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From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Confirmed Kills
Date: 28 May 1997
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

On the morning of Nov. 1, 1944 7FS (49FG) ops exec Bob DeHaven put in a
claim for a Val dive bomber north of Tacloban in Leyte.  He was quite
ebulent upon landing about what would be his 12th kill, hopping off the
back of his Lightning without bothering to use the step ladder, and
describing how the Aichi had blown up when his shells struck it.

However, after the usual careful debriefing and consultation with other
units in the area, his claim was disallowed and granted to 2Lt. Cheatham
Gupton.  It didn't matter that DeHaven was a popular and influential
veteran ace and Gupton was a rookie.  Nor did it matter that Gupton was
with another squadron, the 9FS.  The debriefing determined that DeHaven
had merely finished off a plane with a dead crew, killed by the
close-range quad-fifty gunnery of Gupton and his P-38, which had blown the
Val's cockpit to shreds, pulverized the canopy and left blood streaming
back along the fuselage.  Gupton's attack was witnessed by three other 9FS
pilots, including his wing leader, Howard Olglesby, who shot an Oscar off
Gupton's tail during his attack.
Shortly after Gupton had done for the Val, DeHaven came along, spotted the
derelict dive bomber spiraling down and with an accurate long-range burst
blew it up.  His attack was witnessed by all the members of his flight.
The reports of the two flights of P-38s were compared, the pilots were
quizzed about what they had seen, when and where, and a consensus was
reached that, indeed, the crew of the Val was dead or incapacitated and
the plane was in uncontrolled flight within seconds of impacting the
ground when DeHaven fired on it.  Contact was made with ground units which
confirmed the crash.

DeHaven was not happy about having his claim disallowed and jumped back
into his plane and roared off after more Japs.  He intruded into 475 FG
airspace and tangled with a Zero over Dulag airstrip and shot it down
directly over the field.  When he landed back at Tacloban he was met by
the group ops exec Gerry Johnson, who was not happy.  DeHaven hopped down
from his P-38 and said something to the effect of, "If I shoot the sons of
bitches down over our own airfields, will you confirm them for me?"
Johnson allowed as how he might (DeHaven got credit for the Zero), but
then immediately grounded DeHaven, basically for behaving like a jackass.

DeHaven was a competitive guy, but he couldn't budge a debriefer who
didn't believe his claim for an aerial kill.  Since the debriefers were
fellow fighter pilots, everyone had to respect their decisions on
disallowed claims, which they did more often than they allowed them.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: kills and scores
Date: 30 May 1997
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

Good points in D. Whitehead's post.  An example of where a double claim
could have reasonably been accepted was my earlier post about Bob DeHaven
(7FS 49FG) claiming a dive bomber kill that was ultimately awarded to
Cheatham Gupton (9FS 49FG).  The nature of the description of the kills by
Gupton and DeHaven were so different as to make it logical to assume two
different dive bombers were involved.  Gupton's kill involved an attack on
a flight of Vals escorted by Oscars.  He fired at point blank range into
the cockpit, destroying it and its occupants, leaving the dive bomber a
derelict drifting to the ground.  There was no fire and no explosion.
DeHaven's claim was based on discovering a lone Val in a shallow dive,
apparently attacking a ground target, with no obvious damage to it.  He
opened fire at long range and the dive bomber exploded and crashed.
The result was two claims for the destruction for what was in reality one
aircraft.  Only one credit was awarded, and the two attacks were
recognized as being on the same aircraft not only because experience had
taught careful interrogation techniques and the situation was such that
ground observers could be contacted to determine how many aircraft
crashed, but also--and this point is often overlooked--because the
powerful personality of Bob DeHaven, who could intimidate lesser mortals
into seeing things his way, was countered by an equally powerful
personality in Ops Exec Gerry Johnson.  Gupton was a rookie flying as
wingman to his flight leader.  To give him credit for a kill and deny it
to a veteran double ace took the kind of courage to face down in a
nose-to-nose, balled-up fists argument a very aggressive and determined
pilot who absolutely did not want to be denied a kill that he very clearly
made with some damned good shooting that his flight witnessed.  DeHaven
was furious to be denied credit for the kill, and was not loathe to note
that Johnson, assigned to the 9FS as was Gupton, was stealing a kill for
his own squadron.   Nor was he loathe to note that he was in a scoring
race with Johnson (and Dick Bong, also of the 9FS), so that Johnson had an
ulterior motive for denying him the kill.   It was DeHaven's contention,
and a reasonable one, that a burst into the cockpit might seemingly have
killed the crew but in fact not done so, the plane falling out of
formation might have merely been the result of stunned fumbling by the
pilot or a deliberate evasive manuever.  It is not evidence of a kill.
But an aircraft that explodes when hit and plunges into the ground in
front of witnesses in the air and on the ground is definitely a confirmed
kill.  In any case, DeHaven lost the argument.  His ultimate tally of
confirmed kills was 14.  Dick Bong's was 21 (he got 19 more while with
5FC), and Johnson's was 22.  Gupton's ultimate total was 5.

