fighter in a desperate effort to destroy the AVG, ignoring
the RAF which gave them a free hand going at the Bombers.  

It is obvious their tactics didn't work.

Erik Shilling

Subject: A Flying Tiger Speaks Up (2)
From: (Erik Shilling )
Date: Sep 11 1995
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

In reply to Henry Hillbrath, concerning the number of kill the AVG
claims, and the history professor's remarks:

>> air-to-air kill claims and enemy losses will prove to be true of
>> the AVG. If anything, I would be _inclined to _suspect that   
>>_your_confirmed _kills _understated _Japanese _losses - Unquote. 

> I don't think that is all that big a deal, how much or little   
> the AVG over or understated kills.  All claims have to be      
> evaluated on their own merits, and the entire system has to be  
> considered, not just the pilot input.  
> However many there were, no one should doubt that the AVG did a
> Heck of a job, and was far more successful than any other U. S.
> group for another year or two, at the least.

       Henry, I appreciate you comments and welcome the opportunity
to answer.  Possibly you think I am nit-picking, but I guess it
touches a sore spot with us in the AVG.  It reverts back to the old
saying, "It depends upon whose ox is being gored."
       In the very beginning, the AVG was treated as a step child by
Military Brass.  We were on a cover mission which was kept secret
for 50 years. This was Okay, but why were we treated so shabbily?
(Refer to the statement made in 1960 by Chief of Staff, General
McConnell, whose comment concerning the AVG was, "A bunch of
reserve officers one step ahead of the Sheriff." This was uncalled
       Of all of the pilots in WW II, we cannot understand why we
have been singled out as a group, to have our veracity questioned,
and our honor besmirched by revisionists.  And why are some
Americans so quick to swallow this crap, believing the worst in the
Americans and the best in our enemies?  
       No one has questioned, nor do I, Erich Hartman's 352
victories, Gerhard Barkorn's 301, Gunther Rall's 275, Richard
Bong's 40, Tom McGuire's 38, Dave McCampbell's 34, Greg Boyington's
28, Gabreski's 28, Joe Foss's 26, or Eddie Richenbacker's 26. (Greg 
Boyington claimed 6+ with the AVG, but he was only given credit
with 3+, therefore Greg's actual score was 25. the 3 others were
probables, and were unable to be confirmed.  If these three had
been confirmed, the Tiger's score would have been an even 300.  
       Erich Hartman averaged 10 planes per month.  In seven months
Erich Hartman destroyed 75 aircraft.  Since each of the 87 AVG
pilots, on an average destroyed 1 plane every other month, why is
our total of 297 in 7 months so unbelievable?     

>> As a consequence hundreds of fighter pilots were killed in    
>> combat against the Japanese Air Force, due entirely to the lack
>> of knowledge concerning the tactics used so successful against
>> the Japanese by the Flying Tigers.

> This I find much more important, and I think we would all like to
> know what you consider to have been the major points of knowledge
> that were not passed on, and in fact, just why the AVG was so  
> successful, where others were not.

       The following is my personal opinion as to the reason why we
as a group were so successful. We had a damn good leader whom we
all loved and admired.  He was a good teacher, knew his subject and
how to get it across.
       We knew exactly what to expect from the Japanese pilots in
almost every emergency, types of formations, their reaction in
combat situations, what we could do and what to avoid.  During our
training at Toungoo Burma, this was drilled into us as a result of
months of tactical lectures by Chennault, . 
       We also knew the capabilities of every Japanese airplane we
would come up against, their speeds, their weakness, size of
armament, and in regard to bombers, the types of attacks to make,
and to avoid.  
       An illustration of Americans lacking the above knowledge
Chennault had given us, was when the Lockheed P-38s were first
introduced into the Pacific Theater as late as 1943.  Saburo Sakai
says in his book, "The Zeros were having a field day, shooting the
P-38 down in large numbers." The Americans, even though the P-38s
had a speed advantage of almost one hundred mph, were using the
turning combat. This is what happens when an airplane isn't used
properly. Saburo further stated, "When the Americans changed their
tactic, the Zero pilots became fearful of the P-38, because it was
decimating the Zeros."
       As early as September 1941 Chennault was teaching the AVG to
hit and run, requiring speed, which was the P-40's forte against
the Japanese. When properly used, the P-40 outclassed the Japanese
Zero. It took the military 2 more years before they stumbling on
the secret of successfully fighting the Japanese in the air. In the
meantime hundreds of American pilots lost their lives. This is a
matter of record.  
       The so called "Thatch weave," was supposedly used for the
first time in the battle of Midway.  According to Commander Thatch,
this was a contributing factor in winning this decisive battle. 
       This weave was mentioned, and used by the AVG, and part of the
AVG's combat report in the AVG's War Diary for Dec 20, 1941, yet
Daniel Ford called it the "Thatch Weave" and gave him credit for
inventing it, saying it was first used in the Battle of Midway. 
Even though Commander Thatch said he had heard this tactic had come
out of China.    

