Most Effective WWII American Fighter

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by Pistolenschutze, Jan 6, 2006.

Most Effective American Fighter in WWII

  1. P-38 Lightning

    3 vote(s)
  2. F6F Hellcat

    6 vote(s)
  3. P-47 Thunderbolt

    5 vote(s)
  4. P-51 Mustang

    27 vote(s)
  1. Which of the American fighter aircraft of World War II would you deem the most effective overall? The poll only allowed me to choose four candidates, so feel free to add your comments on other possibilities if you're so moved. OK, Polish, you can argue for the P-40 if it makes you happy. :p

    Despite the popular hype to the contrary, my own choice would not be the P-51 even though it was undoubtedly the best designed prop-driven fighter of World War II. Instead, I would choose the P-47 Thunderbolt as the best overall. Earlier in the war (until about late 1943) it proved itself time and again in combat with the German ME-109s and FW-190s. Later it was fiendishly effective as a ground attack aircraft in the march across France and Germany. While it lacked the range of the P-51, its eight .50 caliber machine guns literally shreded any target they reached. I would point out also that the two highest scoring American aces in Europe--Francis Gabraski and Robert S. Johnson--both flew the P-47.
  2. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    Well Pistol.....if by "most effective", you mean "most versatile", I'd probably agree with you. The TBird was an excellent air superiority aircraft (probably equal to the Mustang) and was a superior "bomber/strafer/ground support" aircraft.

    But....if, by "most effective", you mean "the American fighter that shot down more enemy aircraft than any other"....I've gotta go Navy and vote for the Hellcat.

    (And yeah, I know, Polish is gonna say all the good Jap pilots were gone by then....but what does a guy that collects crappy Russian rifles know? :D )

  3. You'll get no argument from me on that issue, X. The Kitty was a fine aircraft and specifically designed to overcome the advantages of the Japanese Zero, something it did quite effectively. It showed just how effective during the 2nd Battle of the Philippine Sea (the Marianas Turkey Shoot) when they shot virtually a whole Japanese air force out of the sky in a single day. I didn't have room in the poll for the F4U Corsair, which was unfortunate. Many of the Japanese pilots considered it the best aircraft we used in the Pacific War.
  4. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

    It is very hard to choose between the choices. In fact, since the various missions and purposes used by each, and all, were so varied, each could reasonably be credited with being the best or better in it's various duties.

    I voted for the Mustang as it was my favorite. Early in the war there were several squadrons stationed and training near our home in Connecticut, which was located on the top of a hill with a fantastic view of central Connecticut with fifty of the tallest evergreens I've seen in New England. The first time a squadron of the "new and sleek angels" flew over, they were at tree-top level, nearly at full throttle, rattling the house and barn to their foundations. The coups de grâce was that the wash took out the tops of several of the gorgeous trees. It imprinted my mind as I remember every detail of that flyover as though it were today!!!!!

    The Thunderbolt was everything Pistol says. Would that it had the range built into the Mustang. Had that been possible, the losses on the Supre Forts and the Libs would have been markedly less. However, the Mustang was the life saver from it's introduction through the end of the war.

    The Lightning had its place in both theatres and performed most admirably, both as a fighter and a great bomber. We can thank it for the bemise of Adm Yamamoto, who most would agree was a brilliant mind who knew all too well the psychy of the Americans. The P-38 was a real life saver throughout the Pacific and Asian theatres, down under the everything in between. It also had an admirable reputation in Europe.

    On the Navy/Marine side, there was never anything to equal the Hellcat, but the Corsair would about give it a run for the money. Both were MAJOR factors in our taking and maintaining air supremacy in the Pacific theatre.
  5. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    I lived at the top of Highview St. in East Hartford.....the highest house in E. Htfd. and right in the landing pattern for Rentschler Field, the airport for both Pratt & Whitney Aircraft and Hamilton Standard Propellers. Everything that flew in WWII came right over our house....and only about 100 feet up. Absolute paradise for a plane-crazy kid in WWII!!!!! :)

    Even saw a real, live, Jap Zero.....but that's a whole 'nother story.
  6. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

    The A6M would have been much better had it had self-sealing tanks and a little armour protection for the pilot. Was a good plane but a real death trap.

    We were in Kensington, within a mile of the geographic centre of the state!!!!

    I always enjoy your Zero story, Racer.:) :)
  7. polishshooter

    polishshooter Well-Known Member

    Mar 25, 2001
    "Other." (No NOT the P-40...)