On a separate but related note, reliance on squadron or group paperwork to
determine losses in order to compare them with kill claims of the
opposition to try to determine their accuracy may not always be a reliable
In the 49FG, for example, serial numbers of replacement aircraft were not
recorded, nor were aircraft designator numbers.  I believe other groups,
such as the 475 and 80th did not record these numbers either.  The reason
was that attrition of aircraft generally ran ahead of resupply.  The
solution was to "liberate" aircraft from other groups.  That's why guards
were posted around parked aircraft--not so much in fear of Japanese
infiltrators as of thieves from other FGs.  In the heavy fighting in the
Philippines in the fall of 1944, the 49FG lost dozens more P-38s than
could be resupplied through normal channels. The shortfall was made up by
commandeered fighters from other groups (who sometimes stole their planes
back plus some of the 49FGs legally assigned planes).  Under those
conditions, it seems hardly likely that reliable paper trails exist that
could account for every fighter lost by the 49FG in those chaotic
days--nobody wanted accurate record-keeping, they just wanted seemingly
accurate record-keeping that hid what was really going on.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Fighter pilot claims & validations?
Date: 13 Jun 1997
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

On the subject of the importance of accurate intelligence to military
planners and their actual possession of it, the raids on Rabaul in the
fall of 1943 provide an interesting example.  The 5th AF set out to smash
Japanese air strength (as well as shipping and shore installations) there
and made a determined effort.  The best estimates they could make of e/a
destroyed in the air and on the ground between 10 Oct and 11 Nov were 560
aircraft.  This was no casually arrived at figure.  Attacking aircraft
used both still and motion picture cameras to record the strikes.  F5 foto
recon planes flew before and after and sometime during-raid missions and
photographed everything.  Of course, crews were debriefed carefully.
Civilian newsmen who accompanied the raiders were also debriefed.  And
"Ultra"-type decrypts of radio traffic, coastwatcher observations, etc.,
were all used.
Yet on 11 Nov, allied sitreps indicated the Japanese had 252 aircraft on
Rabaul, just two fewer than they had before the raids began on 10 Oct.  So
the Japanese had to have poured in hundreds of replacements.  5AF HQ
figured that the Japanese must have sent something like 1,000 planes to
Rabaul (factoring in operational losses) in the 30-day period, a huge
reinforcement that would have stripped other areas of crucial aircraft.
Yet no trace of such a massive transshipment of aircraft could be
discovered in radio traffic, ship movements, aircraft movements...nothing.

The 5AF fighter pilot claims were probably the most accurate due to the
thorough debriefing, the use of not only gun cameras, but cameras loaded
with color film (black and white film could not handle the contrast
between bright sky and dark jungle), which was easier to interpet, the
observations of bomber crewmen and PR aircraft.  Each pilot reviewed his
own gun camera film with intelligence people not once, but many times, the
projector being stopped, backed up, crucial frames reviewed, often prints
made of them and studied with magnifying glasses.
However, the Japanese were fighting over their own territory with four
airfields close at hand.  Even a badly damaged fighter had a good chance
of making it to one and landing in a sufficiently large enough piece that
it could be salvaged.

Strike claims by bombers were grossly inflated even by intelligence
analysts, who counted as destroyed aircraft that were apparently put back
in flying condition in short order.  The most effective strikes were those
that achieved complete surprise, catching the Japanese aircraft in the
open.  These were low-level missions by B-25s unacompanied by B-24s.  The
high flying B-24s gave the Japanese, radar-equipped, plenty of warning and
their bombers flew off until after the raid was over and their fighters
had time to get in position to challenge the intruders.  The B-25
"gunships" dropping parafrags and WP and straffing with 8 fixed .50s plus
6 swivel guns could wreak havoc on surprised airfields--but just how much
havoc was apparenly overestimated, despite the best efforts to be
conservative in damage assessment.
Japanese records--those that survive, most were burned at the time the war
ended--are problematical in that they contain such phrases as
"self-destroyed" and "not yet returned" that obscure true loss figures.