>> Erik Shilling AVG, even if the U. S. Government was not very
forthcoming with official recognition.

       Incidently, it wasn't until fifty year later, that the
Pentagon finally acknowledge that our group was on a covert
mission, and at the same time awarded us The Presidential Unit
Citation For outstanding bravery.

Erik Shilling

From: Shilling)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: Inverted Attacks (was Re: Flying Tigers /P40)
Date: 23 Apr 1998 21:45:48 GMT

I have made inverted gunnery runs and there are dozens of combat
camera gun movies that prove this type of attack was not unusual
and used in both the Allied and Axis pilots.

If you look closely to some of the camera gun movies, you will see
what appears to be a bomber flying upside down, having the hell
shot out of it.

It is not the bomber that is upside down, but the fighter and the
camera gun picture prove that one or the other was upside down.
Hardly the bomber.

Some one asked why the inverted attack?

Several things controlled the reason for such an attack. Namely
what was the most vulnerable part of the bomber. How the attack was
being made and the preference of attack depended upon the pilot.

I personally have used the inverted pass because the Japanese
bombers, we in the AVG came up against were quite vulnerable from
belly attacks.

Also most of the time, the number of bombers in each group was not
very large as in Europe with B-17s or 24s.

In approaching a bomber from a 45 degree angle from both below and
from the side. The gunner in the top turret couldn't depress his
gun enough to hit you. There was no tail gun in the bombers we
attack, but a gun mounted in the belly we called a dust-bin gun
which was operated remotely. Its angle was very restricted, worse
that the top turret gun, and accuracy rather doubtful.

The following is a rather primitive description of the attack, so
don't take it as an exact description, but it will give you a rough
idea. Also the measurements are NOT PRECISE, but are estimates only
for an illustration purposes.

You started from about 100 feet above, six to seven hundred yards
to the side, and a couple 100 yards behind the bomber.

You started the run by diving and turning into the bomber dropping
down to several hundred yards below the bomber, and pulling up
towards the belly. at this point you are 45 degree below and to the
side of the bomber. Your wings are also 45 degrees to the horizon
at the start of the attack.

From this point a pursuit curve was established, meaning that
although you started with a 45 degree angle to the bomber, this
angle lessened as you approached until you were almost in trail,
and your aim adjusted accordingly.

Part way into your gunnery run, although you continued firing, you
rolled inverted and continued firing until you broke away to avoid
colliding with the bomber. The break away was 45 degree down and
out, going back to the position you initially started the attack

Because of the closeness to the Bomber at the point of break away
it was quite sever pulling 4 to 5 "G's."
(Pushing over in your break away and having to push 4 to 5 neg.
"Gs" would not be practical.)

The pilot in a P-40 was well protected. Coming in, your protection
was the bullet proof windshield, armor plating below it and the
engine itself.

During the break away you had the protection of both fuel tanks
beneath you with their EXTERNAL self material. Your parachute you
sat on, then the fuselage tank, oil tank and armor plating behind

We weren't overly concerned with the aircraft caching on fire,
although later on, a couple of our Forties that did.

Next, in another post I will give you the AVG's method of

Erik Shilling

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