    The most versatile and effective plane of the war was BY FAR the F4F Wildcat...

    First in action by the Brits as the Martlett in 1940, was a match for the Me-109.

    (With the P40... :cool: ) DESTROYED the JAAF and JNAF (most of those Hellcat and Corsair drivers LEARNED how to kill REAL jap pilots in the 'cat, so OF COURSE they burned up the "Turkeys..." :)

    Flew PAST the end of the war as the FM-2, in fact many FM-2 drivers said their plane was BETTER than a Hellcat...

    Sunk U-boats off of CVEs in ALL oceans, strafed and bombed DDS, CLs, CAs and BBs from Ironbottom to Leyte, were attacking ground targets in the home islands, and FITTINGLY, conducted the last naval air-raid in Europe in 1945 when RAF Wildcat IIs (They finally got the name right!) in 1945 escorted strikes in Norway, and tangled (well) with Me-109s and FW-190s.

    Remember my Rule #1, if wasn't in the war THE WHOLE WAY, it don't qualify for the "best of NUTHIN'!" IF it came to the dance late, then it's the best fighter of 44-45, 42, whatever.

    But to be the MOST EFFECTIVE FIGHTER OF WWII......

    (in my book anyways ;)

    It had to BE THERE and be EFFECTIVE, for the ENTIRE WAR!!!!

    And against the BEST, not the "sloppy seconds..."

    I'll see your Gabby, (even if Polish eyes should cast skyward with a joyous tear at the sound of his name....)AND your Johnson....

    Beat my FOSS!

    (But the P-47 just may be my SECOND mostest favorite, though... :D )

    My SECOND rule had something to do with RADIALS..... :cool:
  8. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    Now didn't expect me to let you get away with this, did you? :D

    "First in action by the Brits as the Martlett in 1940, was a match for the Me-109."

    ......maybe marginally with the early 109s, but certainly not against with the Zeke. The only reason the Wildcats were able to survive against the Zero was superior American air tactics and the fact they were made by the Grumman Iron Works and able to taking an amazing amount of punishment.

    And....."Sunk U-boats off of CVEs in ALL oceans"

    No Wildcat ever sunk a U-boat flying off a CVE or from anywhere else. They spotted a lot of U-boats and led the Turkeys (TBFs & TBMs) or DDs & DEs to them which then sunk them with depth charges.

    The Wildcat was certainly a fine aircraft, and was there when we really needed it.....and, as a stopgap, did outstanding duty.....but best? :)

    Hey! This is gettin' like "The Good Old Days", isn't it Polish? :D :D :D
  9. polishshooter

    polishshooter Well-Known Member

    Mar 25, 2001
    OK, OK, X... :mad: :mad: :mad: :cool:

    "HELPED to sink subs and Uboats in all oceans off of CVEs..."

    picky, picky, picky... :)

    Yeah, just like old times!

    One thing I always liked about these discussions, was that they ALWAYS drove me to pick up or reread old books that I havene't read in years...

    In fact, just 5 minutes ago I was asking my wife...."Hon, have you seen that book I used to have on THIS shelf called "Wildcat Aces of WWII?"

    (And I got the SAME response I always get..."If you would PUT AWAY things when you are done with them...!")
  10. I won't denegrate Joe Foss, Polish, as fine a fighter pilot as ever thumbed a trigger. Maybe he inherited the killing gene from his Mafioso father. ;) Gabraski, I agree, was also one of the best. Indeed, he got 6 1/2 more over Mig Alley during the Korean War. Hey, ever read Robert S. Johnson's book, Thunderbolt? If you haven't, you should. I think you can still find a used copy (it's no longer in print) at

    Now, as the the Wildcat . . .

    X is right! The Wildcat was a "good" plane, but not an excellent or superior one. The only way the Wildcats could compete with the Zero was to hit them in a dive and blow them away, not unlike the tactics the Thunderbolt airmen used against the German MEs and FWs. The Zero was maneuverable as hell, but that was mostly because it had no armor for the pilot, no self-sealing gas tanks, and an airframe that resembled a tinker-toy model. Hit it with six 50s and it came apart like an ugly mother-in-law fed through a tree schredder. :rolleyes: The main reason the Hellcat was developed was to counter the ACM capabilities of the Zero. It did that very effectively.