On the American side, during this month of Rabaul raids, 38 P-38s were
lost, 21 B-25s were lost and 20 B-24s.  Causes by percent  broke down this
way:  P-38s, 27.6 percent to enemy action (including AAA), 34.6 percent to
operational accidents, 37.8 percent to weather; B-24, 40.9 percent to
enemy action, 27.3 percent to operational accidents, 31.8 percent to
weather; B-25, 68 percent to enemy action (illustrating the danger of
low-level attack), 16 percent to operational accidents and 16 percent to

[I know that when you figure out that 27.6 percent of 38 equals 10.5 you
scratch your head over how half a P-38 could have been shot down, but
that's the way the stats read.  It reminds you that official data was
often concocted to impress rear echelon brass (who love breakdowns by
percent because they can use them in meetings to sound knowledgeable) and
may have questionable connection to reality.]

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: NO Zeros Over China
Date: 16 Jun 1997
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

This business of claims (even confirmed claims after cautious and careful
analysis of available evidence) vs. reality is as important today as it
was in WWII:  How many scuds did you actually destroy vs. how many you
estimate you did?  One reason the kind of research Lundstrom does is so
fascinating is because he is meticulous in trying to match reports from
opposing sides to discover what really happened and how that compared with
what those involved sincerely believed happened.

In my earlier post on the Rabaul raides, I noted that 5AF intelligence
estimated that during a month of heavy raids they destroyed 560 e/a for
the cost of 79 American planes (some RAAF Beauforts were also lost; don't
have figures).  A six to one kill ratio is more than acceptable, and
justifies the attacks.  But if the real Japanese losses were much less
than 560 aircraft, perhaps 160 or less, perhaps much less, then continuing
the raids can't be justified.
In the case of Rabaul, the best estimate remained at 560 e/a
destroyed--but the raids ended.  Perhaps a case of deceiving yourself and
telling yourself the truth at the same time.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Flying Tigers /P40
Date: 14 Apr 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

>>typically by a factor of at least 2 but sometimes as high as a factor
>>10, is the general rule,

>is extremely difficult if not near impossible to get credit for a plane shot
>down without heavy proof;

Here's an example of something someone today  might figure is an obvious case
of overclaiming but which those involved at the time believed  was absolutely
The bare facts:  Aug. 26, 1942, six worn out P-400s flown by greenpea fighter
pilots of the 80FS who have never encountered enemy aircraft before pay a visit
to the Japanese fighter strip at Buna inhabited by the veteran Tainan Air Group
(Saburo Sakai and his buddies).  They come home missing one of their own and
claiming six  Zeros.
What a load of hooey, right?
Digging into surviving Japanese records reveals the deaths of three Japanese
pilots on that date.  Hmm.  Maybe the Bell drivers did get lucky.  But it looks
like a two-to-one overclaim.
Looking at the combat reports of the American fighter pilots reveals that they
took off before dawn, timing their flight to reach the Japanese airfield at
first light, when the Japanese typically sent up their morning patrol of nine
fighters.  Navigating through the absolutely blackness of an overcast New
Guinea night floored with uncharted mountains,  with sheet lightning flashing
from rumbling thunderstorms, bursts of rain rattling on the canopies, the
planes bucking through turbulence, using only wristwatch and compass, after a
90 minute flight they erupted over the low hills surrounding the Japanese
field, two abreast  lined up with the runway, and caught six Zeros just as they
lifted off, three still on the ground, engines turning over.   Four Zeros went
down before they had their gear retracted, exploding in fireballs at the end of
the runway and blocking it so the remaining three Zeros were unable to get
airborne.  The two remaining got their gear up before they, too, went down,
exploding on impact. The pilot of one of these Zeros was seen to jump clear,
his clothing on fire, just before the plane hit the ground. No chute opened.
As the P-400s circled the field and reformed--pilots looking hard for Japs in
the air but completely unopposed by any Japanese fighters--they  counted six
separate fireballs.  They made a straffing pass on the three Zeros trapped on
the ground with unknown results.  One P-400 was hit by ground fire during the
strafing run, the pilot successfully bailing out, and being equally successful
in dodging Jap patrols and walking home (took him three weeks).
The description of the 80FS pilots makes sense--they surprised the Zeros when
they were most vulnerable and had dead-on shots at them.  The count of
fireballs seems convincing.  But then there are the Japanese records of only
three deaths.  Interestingly, these three deaths are for pilots of the Second
Air Group, which had just arrived at the field, replacing the Tainan, which was
in the process of moving to Rabaul, but still had pilots at Buna.
So there are at least two possibilities:  The other three pilots were from the
Tainan Air Group and the deaths of these pilots weren't recorded in the
confusion of moving, or were recorded but the records have been lost.  Or only
three pilots were killed, the others escaping although their aircraft were
  It appears that shortly after this action, the Second was delivered of four
new Zeros to replace losses.  Did the Tainan get two new Zeros over at Rabaul,
and would this be associated with losses in New Guinea?  Such records as exist
don't provide an answer.
Ultimately, whether you believe three, four or six Zeros were destroyed by the
P-400s depends on whether you choose to believe the pilots involved.  Those
present at the time did believe them.  If you choose not to believe the P-400
pilots, the only thing you have to go on is negative evidence--no record of
that many Zeros being destroyed on that date, therefore, in fact, they must not
have been destroyed.  That seems a little flimsy.

