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Fighter Group: The 352nd "Blue-Nosed Bastards" in World War II


The Dude
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I expect the RAF racked up their best kill rates during the battle of Britain, where the only goal of the fighters was to shoot down German aircraft. Once the Allied aerial bombing offensive began, the RAF bombed at night, so no fighter escort missions, while the USAAF bombed during the day and did utilize fighter escorts. The job of the escorts is not to shoot down enemy aircraft, it is to protect the bombers. If you happen to shoot down enemy aircraft, so much the better, but the primary job is to stay with and defend the bombers.

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That, and in combat flight sims the AI have superhuman aiming abilities. I still think European Air War came the closest to reality. I remember actually hunting, often unsuccessfully, for bandits in EAW. In IL-2, swarms of bandits hunted for me. In EAW, I would occasionally follow a lone bandit back to his airfield, then the fun began. The best time to nail a Messerschmidt 262 is when it is low on fuel and on final approach. :ph43r:

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  • 3 weeks later...

... The job of the escorts is not to shoot down enemy aircraft, it is to protect the bombers. If you happen to shoot down enemy aircraft, so much the better, but the primary job is to stay with and defend the bombers.

Not so.

From Stout's book:

The primary mission of the Eighth's escort fighters up until Doolittle's assumption of command was to protect the bombers. Although it was a fine distinction, Doolittle directed that although the bombers were still to be protected, the figthers were to go after the Luftwaffe wherecver and whenever it could. Indeed, Doolittle ordered William Kepner, the commander of VIII Fighter Command, to tear down a sign that read "THE FIRST DUTY OF THE EIGHTH AIR FORCE FIGHTERS IS TO BRING THE BOMBERS BACK ALIVE." He ordered Kepner to replace it with one that declared, "THE FIRST DUTY OF THE EIGHTH AIR FORCE FIGHTERS IS TO DESTROY GERMAN FIGHTERS."

This change in doctrine occured at the start of 1944 when Doolittle took over command of the Eighth Air Force from Ira Eaker.

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I would argue that by 1944, the Luftwaffe was already losing their air dominance. They had lost many of their more skilled crew, especially on the eastern front, new pilots lacked experience and their training was becoming more and more rushed, aircraft development was behind that of the Allies, and fuel was becoming an issue. By mid-1944, fuel would become a critical issue.

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