    Now, you state that, for a plane to be considered the best overall,
    Why is that necessarily true? We started the war, generally speaking, with inadequate equipment. For example, the M1 Garand rifle was not there at the beginning for the vast majority of troops, only the old Springfield A3-03. Should we not consider the Garand "the best battle implement ever devised" simply because we hadn't fielded it when the war began? Aside from that, some of the best fighters we turned out were there from the beginning, for example, the P-38 Lightning that Bong flew for 40 confirmed air-to-air kills (he probably had at least 80 in reality). And, I might add, the P-38 was not used only against "sloppy seconds!" :p
  11. Gabob

    Gabob Well-Known Member

    Dec 5, 2005
    If you fellows ever get to GA be sure to visit the Air Force Museum at Warner Robins airbase. Aprox 250 war birds on display there. As recently as two years ago Gen. Robert L. Scott(Flying Tiger) came one day a week to greet visitors. I don't know is he still does since he is over 90 years old now.
    I grew up 15 miles down the road in Macon and Scott was my childhood hero. I stood in a two block long line to see the grand opening of the movie Flying Tigers during WW2.
  12. polishshooter

    polishshooter Well-Known Member

    Mar 25, 2001
    Yeah, Gabob, on my 25th anniversary this year I "conned" my wife into a detour on our way to Gatlinburg to see the P-38 they recovered from under the Greenland Ice and restored that's now in a little museum in Kentucky- and FORGOT about the darn time and got to it at 4:30 MY time but they closed a half hour earlier at 5:00 THEIR time, damm...I love the old warbirds. Luckily I live about an hour from the AF museum at Wright-Pat (although I need to go back soon, been a while) and managed to detour ANOTHER vacation that involved wrecking our car in Biloxi on our way to see the inlaws in FLA after visiting New the Navy museum at Pensacola, even if "Oh Gee, we aren't going to be able to make it to the in-laws after all":cool:

    Hey P? I got Johnsons book, I LOVE the 47. I also have several of Caidens other books like Zero, and Ragged Rugged Warriors, but I HEARTILY recommend Eric Bergerud's book "Fire in the Sky." He's done a heckuva job with the airwar over SWPAC, even if his first book on the land war in SWPAC was a little disappointing. I'm still waiting on his last book of the series, about the naval war there.

    And Gabby was from Franklin, PA which is near where my wife grew up. He is interesting for his time flying Spits, and his time with the Polish Spit squadrons as liason. And in case you didn't see it in my posts, the 38 is one of my favorites too, Caiden ( or is it Johnson)has a tremendous book on the Lightning too. It was JUST a little late for the start, but it was ALMOST ready for issue, and it too contributed to "winning the war" in the SWPAC :cool: Now just to prove I'm not a COMPLETE homey, I don't really think the P-36 was much, even though it got a couple of kills over Pearl, and even IF the 75A export Hawk did pretty well in China and the FRENCH liked them... :) But the P-26 Peashooter (my FAVORITE pre-war fighter, along with the F3F...I just can't find ANY reports of the F3F in combat, but I'm still looking, there were still a few I think in Samoa and the canal zone during the start of the war...)did OK in the Phillipines for a REAL OLDIE, and the Seversky P-35 actually managed to survive for a FEW days... :)

    The only thing I haven't COMPLETELY figured out is how good the 38 was in the Pacific, and the fact the Germans FEARED it in the Med, but it was considered a dog over Europe. Yeah, I know the Allisons and the supercharger thing at altitude but's an enigma like how the best plane the Russians had was the P-39, and it DID do a job against the 109s no matter WHAT X says... :cool: But a DOG for us. The F2a too...a DOG for us, but LOVED by the Finns...(Wierd seeing Buffaloes with swastikas though, even if they were FINN ones, not National Socialist...) I love the enigmas of History...

    ...or the what ifs. What IF we used LVTs and LVT(A)s at Normandy, what WOULD the Corsair have done against Focke-Wulfs, WHAT if BBs would have gotten amongst the CVs in any number of battles where they were CLOSE....

    But the Wildcat holds a special place with me for some reason. It fought in EVERY theater, scored victories over Jap, German, Vichy French, and Italian top line fighters (I BELIEVE it may be the only allied plane that can claim that! Except MAYBE the P-40... :) ) And that FM-2 from Eastern COULD dogfight a Zero, more power, and bigger tail, it's amazing how many times they had kills right up to VJ day. In fact, over Leyte, they had MOST of the kills, two "Ace in a Days" on the same day! That last raid by the FAA against installations in Norway happened 4 days before the end of the war in Europe, and 8 Bf-109s jumped the 4 FAA Wildcat IIs (FM-2s) who were escort. The Germans shot one Wildcat down on the first pass, then the remaining three TURNED INTO THEM and in a turning dogfight shot down 5 Bf-109s, with no other Wildcats lost! That Eastern Wildcat just MAY have been a better dogfighter than the Hellcat!