From: (C.C. Jordan)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: AVG Flying Tigers
Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 23:25:18 GMT

On 12 May 98 16:18:27 GMT, (Gregg Germain) wrote:

>One wonders how many claims were denied, yet the plane was eventually
>lost either by crashing on the way home or crashlanding.

Quite a few, it seems. Here's an example:
The Japanese records indicate that their losses (in combat aircraft)
were 50,955. Their naval aircraft losses were 27,120, with 10,370
lost in combat. Their Army aircraft losses were 23,835 with 16,255
lost in combat.

Now compare that to the U.S claims. The USAAF claimed 10,343
kills. The USN claimed 15,000 kills. Total Japanese combat losses,
according to their records, indicate 26,625 aircraft destroyed in combat.
The total of U.S claims is 25,243 kills. That leaves 1,382 kills left. How
many the Brits and Aussies got I don't know. There's still an additional
24,330 aircraft that were lost by Japan. How many of these were lost in
combat, yet no eyewitness saw it crash? Or, the Japanese simply listed
as missing?

One thing that appears fairly obvious, there certainly wasn't a 2:1 claim
vs actual kill ratio evident in these numbers. The number of claims is
very close to the number of admitted losses.

C.C. Jordan

"Passion and prejudice govern the world; only
 under the name of reason".
                             John Wesley
Aerodyne Controls: A division of Circle Seal Corporation.

From: (CDB100620)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: AVG Flying Tigers
Date: 16 May 1998 16:44:01 GMT

>The Japanese records indicate ...

Nice to see some hard numbers in this debate.

It's worth recalling that even when there was pressure to grant a pilot a
confirmed kill (such as to make a hero for the press boys), if the available
facts didn't warrant granting a confirmed, it wasn't granted.  A well known
example is Neel Kearby, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for shooting down
six Japanese planes during one dogfight.  He was certain that he had actually
shot down seven, but, while the other pilots in his flight were able to confirm
seeing six planes he fired on crash, no one saw that seventh plane crash,
although it was seen to be going down on fire.  So it was listed as a probable.
 The pressure must have been great to say, what the hell, let's give him that
seventh.  But the confirmation board held firm.

From: (C.C. Jordan)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: AVG Flying Tigers
Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 23:06:41 GMT

On Fri, 15 May 1998 16:31:31 GMT, wrote:

>In article <>,
> (Gregg Germain) wrote:
>> One wonders how many claims were denied, yet the plane was eventually
>> lost either by crashing on the way home or crashlanding.
>> --
>> --- Gregg
>Probably not nearly as many as were granted but turned out to be smoking
>simply because the pilot had the power turned all the way up.

Come on Michael, that's a rather nasty insult. Virtually any idiot can
tell the difference between an aircraft's exhaust and smoke from a fire,
oil or coolant leak. (please don't be the exception that proves the rule).
I've seen instances of each case, hell, I've been in aircraft with an onboard
fire, several times. If you think that someone like Arthur or Erik, (with 30,000

hours of flight time) could not distinguish between exhaust gases and a damaged
aircraft, think again. Furthermore, kills were not approved upon seeing
a smoking aircraft fly off into a cloud bank. That would be listed as damaged
or, at best a probable.

C.C. Jordan

"Passion and prejudice govern the world; only
 under the name of reason".
                             John Wesley
Aerodyne Controls: A division of Circle Seal Corporation.

From: Shilling)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: AVG Flying Tigers
Date: 16 May 1998 19:22:24 GMT

I can not fathom what in the HELL is the reason for, or behind the
apparent overclaiming obsession by some people. This includes
Emmanuel Gustin, Daniel Ford, and a few ill informed individuals,
who actually haven't the vaguest clue, and try to get into the act
by riding on their coattails. Posting asinine barbs without
substance, thinking they are contributing to this idiotic argument
of overclaiming. These self appointed military analyst amuse me.

