While the German Air Force basically dominated the skies in World War II, amassing hundreds of victories, there are several notable aces on the Allied side of things as well. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
5. Air Vice Marshal Johnnie Johnson, British Royal Air Force
Johnson would likely be much higher on this list if he was allowed to fight the entire duration of the war. Johnson was originally denied to serve in the RAF, likely due to the fact that his family was poor. Early in the war, class still played a strong role in what positions men were allowed to take.
Eventually, Johnson was accepted, but was denied the chance to fly combat missions due to a collarbone injury. Johnson had an operation to repair his collarbone and was finally allowed to fly for the RAF starting in 1941. For the next several years Johnson would be an unstoppable force, flying over 700 operational sorties. He engaged the enemy 57 times and is credited with at least 24 victories.
Johnson continued his military service through the Korean War and eventually earned the rank of Air Vice Marshal.
4. Major Richard Bong, United States Army Air Corps
Richard Bong was the top scoring American ace during World War II. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Here is his MoH Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty in the Southwest Pacific area from October 10, to November 15, 1944. Though assigned to duty as gunnery instructor and neither required nor expected to perform combat duty, Maj. Bong voluntarily and at his own urgent request engaged in repeated combat missions, including unusually hazardous sorties over Balikpapan, Borneo, and in the Leyte area of the Philippines. His aggressiveness and daring resulted in his shooting down 8 enemy airplanes during this period.
3. Senior Lieutenant Lydia Litvyak, Soviet Air Force
Litvyak was the most successful female ace of World War II. She was the first female fighter pilot to shoot down an enemy plane, the first female fighter pilot to earn the title fighter ace, and the holder of the record for the greatest number of kills by a female fighter pilot. (Wikipedia)
Lydia got her nickname “The White Rose of Stalingrad” due to her habit to paint white lilies on the sides of her plane, one for every German plane she shot down. The lilies were mistaken as roses and the nickname stuck. (IAF)
She was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union and Order of Lenin medals after her death. She was shot down by eight german fighters in 1943.
2. Squadron Leader Marmaduke Pattle, British Royal Air Force
With a name like Marmaduke you know you have to be a special kind of awesome.
Pattle was a fighter ace with a very high score, and is sometimes noted as being the highest-scoring British and Commonwealth pilot of the war. If all claims made for him were in fact correct, his total could be in excess of 51. It can be stated with confidence that his final total was at least 40 and could exceed this value. Log-books and semi-official records suggest this figure while personnel attached to his squadron suspect the figure to be closer to 60. A total of 26 of Pattle’s victims were Italian; 15 were downed with Gloster Gladiators, the rest with Hawker Hurricanes. He is considered to be the highest-scoring ace on both Gladiator (15 victories) and Hurricane (35 victories) fighters. (Wikipedia)
1. Chief Marshal of Aviation Ivan Kozhedub, Soviet Air Force
Kozhedub was the highest scoring Allied ace of WWII. Kozhedub is credited with shooting down 62 enemy aircraft during 120 aerial engagements over 330 missions flown. Kozhedub’s final two kills came during heavy fighting over Berlin near the end of the war in Europe.
Kozhedub is a three time recipient of the Hero of the Soviet Union and Order of Lenin medals.
Kozhedub rose through the ranks of the Soviet Air Force and eventually became Chief Marshal of Aviation in the 1980’s.
BONUS: Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr., US Army Air Force
OK, we couldn’t leave this list at just 5 pilots, so here’s one more bonus. McGuire is credited as the second most successful American ace of the war.
McGuire’s skill at maneuvering the large twin-engined P-38 was legendary, and he would become one of the top scoring combat pilots in US Air Force history. Had it not been for periodic illnesses and heavy administrative duties as Commander, 431st Fighter Squadron, he might have become the United States’ leading ace. Civilian contractor Charles Lindbergh bunked with him for a time and flew as his wingman on several unauthorized missions, and was credited with one aerial kill. Visitors recalled McGuire ordering Lindbergh around, telling him to run errands as though he were a servant.
McGuire wrote a book on combat tactics for the 5th Air Force. On December 25–26, 1944, He downed at least seven Japanese fighter aircraft in just two days over Luzon, Philippines. With 38 kills to his credit, McGuire was only two victories behind Major Richard I. Bong, the United States Army Air Forces’ all-time top ace. (Wikipedia)
McGuire was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor after he was shot down in the Philippines. McGuire was so beloved by the Filipino people that they rushed to secure his body after his plane went down to make sure it did not fall into enemy hands.
Fort Dix Army Air Force Base in Burlington County, New Jersey, was renamed to McGuire Air Force Base in 1948 to honor the young, deceased major.