    (I was wrong earlier, I don't think they ever faced 190s, but the FAA pilots said they always wanted to to see how they would fare...)

    The Thach weave is STILL taught today! Jimmy Thach, Bauer, Swett, Vetjasa, oh my, the Marine and Navy aces that either got them all, or a good start in a Wildcat!

    If it had better range, and better payload for close support, it would have had even MORE impact. (But even the FM-2 carried 6 rockets)

    And OH YEAH X! :mad: MAYBE they didn't "sink any subs" by themselves, but what OTHER fighter sunk a CL and a DD and singlehandedly turned back an INVASION in WWII???? :mad: :mad: :mad: :)

    Don't take me wrong, P-shootz, first I'm PASSIONATE, not "arrogant," so please don't take anything I say wrong...I LOVE "the argument," it's really the ONLY way to learn ANYTHING. I only "dislike" people who won't or can't argue! (or the wimpy "We'll just have to agree to disagree..." :mad: )

    And I also LOVE the wisecracks and side-tracks, so PLEASE, anybody else, don't sit on the sidelines. Post away! DON'T let a couple of History Majors put you off. Our opinions are pretty darn well thought out, :) but we STILL have to pay for that cup of coffee!

    You can have ANY opinion you WANT, just DEFEND it!!!! :)
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2006
  13. I have clearly understoodd that from the beginning, Polish, and I am the same way, so back at ya! Wishy-washy fence-sitters are a pain in the tushie. No more conviction than a weather vane. I strive hard to teach that to my philosophy students. You should hear me argue for solipsism. The students usually believe I think the idea makes sense. Or when I raise the ultimate metaphysical question, "Does God exist?" I first argue one side, and just when I have them convinced, I argue the other side with equal fervor. Ah sophism, it is such fun! :D

    You do raise an interesting point on the P-38. It did supremely well in the Pacific, but only marginally so in Europe, expect perhaps as a ground strafer with a 37mm cannon mounted in the nose. In the Pacific though, it definitely hit its stride. Bong flew it of course, as did many other highly successful pilots. Indeed, it was the P-38 that took out Yamamoto in that famous long-range intercept. I think it was also the plane Lindburgh flew on his unauthorized "observation" missions, Nazi though he was at heart.

    I second that motion! Join in, folks. The only cost to sit in is putting up with Polish's outrageous statements. :D
  14. polishshooter

    polishshooter Well-Known Member

    Mar 25, 2001
    Yeah, Lindburgh did fly the 38, and got a kill or two in it.

    The 38 had a 20, the 39 had the 37, right?

    What made me rethink the 38 besides the fact if I had to fly over water with a watercooled I'd want TWO was a discussion about firepower and how they boresighted the guns...

    Lots of Aces that were great shots aimed all the wing guns to converge at one relatively close spot, and held their fire until assured of a hit, however most were set to have two converge at like 100, 2 @ 200, 2 @ 300 yds to get the best "dispersion," so better chance for a hit, BUT you usually would be hitting with only 2 -.50s! Not bad against Jap "Paper Kites," BUT...

    For the 38...the 4 .50s and the 20mm were aimed PARALLEL to each other, so at ANY range, you were hitting with EVERYTHING and it was devastating!

    THAT was also why the A-20 and B-25 strafers were so devastating...8-12 .50s hitting TOGETHER in such a small area, no WONDER they said they could blow a hole in the side of a Jap DD! (As long as they kept firing... :) )

    In Bergerud there were many anecdotal accounts from both sides, and one 25 pilot said they were warned to use SHORT bursts to "save the barrels" by the armorers who would have to change them, but this pilot said when you were on a treetop or wavetop height run, at full throttle, lined up on a GOOD target and pressed the tit and the whole plane shuddered and felt like it was stopping in the air and smoke and casings flying was so exhilarating you just kept it down the whole way and one by one the .50s would stop until at the end you only had one left going "putt-putt-putt..." :)

    And yeah, I have a book on the 9th AF and they used the 38 to good account in Europe after DDay as ground attack, even more than the 47s...
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2006
  15. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

    There are more than two History majors, Polish. I have an AB in History, with emphasis on American History and my favorite subject, the Pacific Air War.

    As I stated above, the Lightning was always one of my favorites! We also had them around central Connecticut, especially during the early days of the war.
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