This business of overclaiming. What in the hell difference would
there be if Bong had claimed 500, or if the AVG had claimed 10,000.
It would not change the confirmed figures one iota. So if it makes
you feel better, I'll even concede that the AVG overclaimed by any
number you so desire.

However keep in mind that AVG claims were more closely scrutinized
than any other in the world. Therefore go ahead make fools of your
selves. Claim what ever ratio makes your day.

However in the final analysis, the total number of Jap planes
confirmed was 299. The total amount of bonus money paid to the
Flying Tigers by the Chinese Government was $149,500.00 Dollars for
299 planes which they confirmed to their own satisfaction. No one,
even a government shelled out that amount of money on a mere whim.

I am convinced the underlying issue that pisses some of you off, is
the fact that the Chinese Government shell out money for 299
aircraft, and the only figure that actually counts.

The misconception held by many people is that the bonus for
destroying a Japanese plane was known from the start. Therefore it
was an added incentive for AVG pilots to lie.

This is absolutely not true, since the Bonus was never part of the
written contract between the Chinese government and the American
Volunteer Group. It didn't even become a rumor until sometime
later, and not a reality until the Flying Tigers were disbanded.
Even then the bonus was not paid directly to the pilots, but
deposited in their bank in the States.

The heaviest fighting, and the Jap's highest losses were during the
battle of Rangoon and Burma, the bonus was neither known, nor could
have been an incentive to lie about one's victories. It didn't even
become a rumor until months later,  It didn't cease to be a rumor
until the very end when we found out for certain that the $500
dollar bonus was actually being deposited in our banks back in the

I take great pleasure in announcing that the bonus was not written
in the contract, nor made known to us until it was confirmed by
deposits that were made to AVG pilots at the end of our service
with the AVG. It was only then that the rumor finally became a
reality. This bonus was paid to the Flying Tigers by a greatful
nation that said that we had save thousands of lives of their
citizens through our efforts.

So you say that fighter pilot in ALL countries overclaimed 3 to 1,
what the hell difference would it have had they overclaimed by 50
to 1, or as I mentioned, what bloody difference would it have made
in the final count if Flying Tigers over claimed by 10,000 to 1.
The number of confirmed for the Flying Tigers would still stand at
299 Jap airplanes. Bong's confirmed number would still be 40 and
Erich Hartmann's confirmed number would still be 352.

Speaking of the small number of downed Japanese wreckage that Ford
hangs on to as proof the Japs only lost a few planes during the
Burma campaign. Then in a post to the n/g forgets what he had
written in his book, and admits the difficulty of finding wrecks in
the jungle. After the war, the British Royal Navy dredge up more
than 70 Jap planes from the Rangoon harbor, the Mangrove Swamps
south of Rangoon and Gulf of Martaban. Ford failed to even mention
the possibly that any Japanese planes crashed in the water. Mr.
Ford this is a matter of British Royal Navy's records, which I
believe still available.

There are those who contend that the bonus was added incentive to
lie about victories, and some vindictive writer even suggested that
some AVG pilots bought victories from the RAF. Three facts disprove

Pilots were only paid a portion of their monthly salary and the
rest deposited in their bank in the states. Therefore, no one in
the AVG had hundreds of dollars to fork over to any victories from
RAF pilots. Especially not knowing about a $500 dollar bonus that
wasn't even a rumor at the time.

These rumors are the subtle innuendos Ford tosses around, trying to
place doubt in the readers minds trying to show the unsavory
character of the men in the AVG. Even when Ford says he doesn't
believe it, the seed has been planted.  A Good writer. YES. An
honest one. NO.

The bonus money was never paid to anyone while they were in China,
and the second is if one was unaware of a bonus, how can it be an
incentive to lie ?

Another fact overlooked by these same individuals who say the bonus
was an incentive to lie. The Flying Tigers claims of enemy aircraft
destroyed were more closely scrutinized than any other fighter
group during the war. Here again are two reason why this is true.

1.   The confirmation board did a most thorough job of checking
pilots claims before there approval was passed along. The didn't
want to be embarrassed by Okaying claims which could not be proven.

2.   The agency of the Chinese Government that held the purse
strings, had the ultimate say as to the validity of each claim, and
they in turn thoroughly scrutinized each claim before they agreed
upon payment of the bonus.

Even if there was the slightest hint of impiety, the People's
Republic of China would not have erected 5 very impressive
memorials to the Flying Tigers in the following cities, Bejing,
Nanjing, Kweilin, Chungking and Kunming.

Erik Shilling
Revised edition of Destiny: "A Flying Tiger's Rendezvous With Fate"
available - 5641 Carol Ave. Alta Loma, Ca. 91701 or email me.


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